In any pursuit that requires Kung Fu, you’re constantly striving to perfect your concept, your technique and your skill level. Even if you’ve attained a certain level of proficiency that you perceive to be perfection, there’s still more to learn. Perfection is an internal struggle. It’s not you against the world, it’s you against you.
You pay for your training by honoring the knowledge that is passed down to you and working on it, then passing it on to others. The satisfaction that you will derive is the satisfaction you will get from your relationship with your teacher and from your own hard work. This satisfaction is not “guaranteed,” but requires constant “payment” of time and effort. If you consistently do this work, your training will “pay you back” for the rest of your life.
Form is a “multi-vitamin,” constructed by ancient masters who had immense amounts of experience with fighting, both in actual one-on-one combat and on the battlefield. Imagine the mindset of refugee generals, commanders and soldiers reflecting back upon their battlefield experience. At that time, fighting wasn’t from a distance; it was one-on-one, up close and personal. These were battle hardened veterans recounting what they had learned, trying to distill it into a vitamin pill that someone can take and learn from. This was their nuclear weapon; they weren’t just going to give it away. They hoped the practitioner would be intelligent enough to be able to decipher the form and take off the encryption. This is the origin of form that many people do not understand.
Forms provide multifaceted levels of training. Like peeling the skin off an onion, learning form has many layers. Form allows the practitioner to train basic postures, stances, and methods of attack and defense. Another layer is training through breathing exercises (Chi Gung) that allow you to access your power through the breath. In addition, form forces you to do movements in a range of motion that you may not normally do. Most people are not astute enough to be able to separate the different types, or layers, of training involved in form. What is used for physical conditioning, for internal training, and what is the actual martial component? To discover these different layers, the practitioner must spend a lot of time studying the form and be under the direction of a competent teacher.
Most practitioners that want to learn Asian martial arts can’t understand because they are trying to understand an eastern art with a western mentality. You have to be able to change your mind or you will only learn the esthetics without being able to grasp concepts. Many look at form like a dance movement. They lack the mental imagery that’s required to be able to see the physical martial language behind every movement. In a movie, the director has to see every character’s role clearly. You must do the same in your study of the form. The characters are the various techniques, body positions, angles, types of force (hard or soft, linear or circular) and how they interplay with each other. The interplay determines how you’re going to use your technique. The form is an extension of the practitioner’s mindset.
A form is like a song. As the art of Kung Fu is incredibly broad in spectrum and technique, it’s difficult to practice each movement separately; there aren’t enough hours in the day. Therefor, the ancient masters put many movements together into a form that was easy to remember. It is easily carried forward, practiced and passed on, like a song that gets stuck in your head. This allows the practitioner to remember, study and practice many techniques, all rolled up into one convenient package. As you continually practice your form, it gets internalized, and hopefully over time it becomes instinctive and reactive.
Form is a multi-vitamin from the ancient masters. But a multi-vitamin cannot replace all your meals. In addition to training form, the practitioner must work on all aspects of Kung Fu, from two-man training to sparring to striking sand bags, etc.. As one aspect of a multi-faceted art, training form is a method to study and deepen your understanding of Kung Fu.
It’s a gorgeous, sunny day. Don’t forget opportunity cost. You might say, “What? What is that?”
With every action that you take there is another corresponding reaction. This happens in every aspect of the universe, as well as your own life. Each decision that you make, and the endeavors that you choose to embark on, have a direct impact on the outcome of everything that you do.
For example, today is the first gorgeous, warm, sunny day in many months. And many individuals will think, “Hey! Wait a minute, let me take the day off and go to the park, or go to the beach, or go for a drive, or sit in an outdoor cafe and enjoy my latte.” And that’s great, and you should. But keep in mind the opportunity cost.
And you might say, “What do you mean? It doesn’t cost me anything to go to the park, and I am free to do whatever I want.” And so you are. But be careful the choices that you make. Nothing in this life is truly free. In the end, you have to pay. You pay with your time, your effort, your energy and your mental focus. This is what is meant by “opportunity cost.”
What am I doing right now? I’m sitting on top of the rooftop of my school, enjoying the sun, and I’m preparing my lesson plan for this evening. I could easily call out. I could easily cancel my privates and ask my top instructor to cover my classes, but I’m not going to do that, because I know that by teaching my classes, I’m going to benefit and my students are going to benefit. We will learn from each other. There will be many more sunny days when I can take off, but right now I make the choice to stay focused and stay with my training.
When talking about training in martial arts, it’s a continual process. You can’t take a 6 month crash course. There’s no special technique that you can learn in a seminar that’s going to make you an unstoppable fighting machine or a grand master. It’s a matter of consistently putting in the time. If you choose to take that day off from your training, that’s already taking you one step back. If on the other hand, even though it’s a “beautiful day” you choose to continue and maintain your training, not only will you benefit directly at that moment in time, but, you are also accumulating knowledge and skill that will be paid back to you at a later point in time. And, you still have plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful day. No one trains for 24 hours straight. Just spend an hour or two on your training every day, regardless of rain, snow or sunshine, and over time, you, too, will understand the concept of opportunity cost.
In every endeavor, including martial arts training, the concept of opportunity cost comes into play. That means there’s a trade-off; you get what you pay for. You put in the time, and you’re going to reap the benefits.