“You’re in Elementary School, Me, Me in College.” Cheng Shifu once told me.
“If you learn but don’t practice it is disrespectful to the Teacher. If you don’t practice correctly, this leads to an illness in the Art.” Chen Zhao Kui
In reference to Bradford’s Article on Facebook which can be found here;
I also wanted to share what I learned from several of my Teachers that echo his sentiments in the referenced Article. There aren’t really secrets in these Arts, though to many it may appear so at first glance. There are many reasons not every student gets “everything,” some reasons are mentioned by Bradford above.
As a Current Student and now Teacher, I have begun to empathize with Cheng Shifu’s above statement and I pause and reflect on it often. It was not meant to be condescending, it was meant to show the differences in levels of understanding. How can you teach an Elementary Student, who just started Math, Advanced Algebraic Equations? Would this student even begin to understand what is being taught? Do they even understand the language and terminology used to describe the Math?
Of course not and expecting them to know this when they are just learning fundamentals is ridiculous. Not only that, but if a Teacher were trying to teach a student advanced nuances of any given Art (Scholastic, Martial, Culinary, etc) without the student even beginning to understand the fundamentals will waste both the Teacher’s time and lead to great frustration within the Student. Thus leaving many Students with no desire to practice as it all seems insurmountable.
So patience is required on both sides, of all the numerous Teachers I have studied with, the ones whom I consider “good” at teaching are the ones who understand Patience. When you come across a good Teacher, they want you to learn what they know, they want to share the beauty of the Art (again whatever it maybe) with you and the World. They want others to understand them and through their Arts is how they show who they are. Being secretive and greedy with their Arts does not lead to them being able to share what they love.
Patience though is required on the Teacher’s part, this is because of the aforementioned reason, the student must develop on his or her own time. Development and growth simply takes time and practice, it is not something to be done overnight. Think of it this way, does a farmer go out and pull up on every one of his crops to make them grow faster? This is absurd and the same applies for good Teachers, they have to exhibit patience so the Student can develop at their own speed, despite how quickly sometimes they want to share their Art (and may force students to learn beyond their physical or mental abilities).
Patience is required on the Student’s part as well, a good Teacher will share all they can when the time is right. This also requires a significant degree of Trust from all those involved. However, if a Student pushes their minds or their bodies beyond the level they are at, this can lead to injury, frustration and actually retard progress in the Art.
This is what Cheng Shifu was explaining to me, I was Elementary school in the Art. My only obligation was to learn the foundational skills that would take me through the rest of the “grades.” Even though I wanted to learn College level material, I never would have understood it. This is why the next quote is important as well:
“If you learn but don’t practice it is disrespectful to the Teacher. If you don’t practice correctly, it leads to an illness in the Art.” Chen Zhao Kui
One quote I remember hanging on the Dojo I trained at growing up was this: “Most Teachers give their life, most students their spare time.” As I mentioned, most good Teachers want you to have their Art, want you to succeed, want to share the beauty of these Arts with you. However, if you only go for an hour a week and that is your “practice” then how can you say you are being respectful to what they give?
“Don’t tell me how many years you practice, Tell me how many times a day you do Form, then I know your skill.” Cheng Jin Cai Shifu. He told me he never cared how many years of Practice you say you have, he wanted to know what you did DAILY to practice. This is what showed him you were investing time and effort into what he was teaching you. The more you practiced the more he shared, this was because he could do so.
If you practice you excel, you learn quicker on your own and you stumble and get back up, you gain experience that would not otherwise be gained. This is an aspect of “Eating Bitter,” and you will grow from this experience and learn. This makes the Teacher’s Job simpler (not easy, but simple) because you will begin to develop questions and experiences that they can guide you through.
Many at first worry too much about “getting it right,” I hear this all the time, “I don’t want to screw it up,” “I don’t want to practice incorrectly,” etc. When you are starting out the only incorrect practice you can do is NOT practicing. It is expected you will make mistakes, you will stumble and forget, this is all part of the process. A Teacher will then correct these and support you and assist your growth. However, they cannot do so if you don’t Practice. How can they support you in something you aren’t even doing?
If after you practice and practice and the Teacher makes corrections, you will grow, IF you implement the corrections and follow the guidance of the Teacher. However, if you do not implement their instructions, this is what Chen Zhao Kui meant when he said “If you don’t practice correctly, it leads to an illness in the Art.” If you neglect your Teacher’s instructions and they have tried to correct your errors many times, that issue is solely upon the student.
This does not mean that the Teacher is infallible, there is too much of this being exhibited too, students putting 100% of their trust in Teachers and not using some common sense themselves. Though this is beyond the scope of this Article, it is important to point out the Teacher Student relationship is a very special one and requires Trust and Patience from both.
It is through this Trust and Patience and understanding that the Arts will persevere and grow. It is in excuses made on both sides that the Arts we all love will perish.