“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.”
Year 2 has us changing the schedule, again.
Last year, there were some topics we stalled in, maybe because we only spent 15 minutes on them here and there and we didn’t have a progression. Sometimes we went through the motions without really dissecting and understanding them. Fifteen minutes of focused training is enough time to make progress if there’s a good existing foundation, but we still need to build ours.
The other (and main) issue was the lack of leadership. Dr. Yang gives us goals and corrections but he lets us plan our schedules. The senior students sometimes offer instruction but they have their own training to concentrate on. We don’t get much in terms of progression and lesson plans to guide us in the right direction. I wanted to change that. My ultimate goal is to become a great teacher, so I need training partners who analyze, improve with me, and challenge me. We need to understand what we’re learning.
I took Jon’s advice and stepped up as the leader of the 5YP students (in terms of training). I would’ve preferred to be appointed – I’m not the type to just take the leadership position. Me: What if someone says, “Who made you the leader?” Jon: You say, “You did, by not doing anything.” It sounds harsh, but he has a good point. Turns out, no one had a problem with it and we eagerly communicated our ideas for training. I used my knowledge of the YMAA curriculum and suggestions from others to create a goals list and schedule.
Make plans so you can be flexible
Once you lay out all the topics and time blocks, it’s easy to swap them if need be or if you simply feel like it, and you won’t miss out on anything. In fact, I make a plan and change it up because I get bored with monotony. There’s a lot more work on my end, but it’s beneficial in building my leadership and teaching skills. I’m spending more time watching the YMAA DVDs and planning weekly lesson plans to make sure we stay on track. Once the big picture is clear, I can delegate and have different students take turns researching and teaching us a different technique.
- Taiji Applications (2 hours / week): Each block, we’ll focus on one posture, one Qin Na from the Qin Na curriculum list, and one Short Defense. If anything needs more time, we’ll skip one of the other things.
- Taiji Topics on Rotation: 3 of 5 topics (Yin Yang Symbol, Pushing Hands, Rollback (Lu), Peng Lu Ji An, Ball) will rotate every 3 weeks. Each rotation will focus on one topic (1 hour 40 minutes / week, sometimes with senior student instruction) while maintaining the other topics (1 hour / week). If all goes well, we’ll focus on Cai Lie Zhou Kao and Fighting Set next semester.
- Taiji Sequences (~4 hours / week): We’re devoting a little more time to the solo sequences (barehand, saber, sword) to polish them. Sequences can be practiced until we’re old, but while we’re here, we need to take advantage of having partners.
- YMAA Curriculum: We’ve been learning material out of sequence in relation to the YMAA curriculum and now we’re aiming to fill in the blanks. This includes more focus on Tan Tui, Fighting Forms, Qin Na, Short Defense, etc…
- Warm up before Sequences (20 minutes daily) & Barehand blocks (2 hours / week): Stances, Kicks, Applications, Tan Tui, Fighting Forms, 4 corners.
- Shang Xia Zhi (90 minutes / week): Progress from the basic set to hopping, hooking, and linking. Polish by the end of this semester so we can move on to more free reaction and sparring drills.
- Long Weapons Basics (2 hours / week): Focus on long weapons while maintaining what we learned for short weapons. Become more familiar with sliding, strikes, blocks – moving and stationary, as well as Staff Fighting Forms and Applications. From here, build reaction and eventually sparring. Qi Mei Dui Gun (Staff vs Staff) 40 minutes / week during sequences so we can get corrected by Dr. Yang. He said if we improve at a good pace, we can pick up Kong Shou Dui Gun (Barehand vs. Staff). (Sure, why not shoot for it.)
- Open blocks: Conditioning or other self-chosen training
Media/Writing (also Physical Rest/Recovery) is now split between Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30-7pm.
- The original block was on Wednesdays from 2-7pm and it wasn’t always entirely productive, to the fault of no one but our own. Sometimes having a shorter block makes it easier to focus.
- Rest/Recovery adjustment: I wanted to experiment with a different schedule that’s hopefully more effective in allowing adequate rest for my body. The amount of time is the same.
- Extra day of sequences: A positive side effect of the schedule change is an extra day of sequences, which means more time to be corrected by Dr. Yang.
We get caught up in day-to-day activities so it’s good to step back and look at the picture once in a while. Why was the Retreat Center established? Why are we here? We have limited time and we need to train smart. Be efficient with time. Allow our bodies to rest. I’m training to become a great teacher. I need to be the best student I can be. We need to help each other become the best students we can be so we can learn from each other.