Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Gentle Persistence

This post is about some observations I’ve made regarding my Taijiquan teacher over the past several months. She is Sifu Genie Parker, and she’s been at this for 20 years. If you click on the title of this post, you’ll be directed to the school’s website.

The single quality of hers that strikes me over and over again is her gentle persistence, which I consider Daoism put into everyday practice.

She has her goal in mind: to teach us Taijiquan. But there are obstacles, chief among them being our unwillingness to incorporate the refinements to our form and practice that she teaches. She’ll even make reference to “rubber corrections.” She’ll teach us something, and we wont’ do it. She’ll teach it again, and we still won’t do it. So she teaches us again…

She has a gentle persistence. “At this point of the form, check where you foot is. If it’s in the wrong place, put it in the right place. If you do this enough times, eventually it will go to the right place and you can correct something else.” If you didn’t practice yesterday, practice today. Eventually, if we keep at it, we’ll do it the right way.

Of course as time passes, the GM of our style will change the way the form is done, and we’ll have to learn a different way to emphasize something else, so we’ll to change our practice. Another lesson.

She doesn’t worry about things over which she has no control. For example, we get new people showing up to study all of the time. Few of them stick around more than one or two lessons. This is normal at any martial arts school. At the beginning, the fall out rate is huge. Still, she spends time with every new beginner, giving them every bit of attention. She doesn’t seem to regret what many would consider this investment in futility. Of those who decide to stick around, they seem to stick around for a very long time. This is a sign of a healthy school. That is the yin and yang of things.

She doesn’t really lecture on Daoism or philosophy. She doesn’t need to. She provides with an example each time we come to class.

Thoreau said: Philosophy practice is the goal of learning. I believe my Taijiquan teacher has achieved much.


Anonymous said...

Hey Rick.
Sounds like a great match and find. I have often thought about making a road trip to check things out in your neck of the woods :)

Rick Matz said...

I could let you know when she's planning a Sunday afternoon seminar on some topic that would be of interest to a non Wu style person. That would probably be your best bet.

Patrick Parker said...

Some of my instructors in the past have told me that the speed of sound is different for different people. You tell them and tell them and tell them and then 6 months later they come up to you and say, "Guess what I just discovered!"

That's because their speed of sound is so slow that it took that long for your words to reach them.

Sorta a funny take on your gentle persistence. ;-)

Rick Matz said...

Teachers must have a lot of faith in their students to not throw their hands up and quit!

ms_lili said...

You have good powers of observation, receptivity, and incorporation. Every day we are surrounded by lessons, but how often do we take time to appreciate what is being offered?

ms_lili said...

adding on to taking the time to appreciate the lessons, it is more than that. it is cultivating an environment within oneself that makes one receptive to taking in lessons.

Rick Matz said...

My job is to be a good student.