One of the things that I appreciate most about Tang Wei is the emphasis that all students and instructors remain in a humble perspective regardless of how much success is achieved, how many years of training, or what ranking an instructor holds. The mindset of “I am safe because…I have a black belt, or I have won a match or fight, or because I have trained in the best system, etc.” is always discouraged and warned against.
Instead the advocacy is to recognize yours and your opponent’s inherent vulnerability as human beings with bodies that can be made to bleed, feel pain and ultimately receive injury and potentially die. As one recognizes and acknowledges this vulnerability, then one recognizes that the name of the game in combat is: who can get to who’s vulnerability first?
Realizing this truth, the focus is to learn effective methods of engaging strategically, tactically neutralizing and finishing the fight and then to produce better fighting mindsets and fighting habits which can increase your chances of survival in a real combative encounter. This leads to the advocacy of the “I am in danger unless I adapt appropriately” mindset.
A quote that we often advocate is that calm is more important than confidence. This is because confidence is a belief in oneself based upon past accomplishments rather than the calm focus upon present tense threats and responding to them in the here and now. Notions of being superior because of training, because of ranking or past fighting successes are catastrophic because they often trick you into thinking that the opponent you are facing in the here and now will care. This thinking often will lead into a false confidence where one is acting as if credentials and resume will win a fight for you.
Calm focus on the threat in front of you with total determination to prevail by using the most effective fighting habits that you have is all you can do. This is the difference in my opinion between a guru and a professional martial arts instructor. Guru is a label that I use for those that have been in the martial arts long enough to develop a following and then at some point come to believe that they are beyond the reach of losing in a combative encounter.
The professional instructor is very respectful of others, even beginners and they always seem somewhat cautious and weary about fighting. You find professionalism in place of ego and you don’t find them entertaining nor asserting nor implying the notion that they are beyond losing, but rather you see them working to reduce vulnerability by developing effective habits of adaptation. You also hear them advocating that these skills are perishable and see them working personally to avoid their own skill deterioration.
The professional instructor, shares skills but never loses respect for the severity and uncertainty for the real fighting situation where any man can beat any man on any day. Ultimately the “good guy” doesn’t always win. Sun Zi in his book the Art of War eludes to a thesis similar to one advocated in the Bible where “pride cometh before the fall”. He states that invincibility can be found in oneself by becoming extremely competent, but vulnerability has to come in the opponent, this vulnerability cannot be manufactured, thus victory can be discerned but not manufactured.
Implied in these quotes is a thesis developed through the 500 years of the warring states period in China that it is the ambition and the imbalance of the enemy inherent in unreasonable aggression that manufactures vulnerability which can be taken advantage of by those who meet aggression with preparation. This basic perspective asserted by Sun Zi which we call Power through Humility is a major principle in Tang Wei.