British schooling conditions us to think that we are either right or wrong. During our developmental years, we are assessed and marked accordingly. There develops a sense of failure or achievement depending on how good we are getting things ‘right’ and, at an early age, we learn where we stand in relation to others in this regard. As an Open University tutor, I often come across students with a deeply ingrained sense of failure which seriously impedes learning.
In Taiji there is no right and wrong: just a spectrum from poorly skilled to highly skilled.
Please ingest this.
There will always be more skill to develop and therefore you will never have it done, have it right, have it finished. Skill is always developing. For some of us, this produces an open-ended lack of achievement (no sense of completion) but only if we assume there should be an end point. The end is not the aim. Development of skill is the aim.
In the early days, we do not have much skill and we struggle with clunky bodies, self-criticism, and perhaps a sense of defeat (I will never be able to do that). But there should be no comparison with others. This is not a competition, a grading, or a test. We are each developing our skill as best we can at this time in our lives, with all the limitations of aging and injury inflict. One student will be flexible and flowing while another is stiff and clunky but if both are developing slightly more skill each week, both are doing it right.
The interesting thing about skill is that it develops by DOING. It is not about understanding it with our intellect (although, for some of us, this helps). It is about understanding it, knowing it, kinaesthetically. This is a completely different type of learning (which academic schools do not address but various craft-based apprenticeships do).
We do not develop taiji skill by ‘learning’ the form as quickly as we can. We develop skill by working on (practising) the principles we know so far. As our skill evolves, our teacher gives us more principles to work on. In other words, the sense of achievement needs to shift from one of ‘completion’ to one of ‘attaining skill’.
It is not so much about the length as the depth.