In most arts the advanced stuff is taught in later stages. However, in TaijiKinesis the advanced stuff is taught on the first day but students are not aware of it because they fail to realize its importance.
Think of it this way, a tree grows from a small seed. You don’t get a full grown tree by adding on branches to the trunk of a growing sapling. In this sense, its meaningless to think of advanced material as things you get as you progress in your learning.
If anything, the seemingly, useless, meaningless stuff you learn on the first day, the seeds of your basic learning, that is the real advanced material but you can’t unlock it until you put in enough practice.
It is common for students to be besotted with the illusion of progress. They think they get it when they still don’t. That is why teachers don’t tell students everything. Instead, they leave some things for the students to work out for themselves. This the “xinde” that the teacher expects the student to bring up as a sign that he is getting it. If the teacher tells the student outright then the student will think that he has understood it and there is no need to practice further.
However, I take the point of view that if students can’t get it on their own, then not telling them will not help. Instead, they should be given the chance to know but they should be aware that knowing is not mastering and they still have to keep at it until they can do it.
If I send this one student I have to demonstrate his form to senior practitioners I am sure he will be praised because his form looks refined. But I can see certain key aspects missing and it certainly shows when it comes to push hands especially when pressure is applied and he is unable to neutralize properly and instead resists with excessive strength.
One day, I reminded him of what I said many times which is if there is a problem it can usually be traced back to the first things that one learned in the beginning. I pointed out where the origin of the skills are and why his problem still persist because he has still not refined those movements that aren’t impressive to look at. He brought up a good question on how to connect the arms to the body at a certain part.
He had the idea that the connection should be through the back but I said that it is wrong and explained why what he thought is correct actually goes against the principles of Taijiquan Classics. He mentioned the feeling that he received from the training and it confirms that he has still not broken through the requirements to master this seemingly unimportant movement. This is why he can only speculate as to the correct way to connect to the body. A demonstration soon dispelled his misunderstanding, followed by clarification of the importance of getting the first things first correct by revisiting the basics.
I can understand why he has to speculate to make progress but I also said before that there is no need to push for progress. Just practice correctly and the rest will take care by itself. Think of it as letting the grass grow naturally instead of constantly tugging at it to make it grow longer faster. The thing is when you speculate you can end up with the wrong guess.
In this case, its difficult to guess because when I show something many nuances of the movements cannot be seen unless I exaggerate them. This is how Taijiquan as an internal art is. Internal means hidden, non-obvious. If what I do can be seen easily then it can be easily copied. Plus what type of practitioner would I be if what I do can be so outwardly obvious to the eye. To be truly internal is not just a matter of rendering obvious movements not obvious but to even eliminate the feeling of what it truly feels like. So even if a student puts his hand on my body he still cannot feel what is happening because his sense of touch is deceiving him or sending him mixed signals.
Normally, if I tell this to people who learn and practice many forms it would not make sense. It didn’t make sense to me either until I kept working on one form, the koan form, for many years so that the basics, outward expressions of the form moved through a series of refinements until at a later stage the same basics now become inward expressions. Going through this type of learning has given me a better appreciation of what traditional arts are about. Within this type of art there is plenty of room to grow as one becomes older and why internal arts practitioners continue to become more and more enamoured of their chosen art as time goes on.