Interview: Dedicated to Shaolin
Mike Lund Johansen is a passionate martial artist, balancing a normal life in the modern world, with true dedication to martial arts training. I hope this interview will serve as inspiration to some of you out there…
What type of martial art do you practice?
I practice traditional Shaolin Gong fu (Kung fu)
Have you tried others?
I have tried a few other martial arts. Such as Taekwondo, Capoeira, Hong Chuan Kung fu, Mei Shu Kung fu. I want to try Krav Maga as well.
For how long have you been fascinated with martial arts?
Since I was 4 years old or something. I wanted to take Karate classes back then, but my parents wouldn’t let me start, because they saw it as “a sport for criminals”. But in december 2006, I had a friend who practiced Gong fu, and I asked if I could just go with him and watch it, and since then, I’ve been hooked!
When did you do something about it, and what made you take that step?
I was attacked during my job as a security guard. They had broken into a house, and were still there, as I arrived. Actually I didn’t think much during the situation, I simply reacted.
How did you react?
As the intruder saw me, he tried to punch or push me away. I was quite scared, but delivered a punch to right his face, knocking the man out. I then proceeeded to call the police right after.
What are your favourite ways to practice and why?
Actually I don’t have a “favourite way” to practice. It’s important to constantly challenge your body in different ways, so it never gets used to one kind of workout. Mix things up and you wont reach a plateau. I have a saying; practice just for practice. I do forms (taolu in kung fu) a lot, and if I had to pick my favourite way of practising, I guess that would be it, but every workout is different from the previous one. Some days, I just train forms, other days it’s pure stretching, power training, forms, acrobatics, or simply the basics.
The basics, could you elaborate on that?
By that I mean, well, basically everything. Every single move of Gong fu. The basics I focus on mostly are the more commonly used kicks in combination with armdrills. But other times I focus on basics thru stance work combined with punches and combinations.
How has your training influenced your body and the way you use it?
I was a hot tempered kid, before I started practicing martial arts. If you said something wrong to me back then, I would punch you. After learning Gong fu I have become much calmer, and don’t want to fight. I think it’s because Gong fu has shown me what violence can do to another person.
How has your training influenced your mind?
After I started learning Gong fu, I have a much more calm mindset. But I also like Ch’an Buddhism a lot (the Buddhism practiced in the Shaolin temple, which is called Zen in Japanese). I don’t know enough of Ch’an Buddhism to call myself “a Buddhist” but I try to follow the things I know from Buddhism.
Do you do something to feed your motivation or is it simply just there always?
I don’t do any specific things to feed my motivation, maybe I’ll watch a few Youtube videos, but that’s basically it. Everyone has lazy days, and that’s okay. Every day does not need to be harder than the previous one, the important thing is just to do SOMETHING, even if it’s just 5 minutes a day.
Describe a good martial arts memory and a bad one?
The test I did in 2012 was one of the hardest tests I ever will do in my whole life! Two hours of intense training, both forms, basics, fight against several opponents and horse stance testing. There were times where I just wanted to quit, but I KEPT GOING, and after finishing that test, it was the best feeling in the world.
This was during a practice session. We were doing the Lotus kick, and my leg “locked” in the air, I fell and did a back fall, this resulted in a broken hand. No training for 6 weeks, the worst 6 week of my life.
Do you prioritise certain aspects of martial arts above others?
As I said, I train just to train. That’s the most important thing for me. The most important thing in martial arts for me is getting and maintaining a healthy body. The self defence, competitions, and so on, are side benefits, but not the goal itself for me personally.
Has martial arts changed you, and if so in what ways?
Like I said before, I’m now calmer than I used to be. I’m not as aggressive as before, and much more content in life than I was before. Martial arts has given me energy and compassion to help other people, who need it. After practicing Gong fu and some Ch’an Buddhism, my perspective on other people has changed completely. When someone is struggling with failure, I no longer think “it’s the person’s own fault”, rather I think “maybe it is, maybe it’s not, but if the person needs help, I should help as a fellow human being”. No one is better than anyone else, we are all equal, and so we need to help each other, instead of constantly fighting against each other all the time.
Thanks a lot, Mike Lund Johansen.
You’re welcome, it was a pleasure.