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How to Choose The Right Tai Chi Teacher - And A Brief Explanation of Tai Chi Chuan

One thing that I found particularly troubling when looking for a Tai Chi school was the lack of knowledge by most of the Tai Chi teachers I encountered. I was hard pressed to find a teacher who could even answer the most basic questions I had and I found that most of them knew less than I did. This is what led me to start my Tai Chi school, because I believe that Tai Chi teachers should be held to a higher standard. They should have at least a working understanding of the philosophy and history of what they're teaching as well as a good amount of experience and the ability to recognize and correct posture mistakes.

So to that end I have compiled a list of questions you could ask a potential teacher to help you figure out if they know the art of Tai Chi and are the right teacher for you. Beneath each question I provide a brief explanation of why I suggest the question and how you can know if they know what they're talking about or not.

Which style of Tai Chi are you teaching or practicing?

This one is pretty basic but I found only one teacher able to answer this question in my search! That's like saying that you are a language teacher but you don't know what language you are teaching, how can you teach the rules and vocabulary of the language if you don't know if it's Mandarin or English?

There are five main traditional styles of Tai Chi with a few lesser known variations.

Chen Style is the oldest of the styles and goes back as far as the seventeenth century. Yang Style was developed by Yang Luchan during the nineteenth century. He was also hired to teach this style to the imperial guards. (This is the style I teach, but I also practice Chen Style.) During the nineteenth century we also see the development of two lesser known styles, Wu Hao an Wu. Sun style is the youngest of the traditional styles and came into being at the beginning of the 20th century.

You can also ask the teacher if they can tell you why they like the style they teach or if they know anything about the origins of their style or how it fits into the Tai Chi family tree. There are a lot of instant online certifications that teach bastardizations of traditional forms or simply mix multiple styles together, often losing the deeper, more meaningful lessons we can learn from them. It is worth making sure that your teacher at least knows what they are teaching and why.