“That was almost average” comes the “praise” from Chief Instructor, Dennis Ngo. Hard to hear, but low expectations are the bane of progress. So what are Dennis’ views on averages?
“Until recently, I had two dogs. The combined weight of my dogs was 79kg, What is the average weight of my dogs? Answer: 79 / 2 = 39.5kg – 2 marks please (I showed my workings and included the units). What is wrong with this answer? Nothing, except that one dog weighed 77kg and the other weighed in at 2kg. That’s the problem with average.
Ok, not everyone has a bullmastiff and a toy poodle, and as the bullmastiff sadly passed away in January, I am now left with only 2kg of dog although she has 77kg of spirit.
But what’s my point? There is nothing wrong with average, or normal, or middle-of-the-road, except that they also mean mediocre, and who wants to be mediocre? Lots of us. We just don’t want to own up to it.
In the small sample size of my two dogs which one was normal? Both of them, normal for their type. But both of them were 37.5kg away from their combined average. And mediocre? Thunder (the aptly-named bullmastiff) was an excellent physical example of his breed – 77kg of muscle and bone with a top speed of 30mph, combined with utter loyalty and the manners of a gentleman. The equally well-named Karma is 2kg of adorable silky fluff combined with an intense desire to make this the best day you have ever had. Two normal dogs. Average, mediocre dogs.
Ultimately, the real question to ask is, average of what? middle of a road going where? mediocre compared to who? I don’t consider myself to be middle-of-the-road at what matters to me. But in terms of cycling for example I don’t come up to mediocre (or even abysmal) compared to Tour de France legend Miguel Indurain ( yes I could have said Merckx or Wiggins or Froome, but Indurain is more my time). When it comes to Kung Fu and Tai Chi, and when it comes to the FWC Instructors and their training and their abilities, mediocre is nowhere near enough.
So if I have a go at you in a lesson or a grading or a camp, asking you with great passion and emphasis “Why do you want to be mediocre when you can be so much better?” remember that I want to know which road you are on, where do you set your average? And I am challenging you to take a harder road than maybe you thought Kung Fu would be. Because I think it is worth your while. And I know that you can do it if you allow yourself to take the challenge, otherwise you wouldn’t even be training with us.
And if you make it all the way to mediocre in the Fujian White Crane Kung Fu Club, perhaps you can take a look around and say, “OK you can have middle-of-that-road, I’m moving my average up.”
And if the metaphors all get a bit mixed up, just remember the average of two dogs, and I’ll keep working on my mastery of words.”
So there we have it – the flaw of averages.
The main picture is of Thunder, taken by FWC Instructor Sharon Ngo in April 2015. We miss him.
For those of you who also knew Lightning I have been asked to put up this photo on the website. Another of my gentle giants who we sadly lost last November (also badly missed) here he is with Thunder waiting to go and play in the field. When these two kicked off it was 160kg of dog against my 60kg of Kung Fu. Don’t even get me started on averages for that one, but I never lost a match..
We are aiming to raise our dog average again, but waiting for the right one(s) to come along.