Dig Baton Rouge

Combining Opposites

By Nick BeJeaux

Unraveling the mysteries of Kung Fu without leaving the city limits is easy – all it takes is years of dedication, self-discipline, and a willingness to cast aside your wants to better your needs.

Okay, maybe it’s not so easy, but at least you don’t have to climb 10,000 steps to a mountain monastery or fend off hordes of youxia. Merely finding the right studio with the right teacher makes all the difference in the world.

The White Crane Kung Fu Studio, tucked away amongst the warehouses on Madrid St., is not the only kung fu studio in Baton Rouge, but it is the studio where the art is practiced in its purest form.

“It really does alter the way you look at life,” said Sifu Lou Illar. “It also takes a lot of patience to understand yourself. You apply every part of body and soul in Kung Fu.”

Illar began his study of kung fu at the age of 16. Half a century later, he doesn’t look a day over 50 and can easily tire out many of his younger students. However, Illar says physicality is only a fraction of what it is to know kung fu.

“There are two frames of mind at work here: the ‘I don’t want to do that’ and the ‘I have to do that’ – kung fu is all about finding the middle emotion,” he said. “There’s a polarity to everything we do in life. We try to reach out from the center and then return to it.”

Granted, describing the hidden mysteries of ancient Chinese martial arts is currently beyond the understanding of this writer. However, Sifu Illar’s students are able to describe his teaching through their own experiences.

“Superficially, to me, Kung Fu has meant the loss of 30 pounds, the creation of an athletic and younger body, and the disappearance of a long-standing depression,” said Dr. Arja Turunen-Red, a professor of economics at the University of New Orleans. “Much more significantly, through Sifu’s efforts, I continue to learn about persistence and humility. As Sifu teaches, Kung Fu is never about control of others but always about learning to control one’s self.

As this goal has become clearer, I have gained a deeper understanding of Zen and Tao and reaching selfless practice has become the central goal of my life. I cannot express the value of this learning in words.”

Van Vo, one of Illar’s oldest students, is an instructor at the White Crane Studio and still continues to learn and grow every day he practices.

“Kung Fu came to me at a very developmental time and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without it,” he said. “Of course, I didn’t realize what I was getting into back then and how important it would be. I thought I was going to get instruction on how to be an awesome fighter, like what I had seen in the movies, but what I got was a better way to live. What I got was a Kung Fu family and a corresponding lesson on the importance of loyalty, generosity, and sacrifice. What I now have is wisdom that will help me and the people around me for the rest of my life.”

Needless to say, the self-discipline and confidence instilled by kung fu can do wonders for students at every level of study.

“More than anything else, the Kung Fu that Sifu teaches gave me the focus and the will to intelligently take on life’s challenges,” said Brandon Thomas, a Ph. D candidate at LSU. “The calmness of mind that I learned has allowed me to multi-task in all aspects of life without letting stress wear me down.  I’m stronger, faster, more efficient, mentally prepared to do whatever I must do on a daily basis.”

If you’re interested in signing up for classes visit www.WhiteCraneStudio.com for much more information on the classes, history of the studio and the various performances provided by the studio.

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