In a thread titled, Fishing in Empty Seas (Yahoogroups: EnergeticArts) [Note: Must be subscribed to the group in order to view the message], there was some discussion on receiving “inside” or “outside” teachings. One person on the list replied with the following comment:
… if your teacher doesn’t answer your questions or show you how to do something you are on the ‘outside’. If he does your on the ‘inside’.
The few times he doesn’t, he does give me a reason why. Usually something along the lines of, if you can’t do the first bit, what is the point of trying to do the second when you can’t do without the first bit as the set up? When i have managed to do the first bit sufficiently well, and i realize what he was talking about, he will tell me where to go next.
I’ve often heard the claim that if a teacher doesn’t really want to teach you, they will just give you a bunch of forms to learn. This tends to result in the student becoming a “forms collector”.
On the flip side, if a teacher really wants to teach you, they will focus on the neigong aspects of the art. In my current line of instruction, I’ve often received the neigong. Corrections to zhanzhuang, corrections to posture and alignment, corrections on identifying the correct qi path, etc. However, very rarely have I been shown the “how”.
Let me just backtrack a bit. My first exposure into Chinese Martial Arts (CMA) was via modern wushu. I studied modern wushu for roughly 10 years and over that time I learned approximately 2 hand forms and 2 weapon forms. That’s a total of 4 forms in 10 years!
When I tell this to other modern martial artists, they look at me like I must be slow in the brain or something. However, when I ask them the amount of detail they understand in their form, they look at me like I’m crazy. My teacher taught in the “old school” method in that my cousin and myself had weekly 3 hr private lessons with him. He would show us something roughly 3 times and if we didn’t pick it up, he would wait until next week to show us again. Also, he would not teach us anything new until we demonstrated previously learnt material to his liking.
On top of form work, he showed us body conditioning drills. For example, using things like a wooden rod with a weight attached to the end that we used to “roll” down our forearms and bones for conditioning. In addition, we were often found holding firelogs in deep horse stances outside his house for “conditioning purposes”.
Even more, he taught us applications and fighting strategies. In terms of applications, he would demonstrate the application for EACH AND EVERY SINGLE MOVE we learnt and show WHY it was effective. He would show us how to “chain” applications together, how to adapt to our opponent, how to entice and lead our opponents in.
He would show us things that worked and did things that work. He encouraged us to attack him in any manner we liked. One time, I had gotten so upset that he kept hitting me in the SAME PLACE with the SAME MOVE no matter what I tried. I got so upset that I charged him and tried to do a double leg take down. Needless to say, he easily deflected my charge and gave me a bit of carpet to eat for a snack 😉
We trained with no pads, but controlled force. His belief was we would only truly learn to block and defend ourselves if we knew we could get hurt. I had braces at the time, so I often came home with cuts along the insides of my lips and bruises up and down my shins.
In retrospect, what I received was “inside” teachings, though I didn’t even know it at the time. My old teacher even told me that my cousin and I were “spoiled” and that it will be hard for me to find that kind of teaching again. He is right. I miss the old days…