What to Look for in a Tai Chi Instructor


Maybe you decided to give Tai Chi a try.  You’ve heard it is great for you, so you called your local recreation center and signed up for a Tai Chi class. You were a little nervous about that first class.  You might have brought a yoga mat, because you thought certainly there must be some equipment required. 



Then the class started.  What ensued was a leader up front, moving through motions as you tried to follow along.  You might have felt lost and out of your element the entire time.  In fact, you may have discovered the true meaning of “fish out of water!”


Not to worry!  It wasn’t about you.  It was about the instructor.  This is NOT how you should feel in your first, or any, Tai Chi class. 



It boils down to this: having a good experience in Tai Chi is about finding a good instructor.  Even I, at a more advanced level of Tai Chi, struggle in finding a good class and instructor. 



So if this experience seems familiar to you, or you haven’t even given a class a try yet, here are some guidelines in assessing the class and instructor:



There can be a wide range of Tai Chi instructors.  While there is no "right" or "wrong" way to teach Tai Chi, the following are some suggestions in what to look for: 



1.   Make sure they are, indeed, teaching Tai Chi!  Some instructors say they are teaching Tai Chi when they are teaching something entirely different, or are teaching some "hybrid" exercise form.  Familiarize yourself with Tai Chi enough to know the difference.



2.   Ask if they are a certified Tai Chi instructor and through which organization.  Dr. Paul Lam's Tai Chi for Health is the largest certification organization for Tai Chi instructors. 



3.   Make sure they are SAFE!  Use your good judgment.  If you think they are having participants do things that are not in the comfortable range of motion for the average student or for your body, then don't do it!  Don't just blindly trust.



4.   They should be TEACHING the form, not just having students follow along.



5.   They shouldn't talk a lot.  There should be more movement than talk.



6.   They should have a sense of humor and make it fun.  Tai Chi doesn't have to be all serious and no laughter!



7.   There should be absolutely NO criticism of students. 



8.   They should limit physical contact during correction or instruction.  


There you have it.  Just a few guidelines in helping you find a good, happy Tai Chi class!  Bottom line is that you should leave your class feeling inspired, renewed, relaxed and refreshed! 


Happy Tai-Chi-ing!



Written by Susan Thompson, OTR  copyright @ 2016