You are not for everyone, but you are for someone. In the beginning I wanted everyone to participate in my practices which made my marketing vague. Now I know exactly who I want to work with, I market toward them, and I’m able to have a deeper impact because I am more specific.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sifu Love.
Sifu Love is a Spiritual Martial Arts Instructor, Emotional Health Counselor and Gay Olympic Champion who teaches people how to heal themselves by breaking free of trauma, stress, and social conditioning so that they can finally live the life of their dreams. After graduating from Columbia University with a Masters Degree in Spiritual Psychology, he founded Healing Kung Fu, a queer and BIPOC friendly spiritual martial arts school that has trained thousands of people around the world on how to attain spiritual health by aligning their mind, body, and soul.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
I grew up in a single parent household with a mom who taught me the importance of curiosity. She always encouraged me to approach my problems with curiosity in order to find solutions. When I had a stutter, I learned how to meditate as a way to slow down my thoughts and reduce my anxiety around speaking. When I came out and was afraid of getting gaybashed, I learned Kung Fu to be able to protect myself. When I started to question the meaning of life, I read up on philosophy and practiced spiritual traditions from all around the world.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
When I was 10 years old, I stumbled upon “Meditation for Dummies” and it changed my life. As I was reading it, I was blown away by how it spoke highly of meditation as a modality that would not only help me deal with the anxiety I was facing in my life, but also allow me to expand my mind. I remember practicing the very simple techniques thinking “this is so basic, it probably won’t work.” But after about a week of practicing, I started to notice a general sense of calmness come over me.The more I read and practiced, I developed a stronger connection with my intuition and began creating new meditations that helped me go deeper into my own consciousness and begin to heal some of my wounds from past trauma.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Making a difference is a two part process.
The first step is to observe an environment so that you best understand it. The second step is to shift the state of that environment by taking an action that will benefit the community. The first step is often skipped which leads to people creating things that actually are a burden to the community.
Throughout my life I have done community service both locally and abroad. Each instance, I would observe or gather data about that community before committing to a service action so that I felt like I was truly benefiting them. The actions ranged from decorating a haunted house for kids in a local neighborhood where I noticed families couldn’t afford halloween celebrations to revamping curriculum for a school in a rural area of China so that students had a competitive advantage for when they graduated onto school in the big city.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
Sure! Healing Kung Fu is a queer and BIPOC friendly Spiritual Martial Arts school that teaches folks how to move their bodies in a way so they can heal themselves and protect themselves. Healing Kung Fu provides a safe space for those who are exploring their identity and navigating the societal challenges that come with fully embracing their beautiful whole selves. There aren’t many spaces in our culture where queer folks or BIPOC can gather to safely think about how society has disempowered us and work to cultivate a deeper sense of self love and empowerment.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
In school I was bullied for being overweight and girly, so I joined my middle school’s wrestling team to learn how to protect myself and shave off some weight. I found myself surrounded by toxic masculinity which made me even more uncomfortable with my gayness. When I left the team, I started training in Kung Fu. In that space I was comfortable with my gayness, but uncomfortable with the sexist notions my fellow athletes and I were subjected to. Years later, I moved to China for deeper, immersive study in Kung Fu, and there I faced discomfort with my blackness in how I drew both people’s attention and stereotypes. I couldn’t find a space for me to fully embrace the different aspects of my identity. Over the years counselling people, I noticed many people were craving a safe space to explore their identity, so I got the idea of creating Healing Kung Fu to be that transformative, explorative space.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
In 2018, I competed at the Gay Olympic Games in Paris. There I met so many queer martial artists who made me feel at home — something I rarely felt around other athletes. Because of that safety, I had a really powerful, transcendent performance during my final competition. I had done a Spiritual Kung Fu performance around the theme of The Black Panther and I felt my ancestors interact with and encourage me throughout the competition. That was the moment I knew that I was destined to create a safe space for both queer folks and even for BIPOC to gather and explore themselves. Looking back at the circumstances I had faced throughout my life, I knew I was the perfect person to create such a space. Winning the Grand Championship at the Olympics just confirmed it!
