Back in February, at the conclusion of the AZ Retreat, Sifu and I went out for ice cream and discussed a number of things. One of the things I asked him about was his opinion regarding the videos about "John Chang" and the Mopai school. I'm not sure if I shared this with Sifu, but I have been acquainted with a former Mopai student who spent time studying with Pak John in Indonesia.
One of the questions he asked me was,"even if you were to find the school or another school teaching that kind of school, and they accepted you for training, what do you hope to accomplish? Are you trying to become a better person? If that's the case, just go be a better person. Are you looking for power? You can get an MBA and invest in the stock market in a shorter amount of time."
So lately I've been asking myself--why do I train? Why do we train?
Sifu has addressed this a number of times in his different talks online, and in person with me. You know, martial artists get a bad wrap (and sometimes well deserved) in tossing around their titles and bragging about different abilities. Okay, you have a cool Fajing demonstration...you can knock the bottom out of a glass bottle...you've perfected so-called pressure point knockouts...none of your students can resist your Dilman-esque knockout techniques... who cares?
Sifu went a step farther with me in our talk-- so you can set newspaper on fire with your hands or shock people with electricity, how does that improve the lives around you? Who does it help?
My friend, the former Mopai student, asked me something along the same lines--something I've been struggling with for a few years. He asked me how many people can I help by learning and eventually teaching people to fight, and how many people can I help by developing my skills so that I can heal sick people.
Of course me being me-- I want to fight. In the books written by Kostas Dervinis, his pen name for the Mopai/Neigung books is Kostas Danaos, he says originally he just wanted to study Neigong just to be able to knock people out with his fists-- even Pak John admits when he first began learning kungfu-- his Sifu started teaching him the meditation stuff and he only did it because he wanted to go out and win street fights.
When I met Sifu and saw what he could do-- haha, Sifu doesn't know that some of my gongfu brothers & sisters in Tucson have told me about things Sifu doesn't demonstrate in the open-- but I said "If I could do that, I would go around *pow* *pow* *pow* tossing big dudes all over the place in Nashville!" I guess it's that whole...searching for power thing?
Donnovan Stephens, a Southern Mantis teacher here in Nashville, always talks about the Shaolin salute at the end of his classes to new students. He always says peace covers power and asks if you would rather have power (the fist) or peace (the open hand covering the fist). He says if you chase power, then what happens when you become powerful? Do you keep chasing more power? If you have peace that covers your power, you can empower others.
I guess the various lessons I've had from my circuitous journey through the martial arts has sort of always been leading me to a destination...a life destination even. Every teacher has been imparting lessons to me that I've not taken time to really examine.
Even in our talk over ice cream in February-- Sifu told me to stop worrying about the how/why/when/where and who and just committ to becoming a Sifu. I guess what he was basically telling me is to stop chasing power and the idea of being powerful and focus on how I can empower others.
So I'm facing a lot of tough choices right now-- how do I make time to focus on my own personal development, how do I make a living that affords me the time to develop myself, and how can I make a living that allows me to develop myself and eventually empower others?
My therapist when I was in the Navy--the first person to really encourage me to begin meditating used to say that when I shut down all the outside influences, I've got all the answers, I just need to stop and listen to myself...so I think I need to make more time for the practice...the 15 basic exercises and the seated practice....be open and observe the things good and not so good in my life so that I can really focus on where I need to be and what I need to do to get there.