by John Paul
This is about a student angry at the teacher. Ungrateful that only after a year and a half part time training he could beat a boxer twice his age with 20 years of experience.
Some time ago, Sifu Wong accepted a student named Kor into his advanced class who had been hanging around the junior class for a couple of years under one of my Kung Fu brother already. This guy was gung ho and excited to learn the hardcore stuff, realizing that there is a huge difference in what he had ever seen before. We train much harder, go more in depth. There is an unmatched proficiency in training with special attention from the master himself.
After many discussions and private lessons, I myself tried to explain to him the rigors of learning even one technique. Using one of my new Kung Fu brothers Lew as an example. For this guy’s sake and the benefit of other beginners, we had many classes devoted to landing a basic punch. Lew not only has 4 years competitive division 1 boxing in college, but holds master degrees in Jeet Kune Do, and also previously finished years of Wing Chun training from two well known masters. He also has a Brown Belt in Jujitsu. Besides being a very good grappler one thing he understands well is how to perform a basic cross, hook, and uppercut. Lew has many stories about the boxing ring that come from his 30 or so 12 round fights. Sum Neng used to say, "If the guy stands still and you still can't knock'em out...go home and cook!". He was referring to the importance of a basic punch. The first thing taught in every school as far as techniques go.
Entering Sifu Wong’s instructor’s program, there is still a two year observation period by Sifu. This is so that Sifu can get to know him and vice versa. All the while, the student masters a few basic things, like how to proficiently transfer some of the fancy looking WC techniques into some incredibly effective entry tactics that will blow the mind of many experience fighters.
This new student Kor gained the trust of Sifu at first with his sincerity and hard work. Sifu tried to satisfy his hunger for quicker improvement. I was assigned to tutor him and keep watch over his training, kind of like a big brother role. I shared with him my own experiences and shortcuts in mastering new applications. These are hard earned, hard learned priceless shortcuts. In short, it's my kung fu. Since Sifu Wong is my teacher, he gave me my kung fu, I am obligated to tutor, teach or help anyone he asks me too. To refuse or half ass, it would be disrespectful to my teacher. Out of the question. Kung fu is similar to learning to write a novel. First you learned the ABCs, speaking, grammar, building words, sounding them out, reading, building paragraphs, and then subjects, verbs and predicates etc...all this before writing a novel.
Even then there's more to learn. At every level we all can learn more, we all can practice more and become better at what we already know. There is never a shortage of curriculum. I helped this guy master the basics including how to set up a good engagement and approach angle. My major concern with new students is something that I myself struggled with early on--now I decided to fix it because I saw it as vital to kung fu and life. This huge demon is "learning" moves and then forgetting (not really learning them) six months later. I find this to be my biggest problem and pet peeve from hard style experiences with rythmatic or defined movements that I've studied in the past. With this bad habit comes not being able to use the move at full speed, having no accuracy and horrible timing. However , most people neglect this issue and get to "black belt level" and can never perform outside the dojo. In short the answer to this is ---total digestion with patience.
I showed this guy how I mastered the little that I know in such a short time. All the while being my teacher's eyes and ears on his progress. In my opinion as far as sheer kung fu skill, this guy had potential to be one of the best students my teacher ever had. With that in mind, I wouldn't stop helping him until he showed some sucess. I got to feel sort of like he was my student in a way.
I felt proud when he would pass a test or perform well. One day we had a good turn out at class, so Sifu told us to spar. Lew, the experienced fighter/master, and Kor the new kid were both there and some other students about his size. We all began to spar, moving in and out, taking turns so everyone got to spar everyone. Sifu sat on the side in his usual manner. Joking around, not really paying attention it seems but actually seeing every move we all do. This is one thing I notice about Sifu Wong, when it comes to punches and kicks and moves and strikes he can tell what we throw no matter how fast or how far away he was sitting. He doesn’t say much, he just observes. He rarely offers criticism, so when he does, it's a big impact and down right valuable. One of Sifu's common sayings is that when you get into the heat of battle, i.e. a sparring match or a fight, he can't say anything to make you perform better. When it comes to getting down, everybody in the bunch showed what level of skill they were at. That part you can't hide. The more advanced students moved better, more gracefully; tactics seem at ease, look simple, but are effective at the right time and the right place, and they are more emotionally stable. Next up was Lew and Kor. Kor ran circles around Lew and rained his punches on him in both rounds, using only the two techniques he had mastered. Lew was frustrated.
Weeks later, during a discussion, the topic of sparring came up and Sifu refferred back to that day. Kor felt like he should have performed better and blamed Sifu for not teaching him more secret training faster. He wanted to master everything from boxing to throwing and grappling and Qigong in a year’s time! He was not happy with what was given to him! No gratitude for my heart and hard work! As Sifu always said, “Most classical teachers only teach you a horse stance in two years, and observe your personality, your patience, your self control, persistence, your willingness to share, and giving before you receive! In order to weed out the bad seeds! The bad character student just like the one from many KF movies who are dishonest, disrespectful, sinful, without gratitude, back stabbing, and can do bad things to his KF family”.
Sifu, on the other hand, was actually quite content his performance with Lew; clearly a better standup boxer than a year ago. What I was trying to explain to this guy is that there is much more to learning a punch in the air and actually landing it on a moving opponent with good power and good accuracy. If the guy moves then that presents a whole other situation. Its not as easy it looks. The new guy just didn't have enough time, experimental sparring, and trial and error. He wanted to master everything in one day. With only a few months left in his two year probationary period this guy argued and had a falling out with Sifu. He showed how immature and impatient he still was. But Sifu saw it as outright disrespect and ungrateful, unappreciative. I myself tried to show him that, the way of a soft style master is not like hard style training where techniques are defined and memorized. In Tom Wong Wing Chun, after a technique is learned in the air, the hard part is to apply it proficiently, which involves a lot more than what meets the eye, e.g. the coordination proficiency training, the reflex training, the actual sparring tactic training, and the proper mental development.
The theory, guide lines, self discovery and the essence of technique, are all Sifu is looking for through the stressful sparring; Sifu is looking to see his student’s maturity and enlightenment through the control of anger, frustrations, and forgiving. Keep challenging yourself without building a super ego. Through many of the training experiencse, a new impatient student shouldn't have a prejudgment of “how martial arts training should be”. After all, many people forget they are here to learn from Sifu. Perhaps Sifu would show you the Taoism philosophy of “less is more!" Or as Bruce lee said, "...hack away the unessential!”. When I passed more tests, and got to know more about the punch, I see there is so much more to master in a punch!
If you demand your teacher to teach you the way you want, then you should just teach your self at home. Why pay someone to tell you to do what you want to do? Sounded ridiculouss? We all need to understand our self better! Even if you have an IQ of 160, we can be blinded to see our self, because we love our self, and love is blind!
I see Sifu tried every which way to help young potential, but physically and mentally there are limitations to short cuts, to some cutting 20 years is a lot, but he must see his own limitations, showing disrespect and no gratitude are part of his own limitation in mental maturity. This is perhaps what life is about, growing, and experiencing. Is there a short cut?...haha!
From the battle field of Fung Siu Ching, who learned and tested his martial arts skill with blood, to one of the richest man from Fatsun China, Yuen Kay San who recorded by the Chinese government that he had defeated many legendary fighters in death dulls in 1910-1920s, and through my own violent encounter, I can not put a price on what I learned from Tom Wong Kung Fu.