Learning Tai Chi online

Discussion in 'Chinese Internal Arts : Taijiquan (Tai Chi) and Qi' started by Robert Agar-Hutton, Feb 24, 2019.

  1. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    Can you learn from the following short Q&A?

    Q: How did you set up your leg hooking?
    A: I knee his leading leg.

    If you can learn from just words, video can give you 10 times more information.


     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2019
  2. MetalBoar

    MetalBoar Green Belt

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    So, what about the roughly ten other people and me that learned fencing from a book and each other? Sure, we made mistakes, but we got objectively pretty good and there were a lot of other fencers from that class that were as good as the average martial art student that is similarly only semi-dedicated.

    To address the matter of whether your training partner is being too compliant, I agree that could be a problem just as it can be in a brick and mortar school. The real answer is to have as many training partners as possible in either circumstance and if you want to validate your experience do some sparring with people not part of your school if you can. That can be unfortunately very hard to arrange no matter where and how you train.

    And I just want to verify that you did catch my description of what I'd want to see in online training? Not just an instructor passively posting videos, but rather actively reviewing students' work and giving feedback, ideally at least some of which would be done real time.

    EDIT to add: Oh, and I think I've had one too many coffees on very little food today. I hope I'm not coming off as too aggressive or critical of others' opinions!

    EDIT 2: Also, I want to clarify that I'm not at all trying to say that online instruction is or could be superior to really good brick and mortar instruction. My point is that people on this board dogmatically reject the idea that it could be useful for anyone or that anyone could develop real skills through that medium. I feel strongly that if the technology was used well that A) a good instructor could do a much better job of online instruction (all other things being equal - the student has adequate equipment, access to training partners, etc.) than the average or poor instructor would do face to face and B) if you live in a lot of places you may not even have access to a poor quality instructor.

    I think that embracing the format and encouraging good instructors to consider how to implement it effectively could lead to a lot of positive things in the martial arts world. I also agree that potential online students need to be aware that there are probably a greater percentage of digital mcdojos than there are physical ones and that it would be valuable to give novices a really good checklist of what the potential problems might be that are unique to an online format.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2019
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  3. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Part of where we're talking across each other is the issue I addressed earlier about learning to do something, versus learning the art. Those are not the same thing in all arts. So, if you want to learn to compete at a sport, then if you manage to do well, you've learned what you needed (without getting into the issues of self-injury through bad technique yet). If you're trying to learn a specific art, that's a different thing, and I think Tai Chi would be high on the list where that's an issue. If you can throw a Judoka within the rules, you can compete in Judo competitions. But to learn Tai Chi, you need to learn the principles of Tai Chi, and those are difficult for practitioners to describe clearly - they often say things like, "If you could feel it, this would make more sense." Aikido is the same way. I'm not sure there's a solution for this in video. I could teach my techniques, and they might actually learn to do them well (assuming they have a range of opponents to play with, etc.), but they probably won't be learning what my students learn, because they'll never feel the relaxation, sudden down-force, and other things I only know how to communicate by letting them feel them.

    And I guarantee they'd make mistakes in two categories (both of which they can't fix): 1) ones they don't know are mistakes, and 2) ones coming from movements they don't realize they're making. Now, they might manage to overcome these with force, strength, athleticism, speed, or simply getting really good at something that covers the mistake. But the mistake will still be there.

    With your fencing, I can't speak to that by much, because I don't know the situation. You were around a lot of other fencers - were they all untrained (or trained in a different fencing style)? If not, you had some knowledgeable feedback to go with the video training. I also can't know if you learned fencing, or to play the fencing game (I'm not even sure if that's a distinction in fencing). Think of someone learning enough from Tae Kwon Do tapes (yeah, they got out their old VCR for this one!) to compete in local WT competitions. That's certainly not the same as learning TKD.

    I'll add that I actually like video content - just not without some live instruction, or some base to build on. I've started putting together some videos for my students. I'll probably leave them for others to see, as well, though much of it would be of far less value even for folks elsewhere in NGA.
     
