View Full Version : The Monk: Teacher or Huckster?

02-22-2003, 10:04 AM
Tim Miller, AKA the Monk, came by my local pool hall recently and held a small class for $35 a head. This was pretty reasonable from my way of thinking for an hour or two worth of instruction.

The students attending the class are all either close friends of mine or people I know well through league. The sentiment after the class was two-sided. Me and another guy, who's a really talented, dedicated player, felt we got our money's worth. Two or three other students felt like it was $35 down the drain.

A friend of mine even went so far as to say that the Monk "is a bullshit scam-artist, who charges you $35 to spend an hour listening to his marketing ploy." He was referring to the Monk's promoting his four books, which coincidentally I had been planning on buying on the net and bought that night for $80 total.

Thoughts anyone?

02-22-2003, 11:14 AM

I am a pretty advanced player. I have played and taken some instruction over the years from Lou Roberts (my former roommate), Jerry B., Grady M. and Mike Massey. I was living in Detroit, at the time, (3~4 years ago) and had the opportunity to take a two-day Monk class in Central Michigan. I really did so more because the CCB was alive with controversy at the time over the worth of Tim's instruction and George Fels, who I greatly respect, was particularily interested in the Monk's teaching abilities. Well, as it was within a few hours drive and I had the time and money, I went. Now, understand, as you get more and more advanced in pool, the things you get out of instruction, books and everything else naturally diminish somewhat. If I buy a book and learn even the smallest thing, I am generally happy. I went promising everyone I would evaluate Tim's methods and the "real" learning experience as fairly as possible. Before that the only feedback we had gotten was a mixed bag from players of various unknown skill levels. Secondly, you need to understand that any time you go and spend 20 hours of shooting, under scrutiny, with nightly sessions til 3:00a.m. playing a couple of fine Chicigo one pocket guys your game is going to improve. The secret is if you learn something you would not have otherwise have learned or learned it faster and more effectively and was it worth the time/cost?

Gee, am I starting to sound like Larry the Lip or Fast Larry or whatever his name is? Sorry! Anyway, Bob Henning was there to assist as was a pretty young woman from the CCB who I later sponsored in a tournament.

I felt that a lot of Tim's instruction was too feely/touchy for me. I also felt that Tim's skill level (himself) was not as high as Bob Henning's nor mine. However, the test was did I learn things I did not know? Yes, Tim has some strange methods and part of the time is certainly wasted in things that don't always seem germain to the subject but I improved my game, was able to make shots I could not before and helped develop more feel in my game. Now, I could already run racks. What Tim gave me was a better feel for my game (speed control) and what Bob Henning really helped me with was a lot more discipline in my pre-shot routine. What I was able to contribute was demonstrating some shots that even they (Bob/Tim) could not do, but based on Tim's instruction. You know, some people understand the game better than their skills allow them to personally demonstrate. This should not offend or bother anyone. If you have ever tried to get a very good pro to teach you how to draw a ball you know some just can't teach, they just do it.

So, overall, I would recommend The Monk's school although I do believe an hour or two session is too short to get into the things Tim can really help you with. Another strong point is that Tim, unlike so many others, is good at getting a team spirit into his sessions that lets almost everyone, regardless of their skill level, contribute to the experience. Another point. If you can't do the simply basics, bridge, stance and rudimentary position, you might not fit well into his class where there are better shooters.

One final point. Before Tim's sessions. I, myself, had trouble teaching or transferring knowledge to other players. I am a Mechanical Engineers by education and felt everyone should understand the physics of motion, friction, transfer of energy, etc. Tim helped me be able to describe "feel" much better and describe the stroke and shots in terms that non-technical people can understand more clearly.

I hope this helps.

Dee /ccboard/images/graemlins/tongue.gif

02-22-2003, 12:14 PM
Thank you VERY much for your thorough response. I think we are eye-to-eye on our views about instruction. I was going to put the following in my original message, but took it out before the final cut:

"Now, I'm not given to being taken in by scams, but it is possible my judgment is suspect with respect to pool, since I feel strongly about improving. The true litmus test however is whether I gained something as a result of taking the class. And I did. I've been using The Monk's concept of four strokes, especially the punch stroke, and I have a better understanding of how the cue ball moves after contact with the object ball. The second question I need to answer is: what value do I place on that small piece of knowledge that I have gained?"

Another one of the dissenters was my APA league captain, who complained that he "only learned one thing" from the session. To me, learning even one thing is worth $35, if I can use it to improve my game. He didn't feel the same way.

Basically the most accurate conclusion I have come to is that their responses to Tim Miller's instruction say as much about them as they do about his instruction. If you're looking for a $35 quick fix to your pool woes, you're looking for something that doesn't exist. If you only want to spend $35 on instruction, you should probably buy a book or two (preferrably by Capelle or Byrne) and use that knowledge in your practice sessions for the next several months.

However, if you are interested in becoming a well-rounded player, you should seek a variety of improvement tools, including face-to-face instruction. You're not going to learn everything from A book or AN instructor, especially not in under 2 hours. I compare it to any other field of knowledge: you can't learn Greek from a single two-hour class.

I've been reading through Miller's "Point the Way" and I get the same feeling from it as I did from the session: I disagree with some of his views and I agree wholeheartedly with others. But again I go back to my two questions: 1) did I learn anything? and 2) was it worth what I spent? Some of the book reiterates what I already know, but there are some illuminating parts, so I can respond positively to both questions.

