Learning Tai Chi online

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

  1. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Given that limitation, I'd agree. I could certainly practice Tai Chi forms/movement for physical health without needing to learn the Tai Chi MA. This is what I was talking about in my distinction of whether they're learning the MA, or just movements from it.
     
  2. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    It is interesting that you point out the plethora of poor quality instruction often found in brick-and-mortar schools. I agree with you. There are lots and lots of schools that I also would not recommend someone join.

    That is not a good reason to embrace a different, equally or more faulty method of instruction, which distance/video instruction is.

    I know I will not change your mind on this. That’s ok, you can certainly make up your own mind on it. I will give you my thoughts and reasons for my position, for the sake of the discussion.

    As for wanting access to a system for which instructors in your area are absent, I guess I don’t feel that is a reason to pursue them through an inferior and deeply problematic learning method. Sometimes things are simply unavailable. Some things are worth doing right, or not at all. Life isn’t fair.

    I did grow up in a small town with very limited martial arts availability. After I graduated from college, I moved across the country in order to live in an area where I had access to the training and instruction that was important to me. I made my life in a new city, found employment, built a family, and did it specifically where I could access the training that I wanted. That was about 25 years ago.

    I realize that not everyone is in a position to make a move like that, for various reasons that are all very legitimate. Again, life isn’t fair.
     
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  3. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't disagree with anything you've posted there. I think we're only nuances apart, really.

    Your example of NGA gets to the heart of my point. I don't think you'd be learning NGA, really, by doing that. You'd almost certainly be learning a non-aiki derivative of it. To understand how far that is from how I see NGA, that'd be like learning a non-kick version of TKD. You might have all the hand strikes exactly the way they are taught in TKD, but without the kicks, would it really be TKD? That's what it would seem like to me if you didn't learn the aiki aspects of the art, and I don't see how those can be introduced/taught without physical interaction with someone who can already do them (so a mid-range practitioner, at the very least). If you've seen me try to even explain what "aiki" is on MT, you'll have an idea of how hard it is to communicate.

    So, if you just liked the techniques and my overall strategic approach, you can probably learn those reasonably. It'd take longer, and you're going to get some of them working through entirely different principles (which I would argue makes it a different technique, but that is probably just semantics), but you could probably figure it out with some partners. I will say, you'd have to skip out on most of the standard NGA approach (the "classical" material), because having any number of partners but no instructor makes all of that probably counter-productive. There are some in NGA who would say that abandons the core of the art (so you wouldn't be learning NGA techniques, even), but I don't think I agree with that view.
     
  4. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    This is why I said earlier you'd need some access to people who have some knowledge - even if not of that art. And the learning curve would be very long.
     
  5. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I think I'm also struggling with the idea of wanting to train a specific style. The closest I can get to that concept is my personal interest in BJJ. But if BJJ wasn't near me, I'd just find something that fits my need, based on what's available. Especially when I was beginning (now I have enough grappling background to be able to pick up some BJJ from video).
     
  6. Martial D

    Martial D Senior Master

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    Not even then. Say the guy with some knowledge is a karate guy, and it's an online boxing course
    Karate guy isn't going to be much help if you are chickenwinging your punches or are standing off Ballance or your timing is bad or (insert any number of bad habits you probably won't catch, even as a professional coach, watching someone on a webcam)
     
  7. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Good point - I should have said "related knowledge". Someone from Judo could figure out the basic mechanics of most NGA or BJJ techniques (and vice-versa). As for the boxing and Karate thing, I think a Karateka with an open mind and a history of exploration could go a long way to helping spot some of the issues. The power generation isn't so vastly different in my mind, so I can at least tell when what a boxer is doing is working, but just not the way I'm used to doing it. And I can spot openings the pure beginner probably wouldn't. That'd be far better than depending on folks with no knowledge, but maybe isn't going to produce something most boxers would recognize as "boxing", and which might not fare as well against boxers - which goes back to the point I've been making about maybe learning techniques but not the art/discipline in question.
     
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  8. Martial D

    Martial D Senior Master

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    Or you could avoid all this nonsense and contortionism and go get actual training from an actual coach.

    Nobody that is good, ever, learned to fight on a website. Why are you enabling this kid?
     
  9. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    What makes you think I'm enabling him? Go back and look at my original posts.
     
