Some of the Chinese masters are now charging up to $500 an hour for private instruction. Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang is one of those. The cost of seminars is rising, too. One of the younger masters in the Chen family -- Chen Ziqiang -- is charging at least $60 for a 3-hour workshop and a little less for a 2-hour workshop.
You can't learn very much about Xinjia Yilu or the Chen straight sword form in two or three hours. And you certainly can't go beneath the surface. You can't learn a lot about push hands when you spend two hours training with some people attending who are rank beginners.
That's one of the problems that veterans are beginning to see with this "top level" instruction from Chinese masters. It isn't always very deep at all -- the same beginner stuff year after year. But they are paid big bucks because we want to be close to the Source.
I've spent thousands of dollars and traveled thousands of miles to study these arts. I've flown across the country more than once, driven two or three hundred miles up to twice a week, and paid good money to try to peel back another layer and take one more baby-step.
I put everything I've learned on video and for nearly four years, I've been building an online membership website where it's all available -- not for $500, not for $200, not even for $100. Nope. Members are able to wade through nearly 600 video lessons for $19.99. And if they get a lot of value out of it, they stay for another month and another $19.99. I have a handful of people who have been members from the very beginning. They see all the new videos that pop up. I put one on today for the Chen Straight Sword form that includes an outstanding lesson that every internal artist needs to practice.
When I put the latest video online today, it hit me again how people can save years -- and thousands of dollars -- by watching these videos instead of waiting for an instructor to teach them these principles, skills and techniques. And if you're studying with a Chinese "master," he or she may never teach them to you.
One of my favorite comments have come from my online members and DVD customers. One black sash instructor said as he watched my videos, he wondered why "no one every told me this before now." He studied for years with a "master."
Another member said he was "impressed that you hold nothing back."
How much is that worth? What would you pay? Some of my martial artist friends say the costs of the Chinese masters' workshops have exceeded their ability to pay, especially considering how little you get in return. Is a photo op worth it?
Every time I sell an instructional DVD, I know that the buyer will return for a few more -- because I lay it all out there in easy-to-understand terms. It doesn't cost $1,000 for a round trip to San Francisco (which I've done more than once). It doesn't cost years of studying. You don't have to wait for a master from another country to decide if he wants to give you "the secrets."
I'm considering attending a workshop or two this year. I might even take a private lesson from a master. I'll ask questions and try to get answers that take me another step in my quest to build skill.
And then I'll pass along what I learn, as I always do. I'd like to invite you along on the journey.