Once Upon an Optometrist

Have you ever had your eyes fitted for a pair of spectacles by an optometrist?

There’s checks to be performed and adjustments made in the quest to prescribe lens that not only enable to let you see clearly but must be comfortable for use over a long period of time.

At one time I tried getting glasses made by a chap who came with a doctorate, was a lecturer in a higher educational institution for optometry and even president of some related association. The experience with him reminded me of attending a public Tai Chi class.

First off he got his intern students to administer the preliminary checks. I still remember the eye pressure test – worst experience ever.

Secondly, this optometrist didn’t have that deft, expert touch in finding that right degree that would work well. How do I know? At the end of the prescription exercise he asked me to walk around in the test glasses to see how it felt. And to play safe he said i would take a few days for the eyes to adjust to the new glasses.

Horse shit if ever I heard it. How do I know?

Because in the past I had a wonderful lady optometrist who never had to tell me to walk around in the test glasses or throw in the eyes take time to adjust to new glasses disclaimer. With this optometrist I just put the glasses on, walk out and it fits well, no side effects like dizziness or feeling of eyes being squeezed.

With a bad optometrist the eyes would feel funny, the head dizzy and maybe a headache would come on. Maybe some people would force themselves to keep wearing the glasses. Not me; I would change optometrist. The only reason I had to change in the first place was that the lady optometrist got cancer and passed on (its been 15 years and many patients still miss her). Fortunately, since then I found another lady optometrist who interestingly was from the same university as the first lady optometrist …….

Thirdly, despite his credentials i.e. a doctorate, he is certainly no master of optometry. This is like many masters who parade their Duan ranking, lineage, photos taken with famous masters but really hollow on the inside.

Parallels to Tai Chi learning :-

i) Getting students to do the eye examination was kinda like how some masters get their students to teach newcomers and we know how this would turn out. Worse than monkey see, monkey do. More like mother crab teaching baby crab how to walk.

ii) A master with crude skills will adjust and adjust and somehow you just cannot feel that its right. In the end out of politeness you may just say everything is fine. But normally, you the student will know. If the adjustment is correct you will feel a natural surge of energy going through you comfortably, your structure will be able to accept pressure with minimal exertion and when pressure is applied harder the ground force will manifest itself.

iii) What has the ability of a teacher to adjust a student’s posture got to do with paper qualifications, association membership and office bearer, and lineage? Basically, not as much as claimed. The most important aspect in having this skill is that the teacher himself must be able to do it, understand how he did it, what were the steps and principles involved were, and be able to translate this into teachings that can be passed on.

I’ve read claims of years of experience and research used as excuse for claiming validity, one of the latest is this book on Wing Chun that is sold for US$88.88 on Amazon. The book starts off reading fine and goes on with so-called ancient knowledge which would would be intriguing to those who have not been exposed to the depths of traditional Chinese martial arts. The real bummer is when the author finally puts forward a video that actually shows him demonstrating something instead of the usual talk-till-the-birds-fall-out-of-the-sky type of video that he has a reputation for but fails to back up his writing with a show of real, internal skills (or maybe he is concealing it….). Those who don’t know much about the internal arts will buy into it. Those who know will smile and wonder how he can get away with it. As PT Barnum will say a sucker is born every minute……

The journey to Master Tai Chi Today can sometimes be like finding a good optometrist. The trick to eventually getting there is to know when to let go of incompetent teachers and move on.


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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