Most people who watch a bagua class will know nothing or next to nothing about competency in it or the related internal disciplines. However, you will occasionally face hostile observers—particularly those who are adherents of other teachers, both good and bad. On several occasions such people have come and watched critically, asked pointed questions, made snide comments about what I was teaching, or have challenged me physically. On a good day you will just laugh them off, on a bad day

Some of the experienced practitioners you meet or who observe your class will be coldly polite, some aloof, some friendly. You have to play it by ear in your dealings with them. Let me add that one of my continuing disappointments with the experienced practitioners and teachers I meet is how arrogant they all seem to be about what they are doing. Having pride in what you practise or teach is one thing, but feeling that there is nothing of value elsewhere is another.

You must also come to terms with racism, as many Chinese instructors and would-be students will assume that you can not be any good just because you are not Chinese. Unfortunately, many non-Chinese will also make the same judgment. So, be prepared! I must admit that I can understand the thought processes behind this even though they are galling. As a French Canadian, if I took my son to a hockey school in which the coach was Chinese and could barely speak French or English, I might prejudge his ability to skate and play hockey, though I might well be wrong in that assumption.

By the way, in the old days it was common enough for teachers to send a senior student to test the waters with a new teacher in the area. This usually meant a subtle, or not so subtle, physical challenge to martial ability. This is much rarer than it used be, but still happens. Especially if you are advertising yourself as a martial arts instructor, you have to be ready to make some kind of demonstration of skill on occasion. It has happened to me three times in nineteen years of teaching and, win or lose, it is not a pleasant experience.

Speaking of such situations: years ago when I first started teaching bagua, I had a fellow who identified himself as a local black belt in karate call my school and ask if he could come to watch a class, as his Master also taught bagua and taiji. I said, "Sure!" And, as is often the case (another Babin's axiom), when his appointment rolled around, not one of my five students showed up that evening for class! So there I was, practising on my own when my visitor shows up with two young friends in tow—all three wearing their karate gi and black belts under their coats.

After introducing themselves they stood there glowering at me as I did the circular form and then asked to see some applications____I had the sinking feeling that this was not heading in a friendly direction and decided to brass it out by inviting the one who had called me to hit me. I told him that I would block the attack in an bagua-like manner without retaliating so that he would give it his best in the assumption that I would be blocking in some way. He let it fly, and I did what Erle had done in my presence during his first workshop in Ottawa some years before (but not with the same authority) and let this man hit me in the unprotected torso. I smiled at the impact, and they all looked more than a little surprised.

After that demo, they were suddenly more friendly, which is what I had hoped, and asked to be led through some basics and the rest of the hour was pleasant enough. They never came back and I later found out that the fellow who had hit me was teaching what they called bagua at their local karate/martial arts school.

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