How Do You Think?
This probably better understood if I were to ask,
What is your thinking?
The first part this post was titled:
How Do You Train?
With the thinking here being on your physical approach to development, whereas in this piece, I want to look at your mental attitude to training, and more importantly, what are you are letting yourself be open to, or perhaps more likely, closed off to.
So, the reason for my wanting to initially write this post, was because recently I had decided to take a few of my senior students and teach them how to teach, now this is something that I do, but due to Covid etc., I had not done it now, for years.
As for my own background, personally, I have been training for over 40 years and teaching for over 30 years, and in that time I have met with many instructors, some good, some very good, and some bad, with some being dreadful, oh and not always in Wing Chun I might add.
It is not that they do now know what they are doing, often quite the opposite, some instructors I have seen, have been amazing at what they do themselves, but were hopeless at passing that information across to their students.
Oh, and I am not trying to boast that I am a good teacher, that is not for the teacher to say, although I have had so many nice compliments over the decades that it would appear, I must be doing something right. 🙂
Anyway, ego aside, and on with the post.
While teaching a small group of beginners, I was explaining to one of my seniors, some of the certain approaches I take to teaching, such as explaining to them, what you are about to do BEFORE you do it, therefore allowing a moment for the verbal information to sink in, before we demonstrate visually what is expected of the student to follow.
Other key elements would be, to keep it simple, to not overload with too much info (at first I mean), or, if you do, always make sure you bring it back to a simple A.B.C. understanding, and again, before, you get them to drill it.
Making the student feel at ease as they train, this is also important, as it encourages questions, reminding them not to do something just because you were told to do it.
‘If you understand HOW something works, you will make it work better for you’
Shortly after teaching something to the beginners, I asked my seniors if they had noticed anything in particular in my methods, any key points which stood out, and as we chatted, it reminded me of a story I now wish to share with you too.
Back in 1993, while on one of my MANY trips to Hong Kong to visit my Sifu (GM Ip Chun), I thought it would be nice to take a couple of my students with me, these two students were to be the start of hundreds I have taken since, throughout the last 40 to 50 visits there!
Anyway, our visit was to last for three weeks (as they always did back then), with the plan being that we would all train with Master Ip Chun for the first two weeks, and then for the third, they would go sightseeing and I would train alone with Sifu.
That was, the plan, what actually happened was very different.
Every day I would take them to Sifu’s house, where we would train for several hours, meeting up again later that day, either just socially or at classes, wherever it was, both would involve more training.
To my surprise though, Sifu seemed content to just sit me down and he train with my students, not me, but, MY STUDENTS.
This was fine for the first couple of days, but this went on and on, for the whole week, in that time I had hardly rolled with Sifu at all!
The Master would give them tips on their stance, on their Form, on developing energy, taking centre in Chi Sau… and on it went.
On it went in fact, into the second week as well.
Try as I might to keep relaxed about the whole situation (after all, it was ME that invited them), but I must admit, it was starting to grate me, and a part of me could not wait for that second week to end.
Well, on about day twelve, Sifu asked me to confirm my leaving dates, to which I mentioned the plan, that my students would stop their training in two more days, and I would carry on for the remaining seven days, alone with him.
“No, no, no”, he said,
“Bring them with you again next week”.
Inside, I was in shock, but I did not let it be known to Sifu, though it was not very easy to hide from my students, who could tell I was not pleased, yet secretly, I bet they would have been truly overjoyed.
Anyway, I did what the Master had asked.
The third week came and went, and all the time the same format, THEM being taught, and ME, sitting and drinking tea.
When the holiday was over, I was disappointed with the training, but, joyful as ever to spend time with my Sifu.
We said our goodbyes, made our way to the airport, checked in our bags, and then it hit me.
All this time, day after day, for three weeks, Sifu was not ‘Teaching me Wing Chun’, he was teaching me, ‘How to TEACH Wing Chun!’
I ran to the shop in the airport and bought five exercise books and a few pens, then got to work, allowing each session and each method of instruction, to flow back into my mind, and by the time the flight had landed back in the UK, I had filled every book with notes.
This, is what my Sifu is all about, sharing information without necessarily telling you he is doing so, a method which is lost on so many people, and my reason for posting this blog, I nearly always got it, but on this occasion he caught me out.
This also explains why in 1991, after making me his disciple, he said to me:
“Hundreds of people train under me,
but I only have thirteen students”
When I opened my school in Leeds (UK), back in Feb 1991 (on the request of Master Ip Chun), I would tell my students:
‘I do not want to TEACH you Wing Chun, I want you to LEARN Wing Chun’
With there being a big difference between the two, and this was the very thing my Sifu had done to me.
So the point is this, what you are learning may not always be obvious to you at first, therefore, try to keep an open mind and try to find good in whatever you are doing, this way nothing is a burden, and everything has something to offer.
No matter who you are training with, you can learn something from everyone.
Try to see beyond the obvious and you will never stop learning, this way making you improve as a student, a teacher, and the student once again.
Thank you for reading, and for allowing me to share this story with you.