Many beginners of Wing Chun need to realize how much dedication is required to reach their goals. Students from the West are the most likely to think this way. Frequently, students will ask their teachers, “How long will it take me to get to?” That’s not an unfair question, but there’s no way to respond. In the old Wing Chun, there is a legend about the irony of a student’s desire to learn new techniques quickly.
The novice inquires as to the typical learning curve for their master. In response, the Guru offers “15 years.” After processing their surprise, the student asks, “How long would it take me if I worked twice as hard?” “30 years,” the guru chimes in. But, the student argues, “What if I practice three times longer and harder than all the other students?” The guru grins and replies, “Then it will take you 45 years.”
The takeaway from this story is simple. This exemplifies the importance of being willing to spend as much time as necessary to master a skill. You can only sometimes speed up your learning by practicing more frequently or harder. A preoccupation with the speed of knowledge or mastery can hinder progress toward the goal. This is undoubtedly the case when mastering the deep energy techniques of Wing Chun. The pressure to acquire these skills by a specific date often prevents the learner from absorbing the underlying principles of the skill being honed. With energy skills, one must abandon time constraints and fall in love with the journey. One must learn to appreciate the journey and concentrate on what is occurring in the present instead of always focusing on what lies ahead. By mastering today’s lessons, tomorrow’s lessons will arrive much sooner than expected.
One must possess a particular personality trait to pay the price for mastery of Wing Chun. You must develop a passion for skill acquisition and reject the modern tendency to cram more information into less time. Mastery of Wing Chun requires a lifetime commitment to learning and skill development. According to the monks who developed Wing Chun, it takes seven to fifteen years to master. The monks practiced Wing Chun 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so this timeline is realistic. True mastery is nothing less than a lifetime pursuit. Occasionally, people’s conceptions of mastery may fall short of the mark of true mastery. These individuals may believe and even assert that they have mastered a Wing Chun skill or system. However, those who comprehend the path and are familiar with their abilities recognize that they are not true masters. Such individuals may inflate their egos with lofty titles, but their mediocre abilities eventually reveal the truth.
Those who seek true mastery must master the Wing Chun skills of their chosen system and their human failings and personalities. The years of discipline spent walking the Wing Chun path refine and develop one’s character. Those who practice a martial art with complex and demanding skill sets (such as Wing Chun) will observe that many students come and go. Only some will attain the discipline necessary to travel the Wing Chun path to its enlightened possibilities. Those who train but do not discipline themselves in the Wing Chun way will undoubtedly benefit from their brief exposure to the arts. However, with the dedication and discipline to unlock its secrets, they will know the mysteries they may have discovered about themselves, life, and our magical universe.