It’s an interesting human trait that we have a burning desire to get to do all of the cool stuff we see other martial artists do and we are always eager to put in the extra hours to ‘get there’ quicker. Inspired by fight sequences in films and flamboyant moves we see on YouTube we want to be that good ourselves.
Fallout 4 – A Model For Growth
The issue is the same in almost every field. Take computer gaming and something like Fallout 4. We commence our quest with little more than a pea-shooter and traverse the hostile, post-apocalyptic landscape on a voyage of discovery from the shadows, hiding from just about every creature, mutant or human that is more powerful than us. We spend countless hours scavenging for materials to increase our capabilities and improve our weapons. Levelling up as quickly as possible becomes paramount. All of this endeavour affords us the luxury of being able to ‘puff out our chests’ and roam the wasteland overtly, with our oversized and insanely powerful modified weapons primed and ready. We no longer lurk in the shadows, rather we welcome our adversaries head on, exploring which tools in our arsenal will deal the most damage in the shortest time. It makes for a great gaming experience with a significant sense of growth over time.
If however you had every weapon available to you from day one, the gaming experience would change dramatically and the game would become tedious quite quickly. Knowing you can defeat every foe out there means there is no real purpose driving you to taking on new quests. You can simply blast everything in sight without even reaching for a stimpak.
For me, martial arts work this way too. The meaning of Gung Fu is the repeated and consistent application of something over an extended and prolonged period; even a lifetime. The more we practice something, the more it reveals to us, if we only care to ‘listen actively’.
Creating Engaging Lesson Content
When planning lessons, I feel there is a need to create engaging content that will bring about student loyalty, commitment and dedication. Modern teaching methodologies don’t advocate drilling the same thing over and over until it is perfected and so I prefer to have a very wide range of drills, exercises and scenarios at my disposal that I can use across the student base at all levels and that we can cycle every few weeks in a non-sequential manner.
Too much attention to detail too early on stifles growth and leaves people feeling that they aren’t making progress. Much better in my view to allow people to make those mistakes on the first cycle and then start to refine their skill on the second and subsequent cycles. Once the body has the muscle memory of any technique or concept, we can start to work on the finer points by adding in principles and checking whether the executed move complies with received wisdom on Wing Chun theory.
Listen To It All. Keep What You Need. Discard The Rest
And that’s the reason I care less about lineage than most. I don’t have a pedigree. I’m a mongrel. I believe we can learn from Leung Ting and Wong Shun Leung just as much as we can from Ip Man or Ip Chun. If we open our minds to the fact that we live in a world of constant change, with ever new challenges, then it is logical to absorb as much experiential wisdom from others as possible. I don’t care about belts, sashes, medals or qualifications (though they all have their place) and I care little about competing in martial sports tournaments (again they have their place in terms of confidence, personal growth etc.). I’ve done my fair share of complying with all of these things and what I really care about now is ensuring the students that have entrusted me with their continuing martial education get the best advice possible to protect them on the street. it’s not a responsibility I take lightly given the diverse set of people (and their capabilities) that attend classes. I don’t have a problem with my students doing other martial arts either. Life is about gaining as many experiences as you desire, absorbing them and then distilling them into what elements are useful to you.
Just like gaming, it’s about the journey and what you gain along the way, not the destination. We must go through what might be perceived as ‘the dull and boring stuff’ until it becomes second nature and we can use it without conscious thought. There is no substitute for time-served and continually stress-testing any technique here. The fun stuff comes when you can chain several of these sub-consciously triggered techniques together to achieve your goal without any conscious thought; when you can remain calm and relaxed regardless of what is coming your way.
Am I there yet?
Not even close. But I am enjoying the process of striving to get there. Hopefully my students are too.