What it means to be a Black Belt Assistant Instructor

Ever since the day I got my black belt, I knew how much responsibility it would be to teach. When I got my black belt I knew that I wasn’t done learning. There were still forms to be learned and I must learn from teaching other students. Teaching a whole entire class and controlling it seemed impossible at that time. That meant I still had a lot to learn from teaching. Just because I am black belt, doesn’t mean that I am done with Wu Tang.

I have met lots of students and taught from children to adults. I had a different experience with each and every student met from their personality. In middle of teaching, one thing I realized was that as a student you can’t just learn and do forms. You have to put your heart into the form. If you don’t have any confidence in learning and you don’t put your time in it, then you won’t gain anything out of learning. Ways to get students to learn is by motivation and making it fun for them. You should use games to make it an enjoyable time their, but don’t play around in games for to long because that’s the only thing they would be thinking about and the time would be wasted. That’s why after letting them work hard I would let them play a game as if it was a reward for working.

Sometimes it can be tough to control a class. In order for me to maintain discipline, the key is to keep the class controlled before it gets too loud and wild. No screaming/yelling and running– anything above a certain point– I don’t tolerate because someone always ends up hurt and crying. Another thing I learned, is that if the student doesn’t respect you, then you can’t control him/her. You have to show your reputation the fact that you are the teacher. Your reputation doesn’t come from yelling and punishment. It comes from the learning process where you bond with the students. That’s how I made my reputation as a teacher. I maintained my discipline ever since I was a brown belt, because my instructors always reminded me to keep my discipline and to not fool around. They told me that because I was starting to teach students, I should keep my discipline and to be a good role model for the students. That’s why I tell the higher belt students to maintain their discipline, because I want them to get into a habit.

Not all students learn the same way or at the same pace. Some students can learn and coordinate very quickly; some other students need more attention to understand a move. When I teach a part of a form, I first show them that part 3 times, and then I would ask them if they want to review or if they get it. If they get it then I would ask them to show it to me and I would check it. If they still don’t get it I would show it 3 more times slower and I would repeat the process until they get it. 1 year after I got my black belt, the problem I had the most in teaching was patience. Getting frustrated over teaching wasn’t going to help the process. I learned to respect the student for the way they learn. Sometimes the reason they can’t learn quickly is because their memory isn’t good. A way I don’t get frustrated when I teach a student is by thinking as if I was in the student’s position.

Even though now I’m mostly teaching, I am still learning a lot. I learned to communicate and understand students’ feelings. I learned ways to keep them motivated and ways to grasp their attention. Now teaching a whole entire class seems like a simple task because I learned to control students. I have a greater responsibility now and I go and help out classes every week. Becoming a black belt gave me the learning experience that I am using every time I’m in Wu Tang.

Black Belt Instructor Sean Zhou (age 13)

The Wu Tang Experience

It definitely doesn’t exist within my belief system to believe in coincidence or chance, but ever since I stepped into the doors of the Wu-Tang school, I knew I belonged here.
I have always been someone who has been fascinated by the world of martial arts, but my experience has showed me that in this great world, kung fu is like the core. The earth derives all of its power and energy from its core, and without it, not much is possible. From me seeing many different types of martial arts, its quite clear to see that Kung Fu martial arts, its quite clear to see that kung fu started it all. From the Wu-Tang system of basic movements to our many forms – every single step, every movement, and even every breath has its purpose.
I must be totally honest though… I never imagined myself coming this far. To say that kung fu isn’t simple is an understatement. I had such a difficult time simply learning the basic movements, and especially my first form (tan tuei). There were so many awkward positions and movements; I thought to myself, “how is this stuff ever going to be useful?” I also thought to myself, “You should just do something easy like karate or tae-kwon do.” However, after plenty of frustration, I began to realize that kung fu is a very sophisticated and intellectual way of self-defense, and likewise, it requires the practitioner to be sophisticated and intellectual.
One of the biggest challenges when I first started was the transition form a body-builder to a kung fu practitioner. So everything that I did was so rigid and tight. I had the mentality that great power came from big muscles and tensing up. I eventually realized that true power comes more from a natural flow, quite similar to the awesome power of the ocean. As Bruce Lee once would say “be like water.” After embracing this philosophy, which now seems to be logical thought, I’m a completely different martial artist. The way that I move now, the way that I practice, and fight – it’s all with power, as well as finesse.
I must say, I am extremely proud of my progress. I can remember the very first day that I started, and I have now been promoted to red belt. This is a major accomplishment for me, and I take tremendous pride in wearing my new belt. This belt not only shows my rank and skill, but this belt also represents out Wu-Tang system—which in my opinion was brilliantly put together. Not only that, my belt also represents our Grandmaster, our master—Marlon Ma, all of my Kung Fu brothers and sisters, and of course, my sifu—David Chiang. Words honestly couldn’t express the high level of gratitude, respect and admiration that I have for him, which is why whenever I salute him, shake his hand or even say hello or thank you – I sincerely mean it from the heart. Sifu David has taught me more in 1 ½ to 2 years that I’ve been at Wu-Tang than any other teacher I’ve had in all my years of schooling. You see, there’s knowledge and then there’s knowledge that is useful and can be applied to life.
I plan to keep on striving to be the best I can possibly be. Wu-Tang Kung Fu is not only the way to defeat my enemy, but for me, this is the way to master our biggest opponent—ourselves.

Student, Keith G. Owens
Red Belt, Spring Test, 2007

How Kung Fu Changed My Life (part 1)

Freshman year at Stuyvesant H.S. was hard. Besides trying to keep up with my studies, I had to make it through daily bullying by my schoolmates and upperclassmen. I was picked on because I did not belong to their social group. Also, I was not strong so I did not fight back, which made me a target. The summer after my freshman year was when I would begin my life as a martial artist.
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What is Foundation?

When I think of a foundation, I imagine anything that gives something the ability to become what it will ultimately become; In other words, if I am going to run 5 miles I need the ground below me to do so. A person can go even deeper into this idea if they would like, if you think about the world on a subatomic level, or even on a biochemical level; in laymen’s terms, there is a foundation for every step of way, a science behind everything.
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5 Things I Learned from Teaching

Right now, I have been teaching for almost 2 years and I learned a lot about teaching. When you teach someone a form, you’re not only helping them but you’re helping yourself by remembering a form you did (doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice). Say if a new student comes to Wu Tang, the higher level students can review from teaching them Tan Tuei 1-6 and then 7-12. When you review with the students you could also find mistakes so that’s another way of learning.
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Ma Bu and Ma Bu Stance

by Peter Casini, based on the teachings of Master Marlon Ma

It is amazing how much is written about Tai Chi and Tai Chi practice and yet very little is mentioned about Ma Bu. For those practicing Tai Chi or any form of Chinese Martial Art (CMA) they know what is Ma Bu. They know for example that the Ma Bu stance is essential to develop leg strength. Using the correct posture and position will also generate inner body heat and better circulation.

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Second Annual Trip to China’s San Dong Province for Traditional Martial Arts (Kung Fu) in 1999

by Peter Casini

Nowadays we often see people demonstrating the Wu Su style and it looks very impressive; however, this style has strayed from the roots of traditional Chinese martial arts. This trip is a wonderful opportunity to go to China and see authentic traditional Kung Fu at the Annual Martial arts Festival of San Dong Province. There, you will be able to attend seminars given by true masters. You will also have a chance to see martial artists from all over the world.

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