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Don’t expect praise in a Tai Chi class!

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.

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