A major component of your training is the kung fu brothers and sisters you train with. What they can teach you to do, or in some cases not to do, is vital to your progression. Also, as you have no idea what size, body type, strength, speed, weight, fighting skill, etc. of a potential aggressor, it is extremely valuable to have many types and qualities of training partners to prepare for potential physical encounters outside of the kung fu school. Those kung fu brothers and sisters closest to your rank and ability level are particularly important. Should you train for years, these training partners will indeed be thought of as your kung fu “brothers and sisters”.
First, in the beginning of your training you must carefully observe the higher rank. Who they are. When they bow. What they do. How they do things. Your body will not likely be able to copy or handle the physical training that is required of the higher rank, but that is to be expected. While you are resting and they are training, focus on the little details that are likely common with the highest ranks and that may be lacking with the lower ranks. As you progress and learn more, there will be less time to observe as you will have more to practice. Spend your rest time observing not only how the higher rank do things properly, but also how the lower rank might be lacking in certain areas. Upon being one of the advanced students, you likely will have little down time to view the lower rank, but when you do it’s your responsibility to observe their weaknesses and help them either during or after class.
Second, having a mixed class (as our school does) provides a variety of different bodies to work with. Children will be able to practice defending themselves from both younger and older children, as well as adults, which can be invaluable to their self-confidence and self-defense. Women can defend themselves against other women and men. All students benefit from training with students of various sizes, skills, strength, and speed. Should a hulking giant grab your neck – you will be prepared. Should you face someone with boxing skill – you won’t be surprised. Ultimately, each student becomes aware of how to deal successfully with aggressors possessing superior height, weight, strength, and conceivably skill, although skill is what matters most as your training progresses. For this reason, students should hope for a flourishing school with full classes.
Lastly, your kung fu brothers and sisters will be with you suffering through the hard practice and learning this very old and often complex art. Together, you will share the pains that go along with this training and much like a military unit or sports team, there will be a camaraderie that develops into long-term friendships.