Apr 07, 2016 02:48PM
● By Alisha Soeken
By Alisha Soeken | [email protected]
Murray - Like matching sequences in our DNA, intangible elements link us to our predecessors in history. Sifu Damian Snyder is a modern link in an ancient chain of martial arts instructors.
Snyder is the Sifu at Sil Lum Kung Fu Kwoon. His educational lineage traces back to Gee Sim Sum See, a Chinese monk from the 1600s and the famous Wong Fei-hung man featured in more than 100 films and television series.
“I started learning kung fu under Sifu Bill Smith in 1993,” Snyder said. “I took his class and was immediately hooked. My first rank advancement was administered at Sifu Smith’s school.”
Sixteen years later, Snyder became Sifu at Smith’s school.
Kung fu originated in China. It was initially used as a means to improve hunting and defense skills. Its limited repertoire included skills such as cleaving, chopping and stabbing. Yet during the Xia Dynasty, beginning in the 21st century B.C., kung fu developed into an advanced method of training soldiers.
Today, those who practice kung fu learn not only the skills of battle but art of movement and the discipline of body and mind.
“Kung fu helps me stay strong both physically and mentally,” Snyder said. “Kung fu is difficult because it requires so much time, dedication and repetition. Because the true meaning of kung fu is accomplished through time and effort, the practice of it can be applied to anything, not just the martial art.”
As Snyder teaches, kung fu isn’t merely a fighting art. Kung fu works to magnify and calm the mind. Its objective, spiritual fulfillment, naturally forms a desire in its students to better the lives of others. Snyder and his Kwoon are no exception.
“My favorite thing about teaching is watching my students grow and achieve a level of excellence in both their kung fu training and personal life,” Snyder said. “If I can help one student become a better person, it is all worth it to me.”
Lucas Soeken, a student at Sil Lum, has benefited from the care that extends past the training he receives.
“When we had our third child and I was out of work for a few weeks from neck surgery, the school provided us with diapers, wipes, grocery money and gift certificates, all collected by the other students. It’s a good school run by a good guy.”
As well as taking care of its members, Sil Lum Kung Fu has been closely associated with the Utah Chinese community.
“We have been very involved with the Asian community over the years,” Snyder said. “We perform the Chinese lion dance, dragon dance and kung fu demonstrations all over Utah, Nevada and Idaho.”
Sil Lum Kung Fu has received awards from the Asian Chamber of Commerce, the Asian Elders Community, the Chinese Society of Utah, City Weekly and more. Even its location in the middle of Salt Lake’s Chinatown reflects their dedication to the Asian community and its culture.
Recently, Murray helped celebrate the Chinese New Year. Snyder’s Kwoon performed the lion head dance at Cottonwood High School and Café Trang. Snyder had the audience in awe as he performed a Qi Gung technique, breaking a spear with his neck.
“I love to perform in Murray because the people are so kind, energetic and enthusiastic,” Snyder said. “It’s a wonderful place.”
The Murray community looks vastly different than the temples in China and ancient grounds where kung fu was first practiced. Gee Sim Sum See and Wong Fei-hung could, if they looked, see the link from ancient to modern kung fu in instructors like Snyder, students like Soeken and Kwoons like Sil Lum Kung Fu.