Quest of a Shaolin Monk


The Background Story of one Shaolin Monk

This is the tale of a quest for Shaolin kung fu in which a Shaolin monk is undergoing training to learn kung fu from a master in the Shaolin institution. The Shaolin monk has spent five years undergoing training for kung fu at the institution under a master who has trained several other monks in the art and practice of kung fu. The Shaolin monk who has been trained for five years, graduated upon the completion of the training. After graduating from the institution, the Shaolin monk was asked by others, as to what he learned from his master and from his time of training under this master and this institution.

What Did the Shaolin monk Learn?

The reply of the Shaolin monk was that he did not learn anything regarding the art and practice kung fu and that the period of 5 years was not valuable as he did not gain or learn much from the master. The issue is whether the responsibility or fault lies on the Shaolin monk when he was a student or the master who trained the Shaolin monk while he was on his quest to learning kung fu, who has failed to learn anything and is not performing well.

Crucial Details To Be Noted

It is important to understand that the other Shaolin monks training under the same master or other masters in the institutions have been successful after graduating and able to perform well in practising kung fu. It is crucial to keep in mind that there have been other Shaolin monks who have been asked what they have learned during their training with their master and on their own and they have been able to impart and share valuable lessons and knowledge with those who have asked.

Which Party Bears the Responsibility

The question is then how is it that the unsuccessful Shaolin monk was unable to do the same as other Shaolin monks who have learned kung fu with and from the same master or a different master but from the same institution. The answer to the question above is simple and clear. The Shaolin monk was not diligent enough during the days of his training to either learn the qualities, lessons and values that the master has taught during the training with the Shaolin monk.

The Difficulty of the Art of Kung Fu

The art and practice of kung fu is extensive and difficult. The master can only teach and train their students so much during the five years of training. However, the period of five years is not sufficient as well for the master to cover several years worth of experience and practice. It is the duty of the shaolin monk to be diligent in training himself outside of training with the master to learn more about the art and practice of kung fu  in order for the Shaolin monk to be able to gain deeper understanding and insight into kung fu.

Before the monk steps out of the institution upon completion of his training, they have been educated by teachers, seniors and peers for a total of at least 16 years before they start training and this is not including the years prior to that in which they were educated by their parents or teachers of kindergartens in which they mix with children with different behaviours.

The Responsibility of the Shaolin Monk

 The competence and performance of the Shaolin monk in learning kung fu is due to the abilities and qualities of the the monk. It is also important to note that the behaviour of the monk is due the values that they were influenced with in their upbringing, be it their parents, their friends or surrounding environment.

The responsibility ultimately lies on the Shaolin monk when he was a student to put in what was more than the necessary effort to ensure that he is able to practice the art of kung fu and that he has learned valuable lessons from the master.

The Duty of the Kung Fu Master

It cannot be expected of the master in the institution to teach the Shaolin monk when he was a student every thing there is to learn or know about the art of kung fu, especially considering the fact that there is no fixed amount of information that the shaolin monk must learn as a student which can indicate his level of expertise in the art of kung fu.

The Kung Fu master has fulfilled his role of teaching the Shaolin monk everything he felt was important to teach the Shaolin monk which means that the Shaolin monk now is responsible for his own performance after having graduated.

An Analogy with the Example of a Master and Pupil in the Legal Field

An analogy can be drawn with the example of masters and pupils in the legal field. A pupil is at the very youngest, twenty-three years of age when they start their journey if not older, in which by then they would have their own values, behaviours, beliefs and mannerisms. Most importantly, the qualities in which the pupil is to be equipped with before they begin their pupillage are to be taught to them during their university days as a law student. Moreover, it was the duty of the students to be diligent in learning the legal principles taught in the subjects taken in university for four or five years. It was also the duty of students to diligently learn the qualities that are required of a competent lawyer.

The Duty of the Master

There are so many things to be taught to a pupil and the master cannot be expected to teach the pupils everything related to the practice of law. The timeline given to a master to teach his pupils is a very short period of time. The master cannot be expected to teach the students 20 years (for example) worth of practice, experience and knowledge.

The Onus of the Pupil

The onus ultimately lies on the pupil to put in the effort in learning the practices on their own. A pupil being incompetent in practicing law could be due to the lack of training during law school or lack of effort on their part to ensure that they learn all that they can in order to be a good lawyer. Even if the training was not necessarily provided during law school, the responsibility lies with the student to learn it on their own or by personally consulting the lecturers. It cannot be expected of the Masters who are not given a guideline or syllabus as teachers would be given in school to guide and teach the pupils.

The Success and Performance of the Pupil Dependens on Themselves

The points stated above have made it clear that for a pupil to be successful in their pupillage and more importantly in their future careers as lawyers, it is important that the pupils understand their responsibility in putting in more than the necessary effort to do well. The performance of the pupil is not dependant on the training that they received during their nine months of pupillage with their master but rather an indication of their own competence in handling the task that they have been given. Therefore, it is important to remember that pupils bear the burden of ensuring that they learn the values and familiarise themselves with the law and the practice on their own initiative.

Relating the Analogy to the Story of the Shaolin Monk

In relating the principle provided in the analogy to our case in which the facts are that a young man went to shaolin to learn kung fu and “graduated” after 5 years but told everybody that he learnt no kung fu from shaolin. It is understood that after the young man was trained for 5 years, the fact that he has learnt no kung fu from the kung fu master after being trained for a period of 5 years shows that the young man was not diligent enough in training and learning kung fu. The kung fu master in this case has already taught the young man the qualities and lessons in which the master was required to.

The Expectation of the Shaolin Monk after Graduating

It is reasonable to expect the young man to perform well once he has graduated as he has been trained by the master. However, the inability for the young man to perform well is the fault of his own as he has received training from a master whose other students have been trained successfully and performed well after training for the same number of years and graduating under the same master from the same institution.

Therefore, the fact that the young man has not learnt any kung fu is a reflection of his own lack of capability to study the art of kung fu, and train himself well which led to the Shaolin monk not having any knowledge or lessons to share when asked by others of his experience.


To conclude this story, an institution, be it a training center for martial arts or an education centre producing intellects and academics, every student of the institution are taught by primarily the same people. However, not every student that graduates becomes Bill Gates or Stephen Hawking. They might have peers who studied and trained alongside them in their field of expertise but you don’t see their names being published on a revolutionary theory or advancement of the technological era. Therefore, it is for the  individual students themselves to ensure that they work diligently in order to achieve their goals and be recognized for their hard work and contributions.

Celyn Ooi

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