This is about getting information about an art … usually Chinese.
Everyone has heard of some exotic art, and now and then you try to find out information. As I mentioned before, there are a lot of stories about a cook or the like off of a ship who teaches some secret form, or someone claiming their art is a little known cousin to a known form. However, when you ask, you get a story that would make a good fairy tale. No related information can be found, not even in China. Let’s take books for an instant. I have had books that claimed that the information is about some style or other. Not always, but sometimes these books were written more for self-grandizement than for education. One should ask oneself “What are they written for?”. To make money for the writer, in most cases. I suggest that if you want information, make sure the writer is authentic in the arts, and generally, the smaller books are more informative. For example, Karate – The Way, or there is one with the tiger and crane set and drawings of Lum Sai Wing doing it. There are lots of people who have tried to imitate from a book. Don’t, you will not be correct. However, they can be informative, and fun to read as well. Now we come to magazines. Years ago, there were none. Then they started and, at first, they were pretty good. They contained some very real and ethical teachers and their styles. But now, take a good look. They contain far-fetched stories for the most part. Tales that are designed to make the writer a grand puba of some sort. As an example, I have seen articles about my style. These are easy for me to check on. When I contacted the magazine to find out if anyone checks for authenticity, lo and behold, I was told they don’t. I guess I was naive, as I thought they used someone who was a reporter or a journalist, but they don’t. The answers I got sounded very political: “Who’s to say what is real?”, or “We assume that the writer is who he says he is, or he would not go public.”. I even got answers to my inquiries that sounded like a hippie on drugs. It seems like when a magazine comes out which truly makes sure that the information they print is not figment of some master wanna-be’s imagination, the magazine gets sold. The quality is soon gone and we have another rag. Now this is not to say that there is not some publisher out there who is ethical, but, as in the past, I wouldn’t buy the magazines I’ve seen. The big problem for a person looking for information on Chinese styles is that during the Bruce Lee period, there were more fakes than you could imagine, and they were not always some white person; they came from all over the globe. Unlike the arts from Japan or Okinawa and some other places, Chinese styles do not have a governing body. I do think that a body of teachers who do the same style should be able to do the same thing in regards to their art as the Japanese have done. The ultimate would be a body that could get the Chinese styles and others to ensure quality teaching by qualified instructors. Also, to make sure that their students do not get misinformed by reading these rags, they could maybe even write authentic information, not something by someone who wants to see his or her name in print. Needless to say, the people I teach do have the intelligence to neither depend upon nor read these slick mags. They realize that like picking a teacher one must be discerning in picking reading material. As you can see, I do write a lot of information into my articles, and I do not kiss anyone’s rear. My tode sometimes complain because sometimes the people who feel guilty over the propagation of their particular myth all of a sudden change, and in some cases, almost to the letter change their tune. It’s a good thing I do not copyright my material, but I have thought of it. To those who feel I am talking about you and feel guilty, you should. I do not make a living from teaching, so I do not need to be nice about what I write, just truthful. For those who are authentic and ethical, hang in there, for we will be around when the others are long gone, and our teaching will stand the test of time long after they are forgotten.
Pak Mei Pai