Sunny Xu finds balance in martial arts


Sunny Xu

Pictured here is Sunny Xu posing for one of his senior photos.

Senior Sunny Xu is right on the cusp of earning his black belt in martial arts. For just over a decade, he has worked toward this precise accomplishment and has gained maturity in doing so from the people who have guided him along the way.

“I’ve had two instructors and the first one helped nurture me and get me in the right mindset,” Sunny said. “She had to go back to China, and then a new one came. So with the new one, [I’ve grown] a more mature mentality, and [I’ve been able to see] what the purpose of practicing is compared to when you’re literally going through the motions. I’m testing for my black belt soon and my [current] Master is a seven-time national world champion in China and a third-degree black belt. She’s really good.”

Along with his black belt on the way, Sunny is working toward another pressing goal—auditioning for the National Martial Arts Team for a competition in California this summer. While he initially started Martial Arts as a hobby, he feels that this leveled-up experience could also be suitable for his desires. However, making it onto the team is not his sole priority, as he still wants to maintain the fun he has in his practice.

“The National team has competition select members,” Sunny said. “Those members will represent the United States at competitions. I’m pretty sure [the team] is at an Olympic level, but I haven’t looked that deep into it because I don’t really expect to make it. It’s just something I do for fun.”

Martial arts is more than just staying active for Sunny—it’s all about cultivating a certain mindset, skill, and state of being that help catalyze the numerous benefits of the practice. Additionally, it is a stress reliever for the days and moments that build up excess negativity. Once Sunny enters his studio—Golden Tiger Kung Fu Academy—and begins his practice, he is able to hone in his focus on the meticulous nature of martial arts.

“I feel like [martial arts] trains your mind, body, and soul and makes sure your body stays healthy as well as your mind,” Sunny said. “It’s really calming sometimes and seeing [your] progression helps you [be] stabilized.”  

As he simultaneously tunes in with his mind and his body through martial arts, Sunny feels a sense of connection to his relatives in China through this practice. Though his family members never partook in martial arts, he feels that he is able to root himself into Chinese heritage and culture.

With that, Sunny also feels that martial arts binds him with his community. His studio puts on performances at local schools and businesses when they can feed the camaraderie and the cultural bond the community has.

“[The most] rewarding thing [about martial arts] is performing for people,” Sunny said. “It’s enriching the local community. When I was watching them perform at my elementary school, [I thought,] ‘They’re cool. I want to be with them one day.’ I want to inspire more people. It’s [also] connecting [me] back to my culture. Even though I can’t see my family in China, through martial arts, I can kind of still feel a connection to them.”

I feel like [martial arts] trains your mind, body, and soul and makes sure your body stays healthy as well as your mind.

— Sunny Xu

Though martial arts is exceptionally physically demanding, a lot of merit is put in the performance and visual appeal of it—both the athletic and artistic sides of it are at an equal balance. When Sunny performs with his studio, he focuses on showcasing his skills in both technical matters and visual performance.

“What I do is called specifically “wǔshù”it’s a Chinese form of martial arts and It’s more performance-based, so it’s more visual,” Sunny said. “And then for actual combat and everything, you can learn basic skills, but we focus on just performing.”

But with every sport comes a fair share of injuries; Sunny knows this all too well. With the tremendous amount of physical effort that goes into martial arts, falling and getting hurt is inevitable. Though the pain and frustration have the tendency to discourage, Sunny relies on his determined mindset to keep improving and moving forward.

“Sticking with it and continuing [is challenging] because every time I go, I come back with a new injury,” said Sunny, describing the obstacles that martial arts entail. “Or I fall down a lot when I try to do kicks and stuff. It’s just [about] getting back up. What I’ve learned [is to have] patience. You can’t be expected to learn how to do a certain movement in one day—it’s a process over time. If you don’t put time and effort into that process, you’re not gonna get any results out of it.”

Despite the bumps and bruises that come with it, martial arts is powerful in several facets of Sunny’s life. He has found how to achieve a balanced mentality, kept physically active, and has found a strong community of like-minded individuals in the sport. His love for martial arts additionally prompted him to write about it for one of his college essays.

Other than the direct takeaways that have translated into his practice, Sunny applies the intrinsic values of martial arts in going about his daily life other than just at the studio. He consistently keeps the respect of others in mind in all areas of life and tries his best to maintain the things he has learned from this art form.

“Discipline is one of the core things in martial arts,” Sunny said. “Respect everybody and treat other people how you wanna be treated.”

Altogether, martial arts is an all-encompassing art and sport that uses the mind, body, and spirit. Sunny has developed his character through his years of practice and has reaped a long list of benefits that martial arts provides. 

“[Martial arts] is overall a fun experience,” Sunny said. “You get to meet new peers, get introduced to a new culture, and get to work on your body at the same time.”