What I’m actually teaching is…
“He stood about 20 yards away from me, and I closed my eyes and I could feel the power of his chi coming out of him, pushing me over”
So said my latest Tai Chi student, as we were talking about what styles of Tai Chi he had done before. I just sighed and said “Sorry, but I don’t do any of that. Derren Brown can do it very well though…” and carried on with the lesson, never returning to the subject of Chi again. He didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he seemed to quite enjoy the focus on correct movement – it seemed rather new to him…
I only teach on a one-to-one basis these days. It’s much easier format than teaching a whole class of people, all at different levels, and you can really drill down into what needs to be worked on right now with the student for them to improve. Most of the people I teach are complete beginners, which is fine, but occasionally I’ll get somebody who has had some previous Tai Chi experience, as was the case here. In general, this is more fun, since I can usually ramp up the amount of detail in what I’m teaching. However, it can throw up a few curve balls, like the above.
I often wonder what will happen when I refuse to go down the road of “chi tricks” with new students in conversation or teaching. Will they decide I’m not the enlightened Chi Master they were searching for, and leave disappointed? Will they think I don’t have the ‘real thing’ (whatever that is)?
In the end I’ve decided not to worry about it. I just teach what I know I can do, and leave it at that. It’s up to them if they want to say. They usually do.
Towards the end of the lesson (which went really well, actually) I remember saying “what you’re trying to do here is to learn to use your body’s natural power, through the movements of Tai Chi. The co-ordinated, natural power of the body in motion, which we call ‘sung jin’ or ‘relaxed force’. You don’t need to get too attached to the movements themselves – they’re just examples – it’s what they’re trying to teach you that’s important.”
I think that sums it up nicely.