Someone asked why no answers are provided in The Ip Man Koans.
Well, koans are meant to make you think, sort of like making you think about the process of fishing instead of fishing for you or just handing you a fish.
Some teachers will teach you how to fish but I believe the learning process should start by understanding how to fish. Otherwise, you can keep casting the line but you end up with catching nothing or a poor catch.
This reminds me of the Artisans Reboot episode on the temple sculptor. The master sculptor asked the student to make one of the elephant’s ears. After watching the student’s attempt, the master commented that he asked the student to make an elephant ear but instead he made a human ear. This was followed by the master emphasizing the importance of observation and thinking as part of the learning process.
So similarly, in the learning of Wing Chun I find that sometimes students over-emphasize lineage over learning, more so given the popularity of the Ip Man movies. Now the thing is this – if one is learning Wing Chun that is really descended from Ip Man one should have no problem answering the three koans posed in The Ip Man Koans.
But I suspect the reality would be most readers who practice Wing Chun would have a problem answering the three koans much less giving a demonstration to show that they really do know what the koans are about.
Those who have problem answering the three koans will have all sorts of excuses as to why they can’t give satisfactory answers, not that it matters as long as they are happy with what they are learning. However, I wasn’t at one time and the three koans proved useful to help me arrive at the answers I was looking for.
Even today, a lot of practitioners in Hong Kong would have problem answering the koans given that certain information relating to Ip Man’s personal skills of using the kicks in Wing Chun are hardly known there and when it is made known, it is rejected because it did not conform to what the majority of practitioners are practicing and I guess they would rather not know if there is even a remote chance that such information would overturn their existing model. Case of Gresham’s Law.
As such, rather than beat readers over the head with information and claims from a particular lineage it is my contention that it is better for the truly serious practitioner to reason out for himself and carry out his own self-examination as to whether such information is really something he wants to know, the devil be damned whatever the impact or consequences this will have on their existing practice.
So that’s it. The three koans are for you to mull over. That’s why its called The Ip Man Koans. Have fun tearing your hair out trying to figure it out.