When the president of the network stood in for the regular host of the monthly program I produce, she asked me how I prepare for it. I told her that I read all the books written by the guest author, jot down the highlights, themes and most significant quotes and give that information to the host.
“What?” she said, giving me a look of incredulity and annoyance. “I don’t need you to do that for me,” she added before telling me I could go. The regular host of the program is my direct superior in the company. In truthfully answering the president’s question, I had essentially told my boss’s boss that I spoon feed him the information needed to conduct a comprehensive interview. I felt guilty.
Some piece of this memory runs through my brain whenever I write about my kung fu life in a critical way. I feel a twinge of guilt when I tell a story that places an instructor in a bad light, especially if it’s Sifu. Before the guilt-inducing day in the office was out, I felt compelled to rehabilitate my boss’s image to the company president. As the person who pushed me to and beyond every physical limit I thought I had, Sifu deserves no less.
And yet, I have no idea how to bolster the impression I’ve left of him without sounding as if I’m covering my ass in the event he reads some of the posts that are less than flattering. Perhaps I should just announce that he has a special talent for tailoring an explanation to the person he’s giving it to, that he determined rather quickly in his teaching career that one way of explaining or demonstrating a move does not, in fact, fit all. This from the man who often preaches uniformity. He talks as if there are unwritten rules that must be followed, but he himself erases the imaginary ink to get a student to the next level.
“You need us to get out of the way?” Sijeh asked me.
“No, no, no!” I said, sneaking a look at Sifu, awaiting admonishment for interrupting his tai chi students. “You guys are in class. I just need a smidgen of space.” I said quietly.
“Everybody move down!” Sifu shouted to the class, and everyone shifted several feet toward the front door, leaving a large swath of space for me to practice sweeps. I hadn’t even known that Sifu could hear me, so I certainly didn’t expect him to interrupt the class he was teaching to make room for my self-training. It seems like such a small thing, but not when both space and time are a premium.
It’s a good beginning to a complete description of the man. An appropriate place to start. I’m not going to sanitize my experience in kung fu for the once-in-a-blue-moon days that fellow students and instructors may read what I have to say about life in our little family. But I must remember balance. Give credit along with criticism. It’s the least I can do for what I’ve been given. Sifu deserves no less.