My own teaching style is to keep everything as simple as possible, trying to simplify and make things that look hard or complicated comprehensible in simple ways. This might sound great and maybe seems to make sense. But still, this is not always the best way to communicate Tai Chi Chuan. Many people are locked in their own complicated thinking, their own way to look at things. As they have their own preconceived ideas they constantly try to reaffirm and verify their own preconceived view on the world. To reach these people, simplifying things is not an option.
This is why Chinese Zen (or more accurate Chan) masters invented the Ko’an (originally Gongan) as one of several methods trying to force students to simplify their thinking. If they couldn’t simplify the answer on a riddle in the simple manner of a child, they wouldn’t be allowed to proceed with any teaching. In some ways, as a Tai chi teacher, I try to do the same way. But it’s not easy. You cannot force a complicated mind to change. People must be willing to change themselves and understand how to change themselves. So the ball, here the willingness to understand what it takes in order to learn, is always in the hand of the student.
We can not transform anyone’s mind if it doesn’t want to transform itself. Thus, simplifying the world does not always work. Often, to have a chance of doing this, we must speak in an intellectual language that the intellectual, complicated mind can understand. We can use math and science, we can use metaphors and images to paint pictures with words. We can use different methods that will satisfy the intellectual or logical mind. We can also engage a person’s fantasy and creativity, to activate him or her to change the way of doing and acting. All of these ways are complicated, detours to help someone to understand things that are in their nature most simple. A student who spend a long time learning, trying to understand an art as Tai Chi, and finally reaches a stage of real understanding, will inevitable be surprised, that everything he or she strived to develop, was in fact something very simple.