My oddest experiences in trial Qi Gong & Tai Chi classes

Wherever you live, there may be a lot of teachers and schools for Taijiquan and Qi Gong. And it’s not easy to find the best teacher for you. And I recommend that you go to some trial Qi Gong & Tai Chi classes.Usually, the first lesson is for free.

Luckily, when I first looked for a teacher, I found the right one right away. But after I moved to another city, I needed to find someone else to go to. I went to quite a lot of trial lessons and some of the experiences were … strange.

I want to share the stories with you – not to speak bad of those teachers (all of the lessons I went to were quite crowded, so there are students who liked it). But I know if you’ve never been to Qi Gong or Tai Chi classes, you simply don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what’s “normal”, “common practice”, or even “good”. So I add to my experiences what I think could have been better.

Strange experiences I had in trial Tai Chi classes - and how I think it could be better

I once went to a teacher who did not speak German (as you know, I live in Germany), or English. For every day life his language skills were maybe sufficient, but I would like to ask questions in class. Questions specific to Taijiquan and Qi Gong. So I want the teacher to understand me and to be able to answer. Unfortunately I don’t speak Chinese (or in that particular case Korean). I have to add that I don’t mind the lesson being in English or maybe even have someone to translate. But I think: The teacher should speak your language or English or there should be someone who translates. (Obviously if I travel to China – everyone speaks Chinese there, so I would have to deal with it or find a translator myself. But I’m talking about lessons in my home town.)

Then I went to another school where I could to a trial lesson in an ongoing Tai Chi course. It was quite crowded with more than 30 students. As we started doing the form, the more advanced students stood in the front row and the Tai Chi beginners in the back. Everyone did the form in their own pace as far as one could go. That was actually quite chaotic. I was standing in the back and another beginner student was told to show me the form. I did not see the teacher until the end of the lesson. But I think: The teacher (or an assistant) should take care of you (to show & correct you) at least for a short while. Or maybe I am asking for too much?

In another class, I found it quite odd that we started with jogging/running. I need to say that I hate running. If I want to run, I’d go running, but I wouldn’t go to a Taijiquan or Qi Gong lesson. And then there was this interesting lesson where we would rush through a Qi Gong set accompanied by very loud Chinese music. The exercises were quite good, but the pace was really fast. Concentrating on the Dantian? No time for that, the teacher is demanding another exercise! But: You should be given the opportunity to calm down and relax during the Qi Gong or Tai Chi class.

At the end of another trial session I was asked if I wanted to come back. And as I walked through the door, a German song came to my mind. Translated it means: “You don’t have love inside”. Well, I did not go to that place again! Because: You should leave the Taijiquan and Qi Gong session with a positive and uplifting feeling.

So these were my strangest experiences in trial sessions. Plus what I think Qi Gong or Tai Chi classes should be like instead.

And now I am really curious: do you have any stories to share? Or what do you like about the lesssons you go to?



  • Hello.

    There are actually plenty of taiji classes that are strange, not to say the least.

    I did attend once a trial course where … it was complete silence. Teacher was demonstrating extremely slowly and students were trying to reproduce as much as they can, not really beautiful. Was asked at the end ‘how do you feel?’. Good. No, not really. Talking with one other student, he said explanation comes in second level but you need to be authorized by the teacher. I had already 5 years, some with fast explosive taiji…

    Another time, an other place. It was strange. Mostly women in their thirties. Good change compared to usual third age student. It took no time to notice the student were actually physically attracted by the teacher, which from a taiji standpoint, was definitely one of the worst I have never seen: no roots, back not really plucked up, …. I was not corrected or told any word, I wonder why…

    One advice: look for teacher who knows combat applications and willing to share his knowledge!

  • thanks for sharing your experience! Yes, knowledge about applications and being willing to share knowledge is something I look for in my teachers, too.

  • Angelika: As you know, I’m trying to find a teacher in our new home town. I called one local school that advertises Tai Chi lessons on the street signage and on the web. It was offered as “traditional, Yang style, long form Tai Chi.” They assured me that I could resume my Yang studies with them. I was excited. I arrived for a free lesson but most of the lesson time was spent grunting and punching in review of Muay Thai‎ and mixed martial arts. They has some sort of colored belt system and they had a tournament coming up for which they wanted to prepare. One tiny class section was review of something called “butterfly flaps it’s wings” followed by “repulse large ape.” It was absurd. I politely stayed for the whole class and tried to slip out at the end. The Instructor, who was walking with a cane after a recent fighting injury, caught up to me to make sure I was coming back. I gently suggested that I was looking for Tai Chi only lessons. He was offended and insisted that is what he taught. I never went back.

  • Hi,
    I think you made the right choice. And I hope you’ll find a good Tai Chi teacher soon!

  • Totally agree, sometimes we must keep searching for the right teacher. Although, personally, I find the characters of the teacher also influence my decision.
    If it doesn’t feel right, maybe it’s not right.

  • I totally agree, it is important to feel comfortable with the teacher! Surround yourself with nice people and it is much easier to relax!

  • My first tai chi class experience could have put me off pursuing it. The class were a mix of sexes, ages, and ethnic types, and that was where the good ended.
    Too many students, about 30 of us. Our instructor was a middle aged Chinese woman. She started each class with an extensive warm-up period of various exercise to loosen us up before going into our Yang style form. While going over the form she would stay in front of the class to demonstrate while Chinese music played loudly from the stereo speakers. She rarely, if ever, corrected a student’s form execution in class. She relied on the more advanced students and the DVD she gave each student to practice at home to do the correction. It is difficult for a beginner student to learn from a DVD and even the more advanced students had trouble correcting the beginners because of the way they had been trained.
    But the class was only $25 for 10 sessions, so you get what you pay for.
    Thank God I left after paying for 20 sessions, of which I attended a little over half, and found another more expensive class with less people, no music, and a sifu who knew how to impart his knowledge to his students.

  • Oh, I can totally relate. I also went to a class once with loud Chinese music. How happy I was when the music was off and I could finally relax!

    I think it’s ok to have DVDs, but the benefit of a teacher in real life is that he/she should correct you directly.

    And I am happy that you did not leave Taijiquan, but that you continued and found a better teacher!

  • As instructors of tai chi we sometime struggle to explain to leisure centres and students that once we reach 20 people in the room you can no longer see or hear the instructor properly. As many people are beginners and many have balance problems and health issues we need to ensure safe and effective learning. We provide an extra tutor for large classes and this person is entitled to payment for their work. Packing 30 people into a dance studio does not achieve anything but dissatisfaction and tension in the students. The experience then puts off beginners so numbers drop down the following week. A packed classes does not create atmosphere and shouting over loud music is not relaxing for anyone.
    We always consider how people learn and how to support them but sometimes we are not able to control the environment and the centre will turn away 15 people rather than pay £15 more.

  • Hi,
    I agree that overpacking a course is not a good idea!

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