Rehabilitating Tai Chi (Does Tai Chi have a credibility problem?)

“We tried Tai Chi for a little while but it didn’t do anything for us.”

That’s what one of our senior students heard from a couple friends of his.

So he asked them what they had done in class.

“The form”

So he told them about breath.

And about body states.

And he told how Tai Chi is about what’s happening inside the body and how with only a couple moves they could really get a lot of benefit very quickly if they’d come try one of our classes.

“maybe… Sometime…” was the response.

This went on for a few weeks.

finally he said we’d let them come train for free and we would guarantee much better results than what they saw before.

To this day they have never set foot in our school.

Because of one mediocre experience…
…From a teacher who knew a Tai Chi Set, but didn’t know the first thing about Tai Chi.

This is the credibility problem of Tai Chi.

Quality teachers are few and far between.

And when the average person encounters poor quality instruction they most often blame the art instead of the teacher.

Things are looking up.

The amount of info on Tai Chi is growing.

The interest in Tai Chi is growing.

But we still need a whole lot more quality teachers.

Dedicated, hard working folks.

Teachers who can take interested people and fuel that interest. Show them what Tai Chi can do and guide them down the path to true internal skill and development.

That’s where you come in…

Become a skilled Tai Chi instructor.

Help us change the world.

Ben Sterling


  1. Loretta Wollering says

    Excellent, excellent point! As a classically trained tai chi teacher, I see this all the time too. It’s frustrating. It’s like people eating out at a fast food joint and then judging ALL cooks/chefs as “nothing special.”

    And the converse of your argument is also true. How many people walk through the door and only want to learn form? They don’t want to put in the mental effort. They want tai chi to be “done to them” like getting a haircut or massage. They think if they show up for class 2-3 times per week, the fireworks will go off and a marching band will sound the trumpets. I’ve seen this too. Probably because the modern/western idea of exercise is strain, huff and puff, while watching TV at the treadmill. Lots of people resist the idea that they also have to think and feel and make changes.

    But my favorite mess to kvetch about is when you get a potential student who can’t even stand up straight and doesn’t care to try, with all kinds of past injuries that he doesn’t care to address and strengthen – and he wants to learn how to fight. No matter how you try to get them to use tai chi principles to condition and protect themselves, they don’t want to hear it. That’s a liability and a half waiting to happen!

    Anyway, I agree. Let’s raise the standards of tai chi – for martial arts OR health!

    And tai chi teachers, like any other professionals in the world, should continue their learning and self- development instead of letting it stagnate.

    May the art of tai chi be revived and spread!

  2. Gene Killian says

    This story doesn’t surprise me. The dropout rate in martial arts schools generally is very high, because most people don”t want to do the work. A lot of people think that taiji is simply a gentle dance, when in fact to become competent in it is very difficult. No one wants to taste bitter any more. Kids today. 🙂

  3. The biggest issue I see is that Tai Chi is not viewed by the general public as a martial art. This is turn sets up false expectations and has led to generations of ‘teachers’ who have no skills nor understanding beyond relaxing and handwaving in parks. Nobody expects having to put real effort into relaxing and hand waving in the park. I suspect that until we have real Tai Chi instructors teaching combat to military personnel the situation will not change and public perception and expectations will remain…

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