Student Notes-Learning Tai Chi Successfully

Today I have added in a folder Articles in which I will put the clippings I refer to in my posts. This applies to posts written from today.

I was just reading an article in last week’s Sunday Times  entitled Lecture Me. Really. and saw this interesting quote from a lecturer Kjirsten Severson who said :-

Where I needed to start was by teaching them how to create space in their inner world, so they could take on this argument on a clean canvas.

This reminds me of the story of the Zen master serving tea to a visiting professor which you can read here.

The enemy to learning is not the teacher not teaching. Granted there are teachers who basically don’t teach either because they don’t know how to teach, they are bad teachers or they just don’t really want to teach.

However, the main enemy to learning is the self who is like a cup overflowing with knowledge and opinions.

For example sometimes I get people telling me that a group class is better than a 1-to-1 class because then they will have fellow students to practice with. On the surface this would seem to be true.

However, proponents of this point of view tend to forget a very important point. Can you guess what this point is?

The simple point is that when you practice against another person who has not mastered the art then chances are high you will pick up his habits too, both good and bad.

For example, when you learn or practice with someone who only knows only side of the story then what you are learning is basically a perpetuation of a belief whether it is actually true or not.

Some of my students have picked up on an undesirable flying elbow* habit from their past learning. If I were to put two such students to practice against each other and leave them to it they will end up perpetuating the mistake.

(*note – most students don’t regard as flying elbow what I view as such; however, a short demo will normally clarify for them this point)

Why this happens is because X will use his flying elbow Peng arm posture against Y. However, Y is not able to stop X’s attack because his skill is not good enough or he is simply using the wrong method.

The end result is that :-

a) X’s flying elbow habit becomes self-fulfilling and is accepted as correct and the norm

b) Y will see that what X did is working and copy likewise

For one of my students at least when he automatically tried to use a flying elbow Peng arm posture against me he quickly found himself losing balance easily. This intrigued him because I didn’t seem to be making much of an effort and he asked that I do it again. I ended up showing it several times.

If my student had not been practicing with me then he wouldn’t have learned about this error. Even then he still automatically offers up the flying elbow Peng arm posture each time. It will take him a while to get rid of this habit even though he now knows that it is a liability.

To Master Tai Chi Today successfully you should put yourself up to a higher standard of learning. As Master Chen Zhenglei the noted Chen style Tai Chi master once said learn from those who know, not just those who are famous.

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