I have been here for two and a half months and at times lost sight of why I came here in the first place. I tried to appreciate and take advantage of every opportunity that I could, and because of this, ended up working with my instructor after my kung fu class to help with his business.
Two weekends ago, I taught my first class almost completely independently of the other instructors without messing up (partially because there were only five kids in the class). I was more than somewhat concerned beforehand because the six-year-olds only understand a few words in English. In summary, it was a success and a large confidence booster.
Afterward, the head instructor took me to dinner and I informed him that I would be free this coming week because my program provides the students an independent travel period. He asked if I would be able to help flush out some ideas and polish the English for his new business campaign. (Although my instructor taught himself English, he is almost completely fluent in speech). We then spent several hours brainstorming the way to phrase certain concepts, such as mission statements and summaries of his program, which he plans to present to the physical education programs of international schools.
I decided to help him during the following [last] week. In exchange for my help in polishing the brochures, letters to international PE directors, English curriculum (more on that later), website, and PowerPoint, he has offered to teach me traditional Shaolin Kung Fu.
We began with the brochure, and spent two days fine-tuning the details. Although the task sounds somewhat easy, the goal for his program and his philosophy are rather complicated and inseparable. One of his goals (note: only one of) is to teach children the morals, values, and characteristics that the schools and parents usually fail to teach.
Hence, the new slogan we came up with being “More than Just Kung Fu”.
He uses the five characters from Kung Fu Panda as a model for teaching values. For example, Master Crane exemplifies confidence. We designed simple phrases for the children to remember and recite, and rules to follow based off the aspects of (or what constitutes) confidence.
There are 5 Masters (Crane, Tigress, Viper, Mantis, and Monkey), each having 5 Secrets (confidence, discipline, etc.), 2 rules accompanying each master, and a phrase that exemplifies what each secret means. The most time-consuming part of this entire process was writing phrases; even though my instructor included the Chinese equivalent underneath, the phrases had to be extremely simple and clear in explaining concepts like perseverance.
At this point, I would like to point out that another important goal of his program is to teach English. The instructions are taught in English, as are the directions. Although the children barely spoke ten words of English to begin with, by incorporating movements and gestures into explaining what each word means, we have taught numerous verbs and adjectives.
We warm up each class with an activity that teaches certain commands, directions, verbs, and adjectives. The activity is very much like Simon-says, but Simon never tries to trick the children. I shoot my hands in the air and tell the kids “gen wo yi qi shuo” (speak with me), then shout “Up!” and the kids shoot their hands up in the air and shout “Up!” After doing this with several words, I mix them up to see which ones they actually recognize. Later in the class, I include these words in giving directions for teaching the form. From three classes, we have taught at least 30 new words that the kids recognize and can recite. (One parent was debating whether her child should keep taking their extra-curricular language class, or to continue attending our kung fu class. She chose us and dropped the English class.)
Toward the end of the week, my instructor and I developed a curriculum of adjectives, verbs, simple grammar, and simple phrases for the kids to remember (that explain the values we wish to instruct). We will soon include them in class once we have all the papers printed so we can stick the corresponding word-pictures on the walls.
I was gone at least seven hours each day (twelve hours on a few days), two of which were due to the commute. Although I only received a few hours training, he covered all my meals and my taxi fare. Moreover, he has offered to help me plan a trip to the Shaolin Temple, where I will be personally received by one of the masters residing there (one of his friends). I have heard that the Temple has changed drastically over the past fifty years due to commercialization, but I still want to visit it because it is the origin of Chinese martial arts. Ironically, a book that I read about Shaolin Kung Fu was the initial reason why going to China was on my bucket list at all.
It’s funny how things work. My first interest in China at all stemmed from martial arts. I came here not knowing what to expect (and trying not to anticipate anything, lest reality fall short of expectations), but ended up working with a Shaolin Monk, learning the most authentic (or historically foundational) martial arts. This is the first time that I have been pursuing an interest that I could never explore in the US.
Although I can no longer help him for such a long period, I still want to continue my involvement with his business. I intend to help him with his plans to create a language workbook for the children to take home during the week.
He is preparing to move to the States either next year or the following. Another one of the biggest coincidences of my life: he’ll be in Pittsburgh, about 15 minutes from where I go to school. I have a feeling (and sincerely hope) that I’m going to be in touch with him for a long time.
Funny and Insightful Stuff of the Week:
- · Seeing my instructor pose in a Tiger Stance with a cigarette in hand as we developed the terminology for his combat forms
- · Getting a break mid-week because he could [paraphrasing] see my energy in my eyes
- · Sitting on the floor at Starbucks while working at a short table, and not caring because we paid so much for the coffee
- · Meeting a woman from Spain because my instructor taught her kids and “she has a good camera” (We were posing for a photo book of the forms to be given to the kids)
- · Being invited to a dinner where I was the only foreigner, but everyone still spoke English (The host toasted everything imaginable)
- · Learning that passion should be the driving force in everything you do
- o You should never do anything unless it makes you happy
- o Never be content with suffering, else you boil to death like a frog, unaware that he sits in water that’s getting progressively hotter
- o “You have to fight for life”
- · Marketing yourself and your skills without compromising your purpose or your self-value is the key to success
- · Realizing that my instructor is one of the wisest people I know despite swearing like a sailor and only being 25 years old (totally fulfilling the Kung Fu Master stereotype)
- · He walked back out into heavy rain after we found cover to break bricks with his hand “because it’s fun”
- · We had street food instead of hot pot so I could experience real China (but he insisted on taking me to hot pot later)
- · He took to heart the expression I told him that I learned from my English teacher in middle school: to lie, cheat, and steal in writing
- · Finding how easily everything in his program fell together perfectly into one place with a simple “Furious Five” theme based his philosophy
- · “Even with all my Kung Fu, I can’t open this bottle!” –Master Xie