Tai Chi, U.S. Marines and Juggling: How We Get Ready

What do Tai Chi, the United States Marines and learning how to juggle have in common?

More than you might think!

World Tai Chi Day was Saturday April 26. I was there, on line. Bright eyed and bushy tailed…feeling the love, not to mention the soreness after an hour of chi goodness.

My personal choice of chi is with David Dorian Ross and his Taijifit program. It’s an awesome add on to a fitness regimen, not to mention the balance and clarity it provides. When I watched him lead the folks through on the 26th, I noticed something that had sorta been in the back of my mind.

David Dorian Ross (also known as DDR) is a master at helping his students get ready to succeed.

David Dorian Ross teaches Tai Chi with something called Qi Cueing. I’m not sure what the exact translation of that is. But  I knew there was something going on when I watched him lead the virtual group. He tells you what he is going to do a moment before he does it. That makes sense, of course.

But it’s a little nuance that got my attention. When he wants you to move to one side, he points his hand very quickly and decisively just before he leads you there. It’s just enough time for you to process what he wants you to do, but not enough time to really think about it. Just to react. Look at the video above and you’ll notice it.

And really the process of tai chi is just letting go…doing everything through the breath and being “in flow.”

Beautiful stuff.

Larry Hochman Marines Command

So is U.S. Marine Corps basic training.

You wouldn’t think of the Marines as having anything in common with the gentle art of tai chi.

But wait…there really is!

In 2009 I was lucky enough to spend four days at an educator workshop in Parris Island, South Carolina at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. While we were there a whole bunch of educators, counselors, principals and even a judge and a town mayor went through most of what a new Marine recruit goes through.

Yes, we were treated much nicer than the 18 year old whose life is upended for 13 weeks. But when we went from one place to another, we marched. And when it was time to get off the bus, we were told to GET OFF THE BUS!!!

It was there that I learned the basics of Drill Instructor command: the preparatory command and the command of execution.

It’s exactly what it sounds like. The drill sergeant tells the recruits what he/she is going to command them to do by giving a preparatory command. Then he/she actually gives them the command to execute it.

Every recruit has a moment to process what will be expected of them. For 13 weeks they are stripped down of what they know and have it replaced with the way a United States Marine is expected to do it.

And if you think that’s not important, understand when you’re in the heat of battle you have to react immediately. Your moves have to be automatic and instantaneous. And you have to know what your fellow Marines will do. Lives depend on it.

Or to borrow the language of Tai Chi, you have to be in flow.

Preparatory commands and commands of execution are some of the tools that make that happen.

larry hochman teaching juggling

Teachers don’t have that same intensity when they work in the classroom, although sometimes it feels like it. As someone with a background in high school guidance and school administration, I know very well the importance of letting students know what they’re going to learn…what the goals are and how they will be achieved before instruction starts.


In the world of education that’s called anticipatory set.


And in my particular case I brought it to the teaching of how to juggle.

My process is five steps. In each one I explain what we’ll do, how we’ll do it, and why we’ll do it.

I create an investment…a buy in for the people I teach.

I make it possible. Something to reach for, and something worth reaching for.

For some, the results are something fun and cool. “Hey, I can juggle!”

For others, the results are a whole new set of possibilities, with the excitement and achievement that go along with them.

Yup. Eastern meditation, western military and some silly goose keeping three balls up in the air.

How we get ready to do our thing is how well we make it happen!

What do you do to get ready?

What kind of preparation helps you to learn better? What kind of teacher works best for you?

Please comment and share!



One Response to “Tai Chi, U.S. Marines and Juggling: How We Get Ready”

  1. Brian McDaniel on April 29th, 2014 1:59 pm

    Kind-of like Psycho-Cybernetics? Read something along the lines of knowing what to do before you do. Great read and another great and helpful message.

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