Advertising and mass media use 'pretty people' to sell everything and anything to you.
Slim, muscular, healthy-looking models munch on cake and pout as they take each bite. Their clothing, hair, make-up and body language suggest that a deeply sensual experience is taking place, and you are missing out on it.
Meanwhile, articles in magazines tell you that chocolate is better than sex. And films like Chocolat really sell the product.
Let's get real.
Imagine Chocolat in the real world. Instead of the lithe Juliette Binoche we would have a flabby, obese person weighing 15-20 stones, with bingo wings and a face swallowed by fat. Hardly romantic.
Consider the adverts? An obese person munches on cake, with chocolate smeared around their face and on their hands. They talk to you whilst eating. Who would buy the product?
You are being manipulated. That is what media does.
The first lesson you have in tai chi chuan will be hindered by your own personality.
Even if you have trained tai chi chuan before, you are unlikely to see past the veil of your own self-consciousness and fears.
It is usually worth trying a few classes.
That way, you can settle-in a little and really observe what is taking place in class.
Pay particular attention to the more skilled students: what are they training? How adept do they seem? Are they having fun?
A lot of martial arts instructors are emotionally invested in what they teach. They are adamant that their system is the best.
Sifu Waller is not like this.
He sees the tai chi chuan and baguazhang as being the best thing for him.
For Sifu Waller, these arts are vehicles for the exploration of self defence and sophisticated body use.
Focussing can cause anxiety. You address one concern and ignore another. The more concerns you have, the harder it is to address them all skilfully.
This approach is like juggling.
Instead of going with the flow and feeling what is happening, you are trying desperately to catch one ball whilst keeping all the others still up in the air.
What is the answer?
There is no fixed answer.
Sometimes it is beneficial to look at the individual details and address them in depth.
At other times, you must consider the overall event and feel the essence of what is happening, the flow.
A tai chi chuan instructor needs at least 5 years of
and a serious
commitment to home practice.
Martial instructors must show clear evidence of ability in all
13 areas of skill.
An expert has 15 years study and 10,000 hours of practice.
A master should have 30-40 years martial arts experience,
with at least 25 years specifically in tai chi and 20,000 hours of
practice. They are capable of teaching other instructors.
A grandmaster must have taught an extensive number of
They would be in a position of significant responsibility within a school
and have influence within the wider tai chi/martial arts community.
No two martial arts schools are the same.
Every instructor teaches according to their own values, interpretation of the material, and personal preferences. Ask yourself:
Does the class teach a 'complete martial art'?
Do you need to supplement the training with gym work, running or weight training?
How concerned is the class with health and wellbeing?
Are the students friendly and relaxed?
Is there a macho atmosphere?
Can smaller students use the art effectively?