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Kung Fu Personality "Techniques"

As Kung Fu students, your personality and your outlook on life must occasionally and consistently be exercised too. As your teacher, I will list and describe some aspects for you to consider.

Have Faith - it will take much time to develop and foster an understanding that your teacher does indeed know where the best path lies for you, and learn to follow it together. A good teacher seeks to inspire you to be better, and a truly good teacher will inspire you to train you to be even better than himself. The martial arts is built on the "time and effort" of both the student and the teacher. It is a win-win when both achieve success in their quest! Use "faith" when you are not sure of the utility of a technique or even training in the short-term. Patience and faith go hand in hand, as faith will guide a student when the answers are not so clear as you would want them to be.

Seek Perseverance - be dedicated and disciplined and willing to try when obtacles appear. Certain techniques in Kung Fu may require many many (1000's) of attempts to achieve success and utility. Your teacher can lead you there, but the "time and effort" ultimately will be yours. In order to be capable, the techniques must be integrated within you, repeated over and over until they can be done unconsciously - like the samurai blade that is heated and folded and hammered 100's of times in order to create a flexible and superior strength. Like all things in life, you may not succeed on your first, or even 10th try. Be willing to try and try again. "Perseverance" is a learned skill, enhanced by your reluctance to admit defeat. Thank your opponents and Kung Fu older brothers and sisters for pointing out the vulnerabilities in your capabilities. Then, get to work on them.

Seek Humility - Check the ego at the door - lose the self - encourage and utilize respect for others - seek to accept instruction and critiques from your teacher and seniors as they have your success in mind, and as you grow and become much more capable, seek to gain confidence without false bravado. In turn, be kind and considerate and uplifting with those that come after you. Like humpty dumpty - if you get a big head - you could have a big fall. It is the teacher's job to ensure that no heads are too big to walk through the doorway! A good start to accrue "humility" is to use common courtesies, like "please" and "thank you" and use terms of respect like Shifu, and Lao Shifu to acknowledge the teachers in your school. The flip side of humility is arrogance, a trait that tends to overlook the possibilities of self-growth and appreciation for others and their strengths.

Seek Patience - Understand that competence takes a long time, fraught with difficulty - realize that your teacher will present new ideas and techniques when the student appears to be ready, and not when the student thinks that he is ready. I know that all of you have heard, "Do this 1000 times, then ask questions." All students will have to struggle with some facet of their training - it is up to the teacher then to help find any "weakness" and turn it into a strength. Most people can be patient with a stranger, but have little patience or tolerance for lack of progress in their own training. For me, when I learn a new skill, form, or technique, I will use patience to practice it for a year to determine if it has utility with the rest of my training. In addition, patience is necessary in your teaching when showing your younger brothers and sisters the way to gain expertise with their techniques - do not overfill their bucket but add water as room becomes available.

Encourage a "Beginner's Mind" - (empty your cup) when training and capability seem to plateau and the learning curve flattens out, look for alternatives that present new challenges - discuss options with your teacher in order to cultivate a stronger working relationship for future productive training. When you convince yourself that you know better than the teacher, then your voice quickly drowns out all others. Remember the scene in one of Bruce Lee's movies when he overpours a cup of tea as his egotistical guest drones on about his successes in martial arts? Occassionally, you too will have to open your mind up to doing more than just the aspects of the martial arts that you like, that is, if you want to be a martial artist with multiple capabilities. Why not try a new seminar each year, and "strap on the white sash" again? Or read a new book or watch a new dvd to gain new insights into your practice, and then determine how the information applies to your own understanding of techniques and applications that you already know.

Seek Courage - take steps to face trials and tribulations and when opportunity knocks, "step across the line drawn in the sand". When the time comes, show up at "Fight Night", sign up for the "All Night Challenge, 24 hour challenge, etc. Try out the 1000 kick challenge, 1000 throw challenge, Black Sash Challenge, write an article for a magazine about your studies in martial arts... Determine some obstacles or minor fears that you have and work to reduce or even alleviate them by tackling them head-on or even sideways and foster your "courage". Conquering these fears or at least presenting the mindset to gain control over these fears, will in turn give you more confidence when it comes to new challenges along the way.

Seek Understanding - investigate the physical, intellectual and sociological aspects of the martial arts, to better understand your quest and those that come after you. You may have to examine the mindset and motives of some of your students based upon your own revelations, in order to determine and then fashion their intentions so that the student is able to reach a higher level. A higher level of understanding will also keep you level headed while others are losing theirs around you. Start a library of martial arts texts, resources, and inspirational stories and legends to give new dimensions to your martial arts. And then like the saying goes, "Teach once to learn twice" look for opportunities to utilize this new understanding to build others understanding. The martial arts may give you a lifetime of challenges, sometimes by gigantic leaps of consciousness and other times by shimmers of meaning, in order to unfold understanding of forms, techniques, and philosophies. Hand in hand with understanding, goes "patience", "faith", and "encourage a beginner's mind".

