Students need to understand the rules of the class and what is expected of them. Being respectful of the other students and instructor is a high priority. Working with a certified teacher is an honor, not a right. They have been studying for 20 to 40 years and have seen many things. Be respectful.
DON'T SURPRISE ME!
from Internal Wushu Arts Sept 1996 newsletter
The martial arts now days have greatly changed due to modern civilization. Some say for good, others don't agree, however there are several distinctions you must know if you are a serious student of the martial arts and wish to study with top instructors, become 'inner-door' students and have access to the depths of your instructors or future teachers knowledge.
In the olden times, like our old west, it was common for hot shots to go around challenging teachers and masters to 'try' their skills. If they encountered someone better, they would ask to become a student and the story goes they would be accepted and become the top disciple of this master. Those days are gone. Also what we don't hear is that many of these situations ended up with someone seriously injured or crippled. No guns around then but still no rules! One teacher I met, after coming from China, accepted a 'challenge' from a visitor to his club and beat the guy to a pulp. Two weeks later the guy came back with a gun, luckily the teacher wasn't there. The following week the teacher moved to Seattle to get out of town.
There are a few that have glamorized those days and still fantasize out living that way. One famous teacher in the U.S. did just that when he went to China. He would visit clubs and practice sessions and challenge the teachers. His skill was very good and several of the instructors that did some push hands with him were beaten. One of his missions was to study with Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang (Gao Fu's teacher). He visited the classes and Feng told him no and ignored him. Master Feng had the opinion that this guy was not only rude but didn't understand the arts at all. The visitor thought this was a test so he continued to visit the classes and eventually started becoming a problem by harassing some of the students. Finally Feng, in order to get rid of him, agreed to push hands and wiped the floor with him. After this the visitor thought he'd be accepted as a student . . . WRONG. Master Feng didn't want anything to do with this guy. After two weeks of having this pest sit and visit his class Feng permitted him into a beginning class. Once the visitor started going to the basics class he stopped pestering the other classes. Master Feng moved his practice group to a private location, and then canceled the basics class with an announcement he was going to Japan to teach for the summer. As soon as the visitor had left Beijing Feng's classes resumed as normal. All the visitor had to do was to ask to become a student! This visitor has quite a reputation in Beijing and the top instructors won't have him in any of their classes. He's known as a troublemaker.
Another mistake often made is where a meathead or an innocent student notices an opening, or apparent opening, as a movement or technique is being taught/shown or demonstrated to the individual and tries to get one in on the teacher or advanced student. This is not cool. Teaching, demonstrating, showing is not sparring, fighting or free play. This happens often in application-oriented classes (it was very common when I taught Aikido). I've personally seen people had their arms dislocated, sprained, knocked out and severely injured by surprising the teacher. I've also seen good-hearted teachers not make a fuss or comment about it but then black list the student. "Watch out for this one", or permit the student to stay in class but not show them much. My usual method is to change the practice session into a mellower session working on something less martial or harmless techniques.
Now a day you can be sued for hurting a student or classmate even if it's in response to an attack. The teacher has the responsibility to keep the session safe, instructional, positive and 'fun'. I've had the unfortunate situation of 'reacting' to a student's sudden impromptu move and spraining their wrist. Even though it's in response to their movement it can really make you feel lousy and ruin your week.
One individual I know finally meeting his hero got started off on the wrong foot and now has ACCESS DENIED to studying with this individual. As the teacher was demonstrating a movement the individual thought, "what if I do this" and as the teacher was demonstrating he tried either to counter the technique being taught or tried to get something in. It was no problem for the teacher but the teacher got the message "He's not to be trusted". This individual doesn't have any chance of joining the club or experiencing the good stuff.
It may just have been an 'innocent' mistake but first impressions are lasting. Most of the teachers I know are teaching for the fun of it, to practice a bit, to share what they know. They're not into fighting, hurting others or to be tough. Just exercise and fun. There isn't any patience or interest in the 'warrior' days.
When you're in class, you're in class! Practice, listen and be respectful of the club, teacher and classmates. If you're interested in refining fighting skills there are clubs out there for that, find them. Yang Pan-hou, Yang Cheng-fu, Chen Fa Ke all were known to knock their students out or hurt them in practice. At that time they couldn't afford to be only a teacher, they didn't have the luxury of just teaching or 'playing' the art. They couldn't afford to get into bad habits since it was common in those days for someone to show up at your doorstep and try to beat you. Feng Zhi Qiang was one of the few students that would dare ask for tui shou instructions from Chen Fa Ke, and he would be beat up! The two times Cheng Man Ching pushed with Yang Chen Fu he was knocked unconscious!
We're not in a war zone, (at least my neighborhood). Which one of us can afford time off of work to recover, or have the funds for medical attention? Injuries keep us from practice. Some injuries never really heal! Some of the injuries I received in my youth are continual 'weak links' that I have to be mindful of all the time. We don't need this.
Don't Expect all the information to be given to you all at once. The floodgates won't open all at once, even from a kind-hearted teacher to an interested student. It takes time to develop respect and trust. And these bridged are build then the volume of information passed from one to the other increases as time goes on.