Applying the secret of Kung Fu

Many years ago I was sitting in the OBH hotel by Cottesloe Beach, relaxing and shooting the breeze while we waited for the sun to set.

I found myself listening to someone talk about his experience teaching Kung Fu.

I have not had much experience in real Kung Fu, in fact I have none. However, I have seen a lot of Kung Fu movies, so I know there are always deep and mystical secrets involved.

I deciding to ask what the real secret of Kung Fu is.

“Turn up,” he said

“turn up?” I asked, “What happens when I turn up?”

“You will do a lot of push-ups,” he said.

“But how long until I learn the mystical secrets,” I asked.

I didn’t really want to do a log of push-ups for 20 years only to lean that a tree does make noise when it falls in a forest and that being an expert in Kung Fu does not allow you to win fights because real gurus learn how not to fight. I could learn that much without any push-ups.

“Turn up and you will master Kung Fu, don’t turn up and you never will,” he said.

“Yes, great, how long do I have to turning up for, before learn the great and mystical secret?”

“You were not listening,” he said, ” that is the great secret of Kung Fu.”

The secret is apparently within you and sounds like one hand clapping or something

He explained that the secret actually is “to turn up”.

If you want to master the mindset you need to turn up and practice a lot. Apparently, if you just keep turning up and doing the exercises, you get better physically and mentally and then one day you you will find that you better at Kung Fu than you were.

You will never have perfected it, but if you keep turning up and practicing then you will keep being better than you were before, no matter how good you are.

“But what if I want to just learn some of the cool things, like walking lightly so that I can walk across a dusty floor without leaving any footprints?” I asked

He told me that I just need to turn up, do some push-ups and then practice walking lightly until I was very light. There is no need to learn anything else unless I want to.

“What is the point of going to your class if that is all I do – I can do push-ups and walking around dusty floors on my own,” I said.

“Yes, in fact you will eventually master Kung Fu, if you keep practicing on your own. If you do not practice on your own you will not – when I say turn up, I mean make sure you are actually there, practicing. You can do this wherever you are – coming to my class is optional,” he said.

“Then why come to class?”

“If you come to class then I will watch you do push-ups and then help you reflect on what you are doing,” he said, “You will find your own way but it will take longer if you have to do the work and find time to reflect on top of that. My role is to speed your journey with improved reflection.”

I pondered this. “I thought you needed to show me all the cool moves like they do in the movies,” I said.

“No – that is just for the audience, it looks cool but it is really unnecessary” he said, ” I can still teach you kung fu if you are better at it than I am”.

As a teacher I just help you realise what you are learning. Otherwise you will waste a lot of time practicing without being present,” He said, “practice without presence can be fun, but you will not learn to improve.”

My friend’s reason for having a teacher

That made teaching Kung Fu seem easier than learning it.

Any way, we finished our beers and left the hotel to grab some fish and chips and to watch the sunset.

A few years later I became “agile” and after only a short time I started teaching others.

People have often asked if they are doing it right or whether my kung fu methodology is stronger than someone else’s. I tell them that I don’t care about the difference between Safe, Scrum, Kanban or rapidium – the school is unimportant, because the destination is the mindset.

But I was talking to someone about the mindset recently when I realised that I might actually be distracting people when I talk about the mindset too much. Maybe it makes it seem inaccessible.

So for the next little while I might start using my advanced kung fu knowledge (based on one beer, a sunset and watching some movies).

If you want to master agile then this is the best pathway to get there.

  • Turn up today
    • Practice a bit
    • Reflect on what happened
  • Turn up tomorrow and do the same. Then keep going.

If you want to learn faster then bring in a coach, but they won’t take the journey for you. You still just complete the steps above, but the coach will help you improve your ability to reflect on what you are doing so you learn faster.

If you keep turning up, you will master agile. If you do not turn up you will not master agile.

That is how we can apply the secret of ancient Kung Fu to agile.


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