I started my martial arts training under Steve Bab an accomplished ‘Lao Gar’ martial artist. Then one day my training partner came to class with excited talk of another Kung Fu class in the area. So along we went the next week to check it out. This system seemed to incorporate many more training regimes and we decided to give it a go as well. My pal choose to stop going to the Lao Gar class but I continued to attend for another few months before I realised the techniques being taught were vastly different from each other, at least I was finding it confusing and hard to put the two together. So I opted to continue with the new system. They had two nights training a week anyway so I was a happy bunny. The Lau Gar class only had one session a week.

I had been given some combat training in the Army, which I and my mates referred to as self-defence. I laugh now at the pictures in my mind of those training sessions. Dispensing of ‘the enemy’ after having sneaked up on them or lay in wait and then attacked with as much ferocity and single minded intent as we could muster to subdue them or snuff the life out of them as quickly as possible hardly sounds like self-defence now does it - now does it? Think about this for a moment because I have seen many students of the martial arts over the years who come along to class with this objective in mind, often clouded under the term ‘I want to learn self-defence’.

Anyway back to the blot before I drift off and start recalling my old army days because my life was about to change big time, forever. I had no idea this change was on its way I was completely oblivious to it. Some six months later I attended a course taken by Master Chee Soo, who came up to Hull from London. This first meeting with Chee Soo in 1973 completely fired my imagination. As I watched him training with accomplished martial artists, fascinated by his fluid movements and he seemed so light on his feet, yet his training partners were constantly wrong footed and made to look awkward. I was spell bound. These were not newbie's like me but seriously experienced scrappers. What I saw that day held me for the next fifteen or so years until I learnt, what I saw was an elusion.

It was real enough but my perception of what I had seen was the illusion. I had been chasing shadows. It wasn’t about gaining power over my fellow man but clearing out the dross from my own soul. That was the day I stopped trying to be a better fighter and turned my attention inward and started working on becoming a better me. At long last I knew it was about self development. Then right at that moment a statement Chee Soo made to me after I had been training under him for about 3 years came to me.
One day outside my home as he dropped off some training suits for some of my students he closed the boot of his car and asked me a question. He Said ’ Do you know why I have been practising the arts for so many years? I was an intelligent student so I starred at him blankly.

Wow! My brain was in overdrive. Secret knowledge is going to be imparted to me this day I thought. He continued ‘The reason is you are learning about yourself’. He paused and stared into my blank eyes. He went on “No one else just yourself’. Then he got in his car and drove away waving a good bye. I think I remember a little twinkle in his eye but I can not really be sure because I was thinking what the *&^^%$#@! Is that supposed to mean.

And there you have it ‘When the Student is ready the Master will appear. He doesn’t have to understand he just has to know he is in the right place at the right time. After all if I had understood there would have been no reason to spend the next 18 years studying and trying to understand that and the many other simple but profound statements Chee Soo made to me and others over the time I was privileged to train under his guidance.

I wish you all I wish for myself.


© Copyright 2008 Howard Gibbon - all rights reserved

Author's Bio: 

Howard trained under Grand Master Chee Soo for 21yrs. Chee Soo taught The Lee style of Ta'i Chi and Feng Shou (Kung Fu), sometimes also called Li style, which flourished in England and is taught within the East - West Taoist Association of which Howard is the Chief Instructor. Website: ewta.co.uk