Stephen Vick's Learning Story


Re-learning How to Breathe by Fu Sifu Stephen VickI sat quietly on the floor with my legs crossed. We listened attentively to our teacher as he stood still like a mountain, aged with experience and wisdom. My classmates and I took in every word and motion as he taught ancient methods for the most basic of human actions’respiration’inhale and exhale. If you were not in the class, you might find it odd’ten students sitting cross legged behind glass walls, separating us from the hustle and horns of busy buses, cars and passersby on the North west side of Chicago. Key Chun Song is in his mid-sixties, short and well groomed. His white collared sleeves are rolled once, showing his strong forearms. His face is calm and peaceful, high cheek bones with a wisp of a mustache and goatee. He is short in stature, but gives no impression of weakness. He is solid like a tree trunk, roots sunken deep into the earth. He is unlike any teacher I have had. He talks in broken English, yet I understand him clearly through his subtle metaphors. Maybe it is the many years I have listened to his voice’but I can easily pick out the words he stumbles over. It seems that traditional teachers, those I have had throughout my Western education, do a lot of excess talking, force feeding the material. Somehow, in the years I have studied under Grand Master Song, I have realized that less is more. Just as we must re-learn how to breathe as when we were infants, expanding the abdomen…filling our entire chest…we must re-learn learning. How can one explore and learn creatively? Through action and experience. Reflecting and revisiting’not being graded on false markers or others predetermined expectations’passing or failing. I sit quietly on the floor. Inhale. Exhale. My shoulders and back are relaxed. My head and spine are erect, as if being held up by a string. I am calm and peaceful, following the gentle words of my teacher. A smile is lightly present on my face, the same as the nine other students in the class. I am a baby, re-learning how to breathe.