The Tao of Distance Learning (DL)
In the early days of martial arts training, a Master Instructor imparted the history, lineage and techniques of the martial arts in a very structured ritualized manner that included blind adherence and obedience to the Master and Style. Disobedience, questioning or a perceived lack of discipline resulted in immediate dismissal.
While uncommon today in Western society, that type of training still exists sporadically and is still common in eastern cultures. Westerners want to know why they are doing what they are doing and what the purpose or outcome will be. As a culture, we also share knowledge, question it’s purpose and application and test it’s practicality. This attitude is what allowed me to develop an integrative arts tai chi program that goes from a very basic foundational level to a highly advanced art form and means of self defense. It is also what helped it evolve into a program that can be learned via video, dvd or streaming video and be credited for physical education credit or C.E.U.’s for professionals. Some critics would say that it is impossible to learn an art like taichi except through person to person transmission but with email, phone and periodic progress checks or certification workshops, this is becoming a mute point. I have had students learn via video and then go and place in traditional taichi tournaments with what they had learned. There are things that need partner training like chi sao or push hands drills but we must make do with whatever our situation and build from there. I am always reminded of Mother Teresa who went to Calcutta with nothing and started teaching with a stick in the dirt. Her clarity of intent and purpose in serving and educating those who had nothing eventually grew into a worldwide service organization built on love and service. Start where you are with what you have and if your intent is strong, you can learn and grow in knowledge, power, inner harmony and love while cultivating the ability to be the person you want to be and being where you want to be.
Learning via DL allows you to move as fast or as slow as you choose based on your schedule, time availability and personal goals. I was inspired to allow and utilize saturation training from a couple of my mentors. Both came from traditional schools but decided to “paint outside the lines”. One of those was told by a number of people that he should not be sharing the secrets of his lineage with anyone. Those secrets should be guarded and passed down under very strict adherence to the traditions of his master’s system so as not to be misused. He went back and asked his mentor about it. The answer he got was pretty succinct. “You can teach anyone anything because what they do with that knowledge is based on their level of personal power. True power must be cultivated and honed. You will never find it in techniques themselves.”
“What about masters in China that require one to not teach or share anything without their permission and guidance?” he asked.
“Perhaps they are interested in remaining masters. I have no interest in being anyone’s master. I am a warrior who in teaching you, also learns and hones my own skills. You are responsible for what you do with them but you are limited by your level of energy which can only be enhanced through training.”
That exchange captures beautifully the intent behind DL. We are on the front lines of an aging movement the world has never seen and we have a health care crisis threatening all levels of society. People are living longer but not better, Obesity and poor health is on the rise. Heart Disease is the number one killer in the U.S. It is a result mostly arising from poor diet and lack of exercise. WE NEED to make the great benefits of taichi available to as many people as possible and in turn inspire and encourage them to share that knowledge with others. We are so smart and yet so unhealthy so how smart are we really? One of my students who teaches classes recently told me about a student of his who runs marathons. She attributes her taichi training to helping her take off 14 minutes from her marathon time. Others have expressed how it has taken strokes off their golf game, improved their athletic performance, helped them lose weight, regain their self esteem and much more.
Those of you wishing to learn this great art for yourself, for physical education credit or to serve others need to step up to the plate and advocate for it through learning labs, home study, streaming video or personal video/dvd. And in advocating for yourself you are also advocating for our future community and national health. Be the change you want to see in the world. Live vitally with power and passion. Be happy and enjoy who you are and what you contribute to your family and community! Be a lifelong learner and share what you learn!