Why Teach Tai Chi and Qigong?

by Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis

Bruce teaching Tai Chi in Hawaii

How do you go from Tai Chi student to Tai Chi teacher?

The transition from being a tai chi practitioner to a tai chi teacher or certified instructor can take lots of time and practice. Anything that has any depth usually does.

Add to that the esoteric or spiritual aspect of tai chi, and there are a number of really important considerations that may not figure into the picture with other subjects. When you are teaching something that helps people go inward there are always things that come up both for you and the student.

Am I Good Enough to Teach Tai Chi?

Certification gives you the confidence to teach!

Some people feel that they’ll never be good enough to justify teaching. They could train for 15-20 years and still feel the same way.

So the first questions you must ask yourself are: Do I have a basic level of confidence? Do I have enough to offer my students that there’s no way, after training with me for few months or even years, that they’re going to be anywhere near my level of knowledge? Basically, what can you bring to the table?

There’s a great need for people to learn energy arts and other practices related to spirituality, health and the nature of the mind. We live in a time when people are clearly shredding at the seams–on some level or another.

So if you can do something to help your fellow human beings, it’s a good thing to do.

If what you’ve learned from the energy arts has helped you, and you have the confidence and desire to help somebody else, and you know your subject well enough, then teaching others can be a wonderful gift.

The money you could earn should not figure in your decision. Of course, you need to make money to live though and you’ll incur expenses to teach, so you must charge something. The general rule in a capitalistic society is that if people don’t give something, they also don’t value it.

The most common form of giving in our society is money, so that’s usually the exchange. It also frees the student from going through issues about whether they’re unworthy to learn.

Now the next question is, why should you teach?

Encouragement from a Tai Chi Master

Energy Arts Senior Instructor Elizabeth Woersing (www.taichi.de) & Bruce practicing Tai Chi Push Hands

I offer instructor certification programs throughout the US and Europe, and although the purpose is to prepare those who teach as their primary profession, I also get many students who come just to learn for their own practice.

I’ll teach you regardless, but I highly encourage everyone who puts in the level of effort required to certify at one of my trainings to go out and teach. More than anything else, it’s a means for helping our fellow human beings.

There is also a secret that anyone who has achieved success in any area knows: to get significantly better at anything you must teach to others. Teaching is the fast track to mastery.

You clarify what you really know and what you really don’t know. Once you learn what you don’t know then you can focus on those aspects in your own practice.

You must also become creative in teaching different types of people. You develop your ability to look at someone doing tai chi or qigong to see the internal and external movements and alignments.

As you do this, you hone your own practice. You must not only demonstrate how to do the movements but also teach it in a clear manner so that your students can also integrate it into their form.

I realize that for many, it’s not that easy to share of themselves. Teaching can really challenge you. Students can ask you all sorts of questions and some even test your ego. If your ego is put on the line, then you must recognize it and figure out what you’re going to do about it.

Are you going to try and resolve it? Will you try reasonable methods?

Teach to Develop Compassion

There’s no question that teaching provides the opportunity to develop your ability to be compassionate for others. Some students are royal pains, and it takes a lot of compassion to look at who a person is, where they are coming from and what you can do to help them.

On the other hand, some students are a joy to be around, they may even become your friends, so you will be utterly glad you have made their acquaintance. They may train with you for a temporary or long period of time.

Whatever the case, you must expand your personal compassion to teach others, which is an invaluable lesson in life. When is someone ready to do that? Each individual must answer this question on their own.

Basic Requirements for Teaching Tai Chi and Qigong

Passing on knowledge to future generations.

Beyond a willingness to teach, there are a few critical factors that influence good teachers of all skill levels.

Beginning Qigong Instructors

Some of the arts I teach are fairly simple. For example, Dragon and Tiger Medical Qigong is not as complex as the other qigong programs I offer.

So the right person, even if he/she has very little qigong background, might be able to attend an instructor training and basically be capable of teaching at the end of it. My hope is we will have many hundreds teaching this set in the coming years. That said most people who have Dragon and Tiger certifications have studied qigong for a minimum of three and five years.

