Herd Thinking

Recently, I was corresponding with someone who wanted to learn Tai Chi, supposedly a serious learner. He had previously learned Xingyi from an old master where mostly he practiced alone, without a training partner. This time he felt he needed someone, a mentor, a friend or perhaps a group to study with. I don’t think this would work out well.

From my experience unless that mentor is also a master of the art then you are going to waste your time in the long run. The logic is simple – if your mentor is not a master of the art, perhaps just a senior in the art who is also feeling his way around though he is better than you, then don’t you think that he is little better than a one eyed man leading a blind man?

Herd thinking is detrimental if you want to Master Tai Chi Today. Fortunately, if we learn wrongly and our progress is retarded the most we lose is time and maybe the tuition fee. Rarely would the lack of progress turn out to be deadly as in the example offered by this book on creative thinking on the danger of herd thinking.

August 25, 2010. Kinshasa.

A normal flight that should be uneventful. Except the plane fell out of the sky. Crashed and killed all except one passenger. Below is a picture of the actual crash :-


The verdict on the crash was left open. However, the surviving passenger claimed that a small crocodile brought onboard by a passenger had escaped in the rear of the plane, frightening a cabin crew member. In a bid to escape from the animal she ran to the front of the plane. Other passengers reacted by following her. This could have caused the small plane to overload in the front, stalled and fell out of the sky.

What the writer wrote on this is pertinent to our learning of Tai Chi :-

But no one was thinking.

Everyone was just copying everyone else.

If other people are running away, we’d better do the same.

Because that’s what people do.

They copy each other without thinking.

Herd mentality is a strong force.

It overrides logic, questioning debate, reasoning, common sense.

Even though the evidence shows it often results in bad decisions.


That’s why the time to resist is at the point you find yourself going along with conventional wisdom.

To this person, KT, I would say that I won’t try to dissuade you from what you want to do. Instead, I would share the generalized experience of some of my students who have learned the way you want to learn. A number of them have learned for quite some time in this manner. However, instead of mastering the art they end up picking up habits that go against the principles specified in the Tai Chi Classics.

If they had not taken the decision to leave the herd they would not know that they do not know what they did not know that is hindering their learning progress. To alleviate their disappointment with their previous learning I put a positive spin on it by saying that now that you know what is wrong, you can look for what is right and begin anew for once on the right path.


Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Tai Chi Yang Style (TaijiKinesis) lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today

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