I was obviously a child, but I dragged my parents into the late Pong Ki-Kim’s Taekwondo/Hapkido Dojang and begged them to sign me up. My father was afraid I wouldn’t actually go, so he signed me up for the “yellow belt program” which was just three months. Of course, he had to renew my membership and the rest is history. That’s because I knew what I wanted and I was committed to it; I wanted to be a black belt. I didn’t know how long it would take, but I was going to do it.
Not long after I met Chan Tai-San, he wanted me to make a commitment to him. He was worried that I didn’t understand him enough, so he got someone to translate. They asked me if I was willing to commit to Sifu Chan and follow the path. It wasn’t a hard question, YES. I knew Chan Tai-San had real knowledge and I wanted that knowledge. And I was willing to do what had to be done to be his student.
Among the many changes I am seeing in today’s population, without a doubt a major change is a total lack of commitment. I can’t begin to tell you how many people tell me they want to “fight” but can’t commit to the necessary time to train. Fighting isn’t easy, and training is a MUST. But the reality is, I see more people who want to talk about fighting, act like they fight, but not actually train.
I no longer teach kung fu in the traditional format, but I still get flooded with requests for me to accept a few students and teach them the “traditional way.” Recently, I did just that; offered to open up a traditional kung fu class. My in box was SWAMPED with email. I told people they would have to commit to three days a week and commit to train at least six months; half the people couldn’t do that they said. I dedicated 16 years of my life, six days a week, to Chan Tai-San. They wouldn’t dedicate 72 hours…
The smallest membership I have at my school equates to about a 3 month commitment. If you want to learn martial arts, you need three months to learn the basics. Even if you are just into it for fitness, it takes three months to learn the workout and see results; determine if it is really going to work for you. Still, about 30% of the people who come in can’t make that commitment (or so they say?). If you are doing another activity, another form of exercise, ok MAYBE I can get that, but most frequently, when I ask them if they are doing any other exercise, they say NO. They aren’t even willing to commit to their own health and wellness. I have an option as cheap as $75 per month, that’s $2.70 a day. You aren’t willing to spend $2.70 a day to be healthier and live longer? Dear lord!
If we are looking for reasons why Chinese martial arts are in crisis; this is part of the story for sure. Even in the past, Chinese martial arts was a unique commitment. How can we expect it to continue to function in that format in a culture where people aren’t willing to spend $2.70?