I’ll be doing a Dragon and Tiger Medical Qigong course this summer in Boston at Brookline Tai Chi for those that are interested. This is not an instructor training but will be a good way to learn this important qigong exercise and prepare you for a future instructor training.

The people at the beginning level that I’ve certified tend to have a certain level of confidence and desire to help their fellow human beings. So I feel good about certifying them because I know they’ll do their best for their students. You have to start teaching somewhere to get on the teaching path.

Generally, the instructors in this group maintain busy schedules (often 9-5 jobs) and teach as a service to students looking to maintain their practice rhythm.

So they usually only offer classes one or two times a week, typically in a community center or a college. They might teach a workshop here and there, but their focus is not intensive training.

Beginner-to-Intermediate Qigong and Tai Chi Instructors

If you plan to teach more, make teaching a full-time profession, you need no less than five years experience under your belt. You must also have a great level of honesty about what you can do, and maybe more importantly, what you can’t do.

The type of person who fits this requirement usually starts teaching because they think it’s such a cool thing that they really want other people to know about it. They generally like to share what will benefit others and they naturally grow into a teaching position over time.

That said, most of the instructors I certify that teach on a more regular and in-depth basis have ten years experience or many years more. They are passionate about the internal energy arts and devote their lives to helping people in a wide range of health-care professions.

The Teaching Trap

The danger can be when instructors get really positive feedback, they start believing that they are wonderful and can start teaching with an attitude to match. Many do it. At the end of the day, this approach slows down personal progress, and it’s clearly not the best way to go about it.

If you actually are having a positive effect on people, then do the best you can and slowly recognize that you have an ego. Recognize that the more you reduce it, the happier a human being you will be, and the less mental and emotional dissatisfaction you will suffer. This is true for your whole of your life–not just teaching.

We live in a culture where many people are satisfied with taking a weekend workshop and then going out to teach. When I trained in the martial arts, there were students who would receive their green belt and then go around acting as though they were fifth-degree black belts. They would push people around and do things for which they weren’t qualified.

I obviously would never recommend this approach but encourage you to dig your well deep, putting in the practice time required for excellence.

Many people will be satisfied with learning something, trying it out for awhile and making some money from it. Teaching the internal arts is about a lifelong pursuit for personal development though.

I love martial arts and equally love teaching people martial arts. It comes easy for me.

I also love studying chi and teaching people about chi. However, it requires much more energy to teach people about chi. It can be tiring because you must literally take energy and give it to someone else to show them how chi flows operate. I do it because I think it’s a good thing to do.

Teach! The World Needs You

When I certify people, I encourage them go out and teach. Just begin even if it is with family and friends because you may find you love it.

In fact, the primary reason why I offer instructor trainings is because we’re now in a time when there is a great need for people to help each other. This era of history is a bit of a dark period. Part of the journey in this particular moment in time is to offer gifts to people that bring more positivity to life.

Tai chi and Qigong help people feel more alive. What could be better than helping people become healthier and more aware of what is happening inside of themselves?

I encourage anyone who has been trained in an authentic lineage – either my own or with other knowledgeable teachers – to go out to teach because there is a lack of highly qualified teachers in the marketplace. Make a commitment to yourself to keep advancing your studies getting better and better every year.

If I’ve certified you in the past (or you get certified with me in the future), please go out and teach with my blessing. Just be sure you keep up with your re-certifications because it is essential to maintain standards and know that what you’re doing is the proper thing, the right thing for the people you encounter.

So if you have the desire, skill, patience and all the other elements needed to teach any given subject, especially the chi arts, then share it.

The world needs it. Do it as honestly as you can. Do it as well as you can. And don’t look back.

Keep practicing and keep teaching,

Bruce

Click here to Learn More about the 2011 Tai Chi Instructor Training in Brighton/Hove, England

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin Hartwell April 6, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Thanks Bruce, that was a pleasure to read. It keeps me focused on my goal to begin teaching chi practices. Im stoked on the energy arts system and I want to learn as much as I can and share it with as many as I can. When it is offered, Im looking forward to attending an instructor training for Dragon and Tiger Chi Gung; I want to begin building a solid teaching foundation while continuing to learn more about these practices and myself.
Thank you,
Kevin Hartwell

[Reply]

Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis Reply:

Thank you and my office is in discussion about potentially having a Dragon and Tiger Qigong instructors course in 2012 on the East Coast, USA. Keep practicing, Bruce

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Peter A Gilligan April 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this very important topic. Here in Northern Ireland, it is an unfortunate truth that for a large number of people who are teaching Tai Chi especially, their enthusiasm far outstrips their experience or genuine accomplishment. I find this situation regrettable in the extreme.

