For studying the Ving Tsun system, Grandmaster Moy Tung’s top recommendation is to pay attention.

Focused attention. The kind of attention that is warranted when dealing with heavy weaponry. At a gun range, the fooling around and distractions are very limited, and with good reason. In the study of martial arts, it is important to remember that it is by nature an intensive study of power.

The term “martial” refers to military action; the term “art” refers to highly focused and highly evolved attention to detail and to excellence – and to putting one’s heart into that artistic endeavor. To say that something has been “raised to an art form” is to say that it’s not just a casual way to pass the time, but a life’s worth of passionate work.

Still, as with other forms of art, it is of course no problem to undertake the study of martial arts on a relatively casual basis. Taking a class in painting or sculpture without making a lifestyle out of it is no problem, and so it is in our classes. Every student is addressed at his or her own level of study.

The point is simply the importance of maintaining respect for the inherent seriousness of martial arts study, and the development of martial arts skill. Making sure to allow this focus its rightful place in the class. Avoiding any type of behavior that could interfere with the necessary focus, be it of the class as a whole or the individual student.

There’s a unique type of challenge in this, since martial arts is inherently physical in nature. Unlike elementary school, paying attention in this context doesn’t often refer to simply sitting down and being quiet.

Instead, it means being willing and able to pay attention to what your whole body is doing. In the process, one begins to recognize for oneself how the various limbs interact with one another to produce a given result, and of course how the mind interacts with the body in and alongside that process. Offering your focus to the instructor, working with what is being pointed out, and actively integrating that information into the action being practiced as clearly as possible at one’s own individual stage of study.

Because of this need for adequate focus to allow the study to integrate at highest capacity, it is not recommended that students make any effort to cultivate relationships in or through the school other than the established type between Sifu and student.

Energy and attention given to relationships aside from the relationship to the kung fu necessarily detracts from one’s ability to absorb the martial arts information. Concern about personal image during training can be one of the most difficult types of distraction to overcome in studying physical techniques, and that concern is magnified significantly when interpersonal relations become involved.

The system itself has many provisions for how those who train together should interact for optimal performance in the system. This may seem off the track of what it means to simply attend a class. However, the physical contact of the various two-person exercises as well as the interactions between older and younger members of the training group has been closely examined over time, and preferred modes of behavior put in place to shore up the basic challenges of living – and studying – among other human beings.

Anyone can learn to fight. How effective that is for the individual martial arts student depends on a series of factors, from what system is being studied to how much time and attention and energy goes into that study.

One major advantage of the Ving Tsun system is that it was made to be effective in the hands of a Han Chinese woman, who was likely neither large nor heavily muscled. So effective that she could use it against a warlord, who had been fighting all his life, and win. Ving Tsun’s height, weight, and body type could not be ignored in the question of how to win back her life – only the most effective techniques could be prioritized for study.

No matter who you are, there are challenges to be met day to day. Although those challenges are different depending on who you are and what your environment is, the confidence of martial arts study coupled with the genuine ability to back up that confidence with real fighting skill is always valuable, no matter what your personal context.

Men, women, and children tend to face different issues in day to day living. Students of the martial arts have good reason to be aware of their own individual context in the world they live in. Men seem to live in constant awareness of the possibility that they might find themselves in some random fight, whether or not there’s any particularly good – or even clear – reason for it. Women tend to concern themselves with what kind of people they’ll encounter on any given day, and whether those people will become a source of support or a source of liability. Young people are marginalized no matter what their size or gender, as inexperienced and without much in the way of power to assert upon the world. They have to deal with their own range of problems, from schoolyard bullies to the challenge of operating within the context of their own skill and experience. All of these common social situations represent just a few of the pressures that day to day living brings, and it’s important to have something to bring to the table when these become personal realities.

Not every conflict is a fist fight. Most aren’t. Still, our bodies and minds respond to the physical information that comes in. Whether one’s own body is large or small, the way it moves, all the unconscious signals that comprise “body language”, the socialized messages of context of a single human within a group of humans are inescapably relevant to the way each of us lives in the world. A sense of strength, skill, and health internal and external – offers a better source of support in every area.

*excerpted from