Going Back to School
by Dr. Neil McRitchie B.Sc, D.C.
So here it was, May 2004. It?s 1 week before GM?s arrival and we are
frantically preparing for his visit . Our students had been versed on
etiquette and proper protocol for several months now. The exhibition and the
seminars had been organized to what we thought was the most minute details.
Sightseeing, shopping and even a 2-day getaway to a remote lake cabin was
arranged for this annual visit by Grandmaster. We were ready!
There was only one thing we could not prepare for, and that was the horrible snow storm that landed in Winnipeg only 3 days before his expected arrival. This was followed by 90 cm. of rainfall during the week of his visit to Winnipeg. (that?s a heck of a lot of water for you non-metric folks) The ditches were a flow, my yard was a vast lake, and ducks had even moved into the marshland of my yard, to roost.
After a lengthy 6 months of cold snow, we were languishing in unusually warm spring weather, so this return of snow and cold rain did not do anything for our spirits. That is until Grandmaster arrived. Although the 90 cm of rain pretty much ruined even our most well thought out plans, we got through it by swapping magic tricks, telling jokes and of course training as often as we possibly could. We will never forget the impromptu push hand class, in our basement at 1 am, with Grandmaster and us in our pajamas.
At our home GM would always have several groups training at once, with each one working on something important. Attention to detail, personal instruction and constructive advise is the hallmark of Grandmasters teaching style. And, no one is ever made to feel left out. He always goes out of his way to encourage the hard working students and inspire them to perfect the CLF and Tai chi arts. This important lesson is always emphasized during and after each teaching session. That was an important teaching principle that I have learned from watching our Grandmaster teach, and I try to emulate his teaching style in my classes also.
One afternoon, while training GM asked me to demonstrate the ?Coiling Dragon 3-Section stick?. After my performance he paused and said ?not bad?.
I blew a sigh of relief, but noted a funny smile on his face.
He said, ?you know that the opposite of not bad, is not good? It is not good.?
He chuckled and said he would give me a grade of Not Bad Plus, as it was better than saying Not Good Minus.
It still makes me laugh when I think about his grading system.
Grandmaster is very good at giving positive criticism in a way that encourages you to try harder without breaking your spirit. He also reminded me daily to challenge myself, and expected a level of commitment towards training that was exemplary. His words carry weight, and deeply affect my sense of self-belief. I have just begun to know Grandmaster on a personal level, and I am thankful that he has shared so much knowledge and wisdom with us in this short period.
In the down times between training sessions, Grandmaster would pull out his trusty compass and begin to rearrange furniture and statues in accordance to Feng Shui principles. This of course amused our cats to no end, and gave Simo and Grandmaster an excuse to go shopping for the proper knick knack to balance the energy of the home. In the final tally, the house felt much warmer and balanced after his much appreciated efforts to harmonize our residence.
It was the other day that I was at my day job, as a Chiropractor and Acupuncturist, and a good patient came to say goodbye to us. He had just been accepted to a prestigious college in the U.S., with full scholarship status. He was elated. This was not just any school. This was Harvard. A chance in a lifetime to attend a prestigious program with the highest level of technical excellence.
We said our goodbyes.
Driving home that night I thought about my friend, and was sad to see him go.
Then all of a sudden I felt total joy.
It was because I realized that I had been, in essence, accepted to Harvard also. To me, the acceptance and training under Grandmaster is the equivalent of being in any college of the highest merit.
The promotional materials of Grandmaster?s school have the following motto: EXPERIENCE, KNOWLEDGE, TRADITION These are powerful words, and not many can claim these traits legitimately. I remind my students daily that we are fortunate, and even a bit lucky, to have someone like Grandmaster to inspire and motivate us along our own personal paths of development.