Tai Chi Deadline

I’ve start­ed learn­ing large san shou in my Tai Chi class. While it’s fun to be prac­tic­ing anoth­er inter­ac­tive form of the Yang style, it’s also a lit­tle scary to be learn­ing some­thing new as my teacher nears retire­ment (when he reach­es 60 in four years). I’m start­ing to wor­ry that I won’t reach a lev­el where I can prac­tice effec­tive­ly on my own before his time is up.

At 2 class­es a week, 52 weeks a year, and 4 years left to go, we can expect rough­ly 416 class­es total; every class is worth 0.24% of a very lim­it­ed resource.

A class­mate once told me that his com­ing retire­ment is a good thing. We’ll be forced to go else­where to expand our knowl­edge of Tai Chi, because we reach cer­tain lim­i­ta­tions when prac­tic­ing with the same part­ners, skill lev­els, part­ners, styles, body types, and even teach­ers. While I under­stand his rea­son­ing, it doesn’t change the fact that I may not be able to con­tin­ue learn­ing what I know now, if anoth­er teacher doesn’t offer the same cur­ricu­lum.

Added to this is the fact that mar­tial Tai Chi teach­ers are hard to find in a city as small as this. Good teach­ers, espe­cial­ly ones suit­ed to your learn­ing style, with the right bal­ance of patience and dis­ci­pline, are even less com­mon.

It makes me won­der where I’ll be with my Tai Chi progress in four years.


  1. Speaking from expe­ri­ence as a long-term prac­ti­tion­er and teacher, each student’s tai­ji skill and knowl­edge will depend on the num­ber of years of atten­tive train­ing as well as what­ev­er apti­tude he or she can bring to their stud­ies as well as what­ev­er rel­e­vant stud­ies he or she may under­take to deep­en their knowl­edge and “round it out”.

    Your teacher is the sum of both his life and tai­ji expe­ri­ence, for good and for bad, and, sim­i­lar­ly, you can only be the sum of your own life and expe­ri­ence.

    This can be com­fort­ing but it also pro­vides fur­ther chal­lenges as sug­gest­ed by Anatole France though he was­n’t talk­ing about tai­ji at the time: “An edu­ca­tion isn’t how much you have com­mit­ted to mem­o­ry, or even how much you know. It‘s being able to dif­fer­en­ti­ate between what you know and what you don‘t.”

    Anyway, learn­ing tai­ji is like any road you trav­el… you get lost, you wan­der down dead-ends and even­tu­al­ly you may get so com­fort­able with the trav­el that you stop pay­ing atten­tion and day­dream your trip away or cause an acci­dent.

    Obsessing about the des­ti­na­tion so that you don’t savor the jour­ney is not much bet­ter. In the end, the road of life has the same des­ti­na­tion for all of us so enjoy the trip as much as you can!

    • Admittedly, I have the habit of obsess­ing about the des­ti­na­tion. It’s some­thing I’ve been try­ing to fight in the last few years, where I con­stant­ly won­der if I’m on the right path, doing what will be best in the long run, to the point where I lose enjoy­ment of the moment.

      The ephemer­al nature of our lives makes our choic­es seem so per­ma­nent and crit­i­cal. I’m still learn­ing to the bal­ance the long-term and short-term, with all the oth­er vari­ables and unknowns thrown in there.

      Dead-ends in Tai Chi seem espe­cial­ly scary, when it takes so many years to achieve prac­ti­cal results. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that going some­where is as fun as get­ting there.

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