My April Rant -

My thanks for the half dozen people who read the newsletter and gave me feedback. It appears that people like my ranting, not sure why. It is easy to write, though, so I'll continue at least as long as things piss me off. Since I am cranky and old, that is likely to be quite a while.

We have been having disasters here in Newcastle. A huge storm with winds over 120kph and gusts apparently over 130kph managed to flood, rip up trees and houses and generally commit mayhem in our area. Luckily, only 4 people died as a direct result, so it probably wasn't on anyone's news. Everyone was told to stay home for a few days and the city stopped working. Even my students failed to turn up and train for some reason that day.

We had our big tree blow down and managed to fill up next door's back yard so they couldn't get out the door, and another huge branch fell down between the two houses and filled up the gap with tree. Took emergency services several days to get around to removing it, even though we are operating a day care and kids are there during the day, which only goes to show.

Everything is pretty much back to normal today, though.

Lesson learned: Nice big shady trees for summer may not be ideal lawn ornaments after a storm.

Today's rant is more or less on student expectations of consistency between schools.

One student of mine asked, quite legitimately, why do all the forms look different on YouTube, and why do all the schools say their way is the right way, when they are all different, even though they are all supposed to be WSL VTK?

A good question. One I don't really know the answer to, since I can't for the life of me work out why either. IT leads to two diverging paths of thought.

 One school of thought is that someone should standardize VTK or at least WSL VTK.

Another is that standardization is a bad thing.

THe first school of thought is held by many. It even seems like a good idea. But the problem lies in WHO will make the standard? No one can agree on the smallest variation - and frankly, I don't want to do what most of them are doing. I view it as not as good as what I am already doing. So, I can't agree to this.

The second school of thought relies on that all people are equally able to make good decisions about what is correct and what is not. This is also patently absurd. Most of the people who are currently "famous" never studied full time. The few that did, well, WSL didn't make them head teachers etc. Most seem to have forgotten how they learned, or have changed it beyond all recognition.

Another issue is that with standardization, there is a fossilization of the style as well. Currently, the good side is that it is dynamic. The bad side is that it is too dynamic, and that people are changing it too much, or at the very least, it's drifting away from it's roots due to some kind of benign neglect.

I don't know the answer. No one ever has come up with an answer to the problem. I think it's a people problem and involves things like egos, and money. So there can be no answer, except, as Barry says, stop talking. Train.

So, if, as the WSLSA promotes, who is the arbiter of WSL VTK? Arguably his son. John Wong is a really nice guy. But he isn't his father. As a personal representative of his father, couldn't ask for a nicer guy. But the VTK, well, he isn't his father there. No one is, after all, WSL was a legend. Who can fill his shoes? They are big shoes to fill. (OK small shoes, but the metaphor doesn't work well like that. But you know what I mean. No one is going to be comfortable walking a mile in them at any rate.).

Just as a case in point, WSL told me Barry was his representative. Barry was the standard. No one else. Wu Chun Nam told me that not only did Barry put more into VTK than anyone else, WSL put more VTK into Barry than anyone else. So, Barry gets my vote, but he is inactive, and no one else is going to agree, at least when he isn't in the room. The only other one I know in that category was Yuen Yim Keung, who has passed away. So, that's my position. I don't think I want to teach WSL VTK the way these people are doing it. I want to teach my own version of Barry Lee's, and that's it.

Barry, unfortunately, by his nature, has always declined his due role in the world, and currently, due to his injuries and illness,  is declining this role even with his own students.

So we have a world of amateurs, lead by amateurs, in a declining standard of mediocrity, and with no solution I can see. I certainly can;t fix it, and probably wouldn't try if I could (probably what Barry thinks for that matter.) It's too big and too thankless a task, even if you could.

 One thing that continually annoys me is when people say "but xxxx does it like this in his video" or so-and-so says this in his book. Truth is, I don't usually know why other people think things. I have enough trouble working out why I think things, and other people's logic often baffles me entirely, and my psychic powers seem much reduced this lifetime. So I don't have a clue why they do it like that, at all. We do it like this, for these reasons. If those reasons aren't good enough, well, go learn from them. I have no problem, personally, if people leave my school for another school. I don't really want to teach most people. To paraphrase Basil Fawlty: Students just make the whole teaching thing hard. It would be much easier to teach with no students at all.

Empty your cup, or go away.

Which leads into the quote of the month quite well.

Throw out your old ideas and learn.

And that, is the real Kung Fu.


Social Events

 Since this is just starting not much is going on. Over the year, and each year, I have 3 planned trips. In May from about the 5th to the 26th of May a trip to Hong Kong and China is planned, flying first into HK until about the 10th, then traveling to Nanning for 10 or 11 days of teaching at my school there. The picture here is from Ba Ma a beautiful area near Nanning where reputedly people live over 100 years  old.

As I write this, I am just preparing for this trip.

I will be joined by Andrew Yan Hon Cheung from London and Andreas Luiten from Germany via Holland, visiting schools in HK and my schools in China. Fun should be had by all. Maybe we wills tart putting pics in the social calendar from now on.

Next I have a 5 week Europe trip covering London, Holland, Germany, and probably Switzerland, other places are possible. This will be from late July to late August, or  early September, or thereabouts. Exact times and dates not yet known. More is settled for this trip. Next newsletter should have all the destinations and timing done.

