Becoming a teacher #7

Teaching experience...

Students in our school who are seeking to be a teacher have trained with me for many years and have loads of notes, handouts, insights and perceptions. They've helped out in class for so long that taking the next step is not so daunting. But it is still harder than you may imagine.

As a helper, you can always fall back on the teacher for assistance. As the teacher, you have no one to fall back on.

There is more to teaching than delivering material. You must find ways of interacting with people, of being comfortable with people. Students who help out in class over many years cultiavte rapport.

If a non-helper asked to suddenly become an instructor, I'd question their motives. What drives them?

Helpers are eager to assist, to guide. They learn by helping, it changes their tai chi and alters their perceptions.

The present

If we allow the mind to return to the here and now, we can find clarity.
The chattering of our ambitions, greed, anxieties, insecurities and pain will cease.
We can simply be here. Present. Alert. Aware.

There is so much around us in every given moment, but we just do not notice it.
We are too busy chasing our own tails.


There is no box

In our tai chi school we encourage people to avoid fixity.

There are no techniques, no preset responses. We can do things in any number of ways.
Some methods work better than others. And all have ramifications and consequences.
There is not one fixed way at the exclusion of all others.

Students learn to appreciate that they are thinking within a box. Instead of 'thinking outside the box' they realise that there is no box.

Our conditioning limits us.

Transcend it.
Let your mind open and your consciousness expand. Embrace what is.


Santa Claus

Santa Claus was not always a mythical Hollywood character.

St Nicholas was born in Patara on the southern coast of Turkey. He was raised as a Christian and used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering.

No reindeers. No North Pole. No elves. No present lists. No Christmas cards, tinsels, trees, cakes, holly, mistletoe or carol singing.

Deviate from the essence and all is lost.


Re-discover Christmas #2

In the 1970's Peter McNally (the local Scout leader) used to take large gangs of children and adults around the village on Christmas morning.
He'd found out which old people were alone and had no family. He'd filled shoe boxes with presents and asked people to sign cards.

Then he took everyone to visit each and every lonely old person. We would all stand and sing outside their houses.
The expressions on the faces of the old people said it all.



If you think that's tacky, come and have a look around where we live...

One house has that Santa you described, plus Blackpool illuminations, plus new addition - 7 foot mock snow-globe with Santa scene.

That's just one house, I think they're aiming to be seen from space.

(Up My Street)



Learning to strike somebody and learning how to take a strike are essential.
Being hit can really mess you up.
Clever self defence tactics and techniques may fall to pieces when you are actually taking hits.
It is imperative that you know how to relax and roll with the punch.

Developing your own striking ability is critical. Without it, you cannot hope to defend yourself.
You need to make each blow count.
Range, timing, distance, accuracy and penetration must be practiced relentlessly.
A bag or focus mitt is not the same as a person. You need to strike real people.
Do not pull your punches. Let them land. Feel whether or not you are receiving adverse feedback.
Learn to control your power, your commitment and your intent.

Punching thin air may train the body mechanics behind a strike but tells you nothing about your ability.


Re-discover Christmas

Do not get caught up in the sickening sentimentality of carol singing and Christmas decorations.
Go to the Salvation Army over Christmas or donate money to the thousands of charities out there.

Take nothing for yourself. Ask for nothing. Make it a season of giving. A time for caring.


Christmas - the media spectacle

Christmas is a marketing triumph.

The inane catchy jingles played constantly, the lights and the decorations, the kitsch, the sentimentality and nostalgia, the peer pressure, the overindulgence...

People willingly spend money they do not have on things they do not need.
They do this for no reason whatsoever.


Charity & judgement

You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving."

And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you should see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?

(Kahlil Gibran)



Many marriages break up after a few years and this is not surprising.
If a wedding symbolises truth, commitment, honour, fidelity and love - why is it treated like a circus?
Where is the integrity, the honesty, the genuine earnest warmth, love and feeling?
Novelty, noise, excess, costumes, scripted promises and money seem a poor way to begin a sincere pact between two people.

Only when you pare away the clutter can you see the real. And also what is lacking...


Peter Southwood's tips #14 Mind

The mind leads the body.
Neglecting the mind makes for a witless martial artist.

Mind games, puzzles and other gimmicks are worthless.
Study, koan and quietude will expand your consciousness, and encourage clarity.

It is what you make it

If we continue the theme of 'marriage':

The idea of 'getting married is only a concept.
What you choose to do with the idea is the important part: you make it what it is; you imbue the idea with meaning.

The truth is in the doing of things, so if you get married and have the entire lavish affair - that is your wedding.
Every part of the experience is the truth of it, the reality of it: the 'good' and the 'bad', the pleasure and the excess, greed and waste.
This is the actual substance of the event.

The original meaning is lost and whatever you have made of 'wedding' is the reality of the event.
If your wedding is a gaudy, vulgar spectacle then it is a gaudy, vulgar spectacle.
That is the truth of it; surface glitz and glamour smeared across the relationship in the hope of what?



Taoism values the essence of things. It seeks to find the heart, the centre. The unique quality.
Invariably, this leads to simplicity, to elegance, to a paring away of the non-essentials.

Tai chi should reflect this approach.


Not so Christian Christmas

If Christmas is intended to celebrate the birth of Christ, how come its a commercial holiday?

Jesus said, "Take everything you have and give it to the poor."

The modern Christmas is not very Christian.



In self defence, you must do whatever feels appropriate.

Some of your responses will have gaping holes in them, but others will not.
The more skilled you become, the more effective your responses will be.

Gauge the appropriateness relative to the effect:

  1. Did it work?
  2. Are you compromising yourself? Over-committing?
  3. Was there any adverse feedback?
  4. Did you allow for multiple attackers?
  5. What did it do to your opponent?
  6. Were they rooted when you struck/manipulated them?
  7. Was it easy to perform?
  8. Smooth or jarring?
  9. Was it hurried and quick?
  10. Were you calm and composed?

Be honest with yourself and work on any weaknesses in your composure, body use and application.



A short course in self defence may provide a measure of self confidence.
But can you really protect yourself when you need it?
For self defence to work you need ongoing training.
Your body must develop the ability to respond reflexively to all manner of attack without conscious effort.
To learn self defence, you need a longer-term commitment.


Fed-up with Christmas?

Then don't participate. No one is forcing you.


When a person becomes a lineage student, everybody knows who that individual is and what their relationship with the instructor is.
Should the instructor move away or die, people will look to the lineage student to continue the teaching in the instructor's name.
This is the responsibility of the lineage student.

For example, when Peter Southwood died, several total strangers contacted Sifu Waller to advise that Peter Southwood was dead.
Even though they had never trained with Sifu Waller, they knew that he was Peter's indoor/lineage student.
Peter had made no secret of the fact.


Having 'presence'

Presence can be seen in a different way...
Some people seem to have 'presence'. They exude a notable air of security and calm.

These people quietly walk through life in a comfortable, natural way.
They are unaffected and genuine.
There is no conflict or aggression in their manner. Just gentle humour and grace.