I have to thank my early Wing Chun training for teaching me to recognize cult-like behaviour. In fact, some used to jokingly call the headmaster of the school the cultmaster.
In many ways, the dynamics are reminiscent of a cult. First they regale you with tales of how fantastic WC is followed by stories of the greatness of the lineage.
If you are still not convinced you get a lecture on the logic of their system and how effective it is. They may ask you questions on how you would handle certain situations. Inevitably, whatever answers you give they will all be wrong.
However, they will not denigrate you. In fact, they will seem to treat you with respect. When you hem and haw, not being able to give answers that they say are wrong or not workable, not effective, blah blah, then they will give you a demo, get you to square up, frozen on the spot like a dummy, asked to throw a punch which the instructor seemingly and magically can block so easily and send you reeling off balance, followed by frightening flying fists coming at you, threatening to make you a patient of Dr Woffles Wu, our famous plastic surgeon.
After the talks and demo has lowered your self-esteem and caught you in a state of demoralization then you are invited, nay cajoled, persuaded strongly to join the cult, I mean the class. You fork out the money and happily ever after, right?
Well, if you allow yourself to be brainwashed, become part of the clique, don’t ask embarrassing questions and just go along with the flow then you will just fine. You may even be promoted to lead a sub-group of your own.
Another Wacky Cult – this was the reaction I used to get when confronted by members of schools that argue that they are right even when they are clearly in the wrong. This is not just the behaviour of students but sometimes also of the masters. I remember one local Taiji master who at one time pushed hands with my teacher. It was evident that he was not as good as he claimed to be as he struggled with being off balance and to regain his centering when my teacher effortlessly got him with the first movement of the Fast Form. Yet, after that he still talked as if his style was superior and he was oh so great. It would not have been so bad if it was just between the two of them but there were 3 witnesses to the encounter. Classic case of self deception if ever I saw one.
My friend who was learning from him soon left. My friend was from Hong Kong and they are very practical people who can recognize when things aren’t what they are and its pointless to stay on.
Fortunately, as the years go by I had the chance to learn from some people who are pretty down to earth, who don’t just ask me to go see a medical doctor or researcher when they want to prove to me that their system is good. They don’t ask hypothetical questions either or boast about how powerful and nasty their techniques are. Great masters are normally quietly confident, logical and would be more than happy to show you how gentle they can be on the one hand yet explosively violent when called on.
This post is inspired by these unsolicited emails that Articient has been sending me. Thanks for the inspiration to visit the past and have something to write about for the benefit of those who don’t know how to think for themselves or lack the experience to see beyond tautological claims.