american teachers problem or not?

american teachers problem or not?

Postby Yongnian_matt » Fri Feb 23, 2001 9:28 pm

so many teachers of so many different levels in america and not very many are recognized or acceptable by the Yang family.

In mainland china i understand that one has to be licensed to teach taijiquan, but in america almost anyone who has done a seminar and course for a short time go off to become teachers.

There needs to be a way yang style to be patented so that the integrity of the martial art isnt blemished by self promoting teachers that dont lead others to the founders of the art.

in this country people can get away with teaching, but in a communist country i am sure they cant. i dont teach for this reason, i believe i could mislead others while there are more qualified people to teach. i tell people to go to qualifed teachers. though i havent been to a Yang Zhen Dou seminar, i have sought out fu Zhong Wen and Fu Sheng Yuan almost a decade ago.

People in this country dont know better and so they dont know what they are getting into. some things that are called Tai chi can actually be qigong that moves slow like tai chi. i have seen this several times.

Then there is the 'secret' tai chi people who are from a variety of different yang style teachers other than Yang chen fu's standardized 108 form.

there almost needs to be a yang style police, i would like to see some teachers be told to stop teaching tai chi cause they dont know what they are doing. I know that sounds harsh, but it also is a tragedy to see what some teachers are doing to mislead others about tai chi.

for those who seek out high level teachers, grandmasters and the best qualified instructors, my hat goes off to you. stay true to the form, keep it real.
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Postby JerryKarin » Fri Feb 23, 2001 11:10 pm

Matt,

If you get a chance maybe you could check out Yang Jun's posting which touches on this subject. You can read it here

Jerry
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Postby Mike » Sat Feb 24, 2001 1:21 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Yongnian_matt:
<B>so many teachers of so many different levels in america and not very many are recognized or acceptable by the Yang family.

In mainland china i understand that one has to be licensed to teach taijiquan, but in america almost anyone who has done a seminar and course for a short time go off to become teachers.

There needs to be a way yang style to be patented so that the integrity of the martial art isnt blemished by self promoting teachers that dont lead others to the founders of the art.
[[snip]]
there almost needs to be a yang style police, i would like to see some teachers be told to stop teaching tai chi cause they dont know what they are doing. I know that sounds harsh, but it also is a tragedy to see what some teachers are doing to mislead others about tai chi.

</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


Hi Matt:

Welcome to the decadent West. Image

I don't know if a Taiji Police is needed, but some consideration must be given to the paying students, if someone claims to be a "teacher" of the Yang style. If someone is taking money from students who think they are learning the Yang style (or any style, for that matter), the "teacher" should be giving what the students are paying for.

However, I don't think this is a problem in just the U.S.A... I think it is a bit more common than that. It just happens to be more obvious here. People have more discretionary time and money, the ego's are big, and many people who want to "teach" are very self-centered. I personally don't "teach", not out of any false humility, but because I understand enough about Taiji to realize that it is very complicated and that I simply don't know enough... in fact, I realize that a really qualified teacher would see through me if I tried to pretend to be a teacher. Image So why embarrass myself?

Things are getting better. Stay critical. America will get past the phase where everyone who competes in a silk suit at a tournament or who wrestles and calls it "push hands" or who has the jargon down... all those people will pass away as the level gets better. The best thing is to help the level get better as quickly as we all can.

Regards,

Mike Sigman
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Postby Mike » Sat Feb 24, 2001 3:09 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by davinew:
<B>Perhaps a different way, and very possibly naive way, to look at this would be to put more trust in the learning process. We each learn what we can from a teacher, and then move on to someone with more knowledge to help us move to the next level of our own practice.

[[snip]]
Perhaps it might be useful to also accept the fact that every teacher is incompetent to some degree; that is, every one of us can embody a deeper understanding of what we are striving to learn.

[[snip]]In sum, I thhink the process takes care of itself. </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

If the process took care of itself, we would be looking at statisticaly success in learning Taiji. We are not. It is difficult to learn and most people are not very good, particularly in comparison to the skills described in classical literature. Secondly, I would suggest that your approach does not factor in that *wrong* Taiji teaching can actually stymie any progress and in many cases ruin someone's chances of getting on the right path. If this were not so, there would not be so many admonitions about the necessity of finding a good teacher.

Regards,

Mike Sigman
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Postby rparke » Sat Feb 24, 2001 7:54 pm

WARNING: Boring legal discussion follows.

