I am writing this blog post in our local library today, waiting for my car to be washed. I was going to do my first official video about this topic, but due to losing my voice and recovering from a cold, I think it is best to write this post for today and save my strength.
I am spending today doing my final preparations for my trip to Sydney with my Sifu and two of my Kung Fu brothers Adam and Alex. We will be attending the 2017 Australian Martial Arts Hall Of Fame awards, which our Sifu was a winner of back in 2010. There will be a ceremony, dinner and the day after a full day of training seminars taught by some of the pioneers of the Australian Martial Art scene. Then we will jump on a plane back to Melbourne in the evening.
I am excited about what this weekend will bring, as it is the first time I have done anything social with my Sifu and the lads. The one thing I can honestly say is that since studying the art of Hai Ban Wing Chun Kung Fu, it has been quite an experience. The camaraderie has been nothing short of amazing and I feel like I am training with family when I train out of my Sifu's garage. Training in such a small group is a privilege that I am thankful for and would recommend others to pursue if given the opportunity.
I am fortunate that whilst training under Sifu Bruce, that the lads that train there are accommodating, supportive and friendly. It has made the transition from Close Quarter Combat to Kung Fu, so much easier. It also has made me realise the importance of having an open mind and to never think that you stop learning new things.
In fact, my Sifu has corrected my footwork and taught me to move much more swiftly then before and he found a little quirk I acquired regarding a head movement that everybody who taught me overlooked. A simple adjustment in body positioning and trunk rotation allowed me to use my peripheral vision to fend of multiple attackers.
Despite the high ranks in Shukokai Karate, Bushidokan, Close Quarters Combat and Kali, training in a completely new system and starting from ground zero has been a humbling experience. Now that I am teaching myself, it helps me understand what it is like to truly be a beginner. To all advanced instructors out there, I recommend to truly take your training to the next level that you learn a new martial art, whilst teaching your style. Not only does this remove any arrogance and misconceptions you may have about your place in the food chain, but will help you connect with your students on a deeper level.
Your students may currently see you as a god or think of you as mythical, legendary figure when you hide behind lofty rankings, but if you show them that despite all your achievements in previous systems that in your new adopted style you are no more qualified then they are in your system. People like people like themselves and the best way to connect to your students is to be on their level. It makes teaching easier, as you can empathise with them about the trials and tribulations of training. It gives you relatability and shows the student you are human like they are and that even a master needs to train for himself also.
Remove yourself from the soapbox and give studying a new unrelated system a whirl. You will find that it will enhance all your previous training, and that you will gain much needed perspective from your new teacher and bring back some humbleness to your training.
A perfect example of this is the mighty Rick Spain of Kung Fu fame, when he began learning Kyokushin Karate under Shihan Trevor Tockar. He didn't start at Red Belt level, but requested to start at White Belt, and earn every belt, till he eventually was ranked to Black Belt in Kyokushin. It may have taken him more time to do so, but he gained the respect of the other students as well as Shihan Trevor. Rick proved that despite the Red Belt in Kung Fu, that in Kyokushin Karate he was a novice, and that he is no different to anyone else in the dojo. If you are ever in Sydney, and want to learn from a pioneer in the martial arts look up Rick Spain's Red Boat Kung Fu Academy.
I am of the mind, that it is important to praise other's instructors and not just focus on myself and my journey. We are all united in the martial arts and that we respect each other regardless of rank and style. Everybody has a vital part to play in the industry and that we need to bring some old fashioned values back into the industry. Thanks for reading today's blog and I look forward to filming my first video blog once I have fully recovered from this cold.