Sunday, 1 March 2009

a letter to a friend...

Below an extract of a reply I wrote to a good friend, a true martial artist and a gentleman. He is very openminded and asked me many questions on Traditional Chinese Martial Arts and on teacher Mike. This part is about the training of other styles and about teacher Mike. Please note that it is my interpretation as a Martial Arts student. Each person has a personal journey when practising Martial Arts or finding a good teacher.



Hi K.,


it is not much trouble at all, teacher Mike loves to meet good people and martial arts students from all over the world who are open and have a good heart. We are all martial arts students, brothers and sisters.


It is true that it is difficult to find a martial arts that suits you and even more difficult to find the right teacher. Teacher Mike would say to his students to go out and explore as he knows his Kung Fu is not fake and top notch. But he also understands that not everyone is ready to learn what he knows. His art takes years to understand and train, but the reward is a very deep and meaningful approach to Martial Arts and the movement and alignment of the body. When learning other martial arts, one understands only the mechanics (if the teacher is good) of that style. But with teacher Mike, the awareness of your body and your movement becomes one. Eventually, it is not about style. But that is of course still too difficult for us, students, to understand.


An example of teacher Mike's integrity as a teacher:


1) he is very generous as a teacher and will pass you as much information as possible. Although he does take into account that some of his stuff is not for you yet.


2) I have been training for 3 years now with him and only recently I have been granted the yellow belt, with the remarks: "actually, you are not completely ready yet for a yellow belt so please work hard!!" And right he is. It makes me aware that the grading system is not there to satisfy a student's desire, but it is a responsibility to work even harder.


By the way, we wear a belt mainly for controlling the breathing exercises. The grading is not the main purpose.


When you write to teacher Mike, just be yourself. I told him you are a good person (and you are). That is what counts for him. (and all good teachers)


Of course you have a responsibility towards your teacher, Teacher Mike speaks of very high regards about his own teacher: Grandmaster Wang. But it took teacher Mike to meet many masters and teachers before he found the right one. Besides, the training with his previous teachers has also helped him to be ready for Grandmaster Wang's teaching. In old times, one teacher would pass his students to other teachers-friends so the students can get great benefit from them. It is like a family with one purpose: helping the students.


Teacher Mike does that too: almost every year, he would organise a trip to China or Taiwan for the students to meet fantastic teachers/masters. He would also invite them to Belgium and teach us. These teachers are very powerful, but also have individual approaches towards training methodology.


Some of our Kung Fu brothers and sisters have gone to China, same as you in Japan and are training under 2 or 3 teachers.


You can always learn something from teacher Mike when you talk with him, he is very intelligent (seems all of the greatest master are very intelligent, which makes sense as Kung Fu goes very deep).


But it is when you train under teacher Mike and have the chance to feel his touch, in pushing hands, in chinna (join locks), with Bagua (predecessor of Aikido) that you feel his power is so soft and stealth like that you don't know you are in a lock until it is too late. But when he applies his chi power, you feel a force truly alive and penetrating.

During one training I was learning blocking techniques with another student. When the fellow-student's arm clashes against mine, it felt like being hit by a peace of dead wood. It hurts, but apart from a bruise on the surface of my arm, it doesn't do anything.

Then I did the same exercise with teacher Mike and after 2 to 4 hits I felt a vibrating force into the arm I was blocking with. The pain didn't go away even when teacher Mike was doing the technique with another student. I could still feel the penetrating power and it's echo. Instead of a dead wood, it felt as I was hit by a piece of steel wrapped with cotton. As the metal vibrates from the end to the tip, the vibration continued into my arm. Take into account that this was only done with 10 percent of teacher Mike's power.

When he uses grapping, joint locks and pushing hands: the sensation is like a huge wave coming on top of you, and there is nothing you can do but let it get control over you. So water, though very soft, is dangerous and powerful towards all other entities with a constant volume. i believe that this is what Aikido also tries to achive.


I hope this will help. I like this kind of conversation as it reminds me how lucky I am to be so close to a great teacher and true Chinese Martial arts.


best

2 comments:

Ikigai said...

This is my first visit here - very nice blog! I enjoy the way you describe your art, discussing the deeper aspects rather than things more external.

Your Sensei seems like a quality practitioner!

Best,
Matt "Ikigai"

Wu tan Belgium said...

Thank you Ikigai,

martial arts is to cultivate the body and the mind. The ability to protect yourself or other if necessary, plus the health benefit. But most important to develop one self as a person and individual. It counts for all martial arts.

I have browse your blog and looks interesting too! I bookmarked it so when I get a bit time I will sit down and do some reading.

Thank you for visiting and you are always welcome.

bouncy