Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Running Water Does Not Become Stagnant

Every few years or so, I write something about the benefits and need for students to take private lessons. Just recently I had a string of private lessons with people who had been here for over ten years, but who hadn’t taken a private in a long time. Most were shocked to get a couple of pages of corrections, helpful hints, and general updates. If you didn’t change the oil in your car would you expect it to run smoothly? Do you only shop for food once a year? What about checkups with your doctor or dentist? How about brushing your teeth? I won’t even go there! The point is that your solo form is as much a part of you and your daily life as the few maintenance examples I just gave. Let’s have a quick look at what group classes can and can’t do for you, and then some (more) words about private lessons.

Group classes are the main classes I teach. They serve many purposes. These classes teach many different styles and sequences and provide access to teachings on a wide scale of times and days. In group classes I give lessons that cover a variety of levels and abilities. Many of my lessons are arranged so that everyone can get something for their practice. I don’t teach to the lowest common denominator, but try to aim for somewhere in the middle of the experience and knowledge of the people present at any particular class. One thing I can’t do is to give a lot of individual attention to any one person in a group class. That doesn’t mean that if you don’t receive a correction, everything is perfect. I will point out things to individuals, but group classes are a democracy with everyone having equal access to the material and teacher.

Private classes are a whole different story. What reasons are there for studying privately? Some people simply can’t make any of the classes in the schedule. Others want to study a subject not in the current schedule, or want to go over a past class. Some people are really fast learners, while others need private classes to just catch up and keep together with their classmates. In a private class, the teacher and subject are really focused on you and your practice. Master T. T. Liang used to say “you can’t see the dirt on your own back,” meaning we can see others mistakes while they are doing the solo form, but can’t see our own mistakes and needs. In a private class, you will be corrected, guided, taught, and given homework, all tailored to you, your level, and your wants and needs. Individual lessons can make a huge difference for you when you get back to group classes and see that many people are working on your self-same corrections. Or you may see your lesson carefully constructed to fit a large group.

So now, are you ready to schedule a private class? I would suggest one per season, that’s only four a year. At the very least, once a year should be a must. If you have been learning and practicing Tai-Chi for more than five years, you NEED to check in one-on-one with your teacher regularly. My fee does not reflect the worth of the lesson, attention, or experience you have access to in a one on one class. Some private lessons with Master Liang were absolutely priceless. Some classes with Master Choi were two hundred and fifty dollar an hour, and worth every penny! If you are behind in your solo form corrections and can’t afford a private lesson, I will provide one for you either below my sliding scale fee, or just give you one as a gift. I can do two people’s solo form correction at the same time and my fee can be split. It’s that important.

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