Why the Teacher is Important

by Pawel Mueller on 2017/03/06

I had an interesting experience lately. I took singing classes with a professional classical singer. It was only one single event, but I learned two important things in those one and a half hours which are not only reflecting back on my Taijiquan but also on my life in general.

Western Learning Methods
Everything is about intellectually understanding things. After listening to my singing for a short time and before the teaching started I got two or three pages of text describing how the breathing organs work and how those relate to singing. Doing Practical Method for a while now and being in contact with eastern learning methods I just skipped through the pages to see if there’s something useful. I asked the teacher whether knowing this stuff is of any importance, especially in the beginning. She said, being a little puzzled, that most people want to know what they are doing, first. Intellectually. I explained, that I do PM and I trust her as a teacher to lead me through exercises which she figures are important for me at my current state. She started teaching me.

Feeling Awkward
With different exercises she tried to get me in a mode where the voice was full. She put me on a stepper on which I had to walk while singing. At some point I had to lean forward in a shoulder wide stance. Singing “dui dui dui” up and down the scale in this position felt strange and she directed me saying “try this” or “try that”. At some point my voice felt awkward. The setting of my muscles in my vocal tract was so wrong. I even got a little scared somehow. I stopped after being in this state for not even a second. Suddenly the teacher almost shouted at me: “why did you stop?! That was wonderful! Do it again!”
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that setting during the remaining 15 minutes of the lesson.

This moment, when the awkwardness was on its peek was the moment when the door opened. I didn’t step through it, but now I know it’s there, at least. Even if I would have find this door without the teacher, I would be convinced that it’s the wrong door.

About Pawel Mueller

Pawel Müller's path to Taijiquan began when he was six years old watching a Bruce Lee movie in the 80's. Long story short, only in 2007 he began to practice Taijiquan and changed his lineage from Chenjiagou Taijiquan to Practical Method in 2014. Pawel started his Practical Method training with a three month full time program on Daqingshan, China. This just boosted his understanding of the Taijiquan principles. Pawel was accepted as Master Chen Zhonghua's Disciple in 2017 in Berlin. He's the coordinator for Practical Method events in Europe, videographer of almost all European workshop videos of his Shifu and initiator of the European Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method Meetup event series. He lives close to Vienna, Austria with his wife and 3 kids and teaches Practical Method in Vienna and its vicinity. He gives online private classes and is happy to help out and get you started with Practical Method as well as to help you deepen your understanding of his favorite martial art. You can contact him at pawel.mueller@gmail.com or check his Facebook account at https://www.facebook.com/beipawel

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah March 7, 2017 at 11:02 am

Hey Pawel, this sounds like a very interesting and important experience. Thanks for sharing!


Rainbowbear March 7, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Very nice for you. Life provides many learning opportunities with or without a teacher, it just all depends what you want to learn. Sometimes having experiences with not so good teachers help us learn the most valuable lessons as well. As in my experiences with Chen Taiji. 🙂


Pawel Mueller March 7, 2017 at 3:56 pm

Just in case I got understood: The teacher I had is a very good teacher.


Rainbowbear March 10, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Whether a teacher is good or not depends on how they present themselves to each student and what one expects from the teacher. No disrespect to you for sure. Just saying. A teacher may be called great by many but if he chooses not to teach you in particular, is he still great? If we don’t have the money or we don’t have anything to offer other than practise and the teacher chooses not to teach, is he still a good teacher. If a teacher tells a woman to drive 8 hours up north to teach taichi in the northern country on her own, is he still a good teacher. If a teacher yells at his student and says, you think you have it but you don’t, is he still a good teacher. If a teacher tells you that you are the worst at taichi but above all he respects the perseverance, is he still a good teacher. If a teacher knows you desperately need money but refuses to pay you for any of the teaching you do, is that a good teacher. Well, for one thing, it teaches a person who they don’t want to be, doesn’t it.


Rainbowbear March 10, 2017 at 3:02 pm

After 15 years, still a little bitter. Probably take that one to the grave. But I am good with it. Right choice for sure 🙂


Kelvin Ho March 11, 2017 at 10:28 pm

I am rather confused by what you stated, and am not sure what you trying to say.


Hugo Ramiro March 10, 2017 at 5:53 pm

Hi Pawel! Thanks for the instructive story. I can really feel the danger in not being able to change. In order to make progress we must be literally different from what we were before. Inability to move forward and be different is the failure. It’s great news that now you see one example of the door. One step at a time! Keep it up 🙂


Rainbowbear March 12, 2017 at 3:01 pm

What I am trying to say is that one teacher may be great for one person but not another. What I am trying to say is that one person’s fantastic journey can come from the same teacher who was the teacher of a student who had the worst journey. It is important to remember that every teacher is human and in the journey the teachers has made they have made mistakes and will continue to make mistakes. No matter how knowledgeable they are. It is important for the student to hold truth to themselves above all else. It is called integrity.

