Thursday, 16 April 2009

One Class At A Time

So it's official. I've started the black sash training. Somehow, I feel like I'm learning less than I did in the basic training classes. It took me a while to figure this out, but I think it's because I know how much more is available to me, now--and how little of it I actually have time to experience.

It's like living in a town with a small, one-storey library with enough books on the shelves to keep me busy for a long time, but not so many I couldn't read them all in a lifetime, then discovering a big-city library the size of a mall, one town over. It's overwhelming. I still have the same interest and I'm still going to the library just as often, but there's no way on Earth I'll ever be able to read all of those books with an every-other-weekend visit.

It's another mental hurdle. Well, there have been others. And there will be others again. One class at a time, right?

Quite honestly, it feels good to hold the big-city library card in my hand.

The best part is that I've started to deepen some of my friendships with the more advanced students, or Si-Hings. It's as if joining the program shows you're serious and you intend to stick around, so people are more inclined to take the time and get to know you. It's like any other milestone in life, I suppose. Welcome to the Married People's Club or, Congratulations--you're in the Mommies Clique! Thankfully, this school isn't that obvious or obnoxious about it. But still, the feeling is there.

When Si-Fu invited his students to join him at an inspirational stage performance, recently, of course I said, "Yes." I had hoped there would be time after the performance for some conversation--I'd like to get to know Si-Fu a little bit as a person the way I've gotten to know my basic training instructor. Call me silly, but I find myself more motivated to learn when I like the person I'm learning from. A college instructor, myself, I've found that when my students enjoy the lectures (and the person giving them), they come to class more motivated and ultimately retain the information better. I wish I knew a specialist who could explain that to me, but there's probably some chemical reason for it. Whatever. It works.

Unfortunately, I have yet to talk to Si-Fu one-on-one for more than 60 seconds. It's frustrating that he's so aloof and I've taken to wondering more than once if it's something about me that's kept him at bay. Without a channel of communication, I can't know for sure.

Instead, I've found myself turning to the other senior students for companionship and guidance (not for training, mind you--that's the job of the instructors). I've been a shoulder to cry on, a networking contact, a counselor, a friend. And they've been many of the same things for me. It feels good to be connected.

After that stage performance, I had one of the best conversations yet with a hard-working student who's been kind to me from the very first weeks of my classes. I discovered that she and I came to this discipline for many of the same reasons, and stayed at this particular school because we both felt an indescribable calling. And the more I connected with her, the more I felt inclined to stick it out and stay in the program, despite the hardships of long-distance, cost, and my own mental machinations.

I tell my Geography students that the best ways to survive a college course are to 1) get the instructor's attention so he or she ends up teaching to your abilities and interests, 2) make a friend so you can encourage (or shame) one another into making it to class and you can study together, and 3) just get in the door--because being there is half the battle. So far, I think I've done those things, though I'm still working on #1 with Si-Fu.

Now is the time, he says.

Yep, Si-Fu. Right now. So notice me, already.

Oh I forgot one very important college survival technique: study your notes when you get home. I keep forgetting that one. So, if you'll excuse me, I've got homework to do.

One pak-sao, one roll-punch, one day at a time.