I had the chance to relax and watch one of those great Chinese martial art movies. You know the ones with the subtitles and great sound effects. The film caught my interest because it was about Wing Chun, my absolute favorite martial art. The actors displayed some of the most beautiful techniques I have seen that rivaled those of the late Bruce Lee.
In one scene, the master is working with a student who apparently is one of his favorites. The master however doesn’t coddle him and make life easy. Instead, he demands perfection. He yells at the student for his mistakes and tells him he is the dumbest and the most fool of any student he has ever taught. If you have ever seen any of these movies, you will notice that the masters are extremely demanding and verbally abusive.
The film illustrates the reality of traditional martial arts instruction. I was trained this way and so were my instructors. This was also the way my father raised me. Today we call it “tough love.”
I learned over the years that this method of teaching doesn’t work in this country. American students who have had no exposure to traditional teaching methods often feel insulted when a teacher admonishes them, when in fact the truth is that he wants them to shine. Also, many students look at their relationship with their martial arts instructor as that of a consumer and a service provider. This is contrary to the tradition of respecting the master regardless of what he dishes out.
This doesn’t mean that I throw out useless and insincere compliments just to make students feel good. Students who come from other systems sometimes tell me that they were complimented so much by their instructors even when they knew themselves that they weren’t performing correctly. This I refuse to do. We still have an obligation to teach and teach well.
Too much coddling is counterproductive and creates an illusion in the mind of the student. So while I’ve changed my ways for mainstream America, I haven’t stopped demanding that they give it all they got. I’ve just changed my approach.
Calasanz Martial Arts and Fitness
507 Westport Ave, Norwalk CT 06851