02-22-2003, 12:20 PM
I think you have the right attitude about learning and your point of your attitude toward the lessons is so very true. In the end, we all blend all this knowledge into what is right for "us" and just try to keep learning. Good luck.


02-22-2003, 12:38 PM
I know monk, and he may be a little of both, but that is not a bad thing. I would suggest you direct your comments to Monk though. I know he would like to hear what you have to say. You are always refining what you do, when you are in his business and honest criticism is welcome. I believe your friends who think they were ripped off, may have had an unrealistic idea of what could be gained from such a short seminar.

02-22-2003, 01:59 PM
I appreciate your response. I got the feeling that, yes, he is a little bit of both, but also that he has a very clear, unapologetic view of what he does and how he does it. Just as you, I appreciate his strength of conviction. But I disagree fundamentally with his general views of teaching and playing, though specific aspects of his teaching are very valuable. I have three points of contention with his philosophy.

First, the master's seminar he promoted at the session is overpriced. This was the first piece of evidence that gave me pause when hearing my friends' comments. $1000 for three days of instruction is pricey, even with Miller, Rossman, and Fechter all teaching. I'm inclined to believe a lesser portion of my paycheck would be better spent at Randy's school or Cue U.

Second, in Point the Way, he advocates sharking, though admittedly a more noble version of sharking than talking while your opponent is shooting. Still, an individual on the path to spiritual enlightenment through billiards should be content to keep his own mind at rest rather than upsetting someone else's. From what I've read of Buddhism in the 16th century, disturbing someone's 'wa' or 'inner peace' is a nearly unpardonable act. It seems self-serving and decidedly unenlightened to justify it in the name of winning a game.

Last, my preference is against gambling in pool. I know it has a long history in this game, but I don't think gambling and pool are inseparable. In fact, I think pool would have mainstream acceptance, if it weren't for its seedy image as a game of hucksters. However, in "Point the Way," the Monk is content to accept gambling as an integral part of pool improvement and profit. It is a little hypocritical for him to advocate gambling, while also claiming that he is showing us "the Way" to progress as a poolplayer and as an individual.

For these reasons, I don't think my feedback will do much to change or improve his teaching. I am usually not this fatalistic, but it is clear that we have each chosen our paths. He has been around longer and seen more than I have. Perhaps he is the wiser man. But, as I've learned in pool, second guessing my convictions produces confusion, not improvement.

02-22-2003, 10:00 PM
That was a great review. I can't believe I missed it the first time around.


Fred Agnir
02-23-2003, 07:10 AM
This, IMO, was fantastic post. All those "anti group instruction" veined thread posters should take note.

I'd like to make two comments, neither are contradictory:

<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Deeman:</font><hr>
I felt that a lot of Tim's instruction was too feely/touchy for me. I also felt that Tim's skill level (himself) was not as high as Bob Henning's nor mine.<hr /></blockquote>
This is always a gray area topic. I personally feel that an advanced instructor should have a certain amount of skills. But, what does that mean? Who knows, but I guess I've always been bugged when someone (local guys, I'm talking) say they give lessons, but they clearly do not have the physical tools to demonstrate anything beyond rudimentary. Anyway, in my opinion, Tim has the skills to be an advance instructor, but he's no pro.

I am a Mechanical Engineers by education and felt everyone should understand the physics of motion, friction, transfer of energy, etc. <hr /></blockquote>
Contrary to popular believe, I (a Mechanical Engineer) think that nobody in their right or left mind should understand the physics of the game. So, I wish they'd just stop talking about it /ccboard/images/graemlins/wink.gif

<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Deeman:</font><hr>I hope this helps.<hr /></blockquote>
Uh oh. Kiss of death. j/k

Fred &lt;~~~ okay, three comments

02-24-2003, 06:51 PM
Ludba: Thank you for understanding the difference between a Pool School" and a traveling seminar. I beleive that Cue-Tech's three (3) BCA Master Instructors are the very best in the instructional field.....randyg

02-24-2003, 11:43 PM
Dear Ludba, what a beautifully written response, veeely good grasshopper, mess with my wa, I pull out my samarai sword &amp; chop you head off. Bonzi. Things were so simple in the 1600's. You know there are students who pay $35 bucks for a 1 hr lesson, and if they don't walk away playing as good as Mosconi, they think you are a bum &amp; they got ripped off. It's really hard to make everyone happy. Most are not really ready to be taught, they are looking for some shortcut, or bandaid,and there are none, neither do I sell any. Perhaps they expect too much. You walk up to any good Golf teaching professional &amp; ask him how long do I have to take lessons to get good &amp; he will tell you several years. Any true sensei that teaches the martial arts will tell you the same thing. My Japanese master told me it would take 5 years to make a proper perfect fist &amp; to deliver a perfect blow. If I said look, I only have a hour &amp; $35 bucks, he would have bowed politely, then turned &amp; walked away in sadness. True teachers of the martial arts dont offer one hour lessons. I hate one hour lessons, I offer a large discount to any student who will buy in advance a 6 lesson package, and when he renews his rate goes down again. I do this because I know I cant teach you how to blop your baloney correctly in one hour. All of you but me got through grade school, now go back &amp; review each teacher in every grade, did you like every one of them, did you think every one was great?
When the student is truely ready, and he is ready to be taught, and he is worthy, the proper teacher will appear before him.
Best Wishes, Fast Larry Guninger