One student didn’t like to learn.
When asked to adjust a Taiji pose, he’d make excuses, like “That’s now how I’ve seen it done.” He’d scowl. Or he’d say “That doesn’t feel right.”
The teacher saw that the struggle was internal…the student struggled to change, to do something new.
- The student held fast to beliefs.
So the teacher offered greater challenges: to travel up a mountain, train Taiji forms and drills, and return. But the student proclaimed the teacher “controlling” and refused each challenge.
Later, the student deceived the teacher and was, as a result, kicked out of the school. The student blamed the teacher for the student’s deception.
Was the teacher’s error continuing to teach? Continuing to offer challenges, while perhaps friendly on the teacher’s part, failed to serve the student in a good way because the student demonstrated an unwillingness to learn.
Maybe the error was imagining such a “student” as a student at all?
Classic Martial Arts Stories and Ancient Tests
As I dug through The Life Giving Sword by Yagyu Munenori, I wondered what in the World the first chapter, titled “The Shoe-Presenting Bridge,” referred to? After searching for some time…here’s one of the great stories:
Meeting Huang Shigong
From Wikipedia’s Zhang Liang (Western Han):
As a wanted man by the government, Zhang travelled to Xiapi and stayed there for some time, using fake identities to evade the authorities. One day, Zhang took a stroll at the Yishui Bridge and met an old man there. The man walked towards Zhang and chucked his shoe down the bridge on purpose, after which he yelled at Zhang, “Hey boy, go down and fetch me my shoe!” Zhang was astonished and unhappy but obeyed silently. The old man then lifted his foot and ordered Zhang to put on the shoe for him. Zhang was furious but he controlled his temper and meekly obliged. The man did not show any sign of gratitude and walked away laughing.
The old man came back after walking a distance and praised Zhang, “This child can be taught!” and asked Zhang to meet him at the bridge again at dawn five days later. Zhang was confused but agreed. Five days later, Zhang rushed to the bridge at the stroke of dawn but the old man was already waiting for him there. The old man chided him, “How can you be late for a meeting with an elderly man? Come back again five days later!” Zhang tried his best to be punctual the second time but the old man still arrived earlier than him, and he was scorned by the old man once more and told to return again five days later. The third time, Zhang went to the bridge at midnight and waited until the old man appeared. This time, the old man was impressed with Zhang’s fortitude and humility, that he presented Zhang with a book, saying, “You can become the tutor of a ruler after reading this book. Within ten years, the world will become chaotic. You can then use your knowledge from this book to bring peace and prosperity to the empire. Meet me again 13 years later. I’m the yellow rock at the foot of Mount Gucheng.”
The old man was Huang Shigong (黃石公; literally: “Yellow Rock Old Man”) of the legendary “Four Haos of Mount Shang” (商山四皓), a group of four reclusive wise men. The book was titled The Art of War by Taigong (太公兵法) and believed to be the Six Secret Teachings by Jiang Ziya, while some called it Three Strategies of Huang Shigong. In legend, Zhang returned to the indicated site 13 years and did see a yellow rock there. He built a shrine to worship the rock and the rock was buried with him after his death.
I wonder: how many shoes did Huang Shigong throw off the bridge before he found Zhang?
Are You Flexible Enough?
There are times in life to be the Yellow Rock Old Man and times to be Zhang.
Have you trained your mind?
Can you be like Zhang?