meeting My teacher 師傅, Kevin gledhill
I was 16 when I first stepped into a Wing Chun school.
My father and I were doing plenty of research at the time on the internet, in Chinese ad postings, etc. to try and find a teacher that could teach me Wing Chun. Many were very far away, and quite a few charged a high premium. My father eventually found an ad for a teacher in Northern Jersey that we thought to be quite promising, and I was about to register. Coincidentally, within the same week of seeing the ad, a family friend in a local Chinese School said that they found an incredible teacher just minutes away. As a public service announcement, he let a large group of families in the school know of this teacher.
Without naming names, there were quite a few who winced at the news that this teacher was White. Unfortunately, there are groups of very narrow-minded Chinese who firmly believe that Non-Chinese cannot teach a Chinese Martial Art in its entirety for some reason. Some have good reasons, most are just ignorant. It simply isn't true, movement and Wing Chun are not genetic.
My father and I were open to the idea of learning from a non-Chinese teacher, with my father’s mentality of, “anyone who knows anything knows more than you right now”, so we decided to make the trip after school. We pulled up to a small Taekwondo school in Matawan, New Jersey. The scene inside seemed like it came straight out of a movie; two Chinese men stood in the corner, a giant Italian man with arms bigger than my head, a friendly looking man with gray hair, and a thin, bald guy in the middle of the room.
Having no idea who the teacher of the school was, I could only stand and wait until he presented himself. By the time the bald guy walked over, I realized he was much taller up close. What happened next was nothing extraordinary. There was no challenge, no fighting. He just introduced himself as Kevin, the instructor. He was much more soft-spoken and polite than I imagined he would be, or any instructor to be from what I've seen in movies. He didn't try to market or sell us anything either. Being 8 inches taller than me, he bent forward just a little bit, held up one of his fists, and with a small gesture, he said,
"This is how we throw a punch. Try it"
He signaled for me to throw a punch at the arm that he held up. Our forearms clashed, and the only description I can provide of my experience at the time, was that the sensation felt like I had just punched a bar of iron.
Since then, Kevin has become my 師傅, traditionally, he is my teacher for the rest of my life.