The passing down of Kung Fu is not just “teaching students to master something”, but “mentoring them”.
When I was little, due to poor physical health condition, I was Semiforced to learn martial arts. In the beginning I was very reluctant to learn it, but then I found my health was gradually improved. I started to like it and was even fascinated by it. Until now, KungFu has become a part of my life.
Before I was 24, because of enthusiasm for martial arts, I was learning all kinds of martial arts in Taiwan; in addition to traditional Chinese KungFu, I also took lessons in Korean taekwondo, Japanese karate and judo, western boxing, and Southeast Asian Muay Thai,...etc. Whenever I got a chance, I would spend a lot of time and work very hard to learn martial arts. It is full of fun to explore the unknown, but I also suffered many setbacks.
For me at that time, The road of martial arts is a process of constant selfchallenges and breaking through the limitations. With extremely tenacious willpower, I’ve achieved goals that are very difficult to reach among the peers. I should have had enjoyed such an achievement and glory; instead, I felt the endless emptiness in my heart.
I used to spend several times more than the opponents to practice martial arts, in order to exceed everyone around me. I had exhausted my mind to understand the moves taught by the Masters, so that I can go beyond the achievement of the Masters. But while all my opponents fall one by one, I start to dread the day when it’s my turn to fall down. When my Masters told me that that there’s nothing they can teach me anymore, I then found out about the fear of not being able to make progress. I’ve possessed strong power with my body, and yet I cannot stand such an emptiness. Later on, I realize that, my enemy is never the opponents in the competition fields, but the mind of not being able to surpass myself. What could really assure me was not winning the medals with good scores, but finding tranquility in my mind.
I started feeling a force in guiding me to refined where the “real value” was, and so I was introduced to Shaolin Temple and became an apprentice there, which was the Mecca in martial arts that I never dare to image being with. During the time I was at Shaolin Temple, I realized how tiny a person is comparing to the world and gain insight into the unlimited human potentials. Most importantly, I learned how to integrate myself into the world. Instead of “learning”, it’s more of “finding” the way of learning, to look at things around with usual state of mind, and to feel the changes of everything with the most humble attitude. At this point, I’m no longer afraid of the emptiness in my heart.
After coming back to Taiwan, with the mission of handing down the Shaolin Kung Fu and culture, I started teaching what I had learned at Shaolin Temple to my students. As a first time teacher, I felt puzzled.
Each student comes from different backgrounds with various physical conditions. It becomes my headache on how to teach every student. I cannot teach with a fixed pattern, nor can I require the students to reach the expectation of everyone within certain period. This really troubled me for a long time.
However, at the same time, I also realized that the passing down of Kung Fu is not just “teaching students to master something”, but “mentoring them”. For example, a teacher could be very strict or threaten a student to accomplish the requirement out of fear within a short period of time, but once the threats disappear, everything would go back to where it was or even worse. What I want is to find the right way, even if it takes multiple times of efforts and time, eventually to get the students interested in what they learn and enjoy learning. This makes it possible for their students to achieve beyond their educator.
With this kind of philosophy and attitude, although I was leading students with different backgrounds, we had a common direction of ”happy learning with results”. A few years later, I heard from my students that the Waldorf Education in Taiwan has similar thoughts. With the arrangement of fate, one day Ms. SiaoJhen (from RenMei Waldorf School) visited our classroom at Taipei. Because of prior bad experiences cooperating With schools, I was a bit biased against working with schools. Some schools want me to take students for performances and competitions all over the places, but they don’t care about whether such activities are wellreceived by students or not, in terms of strains both psychologically and physically. Some schools use martial art exercises as a form of corporal punishment, so that students comply with school regulations out of fear. What’s even worse is that, some schools are even not willing to provide a safe training environment, and put students’ life and safety at risk. After communication with SiaoJhen, I feel it’s different from my past experiences. Though I’m not familiar with Waldorf education and have no information about the school environment at RenMei, I can feel the sincerity from SiaoJhen.
Before promising to teach martial arts curriculum at Waldorf School, I propose some requirements to SiaoJhen; Safe and adequate space for learning, no pressure and comparison on the progress of the student practices, not to participate in contests or performances (unless the student is willing to and it helps with their happy learning.) With such a consensus, I start to cooperate with the Waldorf School. For the past 2+ years with Waldorf school, I had spent almost a year to get the students used to how a KungFu class should proceed. Because there exists a certain degree of danger in a KungFu class, KungFu class is more strict in disciplines than other classes in Waldorf in order to avoid physical damages caused by accidents. Also, the students have to understand that what they are learning is to protect themselves (and others) instead of hurting others. It’s always hard in the beginning; both the students and I need to adjust ourselves to make this class proceed smoothly. During this process, I am both a KungFu teacher and, at the same time, a student who is learning pedagogy. I’ve learned different patterns from the students to communicate with them, and I’ve used these patterns to make the students take the challenge in practicing KungFu. Little by little, I’ve found unlimited potential in each student, and we’ve enjoyed the teaching and learning mutually with each other. I’ve seen the progress of the students, as well as the growth within myself.
There is a saying in Chinese, “To teach is to learn”. Through the dialog with you, I’ll have the opportunity to witness a different educational culture again. In the coming future, I’m looking forward to continuing with such an attitude to contribute what I’ve known of, to share, and to learn.