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Never ever underestimate your own ability to not understand

I have lost count of the number of times that a student has said – “but I am doing what you said” – which is actually quite rude when I can clearly see that they are not – and of course it can easily become an argument after that, so the teacher maybe tries another approach and getting the same negative response, demonstrates again and leaves the matter until later when the student is ready.

I know this is a problem because I fall into it myself but have long ago stopped claiming that I am doing what I have been told – many sessions of golf lessons with video really pushed that home, the video shows that we think we are doing something one way but we are not, we are doing it quite differently – although truth to tell I have always respected my teachers too much to tell them that they are wrong, preferring instead to say “I thought I was doing what you said” or ” that is what I was trying to do” or similar before going off to look in my own practice for whatever it was they were trying to show me.

Recently working in push hands with my teacher Karel he said “now push”, at first it was so awkward that I could not – but then I tried something different and it was easy – I had “discovered” something which all my teachers had always tried to explain but which I had never to that point actually understood in the way that I needed to. It was not the “fault” of my teachers – they could “do it” and all were trying their very best to transmit what they knew – it was my fault for not understanding. Ultimately many hours of training and experimenting paid off and I did finally understand. And now looking back – I cannot think of a better way to explain it than the way they used, my inner voice exclaimed “ah so that is what they meant!” and now having found it I have only the same language that they used. Although in my own teaching I can now demonstrate it better – but can the students see the difference – I could not.

But having found it once does not mean there is not more for me to understand and I will probably need to re-discover the same thing many more times.

Tai Chi seems to be something that “you can’t do it until you can – then you can”


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