Where Do Teachers Come From?
People come to study the martial arts for
many different reasons. Some come for the exercise and to get in shape. Others
come for self healing purposes. Some want to learn self defense, others are looking for
for self discipline. Many have an interest in Chinese philosophy, while
others wish to attain fame as a martial artist. And there are those who, quite
simply, are looking for something to do in their spare time.
Then there are those who come with a deep love for the arts and wish to
make it a way of life. These are the ones who turn out to be teachers.
They are indeed a special kind of person that every teacher would love
to see in their Kwoon. These are the rare gems of our art, the ones who
will pass the art onto the next generation. They are very special
people who, in my humble opinion, are the ones that make teaching
They are a rare breed, and a teacher can wait a lifetime to find even a
handful of such students. One of my teachers once told me an example
of a good student. He said it is like prospecting for gold. You may look
for years through piles of stone and mud until that final day when you look
and see a nugget of gold at the bottom of the pan. It could take years
before you see anything, and in some cases you may never find even the
smallest fragment of gold. Most of the time it turns out to be nothing
but fool's gold. They look like the real thing, but then you discover they
are not the pure gold you thought they were.
For more messages from Grandmaster, see the Archives.
Most of my teachers had
very few true disciples. My last teacher Ch'ang Tung Sheng (see photo on
left) had but a handful of people he would call his students. In his
life he taught more people then I can count, and many of these people
call Ch'ang their teacher. The fact of the matter is that Ch'ang hand picked
those he thought were worth anything in Kung Fu. He was a very
particular man. If he saw a negative characteristic in your personality,
you could be sure he would never bring you under the gate of Chang.
I can bear witness to this fact, as I have seen martial artists cry at the
Master's feet to be accepted as his student. Yet Ch'ang would not let
tears or begging change his mind. He judged people by their character as
well as their skills. Only if you reached his standards did you have a chance
to enter the gate of Ch'ang.
In my life of teaching I can say pretty
much the same thing. I have taught more students than I care to
remember. But it is not the number of students that count, it is the
high quality student the teacher is always looking for. A good teacher is
always on the alert for an outstanding student, for there lies the
possibility of passing on the art fully and completely. Teachers are aware that
life is very short indeed, so no time must be wasted in finding one or
more students who can achieve the highest levels of our art.
We all die,
and for that reason the teacher searches for the next one who can carry
on the martial teachings with dignity and honor. Good students are
easily seen for they outshine all others in their Kwoon by their
presence and performance of their art. They have that something special
that shines like a beacon in the night. They are the ones who practice
hard to attain the skills. They are the ones who show the respect toward
their teacher. They are the ones on whom the teacher can always count
when something must be done in the Kwoon. You can see such students
easily. They become the leaders in the Kwoon. They are the ones who can
handle the hardest of workouts, or the teacher's demands. They never say,
never, and they always attain their goals.
I am happy to say I have such
students. Some have been with me thirty years and more. And they remain
with me. In traditional kung fu students never leave his teacher. They
are there still helping the teacher to continue to spread the arts. These
are the ones who hold the mantle of the arts. They are the ones who
continue when the teacher gets too old or dies. These are the true
inheritors of our art, the ones who well deserve the title of Sifu.
These are the closed door students.
They are very special people in the
eye of their teacher. They have proven their love of the arts and all they
stand for. They spend their lives much like their teacher, teaching and
also looking for the next generation of teachers. They entwine
themselves completely in the inner circle of martial artists. Their life
revolves around their art, and their eagerness to learn grows with each
passing day. They never stop. The arts to them get better year after
year. It never wanes for a good disciple. The level disciple knows,
there is always more to learn, more to understand, more obstacles to
It is not a traditional custom for a teacher to promote his
students, technically it is the other way around in tradition. It is the
student's job to promote their teacher. In Chinese tradition, the
teacher is always given the highest honors. This is a Confucianist
teaching which all Chinese follow, martial artists or not. But I am going to
break tradition this one time to brag about some of my better disciples
who have long since attained teacher levels and master levels under our
These few are my close door students, the ones I share
Shao-lin's inner secrets with. These are the few who have proven their
love for our shared beliefs. These are the ones who over
time have shown continued dedication and hard work, promoting our love
for the Shao-lin Arts. These are the ones who are molding and spreading
the art to the future generations of martial artist.
