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When is a Master Truly a Master? (Part I)

Part I: What is a True Master?
Part II: More than a Teacher — The Path of Shao-lin

Many come to study the martial arts for various reasons: defense, health, love of culture etc. The reasons vary from person to person. Some have little expectation of advancing far in the martial arts, while others have great expectations.

grandmasterThose who persist can achieve the level of teacher, but making it to the master level is a different matter entirely. So the question arises, when is a master truly a master? And how many can expect to reach such a high level of expertise? Sad to say, few make it according to the standards embedded in true Shao-lin mastery.

For more messages from Grandmaster, see the Archives.
If you look around the world of martial arts, many call themselves Masters. There seems to be a master at every school. But what is a master? How does Shao-lin define one who has achieved the highest goals of our art? Does one only achieve the title of Master by superlative martial arts skills? Is this the criterion of mastership, or is it in fact something else?

Let's look at some real life facts, because, hidden from public scrutiny, they will truly determine whether a man or woman has the right, in the eyes of Shao-lin, to be called Master.

The general public may think that outward skills - punching and kicking - determine if a person is a master, but those in the inner circle know this is not completely true. The skills can be many or few, but this is not what determines who is truly a master. In fact, if skill were the only criterion, the number of masters would decrease by half.

The Inner Battle

In Shao-lin, one is a master who has mastered himself or herself, who has won the battle raging within. It is the victory over self that qualifies one to be called master. How can anyone who has not won the internal fight teach others to do so?

True masters never lose because they avoid fights to begin with.
In Chinese there is a term " xing ming shuang xiu" which means, Spirit and Body cultivation. It is true that having good skills plays a part in the overall picture, but many practitioners have skills and still are not worthy to be called Master. Who in their right minds would want to study with a person who is no different from themselves in character? If you look at a true master you will find both the skill and, most important, a person who is above reproach according to Shao-lin Wu-De (ethics).

Shao-lin temple boxing, has little to do with physical rewards, such as unbeatable fighting talents or chi power. This is but icing on the cake. It is the inner development that transforms you. True masters never lose because they avoid fights to begin with. No person is unbeatable for long. As my teachers always told me from my early years in training, "everyone can be beaten. All it takes is the right person to step forward." To my knowledge Superman only exist in comic books.

So, the greatest of masters are the ones you seldom hear about. They know that the quickest gun in the west is the one they all come after. Who would want to spend each day with rows of challengers waiting for a turn to take you on? A true master only wants peace and the time to improve his lot in life. The master fights only when all avenues of escape have been blocked. Only at this point are masters justified to fight, then they will act in their own behalf.

Part II: More than a Teacher — The Path of Shao-lin

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