How to Teach Daoqiquan
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited.”
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A great teacher is a rare treasure. Good teachers are sought after and dearly prized. Quality teachers influence their students’ lives far more deeply than most of them are ever fortunate enough to discover.
For this precious art, Daoqiquan, to survive such that it continues to benefit your children’s generation, current students must step up and take on the challenge of teaching. This requires a dedication to develop skill in your chosen art, of course. Disseminating those skills to others is, however, a “whole ‘nother kettle of fish.” Just because you are skilled at something does not mean you can impart that skill to anyone else. Those who wish to teach must polish their teaching skills!
Some feel teaching is a gift. I am of the mind it is not. Superior talent at anything is something that is earned only by spilling tears, sweat, one’s lifeblood in the pursuit of excelling at one’s ambition. Talent does not randomly strike people like potholes or bolts of lightning, nor is it a matter of genetics like height or freckles, nor is it a matter of public or cultural opinion like beauty or success. It is wrung out of your soul by giving your self over to your passion.
Some people are of the opinion that a teacher must know everything before they should teach. If this was true, no scientist would ever teach anything, because every scientist understands that the more you learn, the more you know there is to learn. It is, of course, true that the more comprehensive the teacher’s knowledge is, the better they can answer obscure questions and, more importantly, draw simplicity out of the complex. A teacher is, before all things, a perpetual and diligent, student. A teacher is, also, just a guide - someone who’s been a little farther down the road than you’ve been. A good teacher knows the limits of their own knowledge and doesn’t hesitate to explain when the topic has come to that limit.
Traditionally, I was taught that you didn’t ask if you could teach. You waited until the teacher decided you knew enough. And then you stumbled your way through, trying to follow the exact same pattern of lessons your teacher used to teach you. Tradition can be habit built on ignorant respect due to a failure to explore and deepen one’s knowledge. This is an inconsistent method of producing good students let alone good teachers. This is how I started out teaching over 30 years ago. It is how most begin.
Once day, I was struck by the idea that the movement, strategy, or concept that I was teaching might be employed by the student as a trusted tool to someday save their life. It hit me like a lightning bolt. I suddenly needed to know if what I was teaching really worked or if I was just parroting information that might be wrong despite it being traditional.
Think about it.
If I taught the student incorrect information and they relied upon it to survive when they were in mortal danger, it would be my fault that they were maimed or killed. I started to carefully investigate the physics, psychology, physiology, and strategy behind everything I was taught and, more importantly, behind everything I was teaching. I started to take the material and the responsibility of teaching much more seriously than I had ever before. I was becoming “professional” in my study of the martial arts.
The more I taught and studied, the more I realized that the quality of information the teacher imparts has little relationship to how skilled the student becomes. There are many variables to consider when dispensing information. I have been fortunate enough to have been taught by many good teachers and a couple of outstanding ones throughout my life. I began a careful study of not merely what information they taught, but how they taught this information. What phrasing got the message across most efficiently? How was the material organized overall? Why was this lesson first and that one next? What was the pacing of the release of material for maximum learning? What was the pacing within each class? How did the teacher relate to different students? Individually? As a group? How did they deploy humour? Seriousness? Keep a class on track? Release tension? Account for different educational backgrounds? And so on.
Our school needs people who are willing to guide others along the path. Some of you will find reward in teaching introductory material and helping younger brothers and sisters through stumbling blocks they remember as challenging. Anyone who is interested can begin to do this. Leading the Dao Yin for the class is the first step toward becoming a Fùshǒu (副手), or Classroom Assistant. Fùshǒu learn to lead the Dao Yin, lead a variety of drills, and teach simple concepts in a modular fashion. They will, often, lead subsets of the class so everyone is busy and learning at the appropriate level. They may lead the class through a designated set of drills if the instructor is absent. They operate with supervision such that they can confidently turn to their instructor for clarification at any time. This is a great method to develop your skills in teaching without ever fearing that you’ve led a student far from the path.
Some of you might like to teach regularly within the protective courtyard of our Wu guan, leading courses in Qigong, Kung Fu Basics, Tibetan Snake Boxing, Combat Jian, Ziran Xingyiquan, Tai Chi for Health, or Jiulong Baguazhang. This involves the acceptance of greater responsibility and a more comprehensive skillset than that required by the Fùshǒu. The Xiàngdǎo, 嚮導, the Guide-Teacher, is given the responsibility of leading an in-Wu Guan course, including developing lesson plans and reporting on student progress. Depending on circumstances, some Xiàngdǎo open Study Groups away from the Wu Guan while they continue their own studies to become Provisional Instructors. Many of our instructors around the world began this way.