In my journey, after teaching a 2 hours session at a University with my teacher, he was so angry at me and for what I have no idea. I was still recovering from leg surgery. Anyways he yelled at me as we were leaving the building. Well, you think you have it hey!! Well you don’t!! Have what. Like really. What does that supposed to mean. I took taiji to recover from Karate (I was a black belt). What the heck I was supposed to be getting anyways. Never did explain it to me. Totally useless conversation. He blamed me for something I wasn’t even trying to attain. It just happened.

And having your teacher tell you that your taiji is not the worse he has ever seen but close….and you were teaching his students??!! What the heck is that supposed to mean.

I travelled to China …to Jinan actually. I had my total ACL (knee ligament) ripped by one of his senior students. One of the other martial arts masters asked his student if he could help mend my leg so that I could at least walk on it so it didn’t ruin my holiday in China. I agreed since my teacher was too busy visiting with other Chen masters – look how great he had trained white women …. they could hurt others. Great recognition. There was more than me that got hurt. I didn’t let it ruin my holiday to China, but he was pissed. Thought I was being sefish. Me!! I just got my leg ripped by his senior student, paid $1500 to go overseas, never been before. Trusted my teacher all out. Was treated like an outcast. Master Feng’s daughter would put me in front of the group while practising, soon as she left he put me in the back. I really could care less but it just added to all the things that showed that I totally wasted my money. I was warned by the senior students that I wouldn’t be included in anything he did. And I wasnt. I put up with a lot. Months and months of it. Years. What for. All I say is if it doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it. Teachers should bond by heart as well as study. If they don’t hold your best interest then who will. Many teachers say to the whites…..you must pay me this and do this and do that. They want respect, they want money. But this was not the way in the old days. Respect was for both teacher and student. If there is not that then there is nothing. It can never go just one way.

Being a white woman, if I said anything nice to anyone it was presumed I wanted to screw them. Like really? Yeah like I don’t have ANY integrity. For Pete’s sake!! But it was okay for men who went on the China tripped to go see a prostitute for some “massage” during dinner break.

So my experience was one of never being included, always being put down, always struggling, helping and the only way to get more teaching was to say I wanted to compete. I never really wanted to compete but I found I got better instruction, because I am white, because I am a woman. And it was true.

Yet so many others learn so much and are so grateful. Just be aware that to everything, teachers included there are 3 sides to every coin. As long as you can practise in the realm of student with the teacher – no problem, but only as long as you keep your integrity. The moment you do not do that, you are no longer the student but a monkey of the teacher. Believe it or not, this same teacher taught me that.

My integrity just didn’t work with my teacher’s. And I am stubborn. And I do persevere within my own. Perseverance does not end when you leave a teacher. My perseverance belongs to me. It never belonged to him.

Just saying that train as hard as you can, with an open mind, with an open heart but keep your strength to you. I have learned over the years to accept teachers as being everyone. I have learned that when I train with a teacher, if he cannot treat me with respect then he is not a good teacher. I have learned that there are teachers out there who are not very moral but they still have something to teach. As long as they do not cross my boundaries, my integrity and teach me with respect – I can honour them as they honour me. Personal is personal. Each to his own. As long as both can see and respect that. If that cannot be….then I will leave….and I have.

Oh and don’t clean toilets for any teacher. they can do it themselves. It builds their character 🙂

Best of wishes.


Rainbowbear March 12, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Well, how this train of thought happened was in your first email about singing and if you don’t have a good teacher you can never be brought forward and that you need to have a good teacher to show you the other side so to speak. It reminded me of my teacher who told me I was like a fly buzzing at the window, never getting thru to the other side when the window was open just a little ways away and also reminded me of the time he said breaking thru is like rubbing parchment paper, like the Japanese walls, so paper thin you can kind of see the other side but it takes time and practise to rub that hole large enough to get to the other side. The singing teacher story reminded me of that. The things is, if you are trying to learn how to box, the singing teacher cannot show you that. So pick your teachers carefully. And in the way I am just saying, be wary of teachers who you think are and are not, and please, please do not put your life in their hands. Your life is forever yours, never theirs. Some students are just pawns on the teachers chess board to bigger and better things for themselves or their families. Some students are just a way to get there and nothing else. As long as you can still learn from them and you are happy…..okay. If you are not happy….then don’t stay. There ARE lots of teachers out there. there is NEVER just one. Never believe there is just one. This is not to be this way at this time in our earth. It is not.


charlie wishon March 13, 2017 at 7:31 pm

I’ve trained for many years. In these years I have attended many workshops/seminars. Every time I had expectations about am event or lesson I left disappointed in myself, and in the situation. It takes great humility to learn from a teacher. I have had the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the world in my time as a student. From different cultures . If the teacher only feeds you what is sweet , she or he is not teaching you. We learn most from Bitter.hope you are still progressing in whatever it is you are doing


charlie wishon March 13, 2017 at 9:46 pm

I really enjoy reading people’s experiences . Thanks for sharing


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