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Martial Arts are No Longer Just for the Chinese (Part II)

Part I: The Growing Popularity of Martial Arts
Part II: Different Teaching Styles

Of course when I say the martial arts are no longer Chinese, I don't mean this literally, for there are more Chinese doing one martial arts form or another than all the people doing so in America.

grandmaster Truly, the study of a Chinese martial art is steeped in Chinese tradition and ritual. And it is becoming increasingly common among non-Asians as well. But there is a difference, and because of it more and more westerners are becoming the teachers of the land.

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The few Americans who ventured into the world of the Chinese martial arts came away with the secrets. These so called 'old-timers' opened the doors that were previously closed to Americans. They opened schools and started teaching anyone who wanted to learn. They are the American pioneers of Chinese kung fu.

With one exception, all of my teachers were Chinese Masters. But in terms of learning speed, no one revealed the hidden secrets faster than my American instructor. There are many reasons for this. One is that a Chinese Master is more concerned with the character of his student than he is with teaching him a great deal of kung fu.

A slow tradition

The traditional Chinese Master watches all aspects of the student's learning process in mind, body and spirit development, but the American teacher does not consider all these factors in revealing the kung fu secrets. The Asian approach to learning can be summed up as "slow and easy." Nothing will be taught until it is time to teach it.

I have experienced this form of teaching from my masters. For example, I remember when Master Ch'ang Tung Sheng was teaching me his style of Hsing Jing Ch'uan, he would teach me just a portion of the form and then tell me to practice it. Although I grasped the form quickly, he would not teach me anymore until he was satisfied. He even left for Taiwan and, despite all my pleading to learn the end of the form, he refused to teach me until he returned months later.

This attitude of teaching very slowly is nothing new to Chinese teachers. It is simply their nature to teach in this manner. This is not to say this method is wrong - by no means. I am simply stating, it is slow.

Fast American pace

On the other hand, American teachers differ greatly from the Chinese Masters. The mind set is different, because of our upbringing in this society. Americans don't like to wait long, they don't plan from generation to generation. They plan for now, tomorrow or next week. Therefore, you have a better chance of learning more quickly from a western Master than from a Chinese Master.

I always tell my students how lucky they are that I was born in the U.S.A, for if I taught them the way my Chinese teachers taught me, many would leave my school. I had little choice but to learn the old-fashioned way when I first started in the martial arts. There were few or no western teachers worth learning from at that time in this country. If you wanted to learn you had to do it the Chinese way or no way at all. I have no regrets about my learning process, but I also do not inflict it upon the occidental mind set.

Because of the American attitude our art has spread rapidly. Americans like to teach a good student quickly. An American teacher has no real allegiance to Chinese tradition and for this reason will teach fast and hard. Students today can find a good school where it will not take a lifetime to learn all its secrets. In some of the better schools a student can reach high levels of training within a matter of years, something which would take a lifetime of study under a traditional Chinese teacher.

In fact, faced with a choice, many would rather study with an occidental teacher so they can understand the instruction better. Trying to break the language barrier between Chinese and English can be a mind boggling experience. Learning in one's own tongue offers the student a chance to question their training, resolve problems and confusions, relate to the teacher in the same language and customs. This makes the learning process much easier, and leads to greater understanding.

For these reasons you can well understand the rate at which the non-Asian student population is growing. Americans are practicing and teaching the Asian arts more than ever before. There are more instructor levels created in America in one year than there are in ten years in China.

The reason is simple: Americans move fast. They are not concerned with deep ritual or ceremony. They move out of a desire to learn. That is why you see so many Martial Arts schools today.

The old-timers did good work when they opened China's once most guarded secrets to the public. Now we all own them.

Part I: The Growing Popularity of Martial Arts
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