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West LA Martial Arts

Our defining moments Nobody likes being defined in a limiting way by other people. If someone looked at me and says, “that’s a white man”. While of course that’s true it also misses a lot about me. One Saturday morning a Chinese man brought his young boy in for his first class that I was teaching. After I introduced myself as the teacher he looked at me, paused, then said, “I want my son to learn Chinese Kung Fu.” I wasn’t offended at all. Look, I would probably trust a random Chinese person to teach Kung Fu more than a random white person. I began explaining my history and how my Sifu studied at Shaolin Temple in China. It wasn’t until he saw another Chinese student that he said, “OK”. His son ended up being a great student for years.


Now I tell this story as a slightly humorous example of something not so humorous that happens to other people way more often and in a much more harmful way. I have to understand that people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community and other minorities have a vastly different experience in life for many reasons. Not the least of which of these is the discrimination they face. As human beings, we like to define people in the simplest terms. This usually essentially boils down to Us and Them. If you are not us, you don’t belong. This doesn’t seem to work very well.

Defining by actions not ideals

Now it seems to be much more fair and effective to define people based on the actions they’ve taken, the lives they’ve lived. When we look at our defining moments, it may be natural for us to think of events that happened to us. We really should look more at how we responded in those situations. The actions we take are perhaps the best indicator of who we are. Our actions might not always line up with who we think of ourselves to be. We often fall short of our ideals. That’s what our future actions are for. Remember our past doesn’t equal our future. 


We may have a few defining moments that we aren’t proud of. Maybe we have done some things that we really don’t want people to know about. We don’t want those actions to define us. I met a man in a class once who stood up in front of 20-30 strangers and admitted that at 13 he had molested a younger child. He was telling us this as part of his healing journey. I could tell he was really working on himself. Before hearing this I had really enjoyed his insights and talking with him. This made me think of all the times I had defined someone by one action they had taken in the past and I became a bit ashamed of myself.

Holistically defining each other and ourselves

Rather than defining each other or ourselves by one thing that happened to us or one action we took, we should zoom out. One single data point doesn’t paint a picture. If we put multiple points on a graph, then we get a better idea of reality. We can see not just where we were at a single point, but where did we come from and where are we heading? Are we trending in the direction we want to be going in? If not, we should try and take some actions that help define us as who we want to be.


In sparring last night I got hit a few times. Early in my practice I would react in an unhelpful way and have a thought that sounds like I’m no good at this. Now I know that sometimes I get hit and sometimes I move. Generally I trend in the direction of moving more. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu I escape submissions more often. In Tai Chi I find my mind drifting fewer times as I practice the 108. This is all we can ask for, so we should celebrate the small improvements. Rather than the defining moments of our practice or life being that time we got hit instead of moving out of the way, we strive to recognize the times we did move, even though they aren’t quite as dramatic. 


  • Jenny Topper

    What a very thought provoking & expressive way of
    of life’s path of learning. As we move forward. One is constantly learning no matter how old we are.
    Thank you for your words of encouragement.

    March 8, 2024
  • Wa Ma

    Thank you so much for sharing, you are an excellent writer & teacher.

    March 8, 2024
  • Ari Hahyar

    A full description of being open to experience, and then converting that into wisdom

    March 9, 2024

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As a lifetime student and instructor, Sifu Ryan Scott has seen the same transformation in the lives of his students as he has experienced in his own life. His passion for practice is surpassed only by his love for teaching martial arts. From young children to full-grown adults, his teachings of Kung Fu and Tai Chi have given many individuals the opportunity to become better martial artists, spiritual seekers, and just better people.

Working hours

Monday – Friday:
09:00 am – 8:00 pm

09:00 am – 1:30 pm

Sunday Closed