  10. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I will argue that there is no one currently in the UFC solely on the basis of their physical attributes. All of them are very, very skilled. Even those who aren't world class still have much more overall skill than most hobbyist black belts (and honestly a high percentage of instructors who run their own schools).

    If you see a UFC fighter who seems to have bad technique, there are a few possibilities.
    1) He or she is using their technique in a way that you don't recognize because you don't have the right background.
    2) The other fighter is making them look bad by virtue of even better technique or ringmanship.
    3) They might actually have a bad habit on one area or another, but are compensating for it with superior technique elsewhere.

    15-20 years ago you had some fighters who got in the UFC based just on physical attributes. Today the skill range is from very good to absolutely unreal.
     
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  11. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    For the typical beginner who does not know what he wants to train and so asks, “what is the best style?” Then I feel the answer is, don’t worry about the style, and instead work with the best teacher you can find.

    In my case, I had earned my shodan in kenpo while in high school. That was the only school available to me and it had since closed. So i wasn’t a beginner.

    While at the University of Wisconsin I stumbled upon the campus capoeira club, which was completely different from anything I had ever trained. I worked with them during a couple of summers, as I was only on campus for two summer sessions. It was clear that the instructors were not at a high level, they never pretended otherwise. So after graduation, I pursued one or two job possibilities that did not work out and realized I needed to make some decisions about my life. There was nothing keeping me in the Midwest and I knew that at that time (the mid-1990s) capoeira was a rare thing in the US and most of the good capoeira schools were in the San Francisco and New York City areas. I did not want to go to NYC, and I had an aunt in the SF area so I had some support in that direction. The UW capoeira club had an affiliation with a teacher in SF, so I decided it was time to strike out in a new direction, move across the country and build my life.

    I also had interests in other martial arts and the SF area is a hotbed for lots of things including Chinese methods. So I wanted to be in SF so I could have these options.

    But when you want to learn something, you need access to a good teacher. If there are none nearby, and it is really important to you, then you move.
     
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  12. vince1

    vince1 Orange Belt

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    1) Or the technique is being done so poorly it doesn't work based on the viewers lack of knowledge not being well versed on more than one martial art.
    2) The other fighter is a better fighter because he/she has been taught the correct technique along with the subtle difference to make it work and seem almost effortless.
    3) A bad habit has been created based on being taught incorrect hence sloppy technique.

    Many reasons as to why, but I can see sloppy technique based on my own experience as well as my current teachers 50 plus years of martial arts experience/training.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2019
  13. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    I don't believe this thread is started to suggest an online Taiji class to train Taiji fighters.

    If you just want to learn Taiji for health (or self-cultivation, inner peace, performance, ...), do you really need a good Taiji teacher?

    If I suggest "Kung Fu walk" that "for every 4 steps that you walk, you throw a hook punch". I don't even need to put up a clip, and people can still do it for "health".

    - Whether your punch coordinate with your leg or not is not important.
    - When your hook punch use vertical fist or horizontal fist is also not important.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2019
  14. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    It has clearly morphed into discussion of the merits of video training in martial arts on a more broad basis, not just taiji for health.
     
  15. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    @MetalBoar, I’ll offer some more thoughts from my own experiences with the topic.

    I have three experiences with learning from video and I will relate them and my thoughts on the experience. This was all before any kind of interactive experience was possible on the internet.

    First, I earned my shodan in Tracy kenpo while in high school, I think it was 1987 or so. I had two instructors: James was Nidan within the Tracy organization, and his student John was shodan, and later Nidan. I started under James and continued under John when James moved away. Anyway, James became interested in exploring the Chinese arts and began acquiring instructional videos from the Green Dragon school in Stowe, Ohio, under John Allen. They offer a wide range of instructional videos, and are still in operation. You can find them on the internet. The idea was that several of us would each take a video, learn the material from it, and later share it with the group. Some videos were forms from various systems, I think one might have been a collection of application scenarios, but from what system, I do not know. We never did regroup to share what we had “learned” from the videos.

    I was given a video of a beginning level form from a system they called “white crane of Omei”, a system I have never heard of from any other source. (John Allen likes to claim his school is one of very few sources of “authentic” and “rare” Chinese systems, a claim that I personally have doubts about, but whatever). Anyway, I followed the video and did learn the form, at least on a level of mimickry. The video included some breakdown of application of movements found within the form, but it was kind of random and not systematic. There was no discussion or instruction offered on the fundamentals of the “Omei White Crane” system, no discussion of the principles and mechanisms for developing power and how it relates to stances and movement and positioning, etc. It was just movement and some interpretation of that movement, without any kind of foundation.

