With several years of teaching Tai Chi under my belt now, I have to admit that teaching beginners is the hardest thing I have ever done. When I started up, I was never quite sure just what I should be telling them to do. I was afraid that if I give them too much, they'd feel overwhelmed and not come back, and if I give them too little, they'd feel like they were wasting their time and money and not come back! Essentially it boiled down to - I'm afraid they won't come back and I "turned them off" to Tai Chi. I was taking it very personally. I have finally realized that it's time to let go of that!
The truth is that for the most part, it really doesn't matter what I give them in the first class or two, as far as material. What's most important is how I treat them as people who are concerned about their health and well being and are interested in Tai Chi. I especially don't try to hide anything from them; not my lack of skill in certain areas, nor how difficult or easy they might find Tai Chi to be, and that there are better teachers out there than me. For whatever reason, they have come to my class and I will do my utmost to support and help them to learn this activity to the best of my ability. And that just like them, I also take classes and work with teachers to improve my own Tai Chi. Really, that's all I can do.
What I have learned is that students flow in and out of Tai Chi classes, just like sticks going down a stream. Some float into my pool for a quick break, swirl around for a bit, get caught up in the current again and are taken away downstream. Some find my pool to be a nice pool and stay for quite a while, discovering more and more about just what's in there that sustains their practice. Some find my pool is too deep for them, others find that it is too shallow, others, that it's just right. Kinda like Goldilocks and the 3 bears. It's all good. I just welcome them when they arrive, show them what's in my pool, and wish them well if and when they move along.
And for me, that's just like sitting on my zen cushion. I watch my breath come and go, my thoughts come and go, other zen practitioners come and go. Both Tai Chi and Zen are very deep pools for me and the more I experience of both, the more I see that they are different aspects of the same pool. And that there's always more to discover.
One of the things that I always liked about Tai Chi is that we often say to other Tai Chi people, "would you like to play Tai Chi with me?". It could be to do a form together, or to do some push hands. Just that it's play, not work. And that's what I invite all my students to do, come play some Tai Chi with me for a while. It seems to be working, I'm still teaching and I still have students.
So come play some Tai Chi with me if you're ever in Vancouver, BC.