Someone recently asked me about a certain teacher and other practitioners of his generation. This got me thinking back of my teachers and the value of lineage.
I know some practitioners make a big deal of tradition as if its the end objective whereas to me tradition and lineage are but means to an end i.e. mastering the skills of a style. So if you are unable to master the style then what is the real value of the particular tradition and lineage that you chose to be part of?
One of my teachers can be said to stand high on the lineage pedestal. The funny thing was until I had learned from him he had only a handful of students who regularly learned from him. In fact, some of the other fellow students / disciples of his own generation were disrespectful of him.
It was only after I had learned for some time in private that I was asked to take part in the public class, I suppose to show these disrespectful seniors their place. However, they were a smart lot because none of them would ever touch hands with me. But they came around after a while and before long my teacher was a happy family again with them.
I left because of the politics. Looking back it was fortunate that I left. I saw a video of my teacher doing push hands in a public demo, taken many years down the road. It was interesting to note that he had hardly changed in the way he did his push hands. However, I had changed a lot though I could still do push hands with the flavor of this style, something I do when teaching certain key ideas.
In the above sense, tradition and lineage are of a certain value. However, being frozen in time, doing push hands the same way over and over is indicative of failure to progress and look outside the well. Some people might not mind but is this the best way to go if one is interested to master a particular skill. Yes, by all means master what is there. But when you reach the boundary what do you do? Stay within, push the boundary or go beyond it?
Tradition and lineage would seem to be the norm for any style that has been around for a long time but does anyone remember what the tradition and lineage of a style was when it started out?
Human movement skills are predicated on the limitations of each individual’s ability to move, react, think, etc etc. This is why we see so many expressions of combat, each with their value and place in the sun. Tradition and lineage are only as good as where it can lead us to in terms of mastery and achievement. Beyond that if tradition and lineage results in mental enslavement, cult-like behavior, denial of facts etc then we are better off without it.
In fact, recently there was an incident in a country to the north where a 9th degree master challenged MMA folks. His challenge was accepted and his face in the aftermath looked like he had just been involved in a car crash. There are at the time of writing four videos (out of a total of eight videos) of this event out there. You know what I found interesting was that in the earlier three videos the master used the guarding position of his style which was commendable. But after getting hit by curving strikes too many times by the fourth video his guard had changed to something that looked more like a boxing guard!
By all means love your tradition and lineage but don’t be blinded to the greater truths that are out there because you never know when it can be your downfall.
P.S. – I have saved the 4 videos. If anyone is interested to watch send me an email and I will give the links to download them
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