DOUBT, CONFIDENCE AND SUCCESS

Uncle Righteousness

Sifu Lai Chin Wah, better known as Uncle Righteousness



Question

I can only hold my horse stance for about 2 minutes. My master who has been practicing for over 20 years can remain in a horse stance for over an hour! This is what I aim to be able to do in a few years' time. I am reasonably fit and am in my early 20's. Is this a reasonable target for me to achieve within the next three years? I seriously doubt it but I am hopeful.

Secondly I am seriously doubtful as to what I can achieve in kung fu since I am already over 20 years old. I am prepared to put in a lot of work into my training, but am never satisfied with the amount of progress I make.

It is also extremely hard for me as the other students in my class are very lazy and are satisfied with mediocre results. Although my master is very capable he never pushes his students to their limits. Can I reasonably expect to be a very good Kung fu fighter if I put in a lot of work over the next 10 years?

I would greatly appreciate it if you could share with me your experiences as a student when you were learning Kung fu. Did you have similar doubts about yourself? At what age did you start training?

My aim in my training is to be as good a practitioner as my master, but I think this is an unrealistic expectation. At the very least I want to be the best I can be.


Answer

I am glad that not only you realize the importance of stance training, but also you are willing to put in time and effort to achieve result. Stance training is probably the most important single exercise to develop internal force, and internal force is probably the most important factor in kungfu. Not only it contributes to your combat efficiency, it also contributes to your good health, mental freshness and spiritual joy.

Sifu Chee Kim Thong

Sifu Chee Kim Thong

As you have a master who himself can remain at the Horse-Riding Stance for over an hour — a remarkable achievement even for masters — you should ask him for advice. Nevertheless, I shall give you my advice too.

Your master can remain at the stance for over an hour because he has spent a lot of time and effort in his training. But you can achieve similar result in three years, which is a reasonable target to aim at. You can achieve similar result in shorter time not because you are smarter than your master, but because you have certain advantages he might not have.

You have at least two advantages. You are willing to seek advice, and presumably act on the advice. This enables you to be more cost-effective in your training. Secondly, you have a master who already has the result you aim at. He can therefore point you the way he himself has traveled, and personally correct fine points to enhance your result.

Three pieces of advice will be very useful. One, your training must be regular and consistent, at least once a day everyday. It is permissible if you miss your training once a while, but on the whole it must be regular and consistent. Two, you must progress gradually. Remain a bit longer, say a few seconds or one or two minutes longer, after every three days. Three, be physically, emotionally and mentally relax in your training. Here is where personal supervision from your master can be of great help.

But the most important advice, the one that you must follow before you even begin, is that you must be confident that you will succeed. This is overcoming your mental blockage. Once your mind is clear about your mission, your body and emotion will follow suit.

Your worry is unfounded. As I have said earlier, it is most important that you must have confidence of your ability. There are two main approaches to develop this confidence. The first way is intellectual, and can be realized by seeking advice like what you are doing, and comprehending the reasons that you should succeed.

The second way is intuitive. According to Chinese medical thought, which may appear odd to those unfamiliar with it, confidence is closely related to one's gall bladder system and bones. If you strengthen them you would develop confidence intrinsicly. Sinew Metamorphosis, an advanced set of Shaolin chi kung exercises, is excellent for this purpose.

Being 20 is a very good age to train kungfu. Hard work is necessary, but you must also work smartly. If you just train and train, without really understanding what and why you are training, you would waste a lot of time. This, in fact, is the big problem with most people, often without their conscious knowing. They learn kungfu sets after kungfu sets, and often can perform them beautifully, but they never develop internal force nor practise combat application. As a result, after many years of training they still achieve little.

A main reason for their lack of achievement is their lack of vision and direction in their training. They do not really know what they want to achieve in their training, consequently they do not know where they are going.

While having vision and direction is important, you must also know your limitations. Set yourself goals which are reasonable, and which you can achieve readily if you put in effort. Be modest in your goals at first, such as being able to perform typical kungfu patterns flowingly, and savor your satisfaction when you achieve your modest goal. Then gradually increase the scope of depth of your achievement.

Sifu Ho Fatt Nam

Sifu Ho Fatt Nam

If your classmates are lazy, it would be comparatively easier for you to achieve results. You could set yourself as a model for them to follow, instead of following your lazy classmates as your models.

But you need to be tactful as well as considerate. Sometimes you may have to slow down your progress so that they do not look too bad when compared to you. If you can do this, i.e. developing consideration and care for others, you would have achieved more than becoming a good fighter.

How good a fighter you will become depends not just on the length of your training but also on how you train. Many people cannot fight even after training so-called kungfu for thirty years, whereas others can fight well after three. You should aim not just to be a fighter, but to be a scholar-warrior, i.e. one who can fight well and at the same time be well versed in literature and philosophy, poetry and music.

I started my life-long kungfu training when I was ten. I learned from four masters, all of whom were patriarchs of their respective styles. It was no co-incidence. I was (and still am) an idealist. I searched for the best available teachers.

I was a good student. I never had any doubt about my learning ability. In fact I was a fast learner; I could learn a kungfu set by merely observing it three times.

But I also never pushed myself beyond my limits. I did exactly what my teachers told me, and never tried to be smarter than my teachers. If my teacher told me to practise a certain movement for three weeks, I would practise it for three weeks, though I could learn it in three minutes. I owed this attitude much to my father's advice. Another of my father's advice which benefited me greatly was that I respected my teachers deeply and sincerely.

I trained diligently and consistently, averaging an hour a day, and often more. I read a lot too, and listened to stories as well as advice of my seniors and other masters. At one period I went round looking for martial artists from various marital arts to spar so as to improve my combat efficiency. At another period I went round looking for masters for advice to deepen my skills and knowledge.

I also involved myself in music, chess, poetry, philosophy, painting and science. I aspired to the Chinese ideal, i.e. a scholar-warrior. Later, when I was more advanced in my kungfu training, I aspired to the Shaolin ideal, i.e. a warrior-monk.

It is a very good idea to be the best you can. One day you may even be better than your master, in which case he would be very proud. But you must always respect and honour him.

Sifu Choe Hoong Choy

Sifu Choe Hoong Choy

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