    I practice that form for a couple years or so. I always felt something was missing from the experience, I did not really understand any of it or how to use it or what lessons it was supposed to teach me. But there i was, practicing it, and honestly, feeling like a fraud the whole way. I cringe to recall that in some context that does not merit further description here, I even suggested that I had some background in white crane Kung fu. I console myself by saying that I was young and naive, but in my heart I knew it was a fraudulent claim.

    Some years later I did a similar thing with Sifu Chiu Chi-ling’s Instructional video on the Tiger and Crane form from Hung-Gar method. I did this because Tracy Kenpo has a version of this form within its curriculum, but it is a poor derivative. Tracy kenpo likes to do that, adopt material from other sustems but without keeping the foundational methods from those systems that give the form meaning and make it worth while and valuable. Anyway, my kenpo teachers had rejected the Tracy verson of that form and had attempted to teach Sifu Chiu’s version. I was reviewing the video and realized they got a bunch of it wrong, so I tried to relearn it directly from the same video they had used. The results were largely the same as the Omei Crane experience. I was a fraud. At that time I began training under my first legitimate Sifu, in Chen Taiji. He had some experience in Hung-Gar so I offered to show him my form. His reaction was that yes, the choreography was essentially “correct”, but just about everything about how I was moving was wrong. Stances, power generation, body engagement, were all incorrect. I was correct, and yet absolutely wrong at the same time. While I could learn to mimick, what value I got from it was next to worthless, it had no bearing nor connection to how the Hung-Gar method is meant to work.

    I’ll end this here because the system seems to be cutting my post short. I’ll say that I got no benefit from the video learning. It was mimickry and it was fraudulent, if I am being honest.
     
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  16. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    @MetalBoar, my third attempt at video learning was after I had been away from kenpo for some years, training capoeira. I wanted to reconnect with my kenpo but had forgotten things. I had a set of the Tracy instructional videos from my instructors, and used them to brush up.

    For this kind of thing, I think video can be an ok approach. If it is something you have already learned and need it for reminder on the specifics, I think that can be ok.

    However, I had video of the material up through godan, which was well beyond what I had previously learned, so I worked through that material as well.

    Again, it was just memorizing movement. None of it was functional and could not become so from that way of learning. There was little in the way of detail in the instruction.

    Of course I no longer practice any of the stuff that I had attempted to learn through video. It was junk, plain and simple. There is just no other way to describe the experience.

    I did make one attempt at learning from a book. This was before I had any formal martial arts training, so I must have been around 11-12 years old.

    I was fascinated by the sai, was pleased that my parents allowed me to buy a pair from a supplier, and I bought Fumio Demura’s book, “Sai, Karate weapon of Self Defense”. I had a fantasy of studying the book in minute detail and working diligently to master the weapon. I noted and subsequently ignored the author’s advice that a student below the level of brown belt should not undertake the sai.

    Of course it was a failure. I learned to flip the sai back and forth from a point-forward to an inverted grip. That is it. The book contained combinations of defense with sai against bo, and some other stuff, but I realized quickly there was no way I was going to be able to work through all that stuff. It was really just pointless.

    Maybe if I was older and had some legitimate training in martial arts, I might have been more successful. Maybe, but I doubt it.

    In the end, learning in this way makes me feel like a fraud. For me, that is a problem. Maybe other people don’t even consider it, maybe it does not matter to them, does not bother them, or they have never even considered it on that level. I dunno. But I have a real problem with it.

    We live in a society where use of the sai in fighting and defense is extremely unlikely, so there is zero chance that I would ever build experience by using it in the world. Proper instruction is the only way to understand the weapon, and trying to piece it together from a book is jus pointless.

    So that kind of summarizes my experiences with learning from video and books. In the end, none of it was fruitful. It is just a bad approach to learning this stuff. That’s my take on it.

    I realize my experience did not include some of the more interactive tools available today, like real-time video connections and such. Yes, that could be an improvemement over the experiences that I had. But I still feel that being in the presence of a good teacher is critical for this stuff. The student needs the repeated hands-on correction and discussion of the details in a way that does not translate well over long distance.