  4. MetalBoar

    MetalBoar Green Belt

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    I didn't even have video, it was strictly books. Now to be fair, there was some minimal institutional knowledge in the sense that there were students who had taken the class before, still, they had the same level of non instruction that I got, but I admit I did get the benefits of their having practiced the things they'd figured out essentially on their own. They didn't really teach, but they were more challenging sparring partners from whom you could steal tricks. But if you went back just a few semesters you would have been looking at students with no one with any background at all in sport fencing and they managed to get to a point where they were pretty good. There was a guy who had done kendo in the class and of course people who had done wrestling and TKD and things, but kendo is about as far removed from western foil fencing as TKD is and no one had done foil anywhere else. Regardless, I don't think online training is by it's nature training in a vacuum. If you can find training partners it's likely that some of them may have done something before so I think that this whole idea that training online is always going to be completely different is based on some really weird assumptions and by creating arbitrary rules about what does and doesn't count as online training.

    As to whether what I was doing was fencing or not, well that's a matter of semantics. Since I started out in standard rather than electric foil I'd say my style and background were much closer to "real" sword work than most people who start on electric. My more recent experience with rapier seems to bear this out. Similarly, when I started training with a retired Olympic coach he didn't change anything about the fundamentals of my technique, he just looked at what I did and refined the bits he thought I could do better so from that perspective as well, he seemed to think I was doing real "fencing" well enough.
     
  5. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    MA is no difference. During the 1st year of my high school, I was a beginner student. When my teacher taught advance students the form "little tiger and swallow", I hided myself behind the tree and learned it by watching. A year later during a high school annual event, my teacher asked me to demonstrate that form.

    When I competed in Karate tournament in form division, I had used that form to win many 1st places in black belt division.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2019
  6. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    That's sort of the point I've been making. If it's not in a vacuum, then it's a bit of a different beast. Like one of the other guys was saying about seeing the instructor a few times a year - that can change the whole dynamic. So, a rank beginner who just works with another rank beginner and video will have far more problems than one who gets together with other martial artists and swaps ideas. Even if the other martial artists are fairly new, each will know and be able to do something the others do not, and each will show up weaknesses the others will not.

    But they still might not be learning the art/system. That's not a problem unless that's their goal.
     
  7. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    You learned movements. That's not the same as learning the principles, in some cases. I could definitely learn to mimic a form from a video, and might even learn to do it well (okay, I wouldn't, but someone more detail-oriented might). But that doesn't usually carry any of the vaguer aspects of an art like Aikido, Tai Chi, etc.
     
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  8. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    A teacher might spot some errors over video, but likely miss some too. But the student cannot reliably correct his errors on his own, even if the teacher can point them out to him though an email. Beginners make the same mistakes over and over, and need to be corrected repeatedly, often requiring that the teacher physically move the student into a position or posture because the student just fails to recognize how much they are not correct.
     
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  9. vince1

    vince1 Orange Belt

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    Many years ago I trained in TaeKwonDo/Hapkido and received my red belt. Later in life I studied Chow Gar Southern Mantis along with some Ship Pal Ki. A year ago I started Aiki Jiu Jitsu and i was informed by my new teacher that most of my blocks/punches and some kicking techniques were being done wrong. My teacher worked with me and made the SUBTLE corrections to my technique which to my amazement made all the difference in the world.

    This brings up another discussion about how many schools(dojo) are teaching poor technique .Also how could you learn a martial art such as Tai Chi online or any martial art where correct technique makes all the difference in the world in a combat situation.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2019
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  10. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    Does your block/punch/kick work in the ring?

    If it

    - does, it can''t be that wrong.
    - doesn't, you should detect that and correct yourself already.
     
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  11. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    I don't believe anybody want to take an online Taiji class to be a fighter.

    If one only trains Taiji for "health",

    - whether his hand can coordinate with his foot or not won't matter that much.
    - whether he can understand the power generation method or not also won't matter either.
     
  12. MetalBoar

    MetalBoar Green Belt

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    Sure, but what I've been saying is I don't think the instructor needs to be physically present, merely that a training partner and preferably many training partners are physically present.
    I agree, but we've entered the territory of semantics and philosophy at this point in my opinion. More to the point, I don't think many people would pursue a strictly online course of study if they had good local options available for what they wanted to learn. And to be clear, I have never said that I thought good online training would be superior to good face to face training. I've been saying that good online training has the potential to be an effective means of learning. Going further, I think that it's likely that a really good online course could be better than the average brick and mortar school and a whole lot better than not training at all.

