Written by Rachel

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Modern behaviour

People behave in a manner that is consistent with their upbringing, social group, work and family.
This is unlikely to correspond with how someone should behave in a martial arts class.

Martial attitudes

Martial arts are dangerous. The classes are run in a certain manner on purpose in order to instil the right attitude for learning and becoming a martial artist.
They also take health & safety into account


Many features of a martial arts class stem from the Chinese traditional method of learning. This is Confucian in origin. It was focussed upon humility, hard study and a sincere commitment to practice.

One does not applaud the tenor for clearing his throat.

(Dangerous Liaisons)

May all your wishes come true (Chinese curse)

The first so-called Chinese curse is very relevant in a martial arts class. It addresses self-gratification.
Modern people like to have things made-to-order, tailored to suit... They expect the same treatment from their instructor. This is utterly naive.
An instructor's role is to quash the ego, train body and mind, and seek to turn an ordinary citizen into a martial artist. Not an easy task?

The cart leading the horse

A student cannot tell the instructor what or how to teach them because the student has no actual comprehension of the art or the syllabus.
The individual is simply acting out of pride, vanity and self-importance. In combat, these qualities might get you killed.

May you live in interesting times (Chinese curse)

This curse is about the fact that excitement and novelty are not necessarily good. In Taoism, the pursuit of thrills reflects a restless, immature character.
Why do people want to surround themselves with fuss, glamour, spectacle and noise?
Because they are shallow and boring. Such individuals look outside of themselves for entertainment. This is intrinsically not 'internal'.

The ordinary

Zen favours the simplicity of everyday life. It encourages us to see the profound wonder of the 'mundane' aspects of life. Rustic and homely, Zen shuns fads, trends and fashions. It favours the real.
Expecting your instructor to entertain you (like a performer) is stupid and insulting.


The dull-seeming routine of training tai chi every day grounds us. Amidst a life of confusion, uncertainty, insecurity, frustration and conflict... tai chi remains wholesome and simple.
It is deeply ordinary and fulfilling.

I very much enjoy your sessions - without any false flattery, you have been the best instructor I have encountered for any martial art. Your commitment, patience and dedication to the art and your students is something that I believe many instructors should aspire to.

To your credit
Sifu Waller, you have shown me something that has I did not expect to find in taijiquan... a comprehensive fighting system in itself. I wish the rest of the MA community would wake up and see what you see.


May you come to the attention of people in high places (Chinese curse)

The problem with attention is that it can take many forms and it may not be favourable. In a martial arts class it is essential that vanity is crushed from the onset.
Preening, vain, pretentious students are never destined to become a martial artist. They are insecure and weak.

Be careful

Attracting the wrong sort of attention from the instructor may be met with stern measures. The instructor is professionally obligated to be intolerant of time wasters.
Such people disrupt the training environment.


A martial arts student seeks the opportunity to improve. Praise is neither sought nor expected
Instead, a student wants their mistakes exposed, corrections offered and limits extended. They seek to find gaps & deficiencies in order to grow stronger through remedying them.

Your opinion

Sharing your opinion with a martial arts instructor illustrates an immense degree of arrogance. Are you claiming to fully understand the art?
If you are, then no further lessons are warranted. If you are not, then you are making a fool yourself by looking incredibly naive.

Your recommendations

Students occasionally recommend retreat experiences, books, workshops and even other teachers to their instructor...
This is not the right thing to be saying to your instructor. How on earth can you possibly gauge what is suitable for a master?

Inadvertent slips

It is very common for students to make enormous blunders without realising it.
A simple example: the individual is talking loudly about the news and political events, yet in the same breath explains how they never have time to practice.
They don't have time to practice because they are on-line or watching TV.

No one can serve two masters

Students sometimes attend classes taught by other people at the same time as they are learning taijiquan: other martial arts classes, meditation groups, the gym or yoga classes...
The problem with this is quite simple - conflictive training methods.
By studying with another teacher you are making it harder for your taijiquan master to teach you. It is highly unlikely that outside training methods are aligned with our taijiquan syllabus.


In Chinese martial arts culture it was considered immensely insulting to learn something elsewhere that is being taught by your instructor.
It demonstrates a lack of faith. Unless you have completed the syllabus and found it to be useless, why look elsewhere for insights?
You are merely a novice. The answer is Chinese curse number 2: impatience, boredom, restlessness. Not a good combination for a martial artist...

Prove yourself

The Confucian approach is stated at the bottom of the page. It is uncomplicated. Yet very, very demanding.
If you read it carefully and think it through, you will see that Confucius placed tremendous emphasis upon initiative and self-reliance. There is no hint of indulgence.
Confucius delivers a direct, no-nonsense message that leaves no room for misunderstanding.


Over the years many people have been the beneficiaries of Sifu Waller's generosity.
If Sifu Waller gives you something it's because he thinks you will like it, use it and appreciate it. He is not expecting anything in return.
However, don't get confused here...

Saving 'face'

In Asia the tradition of gift-giving is complicated. For example: the Japanese words for 'thank you' have a connotation of resentment. If somebody gives you something, you owe them.
Nobody wants to be the one who gives the lesser gift or isn't seen to be generous. There is nothing worse than taking somebody for granted or not reciprocating.
When someone asks for nothing in return, you ignore their request and get them something anyway. Otherwise you lose face and look like a fool.


In Asian culture, no one would conceivably accept a gift from their instructor without reciprocating. It would be a heinous display of ignorance and bad manners.
At the very least they'd send an Amazon gift voucher along with a brief note of thanks.
Anything less than this would be considered incredibly ungrateful in Asia.


New starters are usually ignorant of martial arts etiquette. This is to be expected. The solution is to learn, and change.

I do not enlighten those who are not eager to learn, nor arouse those who are not quick to give an explanation themselves.

If I have presented one corner of the square and they cannot come back to me with the other three, I should not go over the points again.


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Page created 7 April 2008
Last updated 26 January 2020