Monday, January 02, 2006

Student Teacher Loyalty in Chinese Culture

Today I attended my bi-monthly Tai Chi class in Taidong taught by a world renown master of the Cheng Man-Ching Style. As I was standing (zhan4 zhuang1) my team captain came over to me and gave me a talk about Chinese loyalty toward one's teacher.
The captain had heard that I was practicing with the local Tai Chi club recently. The local Tai Chi club has a different coach. A coach that was also a student of the grand master... until a recent falling out. When I first arrived in Taidong 2 years ago, the Grand Master encouraged my study with the local coach and praised his ability. After their recent falling out, the Grand Master now has nothing good to say about the local coach. And continuously disuades me from practicing or associating with them. Though the local coach still praises the Grand Master's ability, he wastes no time to gossip and stays focused on the practice of gong1 fu1.
The Grand Master had many reasons why I shouldn't practice with the local club. He said that later when my skill is recognized, the local teacher might try to claim it was his skillful teaching that developed me (I should hope I might be so famous one day as to have my teacher worrying about the fame I will bring him!).
The Grand Master said the local club might use me for publicity to attract attention for the local Tai Chi club (being the famous foreigner that I am in this small country town). Another reason is that the two teachers teach some points differently and I might confuse the teachings and become confused as to the "correct" way.
The team captain then suggested I practice with the Grand Master's students or by myself and disassociate myself from the local club completely. If I failed to do so, he said the Grand Master would not want to teach me further.

This reminds me of the words of Cheng Man-Ching, "Only a teacher with a small art is jealous of a student's instruction elsewhere. I welcome your sampling of other systems, for I know you will come to realize that you really have but one master in this art. The postures themselves..." (Tai Ch'i the "Supreme Ultimate"Excercise for Health, Sport, and Self Defense, Cheng Man-Ching and Robert W. Smith, page 103). In this quote, I'm not sure what Master Cheng means by, "you really have but one master in this art", but he doesn't seem to be refering to himself as that one master.
I prefer the philosophy of my local tai chi coach. He said Tai Chi is a great art... there's no harm in different practice methods... just practice. And then he said, "Let's push."


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Anonymous said...

Wow dude caught between a rock and a hard place. Define who is acting from ego and go the opposite way.