Price of Mastery

What’s the price to master Tai Chi?

The answer is not the amount of money you pay to learn. Instead, the answer is time.

To master Tai Chi you only have to do one thing – keep working on it. Again. And again. And again.

Right or wrong. Keep plugging at it.

Don’t waste time trying to be smart. There is a reason why you go for lessons and that is to save you the time of trying to figure out things for yourself. If you catch yourself trying to do so then either your teacher is not teaching you, is incompetent or you are too smart for your own good.

It is difficult enough to learn properly what is taught without you having to try to reinvent the wheel. Many times you end up inventing something else and it takes you further away from mastery, instead of towards it.

This is why some students pick up Tai Chi faster than others. Those who are not too smart tend to work on what they have learned. As long as they work on it, review what they have learned, be prepared to change and do their best to change then they will make progress. The rest will just think they have made progress when they have not. You know how you can know this? When you are not able to use the principles or the techniques or both.

Rollback is one of the key techniques we use in push hands. We use it over and over and over again. In the learning of Rollback I have a teaching of the triad thumb positions, each corresponding to how strength and structure is used. Students who work at keeping this in mind will get it and eventually be able to have a sampling of how to issue force with the use of minimal arm strength. This is not difficult. In fact, it is quite easy to learn but mastery is a bitch unless you surrender yourself to it and that is when you begin to truly discover what it is about it.

To this end, I am seeing some students now beginning to get the hang of this. For too long in Chinese martial arts we hear complaints of standards dropping or style not being passed on. To me complaining is a waste of time. Instead, do something about it. First, teach properly or don’t teach. Second, teach what is important and essential. Third, explain and demonstrate so that the student can feel. Then if the student is willing to pay the price of time then mastery is not impossible.


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