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How I teach - your place or mine

Ways to Learn…. Your place or mine

There are as many ways to learn as there are people interested in learning. Some of us are more comfortable in groups, some prefer individual attention, some  learn best by listening, some by seeing, others by doing. Ultimately, I feel everyone learns something in all these ways. I'd like to encourage more students to think of their study as a personal intensive.

Jan Parker in 2 person Tai Chi swordFor most of us learning tai chi is a matter of finding a class in your neighbourhood and signing up for the lessons. In regular classes, the learning process is a long and steady road. Participation in group classes is a great way to learn the basic choreography of a form and the fundamentals of Tai Chi or Qigong. In a 90 minute class, there can be a warm up, a qigong practiced, sometimes a review of the form or a new move is given, and then there is just time enough to touch in with some partner work before calling it a class. This is a great way to find out if this art is for you. Usually the class goes by quickly and we look forward to seeing our classmates next week. A draw back may be that while we have good intentions to practice, we often don’t. And the class progression is slower.

I started to learn Tai Chi in weekly classes in 1986 and I still have strong relationships with classmates and with my first teacher. However, it wasn’t long before I recognized my need for a deeper and more intense way to study. At some point almost everyone who wishes to advance to higher levels will want to study privately. Private lessons help you to develop a greater understanding, skill and, knowledge of the art. Also, if you are unable to commit to on-going classes or to progressive group study, private lessons can keep you current and enthused in your study. And if the group-class schedule doesn't match yours, private lessons allow you to study at your convenience. Possibly your pace of learning or style of learning is better suited to individual lessons. And if the standard content of the group lessons is not what you prefer to study at that time, then private lessons can be the way to meet your personal preferences.

Individualized instruction is recommended for students of all levels, at various points during your studies, including beginners. You can get help with learning moves and suggestions for improved personal practice. The longer you have studied, the more benefit you get from a private lesson. For more experienced students, private lessons are particularly appropriate. A personalized lesson with a perceptive teacher is one of the best ways to accelerate your learning progress, whatever your level.

I started taking private lessons for more detailed instruction, and because I knew I wanted to teach. When learning from a local instructor didn’t work for me any longer I began bringing instructors to my town for seminars so I could learn from specific teachers. When I could I traveled for my lessons and attended more intense camps and workshops. It wasn’t long before I immigrated to a new country to study with Sam.

Classmates and training partners are invaluable when learning tai chi. Although for the most part, your study is up to you, lessons are deepened when worked with others. This brings us to my favourite way to learn. Circle study groups are a group of students formed around their own desire and dedication to the study. Together they take responsibility for their learning and they share with each other what they know and what they question – they are a little bit self-directed with tons of teacher-guidance. Here travel and a commitment of time and money may become relevant as circle study classes usually take place over a weekend or several day camp. This way of learning allows the student time to dig into the material, figure out ways to practice and to have their teacher on hand to work out problems and learn new material. Classmates are at the ready when partner work comes into play. Touching in with different people teaches us more about ourselves and more about this wonderful art.

Jan Parker Tai Chi fighting
As a teacher I offer a variety ways to study Tai Chi. Weekly on-going classes, private lessons by appointment, and I facilitate several different Circle Study groups throughout North America. These study groups meet as often as once a month, to  a weekend intensive every six months with additional week long camps offered once a year. You are welcome to come to my home on Bowen Island for study or pick me up at the airport in your town. I’ll help you join or start your own study group going.

For more information on how you can best learn Tai Chi. Contact me and we’ll set up a personal course of study for you.

At some point, if one studies the arts long enough, most people take advantage of all the ways of learning. My advice is find what works for you. Find a teacher you can talk to. And if you go to a class and no one is laughing.... Leave.


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