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Teachers – A Gift

by Jordan Keats
Fitness instructor waits to teachA few weeks ago Narina and I met for coffee at Demitasse bakery in Oak Bay. We’ve met a few times before, at tweetups, but we’ve never had a chance to talk. Over two strong Americanos we discussed ideas of fitness, leisure, and learning. Narina and I spoke at great length about the difficulties of finding a good teacher and fitness instructor, for both Tai Chi and fitness training.

Whether training a martial art or working out for health and fitness, a good teacher can make practicing a chore or a pleasure. Personal trainers or teachers ride the razor’s edge between intimidation and motivation. Motivate a student, and they return for the challenge of learning more. Intimidate a learner, and they will leave feeling scared to return. Needless to say, it is difficult to find a good teacher.

It’s called for to treat students as individuals. Treat elders with patience, and youth with discipline; however, there are times you need to be patient with youth and emphasize increasing practice to elders. A good teacher will take each case as unique, and adjust appropriately. I’ve observed my Tai Chi teacher, Master Gordon Muir, will take me to the peak of frustration in order to teach a certain lesson. Turning frustration to a lesson is an amazing way to get a point across, but it can also leave a learner feeling confused if the lesson is never fully understood. There should always be an overarching message to “Know Your Limits”. A teacher has to gauge how far to push a student before motivation turns to intimidation.

Shang Lee, a blogger and fellow Chen Style Practitioner, translated a speech by Sun Zhonghua a 19th generation master of Chen Style Taijiquan and a 2nd generation master of Hunyuan Tai Ji, posted on Shang’s blog.

Master Sun lists five conditions you need to be a top Tai Ji master, and these conditions can be applied to being a top personal trainer as well:

  1. Love the art
  2. Have the time
  3. Have moral and ethics
  4. Able to learn and comprehend
  5. Have a good teacher

These five factors are expansions on the Aristotelian rhetorical concepts of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos; however, Sun places special importance on two of these qualities: A teacher has to “have the goods” and “can teach”:

Have the goods:

“Having the goods” means having the real thing. You can’t listen to whoever who brands himself well, or have a large student following. You can’t even say that the person has the goods just because he is famous. To know whether a person has the goods, you need to understand the person from various sources and consciously observe the teacher. You first have to look at the lineage of teachers before him, but again, just because he’s on some famous lineage does not mean he has the goods. You still have to consciously observe. As choosing the right teacher is that important, you cannot take this exercise lightly. If not, you might end up learning all the wrong things again.

Can teach:

“Can teach” means the teacher is able to pass on his knowledge effectively to the students. This is a bit more than willing to teach, although willing to teach is a key criteria. Some who have the goods are unwilling to teach, hence misleading his students, and concurrently destroying his name and lineage. There are others who don’t have the goods, and yet imitate the masters as though he has the goods. He doesn’t even have the fake goods…

Before you sign up for the next class of combined Yoga/ Running/ Tai Chi & Weightlifting – “Now without impact or stretching!”, consider who your trainer is, how long they have learned for, and who they learned from. If you desire to be a martial arts teacher, or a personal trainer, identify your weaknesses and Know Your Own Limits. If you are not confident in the results of your training, wait until your skill matches the needs of your students.

Happy Training!

Jordan Keats is the co-founder of Outpost Communications, where he is the Director of Content and Audience Analysis, specializing in writing for new media and marketing strategy. Jordan is also an assistant instructor at the Victoria Chen Taiji Academy, and has trained with world class instructors such as Master Gordon Muir, and Master Chen Zhonghua. When not training Tai Chi, Jordan can be found drinking coffee around Victoria, attending tweetups, and volunteering at new media workshops like
Social Media Camp at the Victoria Conference Centre on October 3, 2010.

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