Thursday, March 3, 2016

Group Classes on Indefinite Hold

I absolutely love training and teaching Xinyiliuhequan, but I have simply not been able to gather together a large enough, sustainable group of students over the past several years.

I cannot stress enough how wonderful (and patient) the owners of Crossfit Taranis have been over the past couple of years as I have tried to gather a group of students. Both Reed and Vanessa are incredible people - they exemplify strength of both mind and body. They are inspiring!

After much thought and reflection, I have decided to put my attempts to teach group lessons in Victoria on indefinite hold.

At first I was somewhat saddened by this, but I have come to realize that the reasons are multifold. For one thing, it is currently the age of Mixed Martial Arts (of which I am actually a big fan). It is hard, however, for Xinyi to "compete" with MMA in terms of recognition and excitement, and "sexiness" - let alone with the free advertising provided by watching, for example, the UFC. It has been hard enough, over the years, to even compete with the "brand recognition" of arts such as "Karate", "Tai Kwon Do", "Tai Chi", etc... It is amazing to live in an age of seemingly limitless choice and options! But, it also means that a rare art like Xinyi can easily become lost in the shuffle. My own commitment to the art (and my dedication to my late Grandmaster Yu Hua Long) will also not allow me to overly simplify it or overly "sell" this art. I have never had to try to earn a living teaching Xinyi, so I have, perhaps also charged too little for my teaching... It is phenomenally dear to me but I want to share it (and I have always been willing to do so very affordably). That said, I don't want to spend my efforts selling and convincing all the time. Xinyi is one of the great treasures of traditional Chinese martial arts. It should go without saying, but that is not how advertising works.

It is also the age of "Busy-ness". This, combined with limitless choices, seems to conspire against attracting students interested in learning a very ancient, traditional martial art - particularly one that requires some significant persistence and dedication (particularly during the first few months) to get good enough at to become intrinsically motivated (often then by the sheer pleasure of practice) to train away at it for the long haul... In true "gong fu" fashion, this art is both incredibly complex and deceptively simple. It takes a significant amount of hard work up-front - and then it is about ongoing, lifelong improvement. Such is the way of "gong fu". Such is the point of a "gong fu" approach applied to martial arts or any other aspect of life.

Of course, I have definitely succumbed, at least somewhat, to the "age of busy-ness". I have my professional work in health care. I have my Master's degree courses which are quite challenging and time-consuming, particularly as I have dedicated myself to excelling at them as best I can. I also have a wonderful wife and a beautiful (albeit extremely busy!) baby boy. I have not had the time or energy (or surplus funds) to do the demonstrations, advertising, and almost constant salesmanship that, I now know, would be required to get enough people in the door in order get a large enough group together to dependably run a full-size class.

Also, because I work with (quite challenging sometimes) children in my professional life, and I now also have a young child at home, I have not been particularly interested in teaching Xinyi to children - despite the fact that this may be the best way to find a new generation (and their parents) who are interested in learning an art that is so traditional and can be a tool throughout life (and which could be so naturally adapted for children). Perhaps in a few years as my little guy gets older he may be interested in learning Xinyi. Perhaps also, by then, I will no longer be in a direct-care role in health care and I will be missing working with children. That may be the time to offer Xinyiliuhequan classes to various age groups (as up till now I have basically only sought adult students).

I am quite at peace with my decision - and it has been at least a year in the making. The most ironic aspect of all of this is that my own training and Xinyi has never felt better! While it is so helpful to have students (both to teach and train with) to improve one's own skills while teaching, the countless hours I have spent the past few years (often on my own) training week in and week out have honed my movements and continued to internalize the art within me. At 40-years-old I have probably never been fitter and never felt so integrated in terms of mind-body-spirit towards my purpose and goals. I bring my Xinyi and my "gong fu" approach to a wide variety of activities. This not to say that I, in any way, have it all figured out (!), or that aspects of life are still not a struggle sometimes, but it is to say that I am much more accepting of the fact that this is all a journey and that I know, at least better, some of the importance of accepting the classic "wherever you go, there you are".

I do hope to try teaching Xinyi classes again in the future, but I'll just have to wait and see. My own training continues and I have never loved, or appreciated the art more than I do right now. It keeps me healthy and grounded and connected to the past (my own past and the ancient past) and the present - and it is part of what gives me strength moving into the future.

If anyone is interested in arranging private or semi-private lessons (e.g. one-to-one adult; or, a couple of friends interested in training together; or, a parent-child combo, etc.) I would consider it. I am also open to offering a class at a workplace setting (or a club/gym/etc. where I come and teach the class but someone else is responsible for recruiting/assembling it). For now, however, it will be up to anyone interested to contact me to arrange something - as I need to put my efforts into my professional, academic, family, and training commitments (and not into recruiting students). There is an old expression, "When the student is ready the teacher will appear." For the time being, I rest assured that "The teacher stays ready for the students to appear."

I wish everyone the very best on their path and in their pursuits.

All good things,

Sean