Thursday, October 03, 2013

Teaching As You Learnt It

I look at the way my teacher teaches taiji, and how some others try to teach taiji, and have some thoughts.

My teacher teaches taiji the way he learnt it from his teachers (Grandmasters Lim Bo Yan, Hu Yunhua, plus Chen Xiaowang and Zhu Tiancai, though the latter two consider him contemporaries rather than teacher-student). He passes on the same taiji theory that his teachers taught him. He doesn't try to come up with his own theories, instead assimilating his own understanding into the theories taught by his teachers. He spent years learning taiji, and even more years practising what he learnt, as he learnt it. This got him to where he is today. His training is effective, as shown by his achievement.

There are some teachers who try to come up with scientific theories behind taiji. They no longer teach taiji as they learnt it; instead, they have used their understanding from their learning to derive their own theory, trying to base it on modern science to appeal to the modern student. In so doing, they hope to shorten the learning curve, to make training more efficient.

But is efficient training the same as effective training?

If I spend 30 years doing what my teacher taught me, I should be able to achieve close to what he did.

What remains unknown is whether using that same 30 years to train under a modern scientific method will yield the same result. After all, the person who came up with that method did not reach where he is using that method. He trained under his teacher using the good old traditional way.

One is a proven method. The other sounds right to the modern scientific mind, but is unproven.

To be effective? Or to be efficient? Can wit really replace hard work?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your interesting and informative blog. Is your meaning that students should only imitate their teachers without trying to find their own understanding? Or that searching for understanding is somehow an excuse to work less? The goal of every teacher should be that their students surpass them in both understanding and skill. I have studied Taiji starting in 1981 until now. I also studied Aikido, shoalin and others along the way. Traditional theories and methods should always be examined, explored and improved on. This is how the art improves. The improvement of the art and the superior proficiency of the student should be the ultimate goal of every teacher or the art will rot and die.

Teck said...
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Teck said...

I mean it very simply, teach it as you learn it. It is for the student (who may eventually be a teacher himself) to assimilate everything he learns. But when teaching, it may be best to teach as you learnt it, and leave it for the student to make his own meaning from it. Because everyone will take away a different meaning from what was learnt, based on their own other experiences. Our own understanding is based on our own varied experiences, something that our students may not have and thus their own understanding may differ.

Also, it is about basing your newfound understanding on what you have been taught, to try and incorporate your own understanding into the knowledge passed down to you. It is not about denying the new, it is not about denying progress. Rather, I was talking about the method of doing things, not the things themselves.

At the end of the day, people will teach as they want; some will teach as they learnt it, some will try to come up with new theories and pass those on, some will be somewhere in between. Only time and lots of practice will tell us which is more effective. And eventually, given enough time and practice, I think we will all reach the same stage. There is no right and wrong, just what suits the teacher and the student.