At last the results are in for this years Tai Chi Survey. Want to know what style is the most popular? Which class elements are disliked the most? Why do people start Tai Chi? How do they train? Well, read on as we skim over the highlights of the 2017 survey.
New Book: Take Your Skills Online
Before, we look at the survey, I have two quick announcements to make since I last posted. The first is that I shall be releasing a short Breathing Course on Udemy in the near future. I have space for a couple more subscribers to beta test the material during October. If you are interested then let me know.
Secondly, this week saw the release of the Take Your Skills Onine ebook, that was inspired by the Medium Series I wrote earlier in the year.
The New Book
The book is a big-rewrite on this material, taking a more detailed look at the world of online tuition and seeing how it is disrupting the exisiting teaching market places - for good or for bad - and what we can do about it. The book adds lots of extra material including more chapters, more graphics, more links and a rather novel glossary that redefines many of the terms we generally use in the world of Tai Chi. And on that note, don't expect anything too dry or academic, as usual with my books, the benefits are to be found in learning to chortle more, rather than levitate.
I hope you enjoy the book, its available on Amazon here for a paltry $2.99 or as part of a special Teaching/Studying Pack on Gumroad that includes 2 books and a video for less than a fiver. Find out more here.
Tai Chi Survey Results 2017
For those of you that completed the online survey, here are the major questions and a summary of the results:
Q1: What style of Tai Chi do you Practice?
In first place comes good old Yang - 50% of you state that you practice some version of the Yang style. In joint second place came Cheng Man Ching and the Chen style. It appeared that some people were a little confused with the naming of styles, believing Cheng Man was of from the Chen style, whilst others classified him as a Yang practitioner - which was clearly his origins. Others rightly attributed him to having developed his own style.
So why are people confused about names. Or are the names too similar sounding? Why do people get confused about this issue and if so can we make it clearer in our teaching? Who isn’t explaining the different styles clearly? Is it me? Is it your teacher? Perhaps the only answer is - does it matter? Do names have much significance really or is it that we like to think they do? Leave a comment if you have any thoughts on the subject.
In 3rd place, limping behind the others came Wu, Sun and then, finally, Lee style - nothing wrong in coming in last though - just look at the meaning behind Step back to repulse the monkey , and the Taoist idea of leading from behind and you'll soon realise that charts have little significance in the great order of all 10.000 things.
Meanwhile, back to the survey - 2% of those responding admitted to not practicing Tai Chi at all. Interesting. Others styles mentioned were Beijing short form, two more versions of Chen - this time added as separate styles, which makes it all very confusing indeed - and others said they practised only Qi Gong. Finally, someone added the Northern Wu is the Bambi style - which - though Ive never heard of - sounds the sort of style i wouldn’t mind learning.
Not being familiar with any of these means nothing of course - however if you are making it up or you are combining different styles let me know - I'd be keen to interview you for a future post or podcast.
Q2: Why Do you practice Tai Chi? In order of selected importance…
Can we conclude anything of significance from this question? Well it was no surprise that the majority of respondents replied with health as their primary reason for practising, but Philosophy as the second - that did throw me. Plus, only 1/3 of respondents replied that they practiced tai Chi as a martial art.
This may be simply that those that completed the survey were less interested in the martial aspect, or it may reflect a wider movement away from the martial, something that has been borne out in other studies - perhaps in the face of the popularity of MMA or Instagram, Im not sure which.
Q3: Which aspect of the class do you enjoy most/which Least?
Not surprisingly, in first place for poularity of class aspect is the Form. This was followed by breathing and then partner work - which doesn’t surprise me as I base so much of what I teach on partner work, but I do know many others that don’t. So maybe this will send out a message to teachers everywhere to include more of this in their classes. Why? well, there is a tendency to move inwards with Tai Chi, to retreat within yourself and your practice. This is often seen in Form practice as people go off at their own pace irrespective of where others are in the sequence. Partner work challenges this notion of the the importance of individuality and reminds us that we are only really testing out or skills when we work with others.
Interestingly, philosophy and history comes next then sword, then push-hands, martial, stick, fan and finally - in last place - as though it were an unwanted growth on the skin of the art - competition. Perhaps because competition is seen as antagonsitic to the concept of harmony that this element is placed at the end of the list. Perhaps, because it has not been explained well or demonstrated effectively outside a winning/losing scenario. What do you think? Comments below please.
Q4: How do you improve your knowledge?
Other than regular classes, reading books and watching youtube videos was by far the most popular choices. Workshops and online training was in joint second, whilst in 3rd place, meet ups and practice with others. Finally, someone insightfully mentioned that they learn most by teaching others,
This was an astute reply, how soon did you begin to teach your art? Some claim that 20 years apprenticeship is still the minimum requirement, but generally, these days we start a little earlier. I like to give my students responsibility for showing newcomers some basic techniques as early as possible. Nothing quite encourages them to digest a lesson if they have to show it someone else. They might even adapt it or improve it. Now, wouldn't that be interesting?
One respondent added that “I commune directly with the TAO! I dig into the genetic memory of all living things to retrieve lost fighting styles, and recipes for tapas! Not sure what we can learn from that other than Tai Chi is clearly a broader church than even I had thought.
Q5: What brought you to Tai Chi?
These answers were difficult to categorise. Many people came from other harder martial arts, some from Aikido, some from meditation classes, others straight from their GP’s surgery. Somecame with a desire to do some movement art that would aid balance, co-ordination and spirit, others simply because they accompanied someone else and got hooked by watching the class.
Other reasons quoted were - Watching others performing the Form, watching kung fu movies, or reading a book. Overall,the answers were many and mixed. We think we can categorise newcomers into those ineterested in health, martial or spiritual, but the many reasons people take it up are clearly broader than we imagine.
Conclusion (It's ongoing)
So what can we learn from this survey?
Well, it was hardly a massive survey, but what makes it useful is that it is global - results came in across the time zones and were not confined to a style, a school or a specific teacher. I have deduced 3 clear conclusions.
Tai chi is clearly changing in the 21st century. How far the traditional schools reflect these changes is debatable, but we shall see how they play out over the next few years. Thanks to all those that contributed to this years survey, and lets look forward to the next survey in 2018. If you want to participate in that survey, subscribe to the mOnk and get on the list.
Contrary to popular belief, the teapotmOnk (paul read) is neither a mOnk nor a teapOt. He is, however, a writer on Tai Chi, course-creator & teacher with more than 25 years of experience. He can be found wandering between Andalucia (Spain) & Devon (Uk). More here.
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