Within martial arts there is a strong tradition of etiquette. Many beginners find it difficult to understand why in this modern day society we still adhere to these practices. Etiquette is the foundation of a disciplined way of learning, as this will set the tone for the whole of the lesson. Some of these practises date from the arrival of Buddha in China and were designed to bring discipline to the “lazy” monks. This training became the traditional way to behave during the time that you are practising Kung Fu.
At the beginning of each lesson we pay our respects. This is not to any idol but is a way of showing that you understand the rules of the school and that you also are acknowledging the wisdom and experience of the instructor or Sifu that is taking your class. This helps to give the lessons an air of timelessness, with the problems of the day banished for a short time and gives the student a chance to contemplate the coming lesson.
Before you start training you also pay your respects to your training partner, this is to show you mean your training partner no harm, but also acts as an introduction. This type of disciplined start a class is able to progress in a safe and orderly manner. Etiquette would also mean that a student would not question their Master about why they were doing certain exercises and practises.
This stems from the traditional way in which the monks of the Shaolin Monastery lived. If we look back to where Martial Arts began, the Shaolin Monastery, and the way of life that the Monks lived we will see that they lived in a very disciplined way. They would rise at a certain time and eat, pray, work and retire at the same time. They would all work for the good of the community, sharing their skills for the benefit of all and not sell their skills to the most able to pay. The Buddhist Monks believed that by doing good deeds today they would earn credit in their next life, for it is better to give than receive gifts. This is something that is still found, although not to such an extent in Western society.
One of the traditional ways of Kung Fu was to give a small gift to your Master if they shared a new part of the Kung Fu System with you. The student would also look after their Master and cook for them and carry out domestic jobs, looking after the school or studio that you training in. In this way a student would “pay” for their instruction. The student would also take the role of instructor to the lower level students. In this way the student would be able to study their own Martial Arts skill and refine them through this process.
“To defeat an army, you must capture the leader”
“Failure lies not in falling down, but in not getting up”
“An untutored man is like un-carved jade”
“A bridge never crossed is a life never lived”
By Simon Rangecroft, previously a Senior Instructor, eternal friend of the Academy