There has been a trend in America for several years regarding how things are taught and the responsibility of the teacher. I have had several students say to me, “This is not how I learn best, please adapt your teaching to me”. I understand this and have people very close to me that have learning disabilities so I am not insensitive to it. On the other hand if I am constantly adapting for the student I will never get to teach anything to the others. The onus falls on me to adapt what I am doing but not what they are doing. I think this is an unfair request and ultimately not beneficial for the student and here’s why; because the student is always working in what is comfortable for them and they have no challenges. They will not learn to adapt and grow by this but will always look for that comfort zone. In the ‘old days’, particularly in martial arts, the teacher taught his way and you either got it or didn’t. He didn’t dumb it down or make it easier but you had to earn it. If you wanted it, you went after it, if not you did not. I am not saying a teacher should be inflexible but it has gone to the other extreme.
For some reason most people do not see kung fu as athletic training, they see it as magic. It is not seen as a form of athletic prowess but learning the right hands and techniques. “If only I knew this secret hand I’d win” is a common mentality among kung fu practioners. I don’t get it. It’s all about training and conditioning and not about magic hands. Even for those who do train they train at what they like, the familiar and the comfortable even if it hurts. I heard a professional body builder comment on this saying, “You see some guy in the gym and he works out an hour a day, everyday, but you never see him look any different, why? Because he does what feels right to him, he does not go into the ‘burn’ and the unpleasant places; he’s found a comfort zone thus his body does not have to adapt”. I think this is particularly applicable to kung fu training; you do the exercise that suits you or makes sense to you but it doesn’t necessarily improve your fighting ability at all. Maybe it helps your athletic ability but not your fighting ability. Many folks think fighting is something you calculate and ‘figure out’ but it’s not. Like I’ve said before think about being attacked by a cougar, the animal not the other type, and attempting to defend, you can’t. Nothing in the gym or forms can prepare you for someone who wants to hurt you. The only way to train for this is with real fighting in your training.
One of the first real fights I had was with a kid who was seventeen and I was twenty three. He had trained at Joe Frazier’s gym and wanted to ‘mix it up’. This is not someone whom I ever trained with or observed. I went in entirely confident that I could take this fellow, control him and defend myself. We paired off and then he went into pure attack mode, totally overwhelmed me, hell-bent on hurting me with no concern for his own safety. The fight lasted maybe ten seconds before I was on the floor. This greatly depressed me for a long time. I realized that I had been training to fight students and not fighters. It made me reevaluate everything I did from then on. I didn’t want to admit it but it was clear that I had no understanding of the real deal. Fighting is scary and ugly, no way around it. There are no time outs or take over’s; it’s just real and present. You either bring it to the table or get tabled. There is nothing comfortable about this. So many students don’t want to hear this. They want to practice a ‘defensive art’, you know, one that somehow magically negates violence like the cougar attack. It’s a dream folks, time to wake up.
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