LEARNING KUNGFU AS A STUDENT
I would greatly appreciate it if you could share with me your experiences as a student when you were learning Kung Fu. Did you have similar doubts about yourself? At what age did you start training?
— Nathan, USA
I started my life-long kungfu training when I was ten. I learned from four masters, all of whom were patriarchs of their respective styles. It was no co-incidence. I was (and still am) an idealist, I searched for the best available teachers.
I was a good student. I never had any doubt about my learning ability. In fact I was a fast learner; for example, I could learn a kungfu set by merely observing it three times.
But I also never pushed myself beyond my limits. I did exactly what my teachers told me, and never tried to be smarter than my teachers. If my teacher told me to practise a certain movement for three weeks, I would practise it for three weeks, though I could learn it in three minutes. I owed this attitude much to my father's advice.
The crucial point — which I discovered later only after comprehending the difference between skills and techniques — was that this was being smart. If my teacher asked me to practise for three weeks and I practised only for three minutes thinking that I already knew it, I would be very silly.
Another of my father's advice which benefited me greatly was that I respected my teachers deeply and sincerely. This gave me the ideal psychologcial frame of mind to learn well.
I trained diligently and consistently, averaging an hour a day, and often more. I read a lot too, and listened to stories as well as advice of my seniors and other masters. At one period I went round looking for martial artists from various marital arts to spar so as to improve my combat efficiency. At another period I went round looking for masters for advice to deepen my skills and knowledge.
I also involved myself in music, chess, poetry, philosophy, painting and science. I aspired to the Chinese ideal, i.e. a scholar-warrior. Later, when I was more advanced in my kungfu training, I aspired to the Shaolin ideal, i.e. a warrior-monk.
The above is taken from Question of October 2002 Part 2 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.
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