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
I also had no clue how to get started. I spent a couple of months binge watching free start-up business training videos, taking notes, talking to other entrepreneurs, and reading books about how to start a business. I’ll be honest, I got overwhelmed with all the conflicting information. I paused all the consumptive learning, went deeper into my spiritual movement practices to tap into my soul and hone my intuition. This helped me figure out my messaging, target audience, and begin to manifest my expansion. Months later, I stumbled upon a business coach who was able to fill in my gaps of knowledge and help me build my infrastructure.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Sure! So Qigong is the core spiritualized movement meditation practice that I teach. During COVID, I taught the Transformational Qigong form for Manifestation online for the very first time. The second I turned off my camera, the weather outside changed and there was an unexpected storm for the rest of the day. The next day, I woke up to an email with an opportunity for me to teach my Trauma and Anxiety Qigong forms to a bunch of high school students at a charter school. Two days later, I woke up to three texts from my students. One student had manifested the apartment of her dreams. Another student had manifested a job offer (from a company they forgot they applied for). Another student ran into someone special at the store and they have been partners now for going on 8 months! I was in awe of the coincidences and how quick my students (and I) were able to manifest things they desired.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
Haha. This was a little mistake that I will never make again. I always talk about how the spiritual movement practices are great to do outside, so I planned a really transformative workshop to do out in Fort Greene park in NYC. I spent weeks training to get my physical and energy body ready to hold the space, advertised and got a group of folks committed to coming. The morning of the event, I woke up to the sound of heavy rainfall that had begun to flood my apartment. I forgot to check the weather forecast! Apparently others around me knew it was going to rain that day, but I was so focused on the event that I forgot to check in with Mother Nature 🙂
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
My family and my partner have been my greatest cheerleaders. As a spiritual healer who has started a totally unique business, sometimes I doubt whether or not people will resonate with my work. Both my family and partner constantly support me whenever doubt comes in and through their support I’ve been able to amplify the potency of the work that I do.
Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
While I was studying at Columbia, there was one professor who had so much faith in me and the work that I was doing. Because she has MAJOR accolades, I was always both shocked and comforted by her support. It was really helpful when those feelings of imposter syndrome came up! Her faith in me gave me so much hope. I definitely needed that support to get through some of the more difficult days.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
I dream of a world where BIPOC and Queer folks feel safe in both their bodies and their environment. Some things that can help that come to light:
- Being mindful of people’s personal pronouns and limiting the use of gendered and sexist language (e.g. ‘hey guys’)
- Increase implicit bias and de-escalation training for all public safety officials (this I’m hoping to provide early next year)
- Highschools can provide more extensive sexual education and anti racism programs
Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).
- People are going to gravitate toward you because of your story. At first I was creating programs I thought people would like rather than creating programs that are a byproduct of my own healing journey. I have a 3 month program called Mythic which is about uncovering and embracing your authentic self. I created that program after coming out as a genderfluid shaman and learning how to fully embrace those aspects of my own identity.
- You can’t do it alone. When I first started, I didn’t want to ask for help because I thought I had to do it all by myself. Now that I’m investing in a business mentor and an assistant, I’m seeing my work multiply in potency and quantity with half the effort!
- People are ready to get in touch with their spiritual side. At first I doubted this so I hid my shamanic healing practices. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who I have met that are interested in Spirituality and are eager for me to share my Shamanic Healing Practices.
- Being a changemaker isn’t all roses and unicorns. There are many challenging moments and hard days. I’ve enjoyed learning how to get through those tough days because they allow me to appreciate the good days even more!
- You are not for everyone, but you are for someone. In the beginning I wanted everyone to participate in my practices which made my marketing vague. Now I know exactly who I want to work with, I market toward them, and I’m able to have a deeper impact because I am more specific.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Your story has the power of impacting someone’s life. If you’ve gone through something, chances are there is someone out there who is going through something similar and hearing how you’ve worked through your challenges can inspire them to continue pushing through their own challenge.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Symone (the winner of Ru Paul’s Drag race season 13) who also goes by Reggie Gavin. I love the way they embraced their gayness and their blackness. They are a step ahead of me in that regard and I’d love to have a conversation with them about what it’s like to be famous for embracing their authentic self. I would also love to collaborate with them and create a Spiritual Healing Program for Drag Queens and Genderbenders.
How can our readers follow you online?
The greatest way to connect with me is through my website, healingkungfu.com. There folks can sign up for my mailing list. I regularly send out spiritual wellness tips and broadcast upcoming events. Folks can also find me on instagram @healingkungfu.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!