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Sifu Waller represents both Peter Southwood's teachings and his own practice. Teaching assistants represent both Sifu Waller's teachings and your own practice.
Every action you take in class represents this legacy. Do your honour it or bring shame to the class, and yourself?


The biggest obstacle facing a teaching assistant is yourself.
The challenge of learning internal martial arts to a high-level means that you will inevitably come up against things that you do not like (or necessarily agree with).
This is to be expected. We are all different to one another. The question is: how do you behave in the face of this challenge?
Do you eat humble pie, accept where you are in the syllabus (relative to Sifu Waller) and carry-on training in the hope that your perspective broadens? Or do your demons consume you?


It is easy to be happy and enjoy class when things are going your way. But how do you handle adversity? Sifu Waller needs to find out.


One obvious demon is the ego. Consider promotion: are you promoting Sifu Waller and our class... or are you promoting yourself?
Self-promotion is no benefit to the class. Keep your mind on what you should be doing.

Show respect

The Chinese term bai shi literally means 'respect the teacher'. Your respect is demonstrated/shown by the manner in which you communicate with him.
A teaching assistant must set the appropriate tone for the rest of the class. Communication must be sincere, clear, friendly, polite and adhere to class etiquette at all times.


Representing the art is the whole point of teaching. A student is studying taijiquan for themselves. A teaching assistant is studying taijiquan in order to preserve and perpetuate the art.
This is the sting in the tail.

Lowest denominator

In Peter Southwood's class he used to allow payment on a sliding scale relative to income in order to allow students, pensioners, DSS people etc to go. Guess what most students paid, regardless of income?
Yes, the least amount.

Show your calibre

It used to disappoint Sifu Waller. Peter has a different response: those who paid least didn't get the good oil. It was the Chinese attitude.
Sifu Waller personally paid the full amount; not to buy his teacher/win Peter over/suck-up/whatever - but because Sifu Waller respected his master and his teachings and it would have been offensive to take him for granted.

Although the sensei/sifu wants to teach it is the student who must prove themselves to them and put in the work, the teacher owes the student nothing. It is the responsibility of the student to learn customs and the way to behave. Without showing a good example of trying to learn the basics and getting stuck in there is no reason why the teacher would want continue to waste time with the student.

(Paul B)

Further reading...

Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 29 August 2019