Receiving "Inside" or "Outside" Teachings?

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…

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About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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3 Responses to Receiving "Inside" or "Outside" Teachings?

  1. chenquestion says:

    Sounds like you and your relative had a wonderful teacher, caring, strict, and wise.

    Some people seem to look down at “Wushu”, but after reading your story, my eyes were opened a bit about that topic. I was reminded of reading Jackie Chan’s autobiography, which talked a lot about the very harsh training he received in the Chinese martial opera school. No fun for a youngster; but look where he is now!

  2. lgs says:

    Owwww…braces…you poor bastard. 🙂 Reportedly my wushu coach was like that before his class got too big to really do the application and 1 on 1 type stuff you’ve mentioned. Don’t remember if I’ve shown you him before, but I’m very proud to have been able to train with him. Most impressive martial artist I’ve ever met, a real “rubber meets the road” kind of guy. Not to mention that he was Jet Li fast and with NBA 2 guard jumping ability. http://www.polariswushu.net/zhoujianhua.html

    I’d like to make a relatively unsupported wager here and see if in 5 or 10 years it proves true: after having spent one semester in TCM school and being treated properly by a an extremely skilled doctor, I’m beginning to think that a lot of the Nei Dan stuff isn’t even remotely as complex as made out, which of course would necessitate choosing who you teach it to. I’m discovering that really its a matter of a few simple components, mental ability, and then not having things blocking your yi, qi, or shen. The better my health gets and the more i can concentrate/relax, the weirder things get. I’m developing new abilities, apparently. Very exciting. Anyway, I jus thave this feeling that the majority of real Nei Dan ability comes from ‘hacking away the unessentials’ as Bruce Lee said, rather than building a big qi muscle. In the words of Li Mu Bai, “Real sharpness comes without effort.”

    If this turns out to be both ridiculous and wrong I’ll be sure to announce it here first. 😀

  3. wujimon says:

    @Chenquestion: I agree, there is some bad stigma attached to wushu, but to me, if you find a wushu instructor who trains in the “old school” methods, that is focusing on the martial aspects of the art, you won’t be too disappointed.

    We trained the older compulsory forms that didn’t have as many acrobatic tricks found in the current sets. With my wushu instructor, we trained for martial purposes, not competition forms training. There’s a big difference. However, I did compete in tournaments back in the day, but I always did both sparring and form competitions.

    @LGS: My old wushu teacher has also changed ways after opening up a school. When I started with him, he would only take 12 private students and didn’t take anymore until one of them dropped. Though he was a close friend of the family, I still had to wait close to a year before getting the opportunity to train with him.

    I’d be interested in hearing more about your nei dan training. Do you do a lot of qigong work? If so, does it include zhanzhuang?

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