No Manual

I like what Shinzaburo said about not telling his own people how to make a bag exactly in this video on craftsmanship.

He further said that an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) manual means bags can be made without error and they may need if they go for the mass market.

But having a manual also means they can’t go beyond that which I think he means cannot go beyond a certain standard because the positive point of having an SOP also leads to a negative point of holding a person back if what he does is not within the procedures laid out in the SOP.

In many ways, the practice of martial arts is similar to this. A teacher guides us, gives some instruction and then we are expected to put in the practice. A teacher who wants to really teach you won’t feed you all the answers.

Instead, he teaches you enough to get you going and then you practice to find your own answers. Unfortunately, this can lead to two negative outcomes :-

a) The teacher who is not as knowledgeable can hide his ignorance and lack of knowledge by saying that he cannot show or explain the advanced material until you get there. The irony is that you can’t get there because following this teacher is like following the mother crab which wants to teach you (the baby crab) how to walk properly

b) The student who lacks initiative will not be able to go beyond what has been laid in front of him. He falls back into the argument that we must follow SOP or be considered an outcast. You might think that in today’s information rich internet such an attitude would not survive but all you have to do is take a look at the Wing Chun cults out there and you’ll see many a prime example of this type of mentality

The teacher shows you the way, imparts the SOP to you and you put in the practice. There is a minimal time for everyone to put in before they get it. Some may take minutes, some days, some months and some years. We all learn at a different pace. Some must practice a lot to get it, some need to analyze it before they see it and some need to do both. There is a formula to suit everyone. The thing is not to get bogged down by rules and conventions unless by not following the rules you may end up harming yourself.

What you need to see to make progress is that how you move today is different from how you moved yesterday and how you will move tomorrow. If after a period of practice you still do things the same way then you are stuck in a rut, you may not made any progress. Some weeks I keep practicing at a certain time daily and I don’t seem to make a lot of progress. Then I would sit back, analyze what I have been doing, ask what if questions, test them out (you know the whole point of failing fast many times in order to find the right path, right?) quickly, analyze again, and then I will put it to the grind, go slow, then faster, then even faster to see if it will fall apart under the pressure of speed, making adjustments along the way, or even throwing out the entire approach and relooking again at the process.

Here is an example of how to solve a problem – the first time I saw Tuhon perform what we call the Reverse Series I was like and wondered if I could ever do it. Seeing Tuhon move made me see stars. Later I saw Tuhon taught it in an instructor weekend video. The movements seemed more doable now that Tuhon broke it down into steps. The first thing I tried was this simple step about how to change from a forward grip to reverse grip. And I left it at that until I got to learning it some time later.

This time around Tuhon taught the basics of how to get it and it wasn’t that bad, actually after I did it a few times I could grasp it. The one problem area was the switching. I found that as long as I moved at a certain speed it wasn’t as difficult to switch as I thought. However, if I slowed down to a certain speed and below switching became difficult. And what if I waited too long and had moved towards the end of the movement, yes this made switching slightly more difficult too. Another problem was if I did the other three Series before the Reverse series my fingers might be a bit stiff by the time I came around to doing switching and that affected the speed of the movements. So now I have a few problems to solve :-

a) How to do the Reverse Series at the same quick pace as the other series?

b) How to switch whether the speed of movement is faster or slower?

c) How to switch if my fingers are stiffer from doing the entire double sticks series a few times in a row?

d) What to do if in the process of switching my fingers gripped too slow or wrongly? How to continue the flow and minimize the interuption to the pace of the flow as if there was no mistake?

e) Do I always have to switch behind? Yes, the logic why we do so makes sense. But what if I don’t have the space behind to turn, like when I practice on the balcony and I can’t turn more. How do I adhere to the logic of protecting my hand from being attacked while its in the midst of swtiching?

f) Should I always have to move faster rather than slower to make it easier to do the flow? What if I move slower because I can’t move at the usual faster speed? This actually happened when I practiced on the balcony. In working on solving this question I found that I could turn my body slightly differently to accomodate the smaller and tighter space in which I have to move

There is no one way of learning that works for everybody. Find the way that works for you. The above is the way that works for me. I guess this is because this is how I was taught to learn Wing Chun and Tai Chi. To me its a case of if it works then let’s continue using it. If it doesn’t then find out what would work and learn that, adapt it to my learning and make it work.

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