Kung Fu is an age old Eastern art, and some of the training practices and methods of teaching might not translate very well in the Western mind. So it might help us to understand learning kung fu in a way that complements the old western roots.
In times of yore in the West, before high schools and universities, there used to be a different standard of learning all over the world. When you wanted to be a specialist in something, you joined that guild and began your journey in a particular craft. In the modern world, these guilds and craftsmen don’t exist as they used to, but the roots of it are still there.
The path of learning Kung Fu can be broken into the four stages of the old medieval trades or craft-smith:
This first part will be about the beginning of your journey in learning Kung Fu. What will it be like for you as a beginner? What challenges will you face? Here you’ll find some answers to those questions.
Begin learning Kung Fu
A new world for the beginner
When learning kung fu for the first time, you become aware of your body more than you have ever been. You will quickly realize just how little you know of the mysteries that lies in something that used to be seem so familiar. This causes wonder and excitement at all the things you didn’t know, followed by frustration and hopelessness at all the things that you don’t know.
These phases are natural and it is essential to keep in mind that when you are in one phase, the next phase will eventually follow. While excited, if you’re not aware, the frustrated phase will surprise you and you’ll become discouraged. And while frustrated, if you forget that there’s still a tomorrow, you may fall into despair and falter off the path of learning Kung Fu.
It’s important to keep in mind that you’ll experience turbulent emotions and to keep them in check.
The duties of a novice
As an apprentice, it is your duty to face the unknown and continuously push the boundaries of what you used to know to be true. This requires an open mind or else progress will be difficult. As a beginner you have to trust the teacher and have respect for his/her knowledge. The apprentice must have focus, the discipline of placing your attention on one thing and not on two or three. You will be bombarded with information and it is essential to place focus on one thing at a time and have faith that all the questions will soon be answered. As an apprentice you have to be ok with not knowing all the answers. If you are not ok, continue practicing to be ok, that is also a part of learning Kung Fu.
Don’t become distracted, focus on one thing at a time. It may be boring, but it really is the fastest and best way to learn.
The enemy of the amateur
Apprenticeship is the stage with the fastest growth. There will be no other time in your journey where the satisfaction you receive in gaining understanding will be higher. But the answers will come fast because the questions will be shallow. “Should my elbow be in or out? My hand facing up or down? Do I punch straight or in a circle?” and etc. It is important to keep in mind that while you are learning a lot of things, the quality of what you are learning is not very high. If you forget this, ego will grow and you will begin to have an unwelcome companion in your journey.
Ego while learning Kung Fu may not seem like such a bad companion at first. Believing your style or in your teacher is a powerful feeling and drives excitement and willingness to learn. But over time ego will become the barrier to moving on to the next phase of your journey. And if the ego is present, there is no way of becoming a true master. Too much ego from the beginning closes your interest in learning other things, if you think what you know already is so amazing.
Keep in mind that what you learn now is useful, but it’s the tip of the ice-berg and you are blind from ignorance.
But before we start talking about masters, we have to first progress from an apprentice to an adept. Find out what it will be like for you as an adept at Kung Fu.