Teachers – Famous and not so much
Some years ago, I heard there was a fellow moving to Port Townsend who had been a student of many famous Tai Chi Masters and was authorized to teach. I had never heard his name mentioned in the Tai Chi world, but was looking forward to meeting him, and seeing the skills he had developed.
I can’t remember the circumstances, but I met him and had a chance to chat. It was a revelation and a surprise. It turns out that all the famous masters he had studied with were all on DVDs. He never personally met any of them and had only watched their videos. His authorization to teach came from doing a weekend workshop that certified all participants. In fact, he couldn’t do any form, solo, partner, weapon, just the eight move form. And he bragged he was a “personal’ student of famous masters. He was a sham and didn’t last long here in town.
If you have viewed Tai Chi videos, you will notice that most of them are, what is known as “Reference Videos”. They tend to be videos of a person doing their form, with no instruction, or very little. These are valuable to see how “famous and not so famous” players integrate the philosophy of Tai Chi into their form, and a majority don’t even try to teach the forms, only demonstrate them.
I spent many years producing videos that students could actually learn from. If you have read anything about my career, you might remember that I was trained as an actor and worked for a couple of years as a television director in Tucson and San Francisco. I felt I could do a better job making Tai Chi available to the average person, than what was currently available. There was also several instructors connected to The Gilman Studio who also love Tai Chi and wanted to help with this project.
It started out as a way to share, but also a way to earn money so I could continue my life as a Tai Chi instructor in a small town. I wrote online classes, composed of words and pictures, which I offer for free at my web site. I then made an online store where people could purchase videos, books, and other Tai Chi related items. It wasn’t a big money maker, but it helped.
A few years ago I decided to offer to the world all my materials for free so they could be enjoyed by a larger world-wide audience. I put them all up, free of advertising, on YouTube. The result has surpassed my wildest expectations. People all over the world watch, comment, and contact me with questions, which I am happy to answer. Because of these videos and the internet, I have certified people, after working with them extensively over the internet, in many countries of the world. It is a lot more work than either taking a week-end workshop, or just viewing videos with no interaction with the instructor.
This week in class, I told the story about a famous teacher of teachers. Bruce Lee is perhaps the most famous martial arts practitioner of our age. Truly a wonder. One of his instructors was Master Fook Yueng, a very well known Chinese master (regarded as one of the world’s best), especially in the areas of Chi Kung, Wing Chun, and Praying Mantis Kung Fu. Bruce spent many years studying with Master Yueng.
For many years I organized an Internal Arts retreat held over Labor Day, in a remarkably beautiful site on the shores of Lake Crescent in the Olympic National Park. Instructors from our area, and as far away as China, would come and share their love and knowledge of their unique skills. Master Yueng was invited (thanks to Sifu Andy Dale), and he was truly wonderful. Not only was he one of the most skilled people I have ever met, but he was a mischievous and playful person. So much fun to be around.
At that time in my career, I was involved with Push Hands and really enjoyed its study. I was teaching a class at the retreat on this subject, and Master Yueng participated. Afterwords, he came up to me and said “ You are my teacher in this subject. Thank you so much.”
So, I can brag that I am famous for being a person who taught Bruce Lee’s teacher! And you can brag (if you are one of my students in person or online) that your teacher taught Bruce Lee’s teacher!
Tai Chi Saber (Dao) Class – Fridays at 9 to 10 AM, and First Sat. Workshops
We just finished working on the San Shou (Partner Form). It has been a many months project and a good learning experience for all involved. I appreciate the students dedication and follow through. Now on to new studies.
The Tai Chi Saber or Broadsword or Dao was the first weapon I learned and it remains my favorite. It uses large, sweeping movements as opposed to the Sword (Jian) which is more of a thrusting weapon. The Form has 39 movements, many the same as in the solo open hand form. It is not difficult and is fun and interesting. There is a Partner Saber Form that is quite short, but this is the solo version.
We will be starting on Friday May 4th at 9. The first workshop will be on May 5th. You can get a head start by studying the online course at www.gilmanstudio.com/online courses or the video on YouTube: