Saturday, March 21, 2009
Finding The Balence
I have recently experianced an issue in the one class I teach to the general public, Yang-style Tai Chi Chuan. Readers to this Blog might already know my friends and I have a Mon-Weds workout that is "closed door". It's strictly for guys that are already established martial artists, there's some rough stuff, solid training reinforcing our boxing, push hands, chin na locking-- it's drill, drill drill. This is usually followed by a few cool ones.
Several years ago, I decided to add a Thursday class just to play around with Tai Chi Chuan. People in our small community had expressed interest in some kind of martial training, but we are very selective as to who we allow into our regular club practice. So the Thursday Tai Chi Chuan class seemed to fit well; teach the Yang-style long form, and give me some other bodies to push hands with. The class would also serve as a "farm club" to see if there were any likely candidates to allow into our Mon-Weds practice.
Things were ticking along very well for quite some time. But this week, a student sent me a note saying that she was going to drop out of the class, essentially because our practice was too "hard". This person, a spiritual woman about sixty, had been with the class for a year. She had practiced with another school in the past, and had done some San-shou (two person form) and push hands. By all standards, she was an excellent student and will be missed by us all.
Now here's the twist; Her note said that she was dissapointed that I never allowed her to come to the Mon-Weds club practice. Now, on one hand, she thought the very mellow push hands and occasional application or drill in the Thursday class was too "Hard". Yet she had wanted to be admitted into a real rough class, something she clearly was not suited for.
As expected, I'm sad for the loss of this student. Her comments made me reflect deeply on my methods and expectations in teaching a class with such a wide range of ages and abilities. It also reminds me that Tai Chi Chuan is so many different things to many different people.
What this has also done is reaffirm my conviction to teach Tai Chi Chuan as a MARTIAL ART, with plans to introduce Xing-yi and Bagua at some later date. If anything, I may have failed to clearly state my intentions as to where the training in that class is headed, with ages and abilities of each student considered. For the most part, all the other students are having a blast, performing at whatever level they feel comfortable. For those with no interest in Martial Tai Chi Chuan, I will recommend the Chi Gong class that is taught at the senior center in town.
One of Bruce Lee's first students, James Demile, said that Bruce was selfish in his teaching. Lee used his students to experiment and make him a better martial artist. To a certain extent, I am in agreement with that concept. Those of us that take the time to teach are rewarded with valuable lessons ourselves.