Seeing the improvements of one’s pupils is the best satisfaction for a teacher. In fact only the progress of your students can give you the measure of the quality of your teaching. How frustrating when you explain and nobody understands or can practice what you want him to. And what a joy, when you see that even just one can perform the movement the way you wanted. Therefore you can imagine how I felt last summer, when I came back from my long vacation and I found out that four of my “aged ones” had been training themselves all summer and were able to remember and perform the Form 13 in a most acceptable way. I cannot describe my happiness! And you should not say that 4 people out of the 50 aged students I had last year are a small percentage! They are as much as four individuals that have committed themselves, have studied and succeeded! This does not mean only that I was able to convey the form, but even to communicate my love for Taijiquan. Only the passion can allow you to learn a difficult discipline! You can imagine how they were happy when they showed me their improvements!
I absolutely had to give them a prize. They started to say that one euro for one class, the symbolic gift established as a reward for my and their commitment was too small and wanted “to pay more”. But I did not feel this like a prize, therefore I proposed them to learn the Long Form. At this point they became like pupils in the basic school, with bright eyes, shouts and laughters, hugs, so many hugs that I’d felt embarrassed, If I had not been as happy as they were. It was the end of Summer, a season for reflection, when we started to study the Long Form with these, let’s say, advanced students, and now, at the end of the Winter, we finished practising the first part, thanks to the skill previously acquired by them in the Form 13 and their good will, stimulated by the Winter season. The enthusiasm has not lessened; if possible, it has still increased instead; so much so, that they go on meeting for the practice even without me, and two of them, the most skilled ones, have offered to take care of the beginners by offering to help them for one hour a week.
By training the beginners and helping them to face the same difficulties they had previously met and partially overcome, they are able to improve the various positions and understand their meaning. This allows me to solve quite easily the difficulties of posture and balance one can expect them, as over 70, to meet in the second part, also because I trust the fantasy supported by the beginning of the Springtime..
The enthusiasm of this advanced group is a balm for all the Centre for aged people and I find new ones who want to start studying taijiquan each time. The Centre has increased the registrations, thanks to new people who want to learn the new activity offered (TJQ) and afterwards get interested also in the others. These people are often the ones who have lost their partner, or have their children far away and in this way they get out of their isolation, meet new acquaintances and enjoy their life more.
Teaching taijiquan to these old people has been a wonderful experience for me, quite different from teaching to the usual customers, that give a different feedback. An old person, as such, is embodying a deep knowledge, since he has lived and experienced more, has gone through the various stages of life and because of this reason, can give more as regards knowledge and life experience, if only he is correctly valued. You only need to be able to listen. Behind every old person there is a lived life and actually at this moment there is more time to convey the acquired values. This is particularly true for women: if they are correctly stimulated and appreciated, instead of being left to themselves and their neurotic loneliness, they prove to be able to give value to their second life by reproducing ideas, after reproducing bodies during the first one.
The new ferment of the Centre for Old People, besides joy for the results and increase of the number of practitioners, has brought also a new Chinese student, that has more time now to dedicate herself again to studying the Chinese calligraphy. She offered to help me to learn this wonderful art. After the TJQ class we sit down, take our brushes, ink pot, dry ink, and while preparing the ink, we discuss the similarities between the TJQ positions and the location of the Chinese characters in their reference square, or between the harmony of the movements and brush strokes, or between the difficulty of performing the positions correctly and writing in an harmonious and correct way. When I find it difficult to draw a character or she finds it difficult to perform a movement, we remind each other the similarities between the two arts and we encourage each other to be patient and perseverant. All of this has changed my way of teaching to the usual students. While teaching to the old people I had to focus on each movement, in order to explain it clearly and give any indication on the possibility to execute it. This is not always necessary with young and flexible practitioners. For instance I had to segment the foot work of Turn Body and Chop with Fist, indicating at each point where to concentrate the body weight and where to move it, because going from a bow stance facing west to a bow stance facing east, for legs that have been walking a lot and now have some rust is not easy at all. But what a satisfaction when they become proficient in it!