Pronouncing your own name

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Beginners always start classes with all manner of preconceptions, ideas and opinions. This is normal, and to be expected.
Unfortunately, these very notions will seriously impede your progress.

How do you pronounce your own name?

Can you imagine how you would feel if somebody corrected you on how you were pronouncing your own name?
Rather than John, they tell you that it should be pronounced "Joan". 
It sounds pretty stupid, ignorant, insulting and arrogant, doesn't it? Ridiculous? Absurd? Surely, you know how to pronounce your own name.
Yet, people come to tai chi classes - having read a book or watched a few YouTube clips - and start telling the instructor how to teach his class.
They are often snide and indirect; awkward. Occasionally, they are openly contentious.


Why do certain beginners come to class with an ego?
It is inexplicable. They know nothing. They can do nothing. They are stupid enough to think that their opinion matters.
These naive beginners want recognition. Acknowledgement. For what?
If the individual were skilled enough to comment on the approach being taught, they would have their own class and not be seeking tuition.

When you come to the dojo, it is a recognition the teacher there has something you want. He will give it to you in his own way. You must accept that. If you do not, you are free to leave. The dojo, however, is never run by consensus.

(Dave Lowry)


Our modern Western society applauds arrogance. Humility and patience are no longer seen as being necessary or virtuous. Everybody wants to have their say.
This is naive.
In Asia it is considered highly inappropriate to question the instructor at all. The student patiently listens and then they practice diligently.
After a number of years (with a few black belts to their name) they may be invited to discuss certain approaches and skills with the instructor.
But there is still humility. There is always respect.


People often confuse the image with the reality. A person feels afraid and works hard to project an outwardly tough persona.
This pantomime remains unconvincing. Nobody is fooled. Not even the fearful individual.
Fear is something you learn to live with. It cannot be glossed over with a 'macho man' image.


Not a beginner

Some new people just don't like the idea of being a beginner. This is unfortunate. The solution is simple: pass some grades.
If you are truly experienced, expert or master in skill, then passing the beginners grade should be effortless...
The logic is inescapable. Pass the beginners grade and you will no longer be a beginner. You will be a taijiquan student. Problem solved.


Sadly, the disgruntled student never gets very far in a martial arts class. Any class.
They drift around the periphery of the martial arts world, dabbling in various classes, alienating themselves and never getting anywhere.
These people never get past the lowest grade.
Without commitment, discipline, patience and humility, they remain perpetual dilettantes: talkers. Their tai chi is all verbal. They are tough in their chatrooms and their e-mails, but cowards in reality.

The student has nothing to offer but an absolute willingness to follow the teacher's instructions and direction without question or comments or personal improvisation.

(Dave Lowry) 

Put your money where your mouth is

Martial arts classes offer a degree of clarity not found in everyday life. Your words and your deeds must become one.
If you talk big but don't practice, you will flounder against an attack.
The reality of your situation is tangible. Theory and observation mean nothing against a punch, kick or grapple. You can't avoid a knife by simply reading about it or watching a YouTube clip.

Don't ask

Asking to be treated as a fast-track student is pointless. Sifu Waller has no interesting in hearing your proposals. He wants results.
In other words: 'put your money where your mouth is'.
If you believe yourself to be a fast-track student, then act like one. Lofty ambitions require work. Prove yourself.


When it comes right down to it, the egotistical beginner is inevitably bone idle. Watching video clips and reading books involves virtually no effort.
Talking is easy. Practice is hard work. Hours of daily solo training and potentially rough partner work requires effort not excuses.
Lazy people want everything doing for them. They instinctively look for a short-cut. They procrastinate.
Instead of doing the actual work, they do nothing and then complain when a reward is not forthcoming. This shows weak character.

Nothing beats practice

Practice what you were shown. Get good at it. If the quality is good, you will be shown more.
If you demonstrate an attitude of consistent, ongoing improvement, you will taught relative to the ability you demonstrate.
Sifu Waller does not play favourites. He helps those who struggle and challenges those who are gifted.

Blame everyone?

The life of a martial artist is simple:

  1. You attend classes

  2. You study

  3. You practice

Somewhere along the line the training begins to affect your life. You become calmer and more balanced. You stop being so afraid.
You move systematically through the syllabus.
The student stops blaming other people for the problems in their life. They take responsibility. They mature.

You may have all sorts of wonderful ideas, what you consider to be valuable contributions and insights, your own personal take on matters. Nobody cares. Quite the opposite. The fastest way to alienate yourself in a dojo is to make known these ideas or to volunteer your suggestions on how training might be better or more effective.

(Dave Lowry)


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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 15 February 2020