Each student learns at their own pace. Some have the ability to not only learn quickly, but to seemingly ingrain the movement upon learning it. It’s possible for this to happen, particularly for more advanced students. It is thought that these students are talented, which they may be for this moment of their training. On the other hand, some students struggle while learning new things – be it remembering what was taught to them or simply having the body strength and coordination to do the movement.
It matters not whether you are one of the fast learners or slow learners as people catch on and “get it” at different times in their training. At the end of the day what matters is the student’s ability to not just practice the movement until he gets it right, but to practice it to such an extent that he can’t get it wrong. This poses a bigger challenge for most beginning and intermediate students as their is a big difference between getting it right and not being able to do it wrong. Getting it right might take doing the technique/form tens of times. Not being able to do it wrong probably takes doing it hundreds, even thousands of times. This is when kung fu comes alive.
Most student’s see the next form, the next set of more advanced and fancy looking techniques and want to learn them – which is understandable. Perhaps they think that just by learning something more advanced there abilities will automatically become more advanced. However, it takes a great deal of practice to get to the point where you can’t do a technique or a form wrong. This is why “advanced” students still practice the basics and beginning students should try not to rush to learn too much too fast. In fact, stick to what you’ve been taught in class and be diligent in improving the details of what you’ve been taught the best you can.
If you have a nagging question about how a technique is applied or if you are doing a part of a form correctly, ask the high rank. Traditionally, before or after class you should find the highest rank available and ask your question. If the highest rank is busy talking with someone else or training, then find the second highest rank to ask your question to. It goes down the line to the third highest rank and so on. No matter how trivial or insignificant you feel the question might be – the high rank have been around for awhile and it’s their responsibility to pass on what they know to the lower rank.
Unlike most Korean and Japanese martial art dojos, the Chinese training hall (or mat space) is not considered sacred. Rather the area being trained in is looked upon as important for the reason of distance to the teacher and practitioners. If someone unknown gets too close without being invited, they are not only considered rude, but it could be thought of as a hostile act or challenge.
At this school, we simply use the mat as a designated training area. You only need to bow to a higher rank for a mutual agreement that you may enter their training space. If no one is on the mat or if you would be the highest rank on the mat, you may enter the training hall at will.
The main idea behind this isn’t to give higher rank more privilege, but to teach the person coming on the mat caution of approach and good manners. And it teaches the practitioner on the mat a good sense of his surroundings and alertness even when concentrating on a workout. You can never be too aware!
In their earliest uses, sashes were pieces of cloth wrapped around a practitioner’s waist to hold up their pants. Later, as time progressed, the cloth was made wider so that not only would it hold up the pants but it was also used to practice breathing techniques by always pressing tightly on the dan tien (a few inches below the belly button.)
The color of these sashes was usually black since, in China, that was the easiest and most accessible color of dye used for clothing. In the early 1900’s, the Japanese would begin to use belts as a distinction of rank, black being the highest. In the mid-1950’s, many international kung fu associations also began to use ranking distinctions but they kept their original sashes and most adopted the black sash as their highest rank.
Our school’s ranking is as follows:
- Yellow Sash
- Orange Sash
- Blue Sash
- Green Sash
- Brown Sash
- Red Sash
- Black Sash (1st Degree)
- Black Sash (2nd Degree)
- Black Sash (3rd Degree)
A question that almost everyone encounters during their training at our school is, “When should I not train?” There are a number of rules of thumb to be followed regarding this:
- Don’t train, if whatever illness you have is contagious. Obviously, you don’t want to get your kung fu brothers and sisters sick. If you feel well enough to workout, then spend some time training on your own outside of the school and be cognizant of your energy and don’t push yourself too hard. Alternatively, you can always come and watch class, which is in itself an enlightening experience.
- Don’t train, if your body is overly tired and aching (not necessarily muscle soreness from hard workouts). Your body requires energy to combat whatever is ailing it and hard training takes energy away from your body’s rehabilitation efforts.
- Don’t train, if you are finding yourself short of breath.
- Don’t train, if your doctor told you not to exercise.
Otherwise… train. There is certainly no guarantee that a potential threat to you or your loved ones will happen while you are feeling 100%. Training when you are a little under the weather helps to prepare you for the worst. Lastly, if you’re injured or sick and still attending class, be sure to inform your instructor (before class) so that accommodations can be made, if necessary.
Brea Shaolin Kung Fu School
Throughout the history of China, the cultivation of a good moral character has been foremost in society. Confucius (551-479 B.C.), one of the greatest teachers in ancient times, practiced and taught etiquette, instilling in his people the importance of respect for others and for the self. This is especially recognized by martial arts practitioners, as they understand how important more character is in developing martial skills.
Many different things have been written over the years with respect to martial arts etiquette. Regardless of the small differences between the various styles, one point is universal: all agree that martial arts will not be taught to anyone who is of bad moral character. This it is important to actively cultivate a good moral character as part of your Kung Fu training. This is the core of your etiquette training. Specific etiquette practice in the school is not only mandatory, but essential to anyone who wishes to devote themselves to a martial art.
Northern Style Shaolin Kung Fu – YOUR style – has some very simple rules that must be followed at all times. They stem from a hierarchy that acknowledges respect for those who have more experience than others. All of these are generally learned as a part of your class or by observation. But since sometimes details may be overlooked, the following is a list of etiquette tips that will help you.
- When adjusting your uniform or sash turn your back to the instructor/highest rank until finished.
- The proper way to bow is to open your left hand and place the palm of it over the fist of your right hand. Your eyes should be straight forward and your back should be straight.
- Always bow whenever your instructor, or a higher belt gives you instructions.
- Response to your instructor should be swift and crisp! That means move when you are called up or going to sit down.
- When entering the training hall, wait to be “bowed” on to the floor or to the dressing area. NEVER cross or enter without permission.
- When your instructor is in the office and you wish to speak to him, always knock and await permission to enter. NEVER enter the instructor’s office unless you have been invited and NEVER enter if no one is present.
- Street shoes or tennis shoes are not allowed on the mat. Only bare feet or cotton bottom shoes are allowed on the mat.
- Extra articles such as shoes, shirts, gym bags, etc. are to be placed in the storage area provided. NEVER leave these articles lying around in an unorganized manner. This creates an unpleasant image and should be avoided at all times.
- Absolutely no talking during class unless you are specifically asked to respond to a question or teach by the instructor.
- Remember the studio is your studio and should be maintained in a fashion similar to your home. The organization and cleanliness of the studio is a direct reflection of your inner self and should be maintained in a respectful manner.
Following these basic tips is appreciated and will contribute to the enjoyment of your training at the Brea Shaolin Kung Fu School. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask (before or after class only) a senior belt. They will help you. Remember, the new student is watching you for proper etiquette. You are responsible for perpetuating the details and respect for your art.