Seek Expertise - in spite of hardship, fatigue and injury ("san pupa cheng hsin") resolve to master one aspect of the martial art, whether it is kicking, striking, takedowns, throws, or ground fighting. And then become an expert in all the other areas. No one will force you to train with a broken limb, but certainly you can choose to ignore small aches and pains and bruises, scrapes, etc in spite of these obstacles. And you can go further than you thought in spite of fatigue. Look around you and see how many students have participated and completed an All Night Challenge. To gain expertise, one must fight past anticipated, recognized and random hardships in a calculating manner. Make a diagram of your skills in the martial arts , such as a square or circle with blocks or triangles for punching, kicking, clinching, takedowns, and grappling, and fill each block in as you have gained expertise in that area. Otherwise your skills may grow only in one direction, and then what kind of versatility will you be left with if you are defeated in this one small area? It takes courage to look in the mirror and cooly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, and then make a goal to pursue a path to achieve expertise.

Seek Strength of Spirit - initially you may have to embrace a "steeling" mindset ("tuan lian") to overcome obstacles. You may have to be trained to learn how to succeed and push back against obstacles. It may be a test of spirit demonstrating a form at a tournament; or testing yourself at "Fight Night" or even fighting a Full Contact Lei Tai match. Whatever it is, it will take your "time and effort" to whittle down the apprehension and anxiety down to a bite-sized portion, and then you will be ready to succeed, and move on to the next challenge. Based upon your efforts you will achieve, First, "recognition, then acceptance, then respect". Each year, set up a calendar to prepare your pursuit of excellence, and stick to this program in order to build your "strength of spirit".

Students, let's demonstrate!

Doug Moffett, Shifu Lung Ch'uan Fa


December 12, 2007

The student asked the teacher how long it takes most students to master their system. The teacher replied, "15 years". The student was shocked, then asked "how long would it take me if I work twice as hard"? The teacher replied, "30 years"! The student protested, "but what if I practice 3 times longer and harder than all the other students, then how long will it take me"? The teacher smiled and answered, "then it will take you 45 years". (And the teacher was speaking of learning and mastering the basics of the system, of course. You get out of something what you put into it, many say. Some consider the Martial Arts a long-term investment. Others make it their way of life.) Its all about what we learn and what we do and how we do it.

Think about this for a moment: if one tries hard, one puts forth a great effort. With the passing of time, one demonstrates a certain determination, dedication, commitment of sorts. The passing of time affords us the opportunities to use what we have learned to apply that knowledge, using the character we have developed and simply being the persons we have become and interacting with others we meet along the way.

We may try harder, and move faster in our attempts to learn and accomplish so much more in only a short period of time. It's almost as if we are trying to catch up so much faster, as we are being shown the way. Rushing in even ahead of our guides.

But, if we act in such a manner, how much will we miss along the way? What else could we have done, or what more could we have done to make things even better? Good things come to those who wait, others say. Quality, over quantity.

So many things come out along the way, including: perseverance/endurance; humility/modesty; patience/tolerance; faith/trust; courage/bravery; understanding/enlightenment; and expertise/skill. Much, much more.

We cherish the mind with which we began our training. When we are young, we learn wisdom; as we grow older, we practice it. We learn from our past experiences, and draw from them for our future successes.

Like the ancient swords of olden times, hammered and re-hammered. Forged and re-forged.

Tried and tested, yet true.

Each of you has your thoughts, your skills and your abilities.

The challenge to each of us is to use them to the fullest extent possible for others, for mankind, for own selves, our friends and families.

Uniting body, mind and spirit as one, we fit in with the others in our world and remember each one is just as challenged as we are. Our duty is to help them in any ways possible.

You may serve as an example for them to follow. Always remember: they may wish to rush forward, and do so much more in such short periods of time. Time comes with each passing moment. It is a gift. Something we have little control over. Any impatience we experience with the passing of time takes away from better moments, better spent. Each moment is linked to the next. And each leads to another, and yet another, and another.

Our guides may see us from a distance or pass us yet again. Some may become the leaders we may need to show us the way. And they may lead many others to where we are at. And even beyond.

But we will recognize them. And they will recognize us. For all we have shared together. For what we have in common. For the hope of what may yet be.

Very sincerely, and with all humility,

Lao Shih-Fu Steve Clark

December 20, 2007

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