There are many perspectives I’ve learned from growing up a Chen.
My martial arts development was perhaps more unique than most and it was becoming my own female Martial Artist that was probably what makes me most unique to many.
There’s this strange sense of anonymity you have for so long and you are always CC Chen’s kid for your whole life. This made self awareness difficult in a lot of ways because it was always safe being the daughter of such a great guy. Then there’s mom, who’s the perfect wife and business partner. I just started becoming Tiffany Chen now.
For so long I always taught the way my dad taught, but not in the way where I adapted to his teaching style, I literally copied everything he said and understood it with a definition kind of meaning, it is only in recent years that I began developing my own feeling and relationship with Tai Chi.
During my years as a competitive martial artist, it was a strange way to grow up. I went through my entire childhood and teenage years surrounded by this stuff and always looked at in strange ways, it was as though I spent many years feeling like an ornament at the school and it was hard growing up in so many ways at the school and in martial arts. The attention from men changing as I was growing up. Loving uncles who turned into something else uncomfortable. Men looking at me different at tournaments. Guys actually asking me out, but scurrying away if they thought one of my parents saw. I didn’t mind the innocent flirtations and some of the attention, but there was a lot of uncomfortable attention, the kind that would make any young girl uncomfortable.
I got so used to the school being my extended family, that once I hit an age where my extended family acted like inappropriate uncles it was disappointing, it did a lot to ruin my trust and faith in people, it was confusing and depressing.
Some people marvel at my family and they see all the medals, trophies and belts, but it was a lot of hard work, sometimes made harder by the fact that I was a young girl growing up in a man’s world. I used the hard work to block out the unwanted attention. It’s strange also knowing that a great deal of the attention on me was because of who my father is and that it made me somehow more interesting to be his daughter that was more like a son.
Students often compare my movement to being so similar to dads, from punches to the form. I’ve had people come up to me when I’m teaching and say it felt like dad was teaching, when I teach. Students telling me they feel dad, when I’m covering his classes. It’s strange, but also the greatest compliments I ever care to get. But its also odd somehow knowing that my allure is that I am my father’s daughter, in my look and feel too.
I’ve gone through strange experiences during my competitve years people either admiring me because of the skills they felt I only inherited through my DNA and also wanting to kill me because of the skills they thought I only inherited through my DNA. It’s a weird feeling to know people adore dad, but also hate me for being his daughter and in a strange way, because I am his daughter, wanting so badly to beat me, but didn’t you like my dad? Sometimes it felt so strange hearing people say they wanted to beat me, because I was CC Chen’s daughter, it made me feel more protective of dad, cause in a weird way I understood what they said to mean “I wanna beat you, to hurt your father”, although I don’t really think that is what any of them meant. It was all just so strange.
There was a lot of strange stuff in the martial arts world while I was growing up.
I would see such incredible respect given to my father and nobody would really look my way when he was near and then I would have the nerve to wander on my own and it was like I was a freak show of some sort. I developed the self defense mechanism of being able to just shut things out and developing a very bold persona which was another way of deflecting unwanted attention in an “I don’t care” kind of way.
I’ve had students watch me grow up from a small child and then corner me when my family wasn’t around and say things like this, and I am not even exaggerating this one, this one guy chased me into the elevator to say this “Tiffany, I can’t believe you’re all grown up now, you make me think of sex when I look at you”. This guy talks about knowing me from when I was a munchkin and still mentions it when he drops by the school. I always make sure my mom is with me when he’s round.
I went through a lot of different kinds of judgments from my own brother and other martial arts brothers. Making fun of me when I dressed pretty. Judging me when I acted out a bit because certain attention made me uncomfortable. Making me feel more uncomfortable when they for some reason felt uncomfortable when I was getting too much attention. Sometimes also liking just being around me because I did get extra attention. I observed it all wondering if any of these people were really my friends and most of them weren’t, they were just along for the show.
Not to say that these were all miserable experiences, these were what made me decide that I was gonna become Empowered by it all, instead of shrink away from the strange attention and odd judgments.
You don’t know who is sincere most of the time, but this never bothered me much, I just learned to shut those kinds out the minute they showed their hand.
So as distracting as it was, being my father’s daughter in a world dominated by men, I decided that if people were gonna look, I was going to decide how they would see me and it was going to be because I am not just my father’s daughter, they were going to learn that I was also my mother’s daughter and this meant I was going to make everyone see me for the skills my father has passed down to me and I was going to earn the kind of respect I wanted and this more than ever, is what makes me my father’s daughter.
It took many years to find my groove, but my formula was always about the work. I loved the focus of training and love the physical power my body is capable of generating. Now, I didn’t mind if guys were looking at me, because I know my skill was greater than whose daughter I was.
There were so many strange phases I remember going through, just constantly searching for the feeling of comfort in a world that loves my family so much they would have had to become intrigued by me too, but when people are intrigued, sometimes they can be scary too.
The men at the school whose hands ended up in all the wrong places made training difficult, but I learned how to deal with it and funny as it may seem, it was the inappropriate nature of these certain men that caused my stand-up game to become super sharp. I realized that if they wanted to get inappropriate they deserved the appropriate response. This is what Tai Chi is about after all, response.
I think the most important part of my Martial Arts training came from how growing up in a lifestyle where I was always exposed to the need balance I always had the internal desire to want to achieve balance. It made me acutely aware of the imbalances of life that just require the appropriate response to achieve balance. Maybe this is also why I prefaced my Martial Arts career with a competitive Figure Skating career. I love speed, power and balance. Both sports are exactly about that same kinda stuff.
I remember going to mom and dad on several occasions to complain about students with inappropriate behaviors and most of the time they would talk to me about how I didn’t need to feel offended all the time or upset, I could pay better attention from the beginning to control the situation before getting upsetting and that once a situation got upsetting I shouldn’t always threaten to “Knock their fucking head off”, I had to learn to control myself not just as a martial artist, but as human, who needed to learn how to deal with other humans in various kinds of situations.
The greatest lessons I’ve learned from the school and my parents would be about self awareness.
Sometimes my issues had more to do with my perception of someones actions, rather than their actual intent.
Sometimes my ability to be very physically aggressive is scary and I cause a timid reaction that I sometimes misinterpret as wanting to throw down.
What I learned is that ALL of the time, I can be more self aware and in handling myself better, I would in turn create better situations.
This took a while to get the hang of, but it works for everything once you do get in the habit of realizing that your ability to be Self Aware is what Empowers your Ability to Respond, not React, Appropriately.
This was the most valuable life lesson I would learn from Growing Up Chen in our Martial Arts world.
So many people want to train to learn how to fight to win things, instead of realizing that training is the greatest key to your own self awareness. Your own Self Awareness is what shapes your Responses to Life.
Your Responses to Your Life is what Creates the Kind of Life You Want to Live.