Taijiquan - Finding the right teacher

by Adam Mizner

You shall know them by their fruits

When a new student of taijiquan is searching for a teacher, it can be a daunting and confusing time. There are many claims by students and teachers alike, so who should a student believe? What are the things to look for in a teacher and a school?

The main problem is that when someone is a beginner, by definition it is very difficult for them to know who has real skills and who does not. Because of this problem, a students needs to judge prospective teachers somehow, so lets talk about some things to look for in a teacher.

LINEAGE – a lineage shows where the information the teacher is teaching comes from. Some people wrongly believe that a more pure or more direct lineage means higher skill or superior knowledge. This most certainly is not the case, what an authentic lineage does give a teacher is the possibility of access to the real training methods and thus the possibility of developing real taijiquan skills. Without an authentic lineage this simply will not happen.

SKILL – though it is difficult for a beginner to perceive real skill, it is possible to get an idea through study and research of what genuine taiji skills entail. Once a new student has an idea of what traditional taijiquan skills, are he or she can look for these skills within a teacher.

THE SKILL OF THE STUDENTS – In my opinion this is the most important factor to look for. Just because a teacher has skill himself, it does not imply he or she is willing or able to pass these skills on to the students. There are gifted martial artists and there are gifted teachers, people who are both gifted martial artists and gifted teachers are the hardest to find and of course, the most valuable.

With this in mind i recommend looking at the skills of the teacher’s senior students – are the students showing a similar skill set to the teacher? It cannot be expected to be at the same level, but we should see some solid and traceable progress within the ranks of the school. This is the greatest guarantee that a new student will actually be walking the right path to attain the skills he or she desires.

THE SYSTEM – Many old school teachers teach in an seemingly random way, lacking structure in the method and sequence of the instruction. This can leave large holes in a students development that can be difficult to fill in later. One should looks for systematic training, leading the student step by step up the ladder of progression.

WUDE – Last but not least is the character and the conduct of the prospective teacher and also that of the students. Teachers who spend their time bad mouthing other teachers and who show no internal peace, have clearly not taken the lessons of taiji to heart. These lessons and the general cultivation of relaxation, honor and peace, will shape the students and the energy of a school.

Below are videos of some of my mid level students, showing some of their attainment in genuine taijiquan skills.

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