by Sibok Lloyd Fridenburg
Throughout my Kung Fu teaching career, I have held a firm belief in one mantra; when one person teaches, two people learn. Teaching is not about having all the answers, it’s about accepting the things you don’t know and then finding the answers. Throughout the years my best instructors were the ones that were never afraid to say I don’t know, but then qualified their answer with “but I’ll find out.”
Another item of importance for students to remember is that instructors have an obligation to teach. They are required to stay current with the entire curriculum and to pass that knowledge on to those of a lower rank. There is no crown of knowledge that is bestowed upon those earning their Black Sash, it takes constant training, questioning, and practice to maintain a high level of instructional skill.
Earning a Black sash is truly a major milestone in your Kung Fu, and life, journey, but equate it to graduating from college or university. You have the tools, you have the knowledge, you’ve passed the tests, and now you must learn how to apply them on your own, and to teach them to others. When we don’t have the answers it’s up to us as instructors to find the answers, even if those answers lie outside of our traditional curriculum.
On the other hand, instruction isn’t a one-way street. Perhaps even more important is that students have an obligation to learn. Coming to several classes per week, without the element of independent practice, equates to a student that attends all their lectures, takes careful notes, asks questions, but does little of their own research, and seldom does homework. Attending a lot of classes does not exempt students from the need for independent practice.
When you practice on your own, outside of scheduled classes you can focus on those areas of our curriculum that you find most challenging, and perhaps things that you don’t get a chance to do regularly in classes. You will make some mistakes; but don’t let that discourage you. It is easier for an instructor to help students fix things that were practiced incorrectly than to work with a student that has simply forgotten what they learned in class because they didn’t practice at all.
If an instructor were to give a verbal instruction to go to a left ¾ stance, do a lead vertical back-fist to the nose, followed by a spin crescent kick, followed by a lead leopard paw to the infra-orbital nose point, followed by a reverse right hook to the TMJ, could you figure out what you need to do without a demonstration. Or would you know the questions to ask that would allow you to perform the combination (some of these are more advanced techniques, but you get the idea)? Do you know where the targets are? Do you know the correct hand and foot formations? Do you know the expected direction of the spin?
At each rank students are given requirement sheets showing the things that must be accomplished at your new rank. They aren’t suggestions; they are requirements! If you can’t tick off each box with confidence and tick all the boxes in your previous requirement sheets, you are not ready to advance. That doesn’t mean that you have to deliver each technique with perfection, it means that you know what the technique is and how it should be delivered, and to what targets.
I get particularly annoyed when someone is on the grading list, we are getting close to grading day, I give an instruction and they say, “I was never taught that technique.” The reality is that they failed to ensure that they learned the technique. Treat your requirement sheets as a set of basic instructions to attain your next rank. If you don’t know something, ask an instructor, but learning, and being able to proficiently demonstrate, all of the forms, techniques, and self-defense for your rank is your responsibility!