Succeed in IMA – Part 2 – Be Present

Be Present.

One must come to class.

Its often that simple. There are always distractions; whether its work, traffic, significant others, sleep, TV, video games or whatnot, there is always something beckoning one away from what one wants to do or sometimes just should do. If you want to do it, if you want to get better at it, you have to do it. Its that simple.

I remember noticing this in my teacher’s classes in Taiwan. There were people who came through who were physically more gifted, perhaps mentally more the fighter type, had more free time, were independently wealthy, had a lot of previous martial arts experience or whatever other potential benefits a certain person might have. Greater potential does not always mean greater success and greater skills. I often saw people who came to class consistently, who did their work earnestly, eventually develop great skill sets in the martial arts above and beyond those who might have had more potential. This was often simply a matter of consistent practice.

A sparring partner and friend of mine in Taiwan who was also had a great interest in yoga told me a funny story about a thought he had one time while training yoga in India. He was in India training yoga full time for about a year and a half. He mentioned how he was doing yoga for 8 – 10 hours each day and how he was improving by leaps and bounds. Then one of his letters to me had a great line that said “damn – if only I trained Baguazhang this much I’d be awesome!”

These arts and their training process are also not constructed on a logical, linear progression of development like many systems in the western world. There is sequential training involved, some things are better learned before others. Much of the learning process is also non-linear; different parts of the whole will feed back in on each other leading to greater comprehension and understanding. One needs to be there to see the wide and the narrow, the non-linear expanse and the linear progressions of material. One needs to review old material and learn new. One needs to be available to constant correction and themselves ready constant questions. One needs training and sparring partners. These are all things that a class is an absolute necessity for.

I recall something that struck me as funny at some point. When I first started studying with my teacher, I was getting information left and right. I was elated. I listened as I could and tried to understand the principles to the best of my ability. I took notes. After a year of seeing the same stuff and hearing the same things, I thought I could understand some of it. Then after year two I thought “now I’m really getting better at this stuff.” Then in year three you finally realize you were a dipshit in year one and two and think “now I’ve got it!” It took me a while to just get to the point where I’m not thinking “I’ve got it” all the time, but come slowly to the place where I would accept that I’m continually getting it, deeper. Throughout the whole process I eventually found out that what my teacher was showing and saying were the same. He was not coming up with new information or new moves, though he might couch it in different terms or methods. The teaching was the same in year one as it was in year three, as it was in year six… The difference in understanding came from me. Being there, doing it, hearing and seeing the principles repeated in different manners over time, all of this led to improvement.

Can you learn alone without visiting a teacher? I highly doubt it. There is too much to these arts that can’t be put into words or video.

Can you learn while occasionally visiting a teacher? Theoretically yes. Will it take longer? Yes.

Do you remember while in school how teachers’ would take attendance? Do you remember how that would be part of your grade? There is a lesson in that. Sometimes just being there and following along, soaking things in, even if only passively, does have an effect. Think of it as the minimum necessary requirement.

Its funny that it even needs to be said.


Luo Dexiu Laoshi knocking me on my butt with the houtian technique Duo.

About george

George Wood is the head instructor of Zong Wu Men Internal Fighting Arts, based in Northern Virginia. He teaches the martial arts of Baguazhang and Xingyiquan.
This entry was posted in Baguazhang, General Info, Training, Xingyiquan. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Succeed in IMA – Part 2 – Be Present

  1. jleeger says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, George! You’ve really summed it up well. I particularly like your reference to college classes. In fact, I received one word of advice from my boss at the pizza shop before I left on my last day – “Always go to class.” He said, even if I didn’t study all the time, what I heard in class would help me get a C on the exam. Well, I got my Bachelor’s degree, so he wasn’t all wrong!

    I think this lesson extends to a greater view as well. Being present in a wider sense can mean being present for your life. Not letting circumstances dictate what you do or do not do, but deciding what is important to you, and seeing it through to the end.

    For me, being present means accepting responsibility for yourself, your feelings, and your commitments.

    I think a lot of students (martial arts or otherwise) don’t realize that by signing up for a class, they’re making an implicit commitment to the teacher to show up and to do their best to learn what is taught.

    There’s a whole other discussion somewhere here about the sense of entitlement that has swept over everyone in modern America, but that’s too much writing!

  2. george says:

    Actually, my next installment is entitled “being present” and covers the mental aspects of being present in class, in training and maybe even a token touch on being present in life.

    I have noticed the sense of entitlement issue. Its not local to America, America’s culture and its ills have been aggressively exported around the world. Those problems have carried over. It is a bigger topic, and I personally probably shouldn’t touch it. I’m causing enough trouble probably just by writing my thoughts on martial arts. LOL.

  3. Nick says:

    Please do touch that topic about entitlement issues. I’m interested to get some insight about it.

  4. jleeger says:

    I’ve read a lot of stuff that points to the baby-boomer generation as the source of the “entitlement” feeling in America. According to some, since the parents of the boomers lived through the Great Depression, they spoiled their kids, and raised them with the idea that they should have whatever they want. Of course, no one gets everything they want, all the time, so the baby-boomers (people born between the end of WWII and about 1950 or 55) raised their kids with this same idea.

    The cumulative effect is what we see today – people who think they should have whatever they want, whenever they want it, and just because they want it, not because they’ve worked for it.

    Above and beyond that, corporate America doesn’t mind if you think/feel that way. Then, you won’t have any problem putting yourself deep into debt. It pays the bills for all sorts of companies that make useless crap (because no one has any sense of what is really necessary anymore, versus a “manufactured necessity”), along with lining the deep pockets of the credit card companies.

    Hard work, the ethic of hard work, and the value of self-denial, is fading into non-existence.

    Of course, this is a series of gross generalizations, but that’s what I’ve read/heard, and seems to make sense.

  5. JessOBrien says:

    Nice post George! And Josh, I too have followed the “go to class” mentality. Sometimes even if you can’t get the reading done, being in class will help things seep into your head and stick there.

    Some nights I come home and I’m tired and don’t want to train. Then I go out into the cold rainy night and start, and next thing you know I’m having so much fun I don’t want to stop!

    I’ve been strapping Jonah onto my chest and doing the circle walking and San Ti training. He loves it. Wow is he heavy! 15 pounds of dead weight, jeez!

    Sometimes I can only get out for 10 minutes and do a quick Tai Chi form or Circle walking set. But mostly those ten minutes drag out to 45 or an hour! My wife is like, where have you been!?!? The time just seems to fly by once you get going.

    Sometimes it depresses me when I go to Luo Laoshi’s seminars and people obviously haven’t been working out in between summers. That is sad because he tries so hard to teach us. It’s hard to practice when you suck. But then again, how will you ever get better? You can’t wait until you are good to train! That’s how you GET good, by slogging through many lame, clumsy sessions.

    I always say that the boring, “off” nights are the dues you pay for the nights when it feels amazing and awesome and like everything is just clicking perfectly.

    Alright guys, take care, see ya around!

    -Jess O

  6. george says:

    Yeah, there’s a lot of people out there not taking full advantage of Luo laoshi’s generosity in teaching. I was surprised when I first came out to one of his seminars in the States, he gave out a ton of information. It’s too bad more people aren’t paying his generosity back with equal amount of respect and solid, hard work.

    There’s only so many traditional IMA teachers out there who have had success in teaching. Luo Laoshi is in my opinion at the top of these not only in terms of skill, but in terms of having a proven track record of being able to produce good students.

    Of course, you will always need good material to produce a good product. There’s a lot of potential out there practicing Yizong Bagua now, I hope they don’t waste their opportunities.

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