Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Tai Chi Master

One of the dangers in meeting new people is how the conversation can sometimes take a turn for the worse. Like for instance how I (think) offended this particular person without knowing it. We were talking about group exercise programs in the gyms upon which the topic fell on tai chi. He was relating to me how in his youth he had bad asthma and how this so called "master" taught him some tai chi breathing and exercises which helped him a lot. He elaborated on how this master was of great reputation and don't take students easily, sort of like your stereotypical "shi fu" stock character (think Pai Mei in Kill Bill), and how he said that he's just going to show him once on some basic exercises once and after that he shouldn't bother him again. Now I wouldn't be so taken aback by the rather arrogant behaviour of this "master" but I would admit to being dumbfounded as to why this person who is relating to me this story be talking about him so reverently.

Call me lacking in tact, but I pounced on it immediately, asking him why the man had to behave in such a haughty manner when it comes to imparting his skill. He explained to me that the "master" had such knowledge in his hands that he had to be careful in choosing who to teach them to, as the knowledge he had can empower someone with the ability to kill with his bare hands. Now that to me is pure poppycock. What did it have to do with the master's arrogant holier-than-thou attitude? Correct me if I am wrong, but any knowledge is a dangerous thing depending on how you wield it. Like how a car is an instrument for transport, but put it in the hands of a drunk and you have a weapon of mass destruction. So to me, having a little knowledge in martial arts does not automatically grant you divine status to judge everyone else. You can either choose to impart your knowledge wisely or not at all, so all the haughty behaviour was rather unnecessary.

I digress, this person did not take my point of view well at all. He then argued that he understood the master's opinion because being that he was a trainer of sorts as well, he believes one has to be stern when it comes to dealing with students as a way to build respect. But I countered, being stern was one thing, but behaving like you're a god when it comes to imparting knowledge is just uncalled for. I was reminded of the days when I was in high school where we had teachers of such who terrorized their students just because they were in a position of power. I bolstered the fact that I also trained people in my line of work and I understood the view of being stern, but I believed helping someone improve should be the basis of imparting a skill, not demonstrating your superiority to others. At this point, this person got exasperated and let slip that people like me should just "go home". Usually I don't take last resort retorts like that lightly but I can see when someone has hit his boiling point. But really, let's not forget, despite what a great kungfu master Pai Mei was, his arrogance became his downfall. And what did he die of? Getting poisoned - now THAT, is killing with style and finesse. Killing with your bare hand, so crude and barbaric.

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