The names come to
my lips easily as I speak the names of Mr. Phil Sant a Master level, Mr.
Chris Peck, a Master level, and Mr. Dan Crawford, a Master Level. Mrs. J
Halliday, a Sifu level. Mr. Bob Sbarge, a Sifu level. Mr. Paul
Greenbaum, a Master level.
There are others, but the few I have
mentioned here are presently actively teaching the general public. Of
the group mentioned above my Inner Door disciples are (see photo on
right) Mr. Phil Sant, Mr. Chris Peck and Mr. Dan Crawford. These are the
three who have spent countless hours in training. These few have worked
under me both publicly and privately for ten years to Sifu levels and
many years thereafter to their Master levels. Each has been with me
more then thirty years.
Mr. Phil Sant was always a hard worker and a
hard fighter. His love for Shao-lin is easy to see and his skills are
among the best. He always enjoyed the hands-on applications and
tournament encounters. He is an extremely hard working man who always
gives all of himself to any task he undertakes. He has a good sense of
doing what is right in the martial arts and seldom makes errors when it
comes to kung fu ethics. He has made great strides in spreading kung
fu in his hometown of Brewster New York.
Once we organized the American
Center of Chinese Studies, he was the first to open a branch. He has
reached out to his community, to all avenues of business and education, to
spread the Shao-lin arts. He has done numerous demonstrations and
lectures on various aspects of Shao-lin. His Kwoon is a shining example
of traditional Shao-lin as passed down by our forefathers.
Talking about Mr. Chris Peck, is like saying what is the importance of the right hand to the
left hand. He is my left hand. He helps me run the main branch of the
American Center in Buchanan New York. Needless to say he is always there
sharing with me the everyday responsibilities of running our Kwoon. He
is the one who shares my ideas and helps me implement them. Both his
life and my life intertwine within the Kwoon. He is a shining example of
traditional ethics. His Shao-lin skill ranks among the best.
He is a
knowledgeable teacher who is continuously studying the deepest meanings
of the art. His teaching is very thorough and students are sure to learn
real Shao-lin under him. Mr. Peck goes back with me to the tournament
era and numerous demonstrations.
Mr. Dan Crawford is as steadfast as a
rock. He helps in running the Brewster branch of A.C.C.S. and works a
great deal teaching our little dragons (the children).
Mr. Crawford was and is an extremely hard working martial artist and has
always enjoyed the hard workouts and fighting sessions. He has done many
tournaments and demonstrations of Shao-lin with me over the years and has
always shown the best Shao-lin had to offer. He is a very skilled
teacher and practitioner who has patience and understanding for the up
and coming martial artist. He has worked endlessly promoting and
spreading his love for our art. He is always eager to help spread
the Shao-lin arts.
Mr. Crawford is a lover of traditional teachings and
continues to look deep into Shao-lin philosophy and defense skills. Some
of my new teacher levels are well on the road to becoming masters
because of their spirit to spread our art around the United States.
I have had good students and I
have had great disappointments, but I can honestly say as a teacher, these
few disciples have made my life worthwhile. Nothing is more pleasing to
a teacher than to see that all he has taught was not taught in vain. My
deepest joy comes from my three inner-door disciples, Mr. Sant, Mr. Peck
and Mr. Crawford, who I like to call, The Three Tigers, for they have
not deserted the ideals of our art in over thirty years and continue to
become famous in their own right.
Their fame comes from their steadfast
efforts to be there in the public, doing what they do best and that is
to teach Shao-lin Kung Fu. It comes from their continuing efforts to do
what is right and what is expected of them as Masters of Shao-lin. It
comes from their pure intentions and love of this art.
They cannot see
their own fame for they are not interested in ego development, but rather in
character development. They seek neither fame nor fortune, rather they
seek what I have always sought, a good student. In their hearts their
greatest enjoyment is simply living our art and seeing it move to the
next generation of seekers. They are protectors of the Way and
preservers of our heritage.
A teacher's great gift is a loyal and
competent disciple and I have found mine. My dream still remains the
same after all these years, and that is to find more students who are
willing to carry on the traditions and skills of our art.
So where do
Shao-lin Teachers come from? They come from other Shao-lin Teachers, and
so the tradition goes on. For this is how our art has been passed on
from generation to generation. Quality disciples make quality teachers,
and these teachers will make sure our art will be around for many
generations to come.