    Let's say I really, really wanted to learn Nihon Goshin Aikido for instance and really wanted to learn to do it the "correct" way (ignoring what that means for the moment). If I lived in Hendersonville, NC it would be foolish of me to take purely online classes if I could go study with you directly. That's probably also true here in the Seattle area, where to my surprise I just learned there's been an NGA school since at least 1997. It would not be true in my home town, however, nor in most small cities in the US. So, what are my options? If you or someone with similar qualifications were offering a really well done online course and I could dig up a training partner or better still several training partners, I could take your online class and know that I was probably not going to do everything exactly the way you do it (which would be true even training face to face, though perhaps [probably?] there would be less variance) or I could take something else locally that wasn't the art I really wanted to learn, or I could not train. With a well designed online class the student is still getting much closer to "real" NGA than if they do something (or nothing) else.

    And that's assuming there are even other local options. I've been lucky (well, not purely lucky, to some degree this was a conscious decision on my part) enough to always live in places with a lot of great martial arts instruction. I've read quite a few posts from people in smaller cities and towns that don't have much of anything available to them.
     
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  13. Martial D

    Martial D Senior Master

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    So now you have two guys with no understanding of what they are doing and nobody to answer questions or correct budding bad habits or form.

    I don't really see any way around this.
     
  14. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    This is why the audio or text is important along with video. All video should include "key point".

    For example, if you want to make a "head lock" video, you should state that the elbow joint should point straight down. The reason is simple. If your head lock elbow joint can point straight down (not horizontal), your opponent's spine will be twisted, and his structure is crashed. If you can't achieve that, you should not use "head lock".
     
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  15. vince1

    vince1 Orange Belt

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    I have seen many UFC fighters in the ring that are/were in excellent shape that exhibit poor technique and still win. However I have seen other UFC fighters that clearly had martial arts/boxing training from an exceptional teacher/teachers and win easily. A good example would be Kron Gracie and Tony Ferguson who have exceptional BJJ technique and Tony has Wing Chun training as well. The best fighters understand the importance of technique/timing and the advantage it offers and more than likely did not learn from online videos.Both these elite martial artist make it look so easy.
     
  16. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    @MetalBoar I have been thinking about some of the things you have been saying, and am formulating some thoughts. I’ll try to relate some here and this may turn into a multi-part response as time permits.

    Your foil fencing example is interesting, as I have some experience with it. In about 1990 or 1991 I had one semester of foil as a college level phys-ed class. I loved it, had a lot of fun, and some friends and I would check out the equipment over the weekend and fence to our hearts content instead of going to the bars. We had a teacher who I believe, had legitimate training as a fencing instructor, at least to an appropriate level for our class. I do not believe he was ever Olympic caliber or anything elite like that. Still, I believe we received legitimate instruction with at least decent quality.

    As I think back on that, I recall some of the corrections that we received from him. One of the main ones was to turn far enough sideways and not expose the front of the torso to the opponent. I mention this one in particular because I recall the correct position being somewhat uncomfortable. After fencing for a while with the correct posture, the side of my neck would often be sore from the need to turn the head all the way to the shoulder, while in that right-side-foreword position. I am certain that without the instructor detailing that particular point, I never would have understood the proper position that I needed to strive for. Without his repeated correction, I would have drifted back into an improper position that was more comfortable. I needed the repeated correction, not to mention specific instruction to understand the correct posture in the first place.

    I could have still fenced with bad positioning. At that level, in a phys-ed class it would not have mattered. But my position would have been more vulnerable and the quality of my fencing would remain low. My own goal was to learn fencing to the highest level that I could. So I wanted to eliminate bad habits wherever possible. I needed proper instruction, and the interactive experience with an instructor in order to accomplish that.

    Weapons are an interesting thing. There is often a certain obviousness about their use, inherent in their design. A sword (in the generic sense of a sword) is kind of simple in that you stab him with the pointy end and cut him with the edges. Simple concept. Yes, to a degree, anyone can pick one up and use it effectively, without any training at all. That same person could see some simple examples and put them to use, and become more effective rather quickly. If that is what someone is happy with, the truth is that it is pretty easy to pick up the weapon, work with it alone, view some training materials and figure out how to “do” it. Yes, this can be done.

    But this remains on a low level and fails to grasp the real capabilities of the weapon, and the skills that are possible with the proper training. This is playing with a weapon (to some good effect) but is not really understanding the weapon.

