Today’s post is initiated by the two questions someone asked me in a WhatsApp Wing Chun group. Wanted to write about it earlier but work has taken up my time.
Let’s take each question in turn. The first question is how do you find a good master.
Actually, I would say that finding a good master can be a matter of fate. I know its not a good answer but there is a reason for this answer.
Consider my true life experience. I was then new in Singapore and looking for a teacher. Someone took me to a Chen style school but though I like the looks of the movements I didn’t sign up. Perhaps at that time looking for a job that would allow me to stay on was more important.
By the time I had gone through a series of jobs I had forgotten where that Chen style school was located exactly. I only remembered it was somewhere in Geylang. Those were the pre-Internet days so couldn’t google it.
But then I had an idea – why not ask the late Mr Loh Chong Chai, the owner of a book store dedicated to martial arts for a recommendation. This story is told on pages 24-30 in TaijiKinesis Official Handbook Vol 2 – Background.
To make a long story short Mr Loh had two recommendation. I checked the first one out. Something about it didn’t appeal to me. I don’t know what. I only knew I walked in, took one glance and walked out.
Mr Loh’s recommendation was for the same style that I saw at the first location. Should I check it out? How good could it be given that the first location was disappointing? But I went to check out the second teacher simply because I didn’t feel good about cancelling the appointment unexpectedly.
I went. The meeting was intriguing the least. I didn’t see any demo. I was just asked an intriguing question on my Tai Chi practice. Page 31-32, TaijiKinesis Official Handbook Vol 2 – Background has the story.
Did I sign up right away?
No, I did not. Instead, I was invited to met this master’s senior who was in town. Who was this senior? Read page 33-34, TaijiKinesis Official Handbook Vol 2 – Background to find out.
I went. I met. I saw. I wanted to sign up.
But it didn’t work out. Couldn’t afford to pay the high fees. And I didn’t even know what the syllabus was other than the form is important to learn.
So I found what appears to be a good master. However, the more critical question then was would he be an effective teacher.
My opinion is that all teachers are basically good. As long as you get to learn something then they are good. However, an effective teacher is the one who can actually make you master the skill properly.
A year later by working a part time job I scraped together the money to pay for lessons. Was he a good master?
When I asked some people about their teachers their reply typically is that the teacher is a good master because he is friendly, he is kind, he is knowledgeable and so on. Its the rare student who says the master is an effective teacher.
I could say that this master was an effective teacher. But it was not as far as mastering the art of Tai Chi fully goes, not as far as teaching me about the use of intention, or mastering the type of skills that Grandmaster Wei Shuren had. For that another more effective teacher would come later.
So how and when would I know I have found a good master? The answer is that most of the time you can only answer this properly in retrospect. Meaning you have to spend the time learning to know if the teacher is effective. So if you think you can just land an effective teacher the first time you pick one think again. Unless you are lucky you would probably like most people need to take a chance and learn before you know.
How do you know if your learning of Tai Chi is on the right path? Have you tried reading the Tai Chi Classics to see if they make sense? If you are on the right path the words would confirm what you know. If the Classics sound like a whole lotta mumbo jumbo then you are probably not learning the type of Tai Chi that ancient masters wrote about.