Wise Words From the Shaolin Temple

Art of Shaolin Kung Fu © by kevinpoh

“To become a master you have to master the basics”

I have made it a habit, or routine, to listen to YouTube seminars while riding my bike every day. My bike is the best mean of transportation I could ever think of. I never get stuck in traffic and I am not dependent on buses or other kinds of public transportation. My bike is the ultimate mean of transportation because it makes me feel free.

I travel between 10 and 30 km every day on my bike and yesterday I had a 20 minutes ride; just enough to listen to some wise words of the Shaolin monks. There was a story about a monk wanting to teach how to throw a punch. The student had a lot of experience in martial arts and was interested in the advanced stuff of the Shaolin monks.

The teaching of the Shaolin monk was that knowing how to do advanced stuff does not make you a master. You become a master by mastering the basics. I have practiced taekwondo for almost 20 years; I stopped practicing a couple of years ago. I did not find the joy in practicing as I used to do; I did not feel challenged. It was great physical exercise and it felt good being able to do things that few can do, but after a while I wanted to do more than that. But there were not anymore techniques to learn. For about 12 years I instructed beginners in the basics of taekwondo and I found it very rewarding. By teaching others I learned much more myself.

Today I practice swimming and the first three years of swimming I felt an enormous progress, but now I am stagnating. For a while I have been thinking if I should become a swimming instructor? On the side I experienced with rowing and I became quite good at it and I also became a rowing instructor. I have proved several times that I am good at sports, but I am not a master although I can do a lot of the advanced stuff.

In taekwondo my greatest success was doing the side kick; it became good and powerful and it still is. For me it was one of the most difficult techniques to do and I decided to become good at it. Four to five times a week I practiced the side kick in slow-motion; I did hundreds of repetitions for a whole year and I finally got good at it.

I used the power of habits to learn every single movement of the leg to perform a side kick. That is the closest I ever got to master the basics in taekwondo although I was generally good at it. The words of the Shaolin monk made me think about this. He made me think about my life in general.

I think a lot of people want to be experts and masters at something and the practice hard and they learn a lot of techniques in whatever they are doing, but they never become experts; they never become masters. I think that the true masters of a discipline are not trying to become masters. They are studying every aspect of the basics; they have done an in depth research and they now everything that you can possibly know about the basics.

By mastering the basics of your life you have an excellent foundation to perform the advanced stuff upon. By mastering the basics using good habits you can become the master of your life and the master of your destiny.

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