To Nourish your Body, Mind, and Spirit
The Martial Arts of today are much as they were over a thousand years ago, but there are some major differences. Today we don’t have massive battles where hand to hand combat is a necessity, nor do we fight with swords and many of the traditional weapons of those times. With the advent of firearms the mental strategy turned from relying on the self, to relying on the gun. Most people today don’t see self defense as a necessity. So why then do we need to study the Martial Arts? Well, for many of the same reasons the Martial Arts have thrived for over 1500 years.
The first organized system of Martial Arts was being designed by Buddhist Monks in China some 1500 years ago. The need arose for these monks to defend themselves against invaders to their temples, so the birth of Kung Fu and the Shao-lin monk began. These Shao-lin monks found that by studying natural principles of nature along with natural body movements they could defend themselves when the need arose. They also found that through daily exercise and training they could stay healthier and stronger and take their religious studies and meditations to all new levels, therefore creating a whole body, mind, and spirit experience.
Wu De is an Martial code of behavior that is followed in traditional schools such as ours. It is a set of guidelines that promote self development in many areas, such as honor, loyalty, discipline and perseverance.
Though when you join the Phoenix and Dragon you may be referred to as a student in casual conversation, it is at the one year mark that you are eligible to officially become a student and be listed on the family tree.
The rewards for dedication to our arts are many and life-lasting. For as long as you train your name is engraved in our kwoon’s (school’s) family tree and in the history of Shaolin. Your name will always hold a place of honor amongst members of our circle. Your dedication and skills in the art will be recognized in articles, books and documents that will carry into future generations. When you reach teacher level, if that is your desire, your students will be recognized and sanctioned by circle members as legitimate heirs of the Shaolin arts. You will long be remembered for your dedication to the arts and for helping to maintain the ancient traditions of Shaolin.
In a traditional Chinese kung fu school of old, the teacher’s role was to cultivate him or her self to the highest level and then guide the students to this same level. The student’s role was to support and obey the teacher, but of equal importance was to provide and maintain needed facilities or resources to make such training possible. The Peaceful Dragon adheres to this tradition of what a kung fu school should be in as much as possible. Tuition is kept reasonable to make training available to as many students as possible, but without the support and effort of the students, the teacher cannot forge ahead and the success of the students will in turn fall short. Therefore the following guidelines are important.
1. All students should take the responsibility for running and maintaining the school. Volunteer to help in which ever ways you can, and participate with a positive spirit of cooperation.
2. More experienced students should help new students feel welcomed and wanted in our kwoon. Encouragement and setting a good example will help all students reach their full potential. Newer students should demonstrate respect toward more senior students at all times.
3. All students should actively participate in promoting the Shaolin arts in general, and our school in particular. There are always fliers to be posted in your community, or articles to be written, or many other ways you can help your school grow and flourish. Word of mouth is one of the best ways – tell other people of good character about your training and encourage them to join. The strength of your school truly is the foundation from which you’ll draw strength in your own training.
1. Never miss your classes. In earlier days, you would live with your teacher who would oversee every phase of your development. Today you only see your teacher for a short time each week, so it is important that you are consistent and on time to class if you are to make progress in the arts.
2. In the event you must miss several classes, notify your school’s staff ahead of time if possible or let them know afterward why you missed class. In the case of private lessons or the disciples class, you must always notify your teacher ahead of time if you must miss class.
3. Do not miss class because of injuries or minor illness. You can make great progress sitting in a wheelchair and meditating if need be, so do not neglect the spiritual strength that can be derived from being in the company of your teacher and your hard-working kung fu brothers and sisters.
4. Always attend classes prepared. This means wearing your proper uniform (clean and in good repair), keeping nails cut short for safety, removing all watches and jewelry, wearing proper kung fu shoes or suitable sneakers, and maintaining good personal hygiene.
5. Do not miss special events such as lectures, demonstrations, retreats or other school events. If your teacher feels it is important enough for your school to participate, you should take advantage of the event and the learning experiences it will offer you.
In Ohio in 1984, Great Grandmaster Chang Dung Sheng was presented with a large solid bar of gold by students of the Shuai Chiao association there. He scoffed at the gift and returned it, asking, “Is that all that my kung fu training is worth to you?”
A true kung fu teacher is not motivated by money or business matters, for he or she understands the impermanence and illusion of such mundane matters. Few things can compare with the treasures derived from cultivating your mind, body and spirit in the ancient traditions of Shaolin. However, Wu-de mandates that you pay your teacher for the gift of Shaolin bestowed upon you, whether in money or in service. Our school makes every attempt to keep costs to students low, but we do have expenses that must be met. So please follow these few guidelines.
1. Never stop your training because you are short of money. Instead, work out a system of payment or service with your teacher. It is too easy to find reasons and “excuses” not to forge ahead and develop yourself – never let money become this excuse.
2. Try, whenever possible, to buy or order any kung fu clothing or supplies through your school. With student discounts you will usually spend less than you would through retail stores or mail order, and you are helping to support your kwoon.
3. Special Occasions: It is tradition to remember your teacher and Grandmaster on birthdays and Chinese New Year. The common practice is a red envelope donation collected amongst students, the contents of which usually get put right back into the school anyway. It is said in China, “If a student cares for the teacher, how then can a teacher not care for the student?”
1. Train Regularly. Determine now that success in your training is important to you, and set your schedule accordingly. Once set, do not deviate from your training schedule. And remember, nothing of value is mastered over night.
2. Follow through on any commitment you make, whether in training or in volunteering to help with kwoon activities. The kwoon is dependent of the efforts of students if it is to grow and flourish. Everything you offer to do is appreciated and does not go unnoticed. However, make sure that you DO what you say you will do. In Shaolin it is often said that the empty bucket makes the most noise. Some students wish to talk big about what they can do and what they will do, but there is little substance behind their words. Remember in life it is okay to say no, but not okay to say yes if you mean no.
3. If you make an error in judgment regarding Wu-de, recognize the error and correct it immediately. Every master before you made mistakes, but part of their mastery was showing the courage and humility to admit and correct their mistakes.
4. Understand the teacher/student relationship. If your teacher asks your opinion on a matter, give it freely. If not, Wu-de dictates that you accept your teacher’s instructions. Success in kung fu only comes from adherence to the oral transmissions and day-to-day instructions that your teacher offers you. Though tens of thousands of people around the world claim to be martial arts instructors, few people have had the dedication, discipline and proper character to become an instructor in the true Shaolin tradition. Those who have reached sifu level should be respected for their wisdom and insight.