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How much do you know?
People sometimes attend tai chi class for many years without reflecting upon how much they have actually learned.
Often the student has acquired some measure of relaxation and a greater sense of the art. But how much do you really know?
It is very easy to determine for yourself how much tai chi you know. There's no need to ask Rachel or Sifu Waller. Just look at the curriculum:
Tai chi for health syllabus
Tai chi for fitness syllabus
Taijiquan beginners grade
Look carefully at the
syllabus pertinent to you. Read through the list of topics. Tick off the
ones that you know.
Know your stuff
Let's say you are considering 'moving qigong'...
If you know all of the exercises and can perform them - by yourself - without any revision or reference to a handout or DVD, then you may indeed know the exercises.
Just do it...
Occasionally people think they know something but when called upon to demonstrate the skill, they flounder. How come? It's simple: they don't really know it.
There's no such thing as 'verbal understanding' in tai chi. You either know something or you don't. There's no grey area.
can't do it, you don't know it.
The right order?
Students may say that they know the exercises but not in the right order. They wonder if that counts as 'knowing' the exercises... Surely this answers itself?
If you knew the exercises, you'd also know the order. It's like counting to 10. 7 comes after 2, not before.
A common learning ploy is 'cramming'. Last minute intensive study... This is viable in terms of passing a topic, but what happens when Sifu Waller later realises that you don't actually know the topic?
He'll insist that you learn it properly. Like you should have done in the first place.
People sometimes want Sifu Waller or Rachel to consider their practice 'adequate' when the student knows full well it is not. What is the point of this?
If a student wants to cheat themselves, that is their business. Expecting the teacher to participate in the lie is absurd.
All forms of exercise can be dangerous if done badly and tai chi is no exception. It is in the student's own interest to know each exercise thoroughly and perform it correctly.
A student may be in class for many years and believe that this translates into knowledge or skill. If it does, prove it. Demonstrate what you know.
You may have been taking lessons for a decade, but that doesn't make you 'experienced' unless you can actually do the requisite skills...
The advantage of assessing how much you really know (and how far advanced your practice is) resides in the sense of perspective it brings.
It prompts important questions, such as: Are you making the best use of the lessons? Do you need to practice more frequently? Are there big gaps in your knowledge and ability?
Martial arts training is all about being honest with yourself. If your skills are poor and you get punched in the face, there's no talking it away or rationalising the experience. It happened. It is fact.
The solution is to expose your own gaps and deficiencies, and sort them out.
• The essence of the art
18 April 1995
Last updated 13 January 2020