Martial Arts, Kung Fu Cats

Growing up in Hawaii, I was introduced to martial arts at an early age. Not only were friends and relatives practicing the various art forms, but television shows like Kung Fu Theater fueled my enthusiasm. Horse stance, iron fist and tiger claw were just a few of the “supernatural moves” my friends and I would practice on each other.

But where did all this style and technique come from? Who created judo, capoeira or tiger-style kung fu?

If you ask me, the Wild Side holds the answer.

The theory that martial arts originated from animals surfaced years ago when my wife and I adopted our first pets. Although our home is now an overcrowded menagerie, we initially started with just two cats in our household.

Pebbles came first. We rescued her from an animal shelter in Minnesota, where she actually chose us. Rocky, on the other hand, was found in a department store garbage bin. Actually, his mother was discovered surrounded by trash, malnourished with a severely infected eye and pregnant with three kittens. She survived her eye surgery and later gave birth to our little Rocky.

Pebbles enjoyed being the only cat in our family until Rocky popped into our lives. Introducing the two cats to each other was quite a chore. Pebbles, being the senior cat in the house, hissed and growled whenever Rocky came near. For the first two weeks we kept them separated by limiting Rocky to our bedroom. Eventually, the aggressive vocalizations from Pebbles stopped. Our decision to allow direct contact came when we caught the two of them sticking their paws under the bedroom door and playing with each other.

Opening the door, we let Rocky out to explore the house as we kept an eye on Pebbles. At first everything seemed all right, but then it happened. Pebbles pounced on our new kitten and pinned him with a choke hold. Our every instinct was to interject and rescue Rocky, but deep inside we trusted Pebbles not to do any serious injury. Sure enough, after a few seconds, she let him go. We realized this exercise was merely to teach Rocky who was boss.

As days turned to weeks, we noticed that there was peace again in the family. Pebbles and Rocky would groom each other and even fall asleep side by side. I started to notice, however, that their daily rituals included several bouts of sparring. I often sat mesmerized by their melee.

They would warm up with jabs and kicks that lasted a few minutes. Rocky then assumed the “crouching tiger” position and pounced on Pebbles. She prepared for his attack by slowly rolling over and lying on her back. As Rocky plummeted toward her, Pebbles simply tossed him head over heal onto the carpet. This move seemed reminiscent of a judo throw. Momentarily dazed, Rocky would just shake off the effects of the throw and ready himself once more. After several unsuccessful attempts, Rocky learned his lesson. He learned it so well that eventually, when Pebbles lunged, Rocky would throw her to the side. It was Kung Fu Theater animal kingdom-style.

Today Pebbles and Rocky are both over 12 years old, but I still catch them sparring on occasion. At this stage in their lives, they remind me of two martial arts masters honing their skills and testing their longtime adversary. They don’t fight for fame, glory or money. They fight just because. The wild side is simple that way.

Hai … ya!

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