The role of humility when learning a martial art

Some students who wish to learn Tai Chi have previously studied other martial arts.
They think that their ‘experience’ means that they can start with the intermediate syllabus.
Surely their five years of Karate training was not in vain?
This self-importance obstructs their understanding that they need to go back to the basics and start again.

Others come to class with pre-conceived ideas about Tai Chi, or about how quickly they can progress.
They want to learn specific aspects of the syllabus, but are not interested in others.
Or they rush through the teachings, eager to move on without understanding what they have been taught.
They lack the understanding of the holistic and structured nature of the syllabus.

Beginners are not in a position to understand the syllabus.
As you progress through the syllabus, you realise that an exercise that seems easy and pointless will build into something more intricate and sophisticated than could ever have been appreciated.
If you do not understand the basic exercise in the first place, how can you build on it?

A feeling that preliminary training is somehow ‘beneath you’ is therefore an impediment to your progress.
It’s like pouring fresh tea into a cup that is already full of ‘old’ tea.
The fresh tea is wasted.

Humility is to understand that we do not know everything, and to let go of what we think we know.
It is to let go of the need to be in control of our learning.
It is to present ourselves as a blank sheet to the instructor.
It is to trust that what we are taught, and what we practice, are given to us by someone with a better understanding of our needs.

Once we have this attitude, then we can start to progress.
However, this does not mean that we can leave humility behind.
There is always more to learn.
There is always more to train.

(Andy Urwin)

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