The definition of a true martial arts practitioner in terms of what is reflected in their thoughts continues in this segment as we look at the second Thought, Patience.
Patience (忍 – Rěn)
Patience is the ability to wait for an unknown amount of time, enduring unknown difficulties and hardships, and throughout that suffering, exhibiting no annoyance nor complaint; accepting the situation for what it is and as a means to an end. Does that sound familiar to you in your learning of the Chinese Martial Arts and is it something you see in your teacher and fellow students?
If this definition of “patience” does not resonate with you then are you actually practising the arts or are you rote-learning a series of movements purportedly known as wushu? This is where we start to consider the difference between wushu as a sport and wushu as an art. If you are patterning a series of movements without any concept of their inherent application, movement of energy, power, spirit and intent then you are essentially creating a dance. While the ability for the brain/body connection to pattern a sequence of movements is not easy, it doesn’t require the incredible patience and focus to truly understand and perfect those movements whereby each movement of the body carries with it a depth of understanding and energy that takes years to perfect.
No doubt, millions of people around the world practice the Chinese Martial Arts daily but do they practice them with a view to perfecting, or more specifically, understanding each component of the movement mentally, emotionally and physically? Are they connected to what they are doing or are they “going through the motions”? The ability to truly embrace and embody a movement in any of the arts takes an enormous amount of patience. It won’t come to you today, tomorrow, next year or possibly ever. It’s a journey and the destination is not “perfection” but a heightened understanding of what “perfection” actually means and a desire to work towards it step-by-step. That requires an enormous amount of patience.
If you are rushing to learn a new form or a new technique then you haven’t fully understood the concept of WǔDé Patience. Why not start thinking about spending the next year just working on perfecting one movement or one routine? Why do you need to accumulate multiple routines or techniques when none of them are good? Surely it’s better to understand and execute one thing extremely well than a dozen poorly. You will never be fully rewarded physically or mentally by performing any of your routines poorly. Conversely, be wary of a teacher who encourages you to continually learn new forms and routines. Why are they doing that? Usually money will be at the root of it, as they can retain more students by constantly feeding them new routines, like collecting a new swap card or new mini-toy, as we are all, at heart, avaricious. The teacher who tries to get you to focus on one routine isn’t usually doing it because they don’t know any others. Quite to the contrary. They will be doing it to help you learn as much as you can from that particular routine. In this instance, they themselves are showing enormous patience as it’s far easier to teach multiple routines than it is to work with a student on developing depth in their practice rather than breadth.
The traditional approach to learning the arts in China was one movement at a time until you perfected that movement. There are still places in China that teach in the traditional way where you are lucky to learn three movements a year although that is becoming a rare thing as so few people in the modern world have the “patience” to persevere with that approach to learning. In that scenario, your teacher will continue to correct and correct, push you and push you until your stance, technique, internal energy, focus and will are at one before allowing you to move on. For most of you, the idea of working 8 hours a day, 6 days a week on 1 movement for 3 months is beyond belief, but that is “patience” at its zenith and the rewards will be unbounded.
So, in summary, next time your teacher asks you to repeat a routine or movement, or say that you aren’t ready to learn a new form or weapon and you feel frustrated and annoyed, perhaps you should think about the concept of WǔDé Patience. Embrace the opportunity to study that sequence again and more importantly, think how lucky you are to be studying with a teacher who has the patience to help you on that quest.
“Patience is power; with time and patience, the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.”