Lesson #1 from the Dean Chin Rule Book (Attendance)

3 03 2013

Well, it’s a little more than just attendance.

I don’t have the list of rules anymore. Some years have gone by that my box of Jow Ga memorabilia is in an attic in either my aunt’s or father’s house–basement or something. But I do remember possibly one of the first three rules, and hopefully one of my Si Hing can help me out with this:

Students must attend a minimum of 8 classes per month to remain in good standing and continue membership.

In other words, Sifu Chin wasn’t begging anyone to be a student here. See, one of the dark clouds that hovered overhead for the Jow Ga student under Sifu Chin was the possibility that he might ask you to leave his school. We were ordered to practice, clean the school, attend enough classes to make Jow Ga look good, abstain from alcohol use, show courage and reject cowardice… Yeah, other schools said that stuff too, good grades, show respect, blah blah blah. But in the Jow Ga school, it was a reality, and you would be hard pressed even in the 1980s to find a teacher more demanding. This was the kind of school where the students who cut out right after class (despite that they showed up to attend every week) were considered “un-dedicated”, and the REAL kung fu training started about an hour after the last of them left. Few people know what I’m talking about, because most people in those days despised Sifu Chin’s classes and did not hang around long after classes to see what went on in the school.

There were several full instructors in the school who taught classes and had their own followers during the 80s, and very few learned directly from Sifu by that time. Those who did were part of a sort of “Secret Society”, a fraternity of Jow Ga people who were a school within the school, long after Sifu Chin taught his last scheduled class. It was here, that Sifu’s requirement of “Attend 8 classes” was enforced. There are four weekends in a month, and Dean Chin was present nearly every weekend day, after class. You were not really expected to attend the regularly scheduled class in the morning that most students took. But attendance to the 2 hour sparring taught by Tehran Brighthapt and Lemuel Talley was strongly encouraged, and after that was when you got to learn from Sifu. Sometimes it was technique. Sometimes it was form. And it was always lecture.

But what’s your point, Mo?

Sifu did not treat the Kung Fu education like a class. He looked at Kung Fu as a calling. This is not just something you are taking and paying for. It is a total lifestyle change, and only few people who dared walk through those doors and actually sign up are of the caliber he was looking for. Anyone with $35 could join the school. But once inside those walls, only a few of them would become the kind of person he actually taught himself. Most people wouldn’t like it. People actually got mad at Sifu because of how he taught or how he talked to you, and then wanted to post websites decades later about how they were his students. (excuse the personal feelings)

Back to the article.

So if you truly want to understand what separates the men from the boys in Jow Ga, what makes some people proud of their skills versus proud of their alliances, or what makes some people Kung Fu teachers versus Kung Fu men–you must look at the lifestyle one leads as a Kung Fu practitioner. Some people are lucky to find a way to make a good living doing what we do. Most will not, but still practice this art, well beyond the days where they are no longer physically able to do it, broke or not, until the day they die. How they live the art as a Sifu at large depends on how they treated it as students. Your martial arts training should not depend on class availability, finances, or what you’ve got going on in your personal life/the job. If you miss Kung Fu training because “things are crazy”, you’re not a Kung Fu Man–as Sifu Chin would describe it–you’re just a Kung Fu student. And therefore, if you cannot commit to 8 measly classes out of a 30 day month–he didn’t want you as a student.

I could say more, but due to my promise to my Si Hings that this blog would be a happy, happy, joy, joy, positive blog–pull me up next time I’m in DC. I’ll tell you exactly how I feel.

The path to Kung Fu excellence, not just Jow Ga excellence, is how you treat your art. This is a vocation, a life purpose, an identity. It is NOT a class. Nothing should get in the way of your Jow Ga. As Sifu once put it, there are tons of schools in Washington DC. This training is for serious students only.

Amen.

Thank you for visiting DC Jow Ga Federation.

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