Thoughts -New year

Well, and here we are. Another beginning to another New Year. It has been a while since I have written anything here. My apologies. I have been busy with other things in life, much of it related to keeping the school afloat in these difficult economic times. This month of January will be a period of heavy lifting for me as I must devote all the energy I have to marketing and trying to grow the school. I am hopeful that all of you who read this had a wonderful time through the holiday season and a happy ( and safe ) New Year.  So…on to the matter at hand… A few of my youngest students were influenced to start studying Kung Fu  rather than another style by a movie called  ” Kung Fu Panda “. I had not seen the movie, but the kids were always talking about it. An older student purchased a copy for me as a Christmas gift and I finally got around to seeing it on New Year’s Day. There is much I could say about it, but I will stick to only a few things. On it’s surface it is almost a typical ( what was called ) “chop- socky ” movie produced by the likes of the Shaw Brothers back in the 1960’s and ’70’s. I had to laugh at some of the references to those flicks. The fight scene between Po ( the Panda ) and Master Shifu ( a rather humorous play on words there ) utilizing chopsticks has been played out in many of the old movies. The fight scene on the bridge hanging over the gorge between the animals, particularly Tigress, and the character of the villain known as Tai Lung ( kind of odd using that name as it could mean “Great Dragon” in Mandarin and the character was drawn as a big cat ) has been shot several times in a number of the newer movies. Just kind of cool to see the homage done by the director to those who came before him. Incidently, I am not much of a fan of the newer movies. This is mostly for reasons of purety…all the wire action stuff beginning in the 1980’s bothers me. It has its place in a fantasy story like some retelling of  ” The Monkey King ” but that’s it for me. The main reason I prefer the old horribly English dubbed flicks to the new ones are that many of the actors in those movies were real deal fighters before entering film. For instance, the original ” Iron Monkey ” stars a man named Chen Kwan Tai who very recently passed away. He was the all China Middle Weight Champion in 1969 and Light Heavyweight Champion in 1970. He was a Master ranked practitioner of Monkey style. Kuo Shi Hung ( Eddie Ko Hung ) retired undefeated as all China Middleweight Champion in 1969 after winning the title in 1960. He was an Eagle Claw practitioner. He made many movies during the 1970’s, usually playing the bad guy and getting killed by the good guy -often played by an actor with little real Kung Fu backround – at the end of the movie. He is probably best known here in the US for his role in “Lethal Weapon 4 ” where he plays the part of the father whose family is held hostage by Jet Li’s character as he is forced to make engraved plates to counterfit Ren Men Bi ( Chinese currency ). I though it extremely ironic that Jet Li kills Ko Hung’s character with an Eagle Claw strike to the throat as Ko Hung was a Master of that style and would take out Jet Li in a real fight in a matter of seconds ( as Jet by his own addmission learned lots of forms but never even once sparred an opponent ). Anyway – getting back to the Panda. For me -as for many no doubt who have seen it – the most important scene in the movie is when Po realizes the truth revealed by the reflection of his own face in The Dragon Scroll. He awakens to this truth when his father tells him that “there is no secret ingredient ” in the family recipe for noodle soup. And this is one of the highest truths in Kung Fu. There is no secret ingredient…no Holy Grail Style nor Holy Grail Technique. As Kien Shih ( another real deal Master from the old days ) states in his monologue as his character ” Mr. Han ” makes himself known to the attendees of the welcoming dinner in Bruce Lee’s “Enter The Dragon ”  …” We forge ourselves in the fire of our will “.  There are only three ingredients in Kung Fu- our Shifu, the Kung Fu we learn from our Shifu and ourselves. The style in and of itself is not the most important thing ( taking into account the reality of some styles certainly being more ruthless and efficient than others ) as a lesser efficient stlye can defeat a more efficient and ruthless style if the practioner of the lesser style has trained relentlessly and his opponent has trained lacksadaisically. The most important ingredient is ourselves. We only recieve from Kung Fu that which we put into it. Over time with relentless training the “spirit of the thing ” will reveal itself to us. If we practice with only half a heart, the true spirit will never be revealed. The limit we place upon ourselves will be the deciding factor in how far we advance. And advancement is not rank or acquiring of yet another form – that is a subject for another post!!! So- as this New Year begins, train with resoluteness, with knowing that you are your own forge and strive to achieve as close to perfection as can be achieved. Study of Kung Fu is a journey – like our own lives it is a journey across time – and that journey ends in only two ways ; we stop and choose to ( foolishly and ignorantly ) believe that we have it all figured out or with our death. My journey will end with my passing, another step on my journey across time begins today.

