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A Journey . . .

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Many laypeople believe that a martial art is just for self defense. Others say “If you are so worried about somebody attacking you, why not carry a gun or stay out of bad neighborhoods.” Others believe that martial arts are some kind of cult, or “fight club.” Until you begin the training at a true martial arts school, you may not understand the personal benefits of WingTsun™ training that go beyond self defense. Many believe that if you start martial arts training, you must think you are tough. Surely it must be the opposite. By starting martial arts training, you must think you need some toughening! “Tough guys” usually do not last with an instructor who was properly taught by an instructor with a traditional attitude. The traditional societal attitude was that martial arts were for personal and family protection, not for bullying others and so bullies are screened out in a good martial arts school.

Like any journey, one’s martial arts training is bound to meet bumps in the road, set- backs, advancements and victories. After a few months of training it should become apparent that the reason for all of this training is the training itself and not the rank or the “graduation.” Tests are just mileposts and ways for your instructor to spot training difficulties and help the student overcome them.

You may know that people learn differently from one another. What is difficult for one person is easy for another and vice versa. WingTsun training focuses on many authentic and traditional Chinese martial art skills. If it were easy, every second person would be a high ranking WingTsun practitioner! If it were easy, would you really be interested in WingTsun training? It would quickly become boring.

A key word in your WingTsun training that you must understand is repetition. Through repetition, skill is attained. The body cannot build real skill without repeating the same movement many, many times. Some people will need more repetitions than others in perfecting a movement. It has been said that one must “do a movement 1000 times wrong before doing it one time right.”

One young would-be Tang Soo Do practitioner watched fascinated as a class performed high kicks fast and furiously all the time thinking that he could never learn to do such amazing things with his feet! Or could he? Once in class, he passed his first two ranks and then- things got tougher. He was asked to throw difficult kicks and to try to maneuver and score against the black and red belts in sparring. He asked himself “How could I ever even BEGIN to throw a kick like that?” Three years later he was kicking like that and passed his black belt exam in front of the Korean grandmasters. He was this author.

The phenomenon above is like a traveler on a journey who looks down the road and cannot see the destination. Because he cannot see the destination with his eyes does not mean he cannot visualize the destination in his mind’s eye and it does not mean he cannot arrive at his destination.

The Siu Nim Tau form is the beginner’s road map in WingTsun™ kung fu. The words Siu Nim Tau mean the “Little Idea Form.” In the Chinese way of thinking, these three words have multiple meanings. The meaning we are concerned with now is that in practicing this form and its applications, the beginning student must think about the “little idea,” not the “BIG idea” or the future idea. One must think about what one is doing NOW, not about future movements one may learn. If a student keeps this in mind, taking each movement as it comes—you guessed it—the next thing you know, you’ve mastered the techniques.

Inside the young martial art student’s beginner handbook was a proverb that has been often repeated by this time but perhaps the reader has never read it, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”

– by Sifu Keith Sonnenberg

© Copyright 2003, Sun Mountain Martial Arts—Keith Sonnenberg. No reproduction without permission.