I accept that I am a terminal Taijiquan nerd and that my own degree of enthusiasm and fascination is far from necessary. However I completely agree with you that a minimum of five years personal study is needed. Even saying five years may not be enough. Five years of one hour a week classes is only 240 hours – assuming 48 weeks of class per year – which is only 40 mins per day for a year. I have even seen commercial courses here which claim to take an absolute beginner to teacher in a weekend!

Then there are the teachers who substitute selling endless different forms for any depth in their understanding or teaching. I have at present two students who after years of frustration with such a teacher have ended up with me.

I agree that Taijiquan and Qigong are sublime treasures from Chinese culture and the world both needs and deserves to have access to both. But with the all too common situation of progressive dilution as people learn a little and start to teach and then their students begin to teach and on and on I do worry about the future of these energy arts in the West.

I have been told many times by such inexperienced enthusiasts that after having spend over half my life in pursuit of understanding that I am doing it wrong lol :-)

In the end what can be done but keep on keeping on But it is good that you try to expand the conversation.

Thanks

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Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis Reply:

I remember the conversation we had about meeting people in Belford during one of my classes when we discussed my teaching there. As to your comments: Sincerity matters and from great efforts ultimately great accomplishment emerges. Thanks Bruce

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Fred Gordon April 7, 2011 at 7:26 pm

I have been Teaching Chi Gung and Tai Chi Chuan ever since Master Frantzis told me to do so some 15+years ago. He has been my source, especially of sanity since I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (terminal Cancer) three years ago.
Beyond the technical, what I have learned both by Master Frantzis’ words and his lived-out life is there is only one human emotion that has any value whatsoever in this world … and that is Compassion. This compassion Master Frantzis taught me to lavish beyond my teaching and on myself. You see, we do not practice Chi Gung in order to get good at doing Chi Gung (Tai Chi Chuan) but to excavate our authentic selves and become more fully who we are !
Teach…YES ! The world needs you, and the World needs B.K. Frantzis and his teachings ! Because of the long evenings at Anvil Ranch and countless
Instructor Trainings I approach what for me seems to block the love, the joy and the compassion I wish to share with the world. In the stillness I have
met myself and know it is important to Love myself as well as others. I am about Healing my world and lengthening my shadow, by teaching the Taoist
Internal Arts of the Water School, as taught by my friend, my Teacher, Master Frantzis.

Fred Gordon. Portland, Oregon

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Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis Reply:

Compassion is truly beyond good Fred. Thanks for your comments. Bruce

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Robert Brown April 7, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Bruce wrote a very insightful article about why someone should teach Qigong and Tai Chi. I would also like to add a few additional thoughts. I have been teaching Tai Chi off and on for several years, being given permission by my teacher. I sometimes cringe when looking at other classes in Tai Chi given by even a “certified” teacher when the outward form looks okay, but the movements are not Tai Chi. In some classes, students feel comfortable doing some exercise which is good, but don’t really want to develop their internal skills, likely because it makes them feel uncomfortable and is more difficult.
Currently, I am teaching an older man who is an 8th degree black belt in Tai Kwon Do. He recognized that it is getting more difficult to perform some movements as he gets older and wanted to learn some softer form. Initially, he complained about pain in his knees from doing Tai Chi, but after a few months the pain is gone and he is incorporating some concepts in his other forms. He recognizes the advantage of whole body movement and balance. Such a student is a joy to teach!

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Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis Reply:

I have taught many, many high ranking black belts in my day. My level 2 certified instructors with a greater baseline of internal knowledge. Great that you are teaching and helping those who cross your path. Thanks. Bruce

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Kristina Socha April 8, 2011 at 9:37 am

Thank you for sharing your article, Bruce. It gives a lot of food for thought. I am just starting out on my journey as a Tai Chi instructor. I am slowly trying to build up my business one class at a time. Right now I am hitting the assisted living centers and plan to take it to the nursing homes.

