Tai Chi Classmates

There’s a good mix of body types and skill lev­els in my Tai Chi class. As the most junior per­son in the group, I have the ben­e­fit of always work­ing with peo­ple who are bet­ter than me (although being able to teach some­one myself would cer­tain­ly help solid­i­fy the con­cepts in my head).

Nothing beats work­ing with the teacher, who can pre­cise­ly vary his skill lev­el so one can learn and absorb things in small incre­ments, a sys­tem­at­ic way of fine-tun­ing the details at a grad­ual pace. It’s some­thing that takes a great deal of time for bet­ter results in the long-run, and I’m sure that in this sense, he’s invest­ing in his stu­dents as much as one invests in the class.

Still, there are senior stu­dents who teach me sig­nif­i­cant things with­in a sin­gle minute of work­ing with them. They fill in the gaps in my knowl­edge that I’m not sure I’d be able to fig­ure out by myself, because they’ve been at my lev­el before and under­stand what I’m doing wrong. Add to this a propen­si­ty to teach and help, and every class I walk away feel­ing like I’m improv­ing, if only by a small amount. Sometimes it’s to the point where I feel like my mind is going to explode, and the coor­di­na­tion of my body needs to catch up with the con­cepts in my brain.

But there are also senior stu­dents who seem stiff and unco­op­er­a­tive to the point where I feel I don’t learn any­thing from them. And even though I’m told they’re being nice and not over­bear­ing, I find prac­tic­ing with them to be very dif­fi­cult. It’s as if they’re work­ing too far beyond my lev­el, where my struc­ture falls apart and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Maybe it just means I’m not skilled enough to adjust and do it right yet. I’m still thank­ful to be able to work with them though, because at the very least, they remind me that not every­one who’s going to attack you will be coop­er­a­tive.


  1. It’s impor­tant when study­ing any mar­tial sys­tem to train with a vari­ety of part­ners — includ­ing the ones you don’t like train­ing with as much. I’ve learned a lot over the years from being tossed around, thumped or humil­i­at­ed by peo­ple that I had to train with in a group set­ting.

    As long as the per­son doing it isn’t a bul­ly [and it’s the super­vis­ing teacher’s job to make sure that no one is bul­lied]; work­ing with some­one you might not oth­er­wise even talk to in a dif­fer­ent set­ting is “char­ac­ter build­ing” in mar­tial terms. Oh, and learn­ing these lessons can spill into dai­ly life as well so that you get an extra ben­e­fit from the train­ing.

    In mar­tial terms, size and weight do mat­ter — though the movies often would have us believe oth­er­wise — and a small­er per­son has to learn to deal with it in the same way that a larg­er per­son has to learn not to rely on any size advan­tage that the Gods may have giv­en them.

  2. It was actu­al­ly my dai­ly life that has giv­en me the “char­ac­ter build­ing” required to under­stand the ben­e­fits of prac­tic­ing with less desir­able part­ners. Work espe­cial­ly, where one is stuck with the same peo­ple for eight hours — gen­er­al­ly as much time as one is awake at home — and many of whom with which I would oth­er­wise con­flict.

    I’m cur­rent­ly thank­ful that I’m small­er rather than larg­er, if only for the fact that I can eas­i­ly tell when I’m cheat­ing with force. I’d prob­a­bly feel dif­fer­ent­ly in a real con­fronta­tion though.

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