Monday, 11 May 2009

Calligraphy and Kung Fu, knowing your goal!

I had the chance to try calligraphy at the beijing Language University. It was a great experience. As I have done a similar wokshop in Japan, the most interesting part for me was to able to compare the two cultures in terms of education.

When I was in japan, I enjoyed a calligraphy workshop by a very good teacher. He was patient and a true master in calligraphy, thus naturally he expected us to do well. The lesson he gave us was about basics and dedicating time in the basics. Like Kung Fu, basic is everything, so his teaching was top notch.
When I did the workshop in Beijing, I was shocked to learn that I can choose to do whatever I want, be it characters written in an advance style or drawings. I was reluctant, as I use the knowledge of going through basic as seriously as I can.

The Chinese calligraphy teacher's philosophy was: "you can only be great if you like what you are doing, it has to come from the heart". His idea was that basic is very important, but you have to do something from your heart. Choose and stick to it. To be clear that he gave me no illusions: He let me know that the art of calligraphy takes years to develope and be good at. So he is honest and already made the point of how inportant practise and basics are. Basic is indeed always needed. But a student first needs to know his own goal.

In Kung Fu, knowing your goal is also important. I have met many fellow Kung Fu practisioners who would blindly trust their teacher to become good martial artists. I have to admit, with teacher Mike, one will always improve under his guidance. But I am also sure, that teacher Mike wouldn't want this from us. This is what makes Kung Fu so unique; Kung Fu is not a rigid fighting art. At teacher Mike's school, althought we learn the same basics, we are no robots. Each of us already progress differently instead of trying to be a carbon copy of the teacher for many years. Thus, to develope an early awareness of your goal is necessary to train and progress correctly and individually. A student who would like to train Sanda will be able to ask his teacher for advice to achive his goal. 

However, it is important to trust your teacher's guidance after you have made your choice. Regardless your choice, there is no short-cut in creating art. Doing half work you might be practising what you like, but you will still not achive what you want. Knowing what you want and be prepared to work hard goes together.

Fellow-students who practise forms for years but are surprised that they don't know the application, means they haven't thought hard enough about why they wanted to do the forms in the first place, and what it takes to achieve that. Sure they must think forms are pretty, so that could be the goal, but the beauty of movement comes naturally after understanding your movement.

Likewise; a student who blindly follows the teacher, will only become a good copy of his teacher. But  that is not Kung Fu.

Meanwhile in the calligraphy workshop, I made my choice and the teacher expected nothing less than my hard work and trust in his guidance. After some fun trying and having a reality check (I should not quit my dayjob!), I thanked the teacher for his lesson in calligraphy, but got a better understanding in the Chinese way of balancing between choices and hard work and relating it to my own Kung Fu practise.

Just like the calligraphy workshop, it is important to know what you want, and the choice have to come from the heart. Once you know that, you know your goal. After that there is no excuse: practise, practise, practise... and trust a good teacher.

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