4 Responses to “Thoughts -New year”

  1. 1 Steve
    January 5, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    …“through …rigorous training, sacrifice, denial, pain, we forge ourselves in the fire of our will.” Mr. Han-Man (Williams’ nick name for him) sounds a little like the Hegelian Dialectic which basically describes the “Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis” or in other words “Abstract-Negative-Concrete.” The jist is that in order to change there has to be an overcoming of a negative force. All political applications aside, the dialectic from a purely philosophical standpoint lies at the heart and purpose of training. Training is that force we need to overcome to synthesize. Our natural state is not one of a hardened and refined technician but one of a slothful soft gelatinous life form (please observe any of your friends that spend an excessive amount of time playing video games and eating junk food…we are pleasure seekers by nature). This philosophy is one of self improvement if looked at with that perspective and its truth is no different than Han’s words. We either choose to train properly and whole heartedly, or we do not evolve as Martial Artists. The greater the negative force (training in my example) the greater the synthesis (ability, skill, health etc.) Many people mock New Year’s resolutions but I think any excuse you can give yourself to improve is a good excuse. The trick is to stick with it and do it with enough intensity and frequency to make a real change. Personally, I am taking my training to the next level. I would like to see improvement in all aspects of how I execute martial arts. I started with writing my goals down so I had tangible proof that I was doing something. I then came up with a short and long term plan to reach those goals. If you’re serious about the arts I suggest you do the same. If you are a student of Master Cook take advantage of that and communicate where you would like to be in 3 months, 6 months or a year. Maybe you feel your footwork needs some fine tuning. Maybe you would like to grapple better, kick crisper, whatever. Identify something and take an active part in improving it. Happy New Year.

  2. 2 Vinny
    January 12, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Self observation, analysis, reflection, thus self improvement. This is the formula for anything we do if we want to succeed and improve at it. Whether that be as martial artists, parents, coaches, teachers, or as workers (in any field). People have definitely gotten away from any desire of self improvement. Our society has become content with the status quo which, as Steve points out, is mostly “slothful soft gelatinous life forms”. Many people have a desire to improve but lack the long term commitment it takes to “succeed”. They say that even the best motivational speaker can have an effect of only 6-8 hours. Meaning that even when we are overwhelmingly inspired, it may only last the day. Therefore, the outcome of our goals lies within ourselves. The ONLY person that can actually improve ourselves is ourselves. Some people lack the knowledge necessary to succeed, so they go to “experts” such as a Shifu, a dietitian, or a personal trainer but some make the excuse that they simply do not have the time…this is absolute crap because even 20minutes a day can make a significant difference if its done efficiently. There simply is NOTHING more worth improving on then our health and the new year is the PERFECT excuse to start…as is the next day and the next day. People get discouraged quickly because in our fast paced, immediate gratification society people become frustrated with the lack of fast results. As Master Cook has said, the first 6months of anything you do is going to be the most difficult. I usually tell people that I council for health/nutrition/weight loss, to write down their weight and measurements and put the paper in their sock drawer. Don’t weigh yourself every day but rather take out the paper and retake all the measurements in 3months. Then you really see results and a bad couple days won’t matter if you are consistent most of the time. Its the same with martial artists…its hard to measure ourselves against yesterday, but we can compare ourselves to the practitioner we were 3,4,or 6 months ago. We then learn to love the plateau as it is testimate to the most recent leap in improvement. There absolutely is no secrete ingredient or magic pill but desire is the key. It all comes down to how bad you want it. If you want something bad enough, you will do whatever it takes to get it.

  3. 3 Vinny
    January 14, 2010 at 7:25 am

    I just wanted to add something to my previous message as I read through some old paperwork. In “The Way”, written by Professor Sesu-Quan-Setsu, he states: “Desire is the initiative, Discipline is the Key, Humility is the Way”. This is a profound statement and reiterates some of the points discussed by Sifu, Steve and myself. I foolishly wrote “desire is the Key” but it is more accurate to state as Professor does, that Desire is ONLY the initiative but that DISCIPLINE is the KEY. This is not to diminish the importance for the initiation, but as “Desire” gets us going…it is “discipline” that KEEPS us going. It is through Discipline that we “forge ourselves in the fire of our “will”.

  4. 4 Steve
    January 20, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Nice quote Vin!

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January 2010

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