Lessons by Mail

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Yesterday while writing a letter to a friend, I got to thinking about what the martial arts means in our lives. You know, though it’s been said time and again that you really can’t learn from a book or video, they sure are fun to have and collect. I remember being 7 years old and seeing ads in the back of comic books for “Karate in 10 Easy Lessons” or my favorite of all time “Ketsugo: Combination Self Defense”. Thus started my love affair with mail order buying. Though I hated being disappointed everytime I opened the PO box to see nothing, seeing that little pink slip of paper when the book finally did come more than made up for it. I can still smell the post office in my mind.

From buying books off of comic book ads, I went on to Black Belt Magazine and M.Uyehara’s “Literary Links to the Orient” as he so advertised. For me it was true. In my small rural Louisiana town of 3000 people, those books were my only link to what sparked my mind and imagination: the Orient and the amazing and sometimes mysterious arts they produced. Mr. Uyehara’s company published books not only about martial arts, but about people different from me, their thoughts and experiences. He opened my mind during a time when no black boys played on my baseball team, nor did we swim in the same pool. I took on a centeredness, a different way of seeing the world. And how many friends I made with all kinds of people who found what I was trying to learn interesting and different.

What treasures those books were. For those of you in Wing Chun, have you EVER seen a more well done book than “Wing Chun” by James Yimm Lee? James Lee tells you himself that you can’t learn from a book, but that book has taught more people what Wing Chun is than any other source. What a wonderful thing- to be able to communicate an idea so that everyone can understand it. And most importantly, it’s a book I don’t mind my kids reading.

I’ve never really grown out of martial arts books. Though I have a real sifu now, I still love these things. And now DVD is the thing. My best friend and I have big plans. We’re going to make a cool collection of wing chun videos. We’re going to practice in the park. People crowd around us when we do this. They’re interested. Bet we make friends.

Can we go wrong like that?

Randy Coplin is a musician and Martial Artist currently living, teaching and performing in Taipei, Taiwan.

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