By Heather McLean, instructor, Southern Crane Kungfu
As the New Year kicks into gear, feelings of irritation and frustration come to the fore as kungfu practitioners settle back into daily life post-winter holidays; welcome to the January kungfu blues.
I often speak to students about their frustrations with their training progression; they watch a movement being performed, they think they understand it, but when they go to perform it, hey presto, they end up flipping about like a landed fish instead of executing the movement with the graceful precision of Jet Li. Very irritating.
The answer to this problem is short on words, but extremely long in terms of time; train more, and don’t stop. We all have the same problem, from beginners to seniors, your instructors and even your Masters in China. Not only do you have to find the time to get to classes, but you also need to find the time to train on your own at home to drill in those lessons, while still managing to live a regular existence (well, regular up to the point that all your friends and family know you as the kungfu fanatic).
It’s difficult, unless you give up the day job and work at it full time, but that entails a risk of ending up like Gordon Liu’s depiction of Pai Mei in Kill Bill, who ends up a highly skilled but grumpy old man with no mates, living on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere.
When I was at university, the rule to work by was for every one hour spent in lectures per week, 10 more hours should be dedicated at home to further study. Translating that to something that many of us who work full time could use in kungfu, perhaps for every hour spent in a kungfu lesson per week, you could spend a further two studying outside of class.
That is achievable, and especially for intermediate and advanced students (those that know more than four patterns) it is a necessity. Thanks to my studies in Tiger Crane Kungfu, Yong Tai Tiger Boxing and Calling White Crane, I study almost 30 patterns. Keeping them in my head is a task in itself, but improving them requires dedication and focus. If I can do it, so can you.
So stop feeling overwhelmed or irritated, and get out there and start practising; if you aren’t sure how to go about it or what to do, just ask! Your instructors are here to help.