Small Steps

Like a cat.

I said this after observing that my new student, an Indian national, was still landing his foot too hard, too fast on the ground. Perhaps I was expecting too much as it was but his first lesson.

However, to me the whole point about learning Tai Chi properly was to try to get it right the first time, every time. Maybe my expectation is too high. Maybe not.

On the bright side I was able to get him to learn a few moves. He did an admirable job of copying the movements, nevertheless, I can foresee a lot of work in front of him to get the nuances and timing down.

Different students learn at different pace, different expectation of achievement. The most interesting student in this respect is my lady student from Germany. I like it that she wants to get the steps right even though this makes for slow learning, very slow, practically a movement a lesson though I am trying to push for two otherwise it would take forever to learn the first long form and the clock is already ticking to the years ahead when she must leave our shores.

Actually as of today, she has just completed two movements – Beginning Posture and Grasp Sparrow’s Tail – as some of the movements are really sub-movements. I can imagine her gasping in astonishment when she reads this. Yes, my dear C, we really need to push you harder.

The more demanding the student to get the movements correct also means that I have to be a lot more fussy, nitpicking every little movement, not sparing the verbal rod when I see a mistake. She does get stressed at times when she realized that she just missed that tiny weeny sub-step again. To her credit she tries it again, and again I would call out something she missed and rattled her nerves the umpteenth time.

My friend Paul wondered if I am morbid ever since he noticed me sharing more posts on death. No, I am not. Instead, I am recognizing my own mortality and I will not end up like one of those teachers who hold back knowledge even from deserving students, taking it to the grave or crematorium.

I am cognizant of the fact that no one lives forever, nor know when the time is to go. One thing about learning Tai Chi has taught me is the importance of a few things as below :-

i) To master any art do not rush; learn one thing at a time; small baby steps if you must

ii) Don’t worry about the future, master what is in front of you now, today

iii) Learn when you have the chance, tomorrow we may no longer be here


To paraphrase what an old lady from Hong Kong that I once worked with in the kitchen said “go slowly, as long as you remember to work fast” (surely an oxymoron!)- meaning in our context sure take your time to Master Tai Chi Today but learn faster. The reason for her saying so was because in a fast food, takeaway Chinese kitchen we only have 7 – 10.30 am to prepare and cook the dishes before the lunch crowd hits so no luxury to do things slowly, yet a certain quality in the food preparation and taste must be there or lose customers.


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? 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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