Taichi DVDs and Books : the art of teaching

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I have BKF's Dragon & Tiger DVD, it's really incredibly good.   With a soft black background you have 2 students side by side, doing the movements with a soft voice over from BKF.   It builds things up progressively, going through each of the 7 movements, with the students performing and BKF adding some details with the voice.  In the middle section there are refinements.   Then there is a section on transitions (more refinements).   Then the entire thing is done at normal speed for 10 minutes.   Then there is a section moderated movements for people with injuries.

Well it's just about perfect.


I also have BKF's Heaven & Earth, which is much older and quite grainy.   But he has the same type of progressive approach.   Firstly the movement is shown.  Then next section is on breathing.   Then a section of expansion contraction.   Then a section of body position.   Then a section on cavities.   and so on.  


Again an excellent presentation.


His books though are like many, they are TOMES or tombs, they are painful to read.   Why use 5 words when 500 will do.   As if the student is expected to be so retarded that every micro-breath has to be spelt out.   Impossible to use.   What is the point of doing the movement at all if you can't learn through your own feeling of it.


Mantak Chia's are even worse, they are unstructured tombs with an impossibly endless list of practices carefully mangled with a sort of index then an extended index with pictures, then an extended extended index with more pictures and practice notes, then the whole disaster.  omg what is wrong with this guy.


"This is certainly not the way."


IMO there is no knowledge that is not immediately embodiable and embodied.   Anything not embodied is simply a curse to have in your head, data lodged up there rather than reality.   And all knowledge has to be connected to your existing knowledge, otherwise where is the bridge, you must grow from where YOU are.   That way you grow your tree from where it is, you can't attach new leaves to mid-air.


But much instruction is mental, just tombs of downloaded vomit, the collection that this teacher has filled himself with and needs you to know about.  This is not a teaching manual or practice manual, but a bucket.


Another DVD (online instruction) I recently had the misfortune to witness was by a high minded teacher of Dragon Gate Taichi (and I may add some of Ken Gullette's are like this ).    With the first movement of the form, the teacher sort of stop and starts the movement continuously so that he can regurgitate all the practice notes and any funny stories.   So on the video you see him stop start, then talk, stop again, then start .... meanwhile as a student you have your arm hanging in the air for 5 minutes as he remembers some story of a cat and this old guy, then he starts again ... but only for a little bit ... then some more practice notes ... then starts again ....and just one more story and .... finally ... finishes ... the .... fucking .... movement.   Well my laptop was lucking it didn't take a closer look at the pavement 3 floors below.


What is wrong with these people ?    Are they idiots ?   

What they teach, what the actual effect is .... what gets embodies by the student .... is a completely broken movement, shattered by continuous stoppages ... and also the anecdotal stories become enmeshed with the broken body movement.    That is what actually happens to the student.   Because you are not teaching the movement as it is to be performed, but continously breaking it .... and the student is copying that breaking.   That's what goes in.

Surely this can be improved.

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On 7/18/2018 at 9:24 AM, rideforever said:

This is certainly not the way.


True enough. What you describe as the drawbacks of trying to learn from a book or a video certainly exist. Anyone who has tried to learn taiji in this manner has struggled trying to make progress. The need for actual hands on instruction is crucial. 


I am reminded of the instruction I recieved from one of the masters I studied under. He was very traditional and spoke almost no English. But that instruction was the best instruction I ever received precisely because the use of language was minimal. Essentially, the master led the form, section by section, stopping at end of each section so that the students could absorb what they had just followed. The master then had the students perform on their own and as they did he would make individual corrections, hands on. All of this was done without words. Just a simple authoritative nod when things were correct. Many students found this very frustrating; they wanted to be told how to do it, they wanted to ask questions and get answers. But not having language available meant the student had to devote all his focus to what was happening physically. In the end, the quality of the training was very high. 



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