Studying martial arts in asia

Tim's Discussion Board: Martial Arts - Miscellaneous: Studying martial arts in asia
   By jason michael on Friday, January 24, 2003 - 07:48 pm: Edit Post

My question goes out to all the discussionists. I am planning a trip soon to the Northern China Shaolin martial arts academy. I'll be staying there for a while ( 5 months most likely) I listed this question in another part of the discussion area only to receive advice to "stay home, you'll just get ripped off" I don't really need to hear that again. I was originally inspired to ask for advice here b/c I thought that Tim Cartmell had travelled to Asia after studying for a very long time here, and it seems to have served him well. My questions is this- Anyone who has travelled to China/Taiwan, what ca I expect culturally, of my teachers, other people, what should i pack... just general advice on how to make the most of my trip. If anyone has specific info about the school described at please let me know. And in the future, i think I'd like to go again. How do you find qualifeid teachers of Ba Gua and other internal arts over there?

   By Mark Hatfield on Saturday, January 25, 2003 - 12:38 am: Edit Post

This does not apply directly your question but in general for your interactions. Asians in general don't want to be the bearers of bad news. You're supposed to be in sync with folks such that you will understand some things without them having to be said. They particulary don't want to have to say negative comments out loud. For example, silence in response to a question, is a polite way of saying no, and or avoiding having to make any other comments you may not wish to hear. This is a way to allow you to save face and not make them uncomfortable. We do that some over here, but Asians are stricter about it.

Don't talk business/negociations with someone on the first meeting. Always have a least one casual getting to know each other meeting (two is better) before attempting to get down to business.

Some people accustomed to Americans will do what seems opposite to #1. They will seem to tell you what ever they think you want to hear. They are not necessarily lying or condesending but trying to be polite and help you to save face.

If jogging or working out in public, do not strip to the waist, some consider the naked male upper body to be inappropriate to display in public and may even be illegal.

Do not eat in public unless at a restaurant, noodle shop, vendor, etc. Do not walk down the street eating.

Public urination may be seen but is not necessarily appropriate for you to do. Some showers may even be open air as in an alley, but there may be 'understandings' about how and by whom they are used.

Cultivate politeness, attempt to learn local ediquite.(sp?) Be particulary respectful to older persons, teachers, or religious personel.

The image of strong but humble will go a long way and be respected.

Do not sit if elders or hosts are standing. When sitting on the floor, do not lean against the wall unless the elders/host does first.

Do not expect much eye contact, especially from women. This is not evasiveness, but politeness.

Asians are often very frugal. A Korean business owner once commented that Americans will go out frequently but spend little each time, the Korean man will splurge wildly when he goes out, but will only rarely go out. On the other hand, the Japanese 'corporate man' may get blasted with his boss every night.

Except for the newest generation, many asians still have very strong work ethics, and may persue their hobbies just as hard. You must work at yours just as hard for them to take you seriously.

Always have a packet of tissues with you for toilet paper. Never expect to find paper at any toilet.

Americans learn to say Hello, Goodbye, and some will learn how to order a beer or argue price with a hooker. You must learn how to ask where is a toilet. Important that you try to learn the language to what extent that you can, they will respect that and try to assist you. It shows that your are serious. When I talked to business owners in Korea I would write my notes in Korean characters. That would really blow their minds and especially as they knew I was not a trained translator but self taught.

Some Asians get along easily with Americans because they have low expectations of us. They really don't expect 'civilized' behavior or hard work from us. 'Walk the walk' and show that you are worthy of them bothering to deal with you. It is the same as they do with each other.

One last note: be careful not to 'go native' as the British used to say. When in doubt never compromise your values, religion any attempt to fit in to the different culture (this is not the same as recognising differences or being flexible) They will respect strength of caracter (sp?).

   By jasonmichael on Saturday, January 25, 2003 - 11:59 am: Edit Post

Thanks Mark, I appreciate the input!

   By jasonmichael on Saturday, January 25, 2003 - 12:02 pm: Edit Post

Thanks Mark, I appreciate the input!

   By Mark Hatfield on Monday, January 27, 2003 - 12:03 am: Edit Post


A few more as memory serves:

Learn to use chop sticks before you leave here.

When sitting on the floor do not allow the soles of your feet to point at anyone. Basically, sit cross legged in most places, or legs under if in Japan. If possible, try to avoid sitting with your legs straight out in front of you.

In the public bath houses, you do not go into the bath until after you are clean. Scrub down at a shower, or as most of them do, sit by the water, use a bowl (provided) to douse yourself with water, scrub and rinse. Don't put your head under water, all kinds of nasty things grow there.

Note: Koreans don't directly drink tap or well water, traditionally they will make a weak tea which they refer to as 'water'. This way they drink only boiled water, a good practice in many places.

Don't expect to find chairs except in restaurants or other public places, many traditional homes have none. Wear nothing which bears writing or symbols you can't read or hadn't been given by a trusted source.

In Korea, sometimes during handshakes a person would stroke the palm of my hand with a finger. I was later told that was a sign that they really liked you. I did it a few times. Later I was told that it was a homosexual pick up sign. Other people whom I asked about this never heard of any such thing. Be careful of adopting practices.

When in doubt, be formal. One young marine translator in Korea on his first deployment was puzzled when often complemented on how well he spoke as he knew how rough his language skill was. Someone finally explained to him that while his skill was only fair, his speaking style was formal and they thought highly of that.

Be careful about using humor. Others may easily misunderstand. Any type of self depreciating or clown like humor can cause you to be viewed as in a lower social class. They are very much aware of social class levels.

Your instructors or hosts will feel loss of face or embarrasment because of you if you visit the wrong places or consort with the wrong people. Example, if you feel like going out to a 'beer hall', ask first how they feel about that, also if there any better ones or ones to avoid. Same thing applies to brothels.

Note that in to many asian countries while they are used to doing business with us, there can still be a persistant feeling that only the scum would socialize with americans, (prostitutes, bar owners, and even coffee house waitress'). ('Might have to work with them, but would you want your daughter/sister to marry one?') On the flip side, in some circles, it may be a status raiser among their friends if seen with someone from another country.

Have fun.

   By Brian Kennedy on Wednesday, January 29, 2003 - 04:33 pm: Edit Post

Come to Taiwan. Our economy has not been so good the past few years, we could use the hard currency. As for finding an instructor, when you get here look in any of the local martial arts magazines (this advice is true for the PRC too). Look for big ads. The bigger the ad the deeper the Master's knowledge. That is always true.

I made a News Years Resolution that since most of my good advice is routinely ignored (both martial arts and criminal justice advice), I will just give bad advice. I want to see what happens.

Take care.

   By Jeff on Friday, January 31, 2003 - 11:13 pm: Edit Post

The best advice I ever got was:

Dont take too much advice. There is nothing more specifically suited to stimulating your own personal individual learning, growth and development than making your own personal individual mistakes.

Here is wishing you all an abundance of profound mistakes in the new year!

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