Why is Wushu My Life Today?
By Benoit Denolle
My first step into this world…
I always wanted to play fight with my brother after watching Dragon Ball Z anime. Since then, I knew that one day I was going to practice martial arts. Even though it was not part of family traditions, like tennis, football, sailing…. After my brother began learning wushu in Rennes (France), I was so impressed by what he was doing that I had no choice but to do the same.
In 2007 I began training 4 hours of wushu a week with 2 hours of Taolu (forms training) and 2 hours of Sanda (sparring).
One day I heard my teacher say that he could only send two guys to competition, one who began much younger than me and another who began wushu at the same time as me. I could not believe it, I thought to myself: “I’ll show my teacher I can be one of the best!” Then I asked to train as if I was a competitor, learning special forms away from the group, and just focusing on it. This was my first step in what was going to be the craziest journey of my life!
I began to train gymnastics at the same time to improve my jumps where I randomly met a guy from the French national Wushu team… That was when I learned what “a training partner” was, and became highly motivated. I wanted to prove I was a competitor, which meant training in cold weather, on rainy days, or when I was sore muscles, injured, sick… (When you really love something, being sick is not an obstacle even with a mum wants you to stay at home to rest).
Three years later in 2010, I went to my first competition (Marseilles), and won a gold medal in the beginner division. I saw that all the training had paid off. My older brother who’d brought me there, in a 20 hours ride was proud of me. It also gave my other brother the motivation to continue kung-fu.
Afterwards began the journey of the competitions, I wanted to be the best, no matter how much time I had to train, or how much money I had to spend. I even sacrificed the time I could spend with my girlfriend so I have more time to train.
My dream of being a world champion was born, I thought “if one person can do a butterfly twist with split landing, then why can’t I do that? I wanted to win more gold medals and be able to prove to everyone that “I am awesome, I am a champion”!
After years of training and competitions, I began to understand the true meaning of competition and devotion. It took me years to realize that winning wasn’t the goal of competition. Receiving a medal is not the point. Two or three days after, you don’t feel any difference in your life. I know because I experienced both defeat and victory.
In 2011 when I first challenged tougher competition, the result was empty hands (last), sword (last), and spear (last). It made me realize the true sense of never giving up. I also experienced victory in 2013 with gold medal in Madrid. After spending time training with people from different countries, it appeared to me that I could never be among the best in the world. With that thought in mind, I asked myself “what is the point in competing?” For me, competitions are a way to make progress, to be good at what I am doing. The main point for me is to surpass myself and my own limits. Nowadays, when I am on the carpet, I just want to show everyone, the results of my hard training and the reason why I spend so many hours at the gym. If you do your best in competition, and lose, there is absolutely no shame in saying, “This guy is just better than me, but, that’s fine, I’ll train harder so I can try to defeat him next time!” So, how do you get better? New competitions lead to new goals (new moves, new jump kicks (“difficulties”), and a new desire to show everyone your best).
I became aware of that as I trained hard to meet all the expectations of the corrupt French Wushu Federation and get to the side of the French National Wushu Team. Even if you do great things, they do not care and choose to focus on people they know. This big disillusion led me to the true understanding of competition. Compete for yourself and not for the others!
Where Does My Motivation Come From?
First, my motivation comes from the love of the sport, “As long as you do what you love, it worth the effort”. This quotation from a motivational video reflects well my spirit well. Why do I love wushu? This sport is very complex, and combines power, peacefulness, explosiveness, rythm, and flexibility. It is a beautiful art, a beautiful sport and it requires a good state of mind. I love the feeling at the end of training, when I can hardly move because I took my self beyond my limits… This is why I am passionate about wushu. I love this sport and I love to give 110% of what I have.
Thanks to this activity, I’ve met many people. Although it is an individual sport, we all share the same passion, the same goals, victories and failures… We all share this incredible connection which make the friends with train like family. When I heard the name “wushuonefamily” (W1F), it made me laugh but now I get the meaning!
Competition is a way for me to make progress and to prove of my devotion to this sport, to my friends, to my family and to people I meet. One of my goals today is to become a member of the French Wushu Team, even if I know that convincing the federation is hard even if I am good enough. But why? I can I assure you that it is not to get higher scores in the national competitions through connections with judges or anything like that. I want this status so that one day, when my mom, dad, brothers, sister, talk about me, they do not just say: “He does kung-fu” but say: “he is a real athlete” and be proud to.
It would also be a way for me to thank them for all their patience for the time they endured my rambling on about wushu, and for the efforts they’ve made on my behalf so that I can train. For a long time, overtraining has been source of conflict in my family (affecting my schoolwork) but they never prevented me from practice and for this, I am thankful.
Sharing this experience with my brother is also what helped me to keep the faith, as we are always pushing each other to be better.
I want to do great things in my life. Just as I was inspired when I began, I want to do my best so that later I can inspire others and show them the way. I have never been gifted for this sport but thanks to passion, I got to where I am now. I want to represent possibilities and show that anybody can do great things! Most people, they raise a family, they earn a living and they die. I do not want to live that way; I want to accomplish things by doing wushu. A lot of people complain but they don’t do anything to change their life. My passion taught me to always go forward and never quit, even when I am faced with adversity.
Watch this to see more of Ben in action! (Not sure which one he is? Hint- he’s the one who wins;)