Trying to teach Taichi as martial arts

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J HepworthYoung
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Re: Trying to teach Taichi as martial arts

Post by J HepworthYoung » Tue Sep 06, 2011 11:22 pm

I apologize for not having gleaned this from your posts upon the topic, but what is your motive for teaching?

I am also curious about peoples motives for learning, if for example you do not have a student whose motive is to learn taiji as a martial art, then how can you teach it to them as one? And also, why would you?

When the teacher is ready, the student will appear.

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Re: Trying to teach Taichi as martial arts

Post by Linda Heenan » Wed Sep 07, 2011 12:13 am

That's a really good point, Joshua. My school is filled with students up to age 19 because I'm a school teacher of over 20 years experience. The right ones come to the right teacher for them at the right time.
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Re: Trying to teach Taichi as martial arts

Post by KungFuPanda1979 » Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:39 am

J HepworthYoung wrote:I apologize for not having gleaned this from your posts upon the topic, but what is your motive for teaching?

I am also curious about peoples motives for learning, if for example you do not have a student whose motive is to learn taiji as a martial art, then how can you teach it to them as one? And also, why would you?

When the teacher is ready, the student will appear.
Thanks for joining the conversation J;
My motivation is to preserve taijiquan in it's original form as a martial art, in spirit at least. It is my cultural heritage, and would hate to see what we consider as the pinacle of Chinese physical and philosophical culture, degrade into 'that thing for old people'. Also, for my own gongfu to advance, I cannot do it alone, so I need people to train with for reflexion and feedback on a regular basis.

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Re: Trying to teach Taichi as martial arts

Post by Linda Heenan » Fri Sep 09, 2011 5:16 pm

That is also my biggest problem - having people to train with. There's no problem practising forms alone, or even getting people of other styles to practise weapons skills with, but the taijiquan emptyhand applications need training partners - not just once a year when we've saved up enough to bring someone over, or to travel, but several times a week. I get so frustrated sliding on the scree trying to climb a mountain because there is no one to train with. I've spend years training other people to try and bring them to a standard where my own training can improve. Then they move away. I understand your frustrations. My answer is to invent it for myself and use what works, in between saving up for a year or so to get some real training.
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Re: Trying to teach Taichi as martial arts

Post by J HepworthYoung » Sat Sep 10, 2011 10:01 am

KungFuPanda1979 wrote: My motivation is to preserve taijiquan in it's original form as a martial art, in spirit at least. It is my cultural heritage, and would hate to see what we consider as the pinacle of Chinese physical and philosophical culture, degrade into 'that thing for old people'. Also, for my own gongfu to advance, I cannot do it alone, so I need people to train with for reflexion and feedback on a regular basis.
Interesting. I'd like to note that with each generation of the Yang Family differences appeared, with each system originating from someone influenced by them likewise some very interesting differences exist. This kind of makes me wonder if there is actually an original form? I am sure there is to some degree, but also that to some degree the methods were tailored to individuals and that one style fits all taiji is actually synonymous with geriatric taiji.

I agree that training partners of high quality are very hard to find.
I am unable to appreciate the nationalism, culturalism and ethnic focus, but i know that those things matter to some people.
I hope you have good luck preserving it.

I wonder though, why preserve it?
Is it so those who seek it out still have something to find?
Or is it about pride?

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Re: Trying to teach Taichi as martial arts

Post by KungFuPanda1979 » Mon Sep 12, 2011 6:28 am

Thanks J,
I know for a fact that each master will alter the art as they see fit, sometimes unintentionally. Look at three of Yang Cheng Fu's famous students. Cheng Man-Ching, Dong Ying-Jiet, and Fu Zhong-Wen are all disciples of Yang, and all three are considered the fathers of modern Taijiquan, but if you look at the way they do the forms and how they have passed it down, all three of them look almost completely different. I don't see the martial arts as a exact replica of what the founder had taught (but most of them would like to think so), but a patch quilt that each generation makes contributions to. The point is not the technical aspects that needs preserving, but the spirit, attitude, culture of fellowship and work ethic that the traditional martial arts like taijiquan represent.

In regards to the nationalism, its not about proving that Chinese martial arts are the best by the virtue of being Chinese, but to prove its merits and its rightful place along side other crafts that are more well known as martial arts such as Karate and Muay Thai. If something has merit and deserves recognition, then it is not just a matter of ethnicity to help make a case for it. For example, many people here who are neither Chinese or have anything against Japanese, yet will argue the merits of Taichi's superiority over Karate (even though most such arguments show ignorance of Karate intricacies)

Regarding pride, there is nothing wrong with taking pride in something that you worked really hard at day in day out. It pisses me off whenever I see an inferior product does better then the original because it is marketed better and the masses fall for it. So to me if programs like Taichi for Arthritis does so well, I feel an obligation to take a stand and show people how taijiquan SHOULD be. But as it stands I am failing, and have no probs swallowing my pride and retire at the end of the year, because at least I tried.

