Life with the Arts

Our teacher at the Jiseikan dojo is Mr. Hiang-Lai Lau. He has been a constant student of martial arts since he was a boy in the town of Bintulu, on the island of Borneo in Malaysia. He was first captivated by the tales of his father and uncles, of  how they were taught self-defense by the monks. They practiced martial arts like most men in the then small town, for self-defense in case of trouble on the long jungle trails to neighbouring villages. And like people throughout much of Asia, they practiced as a means of personal growth.

At the time when Hiang-Lai watched his father, uncles and older brothers practicing, organized martial arts instruction was rare in Bintulu. So he learned to observe carefully and he practiced on his own. Then when he was fourteen, a White Crane school opened in town, providing him his first formal training with a teacher. When Bruce Lee films arrived, suddenly everyone went crazy about martial arts. A Shaolin school opened too, and there was a friendly rivalry. Before arriving in Canada, Hiang-Lai studied White Crane, Wing Chun and Tai Chi. At the University of Ottawa he studied Aikido. Of course he is deeply grateful toward all his teachers for the learning he has enjoyed.

Now Lau Sensei teaches full time at the Jiseikan, and as a result he can devote himself to teaching, studying and practicing the arts. Deeply respecting the example of his teachers, he continues to practice and study on the principle that such effort is necessary in order to be a good teacher.

The name "Jiseikan" means "place of self development". It came from Lau Sensei's life-long understanding that the real purpose of martial arts is personal improvement, and through that, social improvement. There are many fields through which one may cultivate a balance in the development of mind, body and spirit, and there are masters in each field for one to emulate. Through all those different media the path is the same; having an open mind to become aware of and understand the wider world, and most importantly ourselves.

Lau Sensei expects us all to work on ourselves, to develop the ability to see, observe and learn. The more we do, the more opportunity we have to experience and understand. To understand something, we have to do it ourselves. When progress is slower, we need to develop patience and perseverance. Through self-experience and self-inquiry we can gain insight. It is better not to attach to a particular viewpoint. We should be willing to change and make adjustments, so our realization and awareness can grow.  In practice when we have an open mind, the more repetition we do, the more a technique will slowly reveal itself. Reading the Tao, over the years the same words and sentences gain new meaning as experience grows. We all have to grow and go through the process, like a butterfly through metamorphosis. The desire is to improve, not just for the sake of doing a thing better, but so we can understand more deeply, and go as far as we can in spirit, without any limit.

"Truth cannot be found unless you have inquired, unless you have inquired on your own. If you take borrowed truths you become knowledgeable, but to be knowledgeable is not to know. Wisdom is never borrowed."   -Tao