beginners classes

Tai Chi - martial arts culture for beginners - some issues raised for students and teachers as observed from personal experience

It is my hope that the following will help “first timers” better understand and enjoy their early Tai Chi classes since I frequently come across beginners who attend Tai Chi sessions with absolutely no knowledge or understanding of what it is or how classes work – and it seems that this sometimes can lead to an unnecessary disappointment, and that the problem is really about expectations brought into the class – perhaps this piece will help align those expectations with the reality of a class without scaring anybody off – there is no reason to be put off, Tai Chi really is a gentle, caring activity – but it is important to understand that Tai Chi is “what it is” and not what you expect it to be coming from the outside. One might reasonable expect that by going to a class one is going to learn about Tai Chi and indeed of course one will – but the subject is so large and the range of expectations/behaviours so great that it cannot all be encompassed in an introductory class – or possibly a lifetime.

Perhaps the best single piece of advice I can offer is to “learn to look after yourself” in all the possible ways that implies and learn to work within your comfort zone – but that is a lesson in itself.

I was reflecting today on my (arguably variable) abilities as a teacher of Tai Chi – wondering how to better “get it across” to my classes of likewise variable ability, age and education – and was struck by the observation that actually the biggest problem I have is with students who think they know it all. They may exhibit this immediately or it may take a year or two.

I recall advice from one of my teachers in Hong Kong to “be humble” and finding that being humble simply means to have a realistic understanding of ones ability. Such otherwise closed mindedness is a sure barrier to learning on a personal level but worse it can poison a whole class if only by taking up excessive resources and creating distraction – if you are bored or think that the teacher doesn’t know what they are doing then please leave and seek another teacher – or preferably keep quiet, then stay and seek to understand by redoubling your own efforts, rather than blaming someone else.

 

There will be no classes on the following dates at any of our venues:

Friday 21st Dec

Sunday 23rd Dec

Monday 24th Dec

Friday 28th Dec

Monday 31st Dec

There will be a class on Sunday 30th by popular demand – otherwise classes will be as normal – and if it is not too early – a Merry Christmas to you all!

 

I have noticed many cultural differences between studying Tai Chi in the east and in the west – perhaps the most difficult for beginners to understand is the completely different approach to the relationship of teacher to student – a good example is the lack of praise – westerners like to be told they are doing things right as with for hand positions – and if they do not receive this praise they can often become confused and even resentful – but this sort of ego reinforcement can actually be counter productive since it leads the student to focus on “doing it right” or doing more of the “right thing” thinking perhaps that more is better, actually to completely misunderstand what they are being praised for –  in other words leading them to trying too hard in the wrong direction and not paying attention to their movement itself. So in this case praise maybe motivational but often to do completely the wrong thing and so is generally detrimental to the learning process.

In my experience the most a good Tai Chi teacher will risk is the occasional “quite good” in a vague sort of way, maybe once in 5 years – you will know when it is right and learning how to know for yourself is absolutely essential – a teacher can correct and introduce new exercise experiences but reinforcing bad old habits of ego driven body usage is not good Tai Chi or good teaching.

So perhaps the first hurdle in learning Tai Chi is learning how to learn and not to demand that Tai Chi is exactly the same as everything else – if it were then it would not be worth doing.

2018 Shefford Tai Chi Festival review – World Health Organisation World Tai Chi and Chi Kung Day.

30 April 2018
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We had a brilliant day again this year – despite the weather many more people came than last year and lots stayed for the whole day – we were delighted to see everybody. There was a lot of interest in all the classes starting with Tai Chi exercises to loosen up the body and a […]

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Classes and Merry Christmas

19 December 2017
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Classes and events over the Christmas period

2 November 2017

Nov 3 Nov no class at Shefford 26 Nov no class at Shefford Dec 11 Shefford lunch 13 Letchworth dinner 18 lunch at Letchworth 21 no class Letchworth 22 no class Shefford 24 no class Shefford 25 no class Letchworth and Shefford 28 no class Letchworth 29 no class Shefford 31 no class Shefford Jan […]

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Attending a Martial Arts (Tai Chi) class for beginners – further thoughts

20 March 2017

Attending a martial arts class may well be very different to other activities you have undertaken and it should be remembered that Tai Chi is a martial art – and I believe it is extremely important that this link is maintained. This is part of their paradox which I have written about elsewhere.  So the […]

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Attending Tai Chi classes for beginners

7 March 2017
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Do not over exert – adapt the exercises to suit your capability. If the instructor says he/she is going to demonstrate, move to a position where you can see what you need to. Individual positions in the class may be quite loose – make sure that you can see the instructor and have room to […]

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Sadly Haynes class is no more

31 January 2017
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Just a quick update to let anyone interested know that the Monday class at Haynes has ceased as from last night (30 Jan) – with those students interested to continue their practice transferring to the Shefford classes of their choice – either Sunday evenings or Monday afternoons.   Share the post “Sadly Haynes class is […]

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