Traditional Chinese society held a special place for the relationship between a teacher and student. The traditional teacher frequently developed a close bond between his or her student, not unlike that of a parent. As a matter of fact, the Tai Chi Chuan teacher is called ‘sifu’ (pronounce see-fu or sher-fu depending on dialect), which literally means ‘teacher-father.’ If you’re fortunate enough, you may be able to find a ‘sifu’ who teaches in the traditional way.
It isn’t easy to find the perfect teacher but there are some things you could think about when you do decide to chose one (sometimes a teacher will choose you). You might have questions such as these before you decide whom to learn from:
What kind of training did the teacher have?
Does the teacher claim titles without any true lineage?
Are there beginner classes and private lessons offered?
Is there a structured curriculum and does the teacher oversee all instruction?
Do the senior students seem skillful?
Does the teacher seem patient and open?
Is the teacher willing to demonstrate proper forms and correct his students?
Does the teacher require that you sign a contract?
What is the teacher’s reputation in the Tai Chi Chuan community? (Indicator)
Does the teacher “specialize” in health or meditation?
There are so many things to consider that it may be a good idea to “shop around” and observe several teachers before you decide on one. See if the teacher provides a real curriculum that progresses from beginning to advanced levels of skill.
You should feel comfortable with your instructor. After all, Tai Chi Chuan is a long-term commitment and you’ll want someone to guide you through the peaks and valleys. Too many students spend years with a certain teacher only to find that he or she had no concern for their progress. The only object for fraudulent teachers is money and self-promotion. It’s very disappointing to spend so much time and effort on something only to end to up with no results. If an instructor doesn’t meet your expectations, look elsewhere.
A good teacher-student relationship has an unspoken contract that goes something like this; the teacher will be committed to give the student all that he knows, the student will be committed to practice what he learns and respect the teacher’s judgment. The responsibilities to teach and to learn are mutual.
A good Tai Chi Chuan instructor is well versed in the art with the realization that its roots are martial. If the student chooses to practice exclusively for health or meditation that will become his or her choice, but a professional Tai Chi Chuan instructor should have a working knowledge of the total curriculum.
As with instruction in other activities, familiarity with the subject can be helpful in making decisions. Ask questions, read books, get on the Web to find the best teacher available to get the real benefit of Tai Chi Chuan. There are dedicated people out there, but you have to do a little research to find them.