In early 2013 May, some guys on the G+ Martial Artist and Internal Martial Artist forums were discussing cross-training and when to do so. Ever since joining Shaolin Wahnam, I’ve felt absolutely no need to train outside of the school, other than finding some new sparring partners (I live several states away from my nearest Shaolin Wahnam family member). Anywho, here’s what I had to say on the subject of training outside of one’s home school:
I was absolutely spoilt rotten by my master and grandmaster. I’ve tried training in different martial arts schools after learning from them and I’ve always come away both feeling and knowing that “something’s missing” from my latter teachers’ methodologies. For some of the teachers, it was a complete lack of systematic sparring methodology (one of my Taiji masters outright didn’t believe that Taijiquan could be used as a martial art, go figure), most of my masters had no concept of energy flow, yet others were missing basic health maintenance and enhancing exercises, and none of them knew how to infuse internal force training, meditation and spiritual cultivation into the more “martial arts-y” practices like set practice and application practice (though a few of my latter masters would practice martial arts and meditation as separate arts).
I’ve come to realize that a few minutes or hours spent with an excellent master is truly worth years with lesser masters and mediocre teachers. I’ve spent about three hours total in the past few years with my master and about six days (again, in the past few years) with my grandmaster and I learnt more from that time than I have in probably ten years of practice from various other schools.
I’ve also had direct experience with teachers who weren’t willing to share their teachings, for various reasons. My first Taiji master (the one who thought Taijiquan couldn’t be used for fighting) said that “if I stuck around for a few years, then we might get to Push Hands.” Funnily enough, Push Hands is often seen as the bridge between forms practice and training for sparring and fighting. My second Taiji master absolutely refused to teach applications to anyone who hadn’t been around for at least three years. My first Baguazhang master would only talk about applications after I needled and pestered him for months! This is the traditional way of doing things, certainly (all of these masters came from old-school lineages with some well known fighters), but I just wasn’t going to be around long enough (student, moving around, etc.) to meet their expectations to be “trusted” with their martial secrets.
My grandmaster had it even worse than I did. He started learning kung fu at about the age of five and learnt from some of the best kung fu masters in Malaysia, but it wasn’t until he was in his thirties that he finally found a master who taught him systematically internal force training and combat application. Before that master (his third master), he had to figure applications out on his own and he had no internal force! I’m very thankful he chooses to be so “open” about his teachings today.