When you first learn how to cook there is nothing more important than the recipe. You likely don’t know how to select complimentary ingredients or understand which ingredients enhance, or even define the dish. In the beginning we follow the recipe exactly, and hope that the result will be everything that the recipe promised. We don’t alter ingredients, add additional herbs or spices, and we use the exact amount of each ingredient in the recipe. Until you have some experience and have gained some culinary expertise, following the recipe provides an element of security and consistency.
Your Kung Fu training is no different! You need to follow the recipe. In this case, the recipe is our curriculum, which provides the basic skills necessary to advance your Kung Fu career. Our curriculum has evolved over the past 30 years and is something we should all be proud of, because it is not common within martial arts circles. We have a very defined curriculum with new techniques, forms, and self-defense, taught at each rank and we insist that instructors teach, and students learn, the prescribed curriculum. Many martial arts facilities function as a club and a lot of things seem to be taught in a random manner, according to the proficiency of the instructor. We have always functioned as a school with well-defined expectations of both our students and our instructors.
As you become familiar with seasoning, balance, and technique you begin to experiment and to make the recipe your own. Sometimes it turns out great; at other times it is a bust, but you can always return to the basic recipe and build from there. The same thing applies as your Kung Fu expertise grows. Your knowledge and variety of “ingredients” increases but you can always return to the proven basics.
No matter how much additional knowledge instructors gain over the years, they only teach the basic recipe to students. That way you will eventually discover your own pathway. Attaining a Black Sash is not the end; it’s only the end of the beginning.