I don't speak Chinese and Laoshi speaks heavily accented English which is possible to understand when combined with gesticulations and alongside years of deciphering meaning from attending his seminars ... but still not 100% clear.
His body language is very expressive as are his facial expressions which really helps, yet still sometimes certain questions and ideas are hard to get across, and the answers often don't seem to directly match up with the question ... which is always disconcerting because one wonders ... Is this the real answer underneath what I was asking? Perhaps I am just being a little stupid in not getting it? Or is this the answer to a different question? How did he hear what I asked?
Of course, all he has to do is SHOW what he means, physically - "Not like this, like THIS!!" and the meaning, the point, the purpose, become much clearer.
One of the things Luo mentioned this year is that he has been writing a book about all the years of research that he has done into Martial Arts. This is very cool news and I look forward to reading what is sure to be a fascinating work. He said that one of his wishes is to demystify the classic terminology of the so called 'Internal Arts' into something more modern and pragmatic, alongside sharing his personal journey to discover what he knows and to become who he is.
I asked him how he had decided to convey these ideas - because truth be told, I do not think there are enough words in the universe to guarantee understanding ...... though I did not exactly say that.
His answer was this -
He said he wanted to translate his work into English, and he figured it would be no problem as he has many friends and students who speak both excellent English and Chinese AND train martial arts, yet he said he still found many errors of understanding despite his best efforts to be clear.
He said he believes these misunderstandings can only be fixed through sitting down, talking through, and physically demonstrating the concepts with the translator, in the same room, to get the actual meaning connected to the right words. That this is the only way to understand what THEY do not understand, and work until he knows they do.
Once he knows they understand, he knows the translation will be what he means, and not what they think he means. Using a different language means that errors in understanding are more obvious and show faster.
Humans have been preserving knowledge through writing and reading for a while now, though certainly not for as long as they have apprenticed, tagged along with their elders, and sat around camp fires listening and watching ... So how big an issue is this whole misunderstanding business (And I'm talking about physical arts here, not intellectual or philosophical arts)?
If words are so prone to misunderstanding why write anything down at all, especially in this day and age of video?
So far the best reason I can come up with is that writing and reading serve to inspire practice, and perhaps more importantly to provide a confirmation for results experienced by the student. They can really do no more - Inspire and Confirm. That's it. Oh, and expand the imagination, that's very important too.
Words go to the mind, not the body, so to have worth in the physical realm, they need to effect behavior, and perhaps this is why great books can be felt on a gut level and resonate for a long time.
Have to say though, the more I personally attempt to convey the concepts inside of me in words, the more the earlier methods seem far more reliable .....