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Re: Trying to teach Taichi as martial arts

Post by J HepworthYoung » Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:56 am

thank you for your elaboration
:D

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Re: Trying to teach Taichi as martial arts

Post by Tashi James » Mon Oct 24, 2011 4:22 pm

Hi Panda,

My two cents..

Also from GRTC Australia in the Blue Mountains (but currently busy with uni).

The most difficult thing about teaching Taijiquan is the perception problem that is pervasive due to the marketing of things like Tai Chi for arthritis etc, and its association with people of advancing age.

On the other hand, the people who come to martial art classes are a bit soft. They want to learn a martial art to feel safe, but they want to do it without the smallest bruise or pain sensation. This is not to suggest that there should be unsafe levels of vigour introduced, however, it does make the job more difficult.

I think that an additional perception problem pervades the MA scene in Oz, and that is the perception of MA as a sport. Instead it should be approached as a science, where techniques are tried and tested under different conditions so that the student can learn what it is they are doing incorrectly.

Once these perception issues are addressed it may make the finding of students easier. Yet as Linda pointed out there is a lot of choice and competing interests that hamper the effort.

Cheers,
Tashi
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Re: Trying to teach Taichi as martial arts

Post by Psi Man » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:40 am

Hey folks,

Thought I'd weigh in here, since I have been practicing for a while with Scott Rodell at the DC branch and these kinds of subjects come up in discussions all the time.

Finding serious students, and especially ones who value the martial tradition, is just as difficult in Washington DC as it is anywhere else. The difference is perhaps that DC is a good-sized city and has a very mixed population of people constantly moving to the city, who are of different backgrounds and cultures. But even in this metropolitan area, GRTC only has a small handful of serious students who are pursuing the entire system at the school with our teacher. We may have a handful of new students every month, but very few keep with the practice, and even fewer go on to study sanshou and/or sword. Lately I have been wondering about this myself. I have real trouble getting friends to come to the school sometimes, as within blocks of our school there are tons of yoga studios and martial arts schools, to say nothing of how many there are in the whole city.

I think for any serious martial arts teacher, this is always a difficult thing to find serious students and ones who value the entire tradition. I teach music, and like with martial arts, most people do not think of it seriously like I do. They want a hobby or a distraction for fun. But that's fine by me: having a few students at a time who only play for a few months before moving on helps me pay my bills and it helps them discover what they do or don't want in life. As long as you are honestly engaged and resolved to keep pushing yourself as a teacher or practitioner, this is the most important thing.

As for finding serious Taijiquan students, most hobbyists or young people who want to learn martial arts are much more likely to go to a boxing/MMA gym or try out krav maga, brazilian jiu-jitsu or whatever else is prevalent or available at the time. And quite honestly, for short-term results in self-defense (or a cardio workout) boxing is a really amazing practice. But it's rare to find a comprehensive boxing system you can train beyond your youth that will also enhance your health and lifestyle in other ways.

For some reason, Taijiquan has not yet the martial reputation of other effective and well-rounded "long-term" modern arts, such as Systema or Aikido, but because of teachers like Scott Rodell and many of us on the forum (and elsewhere in the world) practicing the full system and spreading the word, this will hopefully change in coming generations. But Taijiquan never went through a boom in the way karate or ninjutsu or BJJ or Jeet Kun Do/Wing Chun did, where tons of young people flocked to martial arts schools to learn popular methods of self-defense. Most of those people were part of a fad, but every fad creates a generation of new serious students and teachers who then can preserve the tradition. It seems Taijiquan did not really have this boom in the west in a martial sense. While teaching Taijiquan as a health art may have been harmful to the art's substance in general, it has made people aware of its existence en masse, which will hopefully show its use when it is more commonly publicly demonstrated as a viable martial practice.

If you are a serious teacher or practitioner, you should definitely keep a public contact available - maybe just a website or something - and casually keep in touch with peers in your area or country. There are plenty of fantastic instructors out there who don't have time to invest in struggling to keep a weekly class open, and so do lessons a la carte on a personal basis. And I know if I end up traveling for any significant period of time, I always try to look up the best Taijiquan or Chinese internal martial artists in the area and politely see if I can pay them for a lesson.

