A Letter & Response...
Hello, my name is XXXXXX. I like to know more are about your martial art training and your opinion on going about things. I'd like to learn from you, I realize that training takes real dedication. I'd like to fly over to Creston to train. but at this time, my funds are limited. what do you think I should do? I already practice wing Chun and tkd in a class setting which is good for basic skills. I plan on going to university in 20XX so I plan on working and practicing till then but I have over a year to learn the fundamentals. If I were to come how should I prepare myself?and beyond all how do you think one should find a teacher? it could be the case that I'll never be able to train with you.
Thanks for writing me, I am always happy to help when I can. I think to really address your questions I should start from the beginning of training i.e. How to Find a Teacher.
It's always difficult to try and find a teacher when you have not trained before since the things that oe should look for are generally easily hidden. There are a few tell tale signs in my opinion that can separate a good teacher from the rest. First of all, don't get overly impressed by large numbers of students or beautiful or big schools. These prove only that the teacher is good at business and not necessarily at teaching. Yes, generally a good teacher will have students and perhaps make a decent living, but when the art becomes a product to be bought and sold it is very easy for it to become more important to make money than it is to teach well.
If you find a school you are interested in I would look to the students themselves first. Are they people you would like to hang around with? Would you go out for a meal or the movies or a beer with them? People are tribal and as such the rule of “hang out with five successful people and you will be the six” does apply. A teachers students tell you a lot about the teacher as they try to emulate the teacher in many ways, many times without even realizing it. Boastful, arrogant, ignorant, bullies are a sign of similar traits in a teacher.
Don't be too impressed by trophies and world titles and such. Most every competition has a world title or international tag on it and winning does not mean what most people think it means. I have seen national teams picked from tournament winners who had no one else in their divisions! Instead watch a class and see what you think. Use your intuition and see if you would enjoy what is going on in there and is it meeting what your needs are from training? Many people are looking for a workout, social activity and some self defence or confidence. Many schools cater to that and there is nothing wrong with that, but if you're looking for a hardcore fighting school or old school traditional art being taught in the old way look for teachers and students that exemplify that.
More could be said on this but go with your gut, talk to the students and do some research on the internet. Take people's opinions with a grain of salt and cross reference things to form an opinion.
Training in Wing Chun and Tae Kwon Do is a great way to get things rolling. Essentially in martial arts there are the Ji Ben Gong or Basic/Fundamental skills of the art taught first upon which the entire art is built. Those two are quite different approaches so between them you should have some well rounded skills. In my opinion be aware of the nuances of what the basics have, each stance, step, position and technique and delve into them. Ask a lot of questions of people, if not the teacher (as is the case in some old school scenarios) then your elder students. Truly the high levels of martial arts are built upon the basics and nothing else. When I really realized this I put myself back through my entire curriculum starting at the beginning, training and examining each thing with fresh eyes. It's one thing to learn a front kick your third class, it's another thing entirely to come back to it years later and examine it again. Take the time to look into what you are being taught. There is always more to it than one thinks. My motto for students is: “You're never learning what you think you're learning.” Are front kicks just kicks? Is Bong Sau just a block? Is there a bigger theme happening in the art?
If you do decide to come train with me be mainly concerned with your habits and way of thinking. Classes are for learning and corrections, practice time is done on your own. Seriously even ten minutes a day adds up. Think about it a person who trains twice a week for two hours a time gets 16 hours month. If you add even ten minutes of practice a day you start to gain more than an hour a week of training time and you are creating a good habit to keep you fit, engaged and moving forward. If you want to get some of the basics of what I teach they are on my youtube channel (neilripski or redjademartialarts). Pick up the stepping form (four roads, eight diagram stepping) and the Dragon Pole set (Long Staff). There are a ton of things in there about body connection, root, power, leg methods (kicks), shuai jiao (throws) and qin na (locks) hidden in those sets. The students I have that acome best prepared have those sets and then start to learn Tan Tui (Spring Leg – Also on my channel with my gongfu brother Kevin perforing the ten roads). Thats a ton of martial arts basics and a ton of martial arts in general.
I think all the arts have great things to offer and in truth we are all climbing the same mountain. We just have different paths we are following, blazed generations ago by others. The differences between the “styles” are a lot less than people realize and as one gets closer to the pinnacle of the path you start to see everyone else is up there too. Be open minded, learn from everyone and everything you can, stay hungry for it and you will succeed. As you gain insight you will keep picking better teachers, train more thoroughly and start to see the importance of things like reading philosophy (Taoism in particular for martial arts), practicing compassion (sounds very Buddhist) and learning to love yourself and others. Explore healing a bit, good killing hands make good healing hands.
Really all I am saying is don't give up. I never did.
Always willing to help when I can.