While I sympathize with Matt's concerns about the generally low level of American taiji teachers, having squandered time in my martial arts "career" by studying with several poor quality instructors, I don't agree that getting the government involved in monitoring our art will improve anything. Without sounding too "Western," taiji students are consumers of taiji teaching services and must assume some responsibility in selecting a teacher. Caveat emptor, not governmental protection,is the preferable route. And if it is true, as you say, that in the PRC you must be licensed to teach taiji, then are you also saying that all taiji teachers in China are "qualified"? I've been told by friends of mine from China that this isn't the case.

Moreover, at the risk of sounding pedantic (oops, too late Image), I would like point out one error in Matt's post: his suggestion that Yang style taiji be "patented." That error is illustrative of what is an ongoing issue in the practice of Chinese martial arts in America today, namely, the improper use of terminology (which, as here, is usually unintentional).

Under U.S. law, taijiquan does not qualify as patentable subject matter. By way of introduction, I should first state that patents are provided for in the U.S. Constitution (Art. I, sec. 1, cl. 8), and each patent is a right granted by the government to an individual(s) that allows the patent owner to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention "claimed" in his patent for the remainder of the twenty-year period that began with the filing of the application (it typically takes more than a year for the application to issue as a patent). Of the three recognized types of patents, i.e., utility, design, and plant patents, the only category that taiji could arguably fall into would be utility patents (which comprise the vast majority of patents and are what most people are referring to anyway). To be patentable, an invention must fall into one of five statutory classes: processes (i.e., ways of doing or making things that involve more than simple mannual or mental manipulations); machines (devices for accomlishing tasks); manufactures (items that have been made by human hands or machines); compositions of matter (e.g., chemical compositions); and new or useful improvement of the above. Taiji doesn't fit into any of the statutory classes, and thus can't be patented.

Other forms of intellectual property, e.g., trademarks, could potentially be used to protect various aspects or manifestations of taiji. The Gracie family, for example, has been aggressive in acquiring and enforcing its rights to the "Gracie" name as a trademark and service mark in the martial arts market. Martial arts supply companies get trademarks to cover their businesses, and martial arts video producers place copyright notices on their videos.

Anyway, the whole purpose of the above is to illustrate the point that we should be scrupulous in our use of terms, both in and out of the martial arts world. One reason for confusion amongst American taiji practitioners is the fact that certain words lose meaning or context when translated from Chinese to English. A perfect example of this is found in a different thread on this discussion board, where high-level American practitioners Jerry Karin, Louis Swain, and Mike Sigman have been discussing the proper translation of "jin." Their respective positions, all well thought and expressed in precise language, has given me a lot to think about cencerning the meaning of "jin." Without sounding too schoolmarmish, careless use of terminology or explanation of concepts -- though well-intentioned -- is no less dangerous to taijiquan's accurate transmission than bogus teachers. Perhaps I'm being naive in believing that serious, intelligent students will eventually be able to see through the charlatans posing as "authentic" teachers. In any event, I'd rather place the burden on the individual student rather than setting up some sort of governmentally-run system of licensing instructors, etc.

Unlike years past, when many of us started learning taiji, there are now a good number of qualified taiji teachers who have either relocated to the U.S. from the PRC or are coming here to give seminars. The "bad" American instructors that Matt refers to no longer have a monopoly on teaching here. Our exposure to high-level practitioners will likely lead to a higher quality of taiji in this country -- but only if we practice, practice, practice what they teach us.

Rich Parke


[This message has been edited by rparke (edited 02-24-2001).]

[This message has been edited by rparke (edited 02-25-2001).]

[This message has been edited by rparke (edited 02-25-2001).]

[This message has been edited by rparke (edited 02-25-2001).]
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Postby Michael » Mon Feb 26, 2001 6:16 pm

I understand the concern over bad taiji, I have seen some real bad stuff, not just so called Yang style. One place teaching "Tai Chi" was playing Christian music (no offense) with people doing contortions that could only be described as bad Chi gung. I hung around for that class just to witness the spectacle. I asked the teacher what style it was and where he learned it. The answer was "a special style created by a couple of guys in Arizona who I studied with for a month this last summer." That "teacher" was replaced in a month by someone a little less bad (or so i was told), he lasted a little longer.

All teachers have their limitations. The good ones will tell you so. Most teachers have strong points also. One may spark ones interest and thirst for more, another one who does not believe that chi exists (by any definition) may teach great structure, etc, etc. If one is serious you know fairly quick how much you can get from any one teacher. Most of the really good practioners studied with several teachers for a reason.

