In less than 3 hours we will pass into the year 2020.
The numerals 2020 reminds me of the saying that hindsight is 20/20. This basically means that its easy to know the right thing to do after it has happened.
This is one reason why we learn from teachers because they have been there before us and we can benefit from their hindsight. If we know better than a teacher then we should not be learning from him because then it becomes learning in an echo chamber. I don’t know about you but I rather hear a different point of view than a point of view that confirms my biased view because of the possibility that my view is off-the-mark or worse still wrong <gasp!!!>.
Learning Tai Chi is not easy. For some it can be a frustrating journey because nothing is as what it seems. However, this is not really true.
Many things in Tai Chi are quite straight forward. The complexity comes about because of the many layers of principles. If you try to learn all at once they seem daunting. If you take one layer of learning at a time it is actually not difficult.
First you learn what it is then you practice the hell out of it. With familiarity you can then work on refining the movement, deepening your mastery. Then you add on the next layer and find that <gasp!!!> when you thought you are right, you are still wrong in many ways. So you do it all over again. For some they give up at this stage. They just can’t stand not mastering it now, today.
My teacher said the objective is to practice daily. This is what I do. Practice. Not master. Practice.
Sometimes it takes days, sometimes months and sometimes years but if you keep working on something, no matter how trivial you may gain insights you missed in the first place or things so obvious you wonder why you did not see them earlier.
Now you know why hindsight is 20/20. In Chinese we say that if you can know so easily you would be a fairy. You can’t know everything and you should not expect to. However, with practice and (this is important) keeping an open mind you will gain more and more insights that elevates your skill level.
Mastery is not the end of the journey. My teacher said that the end of each journey is the beginning of the next journey.
For example, once I have mastered how to use the 9 crooked pearls to fajing I moved on to fajing without using the 9 crooked pearls. By giving up one way I gained not one but a few more ways to fajing. Now I have even moved on to a more simplified way to fajing, so simple that any beginner can do it, and master it if they can put in a few weeks (that’s right weeks, not years) of practice.
It is human to want to hang on to something. Its comforting and we all hate changes. But if you are not prepared to let it go you will never move on. You will not develop. You will not empty out the space for new knowledge to enter. The refinement of skill is not by accumulation but by decumulation much like the way you sharpen a pencil by whittling away the excess wood.
Learn. Remember. Master. Let it go. Repeat. That’s how you become better.
Never assume you are right. You could be wrong. Your teacher could be wrong. Do not be afraid to slay sacred cows nor kill Buddha.
I have a student who just can’t seem to get how to practice the long form. Now that’s a problem because I teach by using forms. I explained in many ways to convince him why he should not give up the learning of forms. He was adamant that he was not going to practice form any more.
There are two ways I could move from here. Stop teaching him because that’s not how I teach. Its my way or no way.
Or treat it as a challenge. How to teach Tai Chi without teaching form.
Fortunately, I have an example to fall back on. Grandmaster Nip’s Pok Khek is taught using short movement drills. Movement plus movement or drill plus drill basically is how a form is constructed, except there are a few more things in a form.
Is teaching Tai Chi using short drills the best way to move forward for this student? It is the beginning of an interesting experiment. Time will tell.
Happy New Year 2020!