In the beginning of the arts in North America, learning was almost like a religion: sharing was part and parcel. We who started in the early years, when money was not an issue, had a good time of it. We were fortunate to have old teachers to experience. I will not get into name dropping but there were teachers such as disciples of Lung Ying, Hung Kune and others, not just from Japan and China, but even further into the East. The greater the teacher, the more respect they gave others, sharing some of their knowledge to some degree. Learning was, to us, more important than shielding ourselves because we might not be all-knowing. Respect is one thing, but no one has the right to behave as a demigod. A few years ago, I was invited to a dinner being held for an indoor disciple of Lam Yue Quai. He is or was the oldest living exponent of the dragon style; he was friendly and he was a gentleman everywhere he went. He did not bully, harass or abuse his authority. He was the example of anyone who behaves as a professional. I’m thankful that I had this kind of person to work with, even though he was sometimes merely an experience, to short over.
Unfortunately, in the 70’s, this changed drastically, with the almighty dollar rearing its ugly head. More people popped up with grand titles than one could count. With Bruce Lee movies on the move, it got worse. Signs that read “$500.00 guarantees a black belt” and the like were all over. With self-gradings and people 20 years old and younger calling themselves masters and grandmasters, it became a joke. After all of my hard work, I left. Everything I had believed became a joke in comedy clubs, on T.V., etc. I had my sifu and a few disciples left, and I moved away. I was lucky. In moving, I met a man at a lion dance. He was Ming Chan, a teacher at the time of Lung Ying (dragon style). He is still my friend and he is the example of a real martial artist. He shares and has no fragility to his ego, when, as now, too many are intimidated by someone who may know more than they might. They have arrested development. Martial arts should be an education where learning is more important than egos. To engage in learning, one must be humble and I do not mean, by this, a door mat. A true professional is always searching for more in his discipline of choice. Do not be afraid to learn. No one person has the “whole truth”. Don’t be afraid, or you’ll join that great group who have only their own little cliques to stroke them and their myths. For if you expand your knowledge, you will grow as a martial artist and as a man.
Pak Mei Pai