Become the Solution: #StopAAPIHate

My name is Jon Hu, and I am the teaching assistant to the Dragon Combat Club (DCC) or commonly referred to as the “homicide instructor” coined by teacher Henry “Hen” Zhang who has also posted his journey as part of a continuing series. I have a day job as an energy efficiency engineer that has brought me from NYC to the Midwest and back. There is something truly magical about this city that keeps bringing me back even though I have traveled the world. It is the only place I will ever truly call home.

My martial arts journey started in University when I was studying Kali. I had attended a Filipino students club meeting and came across John, an alumni, who was offering to teach Filipino Martial Arts (FMA). John felt it was important that someone in the club knew the traditional arts and served to educate people on Filipino history and culture. My hallmates at the time were interested as well so I decided to join them and we trained for a year before competing locally. Around the same time was when I met Bryan, my long-time friend, was interested in starting a fight club. 

Our first meeting was in a lounge area and one of the RAs had come in to tell us we couldn’t be fighting in there. So we set out to find a place on campus where no one would bother us and eventually found the mat room in the basement of the Recreation Center. It was literally in the most obscure place on campus. As time went on, people randomly stumbled upon us from our bellowed grunts late at night. Our numbers were growing quickly. 

It was a great way of venting frustrations from class, getting some exercise in, and to learn from each other. MMA was still new at the time so we had people of varying skill levels, but the primary motivation of the group followed the great Bruce Lee’s adage:

“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.” 

My martial arts journey has followed this adage and while I would consider myself most proficient in FMA, I often mix styles from other systems in my sparring.

The club also trained newbies. One in particular was a young, naive Laura. Laura was enthusiastically interested in learning martial arts. We trained her in basic punches and kicks so she could toss with the rest of us. I recall one kick from this young lady that ended up with her big toe up my actual asshole. 

None of us were professionals or experts. We were just a bunch of kids messing around. We would share knowledge and it was the first time I had ever experienced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. At that time I also met Ray, who was commuting back and forth from Queens. With most of our events being held at night, Ray would take the late evening train home. He was much more experienced than the rest of us (even now), but he would be so generous with his time. Ray taught us many of the martial arts concepts and body mechanics that could only be learned through more than a decade of experience. 

Laura really carried on the tradition of the fight club after Bryan and I graduated. She was already a fierce fighter and decided to carry on in her martial arts journey specifically in HapKido and Taekwondo. Along her own journey, she met other martial artists from all different martial arts backgrounds and skill levels and pretty much started an adult fight club. She rented out studio space in the city so the rest of us would have a place to practice and share knowledge. Which is where I met Henry Zhang the wrestler… Henry was and still is a goof ball which (at that time) I could only take in small doses. Easily excitable, animated, and didn’t think he could be taken seriously. 

When COVID-19 hit and (not my) President Trump openly called it the “Kung Flu”, I took a great amount of offense as a martial arts practitioner. I found it even more offensive he would paint with a large brush essentially saying all of China was complicit. 

I am not a virus, I am a living human being. 

Hen had messaged me around that time that he and Ray had started a virtual martial arts class at the start of the pandemic last year. I was not a fan of the concept at the time because martial arts is done entirely by feel and being able to read your opponents energy. The biggest reason of all was Hen was doing classes in the morning to which I told him, “There is no way in hell I am waking up that early”. But I agreed with his intentions and watched from a distance. Hen and I mutually understood that things would get rough for all people. 

And if you can count on one thing, it is the desperation of man to place blame.

Ray’s passing struck our group incredibly hard. This is a man who we trained with and had known for close to a decade. His openness, skill, willingness to teach, and unselfishness for his friends was his hallmark. I am glad to have been able to call him my friend and had hoped that we would still be fighting well into our old age. Hen had probably taken it the worse among us all because he didn’t have time to process his death. Between graduate school, now teaching classes by himself, and not being able to talk with anyone about it made him ever more distant and closed off. 

I had closed myself off too not being able to attend Ray’s zoom funeral and returned to hermit mode when I heard the first few of my friends had died from COVID. Most were healthy individuals and truly put into perspective how deadly the virus was. I didn’t leave the house for the first 3 weeks we were in lockdown. 

To date, my friend count due to COVID is 7 with 3 more due to related causes. 

At some point during COVID, I was not eating regularly due to a mix of depression and anger. Either I was binge eating or not enough and I wasn’t eating as part of a regular schedule. My circadian rhythm was also completely out of loop. My normal weight is usually 155 lbs and 15% body fat. During COVID, my normal weight was +/- 15 lbs and my body fat maxed out at 22%. 

Ironically, Hen was moving the classes to night time which worked for me.  When I saw the belly was when I contacted Hen to join the group officially. It was time for me to get back in shape. The first few classes were tricky for me. Having accumulated weight, I was no longer in touch with my body. My punches were heavy and slow. My kicks were awkward now being blocked with a layer of fat. I was now more comfortable in a southpaw fighting position whereas orthodox fighting position is left lead. 

