There is an old story about a Greek philosopher named Socrates – What does Greek philosophy have to do with Kung Fu you might ask? Well bare with me and you will see the link later on…
Socrates had become famous throughout the country for his wisdom, and one day a young man came to him seeking knowledge.
Socrates invited the young man to come with him down to the seaside. When they got to the beach Socrates started to walk out into the water and indicated for the young man to follow him. The water gradually got deeper, creeping up past their ankles, knees, hips, and finally was up to their shoulders. By this stage the young man was quite puzzled as to what this had to do with his quest for knowledge, but Socrates was so famous that he went along with it.
Suddenly Socrates leaped up and pushed the young man’s head under the water, holding him there while he struggled and floundered. After a few seconds Socrates let the young man back up and asked him “What is it that you want?”. “Knowledge” the young man replied, “I seek knowledge”. Socrates looked thoughtful for a moment and then leaped up again to push the young man’s head down. This time he held him under for longer – over 30 seconds as he struggled. As the young man rose up from under the water again Socrates asked him again “What is it that you want?”. “Knowledge, I told you already, I seek knowledge” replied the young man.
Socrates immediately thrust the young man’s head under the water again, holding him down for even longer. The young man struggled and struggled, and eventually his movements started to weaken and his thrashing around started to diminish. Socrates let him rise to the surface again and repeated his question. “What is it that you want?”. The young man gasped and struggling for breath and finally managed to splutter “Air, I want air”. “Good” Socrates replied, “when you want knowledge as much as you want air, then you shall have it”.
So what does this have to do with kung fu?
Well it is all about the quest for knowledge. Sometimes we can get into the habit of waiting for someone to teach us something, or show us something. We can wait and wait, and then when we are shown we don’t remember it properly. Because we didn’t REALLY want it. We weren’t hungry enough for it like we are hungry for air. When we seek knowledge out for ourselves, our minds are primed ready to learn, comprehend and retain much more effectively.
At Long White Cloud Kung Fu, we have strived to make knowledge available to all our students. But us teaching and you learning are not the same thing. A teacher can teach the same thing week after week, but unless the student primes their mind and really wants to learn, it will often go in one ear and out the other. If you wonder why your teacher keeps teaching you the same things, maybe it is because you still have more to learn from it.
What can you do if you REALLY want to learn kung fu?
- When you learn something new, practice it at home during the week so that you can remember it at your next class. This increases the chance that you will be able to move on to something new, or work on refining something instead of just remembering it.
- Use the online learning resources. There are videos for almost every part of the syllabus online. You can use these to remind you of things you have learned in class, and even to make a start on things that you haven’t done in class yet so you will be more ready to learn quickly when you do.
- If there is something you haven’t practiced for awhile or know that you need to learn, ask the instructor before class and they might be able to fit it into the class schedule. If there are many students at different levels in the class, your instructor may not be able to work on what you want straight away, but they will know you are keen to learn it and will try to fit it in, if not in that class – then in another class soon.
- Make the most of the time before class, and open mat time after class to practice things you are learning. Ask an instructor to help you. If an instructor is not available, ask another student to help you.
- If there is a weapon form you are working on learning, obtain your own weapons to practice with. This will mean you can practice at home. It also means you can bring them to class with you so you can practice that weapon form before and after class, whether your instructor brings those weapons to class that week or not. Practice weapons are easy to improvise. A broom handle or piece of bamboo can be use for a pole. Shorter sticks can be used for sword and stick forms, and as you know we regularly use chopsticks wrapped in tape for knives. You can also purchase more elaborate training weapons from martial arts supply stores.
- If you need to practice sparring, bring your sparring gear to class and ask other students to practice sparring with you.
- Volunteer to help other students with things they are practicing. Explaining things to others will help you to better understand it yourself. As you know this is actually a requirement for redbelts in preparation for blackbelt. But you should start doing this as soon as you can, both to help your fellow students and to help yourself.
- Get together with other students outside of class time to practice and improve your kung fu.
At Long White Cloud Kung Fu we have a comprehensive syllabus with a lot to learn between the basic techniques, animal forms, weapons, chi sau, chin na, phon sau, weapon’s defence and sparring components. The knowledge is available for you, but you have to REALLY want it. You need to put the effort in to seek it out. You will not be able to take it all in and retain it if you passively wait for it to come to you.
We have just over three months until the end of year gradings. I know that there are quite a few students who have a lot that they need to work on for this grading. Three months is plenty of time to prepare, especially if you are proactive and take charge of your own LEARNING, instead of waiting TEACHING.