How to Choose a Tai Chi Teacher
Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing an instructor…
Tai Chi or Not Tai Chi
There are many flavors of Tai Chi, all based on the same principles. If possible, take several classes from several different instructors before diving in.
Make sure you can afford it. It seems simple but you’d be surprised at how many people overspend thinking they will learn better or faster. A fancy studio and an embroidered uniform doesn’t matter if you aren’t learning much. Some of the best teachers have no dojo, no uniforms, and no belts.
If you have to travel an hour to take an hour-long class, you might reason yourself out of going. Pick a place that is close to work or home. Make getting to class easy. In the beginning this will help immensely because there are times when your Tai Chi practice will feel like treading water. If you have to travel a far distance, Tai Chi can easily end up on next year’s resolution list.
No matter if the teacher is fit or fat, good looking or ugly, a certified Tai Chi Master or an old Chinese man with a white beard, it doesn’t mean they are going to teach better or worse than the next instructor. The only way to choose your teacher is to experience their teaching style. Chances are you’re on the right track if you leave class energized, excited, and wanting more. If you leave drained, depressed, and/or confused then keep looking. (Or start asking a lot of questions.)
Word-of-mouth is a good way to find a lead but reputations can be misleading. Rumors are just that until you experience things for yourself. Visit the school or meet the teacher and form your own opinion. That said, if someone has a bad reputation, maybe they’re not worth investigating if you have other options.
Master vs. Student
Studying with a student teacher or dedicated practitioner at your local gym or wellness center is great as long as you are learning. As you progress you will start to know what you need/want and where to find the right person to teach you. The more teachers, students, and practitioners you come in contact with the more you’ll learn. There is a whole Tai Chi community out there. Join in or create your own.
Try It Out
Try several Tai Chi classes before committing. Sign up for a limited length course, if possible. In the beginning, just go, be, do, and enjoy. Too many people worry that they’re not getting it. If you go to classes for a month with a teacher that matches your learning style, you’ll find yourself getting it. Keep in mind that progress in Tai Chi moves as slowly as the the form itself. Take your time.
Tai Chi has many practitioners and, like music, there are many ways to play. Yang style Tai Chi is the most popular but Chen, Wu, Sun, and Li styles (named from the families which they originate) are all worth pursuing. Sample them and find what works for you. All that said, many people start with Yang style.