Before COVID, I was comfortable doing most techniques as an ambidextrous fighter and would often switch back and forth (very rare). I had gotten lazy on my hand placement when virtually sparring. Hen helped me clean up alot of my technique by revisiting concepts after class, which really helped blossom and cement our friendship. We began talking on a daily basis now about the happenings and attacks in America. 

The killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others also hit me quite hard. 

I felt powerless to do anything since I was stuck at home just listening to these things unfold on the news. Every person, especially every minority, should understand the impact of why minority killings are so important! The anti-Black sentiment from a segment of the Asian community (aka “Boba Liberals”) sided with the white supremacists who have infiltrated law enforcement.

The FBI reported these findings more than 10 years ago and I have repeatedly watched police body cam footage of black men and women being shot to death even before it was mainstream in the news. Watching the trial proceedings of George Zimmerman and his apparent gloating by selling the gun he killed Trevor Martin spoke volumes about how guilty he actually was. The anti-asian sentiment that hit during the Black Lives Matter movement and especially now the media has brought into the limelight is totally justified in my eyes! 

The Asian community was no longer seen as an ally of the Black community.

The AsianX community is also a conglomerate of Asian cultures. Any one group or person does not speak for the rest of us. Chinese people and Koreans have a deep resentment of the Japanese people because of World War II. Taiwanese and Hong Kongese hate Chinese people from the mainland. Pakistan hates Bangladesh and India and vice versa. 

Growing up Asian American, I can tell you from experience Asians are clique and tend to hang out with their own culture. Anti-Black sentiment from the Asian community is rampant. When I was in University hanging out with Chinese FOBs (fresh off the boat), they told a story of how their friends and family would tell them, “When you get to America, hold onto your bag or wallet when you see a black man coming down the street.” 

What utter nonsense this is coming when these people have never met a black man before! The fact so many Chinese people migrated to the open arms of Africa during the bloodshed of the Cultural Revolution is insulting to Afro-Chinese relations. Even Asian elders who have lived in the States for decades still do not trust black people thinking they are all liars, cheats, and muggers.

There are two things that are universal about hate. Hate is generational and it is taught!

The divisiveness of White supremacists has always been to separate minorities in America through hate and bigotry, thereby making us all easier to control. Look at African American history; it is a prime and long example about keeping the black man and woman subservient. African American history and culture was stolen intended to keep them lost about who they are. The only sense of history is the knowledge their forebears came here against their will as slaves plagued with chains and racism. The blight of African American people only to continue that injustice in servitude without reparations until recently on March 17, 2021 by the City of Evanston. African American history is American history just like Asian history is American history. When Blacks were freed from servitude, Asians from the mainland were brought in to continue the work. Just like the perpetuation of the Asian model minority myth was again created by white supremacist, William Petersen of the New York Times, intended to divide the AsianX community. So too are white supremacists to divide the Black and Asian solidarity that we have built since the civil rights movement. 

Yuri Kochiyama, prominent civil right activist, holding Malcolm X as he lay dying in her arms. 

Discussing BLM, current dangers, and voting to Asian Elders was like trying to perform inception 5 levels deep. Nearly impossible. I have attended all the Asians rallies in NYC to date and have not one good interview with the sparsely available elder about BLM and hate crimes. I usually approach asking for a picture asking them if they know any other languages and speaking to them in my broken cantonese or mandarin. The message usually gets across but the common answer is

“No, I don’t feel comfortable talking about it.”

“Why Black? Why Black? What about Asian?”

“I’m just here with my daughter. You can ask her.”

“I don’t vote because I feel like it won’t make a difference” 

Asians are statistically insignificant to politicians and the fact we don’t come out to vote about these things is the worst part. Out of the 11 million or 5% of Asian voters in this country, about half of that are eligible voters. For the fastest growing ethnic group in America, representation is everything and silence is complicity. And we will continue to be suppressed if we don’t get out to vote.

Which led me to ask Hen “How do you protect and empower a group of people that generally doesn’t give a fuck about their own survival?” I was and continue to be fed up. For an entire week, I was thinking about this question and seeing if I could find an answer. I’m not a stupid guy but that’s also the reason why I became an engineer. 

So by the time I heard about the 6 asian women that were killed in Atlanta by a fetishizing white man, I really had no fucks left to give. Hen and I both saw this coming just that it really was just a matter of time. All these “Boba Liberals” whining on social media “Oh my god. I never expected this to happen.” and me yelling on Clubhouse “I literally DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT. Everybody saw this coming.” Hen and I also know this thing is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

The irrationality of man is the largest preventer of progress. I came to the conclusion I can’t change anyone’s mind if their minds are closed. While I was water, everyone was concrete. Akin to talking to any radical left or right wing person. It’s a waste of time. The answer I came to? I will do the best I can within my ability and that currently is to train people to be upstanding citizens. No more and no less. 

Become the solution.