Saturday, 15 June 2013

You will never understand another person

Today started strange, and continued in that respect.  I passed my final exam in Microsoft Networking Fundamentals this week, which means no more study until September.  I have more free time now, and that proved valuable today.

I was woken at roughly 7:45am by a text message arriving on my phone.  A friend of mine wanted to contact me before his shift at work, to tell me that he is thinking about abandoning his involvement with Samaritans.  It's strange, because we met just over 18 months ago, as volunteers.  I recently turned my back on that part of my life, and now he is thinking about doing the same.

One thing that comes from serving as a listening volunteer is the realisation that you can not judge anyone.  You are not that person.  The best you can achieve is to develop some empathy for others by imagining what it would be like to be them, in their situation, though it is unlikely you will ever truly understand them.  All we have is what we are told and, unless we truly listen, we may not even have that.

I don't know if my friend will want to discuss his dilemma with me, but the worst thing I could do is to offer any kind of advice.  Apart from what he tells me, I have no idea what factors may be involved in any decision he makes.  Often, advice is unwanted, and has an unfortunate habit of being the wrong advice.  Again, we can never fully know or understand a person.

The day continued with me getting a text message from one of my very best friends, on a visit to the area with her new man.  It's always good to see her, but the other side of that is feeling sad when she has to leave again.  The message was a surprise.  Going to a cafĂ© to meet my friend had also not been something I was planning, but my day was all the better for it.

The joy of never truly understanding someone is that they can still surprise you.  Put simply, it is our differences which make us interesting.  When you fully comprehend the implications of this, bigotry, intolerance and even anger do not come easily, nor is it possible to be judgemental.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

There are no advanced forms in Wing Chun

I occasionally take inspiration for what I write from misunderstandings which arise on martial arts forums, because they are often a reflection of widely held misconceptions.  Unfortunately, such discussions have a habit of descending into juvenile name calling and finger pointing: the result is that no one comes out of it looking good.

In this particular instance, an argument over how much Wing Chun was actually taught to Bruce Lee led to someone - claiming to be a Wing Chun student - arguing that second form Chum Kiu is a more advanced form than the third form of Biu Jee.  As in any other martial art where forms/taolu/kata/hyung/jurus/anyo are taught, such an argument is nonsensical.

If we were to consider the whole system of Wing Chun as a jigsaw, each form, whether empty hand, dummy or weapon, gives us a certain number of pieces of that jigsaw.  Sil Lum Tao, in this respect, could be said to give us the first pieces and, if those pieces were missing, we could never see the finished picture.  The same can be said of the other forms: if those pieces are missing, you do not have the full picture.  So, rather than the form itself being advanced, it is the progress of the student which has advanced, when they are ready to learn another series of movements.

As for Bruce Lee, he did not have all the pieces of the jigsaw, as far as Wing Chun was concerned.  Instead, he used those pieces he already had to create a new jigsaw - a concept he called Jeet Kune Do.  The analogy is getting rather thin now but, put simply, he recognised the gaps in his knowledge and went outside of Wing Chun to fill those gaps.  I'm not here to comment on how successful he was in completing his knowledge from other sources, and certainly have no interest in art A versus art B conversations.

It is only through learning a system that you can know which pieces of it are useful to you.  If you do not have all those pieces, it is easy to think that what you have is worthless, whereas those pieces may actually be of utmost importance to someone else.

So, there are no advanced forms, no advanced techniques: it must all work together.  Each set of pieces must join with those by which they were preceded.