Trust is a very valuable thing, but like many things that are worth something, it is very hard to come by. Once it has been lost, it can be very difficult to get back. So in which ever walk of life you are in it is wise to look after it.
I grew up on a small mid-western farm in the middle of America. For most of my childhood, we raised about a dozen cattle to take to market in the autumn so their stay on our farm, indeed on earth, was a short one. Knowing this, we children never attempted to make pets of any of the cattle as we knew what their fate would be at the end of the summer. That is except on one summer. Babe was a scrawny, white Freesion who was sorely out of place with the short-legged black and white Herefords that we tended to raise. They used to bully her any chance they got, even away from the feed trough and so she became an outcast in our little farmyard. Because of this, she did not 'fatten up' enough to take to market and was left behind.
It was my job to feed the cows and by September, it was just she and I. I would sit on the edge of the big wooden feeder and watch her while she ate. Soon she became used to me and would even lift her head to watch me back while she chewed her food slowly. By November, she would even lick my outstretched hand and finally, she even let me scratch her forehead and ears. Over these months, all the time, I would talk to her in a soft, gentle voice. I never made any abrupt movements, always being careful to move slowly around her.
Eventually, I gained her trust. By then, I was even sneaking apples out of the house for her to eat. I am sure my mother knew though she never said a word. I was happy to give Babe these treats.
You may wonder why I am telling animal stories in a Chinese internal arts magazine but I have learned to listen to the ideas that waken me in the middle of a deep sleep and ponder them further. The moral of the story, as they say, is trust. In the beginning, I could not even come near Babe, but with patience and gentleness, I won her heart.
So it is with wry humour that I look at some of the people who call me about coming to my class or still others who come to check me out. I had someone come to me recently who was a teacher of martial arts in another discipline. He watched me as I taught my Chen Taijiquan class. He was avid watcher, even moving from one end of the room to the other follow each move as I gave the lessons. He even participated from the sidelines, re-explaining my instructions to one of the students and who was also his acquaintance who had invited him. At the end, I asked him if he had any questions. The first words out of his mouth were, "Do you have any intermediate classes, as I have already studied other martial arts for many years. I can apply the principles over to Taijiquan."
Not just one reply but many came to my lips but I took a deep breath and considered how to best answer him. I o not think he meant to offend but regardless he was only looking at his own side. Afterall, his question in some way insulted the all students in the Tse Qigong Centre who did begin with the 'basics'. He was also insulting my teacher and my grandteacher, whose family skill I was privileged to teach. In effect as it was as if he were saying he was better than they.
Instead of saying this straightaway, however, I asked him a question back. I said, "Since I have studied martial arts for many years as well, how would you feel if I came to your class and asked you to learn some high level skill, as I already have a foundation in the internal arts." He of course said, he would not like it.
I told him that learning skill is not just about learning movement. It is also about discipline and the heart. I said, "If you do not want to learn the basics, you are in some way also saying you are better than the creator of that skill. After all, he had to learn the basics. His students and grandstudents had to as well."
Studying a true martial art is not like going to the supermarket and choosing which fruit looks the prettiest and most tasty. It is about developing a relationship with your Sifu and your fellow ^ students. It is about supporting the class not just because you want to own the skill, but because you respect the skill. Many people just see the outside or external side of the martial arts. By this I mean movement. They see something on television in a martial art film and think, 'I would like to do that'. That is fine but you are only seeing the result, not the method.
I am sure that I would have no students if I trained them in the way that Jackie Chan, Samo Hung and Jet Li were trained. That is because you have to go through a lot of bitter before you taste the sweet. However, today's society has spoiled us, thinking we can buy whatever we want, even skill.
However, true skill teaches you how to be a better human being. If you watch Jackie Chan's movies, particularly his 'pre-Hollywood movies', then you will not see any blood and there is always a moral. Even in his Hollywood movies, his character always talks about the idea of family loyalty and duty.
