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More Learning Tai Chi
further observations and conversations on learning tai chi

Student/Teacher questions 1:
Why Tai Chi?

attentionTaichido 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 your own.

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 Well-being.
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 period.
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 irrelevant!

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"


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.
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