Singapore Tai Chi Chuan

Mentor = Sifu

I was telling my student about a clip I saw of a sifu teaching a seminar and explaining about push hands. I told him how I observed that the teacher was doing the right things but the student, I mean, the disciple was doing things the wrong way hence making it easy for the teacher to apply his techniques.

The interesting question is why was the disciple not doing the correct things. Bear in mind, that this teacher has normal students and disciples. Hence, when a local was recently accepted as a disciple it was considered to be a privilege. This implies that a disciple has access to teachings that a normal student would not, unless that is not the intent of such a relationship.

I am reaching the last few chapters of the book on creativity and I happened to see the following :-

The mentor’s main role is to validate the identity of the younger person and to encourage him or her to continue working in the domain. The guidance of an older practitioner is important also because there are hundreds of ideas, contacts, and procedures that one will not read in books or hear in classes but that are essential to learn if one hopes to attract the attention and the approval of one’s colleagues. Some of this information is substantive, some is more political, but all of it may be necessary if one’s ideas are to be noticed as creative.

We can speculate whether the modern disciple relationship is more of a financial and commercial arrangement than the traditional notion of a sifu as a father figure nurturing and mentoring a martial son. It is certainly not easy to cultivate a person’s skill because a lot of 1-to-1 hands on guidance is required to ensure that a student gets the skill.

Sometimes a lot of time is spent convincing a student to try applying a principle by constantly demonstrating the principle at work. This is an area that many modern teachers are lacking and the disciple may very well be one in name rather than deed.

When the principle sounds illogical right off the bat the student will naturally be skeptical and not easily convinced to adopt it, much less even think of it further. However, some hidden principles are counter-intuitive in nature and one must know the procedures to render it usable.

If I say the more you try to close your position, the more open to attack you are any logical student will dismiss it outright. But without seeing it in context the student will never discover what this really means. Its only when the teacher acts as a mentor rather than a commercial entity that he would be willing to disclose the meaning of seemingly esoteric principles, thus properly mentoring the disciple and allowing the art to live on.


Author: ZenMindSword

Mushin is a practitioner, researcher and trainer for Yang style Tai Chi Chuan. He is also author of The Ip Man Koans, The Ip Man Questions and TaijiKinesis series of eBooks, as well as co-author of Complete Wing Chun.

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