My Kung-Fu Teacher Wanted Me To Lie -- And I Did
October 30, 2014
My teacher stood in the middle of the kung-fu school, explaining how you can disrupt your opponent's chi during an attack by drawing a circle in the air as you drop to the ground.
Here is how he explained it to us. Your opponent is rushing at you to tackle you, and if you drop to the ground you can guide his chi over you with this half-circle you draw in the air as you drop. His chi will be disrupted and he will fall over you, unable to touch you.
My teacher said we would all try it, and he picked another student, a very nice and very loyal student, to go first.
The student ran across the floor, and just as he was about to reach him, my teacher dropped to the floor and drew and half circle with his hands in the air.
The student fell over him and did a breakfall on the other side.
It worked! My teacher was untouched.
Except that I was standing there watching, my critical thinking skills firing on all cylinders, knowing that you can't control someone that way. It can't be done. Anyone with a brain knows it can't be done.
The teacher has prepped us. He told us what he expects us to do and we do it so we aren't the one asshole in class who makes the teacher lose face. Nobody wants to be that student.
Before long, it was my turn. I rushed toward my teacher, who was standing in the middle of the kwoon. I was filled with the knowledge that I could pounce on him as he fell and get in a few good punches or kicks. I was almost there. Would I play along or would I dive into him when he dropped to the ground and show him that this is a lie?
Just as I reached him, he dropped and drew the circle. I dived over him and did a shoulder roll on the other side.
My teacher was untouched, but I had been deeply affected.
We all have decisions to make in our martial arts journey. We meet many teachers of different arts who will tell us that their art is the One True Art. They will tell us of near-miraculous skill that is achievable, skill that ancient masters possessed (fortunately, these masters are dead and we can't verify their skill). And they will hint, or just lie to us and tell us that they possess this skill, too.
They always find students who play along, whose critical thinking skills are put on hold, who are seeking something that fantasy fulfills. You see the same people flocking to churches, all looking for the mystical, all being told of the power that long-dead people had, and applying no real thought to the fantasies being told by ministers and priests who, like my teacher, ask them for money in exchange for the knowledge they possess.
But it's more than just critical thinking skills -- it is the "family" that develops in these situations, the friends you develop in a martial arts school and a church, the hard work, the emotion, the financial investment (fees and tithes). You want to do what?? You want to leave this family and your friends and your spiritual guide because we told you something that isn't true?
Not everyone has the ability to walk away after such an investment. So our default mode is to do the easy thing -- reject the facts and defend our investment.
I see the same thing in martial arts schools that I saw in church before I walked away. I see intelligent people who invest in the system and suspend their disbelief. In churches, most of the people were born into it and never had a chance. In the martial arts, the investment comes later in life and it is a little bit easier to walk away, but not for everyone, depending on just how badly they need the fantasy.
I eventually left that Kung-Fu system and trained in Chen style Taiji with more reality-minded instructors. I guess I am the type of person who just can't tolerate dishonesty and the type of people who need others to think of them as possessing powers they do not possess.
I urge you to hold your teachers up to this same standard, and leave them for more honest instruction when they start preaching the mystical. This is why, as a teacher, I strip the fantasy from my own instruction.
Here is a video clip that shows you just how dishonest many teachers -- and students -- can be. But you do not have to be this way. You have a choice. Do not check your brains at the dojo door.