Online Learning - does it really work?
In the beginning we were all quite skeptical about online learning in Taijiquan. Though our Chinese family branch started this already about 10 years ago. But after teaching students abroad especially during the Corona lockdown we changed our minds and saw the actual improvement of all those who are sincerely training online.
So we thought we would add this kind of training for those interested learning with us and who cannot come to our regular training and our workshops. In an ideal world one could combine all these learning scenarios in a meaningful way. This is called blended learning where someone learning online also attends a workshop once in a while to get some hands on correction and then can continue on their own. In Taijiquan if you are using 100% digital learning you will surely miss some points but that doesn't mean it is better not to learn it at all ;)
We will list some disadvantages and also advantages of the online training so you can make up your own mind!
The disadvantages to normal training are obvious. Manual corrections are not possible, and hands on applications cannot be shown. Everything where the student has to copy the coach is a bit more difficult through a screen, but still possible. You cannot really change position and stand next to one another so the situation an the view is always a bit limited. It is thus more difficult to see the body method (shenfa) of the teacher and to get a practical feeling for it. The student has to be more attentive to spoken instructions and the teacher has to count in more time for the student to adapt and ask questions.
We found out that once students accept that in online learning you learn in a more conceptual kind of way, the theoretical understanding of the art really improves a lot. Also replications are possible if we save videos in the cloud or in our forum so students can watch it again and better take in all the details which define our style. We sometimes make screenshots and add graphics like the ones added in this article. During coaching certain theories become more obvious to see and very applicable, like power pathways in the body etc. So these are quite powerful tools which are more difficult to apply in "real" training environments and can be very helpful especially for advanced learners.
Different Learning Formats
As we already saw above different formats of online learning exist which all work a bit differently. In a normal environment it seems easier and more organic to switch from one mode into another. In online learning it makes more sense to stick to one kind of format. Online learning formats include:
- one on one coaching of small private online courses: correcting mistakes, guiding the practitioner's movements and helping to incorporate new ideas, teaching structural alignment, illustrating connections (see drawings above) etc.
- webinar style class: teaching form movements and single exercises and explaining them in detail, usually with a Q&A session in between
- theory classes: helping students to better understand the theoretical background, the taiji language and the cultural concepts ingrained in the art
- asynchronous video learning: learning or recapitulating contents from pre-recorded videos to deepen your skills
In total we believe it is better to try and make use of the methods available today and not to reject them entirely. Training locally can be more traditional but we believe to keep the traditional arts alive we also have to change not the arts but the way they are being taught lest they get lost for good.
Here is a random excerpt from an online class: