Hindsight in Tai Chi Learning

…because we think we see what happened clearly – hindsight being 20-20 and all – we often aren’t open to knowing more.

“We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it – and stop there,” as Mark Twain once said, “lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again – and that is well; but she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.” The cat’s hindsight, in other words, distorts her view. The past should be our teacher, not our master.

Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, writing in Creativity, Inc.  Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Have you practiced Tai Chi for years and still stuck trying to do simple things like push hands with a degree of skill instead of using brute strength pushing or being able to issue crispy, penetrating internal force instead of blunt force?

Blame this on the mindless, blind worship of master, lineage and style. Most practitioners equate master, lineage and style as being able to give them the skill. This is clearly wrong. In general, many practitioners will find out eventually that I am right in this respect. I am not the only one who is saying this. Many times I have watched others and silently say to myself that there by the grace of God goes I.

A master can be skilful but be a terrible teacher; and many clearly do not teach properly, if at all. Many are more interested in womanizing, gluttony and collecting money. They just aren’t interested in passing their skills along, sometimes, not even to the highest bidder but they will pocket the money anyway thank you very much.

A lineage also means nothing because it is easy enough to pay a master to take a photograph with him and even buy a certificate of discipleship. This practice is quite common in the West but it happens in the East too.

And styles can be an impediment to progress. If you get caught up in secret styles, hidden styles, oldest style, original style and whatever the next Tai Chi marketing guru comes up with then you are in for a rude shock when one day you realize you have been had.

To Master Tai Chi Today we have to look beyond the obvious. The Tai Chi Classics is a written record of the experiences of past attainment of master practitioners; a record, albeit limited, that can hopefully allow future generations to learn from and a means to verify that they are trodding along the same path. The Classics never say you cannot improve on what you do, merely if you are practicing a style that is transmitted from the past then you should be able to demonstrate similar and consistent insights if you are to claim lineage. Once you are there you are now a master and can develop in any direction you see fit.


Want to learn Tai Chi? At Singapore Yang Style Combat Tai Chi lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today at the link here.

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