Martial Arts: Good Place for Discipline, Bad Place for Ego

I went to my wing chun class for the first time in ages yesterday. Sifu had me run through the wooden dummy form in its entirety, then told me to go through it slowly, section by section.

We didn’t wind up getting further than the first section. Why? Because one of the problems I’m having involves body mechanics. The first two moves in the dummy form are two biu saos. Then your right hand goes behind the dummy to grab it. After that you pivot so you are facing left, then pull with both hands.

My problem was when I pulled, I would be rocked by the motion just as much as the dummy! That’s because the top and bottom half of my body are not synchronized. I was using just my upper body strength instead of my ENTIRE body. When you turn to the side, you have to “sit in your stance,” in other words sink your weight down.

So, for the next 15-20 minutes, Sifu had me practice that…and that alone. But you know what? Even though we were doing only one thing, I didn’t feel the least bit bored. Why? Because I’m into wing chun for the long haul, and I know that what Sifu showed me in the dummy form would affect EVERYTHING ELSE. Improving the synchronicity of my body will help my wing chun improve as a whole, not just the dummy form.

Not everyone gets that…or when they do, they say “that’s too hard” and bail. Some people want to just get a pat on the back and be told they’re on their way to mastering the art. Sifu won’t do that. He won’t let you sell yourself short…won’t let you go out there with a false sense of confidence.

That’s why people don’t “get” his school. They go to other places that stroke your ego and hand you out a belt simply because you paid for it (not to mention the test fee).

I remember talking to a young woman (who we will call TRACY here). Tracy went to SUNY Albany with me, and she also attended my wing chun school. She started there around the same time as me, but she was mad because Sifu had started teaching me the second form (chum kiu) while she was still on sil lum tao.

I tried explaining things to her, saying, “This isn’t like other schools. They don’t move you on to the next form just because you finished the previous one. You have to be ready, and he must not feel you are ready.”

Well, my statement wound up causing more problems than it solved. Needless to say, she stopped attending school soon after that.

While I certainly do appreciate it when Sifu compliments me, I don’t expect it. I want to learn the rest of the pole form (I know about one-third of it), I want to learn the butterfly swords form…but I know he won’t let me until I am ready.

If I had a bad ego, I would bail on the school just like my fellow SUNY classmate…but since I don’t, I am fine with it.

If you are a martial artist looking to supplement your training with a fitness routine that can fit into your hectic schedule, then I can help guide you! Despite being a family man (wife and 4 kids) and working two jobs, I’ve managed to fit martial arts AND fitness training into my schedule! To find out how to join forces with me, check out this video!


About Steve Grogan

I am 40 years old, divorced, and a father of four kids. I am a practitioner of a self-defense system called wing chun kung fu. My other hobbies include writing, playing guitar, reading, watching movies, and listening to music. Recently I have gotten back into fitness, and this time I am DETERMINED to get the washboard abs...whether my metabolism will cooperate with me or not! The purpose of this blog is to write not only about my hobbies, but also about whatever crosses my mind, whether it is something I don't understand or something that aggravates me. So join me as I indulge my tendency to think too much about topics that don't usually cross anyone else's mind!
This entry was posted in advancement, analysis, article, biu sao, blog, body mechanics, butterfly swords, chum kiu, cichon's wing chun, college, confidence, discipline, ego, enlightenment, excitement, exercise, health, humble, humility, impressions, introspection, kung fu, lesson, martial arts, motivation, observation, perfectionism, perseverance, pole form, pride, priorities, progress, punches, review, russ cichon, self-esteem, self-expression, Sifu, speed, strength, structure, teaching, technique, train, training, upper body, wing chun, wooden dummy, work, workout and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Martial Arts: Good Place for Discipline, Bad Place for Ego

  1. Yep, as one of my other teachers says.. don’t be afraid of someone who’s practiced a thousand kicks… be afraid of someone who’s practiced one kick a thousand times!
    My Sifu also helps me to practice and improve certain moves which then have a positive knock-on effect on the way I perform other moves, too. I trust her process – obviously she knows the subject matter way better than I but also she’s been teaching me long enough to know how I personally learn and process things. She knows I would rather go slower and be better in the long-run, she’s seen how I best pick things up and knows how determined I am. I look forward to learning other things, but I am in no rush, I compete with no-one but myself. So I can enjoy the now and savour what’s to come too! 😀

  2. wcman1976 says:

    Thanks for the comment! I know exactly what you mean.

