Warren Fox is a kung fu practitioner with a mission to save martial arts.
Fox, 29, said he began learning kung fu when he was four years old. His father wanted him and his two brothers to be able to protect themselves in an area of Cincinnati, Ohio, where racism was a problem, he said.
As they grew older, the situation got worse and the family moved to Seattle where there were more minorities and their race was no longer a problem.
Fox’s father was a barber and his mother delivered newspapers when he was little. The family did not have much money but he said they never knew they were poor, because their lives were full of laughter.
His father, a former boxing champion, started practicing martial arts after becoming friends with a Korean man who was into taekwondo. He then wanted his sons to learn the best way to protect themselves, Fox said.
At the beginning, Fox did not like kung fu.
“I thought kung fu was stressful, like homework,” he said. “[But] when we got older, when we had a choice, it was already something that we learned to love.”
Fox admits he got into quite a few fights when he was younger, saying he thought he was trying to protect himself and his honor: the honor of black people when people called him names.
“And then I realized that after a while, I was just protecting my pride,” he said. “Pride is a step away from arrogance.”
Fox said as he matured, he realized there were many ways to resolve situations without actually having to get into a fight.
Later on, he became more of a protector, he said. When he was working as security, he was more concerned with people around him.
“I think it’s just like being a lifeguard, if someone is drowning, you want to get in there, you want to help them. And that’s the same way I feel about it now,” he said. “I don’t want to see anybody in front of me get hurt.”
He started practicing and teaching tianwudao (天武道) at high school and grew to love teaching it.
“I loved watching people change. I loved watching someone go from weak to getting strong and confident, especially children and women,” he said.
Fox went to Kunming, China, in 2001 as an exchange student and stayed there for six months. It was then the Chinese major began to learn the roots of baguazhang (八卦掌), or Eight Trigram Palm, a form of martial arts with an emphasis on internal power and hand movements.
He then came to Taiwan and met his master, Wu Guo-zheng (吳國正), who Fox said has selflessly shared his knowledge with his students.
For Fox, kung fu is a skill that takes a lifetime to perfect.
“As soon as you think you are doing something well, you keep practicing and you keep practicing, you realize, whoa, I just start doing it well today,” he said. “It’s an ongoing process, but that’s what makes it fun.”
He said that many people distanced themselves from kung fu because they felt it was something that they could not be a part of.
“But it’s something that everybody should know how to do, at least a little bit,” he said.
“Like swimming, everybody should know how to swim. You don’t have to be a professional swimmer and you may not live around water, but one day you might need swimming just to save your life,” Fox said.
And kung fu is the same: One day if something happens, you should be able to protect yourself,” he said.
Practicing kung fu benefits Fox in every aspect of his life, from mental to physical to staying motivated, he said.