One other thing is to simply try and connect with other open-minded people in the martial arts (or anything: this is my philosophy in music as well - ignore genre distinctions, find the talented/agreeable people!). Laoshi Rodell knows a number of friendly, cool, and talented people in his area who are of completely different backgrounds in the martial arts or sword, and meeting them is always fascinating and further informative as to what we study. If you link up with people from Aikido or Bujinkan or Systema or koryu lineages or western boxing/fencing or Xingyi/Bagua/Baji/etc. it's worth just keeping in touch to see where it goes, especially if you hit it off as friends.

Anyway, just some perspective on how I am seeing stuff over in DC. The martial arts world is fairly small, and the internal Chinese martial arts world even smaller, and the people practicing Taijiquan as a martial art is even smaller than that, so... you have to innovate a bit. We're dealing with the same stuff all the time here, so don't feel discouraged! If you really want martial students, figure out who is studying self-defense in your area, what they want to achieve with it, and how to reach them or engage them on their level. You don't have to change how you teach, but it would be worth knowing. Most people don't think of Taijiquan when they think of self-defense -- or even gong-fu!

I also think what Taijiquan teaches better than any other art I've practiced is the most important self-defense/preservation skill of all: amazing, amazing BALANCE! I have saved myself countless twisted ankles and other day-to-day injuries simply via Taiji training. Many things like meditation or yoga can also help us relax in the face of stress, but I have literally not rolled my ankle over once since training in Taiji (and I'm flat-footed) and I think that's something I would use to market it to new students.

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Re: Trying to teach Taichi as martial arts

Post by Tashi James » Tue Jan 10, 2012 6:02 am

agree. :)

Funnily enough and on a possible tangent I hooked up with a Muay Chaiya (a non-sport lineage of muay thai) group in Thailand for a month recently to brush up on sanshou. To my surprise many of the concepts taught line up well with the principles of Taijiquan. I.e. fangsong, correcting the structure so that fajin comes up from the feet through the turning of the hips/waist etc. Like a spring, with the whole body working as a unit not relying on unnecessary muscle and so on. In fact the only thing that seemed missing was the concept of chi.

all the best T
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Re: Trying to teach Taichi as martial arts

Post by KungFuPanda1979 » Wed Jan 11, 2012 5:05 pm

Thanks Psi and James for your words of kindness and encouragement :)

I have tried to keep in the public eye and educate them about traditional Taijiquan. I occationally do youtube and public demonstrations when invited. This is from a demonstration at a multicultural festival last october;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEUYFVLd3Ss

I got one enquirer but he did not end up coming to class. Since nothing had changed, I had taught my last class on friday the 23rd dec 2011 and now retired from teaching. I have continued to practise by myself, and if anything, not having to teach enabled me to practise more consistantly. I will continue to do more demo clips, because what's the point of doing all that practising if I can't have a bit of fun with it. I just did one yesterday which I will share on a seperate thread. :D

Cheers
The Panda

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Re: Trying to teach Taichi as martial arts

Post by Psi Man » Thu Jan 19, 2012 2:02 am

Well, sorry to hear you're not openly going to continue teaching, Kungfupanda, but maybe stuff will change in the future. Definitely keep in touch with other knowledgeable folks and let us know what you're up to.

Is it difficult to advance your own skill level without teaching or practicing with other similarly skilled individuals?

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Re: Trying to teach Taichi as martial arts

Post by KungFuPanda1979 » Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:03 pm

Thanks Psi Man,
I would say that you can practise by yourself easy enough, but unless you are working with someone who is at same or better level, you can't really see how much progress if any is being made. Like push hands and sanshou for example, you can't really practise by yourself, and working with people who are not as experienced will only re-enforce what you already know. But if you're working with someone more advanced, then they can help you see your faults, and find methods and room for improvement.

Cheers
The Panda

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Re: Trying to teach Taichi as martial arts

Post by J HepworthYoung » Sat Jan 21, 2012 4:53 pm

While I agree in principal I also believe that working with people less skilled than you can develop your skill as well as theirs, just not to the same extent as working with someone with more skill.

Also if the person you play with has far more skill than you, it might be hard to learn well with them from push hands unless they allow it. That is to say that if all they do is "defeat" you in an instant it can be counter-productive to the learning process. The player must play to your skill level and constantly challenge you, increasing their level of play with you as you progress in an incremental way, this is a sign of a good teacher, they take it kind of easy on you so you will learn better.

That is my view, but I am a student and not a teacher.

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Re: Trying to teach Taichi as martial arts

Post by KungFuPanda1979 » Sun Jan 22, 2012 3:20 am

Thanks J,
But I would not mind being on the receiving end of someone of higher level, just so I know what the 'quality' of the Jing feels like. Then I can use that experience as reference for my development.

Cheers
The Panda

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