Sunday, June 10, 2007

when the road gets rocky

Changes are afoot at the T’ai Chi studio, and I don’t like them. Specifically, the pushing-hands class is being dumbed down to a near-crippling extent by the removal of the willow exercise. Willow — the very heart of this aspect of T’ai Chi — is being cut from the curriculum because apparently some people can’t play nicely with others, and the instructors have been getting too many complaints. (Since those instructors are models of patience, I can only imagine how numerous and how strident the complaints must be.) In practical terms, what the change means is this: Anyone who wants to gain the deeper skills of pushing-hands is going to have to schedule private lessons.

While I understand that the traditional path to mastery is just such an arrangement, a one-to-one relationship between master and student, it still pisses me off that advanced teachings cannot be part of regular classes. Once, just once, I’d like to belong to an educational system where higher-level lessons can be part of the regular curriculum rather than something extra that has to be squeezed into teachers’ and students’ spare time.

OK, I’m being very unfair. Twin Cities T’ai Chi does, in fact, incorporate an unprecedentedly vast breadth and depth of high-level material into regular classes. The teaching is ridiculously generous. And it’s not as if I’ve absorbed all of it and am entitled to move on. Far from it; I’m only now reaching the level where I can truly appreciate the richness of a private lesson. I’d just hate to see this school get caught on the slippery slope of dumbing down its curriculum to the lowest common denominator, that’s all.

Of course, my next question is, why not take the misbehavers aside and tell them to knock the shit off? Why not make them take the extra lessons to get their skills up to standard? And if they don’t, why not show them the door? Afraid of hurting somebody’s feelings?

Well, too late. My feelings have already been hurt by seeing bad students accommodated over good ones.



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