I was recently asked how to find a Tai Chi* teacher. This is a very important question, and there is not a simple answer. I will share some of my thoughts and some things that I have learned about the subject from my teacher.
Not all "Tai Chi" is the same. There is hard style (external) Tai Chi, and soft, (internal) practice. It is the soft internal practice that I believe have the most benefits for peace of mind and health.
Also, many people have the attitude that they can become qualified to teach this art with a few lessons of their own. Also, there are many people who are teaching who, although they may have studied for years , may not have studied correctly. The classics (old Chinese teachings of Tai Chi) say "missing by a little can lead miles astray." So how can you find a real teacher?
First, it can only be Tai Chi if it is that which has been described in the Tai Chi classical writings. Tai Chi is not a just a choreographed series of movements. These movements are guided by principles, such as upright body, relax, rootedness, differentiation, and more,and these are basis of the teaching. If you ask a teacher to tell you about the "principles" that guide the movements, and he doesn't know what you mean (just explains more choreography), find another teacher.
Also, Tai Chi is an oral teaching. It cannot be learned from a video or a book. I choose to regard the idea of oral teaching as personal teaching, with questions and answers and corrections. Your body will require corrections, and that means a knowledgeable teacher to correct your postures (and I do mean knowledgeable, since incorrect teaching not only will lead to wasted time, it can injure you). If the teacher doesn't allow you to touch him/her (to feel what they are like), I'd wonder why. I believe that it is important to feel the quality of the teacher's body, what relaxed, sinking the chest, receiving, being rooted, feel like. Learning tai Chi is experiential, and personal. Find a teacher with whom you feel comfortable.
*TaiJi is Pin yin, the most universally used Chinese phonetic system. There are other systems that have been popular at other times in history. That's why you will sometimes see this term written Tai Chi or Tai Chi. Remember, this is not a Chinese word, it is a way of telling us how to pronounce the Chinese characters.
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