A Matter of Perspective?

Ever pondered the benefits of a computer virus crashing your computer? Have you ever considered the value of burning your hand on the hot stove, or weighed up the merits of losing your last job? What did the punch in the nose that you copped last night in training do to enhance your life?

If the gist of my train of thought here is coming through, you’d say, well, they all are telling me I will learn or should learn from my mistakes. I should have updated my anti-virus software (or put some on in the first place); I shouldn’t have reached over that open flame to grab that pot; I should have kept up with the trends happening at work; I should have parried that punch instead of tried to slip mine in first. But HOW do we learn from our mistakes?

What often happens in such instances is that we get caught up in ourselves, without a thought for what else goes on around us, usually until something “drastic” or “terrible” or “wrong” happens and then we panic and try to fix it. Our pre-occupation with ourselves causes us to work in a vacuum until such times that the rest of the world, of which we are an integral part, says “look, we are a part of you, and you are a part of us,” and does something to remind us of that fact and brings us back to the fold.

Is there a place in today’s society for philosophy and how it can impact on your life? I believe so, even more so than ever before. With so much technology, progress and “advancement” (look at how I can communicate with so many of you, around the world, right now) in today’s environment, we’re provided with so much convenience meant to free us up “to do the things we want to do.” With all that free time available, how much of it do you spend looking for the balance? And if you are looking for the balance, are you looking in the right places or are you looking for it with the appropriate means?

Too often, we cruise along through life, not really thinking about what’s happening around us, feeling that everything is alright, because nothing has gone ‘wrong.’ And then when it does go pear-shaped, we panic and often over-react doing things that have no rhyme or reason, in an attempt to set things ‘right’ again. Later, if the consequences of our action/reaction aren’t too drastic or severe, we settle back down again and continue just like before, because we’re comfortable and it feels familiar that way.

Feeling familiar and being comfortable sounds good; yet it doesn’t allow for much growth and real understanding of our lives and the experiences to be had therein. Comfort and familiarity can often be viewed as narcotics, numbing us to the possibilities of better things and greater achievements.

I watch students in my classes, and have even seen it in myself at times, only doing partner drills or practicing forms and techniques that they are ‘good’ at, that they feel comfortable doing and ones that they know will provide a ‘successful’ outcome for them. Yet, true development and real growth often come from when something goes wrong.

For that is when we take some time to examine what has happened or back-track to feel what has occurred, reverse-engineering the situation so that we can come up with a good and viable solution to the problem; hence the meaning of the first paragraph of this entry – getting it ‘wrong’ often gives us the stimulus to take some action for changes we need for our continued evolution.

For Wing Chun practitioners, this often comes during chi sao (contact reflex) training, when one gets trapped and then hit by one’s partner. Too often have we seen an over-reaction that allows the trap to be set more securely, accompanied by the over-commitment of force and energy that leads to fighting a greater force with force, and we get popped instead of borrowing the opponent’s energy and going with it to find the natural release and neutralisation of an attack.

Philosophy enters into the picture here for me, because too often in such cases, we zero in on ‘what happened to me’ and ‘what’s wrong with my response or reflexes’ when we get caught out in training. To do so is only half of the picture, because the focus is squarely on what you did or didn’t do. That’s not to say you shouldn’t ask such questions. But maybe you should ask them in conjunction with some others that give you the other half of the picture – that of your partner/opponent. ‘What did X do to make me react that way’ or ‘what did it feel like when X trapped me like that’ are a couple of questions that I run through both my mind and through my body, so that I can learn to accept what has happened when I got trapped or caught out.

I’ll ask my partner to trap me again, not only so I can try to figure out how he/she did it, but also so that I can feel what it’s like to get caught, or in other words, to lose. Too often we only think of training as winning and losing, yet no one ever says that they want to lose. Wing Chun is great, because it makes you learn to train to lose, so that you can accept what comes along with losing, so that you can learn how it can lead you to the next step in your development, to find out what it feels like in order to give you the key to neutralise the trap. By accepting the feelings and energies expended by both your partner and you, you can find the place where the release should come from, and when it does, it is often a natural reaction that offers seemingly a minimal amount of energy and resistance – certainly far less that what you probably expended when you panicked and got caught.

A few things are often bandied about when martial artists talk about philosophy, and the deeper meanings of our training and existence: Yin and Yang, Zen,  and Taoism amongst others. Thousands of books have been written about them, people clamour to participate in seminars and workshops regarding these concepts, and a million conversations have sprung up over the merits and values of such ‘deep’ philosophies.

We get to experience them all, when we practice our Wing Chun, and we need no books nor do we have to sit and meditate. How? Think about it a little over this long Easter weekend, and then I’ll give you my take on it all and maybe we can all find better ways to train, not only our kung fu skills but also our overall life experience.

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Musings by Sifu Dana P Wong is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


One thought on “A Matter of Perspective?

  1. Thank you for your consideration Sifu, I am inspired by your words to look deeper into life.
    I am not sure if this is entirely pertinent but I saw a documentary once of how babies have an enormous capacity to memorize and characterize faces of not only humans but all creatures and use this information to detect friend or foe. I think that this together with re affirmation of character from our peers and experience lures us into preconception both socially and in the workplace and at training. I think training allows us to take a fresh look at life in real time and opens our eyes to new possibilities in our interaction with the world.
    Regards to all

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