"Keep an open mind. Remember mindfulness." With these shrewd remarks, our instructor, Shīfu Larry Brown began the first Tai Chi chuan class by impelling us to break free from our stubborn preconceptions and step into the realm of a serene awareness of ourselves and our surroundings.
Shīfu Larry, a petite and stern elderly man, explained that Tai Chi was a martial art useful for various purposes. One such purpose was one-on-one combat in which one opponent could physically move another by merely thinking instead of actually pushing with force. Instead of using swift strikes to overpower an opponent, a person utilizing Tai Chi would use soft contact to cancel the opponent's actions. Shīfu Larry also claimed that Tai Chi provided relaxation, so that amidst the stress of our homework, exams, and shaky love lives, we could still manage in that one hour to relieve our hectic minds and bodies, and feel a rare, but golden tranquility. Shīfu Larry hoped to teach us how to apply Tai Chi to benefit our daily lives.
From day one, however, I never even sought to learn Tai Chi. From my visit to China a few summers ago, I recalled Tai Chi as a painfully slow ordeal that my grandparents and their elderly friends practiced in the park. I concluded that Tai Chi was just some silly yoga exercises for old people, not a true martial art like karate and Taekwondo. How could the mind transfer energy to fling an opponent backwards? How could moving so slowly and gently defeat an opponent? The person executing Tai Chi would surely lose. Ultimately, Tai Chi clashed with everything I had ever learned and understood; it defied not only physics and gravity but also common sense.
And so, every Tuesday morning, I kicked off my sneakers and shuffled to the back of the room, pouting and puttering around as I reflected on what a waste of time this class was. Nevertheless, I played along with this ridiculous game, giggling quietly with my classmates when Shīfu Larry unconsciously uttered an amusing comment or demonstrated a hilariously awkward position. We sought to prove wrong the very foundations of Tai Chi, humoring ourselves as we attempted to "push" each other with our minds. Every class period was sheer entertainment, and Tai Chi became the joke of the school.
Weeks passed, and suddenly, it was time for our first exam, in which we had to perform what Shīfu Larry had taught us so far, which was the basic Tai Chi form. With fuzzy recognition of the movements, I still wasn't worried even after performing rather inadequately on the exam, for my classmates and I believed our grades came from participation, like every other P.E. class we'd taken.
But when the report card came in, I found that I had been painfully mistaken, for there, on that column of what should have been straight "A"s was one ugly "C" in Tai Chi. I was aghast and ashamed of myself, for I had never made a "C" before in my life.
The next morning, seeing my desolation, Shīfu Larry pulled me aside to address the problem, saying simply, "Lily, the only thing standing between you and your "A" is humility."
From day one, I had been arrogant. I looked down upon Shīfu Larry and his class, believing it was unimportant and concluding before the class had barely begun that it was worthless. I was foolish to think that I knew what this martial art entailed and to declare that it was pointless and ineffective. I never opened my mind to even consider or to even attempt to learn and understand Tai Chi.
Reflecting back on that class, I believe that Tai Chi has taught me more than any AP course I have ever taken. It didn't teach me how to integrate with partial fractions or how to solve for static and kinetic friction. It didn't teach me what Transcendentalism was or how the Boston Tea Party affected the American Revolution. But Tai Chi taught me the importance of humility, of open-mindedness.
Everything and everybody deserves a chance, deserves respect. As we get older and accumulate more knowledge, it becomes harder for us not to formulate quick conclusions about both matters we have investigated and matters we have yet to learn. Age and learning do bring wisdom, but it can also bring arrogance. Just because things contradict what we know doesn't mean that those things aren't true or worthy of investigation.
Shīfu means Master in Chinese.That was what we called him as.
Tai Chi chuan is also known as Taijiquan.
Is it too long for the common app essay?
Is it confusing?
Do I seem like a terrible, awful jerk?
Is there anything more I should explain?
Is the point/theme clear?
Thank you so much.
Good work! Your essay is well-written, with an inspiring message that doesn't come across as utterly cliche.
Is it too long? Well, there's technically no word limit on the Common App essay, so the easy answer would be "no". However, I do think that your essay could benefit from some cuts to improve clarity.
Everything before the sentence "From day one, however, I never even sought to learn Tai Chi" is essentially background information, which is fairly unnecessary. No one is reading this essay to learn about tai chi- that's what Wikipedia is for. You can either cut or severely condense that entire first section, and begin with "From day one...", which is a much stronger introductory sentence anyway. If you really feel that you need to add some background on tai chi, add a short sentence or two into your paragraph about your doubts regarding tai chi.
"Reflecting back on that class, I believe that Tai Chi has taught me more than any AP course I have ever taken" can be shortened to "Reflecting back, I believe that Tai Chi has taught me more than any AP course I have ever taken." Try to avoid qualifiers like "I believe"- if you didn't believe it, you probably wouldn't be writing it in your essay.
Also, is "Shīfu means Master in Chinese.That was what we called him as.Tai Chi chuan is also known as Taijiquan" part of your essay? I wasn't sure, because it seemed a bit like a footnote.
By the way, it probably would be a good idea to mention of you ever managed to improve your grade in Tai Chi. Colleges do love to see ~personal growth and improvement~, after all.
Otherwise, nice work! You have a very strong essay.