Sunday, 27 July 2008

Don't say: I suck at Kung Fu. But do say: I suck at Kung Fu because...

When training East Asian Martial Arts, we all know it is more then just learning how to fight. There is a lot of Eastern philosophy and the way of life integrated in the training. My mother used to say: "a good Kung Fu teacher is very important, as his role is like that of a father and will pass on his wisdom and moral judgment to you". This involves self-discipline, righteousness, focus, loyalty, self-growth, physical and mental strength, but also... humbleness. When someone is genuinely humble, his/her talent or skill is outshone by his/her personality.

Humbleness in Asian society doesn't mean one has to be submissive. It is a sign of having good manner and staying with both feet on the ground. Since it is not the same as being submissive, it means that the person is in fact always looking to improve oneself.

Often, when having a conversation with my fellow students, I hear many of them say: "I am not good at it". It, referring to what we trained before, it could be about being bad at Long Fist, Tai Chi or simple stretching. I am sure you and I have also been there and said that a few times. The logical solution is of course to tell yourself to train harder. But what exactly are you going to train? Where should the focus of the training be?

If one can only say: "I am bad at it", but not understanding what exactly is wrong, it is like being ill and not knowing how to find a cure.

In Kung Fu training, it is important to acknowledge your weakness and faults. But it doesn't stop there, as it would only create frustration at this stage. Truth is, it is unlikely you can improve during self-training without knowing what the mistake is. The problem lies in using the wrong phrase, instead of just saying that you suck at Kung Fu, it is much more productive to be able to say why you suck at it.

For example:

"I suck at always forgetting to put my back foot on a 45 degree angle".
Solution: focus on the 45 degree angle.

"I suck at mabu because I am sticking my butt out".
Solution: try not to look as if you are shitting.

Imagine you just say: "I suck at Kung Fu", there is no way you can focus on improving without first understanding what exactly you are bad at.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Self training vs training together

Students who have trained with teacher Mike know that he gives us lots and lots of info alongside the exercises. Often he points us the importance of basics, other times he introduces us to movements and power very few ever heard of. What I have learned so far increases my ability to observe and to think about my own training methodology. To think about one's own methodology of training is important if one wants to improve his/her Kung Fu. Ask yourself this question: What would you like to achive for yourself in a year, two years, three years,...?

"Kung-fu is demanding. It requires the full attention and participation of mind and body. ... Another less obvious element seems to be lacking in many people's practise, however. Many practitioners don't have a clear idea of what they are trying to achieve." (Adam Hsu in The Way of Kung-Fu)

What has achievements and methodology to do with self-training and training together? Simple: because the more you know about what you really want, the clearer it become to know what you need to train in order to get there.

Achievement = finding the right methodology + training

1) Now let's say that you know you want to improve, and you train a lot by yourself:

Self-training is the first logical way to practise, when you want to improve yourself. But self-training can be very bad if one doesn't have a clear idea what he is doing. What you improve is bad habits. The first 2 years of my training, I did a lot of home exercises, however, I didn't improve, nor did I understand where I am going to. I always have the bad habit of overstretching my elbows, but no fellow students could help me because I was training by myself. In short terms, I was fooling myself with the general cliche of: "if I just train, I will get better".

Mike's note is that self training is very important, "one should always train". But he also made the remarks on the danger of students trusting only their own interpretation, and not seeing their own mistakes (Mike's corrections forgotten, mistrusting fellow students, not watched Mike's correction properly). When the student is in such narrowminded state (believing only in yourself), then self training can easily become training of "bad habits".

2) What is the benefits of training together?

Self training is easy, you just have to stand up and do it. But self training in a correct way is hard, because unlike laoshi, we don't have the understanding of what is correct and what is not. Truth is: we all know a little, and yet not the same. That is what makes Kung Fu students so unique and that is also why training Kung Fu is a combination of self discipline and being social towards eachother.

For example: I know that in our school, one can be good in Long Fist stances, then someone else is talented in linking the postures so it looks fluent as a movement or form. If those 2 students would believe in self training only, they would be good. But they will never improve beyond their own limitation, because they never meet up for training together. That is the difference between self training and training together. I believe that only by understanding that both self training and training together is equally important, that there is room for improvement.

Self-training = repetition of movements and exercises, extremely important, but with the danger of creating bad habits.

Training together = the opportunity to correct your movements by training with students of different levels.

So far, I can say that we all work very hard on self training, and the prospect of taking it further by taking advantage of training together often will make the Kung Fu only better.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Belgium training time remains

Dear Kung Fu brothers and sisters, the training time and place in Belgium for the month July remains unchanged. This is a good opportunity to practise the stuff you have learned from teacher Mike so far, either by yourself as a free training or together with other Kung Fu siblings, if you like.

The training time and place as for the month July:

Thuesday: 19.30 - 22.00 (free training, repetition of ji beng gong, drills and forms)

Thursday: 19.30 - 22.00 (tai chi, qi gong, fan) classes led by Ollie

Friday: 19.30 - 22.00 (free training, repetition of ji beng gong, drills and forms)

Place of training is Kattendijkdok, Antwerpen. (the usual mini harbour)

Note: I cannot attend Sunday training due to work. But I will check with other fellow students to see if someone has the time and interest. Sunday and Saturday evening is also an option.

As for the duration of the training, it is possible to keep training after 22.00.

Have a good journey teacher Mike!!

Today Mike Laoshi left Belgium to organize and teach at the annual Beijing Martial Arts Camp. We (his students) wish teacher Mike a save and pleasant journey, and a succesful Kung Fu camp. As part of the Chinese community in Belgium I would also like to emphasize the great job teacher Mike does every day: to cultivate and to promote true Chinese Martial Arts, not letting this beautiful art form pollute or die out. Thank you laoshi.

If any Kung Fu brother/sister out there who is joining the camp and would like to write or put some photos from the camp on this blog, you are more then welcome! Just let us know.