“My teacher is the best!” she said.
“That’s wonderful!” I said. “Out of curiosity, how do you know he’s the best?”
“Well, because he told me so!”
This happens all the time in the world of qigong and tai chi. Actually, it happens with pretty much any art that comes from the East, whether it’s yoga, karate, or meditation.
Students love thinking that their teacher is the best, and teachers love to encourage this. Sometimes it’s true, but sometimes, it’s not.
How can you tell the difference?
Below is a simple set of 10 criteria that you can use to assess qigong and tai chi teachers.
1. How Do They Look?
It amazes me how may teachers look absolutely terrible. Their skin is pale, their eyes are dull, their posture is awful, their voice is weak, and they have no pep in their step.
Why would you want to learn from someone like this?
Look at your teacher. Do they look healthy? Be honest with yourself. Don’t make excuses for him or her!
It doesn’t matter what certifications or titles they have. It doesn’t even matter who their teacher was. If they look unhealthy, then they aren’t a good role model for self-healing arts!
If your teacher is healthy and has also overcome some sort of major illness, then that’s even better!
2. Do They Get Results?
A good teacher produces successful students. Simple, right?
And there should be more than a few of these students. I once met a teacher who constantly referred to the same success story over and over. Just that one story! No other success stories were ever mentioned.
If the teacher is local, then you should be able to talk with other students and hear their testimonials.
If the teacher is online, then you should be able to find lots of heartfelt testimonials on their website. Video testimonials are even better because it’s easier to feel the sincerity of the student.
3. Can They Teach?
Back in my violin days, I studied with a world-class violinist for several months. He was, without a doubt, the best violin player I ever studied with.
But he was also, without a doubt, the worst teacher.
There are people out there who are highly skillful in their art, but they can’t teach worth a damn.
Because I had already learned from good teachers for over 15 years, I was able to learn a bit from watching this violinist and listening. But if I had been a beginner, it would have been a disaster.
If you’re an advanced student, then you may be able to learn from this kind of teacher. Maybe. But if you are a beginner, forget it.
If your teacher can’t teach, and if you’re a relative beginner, then you should find a new one EVEN if they are a highly skillful practitioner.
(If they aren’t skillful and they’re also a bad teacher, then what the heck are you doing? Get out of there, pronto!)
4. Do They Hurt People?
You’d be surprised how many students are physically and/or emotional hurt by bad qigong and tai chi instructors. Don’t let this scare you away from qigong and tai chi, but DO let it scare you away from bad teachers!
Make sure to account for what we call “growing pains”. Even during my beginner’s workshops, students start to see results. And as they see results, they often experience various growing pains, like a burning sensation in their feet, or a dull ache in an old injury, or even mild nausea.
These are good signs, and they are temporary. They indicate that the energy is flowing. A good teacher will address these growing pains and explain them in a way that makes perfect sense.
But if students are constantly getting dizzy, having palpitations, or feeling severe nausea in class, and if the teacher typically dismisses or ignores these problems — then you’ve got a problem.
And if the teacher verbally or physically abuses students — run like hell.
5. Can They Answer Questions?
A teacher needs to be able to answer a wide variety of questions and do so intelligently.
The answer should leave you satisfied, like a good meal. If the answers leave you hungry, or nauseous, then you’ve probably spotted a bad teacher.
There’s a lot of BS in the world of Eastern energy arts. Cartloads of it.
Part of the problem is that students allow the teacher to stand up in front of the class and shovel BS. Don’t be one of them. Don’t allow it!
Question your teacher. Do it respectfully, but do it. And if you don’t feel good about their answers, then leave.
6. How Much Training Do They Have?
Forget about black belts (which are not even traditional in qigong and tai chi). Forget about shiny suits. Forget about titles.
Just find out one thing about the teacher: How long have they been training?
If they’ve been training for 1 year and they present themselves as a master, and if you ACCEPT this presentation, well then I have a bridge to sell you!
Teachers will have varying amounts of training, sometimes in different but related arts. For example, a teacher might have 2 years of qigong training, but 10 years of meditation training. This person could still make a good teacher for a beginner.
Personally, I think that some of this training should be TEACHER specific. In other words, if your teacher has only ever trained as a student and has zero hours of teacher training, then it might be a problem.
Ask questions. For example, if you were to ask me about my training, I would tell you that:
- I did a 17-year apprenticeship with a traditional Chinese master that also included hundreds of teacher-specific training;
- I’ve learned from a dozen qigong masters since 1996;
- I’ve also been teaching qigong professionally since 2005;
- I did 1500 hours of training at an accredited acupuncture college to expand my knowledge of Chinese medicine
- I also have teacher training in the Suzuki Violin Method, which is unrelated but made me a better teacher.
Not all teachers will have as much training as I do, and some will have more. But you should ask!
7. Do They Understand Chinese Medicine?
When it comes to qigong, a teacher should know something about Chinese medicine. After all, qigong is a major branch of Chinese medicine (and arguably the most powerful branch).
If your teacher doesn’t know a thing about Chinese medicine, or if they reject it outright, then that’s not a good sign.
Some qigong teachers are also acupuncturists, and thus have tons of training in Chinese medicine. Don’t expect all teachers to have this much training, but it can be a nice bonus.
8. How Do They Handle Problems?
Problems arise. It’s inevitable. A good teacher will be able to confidently and professionally handle those problems.
A bad teacher will stumble.
For example, let’s say that a student starts getting anxiety in class.
A good teacher can handle this situation confidently and responsible. They might suggest some remedial exercises, or even use some acupressure to help the student calm down. Within a few minutes, everything will be back to normal.
A bad teacher will handle the situation differently. They’ll ignore or dismiss what the student is experiencing. They’ll try to remain confident, but underneath the surface, you may suspect tell that they are faking it.
In the 21st century, use your BS detector freely and often.
9. Do They Inspire You?
When you go to class, do you feel uplifted just by being near your teacher? Do they inspire you with their experience, results, energy, and confidence?
Do they always know the perfect thing to say to help get you back on track?
Then you probably have a good teacher.
Bad teachers have trouble inspiring their students because they aren’t inspired themselves. They can’t lead by example.
If you aren’t healthy, how can you inspire students to become healthy?
If you haven’t practiced daily for years, then how can you inspire students to practice regularly?
10. Do They Have Integrity?
A teacher should have a high moral standard. There should be telltale signs of integrity, kindness, courage, sincerity, and honesty.
Basically, they should be a good person.
If you suspect that the teacher lacks integrity, then get the hell out of there, no matter what their skill level.
The Bottom Line
Spotting a bad teacher will save you time and money. If you are in desperate need of healing, like I was when I started qigong, then spotting a bad teacher might just save your life!
Take the time, put in the energy, and spend the necessary money to find a good one.
I had to travel all the way to Asia to find a good teacher. These days, you can sample many different teachers online, which is simply amazing.
If you’d like to sample my teaching, click here for a free lesson.
You can also see my certified instructors here.
And if you have any questions for me, then please drop me a comment below!
Whoever you end up learning from, I sincerely hope that you will fall in love with these amazing arts! Best regards, Sifu Anthony I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world how to use qigong for their own stubborn health challenges. As the director of Flowing Zen and a board member for the National Qigong Association, I'm fully committed to helping people with these arts. In addition to my blog, I also teach online courses and offer in-person retreats and workshops.