Before I signed up, Master Warren sat with me for more than one hour. He began by listening to my story – my past martial arts experience, my hopes and expectations, and my specific challenges. Of course, he explained the (very interesting) history of Shaolin and Tai Chi but ALSO tailored the conversation to ME. For example, what makes Shaolin and Tai Chi different from my previous experience (which happens to be Tae Kwon Do)? What are some of the tendencies I would begin to adjust to in order to internalize the new teachings? What breathing and mindset could I work to adopt to have a better sense of mind-body connection (an area of growth for me)?
It was clear that he cared about me and my journey and would do whatever he could to help me grow.
The next thing that became clear was that every single student / practitioner I met had the same attitude. For context, this was important to me because, as a fairly heavyset guy in his late-40’s, I was concerned about by ability to “keep up” with the class and about sustaining injuries. My experience so far is that neither concept makes sense in the context of Master Warren’s classes. What actually happens is: I learn the specific techniques being taught. I practice them to the level of my ability. I improve at my own pace. I make mistakes and am reminded that this is a process and that we learn as much (or more) from mistakes as from successes. Keeping up and comparisons between students aren’t part of the curriculum. I look forward to having more experience so I can offer the same support to others who decide to walk this path.
SOME PERSONAL OBSERATIONS AND EXPERIENCES
Have you ever had the experience of going to a different country for the first time and spending the first week or so noticing all of the differences and then following that with the experience of not noticing them at all after a week or so? Here is a set of bullet points with random observations:
– I like that the curtains are closed. It keeps practice focused and feels “safe” for some reason.
– Weapons are part of the teachings at higher levels (I’m happy about that)
– It does NOT have the feel of a “belt-farm”. I have a sheet of paper with everything I need to learn and have competency in for the next belt. Master Warren and I work on that list, which is the same for all students at a given level. When he feels I am ready, he let’s me know and we work toward a testing date. It’s hard to overstate how important this is to me personally. This is a journey that he is guiding me on, not a trail he is pushing me down.
– The initial self defense teachings are practical and useful.
– The idea of practicing the techniques one-after-the-other while constantly changing directions to face a different direction was pretty revolutionary to me. It helps me learn to adapt to any situation at any time rather than to face a mirror and work to perfect my technique only to find that I have a hard time implementing that technique in sparring.
– Taking Shaolin (Kung Fu) and Tai Chi at the same time is REALLY helpful to me. They seem to compliment each other and I just feel good after a I walk out of classes.
Thank you Master Warren.” — Jason