I'm blessed with visitors and calls who wants to learn and know more about wing chun. There are those who just want to watch. And there are also those who come to compare what they've learned to wing chun. I value all three groups of visitors and/or callers. I believe in a small way, this helps create more awareness to wing chun and to what we're doing. I also hope that small time spent calling or visiting benefits them in some way.
However, all these calls and visits have taught me a big lesson. One that I think is and will be useful to my martial travels and will help me understand others and other arts more. Hope this lesson will also help you when you visit other schools.
1. What number of classes is that class/group at?
We can also ask what level they are at (at that moment) but martial arts curriculums are so vastly different, what they focus at are different depending on their own objectives at the different levels.
I recently have a student of a different martial arts come join my class (trial). I was happy because he had a lot of questions but most of the questions was comparing that very first lesson to the 100th lesson of the art he's learning. My question is, is it fair? In my humble opinion, it is not even fair to compare even the first lesson of two different martial arts because their focus is different. However, if you still want to make a comparison, compare the very first class of your own art to their first, your second class to their second and so on.
However, the first few lessons will show the core of the whole art. Those are the ones I want to see. And lessons taught at the fourth year are usually the most advanced level for the basics of the art.
2. Get YOUR ego out of the equation
If you are visiting, this is the utmost importance. If you cannot do this, don't visit other schools. The ego of yours is better, simpler, faster, stronger, older and all the other "...er"s will block any good information that you can get. Or worse, you'll get into a fight.
Sometimes, the person might have great ego and might offend you and/or your art. First thing is, take a deep breath and relax. Remember, you are there to learn. So, focus on learning. If you can't stand you can always come again another time. Right?
However, if you are open, usually the other party will also be open and share. At least, that's my experience.
3. Ask for opinion
Politely ask for their opinion for certain techniques that you are learning or have learned compared to what they are doing. Key word "POLITELY". Remember, ALL martial arts works. ALL martial arts are great. If not they won't exist in the first place! They might not as effective depending on:
1. the teachers knowledge and/or experience
2. the original reason/principals of its creation has been changed or is not taught
(example: an art created for big battlefield has been changed to sports or vice versa. They might not work because the objectives are different and therefore certain principals needed change, thus effecting the techniques).
3. different conditions
(example: an art created to fight on horses might have a hard time fighting on mud. An art requiring a large area might be a little hard to apply in closed spaces)
Understand your own art's requirements by asking for their opinions and analyzing their answers. Understand the above 3 conditions (the teacher's knowledge and experience, the original reason the art was created, and the conditions that makes it work). Keep your opinions to yourself unless asked.
Lastly, always focus on making friends when you visit. By making friends, we would be able to share more and have a deeper look into the art without actually learning it. But be sincere about it.