Posted by: Kiki | April 15, 2009

Got Kung Fu?

This week, you get to meet all the lovely authors here at We Love YA, and after that sweet birthday outing yesterday, it’s my turn to tell you a bit about myself, my writing and uh, random things.
Because one of the main things you need to know about me is that I have the attention span of a hummingbird on a sugar high.

stanceBut we’re not talking about my lack of attention span. What I want to talk about instead is my other job.
Most writers have “day jobs”, something they do to pay the bills, a 9-to-5. Most writers write at night.

For me, writing is my day job, as in, it’s what I do during the day. At night, I turn into a martial artist, which is my other “job”.

I first started practicing martial arts when I was three years old and my parents enrolled me in judo classes so I had a way of dealing with rough kids in the playground without hurting them in return. My hippie parents were big on the non-violence thing.

I quit judo because our grandmaster was a creepy old Japanese man, about a zillion years old. He had wispy white old-man hair, crooked yellow teeth (about five of them in total) and an eye patch. He would smack his walking cane right at our feet to make us jump. Fun guy, him.

I didn’t get back into martial arts until my late teens, when I joined wing chunk kung fu while I was in high school. Wing chun is a very direct, very logical martial art. it is often called the ‘science of martial arts’. It is very efficient and well-suited to all body types.

It is also one of the few martial arts in the world known to have been invented by a woman, the Shaolin nun Ng Mui, for a woman, the legendary Yim Wing Chun.img_0427

When I moved to Australia to study, I joined the kung fu club at uni and was happy to discover that they in fact taught wing chun as their main style. I’ve been practicing with them for over seven years now.

We don’t just practice kung fu, we also train lion dance. Not seriosuly, and certainly not to the level you might see in competitions, but we do it for fun, and as a team-building exercise.

How does all of this relate to writing?

Martial arts inform how I view the world, and it certainly played a major role in my upcoming book, Enter The Parrot (yes, the title is a parody of a Bruce Lee movie. In fact, all books in this series will have martial arts movie titles. my personal favourite is ‘Crouching Snowplough, Hidden Mogul’).

My heroine finds herself involved in a secret martial arts society and has to figure out clues that take her all over Chinatown while training with her old and kooky grandfather who can’t stop talking about the Art.

One of my pet peeves in books are silly portrayals of martial artists. It doesn’t bug me as much in urban fantasy or paranormal books where there are supernatural elements involved. It really, really bugs me in “realisitic” suspense novels when ordinary people perform extraordinary feats of self-defence after a week of training, or something equally weird. Or those “She’s a black belt in seven martial arts styles”. Yeah, no. Doesn’t work that way.

If you want to read good fight choreography in a book, I recommend you pick up any R.A. Salvatore novels. he’s fantastic at staging combat without having to resort to superhuman feats. And he writes fantasy.

To finish this off, let me tell you about the words “kung fu”. Most people assume it’s just a name, or is synonymous with “martial art”.

Kung fu (功夫) literally translates into “hard work” or “skill”. It implies a skill you got through honest, hard work (in contrast to just luck or talent). You can have kung fu in everything, not just martial arts. A master chef is said to have good kung fu in the kitchen, for example.

So I hope all of us as writers can have good kung fu with our writing and our books.



  1. No way! I studied Wing Chun years ago, though I must say I hurt myself more than anyone else. I have great kung fu with beating myself up!
    Enter the Parrot is great, and Miss14 reckons that TF is the bomb! Apparently she wants to meet a guy just like him. I said over my dead body, he might be hot but he’s a bad boy and you stay away from those types.

  2. Hey, Kiki. You displayed great kung fu in writing that post. 😉 Has the discipline of martial arts helped you when it comes to writing your novels?

  3. Thank you for the good kung fu writing wishes Kiki. Oh and I love the title of of your books. Absolute gold.

  4. You know I could have been a contender. My father was a judo teacher and he would have gone to the Olympics except he broke his arm. Then he was killed in a motorbike accident when I was 2 and a half. Mum tried to get me to continue with judo but I rejected it. I guess even at that young age, I knew there was an essential part of that experience was missing for me. It might have helped with me being ‘unco’ and I would have been very useful at school.

    I learned some Wing Chun when I was in my early twenties but I think it was only a short course or maybe I just got freaked out by one of the other students. She became very attached to me, almost stalkerish.

    It’s great you found yourself in kung fu, Kiki.

  5. Great post – I’ve never done any martial arts but I’ve watched far too many of the movies. Anyway, I can’t wait to read your book (not least because it has the best title ever!!!!) and thanks for the R.A. Salvatore recommendation. I seem to be having more and more fighting in my books so I actually do need some help!!!!

  6. Wow, wing chun sure is popular in the YA crowd… ^_^

    V, yes, i definitely think martial arts helps in my writing. I know I have to do the painful stuff to get better. Also, writing a little bit every day gets me further than writing in fits and bursts, and that’s another martial arts thing.

    Wow, Diane, a stalker! Eeek!

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