Letting Go In Order to Grow
By Tom Olson
Training in Kung Fu affords us many parallels in life and learning. As Sifu Joel Rizzo has stated many times, every single moment practicing Kung Fu affords us lessons in life, opportunity, and prosperity. In our lives, we often think of ourselves as a collection of experiences that build one upon each other to truly state who we are and where we are going. Interestingly though, a person who truly excels in Kung Fu and life is the one who can understand what has happened before, learn from it, and then let it go. Each time they begin a new task, experience, or journey, they are able to let go of that event or when they attained that last goal.
Each new experience requires that we begin anew. We have to accept that what we have done was significant enough to grow from, and then begin walking a completely new path. Children accept this readily, as when you watch children learn something new, they are truly enthusiastic, energetic and honestly amazed when they see the fruits of their labor. They enter into each journey with their eyes wide open, only having the faith that what they learn will truly be something new and exciting. Imagine a child walking in the woods and seeing a new type of insect, or flower, and seeing the joy that they express! Interestingly enough, the next day, when you take the same child on another walk through the same woods, they are equally excited, and equally receptive to learn something new. How does the child allow themselves to feel so joyful at new situations? They embrace the new experience, enjoy the change, and look upon each day and experience as a new one.
This too is expressed in nature repetitively. A plant, for example, grows from a seed to a mature plant, entering into cycles of flowering and eventually generating seeds. In order for the plant to become something new, it must first release part of its self in a form of a seed. That seed then becomes planted and begins to grow. Granted that seed is a new life, but it too is part of what it came from, it is part of the parent plant, while still a separate entity. The seed had to let go of what it knew in order to grow, if it didn’t, it would have dried and never had a chance to become another beautiful plant. Another example of this is the first time a bird must learn to fly. A young bird will beat its wings with all of its might repetitively, while never leaving the branch that it sits upon. It will move closer and closer to the end of the branch with each and every attempt, yet it is anchored to it, holding onto it with all of its might. Soon though it will run out of branch, and it eventually lets go of its anchor allowing it to soar and grow.
The teaching methods of Bak Fu Pai also reflect these time proven and effective ways of nature. As a form is taught, it is copied directly from teacher to student. The student looks upon this for the first time as a brand new endeavor, or experience! As movements are taught, no particular labels are put upon the moves, nor are there long explanations on how each movement is utilized. While it is very tempting for the student to use past experiences to help him or her to understand the moves, it is imperative that they have faith in themselves and their teacher and move forward, memorizing each movement while not hanging on to one already taught. If the student does dwell upon the past experience or form, they will essentially anchor themselves to it. Continually the student will refer back to it, trying to make sense of the dynamic information flowing in from the teacher. The result will be the need to continually review the same material, and any material that comes beyond that. As the student moves forward, they must accept that what they are learning is new, and adopt the same child like enthusiasm that so often accompanies new and exciting experiences.
Life, like Kung Fu, is dynamic and explosive. New events, like new material in Kung Fu, must be experienced and seen as they are, and without any preconceived notions. If we anchor ourselves to that same branch, we will continually beat our wings, but go nowhere. The good thing about nature, like Kung Fu, is that eventually you run out of that proverbial anchoring branch, and you are forced to fly. The important next step is to look up to what is new, not what is down and causes fear. In all it is up to each person to decide when they let go in order to grow.