Have you ever experienced the following in your Tai Chi learning :-
i) Thought that the teaching that you have just heard is no big deal and no worth paying attention to
ii) Thought that you already know enough about the teaching and its a waste of your time to go through it with your teacher even though he looks as if he is expecting you to go through it
iii) Thought that you should be taught secrets that are mind-boggling and difficult to learn and that the beginner’s stuff is such a waste of your time
In many schools for the master to make money off you they have to classify the learning system. So in this sense beginners really do learn largely worthless stuff and they leave the good stuff to the advanced students. Even then the school may make additional distinction between normal student and indoor disciples to milk the student of even more money. I remember reading once of a Wing Chun master who claimed that his style was the true classical system from Ip Man. Then one fine day he decided to add 2 more sections to the dummy system and said that only the inheritor of his style could learn the additional two sections. If this wasn’t a means to milk students I don’t know what is.
However, if you examine traditional systems you would note that the basics really are the keys to the system because every system is built on basic movements. These in turn are stringed together to become forms. The forms are then explained and broken down to practice their applications until they can be used naturally.
A strong grounding in basics is important to learn advanced principles because the advanced stuff is basics refined. So if you can’t do the basics up to a certain level of standard then you can’t learn the advance material even if its given to you. This is different from a school in which they make you do a formal grading (read – pay more money) before you are promoted to a higher rank (read – pay even more money) in order to learn advanced stuff.
This sort of topsy turvy mentality is perhaps the reason why students keep thinking that the stuff I teach them on the first few lessons are not important. They keep expecting more and more advanced information, most of which when they hear it they start shaking their head when they realized the information is way beyond their understanding. In fact, one student told me that he doubted that the 5-Count can be used because it sounded too fantastic to be true. Yet, he had been on the receiving end of many a painful techniques that is built on the 5-Count.
However, I should not be surprised at his doubt. If he cannot use the 5-Count then he is entitled to his disbelief. I do note that when I tell him to work on things a certain way he could not do it nor follow up on them in subsequent lessons. He is still basically doing what he thinks he should be doing rather than the standard that I set as the minimum to be attained.
So until and unless he can do the 5-Count properly he won’t be able to use it. And it then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that the 5-Count is unworkable.
This is the reason why I refuse to have any ranking system. Because then a student who passed a series of simple tests would think he is entitled to learn more (read – more advanced forms) when he is still not ready to do so. A profit oriented teacher might let him do it but I think its wrong to do so. Until the student gets to a certain point he should just keep working on what he has rather than have more than he can handle.
One should never despise the seemingly, perceived unimportant details. This tells something about the student’s character. More important for the student if he does that he is sabotaging his own chance at making progress to master the art.