has been going long enough (and looks professional enough!)
to become regarded by a few to be some sort of authority
on Tai Chi. This is not so. Taichido claims no authority
whatsoever, therefore I am taken aback when folk E-mail
me saying "What my teacher teaches looks nothing
like the video animation's on your (www.taichido.com)
site". These instances have increased recently
and some have even gone on as far to ask "Should
I look for a new Tai Chi teacher?" My answer, basically
is "No; help your teacher in the search for 'true'
Tai Chi with persistent and well considered questions
... and be patient. "When the Student is ready,
the Teacher will appear".
However, it is up to you to know what it is that you
are looking for; and in the end it will be up to you
alone that finds it. N.B. Without a Teacher (of one
sort or another) progress is not measured; if unmeasured
- not known.
My reply to one of those that
asked "Should I look for a new Tai Chi teacher?" on one occsasion was:
"When the student is ready; the teacher will appear."
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".
Everyone has to start somewhere. You had to start somewhere, and the
people that taught you what you learnt up until now sure ought to known
what they're doing - or at least that they are doing it!
The contract made between teacher and student relies upon trust and when
'correct' or balanced can be likened to the Chinese philosophy of Wu Wei
trans. Mutual Benefit. The tree does not own the earth it stands in; the
earth does not own the tree that is rooted in it. They exist together
in Wu Wei/Mutual Benefit.
And then there is also talk of "a time of coming and a time of going".
If the conditions are that you should go, and you stay; you are not on
the way. If the conditions are that you should stay, and you go; you again
are not on the way.
Do not expect to find just one teacher to teach you all that you want
to know and remember, only you know what your way is. If anyone
claims able to provide this - they are deluded and they claim the unattainable
- and disappointment of failure is all that you shall inherit.
Perhaps your question really is "what is the way?"
The dis-ease that you express in you E-mail is frankly common response
to "condensed" or "easy to understand" Tai Chi courses. If your teacher
has exhausted the subject (as they know it) simply be grateful and patient;
perhaps your proper training is just about to begin - stay alert and practice
what you know to perfection - be prepared!
There was a time when I was quick to criticise people who claimed to
teach their own cut down version of Tai Chi. However these days I try
to be a little more tolerant, because everybody has got to start somewhere!
The first tentative steps on the tai chi way are considerably and quite
sensibly oversimplified. Those that begin teaching even these basics before
they comprehend a fraction of the whole themselves walk a short and narrow
path. "If, when on your travels you do not meet a wise man, better
perhaps you travel alone".
As a point of fact: Tai Chi CHUAN is the fullest manifestation of Tai
Chi as Spiritual and Martial Art Discipline.
It is only because its origins are Chinese that tai chi does not qualify
highest of all in Classic Budo and Japanese "Warrior Ways".
I am personally all for realism, but so to the truth.
Something taught in hourly sessions, once a week or so is not Classical
Budo. (If it is not Classical Budo that you are looking for you should
find it easily ... but I have no idea as to what it might be called; anything
from 'moving meditation' to 'tree' ... whatever. Fact is, to register
at all on the reality scale this so called Tai Chi is required to contain
the faintest element of usefulness other than flapping the air and standing
on one leg. Furthermore, it must adhere to Form. (If a duck is not the
shape of a duck, it is not a duck - whether it quacks or not!)
Academically there are only two types of Yang Form. The Long Form and
The Short Form. The latter is exactly what it says it is - a shorter version
of the original and there must have been a Long before a Short!
I am sometimes accused of setting standards too high. My defense is that
I did not set the standard, I simply attempt to maintain it.
I am as I said, all for realism; but I am not afraid to vigorously defend
the position of 'enough (reduction) is enough.'
The standards that I attempt to keep are practical to me. You must decide
Simply "Walk Your Path", and try to do no harm.
If you do that - you are doing Tai Chi!
Yours in Budo.
Grace, Coordination, Calmness, Confidence, Peace and
These and similar are the most common on the wish-list
of people attracted to Tai Chi, therefore those that
offer such run the largest (and most profitable) classes.
The problem with this approach is that if students are
offered a certain outcome in a certain period of time
they do expect that fruition within a definable time
Often the only form of proof of such progress is the
regular awarding of 'grades' or confirmation from the
teacher that "you are a Blue (Green, Black .whatever)
Belt". This progress, or more correctly 'process', is
almost certain and has a lot more to do with turning
up every week and paying your membership fee than it
has to do with learning or expressing an Art Form. Therefor,
serious and determined students soon (months/6 months
- depending upon the length of the course) become disillusioned
and question the effectiveness of this ancient form
that the teacher him/herself continues to expose as
Nothing 'of the body' (Martial) can be understood until
that body is understood, therefor it is this that should
at first be meticulously studied.
In the rush for progress this part of the process is
too often ignored and within weeks a student is striking
a pose or making a move in complete ignorance as to
purpose and/or origins of that move/posture. In this
instant the body performing the move is not particularly
coordinated (Martial) or creative (Art), it is simply
aping the instructors 'version' of the move. The problem
here is that the teacher is not teaching Tai Chi; he/she
is teaching something that can be learnt satisfactorily
in the time allocated.
The Students of today are the Instructors of tomorrow
and each should respect and have patience with the other.
When I look back at the crap I spouted when I began
instructing I am thoroughly embarrassed!
Therefore, to date I can claim no more progress than
my most diligent and truthful students and those that
demanded Tai Chi; not those content with coloured belts
and simply 'what I have to say' on the subject.
Pic. Ancient Taoist talisman "Life"