Sifu's Training Insights

Who is Qualified to Teach Tai Chi?
Tai Chi Class

With the growing interest in Tai Chi we are likely to see Tai Chi being offered in more and more diverse settings.

How can we tell if the teacher is properly qualified?

Since there are no licensing bodies for Tai Chi, it is unlikely that the teacher will have an actual teaching certificate (although some individual Tai Chi schools may have teaching programs that bestow teaching certificates within their own system).

Some simple questions will help to eliminate individuals from consideration who are highly unqualified:

How long have you studied Tai Chi? (usually the longer the better, preferably more than 10 years, and having spent many years with at least one highly experienced teacher)

Is the teacher known and respected in the Tai Chi community? (the Tai Chi world is still a small place, any teachers who have been around for a sufficiently long time will be familiar to other Tai Chi teachers. Many Tai Chi teachers act as judges at tournaments to provide appropriate analysis of competitors skills)

What areas of Tai Chi have you studied? (although it may be possible for a Tai Chi teacher to be effective if he/she has not studied the full art of Tai Chi, it is more likely that a teacher with an extensive background in Forms, Meditation, Chi Kung healing, Weapons training, Self Defense, etc. would be able to demonstrate a vast depth of knowledge allowing the teachings to be both practical and useful on many different levels.)

What aspects of Tai Chi do you teach? ( if a teacher only teaches "health" exercises, you'll need to find another teacher if your interests expand beyond that area)

Have you taught in different settings? people will special needs? (unqualified teachers are likely to think that you can teach anyone the exact same way no matter what their circumstances. Be sure the teacher has had some experience working with many different populations. Not only will this make him/her a well rounded teacher, but may actually be necessary if you ever suffer from an accident or illness and wish to continue Tai Chi, or in fact hope to use Tai Chi as part of your therapy program)

What is the teaching style? (there are many teaching styles that will work with Tai Chi, be sure to determine if this teacher's style is compatible with your learning method. Likewise, what is the atmosphere of the school? does the Tai Chi teacher in fact have an established school? Many teachers do not have their own schools. If the teacher only teaches off-site ( colleges, rec centers, senior centers, etc.,) has he/she taught at any location for an extended period? Longevity in location should indicate that the participants are satisfied with the teacher and the results of their practice. Obviously, if they are not satisfied, the teacher will not be asked to continue)

Although not required, it would be helpful if the Tai Chi teacher had additional training in anatomy, physiology, physics, etc. Gone are the days, for example, when an aerobics instructor was selected merely because she looked good teaching and appeared fit. They are now required to be certified, have training in CPR, etc., we should expect at least the same from a Tai Chi teacher.

When did you start teaching Tai Chi? (a qualified teacher will have spent a fair amount of time assistant teaching under a more experienced teacher before teaching independently)

Try to observe a beginners and advanced class being taught by the teacher, not assistants. Does the teacher treat the students with respect? are questions answered clearly? Answers that are vague or only answered from a confusing metaphysical or esoteric view are often used to disguise a lack of knowledge on the part of the teacher. Are the students happy in the class and appear to be having fun? If you decide to study with this teacher, you may end up spending a lot of time in class. Be sure you feel comfortable in the school, with the other students and with the teacher.

Tai Chi is a wonderful art with countless benefits on many levels, therefore it is necessary to have as highly qualified a teacher as possible to ensure optimum development in a safe environment.

Please Note:
This article is not meant to imply that anyone should substitute Tai Chi exercises for any traditional course of physical therapy. Discuss Tai Chi as an alternative with your doctor or physical therapist before beginning a Tai Chi program.