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Trying not to judge

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Old 05-15-2014, 11:37 AM   #1
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Default Trying not to judge

I found myself struggling not to judge someone the other day and it felt yucky. I found a nearby park where they offer FREE tai chi classes every Sunday morning. I have been practicing chi gong on my own for about 6 months and I love it so I thought this would be a great opportunity to do something similar in a beautiful park (I've seen yoga classes conducted there before and it's a beautiful setting, on the grass under the trees right next to the river!).

So I set out there as a Mother's Day activity for myself last weekend. I waited by the river for everyone to arrive and saw that they weren't coming. Then I realized that the tai chi class had already started on the other side of the park, in the sun, right next to the highway..... uhm, ok, not the spot I was looking forward to but oh well let's go check this class out.

The instructor was very welcoming. I was a little surprised that it was a very obese older gentleman with a long beard dressed a bit like a Harley rider. But ok, let's go with it, I'm not a judgemental person, right? So he starts explaining what tai chi is, where it was founded, who the founder of this particular type of tai chi was, etc. Fine, all good. Then he keeps talking and talking and talking and I'm starting to get irritated, I'd like to DO something. He shows us a move and then has to explain all the philosphy behind this one little movement. Meanwhile he keeps saying "just watch, don't try this, just watch" which again was frustrating to me. I'm not the type of learner that can just sit still and watch motion without doing it. So then he'd let us do the movement and then he'd talk more - existential stuff and too many personal details. I think he just wanted to hear himself talk. Then he'd take an extraordinary amount of time to explain variations on a movement in order to accommodate a very large beer belly as he referred to it. Ok, none of us in the class have a beer belly except him, why do we need to talk for 10 minutes on how to vary this pose to accommodate our beer belly if we don't have one?

I was getting really bored and restless standing still for so long and the sun was beating down hard on us but I kept saying to myself "don't walk out, finish what you started, you will get something out of this!" Eventually I asked someone to me what time it was and it was 20min past the time the class was supposed to end. My son and hubby were waiting for me to take me to brunch so I just left. Then I felt bad but what could I do? It wasn't working out. I felt really sorry for the guy, maybe he was lonely and this was his only opportunity to be around people? But the class sort of sucked and I didn't get the point of it after all eventhough my mind was wide open to it.

Sorry for the rant, but I guess the point is, do you find it odd that someone very obese is teaching a martial art class?
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Old 05-15-2014, 11:56 AM   #2
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well, for one thing, he doesn't seem to know how to teach, and that has NOTHING to do with his weight.

I'm going to suggest that there's no way to know if this obesity is a recent phenomenon, or if he's lived with it his entire life. I've yo-yo'ed so much over my lifetime, from bikini-thin to more than 500 pounds. It's possible that he was once much slimmer.

But whatever knowledge he carries in his head doesn't change... does he really know tai chi? or how to teach it? i have no idea!
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Old 05-15-2014, 12:01 PM   #3
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I don't think it's odd...he might be obese now, but maybe a year ago, he wasn't able to even get out of bed. Who knows. I think the class can suck regardless of his size. I don't think he should have spent 10 minutes telling people how to accommodate a beer belly that they don't have (yet anyway). I think his class sounds totally annoying but maybe it was supposed to be only an introductory first lesson? I would have asked after class if that's how it always is or if the next classes would talk-free. I hope you had a nice brunch.
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Old 05-15-2014, 01:12 PM   #4
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I know I know, I'm probably just adding the obesity when it's not needed... it's just there were so many reasons not to take him seriously. Had the class been amazing then I would have felt pride for him and said to myself "see? size doesn't mean that one can't be fit!" but the combination of the boring class, the lectures, the not allowing us to do anything made me thing that maybe this guy is just bored and wants to hear himself talk. Can't honestly say I got anything out of the class eventhough I really wanted to. I won't be going back because life is too short and I don't want to be a negative presence in his class if I'm starting to feel frustrated.

I have no doubt that he deeply and truly loves tai chi and is possibly even a master of it. His class however did a disservice to spreading the word about tai chi because he took advantage of the opportunity to make it about himself.

Not to mention that he made a lot of derogatory remarks about himself, it pointed to obvious insecurities which I don't fault anyone for really, we all have them. But to say stuff like "if I do this move wrong just ignore me ok?" or "you guys are better, smarter and stronger than me, you'll have mastered it in no time" took even more away from his credibility imo.

Brunch was fab!
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Old 05-15-2014, 01:34 PM   #5
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The class wasn't a good fit for you. There's no need to judge beyond that.


The people for whom it was a good fit will come back to the class, and the ones for whom it wasn't a good fit will not.

You don't have to make any other judgement of the teacher or of the students who would appreciate that type of teacher.

Personally, being a disabled woman of 300 lbs with a large belly, with balance issues and being a person who learns physical moves very slowly (I've NEVER, EVER at any weight been able to keep up in an exercise class) and being a person who is somewhat intimidated by very fit instructors who often don't understand that or how I may need to modify moves, this guy sounds like he might be the perfect teacher for me, especially for the first class.

I wouldn't be put off by a first class like this one, though I would expect the teacher to spend less time talking in future classes.

On another note, I am always excited to see or hear of a fitness instructor or personal trainer who has an imperfect body, especially a VERY imperfect body. There are so few role-models of ANY kind for the less-than hardbodies. It can leave the impression that physical activity is only suitable for young, fit, pretty bodies who CAN keep up with a typical exercise class.

Even with my education (master's degree in psychology) I seriously underestimated the value of having active role models who look like me. When I lived in Illinois, I almost never saw very heavy people exercising or being active in public. Whenever I tried to be active in public or at a gym, I was virtually always the fattest, most out-of-shape person.

I tried not to let it affect my motivation, but it did.

