Finding the Right Tai Chi Instructor - Part II

In a previous blog, we discussed finding the right Tai Chi instructor. We focused on your goals, interests and location. Now that you have an idea of the type of class you are looking for, let’s look at the instructor; the person who can make the biggest difference between a good experience and a not-so-good one.

Before you register for a Tai Chi class, see if you can talk to the instructor and/or a few of his/her students. If you can, here are some guidelines to help determine whether or not they are a good “fit.”

Is it Tai Chi?: That’s right. This is the first question you should answer. Is what they are teaching really Tai Chi? Or is it a hybrid? Or a made-up form? Unfortunately, those classes are out there!

Training and Teaching: Certifications don’t guarantee an instructor’s competence, but you should ask about certification. What organization(s) are they certified though? How long have they been teaching? Keep in mind, the instructor does not have to be a Tai Chi Master in order for you to learn and have a good experience.

As you observe or participate in class, ask yourself if the instructor can teach. Sadly, some highly-skilled Tai Chi practitioners can’t. Are they teaching you fundamentals and principles? Try to determine if they are teaching the form, or if students are simply following along. This is extremely important!

In addition, do they adapt their instruction to participants’ learning styles and the pace of the class? If a student has a problem, does the instructor dismiss or ignore it, or do they suggest a modification? Are they teaching things out of their students’ comfort zones? Also, keep in mind that physical contact with students should be very limited during instruction or correction. Some organizations actually forbid physical contact.

Awareness: Does the instructor have a finger on the pulse of the class? Do they actually listen and encourage feedback, or do they talk more than they teach? Do you get the feeling that they genuinely care or do they seem bored and perhaps just going through the motions?

Personality: When they receive questions, do they answer honestly and respectfully? Do they seem sincere? Does the instructor inspire students with their experience? Their enthusiasm? Their confidence? How about kindness and a sense of humor? Is the instructor critical? Do they physically or verbally abuse students? If so, run for the hills! You may also want to report this behavior to the sponsoring facility.

Bottom Line: Ideally, you will walk out of your Tai Chi class relaxed and happy. If you don’t have a good feeling about your instructor after a few classes, it’s probably appropriate to look elsewhere, but do not give up on Tai Chi! There are many skilled and experienced Tai Chi instructors in the United States, and hopefully a few where you live. It is definitely worth your time and effort to find the instructor you feel very comfortable with on your Tai Chi journey.

Don’t settle for less!