In my experience, being self-taught, once you have some relevant experience, is useful in terms of deepening or broadening one’s understanding. However, there’s no doubt that it can be tough for beginners to recognize real quality when they meet up with it. No matter what your level of experience, it ends up being the same problem for all of us trying to learn new material: figure out what you want and try to find a teacher who meets at least some of those needs and in a few years, you may be better prepared to recognize a better teacher if he or she comes along. Have fun along the way, work hard, be a good student and someday you may be a better practitioner, perhaps even a good instructor.
I watched a video today of the best of a workshop that Rob gave last year on close range tactics from the perspective of the Systema that he practices and teaches in the UK. I was reminded while doing so that we live in an audio-visual age which might well have made the founder of the Yang style Taijiquan, Yang Lu Chan, green with envy. For those who don't know the story, he was reputed to have learned the basics of his art by watching Chen-style practitioners practising while he hid behind a stone wall and watched them training night-after-night. What would he have thought of the modern opportunity to attend workshops, buy dvds, stream instructional videos or "shop around' at a variety of martial arts that teach openly to anyone?
I felt a little bit like I was "stealing secrets" myself while watching Rob and his students training on my monitor screen. Perhaps I'm only fooling myself as to the depth of my understanding of martial body mechanics but I saw much that I recognized and liked. I also saw much that was done differently or explained in ways that made more sense to me than the kinds of explanations I have used with my own students over the years for similar methods of standing and moving while delivering and receiving "discomfort".
Training seriously in the Chinese martial arts since 1973; accredited and teaching Yang Taijiquan since 1985 and Baguazhang since 1994.