Thursday, April 28, 2011

Teaching Taiji Is Not Easy

The title says it all. But what is so difficult?

I have talked about the teacher's mistakes being reflected by the students. That is one of the difficulties, that the teacher must first attain a certain standard before he can teach. Else he will be passing on mistakes.

But there is another difficulty. And that is, is there a syllabus to follow?

Just like an academic class, in which a syllabus helps the teacher to pace the progress of what to teach, in teaching taiji, is there a syllabus to follow? What do you teach in the first class? How many steps do each teach per class? How many repetitions (practices) before you teach a new step? What type of mistakes do you correct in the first month, the second month, etc? When do you start introducing the basic principles of taiji? Because if you try to teach too much at one go, the student will be overwhelmed and learn nothing instead. Yet if you teach too slowly, you run the risk of boring the students.

The problem of syllabus is less obvious when teaching a single student, since you can tailor the class to his learning ability.

A syllabus provides clarity to the students on what to expect for each class, and gives them a sense of progress. But just like in academic classes, slower learners may not be able to keep up with the syllabus, and keeping to the syllabus may mean running the risk of losing these students. Of course, just like academic classes, you can always help these slower learners by paying more attention to them (aka remedial lessons).

Talking about the sense of progress, being in Japan gives me a chance to appreciate how the dan 段 system helps to give a sense of progress and achievement to the student to keep him engaged and interested in continuing to improve himself. There are specific objectives to meet in order to qualify to progress through each dan, and the objectives are in line with a bigger syllabus that works towards a bigger goal. In a way, it provides a systematic approach towards achieving a goal, something which the Japanese are very good at. The question then, is to define what each of these levels (dan) means. There is already a system in China but how do you adapt it for traditional taijiquan?

Teaching taiji is not easy...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Trying to Learn Taiji in Japan - Continuing the Search

As I have written before, I am looking for a place in Japan to practice. I went to observe a taiji/pushing hands class last night. What was taught for pushing hands was somewhat different from what I have learnt, though it is similar to something that I have seen on video before. The similarity only came much later in the class when they started to do single-hand pushing hands like what I know. But it runs so contradictory to what I have learnt from Mr Kwek, that there is no way that I can accept what was being taught at that class. So I did not join the class.

Anyway, the search continues, though I have more or less decided to practise taiji on my own. But I am still searching for a way to practise pushing hands.
If anyone knows where I can practise pushing hands in Tokyo (weekday nights), Yokohama (weekends) or Yokosuka (weekends), or if you don't mind practising with me, please drop me an email. You can contact me at vntsjp_at_yahoo_dot_co_dot_jp or leave a comment with some way to contact you.

A bit on the video that I saw which was similar to what was being taught. It was a video of pushing hands, demonstrated during a wushu and taiji demonstration in the early 90s. There was a mass group display and I have uploaded it below for those who are interested.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Trying to Learn Taiji in Japan

I talked about my temporary stay in Japan for a year, and therefore my temporary break from my lessons in Singapore.

I never knew it was this hard to find a taiji class in Japan.

There are many available, but none like what I am used to having. Plus, they just seem to be the opposite of the schedule that I can afford.

If anyone has information to offer on classes in Tokyo and Yokohama, I am looking for pushing hands class in Tokyo on weekdays and classes in Yokohama on weekends.

Wish me luck!