Want And Need In The Martial Arts
“I’m not going to give you what you want today, I’m going to give you what you need…..” Sifu was teaching a seminar to a group of martial artists that had never seen him before.
This created a response in Mathew, a studious young man from the group. “I don’t understand the difference Sifu?”
Sifu had already anticipated this response… “Most seminar teachers these days teach seminars for a living, therefore they feel obliged to ‘entertain’ the students and come across as a ‘nice person’. They are very personable, shake everyone’s hand, have their picture taken with them and teach simple techniques such as a few locks and pressure points that are easy to learn and can be replicated the next day in class. They have an easy manner about them, always have a few jokes up their sleeve and are entertaining. They give certificates out like confetti and make everyone their ‘representative’ to ensure that they are asked back again.”
A puzzled Mathew asked “so what’s wrong with that?”
Sifu replied, “nothing – if that’s’ what you want – but I’m not like that. I will look at what you’re doing and give you what I feel you need. Often that involves basic training in neigong and qigong to correct physical and mental impairment in your technique and then basic technique to make you a better and more powerful martial artist.”
Mathew still puzzled and asked – “so… the difference is?”
Sifu looked slightly exasperated… “As I said, what you need isn’t always what you want. What you need can be boring, painful repetition that improves your skill level.
Okay let’s start with standing post training…”
Standing post is an exercise in standing. It’s essential to get the posture straight and ‘suspended’, opening the joints through the body and allowing free and unimpeded passage of energy.
“Suspend the head, soften and sink the chest, release the waist and let the bodyweight drop through the femoral triangle, down the calves and into the arches of the feet.
Now disengage the ankle joints, then the knees, hips, lower back and soften the chest… This practise gets your posture straight yet relaxed (Sifu was moving around and correcting each student) and will get rid of excess tension, suspend your bodyweight into the myofascia of the body and strengthen the essential myofascia chains that support the bodyweight for rooting.”
“It hurts”, bleated Mathew, who already had sweat pouring from his brow.
Sifu answered “there’s good pain and bad pain Mathew, good pain is strengthening the body and improving your skill level and bad pain is if you are damaging something, there is a distinct difference. What are you feeling?”
“Probably good pain Sifu… but it still hurts!” complained Mathew.
“Good! That will tempering your spirit and making you stronger, we call that ‘eating bitter’.”
Mathew once again looked puzzled… “What do you mean by ‘eating bitter’, Sifu?”
Sifu replied, “Many Europeans go to Chinese Masters and just want a certificate and photo, the Chinese Master knows this and happily obliges for money – this is known as ‘eating sweet’. Others are not interested in titles and certificates but want to learn the art of Kung Fu, The Master will make them learn properly, from the start – as I am doing with you, teaching the student how to sit, stand, breathe and move tempering their mind, body and spirit to learn the real Kung Fu.
The words ‘Kung Fu’ mean ‘time and effort’, you can’t hurry progress and by ‘eating bitter’, strengthening the mind body and spirit you are forging a life long skill that changes you forever. You don’t need certificates and photos when you can ‘do the business’….”
“That’s so true” answered Mathew thoughtfully.
Sifu continued “now take a front stance, spiral the feet in opposite directions against the floor. As you spiral, let the ball of the foot activate the quadriceps, the outer edge of the foot the IT band and the heel the hamstrings. The spirals bow the legs slightly opening the hips and lowering the tailbone which allows the opening of the lower back, then the upper back and the ‘suspension of the head opens the occipital region. This action will bring power to the arms…”
Mathew started with a shaking in the legs, which gradually crept up his body; the sweat had soaked his shirt and trousers and was running into his eyes. In the end he had to try and stand up, which he only managed with great difficulty. “If standing still is so demanding, how difficult does it get when you start moving?”
Sifu answered… “It takes time and training, when you can do this, moving powerfully in alignment will be easier. You have to learn and train it over time, that’s why it’s difficult to teach in seminars if the school isn’t going to have them regularly and if the instructors and students are not prepared for what they are going to learn and how long it will take.
Each person has to put in the time individually in their solitary training as well as in class.”
The Club Instructor then stepped out in front of the class. “I’ve been training in the Martial Arts for over 20 years and the reason that I asked Sifu to take this seminar as a favour to me is so that you can understand that not only is this necessary to become a ‘proper’ martial artist, but that this knowledge is almost lost. To be able to get this training in the UK is worth it’s weight in gold.
It’s important that we take advantage of this knowledge and instruction whilst it’s available and put in the work and training to support the instruction. If we do this Sifu has agreed to visit on a regular basis and we don’t want to waste his time and effort – are we all agreed that this is what we want?”
Without exception all hands went up – everyone agreed to ‘eat bitter’…
“Then let’s get it on!” said Sifu…..