A Focus on Critique

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A Focus on Critique

In my experience as a teacher and student at the Pa Kua school, and in life in general, I’ve seen that people have a strong desire to be correct. People always want to be right. I cannot count the number of times that someone has asked. “How did I do?” “Where is my arm supposed to go?” “Do I move this way or that?”

It is in our nature as humans, as well as in our culture as Americans, to want an “A” in the class, or on our report card. As you probably know reading this, it is not our way of working. We do critique, correct, and improve, but we always try to do it with a soft touch. Why is that?

One of the many things we learn is that the physical form is easy to see, and can be compared, one to another, by anyone. We all see the difference in the way two students practice, and we want to know which is right. This is where the difficulty starts, if I say that one is right then immediately we put that student above everyone else. This promotes ego in one student, and doubt in the others. Because the physical movement is so visible, it becomes an easy comparison for us. Moreover, when I correct someone too much, they start to believe that they aren’t capable or able to do what they set out to do.

The physical form is not the most important thing in any discipline. The most important things are internal understanding, happiness, self-knowledge, and so on. If I have the internal characteristics, the form will be secondary and I will feel good about my level of technique regardless of those around me. When I feel that way about my form, then I can accept correction on my external positions without the negative internal effect on my ego or self-esteem. That is why we have improvement classes which start at Gray Belt. By that point, we have enough understanding of the form to accept corrections, but more importantly we have the internal attitude to not be negatively affected by the improvements.
“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to
nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”

-Frank A. Clark
-Master Kyle Billingsley