By the time this newsletter goes out, the booking for the flights should be complete.

There will be another trip in Nov virtually identical to the China May trip.

Looks like we picked up another school in China, so annual trips to China may be increased.

I have a trip in the works to Melbourne, probably in April, for a weekend.

It may be that some guys in Brazil and Venezuela want me to come out, but they have been talking about this for some time, and I am not confident of their commitment as yet. They are keen, but we haven't been able to get an agreement as to conditions.

People wanting to join in need only get their asses over to where I am and communicate to meet up. If you want to preplan etc, simply contact me on [email protected]


Quote of the Month:"If you think your teacher is a real teacher, throw out your old ideas and learn"

Barry has had this on the wall of every studio I have ever seen him teach at. He says it is an old Chinese saying, and it probably is, but I couldn't find provenance. I did however find it in a poem 'called something like "The song of a thousand spears" but now, I can't find it again. So, Barry lee quote.

It basically means, OK, empty your cup, shut up, and train. Stop saying "But my old teacher said" or "On YouTube ...." etc. While a certain amount of "Why can't you do it this way?" is both expected and desired, - exploration and enquiry are vitally important - sooner or later, the student has to shut up and train. Sooner is better. Yes, I know that first you have to be confident that the stuff works. But, seriously, if your ten minutes practice and half hour of youtube research has given you these conclusions, then, well, consider that in 40 plus years of training I have thought about it too. On the other hand, if you think I don't know what I am talking about, if what I teach is not satisfactory, please, leave. I have no desire to teach those who want to do it a different way. I am quite happy if people do. I don't care at all.

I'm pretty sure Barry feels the same way.


Training Tip 4:

Phase One: Learning the Technique

In learning something, there are two major processes to consider. One is the process of learning something as a direction, the other as a learning cycle.

In our case we are concerned with learning something that is kinaesthetic, and as such goes through several phases.

First I will go through the learning cycle. For those interested, basically, I use a modified Kolb cycle as a model, a simplified version is diagrammed above (stolen from the internet). I think it needs little explanation. One way I look at it differently, is rather that look at it as a cycle I think of it as a spiral through time. Each time you come back to the start, you are further along the experience, in both time and quality of technique.

 I'm not sure why, but I couldn't put the pic in the article, only at the header. So, it's up there for some reason.

Anyway, to continue:

I consider the process itself to be like this:



Here, the student copies the teacher until the techniques are learned. The order and shapes are followed, and the approximate manner of movement are accomplished. When the student has finally managed to be able to do it, without stopping, it is time to move onto the next phase. At this point, many errors are quite large and errors occur randomly, and are rarely repeated very much.

The learning is by observation, and trying to match his moves visually to the teacher. Here, the student is limited by his ability to observer, the teacher’s ability to explain what it should be like and how it should feel, and how good that image remains in memory while the student practices.

This is of course where things break down in the first place. Most students can’t keep enough details in mind, and most teachers don’t spend (or can’t if the student only sees them on holidays or seminars) spend enough time on their students, so when the students teach (as is common these days) they don’t have enough to teach the students so they students don’t get a good enough model, etc. etc. and so on down the road until all is forgotten. But, should a student and teacher have a long enough and good enough association so the student can learn the moves and remember enough detail, then, the student can eventually emulate the moves sufficiently to move onto the next phase.

If you really really want to be good, you need to "ENGRAVE" the technique. This will be covered next newsletter.


Making it comfortable.

At this point, the student is still feeling like it is awkward and out of place. Gross errors are made before the student can correct it. Usually, the student cannot feel it is wrong, but only by visual correction or even correction from an observer. It is time, now, for mostly slowly repeating the technique until it feels more natural. This phase should be done slowly enough so that visual correction is possible. Too fast, and errors hide in the blur. Many repeats are necessary until it feels fairly 'normal' and they are comfortable with it. However, do not wait too long, since we do not want the small errors to become habits. Now, any errors they make are worth fixing, since they are making the same ones repeatedly, and when fixing it, they can feel the differences, not just see them. This cycle is gone through a few times until the small errors are mostly gone.

A lot of the later part of this learning phase is done by “feel”. Things have to feel right. Only once they feel right, can you make corrections and the differences can be felt, not just seen.

At the end of this phase, connecting movements will seem a bit jerky, as flowing from one to another still seems unnatural. There will be pauses between movements, as the student has to think what he should be doing next. The next phase is to eliminate these pauses.


Making it smooth

Now the student starts to work on making the whole thing smooth. Not fast, but smooth. Take away the little pauses between techniques until the whole is smoothly done. At first, the only way is to visualize the whole series of movements as one, and flow from one to another, at the same rate, without pausing. If you try to do it fast, this won’t work well. The best way is to move slowly but continuously. That way you can still fix errors, and you can feel the flow better as well. Once you can do this, you can increase speed as a whole, not just the techniques. Often the limiting speed of a student is not the technique itself, but the time between the techniques when the student is trying to work out what to do next.


You can also start to increase the speed until it is combat speed. However if you stop at this point you may find difficulty in making the techniques perfect. It is precisely at this point, though, that students think they know the technique. At this time, we can say that the student has “learned” the technique, but this is actually the beginning not the end. It is time for him to start to train.


Unfortunately, many student don’t even get this far along.