Friday, April 4, 2008

"Why do we come here?"

I want to post something insightful and/or inspirational about coming back from illness and training hard and so on and so forth. But in my head I just see Sifu telling me to ceshoufan faster, or myself trying vainly to wrench my leg around in mopan saotui. I am starting to feel desperate about ever regaining the head flip; I'm regressing to fear of bawang zakui. Every time I jump I feel like I'm half as high as people who are half my height. I'm not worried about testing. It will come and go and I'll do my best. I'm more concerned that my best has ceased to impress me. I haven't been training two years and already I have learned so much, but then the other half of me says, I've been training almost two years and I still go at a snail's pace in ceshoufan...

I'm not trying to get all gloomy; testing time is always a moment for self-assessment and I feel like I have never trained as hard as I claimed or intended. I mean, if I wanted a better ceshoufan I would have gotten it by now. It's not an aerial. The head flip I had, so there's no excuse for wallowing around in self pity over it. I've spent a lot of my blogging indulging in complaints about this or that soreness, or the alleged difficulty of something. EZ says in class "Not just hard, Hard-ER!" And while this makes myself, Sifu, and everyone else laugh good naturedly, it's true. I'm not saying I don't train hard, but I can definitely train harder.


  1. I think everyone goes through this period at USA Shaolin Temple. And I think a lot of people ask themselves why am I at USAST? what am I learning? am I even learning anything anymore? I would say when I reached level 2, more than half the students were thinking what am I doing here?! Just ask one of the senior students if they ever tried looking at another school, they will probably say yes.

    So you do have to ask yourself why you are there? And what you wanted out of it? In my opinion , I think there are good reasons to stay and definitely bad reasons to stay and you have to weigh those. Some people love the environment and they don't care if they were learning kung fu or ballroom dancing. All they really care about is that environment and thats great for them spiritually and for their physical body. But then there are handful of people who really want to learn kung fu and joined for that reason. Those people after a certain point realize they don't have much more to learn or that they are not improving anymore. So now you wonder why they dont leave? From talking to students, I found out there are only a couple of reasons why they dont leave. 1. Because they don't know where to go and they are afraid to explore. 2. They think they would be backstabbing Sifu after all that they learnt prior. 3. They think the reason why they are not excelling is because of themselves and not because of the teaching.

    I know that my remarks are probably going to get hit my criticism. But those of you who are going there for the kung fu... ask yourself.. what will you learn after spending 5 years trying to learn Crazy Devil Staff.. what more can you learn? Look around you and see how far you can go.... Do you think in 5 years, Irwin, if he is still around, will teach you mantis? That Sifu will suddenly start teaching people broadsword? spear? drunken? If those are things you want to learn, yes, you might want to re-evaluate why you are there.....

  2. I am going through the same thing. At this point, we have been taught how to do almost all the movements in L1 and L2. Two years of constantly learning new moves is very exciting, but I have realized the learning curve has changed. Training is no longer learning a new move every two weeks but is now focused on those "shaolin-inches". For me training requires a great deal more patience; constant growth but at a new pace. I have found it necessary to go back to every move and analyze it to the smallest detail. Then make sure every time that I am achieving, what I understand to be, the IDEAL. There are many ways to focus on achieving a higher standard. One of them for me is: Before every class I usually think about a few moves (or aspects of the movements) that I want to focus on (lower, faster, stronger, etc.). I have found that two or three specific growth targets are accomplishable in one class. And hopefully we learn a lot more than we had planned on with the help of a great teacher or a high level of CHI at the moment. But, for those moves that are going to take months if not years to accomplish I am learning to be more patient and recognize that I am making progress everyday. No deadlines- just “inches”. For example: every class for 2+ months I did kip-ups and head-flips before class. I just could not figure it out. But day by day I gained those “shaolin-inches”, and now I can do them.

    The difficult part I find in L2 is we must change our body so much. To be able to float across the floor and fly is not something that we were not born with (well at least not my body!). It will take time. Only thing I know how to do is be patient and train harder.

  3. "Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
    - John Wooden

    "The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person's determination."
    - Tommy Lasorda

    "The principle is competing against yourself. It's about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before."
    - Steve Young

  4. The title of my post was a reference to our daily call of "Why do we come here?" "Train harder!" and not an intimation of "Why the heck do I come here?" I come to temple for some of the reasons mentioned by everyone, environment, the people, the spiritual and mental and emotional development. But yes I do also come to learn kung fu (and I don't want to get into semantics about how "kung fu" refers to the physical and spiritual parts of training). For me there is still a long way for me to go before I learned all the physical kung fu temple has to offer.

    As to your other points KF I think they are all definitely valid things to consider. The world is full of places and people to teach you different and valuable things. And it is definitely a mistake to form expectations of learning from only one person and one place. Right now I am content with WHERE and WHO, my concern in my post was whether I was being honest with myself in how I was training and whether I was maximizing my opportunity of training at temple while I'm there.

  5. I LOVE the fact that "kung fu" still regularly reads and posts on this blog!! It shows how much of an influence Temple can have on a person. Even if you stop physically training at Temple, your spiritual training is never finished. The Temple is in the heart, you will take it with you forever.

    "So you do have to ask yourself why you are there? And what you wanted out of it?"

    I wonder if KF has asked himself the same question about why he continues to read our blog about training at Temple. I welcome his comments on this blog because it shows that even after years of physical training and believing that you've gotten every kung fu technique out of the temple, there's still more to be learned. There's about 130 or so Shaolin Forms, but the search of formlessness in the heart is infinite. There are many paths to enlightenment. I, for one, am glad KF is on this journey with us.