Becoming a student and teacher again
I’ve recently started training again with the RMIT (and Melbourne Uni) Kung Fu clubs. Once upon a time, I trained quite a lot: as a first year student I trained four nights a week. Times have changed since then, and other things have been competing for priority in those precious few hours a week. I moved off into other martial arts, moved away from the city, and eventually stopped training completely. It’s been about two and a half years since I last did any formal training (Tai Chi), and ten years since training with the Kung Fu club.
I decided to go back for health and fitness reasons: my day jobs involve either working on my PhD (sitting at a desk), painting (sitting at a different desk), or freelance editing and publishing (you guessed it, sitting at a desk again). On some days I alternate between all three, procrastinating my way into a roundabout form of productivity. It breaks up the work and helps with mental fatigue, but is pretty terrible as a way of staying healthy.
So, last month I went back for my first class in a decade. I recognised a couple of familiar faces; senior students who were relatively new last time I trained there. After a few days my legs recovered enough to stop screaming at me, and I went back again. Each time, I’ve managed to brush off a few more cobwebs and remember more of the movements. Now that I’m finally getting back up to speed again we’re about to have our big influx of new members for the year, via RMIT’s O-week. That means the next few weeks will mainly focus on teaching the basic techniques, and helping the beginners develop a solid foundation for their own training.
As a student, I love having the opportunity to learn and refine things – especially when I can bring in elements from something else (relaxed hand movements from Tai Chi, for example) and use that to help improve what I’m learning now (sparring techniques in Kung Fu). It’s been a long time since I last sparred, but I’m pleasantly surprised at how many transferable skills have come across from other styles.
As a teacher, I love the mental workout that you get from presenting things to new students and answering their questions. Beyond knowing how a technique should be done, you need to know why it’s done that way. It’s a good way of learning things: you need to consider how to present it to others, and the questions make you consider it from lots of different angles.