A tongue-in-cheek guide to how NOT to teach

By Paul Fretter

  • If you crave adoration, reverence and respect from others then you are not yet ready to teach. The class should not be relied upon as a crutch for a fragile ego.
  • If your students fly across the room, or fall to the floor at your feet without any apparent contact, then you are working with pre-programmed reactions to illusion, and not genuine function. There is no special invisible ‘energy’ to span the air that science has yet to discover. Examine the process carefully and honestly; educate yourself and your students.
  • If you want people to think you are clever, then talk cleverly but you will not be understood. If you want to be understood, talk simply, use everyday language and refer to everyday things in simile and metaphor.
  • I am just a person and I am also a teacher, but I am also human – a beginner in many ways – and still striving hard to better understand myself and martial arts. Maybe you will learn from me, but please do not put me on a pedestal. If you do, I will step down from it and kick it across the floor. I am just a person, like you.
  • Do you copy the mannerisms and imitate the demonstrations of a famous teacher? Do you dress the same? Do you secretly want to be like them? Sometimes it’s OK to mimic those whom we respect, so that we can learn from them and how it is to be “in their shoes”. But, at a certain point, you must become your own person with your own morals, ethics, principles and methods according to your character.
  • Oscar Wilde said “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness”. Pay respect to those whom you respect, by standing on their shoulders and reaching higher, wider or deeper than mere mimicry.
  • Do you teach or do you preach?
  • Taiji and religion are different and entirely separate. Keep it that way.
  • When only one, or even none of your students turns up for a class, are you still motivated to train?
  • Do you demonstrate to show off your prowess, or do you show, explain and help students develop their own skill?
  • As your students improve, their questions will change and they will push your own level higher. If you teach honestly then one day they will probably surpass you. Good.
  • Putting others down does not raise your skill or reputation any higher. Aim to better yourself instead.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously!

Paul Fretter, Norwich UK. April 2021