How to make sure your teachers will teach: Avoiding the cult of secrecy in Martial Arts.

In the traditional Chinese martial arts including Tai Chi Chuan, Xing Yi Chuan and Ba Gua Zhang there is a culture of hiding information.

It is not done by all, but, it is done by many.

Most often this is seen as private or behind “closed doors” (disciples only) information and public open door information.

Historically (prior to the proliferation of guns) this made sense for safety and security. In the modern world it is much easier to pick up a gun than it is to spend 6 months to several years learning how to perform high level skills for fighting.

When it came to the health aspect of these arts it also made sense to hide information due to the need for personal security. If my family and tribe are really extra healthy and my enemies are not very healthy then we are in a much better position to defend ourselves.

But in the modern world this is just plain messed up.

If a teacher wishes to keep the secrets by only teaching a small handful of folks and not teaching publicly then I feel they are completely within their rights to do so.

If they are going to teach publicly and charge money for what they are teaching then it is a different matter entirely.

I find it slightly hard to grasp the following scenario and yet in the Chinese internal arts this is often the case:

A teacher has a method and the means to make folks healthy and publicly offers classes.

The students know or feel that the teacher has the info and they want to be healthy and want to have the health benefits the teacher has.

They pay the teacher good money (and often a lot of it) to learn how. But, the teacher is not teaching them the real way to be healthy?!?!????

The same goes for self protection skills!

In the modern day, I am completely against this policy of secrecy for a number of reasons including what I consider the unethical circumstance I detailed in the last paragraph.

One of the biggest complaints that I have against this policy is that it has caused the quality of these arts to be greatly diminished almost to the point of causing them to flat out disappear.

Really high quality practitioners of these arts are hard to find.

The first and foremost thing I dislike about this deception & abuse of power (from teachers who really do have the goods) regarding secrecy is the situation where a teacher has a few folks who get the real thing and everyone else gets crap.

The thing that I really don’t like about it is when high level teachers (who have the goods) do this and then charge for the crap as if the student is getting the goods. This IMHO amounts to fraud!

Also, today, there are a lot of folks who are masquerading as the real thing when they are not. This includes but is not limited to folks who have a “few” higher level things right but who are missing many of the other skills relative to the art they claim to teach. This culture of high level teachers hiding information while charging for it and teaching crap instead creates the environment where folks who do not really have the skills can “also” rip off the public.

In any other buyer / seller situation fraud can be criminally actionable and is certainly subject to civil action. (By the way, I am not an attorney and nothing I write here should be construed as legal advice).

There are a number of simple solutions to the problem.

First and foremost, teach the real thing that works.

Most of the skills in these arts take a lot of time and effort to train and develop. They are not quickly or easily attained.

Even when teaching folks correctly only a handful will get to the real intermediate or advanced material because most folks simply won’t put in the time and work required.

Another way to do this is for potential students to take some responsibility. Vet the teacher thoroughly.

1. Do they have something of value to teach you?

2. Will make you noticeably healthier, stronger, better able to defend yourself and will work for you in old age as well or better than you can now?

3. Can the teacher do something that you would like to be able to do?

– Ask them how long and how much time it will take for you to be able to perform the skill. The best answer will tell you how long on average it takes for a student of theirs to learn it and specifically how much it will cost you to learn it. If it is a skill that is gained over a long time of training then ask for benchmarks that you can use to really gauge progress.

If the teacher is vague or evasive with their answers or simply seems completely unable or unwilling to answer the questions then BEWARE!

Pay close attention so that you can reasonably pick up the difference between con-man tactics and someone who simply has not considered teaching their art with these benchmarks in mind. Remember that it is them who are selling and you who “MAY or MAY NOT” be buying.

4. Does the average student that has been with them for 6 months to a couple of years have some ability with these skills that makes it obvious that the skills are actually being taught?

– Ask to visit a class and speak with students who have been attending for 6 months to 2 years. Talking to folks who are indoor disciples doesn’t cut it because they may be getting the goods but it is not guarantee that you ever will.

5. If and when appropriate and if it is a skill that pertains to body quality or self defense ask to try out a class and feel / experience the teacher or one or more of his senior students. IMHO, you should really feel & experience the teacher or senior students of theirs if they are making some fairly lofty claims and you cannot figure out from looking if they are skilled enough to really increase your current abilities.

Of course it’s hard to go check someone out first hand and feel what they have when you live halfway across the country or on the other side of the world.

That’s what’s so great about todays world of Youtube and DVDs.

You can check someone out on Youtube, you can try some of their DVDs. Sometimes you can even chat with them by email.

It makes it much easier to get a feel for what a teacher has and will teach before you put in all the time, effort and money to work with them live.

If you’re curious about what you can learn from me, go check out the Internal Combat Arts Course:

You’ll learn a bunch of fun stuff and it will give you a really good idea of whether our programs our a good fit for you.

Best Wishes,
Richard Clear