    To claim that it is impossible to figure some things out without a teacher, and to figure out some more with reference material, is not true. You are correct in that assessment. Intuition and athletic ability can carry one surprisingly far, and that is something I have pointed out numerous times here in the forums. But in contrast to that I think it is easy to oversell what can be accomplished through those methods. Genuine understanding of the methods and the capabilities and how best to go about practicing and developing those skills, only comes with a good teacher, with whom you can train interactively. And a higher level of skill comes with it.
     
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  17. MetalBoar

    MetalBoar Green Belt

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    Why don't they have anyone to answer questions? I've repeatedly said that to do a good online training program there would need to be some live streaming, exchange of videos, etc. There's no reason what so ever that students couldn't ask questions, either real time during a scheduled live streaming session or through IM, email, etc. Questions could be asked and answered through video clips with commentary. There would be less opportunity to get your questions answered immediately, perhaps, but when I was younger and really serious about martial arts I trained more hours outside of class than I did in class and had to wait for the next lesson to get my questions answered so I don't really see the problem.
     
  18. Martial D

    Martial D Senior Master

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    Oh. Well good luck then.
     
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  19. MetalBoar

    MetalBoar Green Belt

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    I don't deny that some things would be harder or require more self assessment and self discipline to learn through an online format. I agree that it takes less effort to learn something if someone else is providing you with immediate corrections. That's something that is going to be hard to get from an online class, but if that's the standard then an awful lot of brick and mortar schools fail the grade as well. Occasional corrections? Sure, but any school with more than a small class size and even smaller schools with less skilled instructors aren't going to provide much in the way of immediate, consistent feedback.

    I personally don't think a proper fencing stance is the tricky part for an online class. I think that sort of thing can be caught easily in videos of the student performing both drills and sparring. The student would just have to put more effort into self monitoring in between lessons and regularly review their instructor's feedback on that issue to make sure they remained aware of where they were open to attack. As the student progresses they'd need to be taught that the fencing stance is a tool to be used to guide the opponent's attack where they want it, not a rigid, fixed position. That sort of thing seems relatively easy to teach as a part of a larger discussion on theory and tactics once the student had enough foundation in the basic movements.

    The part I'd worry about with fencing is the camera's ability to capture a small fast moving blade with enough clarity for the student and the instructor to be able to assess bad habits like excessively wide parries, parries that leave the foil tip pointed off target and that sort of fine detail. I expect that as technology gets better and 4k and better resolutions get cheaper this will become a non-issue. For something like the relatively slower movements of much larger arms and legs in unarmed martial arts I don't think this would be a problem.

    For unarmed martial arts I expect the subtleties of weighting and stance, positioning in tight quarters and grappling work, and subtle elements of angles of attack would be the most difficult part. I think this can be largely overcome with carefully constructed videos and well designed drills, though I admit it would take more work. I also think that level of subtlety is absent, minimally understood, and/or poorly taught in the average brick and mortar school anyway. It's not a fair bar to say that's necessary for online instruction to be valid unless you also agree that it's a requirement for conventional teaching methods as well.

    I think a good online program is going to take real thought and work to develop and its going to require different approaches to both teaching and learning. I think that students will have a greater burden for self monitoring, that things will probably need to be taught in a more granular and more detailed fashion than is usually employed in conventional training and that some things will simply be harder and take longer to learn. I also think that if done well there could be advantages to an online format. The most obvious one is that students could train in an art that wasn't locally available and they could continue to study the same art with the same instructor even if they move. They would also have a video record of all of their own personalized feedback and lessons to review whenever and as often as they wanted. I also think that developing a habit of self monitoring and self evaluation leads to better martial arts progress in the long run than if you depend on someone else to assess things for you. As I've said before, I don't think online training is the best possible option but I have the luxury of living in a city with a lot of great martial arts. If I were in Smallville, Middle-America I would probably be thrilled to have access to a quality online training option. Or if there had been a real Internet and I could have gotten remote instruction from a real fencing coach back in 1991.
     
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  20. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I agree (mostly) with the first part. The second part assumes that when it fails, the practitioner knows why. That's something many folks don't get to for a long time, and sometimes only if they run into someone (their instructor, a training partner, etc.) who points out the principles.

    The one small point I'd make about the first half is that something can work in the ring, but still be problematic. For instance, if it puts a joint at risk of RSI (some blocks can do this at the shoulder). It can work, but still have that kind of problem. But that's a rare combination.
     
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