It is said that you can obtain an idea of the skill level of an instructor by the quality of his/her students. Not only by how they move and fight, but also who they are. These are all things that are a direct reflection to the lineage of a martial art with a focused and true path.
Master Chen asked me, shortly before accepting me as one of his disciples, if there was one point, or a moment where I noticed improvement in my practice. While at the time I did not recall such a defining moment, and was unable to provide an answer, I now realize it. For me, it was the moment I decided to trust. Simple really. I had trained martial arts for years in the past, with instructors of different philosophies, not all of which lead me toward my goals, in fact some personal derailment was a direct result of a particular lineages philosophies, others did me a world of good. For me, I needed a system that is consistent in its teachings, as well as consistent in its people. A system with a proven history that could also offer hope of future goals if I just followed the procedure, and truly opened myself to it.
Admittedly, at first I did not know what to make of Taijiquan vs other systems of martial art. When I tried my hand at it, it felt awkward and was as if the skills were unachievable, unobtainable. A few years have gone by now, and I have been told I show a slight improvement. No matter how minor, that in and of itself is motivating. We need motivation to decide how, when and how much we will train. That motivation comes from trust. Trust in the method, in the principles and procedures, as well as trust in its leaders.
Why is trust important? We could say that it is, that you expose your vulnerabilities, your values, your current practices and your skills to those around you and yourself over time. For some, self doubt or insecurity can ensue, no matter what age, or where our physical development currently is. In the video “How to Learn”, Master Chen talks about derailment and staying focused on a path. He states that “one look”, and your off that path. For me, the strength to be able to stay focused, again comes from trust in a method, but also, trust in ones self practices as taught and repeated to us by our instructors. On a basic level, we are an amalgamated collection of our past experiences, despite what wisdom we think we understand at the moment. Knowing this, in order to believe that our futures might hold some display of obtained skill or personal enhancement, requires faith. Faith is a direct result of trust, with consistent resolve. Longevity in training is derived from faith.
No matter what the initial inspiration, we come to taiji with different goals in mind. Health needs, self defense wants, mental/emotional improvement hopes, etc, or perhaps the simple curiosity to the unknown. It is said that effective instructors teach the student to teach themselves. To truly digest a systems teachings, one must have faith in teaching themselves by following the examples around them, and testing the validity of its practices. This faith will flower to confidence, confidence to understanding, understanding to repeatable result. However, none of this without patience.
At least for me, I have finally found these qualities and many other positive attributes in the Practical Method system after a lifetime searching for a path, and have learned, not to over think, just to follow the procedure, not glance outside, and simply trust.