Guidelines for Learning and Teaching Tai Chi

Learning and teaching Tai Chi are fundamentally collaborative. Students and instructors should share a common understanding of the process. These are good to keep in mind, and review periodically.

  1. The teacher is always looking for sincere students. A good teacher thrives on the interest, engagement, and investment of students.
  2. The student is always looking for a teacher who teaches from the heart. Respect your teacher, obey the rules, and seek to understand their teaching.
  3. Read a lot. Ask questions of your teacher, others, and yourself.
  4. Do not ask the teacher questions which are really statements to show what you know.
  5. You must learn what the teacher has to teach, incorporate it, and discover things for yourself. Take responsibility for your own progress. Work diligently and you will succeed.
  6. Give the teacher room to grow and change. Tai Chi is about change. Don’t get stuck in fixed ways of doing or thinking. If your teacher doesn’t change through the years, be suspicious.
  7. When you have found a teacher you can work with, devote yourself; ask how you can help them accomplish the task of teaching.
  8. Don’t take it upon yourself to teach others in the class unless encouraged by the teacher.
  9. If you are interested in teaching, let the teacher know. They should do all they can to help you accomplish your goals.
  10. Don’t compare your teacher to others; don’t put them on a pedestal. They might know more than you, but less than others. You are all on the same path. There is no end to the learning and understanding of Tai Chi.
  11. Don’t contradict your teacher in front of others. Discuss possible differences in private, so as not to put your teacher on the spot.
  12. A teacher would never do anything to hurt you, especially when asking you to help demonstrate a technique. Be real and natural; don’t overreact in order to make them look good. Don’t do something unexpected or challenge them when they are demonstrating with your help. They will be forced to react in a way that might not be what you expect. If they hurt you - leave.
  13. The deepest learning comes from playing. Be light-hearted in your studies.

Inspired by Michael Gilman

† If you have questions about Chinese terms used, you may find About Chinese Terms helpful.

This is part of Thoughts on Tai Chi, a collection of writings exploring various aspects of Tai Chi. If you know someone who would enjoy reading it, please forward it to them.

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