In northcentral Wisconsin, I was absolutely astonished how common it is here for even extremely fat, elderly, and disabled people to be active. You see very, very old and fat people biking, hiking, swimming, camping, kayaking, geocaching, hunting...

At first I was awestruck and dumbfounded, but it wasn't long before moving my body seemed like an ordinary, even natural thing.

Sadly, I had never before felt that way as an adult (and rarely as a child, having been obese since age 5).

It's astonishing to me, what a difference seeing nontypical exercisers has made, for me in my own efforts to move more.

So, even though this instructor wasn't right for you, he might have been perfect for some (or a different group) of students.

The best teachers can modify their teaching style to accomodate a wide variety of students, but I find that kind of teacher very rare. Instead the student usually has to find the type of teacher they can learn best from.

This guy isn't the teacher for you, but he might be the perfect teacher for me and others like me. Maybe I'd find him boring too. Not everyone who teaches, is cut out for teaching, but you don't have to judge that. You only have to make the judgement for yourself whether he's the right teacher for you.

Just because you got nothing from the class doesn't mean everyone else had the same experience. If you were the only one who left, even 20 minutes after the class was to have ended, I would suspect that many of the other students were getting something from the class.

I have taught all sorts of classes (even a few physical activity-based when I was younger), and I can tell you how rare it is for adults to stay when a class of any kind runs over. There are ALWAYS some who will leave the SECOND the class is supposed to be over, so I'm inclined to believe that those who stayed were getting something from the class.
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Old 05-15-2014, 01:50 PM   #6
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I don't find it odd that someone obese would be teaching a fitness/tai chi class. You mentioned it was a free class, so maybe the man is just volunteering his time? Sounds like his style just wasn't a good fit for you!
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Old 05-15-2014, 01:54 PM   #7
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Kaplods - I seriously always love your posts. They are always so well thought out, intelligent and eloquent.
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Old 05-15-2014, 02:01 PM   #8
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Kaplods brings up a good point about this instructor possibly being helpful to some students. When I was 272 I went to yoga classes. Because I was very apple shaped with a large belly I had a very difficult time balancing in some poses. The instructor was very thin and fit and had to constantly come over to keep repositioning me. I felt like such a nuisance.

I would have really appreciated a plus sized instructor!
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Old 05-15-2014, 02:15 PM   #9
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I don't find it odd at all - its not like it burns a ton of calories. Even people who regularly do rigorous exercise and burn a lot can eat an extraordinary amount of food and maintain a huge weight.
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Old 05-15-2014, 02:36 PM   #10
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Tai chi isn't a fitness class.
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Old 05-15-2014, 04:46 PM   #11
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Quote:
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Tai chi isn't a fitness class.
Thats not a fair statement. Tai chi is a martial art. It may appear to move in a slower manner than other types if martial art but it can indeed be a a healthful practice. In its most advanced practices it incorporates sword fighting. It's not arts and crafts or a book club. It's great for concentration, balance and promote healthy joints. I wasn't looking to burn 600 calories but I at least was hoping that it incorporated movement. I have participated in other tai chi classes that have been physically challenging and enjoyable.
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Old 05-15-2014, 04:55 PM   #12
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I don't doubt that others in the class enjoyed it and got something out of it. It's not mandatory that I remain in the class, I just found it disappointing. I may be overweight but I consider myself a kinetic learner, I grew up as a folk dancer and can learn quite complicated choreographed sequences which is why tai chi appealed to me in the first place. It's nice to offer free community classes in the park but it was not a good fit for me. All judgements aside.

I have taken numerous classes and I've never felt that my instructors were so fit that I couldn't relate to them. Some had great bodies and others were quite normal looking, but it's the spirit of a teacher that draws me in. Looks doesn't have much to do with it, I just need something to aspire to. Maybe I was expecting an older Chinese safe man who moved brilliantly and talked little. Tai chi doesn't need that much talking really. Or at least talk while allowing us to move and not just stand there at attention listening to stories.
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Old 05-15-2014, 05:06 PM   #13
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All other issues aside you (I'm not going to touch that with a ten foot pole) you get what you pay for. It you want some guarantee of quality or recourse if you don't like it, pay for the class. This poor guy was teaching a free class at a park, in the manner he chose. Rather than looking at it as a waste of your time, why don't you consider paying a tai chi instructor and asking them ahead of time about their class progression and style of teaching?

Beggars can't be choosers - I'd see a lot more impetus to whine if this wasn't a free class by a *volunteer* tai chi enthusiast, who clearly loves the subject for its spiritual as well as physical aspects.
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Old 05-15-2014, 05:08 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wannabeskinny View Post
Some had great bodies and others were quite normal looking, but it's the spirit of a teacher that draws me in. Looks doesn't have much to do with it, I just need something to aspire to. Maybe I was expecting an older Chinese safe man who moved brilliantly and talked little. Tai chi doesn't need that much talking really. Or at least talk while allowing us to move and not just stand there at attention listening to stories.
You just jumped from spirit to something physical - age, race. If you can't feel the spirit from a big non-Chinese not-quietman perhaps try Chinatown in Flushing?
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Old 05-15-2014, 05:48 PM   #15
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Quote:
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Kaplods brings up a good point about this instructor possibly being helpful to some students. When I was 272 I went to yoga classes. Because I was very apple shaped with a large belly I had a very difficult time balancing in some poses. The instructor was very thin and fit and had to constantly come over to keep repositioning me. I felt like such a nuisance.

I would have really appreciated a plus sized instructor!
Honestly, I have been doing yoga for awhile and learned that shape and balance have nothing to do with each other. Obviously, there is a weight distribution problem but overall some people just have a better natural balance. My co-worker is larger than me with a rather severe apple shape and she can do poses I STILL can't master after a year and she did it in a month!
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