So good martial art skill also teaches you about loyalty and duty. In the past, we could not just go into a classroom and study. You had to prove yourself, your worth to the teacher. Even if the teacher accepted you to study, then you still had to prove your worth and the first year, maybe even the second was spent in training nothing but the basics, over and over and over again. This trained not only your body but your spirit and also showed your teacher whether or not you could be loyal. If you could stand this, then he felt more certain aboutdivulging his family's skill to you. Otherwise, you had no chance.
Marital art skill also teaches you about health and about discipline. If you only think about wanting to have more power, more fancy moves, then you are only tasting half of the fruit. It is like eating a meal, but absorbing no nutrients. Eventually, you will get full but have little benefit from what you have eaten.
We recently received an email from a Sifu (the author's own term) selling Black Belts. He said if you purchase his home study course and learn five basic stances and then contact him back with a letter of sincerity to say you truly have learned these stances, then he send back to you a certificate, black belt, martial art patches and sashes.
Maybe you can buy a certificate but you cannot buy true skill. How many people can say they have devoted themselves 100% for more than five years to the study of one skill with one teacher? Who can raise their hand to say they have done more than ten years to the study of one particular style or system martial or internal art? I daresay, not many. There are many who say they have studied martial arts for many years or even most of their lives, but what they have learned is bits and pieces. They perhaps go to a course and learn one form and then go back home to teach it to their students. Some people even go to China and look for a famous master and learn some skill for a few weeks or maybe even a few months and then come back to say they have studied with "Grandmaster X" but the teacher may not even know their name. As my Sifu always says, "You say you study with that
"They not only deceive their students, they deceive themselves
Sifu, but does that Sifu call his student?" They not only deceive their students, they deceive themselves. To call someone your teacher, to call someone your student means you have a relationship with them, of mutual respect and trust and this does not end just because you are in different locations.
These kind of people will never reach a high level. It is better to be a master of one single form, than be adequate at two dozen. Learning skill is like a marriage. When you first begin learning, it is very exciting and you can't wait to discover all the secrets. Then after you have been studying awhile, it gets harder and certainly by the second and third year, the romance has worn off .
As in a marriage, this is the test. If you have the attitude that you just keep wanting excitement, then you will look outside the relationship for that excitement. If, however, you want to maintain and even develop the relationship further, you work on it even though you know it is hard work. Sometimes this means repeatedly polishing the same thing again and again.
But by this time you should have new eyes and are actually beginning to seeing more than just the window dressings, the fancy movements. Each new level you reach will bring you a d ifferent understanding and appreciation. You are beginning to understand the principles and the energy. Like in a marriage, it is no longer new to wake up seeing that same face beside you on the pillow everyday, yet there is something better going on. Those people who only look at the surface and chase only the external, will be bored by now. They don't want to go past skin deep. But the person who seeks more will not be bored. In fact, they will find a comfort in the same faces, the same movements because there is a familiarity that is comforting. They also begin to look past the simple and see the profound. For anyone who has ever had the complacency to think they know their partner inside and out...look again. It is the same for skill. You bring to it a different understanding and awareness because you are constantly changing. The circumstances and your teacher are constantly changing. However, hopefully, the principles will be the same.
A friend recently sent me a note, that said, "Don't marry for love. Look at what you want out of a relationship and look closely at the person you are intending to marry. Do you have the same beliefs and same principles morally?" I think we should apply the same thoughts to our search for skill and a teacher in the martial and internal arts. Is your teacher going to be able to nurture not only your physical but guide you in other ways as well? Are you going to be able to support your teacher and class with a good attitude and sincerity and respect? If your teacher asks you to do something, will you keep your word? If you can show your respect and your loyalty, then there is no doubt the right teacher will trust you and they will teach you whatever they know. A good teacher shares the good food with good friends^
by Sihn Kei
The Dragon is a symbol of China, as we see very often in many Chinese stories. Swimming Dragon Gong is one Qigong forms from the Dayan System of Qigong. It is very dynamic and challenging, and the movements imitate a dragon's behaviour.
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