I, being a westerner, am trying hard to learn the Tao and how to incorporate these ancient teachings in with my Tai Chi program. I have been cautioned by my certification instructor that you must hold a good balance in class. Namely because there are still many westerners who are not open to these teachings. So unless a student poses a question or shows an interest in any way we were taught not to teach these internal concepts. Do you find that this is so?

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Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis Reply:

Just share as you see appropriate. If you open the internal door and there are no objections then continue. If they don’t want it yet, then wait until they do and then share. Judge your audience and open their minds if you can – sometimes it is easy and sometimes it takes more time but your willingness to offer what may help is a good thing. Bruce

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Savannah Barnes April 8, 2011 at 2:22 pm

This is a timely article for me to read as it addresses my main fear, that I am not worthy of being a Tai Chi teacher. After starting in a Wellness class at our university, I trained for two years with my teacher here in Montana, taking private lessons from him in The Form, swordfighting, push hands, and qi gong. As my dedication increased, he met with me 3-5 times per week. In addition to my practice with him, I had my own daily practice and I began to assist him teaching the Wellness class after about a year. This continued for several years, but then I discovered yoga and Tai Chi went by the wayside. Fastforward 20 years. I am now a 200-hour level yoga teacher. Some of my yoga students at a cancer support community learned I knew Tai Chi, and despite my vocalizations that that was a long time ago, asked me to teach them. I found a well-trained teacher here in town and asked him to teach it and said I would assist since I do not feel qualified. His energy is wonderful, but his ability to teach is nil. The students were quickly confused, overwhelmed, and quit attending class (and it is a free class!). So my decision was to start teaching them, and to seek more training for myself as soon as possible. I guess my desire to serve and knowledge that although my abilities are limited, they are more than my students’, is enough for now. Another way I found of looking at it is when asked, step up.

I live in a rural area far from where any trainings are located, but I have the DVDs and books to assist me until I can save enough money to get to one of Master Frantzis’s trainings. I am dedicated to doing as much research as I can from different teachers and styles–in addition to deepening my own practice, of course. I share these resources with my students in order to allow them to see a master teacher practice. For now, this is what I can do to increase healing, peace, and activism in my community.

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Savannah Barnes April 8, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Goodness! I forgot to make clear what a pleasure it has been to return to the practice of Tai Chi and qigong. It feels essential, wonderful, and deeply healing. I think maybe my own growth had to occur before I could return to it.

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Jane Scripps April 10, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Last September I became a formal Inner Door student of Cheng Ming Tai Chi Chuan and with my Sufi’s approval have started to develop a tai chi approach that engages people not previously aware of this internal martial art. I am also teaching for my Sufi as needed. With 30 years of adult education and training and a love of lifelong learning I recognised that this does not translate into being able to teach Tai Chi.
It is important to slowly develop a style that incorporates your personality as well as the skills and knowledge. In doing so we as emergent teachers become better students and better teachers. A quote from Marianne Williamson goes “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine”.

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Carolin Feyerabend April 11, 2011 at 5:45 am

The picture with Elizabeth tells more than thousand words.
Thank you for teaching and thank you for the blogs, they are allways a pleasure to read. Wish you a lot of students in which you can create the love and joy for the energy arts

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Jane (LongwaterTaiChi.co.uk) April 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm

I agree with Bruce that the real learning commences when you teach.

Something magical happens as you begin to connect with students and do your best to pass on the quality of the lineage material that Bruce has been transmitting for many years now. If you can give with all your heart, the universe pours in massively. It is truly inspiring and rejuvenating. I wish I’d started younger as it’s a very rewarding job, so it’s been great to see some really talented young people on Bruce’s instructor training courses in recent years. We must look to the future with confidence.

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chip carter April 16, 2011 at 5:24 am

Yes, you must have patience and understanding too. Not just understanding of the art, but also the understanding that students learn and absorb for themselves at different rates. It is a joy though to see them discover the inner door.
Chip

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