Saturday, January 4, 2014

A New Apprenticeship

"Each age tends to create a model of apprenticeship that is suited to the system of production that prevails at the time."
-Robert Greene

Reading the book Mastery by Robert Greene I am struck with how perfect was the apprenticeship I received under Master T.T. Liang. His advice of "learn from many teachers, read many books but only by constant practice can you discover the truth for yourself" is a timeless theorem for the path to mastery. 

With the advent of the "information era" and social media, plus access to more information and knowledge than we could ever process in anyone lifetime, we still must follow the correct path to mastery which includes an apprenticeship. Here you must learn as much as you can. When you have some experience and competence, you become a journeyman or a fellow of the craft, and it is from there that you graduate to become a master. Modern Freemasonry uses these three steps to gaining self-knowledge. Ancient chivalric code required you start as a page, advance to become a squire, and the be acknowledged as a master by becoming a knight.


Even just a few generations before Master Liang's it was rare for a student to get their hands on any kind of written materials on T'ai-Chi, Ch'i-Kung, or meditation arts. Not only did Master Liang study with many teachers, he had an extensive library and collection of books. 

He also took numerous photographs and 8mm movies. Sometimes he would come to class with a China Airlines satchel which was full of books and papers and we would begin class with him reading and discussing what we were going to practice or learn. As a special treat sometimes he would come in the door with a movie screen and projector under his arms and he would show us movies of his teachers and give us commentary and  descriptions of what we were watching. Indeed I not only learned how to observe but how to learn from movies and photographs.YouTube is a great way to see many of the older generation of Masters in action. 

If a picture is worth 1000 words, then a movie is worth 10,000 words, but a feeling is worth 1 million words!

Not only was I exposed to many different arts but I was given insight into teaching and learning. I also watched how Master Liang adapted ancient principles to an ever-changing modern world without losing the essential and invaluable theories and principles. He introduced exact counts and music to help students with the rhythm and flow of the movements.

A classical education does not mean learning old-fashioned methods. It means learning time-tested lessons and values. Seminars, workshops, weekend retreats etc. are all part of the learning process. They cannot, however, replace regular instruction and guidance under a mentor or master who unlocks for you the secrets of your own learning style. Master Liang's teacher, Prof. Cheng Man-Ch'ing took four years to shorten the 150 posture long form into a more easier version for learning, his 37 posture short form masterpiece. Master Liang saw the professor revise this form 11 times during his own 20 year association with his teacher.

Our challenge today as teachers, and students, is to learn how to take what is good and discard what is bad. To learn by imitation, understand by assimilation, and master by innovation.

I would suggest two books;

Mastery by George Leonard

Mastery by Robert Greene

1 comment:

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