    Other people might get frustrated and bored, but not me. Yes, he gave me one thing to work on, but since that is ALL I have to work on, it means I will get better. Dividing my time between other things wouldn’t be good. And as I said in the article, this doesn’t mean I will be better at JUST the dummy form. Working on what he gave me will improve my wing chun in its entirety.

  3. maxwell ivey says:

    Hello; This was a good post. I could understand where you were going with it, but some readers may want a more concrete tie in to the word discipline in the title. and on a personal note I am a blind person who has recently lost a lot of weight. I am now in good enough shape to be considering other forms of exercise besides riding a stationary bike or walking on a tread mill. could you or your teacher make some suggestions for me. thanks, max

  4. wcman1976 says:


    Thanks for the comment! By “discipline,” I mean simply this: not many people would have the ability to come away from a lesson where their teacher showed them one thing and practice that over and over. A lot of people I know would have said to him, “I paid you X amount of dollars…for you to just tell me THAT??? Come on, man, you need to give me more to work on.” It takes more effort to stay the course when you are shown just ONE thing than if you are shown several. If you can stick with the training even when it is “boring,” then you are a unique character in my book.

    As for exercise, my teacher isn’t any kind of exercising expert. His focus is on wing chun. As for me, after years of not working out at all I started with 10 Minute Trainer…did that for two months, then moved on to P90X, Insanity, Rev Abs, Les Mills Combat and Asylum Volume 1. If you want to know more about these programs, contact me privately:

  5. I am not a martial art guru by any means. I can see where this could benefit a person (me) in so many ways. Patience, discipline and patience to name just a few are all things I need more of… LOL.

  6. brohawk92 says:

    It sounds like balance in martial arts is much like the balance you need in life. You can’t move on from where you are, until you are ready, or you may not be properly prepared for the challenges that lay ahead. This is a great post because it has so many analogies for life in general!

    Thank you for sharing!!

    • wcman1976 says:

      Thanks for commenting! Martial arts has certainly helped me out in other areas of life, including professional. I still see other people get mad when they get passed up for a promotion. They blame it on “favoritism” when sometimes it honestly is because they aren’t ready for the next level of responsibility.

  7. Sounds like you are getting proper instruction, not just attending a class. There is a difference, and you are lucky to appreciate that.

    • wcman1976 says:

      Thanks for the comment. Sifu Cichon is a great instructor and has never compromised the way he wants to teach wing chun. He could have easily gone commercial, padded everyone’s ego and whipped them through all 6 forms. He could have come up with countless ways to hit people with hidden fees, but he never has…and he never will.

  8. That is very interesting. Before you complete the previous level, it’s a bad idea to go on to the next one. Otherwise It will be very hard. It is a life lesson actually what we have to learn.

    • wcman1976 says:

      Thanks for the comment.

      I wish my classmate had understood that. If you follow her line of thinking, you should be able to take a language class at the 200 level before you complete 100. Unfortunately for her, Sifu disagreed. 🙂 As for me, I don’t mind it. Yes, he gave me only one thing to work on at my last lesson, but it was one very IMPORTANT thing. Also, in wing chun, doing one thing wrong will affect everything else. The same is also true of doing that one thing RIGHT. And by giving me just one thing to focus on, it guarantees I will be better at it (and therefore, the style as a whole) by the time I go back…provided I practice of course.

  9. Public education could learn a lot from this approach. There is nothing as satisfying in the world as hard-earned achievement done the right way.

  10. There are so many lessons in martial arts aren’t there? I picked up some of them watching my son and husband advance through the belt levels, until they were awarded their black belts. It’s a mindful art isn’t it? Thanks for sharing the the valuable insights. Excellent.

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