Patient Learning

3 03 2013

When two Kung Fu men of the same style meet, a popular greeting in place of “nice to meet you” are the words

“What Form Are You On?”

Did I hit the nail on the head? I know I did.

Kung fu students must avoid the pitfall of becoming form collectors. This art has so much more to offer besides forms. We walk into our schools and look on the wall, and see the list of interesting-sounding forms: Tiger and Cougar. Five Animals. Nine Ring Big Knife. Dang, that stuff sounds cool.

What we are really looking for, when learning the next new form, is often those fighting techniques we believe will turn us into Kung Fu Fighting Machines, just by learning the forms, aren’t we? I think I just heard a chuckle.

I mean, no one really wants to learn forms just to step out in front of a crowd and give a dazzling demonstration of “cool-looking” techniques. Hopefully, the Kung Fu community has matured beyond that. No, we are in the age of proving that Chinese Martial Arts are not outdated, useless martial arts technique. Back in the 80s it was enough to demo an interesting form with Shaw Brothers – looking moves. In the current age of the internet, MMA and the popularity of fight sports, Kung Fu people are struggling for relevancy, and it is only a matter of time we see pure kung fu guys enter the cage and restore the respect Bruce Lee gave us on the big screen.

But it won’t happen overnight. And today, you young guys, who have yet to degenerate to rubbing elbows with masters or name-dropping styles and titles to prove yourselves–it is up to YOU to bring Chinese Martial Arts back to prominence. Nobody really cares how much Cantonese you know. Nobody is impressed that you know 30+ forms, or that you once got Chiu Chi Ling’s autograph. No one gives a damn if your lineage is recognized in China. They don’t care if you were the first one to bring your art to town, or how many awards you’ve won, or if your version of forms is the “original” version. That stuff is so 80s.

In the current community of martial artists, all they really care about is can you thump. Can you step out onto the floor and check your “can’t-use-my-deadliest-stuff-because-of-the-rules” excuses at the door and PROVE that your time with your Sifu was not a waste of time. Trust me, if Kung Fu is to be respected for the reliable form of self defense that we say it is, now is the time for you young cats to get out there and show us what you’re made of.

And the first virtue you must embrace and adopt is that of patience.

Patience in training and learning are of the same variety, and they are by products of two of the five virtues of Kung Fu–Loyalty (to teacher, style, school and training) and Humility (to remain a student long enough to truly learn and develop, and not try to be a master before you were ready). If you strive to learn more and more forms, you will end up with just that–forms. Likewise, if you strive for more and more fighting skill, you will end up with the same:  Fighting Skill. Fighting Skill is what people respect, and fighting skill is where true confidence originates in the Kung Fu man. Yes, they will respect other things, like age, intelligence, even skill at forms. Yet nothing silences a room, nothing humbles the arrogant, like a man whose physical presence has just entered because everyone knows who the Tiger is. The Monkey is the guy who jumps around with the loud noises and gets noticed, with his boisterous personality. The Owl is the guy who is wise, been around a long time and people look up to him. The Peacock is beautiful, flashy and may even scare you with his feathers and array of colors. But when that Tiger walks into the room, no animal feels safe, and I don’t care how many Masters you befriend or how many articles you write or what you call yourself. The Owl can rationalize that killing ability is not the point of Kung Fu, but he’d better stay up in that tree. The Mouse can talk of getting along and being friends. In the world of Animals and killers and prey, no one relaxes around the Tiger. And here’s the thing about the Tiger:  as a cub he was just as helpless as any animal and his growth from cute furry animal to the most feared predator in the jungle didn’t happen overnight.

Trust me, it won’t happen overnight for you either.

Train hard, study patiently, listen closely to your Sifu, be acutely aware of other styles and their habits, and your style’s strengths and weaknesses. Give yourself time to absorb the training and build your body. In time, you will be a Tiger yourself. Alliances, forms, terminology, and lineages mean nothing in combat. There is a saying that good soup takes time, and so does good skill. Most people are not patient enough to acquire it, so they spend their time self promoting and trying to convince you that they are Tigers in every way except in the #1 way a Tiger does it.

Trust me when I say this:  Every Kung Fu man who adopts this virtue will eventually become a Tiger, regardless of what style you do, who your master is (or who your master isn’t), what version of forms you’re doing, or how many forms you know. Kung Fu skill lies in the training and the way you approach your training and how you test it. Never forget that. The whole process takes honor, respect, loyalty, integrity, and humility. It takes time.

Thank you for visiting the DC Jow Ga Federation.

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