I once met a man who had a black-belt in Taekwondo. He had studied other martial arts in his home country; and after coming to the United States, he got drawn into a taekwondo school that was popular in his community. While he wasn’t totally satisfied with the training that he was receiving, believing it to be less practical in street applications than what he was previously taught, he stuck it out to learn all he could of the taekwondo kicks (in other words, he stuck it out to expand his ability to use his body in different ways and found value in that aspect of his training). Then, after earning his black-belt, he left the school and quit practicing.
This is where I met him. He came to me interested in learning something new and practical: kung fu.
During my time with this man, I was very impressed with his work ethic and general character overall. He was respectful, hard-working, eager to learn, honest about himself and training, and worked well with his fellow classmates – regardless their understanding. He went on to earn several medals and trophies while at my school, but more importantly he earned the respect of other martial artists in the community. And he deserved it.
But, that’s not what I’m writing about today. What I want to discuss is this man’s initial perspective on his taekwondo training and how he had quit (even forgotten) the forms he’d learned throughout his years of training. This is a shame; something I wanted to correct for his benefit.
While he was at my school to learn Wing Chun, I wanted to show him something very important about training – something Wing Chun emphasizes in all levels of its training:
Principles that are practiced and mastered lead to efficient and effective ability, not technique memorization.
And, mastered principles can be applied to any form of training.
What Does That Mean?
Think of it like this: Not every fight is the same. Not every fighter fights the same. Not every environment one fights is the same. Nearly all fights are unfair. And, everyone has a different set of strengths and weaknesses.
My point is: In self defense situations you never know what to expect from someone or a group of people. In combat this means (1) you cannot prepare by learning techniques to fight another’s technique (i.e., strengths or style) and (2) requires you are prepared for anything.
When one masters principles they become flexible to the user, like a pen, paper and vocabulary to a novelist or a musical instrument in the hands of a musician. While the notes are the same on paper they are arranged in the unique way the musician uses them to express his or her desired melody. And, while the meaning of the words do not change by themselves, how they are used by each individual writer creates a new reality for a reader to enjoy. The same is true of the martial artist, who learns principles and how to express them to express his desired intentions.
Wing Chun’s Compatibility With Other Martial Arts:
Wing Chun emphasizes the mastering of principles; in fact, it is how it is taught and why it may look so different (i.e., taught so differently) in different schools. Each teacher (sifu) is teaching a different person or group of people, or teaching in a different socio-tactical environment, or is passing along the principles in their own, unique way. Students then become familiar then master those principles in a fluid and personal way over time.
In this man’s case we would, often, explore the use of those principles while using the other forms of martial arts he had learned. The understanding was: If it works and makes your better equipped to defend yourself why abandon it? To his credit, he strove (and continues to strive) to understand and master these things. When he competed he challenged himself to that mastery rather than seek glory.
What he learned (and every Wing Chun practitioner should learn) was that the principles are useful in all martial arts and all martial arts are useful when studied and applied correctly to life’s situations.
Congratulations to William. I am proud of you.
For More Information:
If you live in or around the Tallahasse, Florida area and are interested in learning a practical and efficient self-defense, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (812) 229-4097.
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