Hi everyone! In the last post, we talked about making sure to properly build up our understanding of techniques and exercises in order to prevent injury.  

(So, let’s go ahead and assume injury is a non-issue.  What’s left then?  If we’re injuring ourselves then shouldn’t we just keep going and learn more forms and techniques?  

A common trend that I see is a student becoming frustrated because the teacher isn’t teaching them something new, even though they’ve worked on their current body of material for a while.

Something we should consider then is whether or not we fully understand the material we have.  Remember, traditional martial arts typically try to cover as many facets of combat as possible.  In Chinese styles, these facets are divided into 4 parts: kicking, punching, throwing, and seizing (as in joint-locks).  

One of the beautiful things about the arts (martial included) is that it challenges us to question and explore what we’re capable of.  In the case of martial arts forms or practical applications, we should challenge ourselves to ask how we would use these techniques.  

Can I use this kick for anything else other than JUST a kick?  Could I throw someone with it? 

Is this stance transition more than simply a stance transition?  Could I trip somebody with it? 

What about this twisting motion?  Is it a throw?  WHAT are we throwing with?  Are we using our arms to do it, or are we using our waist?   

During the initial phases of my own training, I remember that I was so excited to learn that I would try to understand everything all at once.  “Shifu, what’s this move for?  Am I doing this right?  Is this high enough, is this fast enough, do I do this slow then fast, fast then slow, etc. etc.”  

There came a point where Shifu Zhou said plainly to me “you need to stop asking so many questions.  Now get back to practice.”

At the time, I had thought that perhaps I had angered Shifu and that he was frustrated with me.  However, it was after I stopped asking so many questions and began to reflect on what I learned that I began to see connections.  “Why is it this movement doesn’t feel powerful at all?  The only way it could possibly work is if I sink into my stance lower…which makes my balance better…which…oh my goodness, I get it!”  

Some months later, Shifu caught me in deep reflection and asked, “What’s wrong?”

I began telling him about my reflections and what I had figured out on my own. How one stance transition allowed me to smoothly transition into the next, so long as I made sure to properly control “here and here.”  That would, in turn, allow me to complete this application with reliable power.  As a result, I was able to immediately figure out the meaning behind the new techniques he was showing me and just how much more practice I had to do in order to actually be able to do the techniques properly.  

It was at this point, Shifu Zhou give me a slight grin and said, “You finally get it now, huh?”

I will go ahead and leave you all on this final note: any art, martial or not, is a lifelong experience.  Like a gourmet meal, you could cram it into your stomach for the sustenance alone and that’s the end.  However, I’d like to invite everybody to try taking your time to savor the art and see if you can’t pick out the subtleties and to have some fun with it.