Most of what I now teach can in some way be attributed to Chang Yiu-chun, my main teacher.
Although the physical parts of what I have learnt are obviously very important, it is the ‘way’ in which Chang taught me that is the most important.
Chang believed that everything that anyone needed to know was already in that person’s mind somewhere and only had to be ‘unlocked’. And it is the job of a teacher to simply unlock that knowledge.
When I first began ‘learning’ with Chang, I was like most other westerners in that I wanted a set and ‘seeable’ set of things that I must learn in chronological order. I did not know why Chang would teach me one thing one day and then go onto a completely different thing the next. And in many ways, this is how I now teach and is the reason why many of my long distant students always want a curriculum so that they can learn in some ‘human’ set manner.
Change knew that we learn internally or sub-consciously and that the brain was in ordered chaos at all times. So a set way of learning and teaching would not teach the student much in the way of internal stuff. In the same way, if we try to use a logical fighting art in real self defence, we lose because self defence is not logical. So Chang believed that the way we learn will also represent the way in which we will ultimately defend ourselves. So if we learn in a logical chronological manner, then we will lose in a real self defence situation. However, if we learn in an illogical manner, we have a much better chance of saving ourselves in a real fighting situation. The reverse applies to tournament fighting. If one wishes to win in tournaments and get trophies, then you must learn for instance, some karate style which is logical in its teaching with logical movements. If however, we try to use a tournament system in the street, we lose! And it is impossible to mix the two, saying that you use the tournament stuff for the ring and the real stuff for self defence! Self defence is sub-conscious and if you learn and study so hard to win in the ring, then the sub-conscious brain will use that type of ‘fighting’ when attacked for real.
This is the reason that I do not teach a ‘martial art’, preferring to teach a self defence system. I am not interested in teaching tournament fighting so that men can show how good they are at ‘fighting’ to satisfy their own egos.
Chang would often simply push me all of a sudden to note how I reacted and how it moved my body. In the beginning, he would do this pushing for instance on my shoulder. He would not to it again for several days or even weeks and I often wondered why. The reason was that he was waiting until I moved correctly and used my body in the correct manner before doing it again. His reasoning was that it takes some time for the sub-conscious brain to take something new in. And to keep doing wrong movements to his pushes would cause the wrong information to go sub-conscious. It is the training itself that teaches us how to move and to react to any types of attacks. So if you have not done the training of form, and in particular push hands and power push hands, all of the ‘fighting training’ in the world will not help when you get into a realistic situation!
Much of my training with Chang was spent watching him do things. He thought that this was the most important part of my training and nowadays is the reason that I put out my video tapes, so that students are able to see me doing it all. Of course you have to be taught the physical movements in the beginning. However, once learnt and more importantly, corrected, it is important to see your teacher doing it so that your sub-conscious mind can take it all in and adjust your own body automatically. During these ‘watching’ times, it is important to NOT try to physically look for things that you may be doing incorrectly, but rather just watch it and take it in.
Doing is better than being taught!
There would be times when Chang would not talk. (his English was not good anyway). he would simply either do his own movements having me watch or he would work with me, striking occasionally, pushing using short sharp attacks, showing me physically what i was doing wrong and obviously hoping that my sub-conscious mind was learning at a much higher level. And in retrospect, I am glad that I learnt in this manner, as many years after Chang, all of that internal training began to come out in my own physical training. It was as if Chang was still teaching me, as the seeds had been sewn way back then.