Are you better than blankety blank? (part 2)

So, to continue with answers to, Are you better than blankety blank?

I want you to first consider some answers to the questions that I posed last time. How do you compare stylistic and practitioner attributes for health and peace of mind? Also, just because someone is a better practitioner than someone else does that make them a better teacher? My point here is that teaching is also a skill.

I happened to be at a workshop with one of my teachers who is an extremely skilled internal practitioner and fighter. He is the commander of a special ops team and considered by many folks including the military to be one of the best hand to hand fighters in the world.

He was asked by one of the workshop participants if there was anyone he could not beat. His answer is one that I will never forget.

He said, “If he can breathe better than me then he can beat me.”

It is an interesting answer on a number of levels. First of all, breath is key to life. Most people who do not breathe for 10 minutes never breathe or function normally again.

But, I digress. Let’s take a look at health and other factors besides just fighting. The person who breathes better can reasonably be said to be the better practitioner.

In Tai Chi the person with the better body mechanics is the better practitioner. The person with the better relaxation technique is the better practitioner. You are starting to get the idea. Here is a list of skills that you could compare from one person to another.

  • Breathing
  • Body Mechanics -Structure and Connection
  • Relaxation
  • Internal Control -Everything from the ability to change body states from relaxed to tension expressed in small areas and moved from one part of the body to another at will to the ability to lower the heart rate and blood pressure by thought alone and then how rapidly can you do it. There are many other skills here and you may find someone who is very skilled at certain ones and not so much at others while another practitioner / teacher is highly skilled in a different area.
  • Knowledge of how the body works
  • Softness -Yes in Tai Chi we are very interested in who is softer and more relaxed both for certain aspects of fighting power and neutralizing skills to the ability to efficiently regulate the calmness inside and on the surface of the body as part of the longevity that Tai Chi is so famous for imparting. Stress kills and soft relaxation is (at least in one aspect) the physical opposite of stress.
  • Power -There are many different types of power including but not limited to the understanding of mechanical forces such as levers and how to apply them.
  • Mind Intent
  • Sensitivity – Can the practitioner / teacher feel inside of another human being? How well? How deep? Can they pick up various sensations and information from different body systems? Can they influence those body systems from just a touch on the arm, hand, fingers or with no touch at all?
  • Jings- There are 36 different primary jings, many different methods and skills.

Which jings is the teacher skilled at and which ones are they knowledgable about and which ones are they familiar with but really not that good at working with? I ask it this way because I have met a lot of folks who are skilled at one or two jings and then are only knowledgable about a few others.

So, the better question might be who is the best at Fa Jing? But, then that assumes that all of the Fa Jing is the same. If the Fa Jing expression is all the same then a reasonable comparison can be made. But, if one person excels at throwing people explosively and far and another is skilled at sending the Fa Jing inside of a recipient which one is better? This is I believe a point that can be debated for a long time with no clear winner.

Anyway, by now you are probably beginning to get the idea. I am interested to hear from you the readers about other skills that you think are worth mentioning to compare skills on or to look for when considering the knowledge / skill of a teacher.

Of course there things like honesty, integrity, character and love of people but for now I am curious to what other kinds of skill sets folks look for when comparing Tai Chi instructors.

The one thing I will add is that sometimes you find someone who is naturally gifted or who learned by experience and their teaching skills are not so good. Then, you have someone who is not greatly skilled but they do have an understanding and have great teaching skills. Which do you consider to be the best to learn from and Why?

I will be responding to feedback on these 2 questions. I look forward to hearing from you.

In all sincerity,


  1. I know what I used to look for was all the glitz and the flash, but after years of learning nothing substantial I re-evaluated my criteria. First I had to look long and hard at myself so I could settle down on what I wanted to learn, and why I wanted to know. After I decided where I was going (to a degree) I began to look for people who could teach me those skills.

    As you mentioned there are 36 different Jings and many different skills all held under the taiji banner. Not all taiji is the same and the choreography is just the “body kit” I want to know what’s under the hood.

    I want to thank you for your contribution to my search. After watching one of your dvd’s you explained to me what I consider to be very ‘essence’ not only of taiji but the internal arts in general. I have yet to develop the skill, but that’s because I haven’t practiced it yet. At least I know where I’m going.

    I’d go with the guy who can teach me the skill over the show off any day. Once I have that skill I can add it to what I already know AND if his teaching skills are on point be able to one day teach it comprehensively to someone else :D.

  2. Richard Clear says

    Hi Austin,
    Thank you for your response. If you do not mind sharing, which one of the DVD’s and which specific explanation or topic/skill is it that you really “consider to be very ‘essence’ not only of taiji but the internal arts in general”?
    I am asking you to share so that others can benefit as well and I am always interested in various viewpoints and what folks find most beneficial for themselves and their understanding.
    Best Regards.

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