For a beginner wanting to learn Tai Chi, it is almost impossible to know if someone is a good Tai Chi teacher or if they are teaching good Tai Chi. If they are lucky enough to see a teacher demonstrate, they may be impressed by the way he moves or his martial skills. Lacking a demonstration the student has to depend on the length of time a teacher has been teaching, who the teacher learned from, whether he/she is a “master” or a part-time teacher.
Alex Yeo, in this issue, discusses important characteristics and comes to the conclusion that the most fundamental aspect of a teacher is integrity. He examines many of the factors that involve being a good teacher and some of the problems that can arise with certain types of teachers.
From a practical standpoint, someone brand new to Tai Chi or martial arts has to choose what is available at that time. If the experience is a good one follow it as far as it goes. If it is not a good one, seek out another teacher. It may take several tries to find a teacher that is right for you at the time or forever.
In this issue there are a number of articles about how students learn from different teachers.
In one case, the student was interviewed by one of the teacher’s students and was not allowed to see the teacher and the class beforehand. This is not unusual. In China, students often had to be recommended to a teacher in order to gain access. In this case, the teacher was Liu His-heng, who appears to have been a very steadfast and upright man, Cheng Man-ching’s second student in Taiwan.
The article about Liu reveals a lot about who he was as a teacher and a human being. And what the student learns from the teacher’s spoken and unspoken teaching is often is more important and useful than any form and self-defense application.
As he aged, he appears that he focused more on fundamental principles rather than teaching new forms. Anyone who has taught for a long time, realizes that it is the fundamentals that the students have the most trouble with.
Wang Zhuang Hong appears to be one of those few people who have developed a special Tai Chi talent. People seem to be able to describe it and feel it, but few can actually explain or duplicate it.
Bruce Boldon writes that Wang is able to physically push people with great physical force without using physical force. The idea that Wang, a Yang stylist, uses energy rather than physical force. There is no doubt from various reports that Wang can push people with great physical for, but the people who are pushed said he does not use force. George Xu of San Francisco has told me about Wang and his special skills previously.
Boldon drecribes Wang as a paradox. He “appears to be extremely powerful, yet apparently uses no physical force, only energy. He looks very fierce, yet he is actually very kind.”
Neigong is at the heart of Tai Chi practice. It is the inner work that goes on continuously. Chun Man Sit of Overland, KS, writes about basics of neigong, which come from some pretty elementary principles.
Unfortunately, they seem so simple that students routinely ignore them and in so doing, miss the point. It is good that he writes about them to help remind us of their importance.