    On top of context in the instruction, the student cannot reliably self-correct until he has reached some level of skill and understanding. There is just no good way around it.
     
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  17. vince1

    vince1 Orange Belt

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    Well said Flying Crane and have experienced something very similar while learning Chow Gar.
     
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  18. Monkey Turned Wolf

    Monkey Turned Wolf MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I've got no bone in this argument whatsoever, but I'm curious about something (you may have answered, I only skimmed the responses). Before you started training with the retired olympic coach, did you or any of the other people from that class compete with the level of training knowledge you got from it? If so, how well did they do? Any ratings, that you know of? I'm curious how far you could get in the fencing circuit from books and practice.

    Also, what type of class was it? I'm imagining a college credit class, or a library class, but find it weird to go through a class like that without some sort of teacher/instructor with experience.
     
  19. MetalBoar

    MetalBoar Green Belt

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    This was almost 30 years ago so I may not have all details fully correct, but these are pretty close anyway: It was a for credit college class, it was not intended to prepare students for intermural competition though we did have intramural tournaments. It was a relatively new, or at least relatively newly rebooted, class for the college. The instructor they got to teach the class had whatever qualifications you needed to teach PE classes at a 4 year state college in California but no particular background in fencing besides the prep work he did after being assigned the class from what I recall of what he said when he introduced himself at the beginning of the semester. Even if he did have some background that I'm mis-remembering or was unaware of he certainly didn't put on a mask and fence with us, do anything in the way of physical interaction with the class, offer anything much in the way of feedback or correction nor provide any instruction in greater detail than what was contained in our text book.

    I personally only participated in one USFA sanctioned tournament before I began private instruction. I finished 3rd in that tournament which was one place below the level necessary to earn an E rating. A friend of mine from the same school, who either had no other instruction or about a month of private instruction with the same guy I later trained under, took 1st in that tournament and earned a D rating. If it's relevant, he was a tremendously gifted athlete with a strong background in both TKD and boxing with impressive records in both and he was better at fencing than I was before he began private lessons. I don't remember who took 2nd, he was from a different city. I also participated in a number of non-official school and club tournaments before I began private instruction. It was in one of these that I beat my first A rated fencer, so no rating bump for me there. I would say that at that time, before any private lessons, that I was probably consistently fencing at about the bottom of C level. I feel confident that I could have gotten a C rating in a reasonable time period without more advanced instruction if I had lived in an area where I could participate in official USFA tournaments with any regularity.

    I started private lessons with an Olympic level coach after about 16-18 months of fencing. Several of us were training with the same gentleman at that point and of course we were all working together and with our other fencing friends who weren't able to do the private lessons so there was a lot of cross pollination going on. I lived in a city that hosted one and only one USFA tournament before this point so I don't have a lot of data about how any of us would have fared if we'd been able to compete regularly before that. Somewhere in the 12-14 month range I began doing a lot of fencing with people from other clubs and schools and so I had competed with people who had real coaches. Though they never gave me any direct instruction I did learn a lot from fencing with them. People who want to try to paint online training as if it can only happen in a hermetically sealed environment to count will probably want to point to this and say that my example isn't relevant.
     
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  20. MetalBoar

    MetalBoar Green Belt

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    I hear what you're saying, and I think that's a risk not only with video based instruction but also with clubs that don't spar or at least do really good drills and to a lesser extent with clubs that never spar or train with people from other styles. I don't completely agree with the MMA camp in every respect on this topic but I do feel that if you never pressure test your art in some fashion it's hard to be confident it's going to work for you. Which brings me back to my primary requirement for training; It sounds like you studied the videos and drilled this on your own without working with a partner. If so, I absolutely agree that isn't going to produce useful results and I don't think modern interactive training online would help very much. There are a lot of things you can learn on your own, but I do feel martial arts (at least as I define the term) isn't one of them. Also, it sounds like the videos themselves were of questionable quality. Early on in my martial arts training I studied briefly at some schools that didn't do any sparring and had poor drills that didn't teach me anything of value either, that didn't mean that I didn't later find a lot of good schools. Again, I'm not sure there's any good online training out there right now but that doesn't mean that someone couldn't do an acceptable job of it with the right skills and commitment in my opinion - as long as you have one or preferably more local partners to practice with.123
     
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