In one of my recent blogs, I said that differences weren't obvious to the untrained eye. Which implies that eyes can indeed be trained. When I first started tai chi, I was very unobservant, as most people are. Over time, with training from my tai chi teacher, I have become better at systematically looking at people and actually seeing specific things, which previously I would have been oblivious to.

This reminded me of one guy's book, where he wrote that he had been trained in mainland China, then visited Taiwan. At a competition there he noticed that the judges were awarding marks quite the opposite way he would award them himself. Afterwards he came to the conclusion that he was marking on how the competitors' forms looked, while the Taiwan judges were marking on some other criteria that wasn't at all obvious to him.. He eventually discovered they were marking on internal qualities, that his training hadn't prepared him to notice.

There's another book I have seen, filled with beautiful photos of stunning locations, and a woman doing tai chi poses in each. Well, the pictures are pretty, but there's no actual tai chi happening. However, that probably isn't at all obvious to a beginner, since the poses look like tai chi poses. What's missing is focus, intent, any internal factors, where instead there is looking pretty and spaghetti hands.

This is why students need teachers - if you just go by what you see on a video, in a book, or wherever, you will not have the opportunity to learn the internal parts and you might end up looking like you're doing tai chi, but you won't get the internal training and so will miss out on the health benefits, let alone the martial aspects. It's like trying to learn music from a book - no-one would think to do that, but I see plenty of people who have tried tai chi things they have learned from books and been led up the garden path by.

A good teacher will lead you gently into becoming more observant of yourself and the ways to improve your own practise, so that eventually you will gain the depth of tai chi training that will enable you to have a way to longlasting improvements in your health and strength.