Saturday, July 04, 2009

Learn By Looking

There is a limit to learning by looking at what your teacher is doing. Because when you are looking, you are not able to comprehend what is going on within your teacher's mind/body.

For example, when you look at your teacher pushing hands with someone else, you may notice him moving his hands, his legs, his body in certain ways to neutralise an attack. But when you try to imitate his movements, you find that you are unable to achieve the same effect. Also, everytime you look at him, he seems to be moving in a slightly different way, yet the effect is the same. Why? Because your teacher's movements are a response to his opponent's movements/force. Each situation is a different situation, and thus each response is different from the other. You cannot achieve the same effect imitating him because firstly, you lack his level of skill/understanding of taiji. Secondly, your opponent's movement/force is different. So your situation is different from your teacher's.

It is the same when observing your teacher performing a taiji routine. It is difficult to imitate your teacher because you don't know what is going on inside his mind, what he understands from each movement of the routine and how he visualises applying it. If you try to imitate his movements without knowing how he interprets each movement, you will end up with an empty shell, a form without substance. You are better off performing each movement based on how you yourself understand each movement is applied.

Does that mean there is no value in looking at your teacher? No, there is still value. You look at your teacher is learn the broad movements, after which you must ponder on your own their applications (and ask if you cannot figure it out). You look at your teacher to see what can be achieved, thereby allowing you to set goals for yourself. You look at your teacher to see if you have made any gross mistakes in the movements (usually because when you first learn the routine, due to your lack of understanding, you didn't pick up enough details, and now that you know better, you realise that your hand is too low, your feet too wide apart, etc.)

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