Be yourself, everyone else is taken
When you spent time in Chu Shong Tin's company you quickly realised that he was not interested in much else other than wing chun. He was an incredibly congruent individual, in that he was consistent in what he thought, what he said, what he did. Although he did choose to be in several videos, it was only to preserve his methodology of thinking. He did not produce any 'how to videos', and was in fact concerned that the footage taken of him whilst teaching class might be misunderstood and taken out of context. He was puzzled that visitors like myself chose to record him, behaving like people at a concert watching through their phone screens. In hindsight I do not blame him.
YouTube is a great marketing tool, but to me it feels like a mistake for teachers of internal arts to go beyond and sell instructional footage as if it is a substitute for hands on teaching. It does beg the question as to how much you really value their own ability as a teacher? We are not teachers of body awareness, there is so much to this than just that. There may be experienced 'students' who can get a lot out of it, but the risk is that the misinterpretation is likely to spiral and people may confuse knowledge with actual experience. Hence the inclusion of the image below - the picture of a pipe is no more real than a video of somone moving their arms in a wing chun style.
It's a challenge in life to be congruent; as a teacher you need to attract students, to keep them interested and meet their expectations. It can be so tempting to exaggerate, omit a few details or allow others to make inferences . I see and hear it all the time when I watch vlogs and interviews. We are all human, but when we do it we diminish ourselves in the process.
I'm both a student and teacher of wing chun and a student and a student and teacher of the Alexander Technique (AT). Training as an AT teacher over the last 5 years has led to to challenge strong held beliefs about myself, my body knoweldge and wing chun. Some ideas taught in wing chun do not make sense, for most the teaching methodology fixate on half of the bigger picture (prioritising ends over means) and there is a constant appeal to authority if orthodoxy is challenged. For me it's a minefield trying to bridge the gap without pointing out obvious flaws in logic. I don't want to offend people, but at the same time I'm offended by the amount of crap associated with an art I love.
To keep things simple in my mind, I can point to a clear agreement in CST methodology and AT. A lengthening and expanding spine is primary for the body to work well. Without this simple but incredibly difficult ability then there is no freedom of expression and it's just dead movement.
CST talked about raising the spine and he taught systematically with his hands how to do this. But he was only successful with a few people who were left with the ability to do it themselves after he passed. There are still a lot out there who say they teach it, they even talk about how their spine lengthens and touches a part of their brain (hmm), but I'm not sure how congruent these people really are when it's clear they are not doing what they say. Perhaps they believe it, or just enjoy an audience?
Alexander discovered what he called The Primary Control. This sounds rather grandiose but what it is experientially is the relationship between the head, neck and back when they are in a lengthening and expanding state. Without a time machine I cannot go back to check if this is the same as when CST would sing his spine, but I'd put money on it that such a state was the primary source of his power.
Where CST and Alexander would have likely agreed upon also is that a free spine is primary for good movement and that the limbs are secondary for developing power. Without the internal momentum of the spine releasing, most limb movement is likely to be based on localised muscular contraction.
I don't think an individual can claim to be a teacher of two arts like tai chi and wing chun as they are not consistent in their methodology of how to move. A cat is a cat cannot change into a dog. Such a teacher who tries would be incongruent with themselves. Am I in a similar dilemma when I have two competing interests?
Can I be a teacher of AT and wing chun? Well I'll step back a bit and say that as a teacher of WC my job is to use the tools I have (however I've gained them over 20 years) to teach a student how to have an integrated relationship of their head, neck and back, following from which I can teach the movements of wing chun. On that basis wing chun is a great testing mechanism of how integrated and holistic the students movements are and whether they come from a place of expansion. But my job is not to just set them up, it's to teach the thinking tools needed to do it themselves. If I can accomplish this then I'll be honest in my beliefs and therefore congruent.
Sorting the wheat from the chaff is not easy. What CST said seems different to what the various translations of what he said, and also account has to be taken of the context. His students do not always agree, they teach from different perspectives (motivations) and he never gave direct endorsement to a successor. Also most of what he discussed in teaching where the signposts of success - looking at a map is no substitute for experiencing the terrain.
I've covered a lot in the blog (mostly waffle), but there are a few key points which might inform my students. If you are not a student, but you read blogs and watch videos, then this really is as much a waste of your time as doing those things because you are not a wing chun student. You are a wing chun masterbator and you need to start experiencing wing chun for real. The only thing more worthless than that is the online sifus who seek to educate the world, but literally have no real students of their own. Empty vessel wing chun prophets trying to be someone they are not. I suppose you can fool some of the people some of the time...
8/9/2022 06:36:33 pm
Thanks for posting this Dan. Very true sentiments IMO. People are so easily led when they hear what they already believe and listen with "deaf ears". This is why there is no substitute for "hands on" work. When I really think about it, the only real learning I have ever acheived has come from actually feeling/experiencing effective movement.
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