In the West we have grown to associate kung fu as the Chinese term for martial arts when a more accurate translation is actually ‘time and effort’. But as always it’s never quite as simple a concept as it initially appears – the two need to be skilfully applied in appropriate measure. For instance at the beginning when I was traveling over to Sifu once a month I was putting both time and effort into my training but in doing so without appropriate supervision my attempts at kung fu were actually hindering my progress in taiji. When the time came for me to start teaching taiji I was putting a lot of effort into my classes but not giving the students enough time to acclimatize to the demands taiji will make of them. I needed to allow them the space to take on the responsibility of studying my art, in the same manner as Sifu had done when sharing his with me.
Having aspirations of running a successful school the notion that my intensity was driving away students was weighing on my mind and I was quietly contemplating my teaching ‘style’ when Sifu continued the lesson.
“It’s not something to worry about – just be aware of it. Like everything we do it is a continued learning experience. New students are usually nervous enough when they walk into a strange class so the last thing they need is the instructor constantly in their face. It’s very easy for enthusiasm and passion to become overwhelming and intimidating. If you’re relaxed, calm and having fun so will your students and then they’ll keep coming back and then once they learn and accept the responsibility for their continued progress, you can give them hell! I always go easy on the beginners and save it all up for my advanced students.” he laughed.
In martial arts circles we often talk about the ‘burden’ of responsibility and I used to think that ‘burden’ was the wrong word to use, but now I’m not so sure. Anything worth studying requires both time and effort; it requires kung fu. A teacher never chooses the student; the student always seeks out the teacher. Once found the teacher will then present the path upon which the student must travel and it is the responsibility of the student to decide whether or not it is a journey they wish to make. Every path to be followed has a price and we all as individuals have to evaluate whether the cost is one that we are willing to pay.
Taking responsibility for our lives is sometimes a scary prospect for it requires courage and the acceptance that there will be a price to pay – but having control of our destiny is liberating, having no-one and no-thing to blame we also have nothing to hold us back. It would have been very easy for me to be sitting here writing an article about how I could be studying taiji if I didn’t have a job that held me back – just as it would be easy for me to moan about how nobody wants to attend my classes. The fact of the matter is that I could be writing about a lot of things, but thankfully I am able to write about and share things I love in life and all due to accepting the responsibility to study the art of kung fu!