You may have a burning desire to open your own Wu Guan, someday. The Shizi, 師資or Instructor, is a provisional teacher with the responsibility for a particular, and limited, curriculum. Right now, that means the Shizi is given the responsibility of teaching the Jiulong Baguazhang introductory curriculum called Dragon Rolling the Pearl. It is a clearly delineated curriculum that the Shizi does not stray from. This ensures students are getting the same quality of information in all the Study Groups around the world. It is quite possible, in the future, to have Shizi who wish to initiate Study Groups in Tibetan Coiling Serpent Boxing, Liu Taijiquan, Tibetan Blue Heron Boxing, and Ziran Xingyiquan. I think this is important for the preservation of the principles of Daoqiquan. Those of you with a love for your particular art must deepen your skill levels with a view to eventually sharing it with others and then step up and begin the process of developing skill at teaching that art.
When you have achieved the heart of an art, you are recognized as a Shifù, 師傅, a Professional Teacher, and are given the responsibility for imparting the depths of your art as only your creativity and vision can. Some Shifù stay at their teacher’s Wu Guan for the duration of their career and flourish under a system of shared responsibility; this is the situation of Shifu Marshall and Shifu Castaldo at the Gompa, in Arlington, TX.
Some Shifù leave home, so to speak, and open their own Wu Guan, as I did with the Xin Fu Gompa here in Saskatoon. The term used to represent the instructor, in this case, is a homonym, still pronounced Shifù, but uses slightly different characters 師父to indicate he or she is now a “Father-Teacher” in a family system with the full responsibility of running a school, caring for the students, and nurturing teachers-to-be.
The Shifù who has nurtured students to become Shifù in their own right, is now called a Shigong, 師公, or Teacher’s Teacher. For your interest, Dr. Painter is my Shifù, your Shigong (your teacher’s teacher), and a Zongshi, 宗師, or the 10th Patriarch of Li family Daoqiquan. As a side note, Lama Zurdwang and Li, Qingyun are each called Zŭshi, 祖師, the Founders, respectively, of Daoqiquan and Jiulong Baguazhang.
I am not willing to use my position to tell a student that he or she should teach. There are many reasons for my choice. Several students are school and university teachers who study Daoqiquan arts to relieve themselves of stress and do not want to take on the task of teaching Kung Fu. Others are overwhelmed with obligations they have chosen along their path through life and would only become teachers out of loyalty – because I asked. For these, and other, reasons, I leave it to you to tell me when you are ready to accept the responsibility of teaching.
Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. Some expect that they deserve to teach because of the time they’ve put in. Others seek the glory of becoming a guru, an all-knowing, infallible, wise teacher. Some wish for the power they imagine they’ll hold over others. Some don’t realize how much more they have to understand and how much more work they have to do. Teaching, however, is not a right. It is a heavy responsibility. Especially, when teaching the material regarding life and death that Daoqiquan encompasses. Teaching requires a significant amount of personal sacrifice. Your efforts, after all, are entirely directed to the benefit of the art you represent and the students you teach.
“Those who can, train. Those who can do more, teach.”
Teaching something you are passionate about to enthusiastic students is both rewarding and loads of fun! In order to build confidence in fledgling teachers, I am offering a course on how to teach this year. We will practise teaching lessons, work on constructive criticism, play with descriptions, dissect drills, study biomechanics and psychology, investigate physiology and anatomy, design lesson plans, and write essays. There will be homework assignments, interactive discussions, and students will need to commit to assisting with teaching regularly in class.
The course is open to any currently enrolled student who has at least six months of regular attendance in Kung Fu Basics, Tai Chi for Health, Rolling the Pearl, or Meeting the Dragons. You should have a regular, daily solo practice (Sit, Stand, & Shift, at least) and be able to get all the way through your particular Dao Yin without help. You should really want to help others. Do not do this for me because you think I want you to. Do not do this for the acclaim you think you will win from fellow students. Do this because you’d like others to find the benefits you’ve found. If you appreciate the commitment required, Daoqiquan needs the teachers.
If this interests you, talk to me. All serious enquiries considered. Note that this is not a paper-mill, nor a diploma-granting course. Taking this course does not confer any rank upon completion. It will, hopefully, deepen your teaching skills and plant the seed for some excellent future Daoqiquan teachers!