Who should decide who is good? What is the Yang style? is there only one that can use the name? Should the Kuang Ping Yang style be stripped of the name as it didn't come From Yang Chen fu, but Ban Hao, or maybe the taiji from Yang Shao hao?

In this country there is also a very small number of students who are REALLY serious about the art. Most I bet are just looking for a nice pretty execise or because it sounds cool. There are alot of people who talk it, but they really are not serious. For good Taiji to exist (and teachers-they don't have to be Chinese by the way) there must be serious students. And what makes a good student is practice, the desire to learn, patience, and more practice. The vast majority are not willing to do the work. Listen to masters lament that the quality of taiji goes down with every generation. In my opinion, that is why taiji is not achievcing that high level that Mike speaks about.
If you KNOW the principles, have the PROPER structure, it isn't really the teacher that takes you to the next level (though he/she certainly helps--corrections and more corrections) it is time and hard work, and more hard work(Kung Fu). A "good" teacher certainly can make the process shorter with any number of techniques and his ability to convey his understanding, but only if one is good student. No one can teach you song-that is the missing ingredient in most failed attempts at realizing taiji.
I live in a rural community, far from New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, etc. I am fortunate that i only have to drive fifteen and forty miles to see my teachers. My teachers both have different strong points, both will tell you that they are not Masters, but both continue to study with Masters.
There have been a number of "teachers" in the area where I live for years, one after another they fail to keep students and are gone in a month or two or three. People know pretty quick what they are paying for. I do have problems with those "teachers" whose "teachers" are video tapes. But do we need bounties for citizen spies that report trademark infringement like Disney pays out?
In the old days good martial arts kept you and your teachings alive, the bad teachers and their students lost their reputations or their lives. The market will take care of itself, it will just take a little time.
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Postby ken » Mon Feb 26, 2001 6:49 pm

For what it is worth, I would say that as a matter of principle I favor "caveat emptor" over the creation of "tai chi police."

The problem, however, is how does a newcomer know whether or not the instructor is really capable of teaching tai chi? It seems that unless one is exposed to more than one group of tai chi practitioners or has the ability to read and understand publications on tai chi, the person will be at a loss to assess whether he/she is getting what they should be getting from an instructor.

I would suggest that perhaps a step in the right direction would be educating the public (prospective students of tai chi) about this Art. This may not be easy, as the newcomer may not comprehend the principles that are discussed among the more experienced persons. Nontheless, some basic education for newcomers should go a long way towards improving the quality of instruction by helping students avoid unqualified instructors.

Perhaps a separate thread on what a beginner should look for in an instructor would be worthwhile -- and maybe it could even saved on this site under the "tai chi info" link.
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Postby Michael » Fri Mar 02, 2001 6:04 pm

Ken, i agree that it would be nice if beginning students could be informed as to how you can determine who is a good teacher or not. But as i see it, in terms of reality it is impossible as things stand today.

I feel for people who don't have the availability of good teachers. But I "know" that one in thirty, or forty, or a thousand students even want what Taiji CHUAN IS. And for them, what they get is OK. There are numerous teachers, some who are well respected, that teach TAI CHI, not Taiji CHUAN. Are they bad because they do not teach the whole system? I would not want to be the person to deny people what they get from those teachers, or to judge them (the teachers) by what I am seeking in taiji, or what I know it to be.

I know what "bad" is to me, though my Daoist belief system cringes a bit with the use of that word, but what does it mean to all of you? That might be something that needs to be clarified. Who or what are each of us really judging?

Even if most of students (of "not so good" teachers) quit as they WILL, there will be one who teaches. I heard of a teacher who learned his taiji from a video tape. He even sells videos of his own. I understand that his taiji was very bad. But he realized his short comings as he began to aware of real taiji and has sought out a good teacher. There is hope.

I don't think the situation is that much different anywhere in the world. We have romantic notions of the taiji in China. There are great teachers there as well as bad. I have heard that there is great consternation in some circles about the government turning taiji (esp) into a sport, with the combined wushu routines etc(I do not have an informed personal opinion on this). Will it go the way of the World Tae kwon Do Federation? Some think so. Esp. as the real Taiji CHUAN teachers die off or emigrate.

There is only one thing we can do. As I said before, be better students and work hard. When we teach, don't stay clustered in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, L.A, Vancoover,......, get out in the country where people don't have the access to as many good teachers. The more people have to choose from the better they can make informed decisions, and the better taiji will become across the country. Mike Sigman said it well that WE have to raise the level. But if people don't have access....they take what they can get.
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