My student, R, asked a question which I had filed away. Then this evening I read a passage in a book which reminded me of his question. This is what I read :-
“I believe the true road to a pre-eminent success in any line is to make yourself master in that line. I have no faith in the policy of scattering one’s resources, and in my experience I have rarely if ever met a man who achieved pre-eminence in money-making – certainly never one in manufacturing – who was interested in many concerns. The men who have succeeded are the men who have chosen one line and stuck to it.”
The above is a quote from Andrew Carnegie. If you do not know who he is read more about him here.
How Carnegie’s quotation is related to my student’s question is this – he asked if he should continue learning in the other Tai Chi public class. Since its his time and money I said its really up to him. The really pertinent question is what does he want to get out of what he is learning.
This reminds me of one student who came to learn Tai Chi with the idea of improving his Wing Chun. I brought up the question of learning dilemma back then. In his Wing Chun class he had to keep the elbows tight but when this is applied in push hands he ended having his structure rocked for obvious reasons (hint – Newton’s third law of motion).
But should he try to use Tai Chi’s elbow positioning without mastering it properly he would get clocked in his Chi Sau. He would be told that the kind of opened elbow position we use is wrong.
So poor chap – go to Wing Chun class he is told his Tai Chi habit is wrong. Come to Tai Chi class he is told by me that his Wing Chun habit is wrong. This is one of those instances where you cannot be smart and try to straddle two boats. You really have to make a decision as to where you want to be and stick to it.
This of course depends on what you want out of your learning. This is especially relevant if what you learned from one teacher contradicts the teaching of another teacher.
I know, I know, I want to have my cake and eat it too but sometimes we can’t. That’s life. This is the relevance of the point made by Andrew Carnegie.