21ST CENTURY TAI CHI
Ideas to bridge the space between thought and action
Given the chance, Tai Chi people love to flavour things with soy sauce. If they can find a Chinese word to substitute for a English one, they get really excited for it aids in the mysticism of the art. Mysticism provides two important benefits for Tai Chi people:
The Traditional Response:
When Sifu Simon says: say: "Ting Jing"…"Dong Jing”, "Hua Jing" and “Fajing", I say: 'You mean How to touch, feel and push? Should we not, be trying to translate these concepts into our own culture, to give them relevancy and life here, not just in 19th century feudal china. But Simon doesn't listen. I'm not sure he knows how.
(I have decided to refer to Sifu Simon as plain Simon, not because I know this irritates him, but I have a habit of not recognising self-appointed titles.
'Listening in Tai Chi', I continue, 'is first and foremost about paying attention to the needs, problems and difficulties of students. It’s about approaching teaching with an open mind, an open book and not repeating the same formulae year after year, the same answers, the same words. Listening should start way back, when a student first walks in to the class. And it should carry on, even - and this may be difficult for you, Simon to recognise - even after the monthly fee has been paid.'
'Thats was a bit below the belt' he says.
'Below the Sifu Simon sash, I think you mean' I reply. playing with his self-appointed title once more.
Yes, listening is an ongoing practice, it requires an ongoing effort but the rewards are ongoing too. When students recognise that their teacher listens to them, rather than the sound of his/her own voice, Students develop the confidence to confide, to feedback honestly and - most importantly - do not feel obliged to stroke the teachers ego, or bounce backwards in demonstrations when receiving a “fajing” push, just do Sifu looks powerful and super-human.. Of course this means that Tai Chi may have to evolve.' But Sifu Simon is not keen on evolution.
Imagine all the people...
Sifu Simon says 'I cannot imagine teaching without an agenda.'
Well, try this, I say. Employ your imagination. Do your usual planning (if you must), but try not to memorise it. That's not good for it diverts the blood flow from your brain to your mouth.
Bring in your class plan (if you must), but put it to one side. Start the class as always, but step back. Let your students get on with the warm ups, partner work or an early 'Form'. You just watch. Keep these things open: mind, eyes and ears. Close your mouth. Listen-up for breath, watch out for signs of stumbles and uncertainties, for expressions of caution or concern, and let your mind tell you what you need to work on next.
If this fails, hell, just ask them what they need to practice! But with humility. (Look up that word if you haven't seen it before). You’ll learn other ways of teaching, they’ll bond with each other, and they are more likely to come back next week. Its a win win situation. Perhaps more importantly - Right now, the world needs to listen much more than it needs to talk. It needs to ask questions more than offer answers.
Of course Sifu Simon says we shouldn't question these ancient concepts that have been handed down by the great masters, but then whatever Simon says, I try not to follow.
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