Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Teaching Taiji

I have been helping my teacher to teach for more than a year now.

He got me to help him teach after I finished learning my first set from him, Chen style old frame first routine. At first, it seems strange for an amateur to be teaching others, but I slowly got to know the reason behind it.

For beginners, the important thing is not to learn the exact details, but just to remember the broad movements. And you don't need a master to teach you that. You just need someone who knows the set, and follow him as he is practising.

And for the person leading the class, that means he must be extra careful, to pay more attention to his movements, because each wrong move will result in many wrong moves (everyone following will follow the wrong thing).

Once you have passed the "remember the broad movements" stage, it is time to move on to the details. Once again, even with explanation, nothing beats practice. You still need a lot of practice to get those movements correct. And having someone in front to follow again helps.

And being the guy in front, being followed, means you cannot afford to get the details wrong, since now, the rest of the class is not looking at your broad movements, but referring to you for details that they may have forgotten. So while in the previous stage, you reinforce your understanding of the broad movements by leading the class, now you are reinforcing your understanding of the details by carefully practising it.

And when you are asked questions, you either know the answer, or you don't know the answer. If you know the answer, it shows that you have a certain understanding. If you don't know the answer, it reveals to you your lack of knowledge in that area, which then becomes an area for you to work on so as to improve.

So while someone may have been practising taiji for 50 years, he or she may not be as good as someone who has been teaching taiji for 20 years. When you practise taiji, you only learn from your teacher and yourself, which is basically two persons. When you teach taiji, besides learning from yourself, you are also learning from all your students. For their mistakes is a reflection of your mistake (they follow you).

But I am not saying that we should all go out now and teach taiji. Just that teaching is one way to improve, and it may be the faster way once you have the proper foundation.

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