What is teaching tai chi like as a career?

Tai chi teaching is an honorable and noble profession,  despite its low profile in Western (European and American) culture. Choosing a career as a tai chi teacher assumes a strong commitment to tai chi as a lifetime  study and the recognition that teaching is an additional way of deepening one’s understanding of the art and practice of tai chi while also serving others. You may have heard of this as “learning by teaching” or “filling your cup by emptying it.”  We recommend that young people consider choosing this career path early on, as it is a gradual learning process that often takes years of dedicated study.

Another popular time to enter the field is the retirement years when there is more available time and interest for self-improvement and enrichment, as well as service to community.  However, people of all ages are attracted to teaching this flowing art form. The effort invested in becoming a proficient teacher yields multiple returns as you gain an ever-deepening understanding of the art, and you are rewarded with good health, lowered stress levels, and a grounded positive attitude toward life.

While the world moves toward increased use of technology and our exciting, new trends in obtaining knowledge through a computer,  tai chi teaching remains consistent in its timeless and universal presentation: physical movement, internal and kinesthetic awareness, and a wholistic embrace of what it means to be a human in harmony with his/her physical and social environment.

Many of us who are active teachers find that teaching calls upon us to be at our best and to exemplify tai chi principle for our students. For example, teaching the concepts of relaxation and centeredness to our students through tai chi or qigong movement challenges us to embody these very tai chi qualities in ourselves. An hour or two of teaching tends to bring you, the teacher, into a state of clarity, of being both aware and relaxed, and solidly integrated on the physical, emotional, mental, and spirit levels.  How many people can say they look forward to going to work and can attribute their work to their sense of  well-being?

Although not necessarily a lucrative career, the field has the potential to grow. Baby boomers are aging into retirement and are eager to maintain their mobility and health with alternate healing modalities. Even conventional Western medicine with its allopathic (symptomatic treatment) methods is noticing how much consumer spending has been redirected to the sector providing complementary and alternative medicine and practices like tai chi and yoga.

Our  school specializes in tai chi practitioners in the art of  “how to teach”. Having trained well over 50,000 tai chi practitioners, we have made a major contribution in defining the professional standards for excellence in teaching this art. Although there are traditional benchmarks for recognizing a traditional tai chi master or master teacher,we support tai chi teaching as a worthy contemporary career choice, not only because of the health concerns of our aging population but also as the need for pragmatic and valuable survival tools increases in the years to come for all of us. Tai chi teaching is appearing increasingly like a fulfilling and promising career choice.

Where do tai chi practitioners work?

Our tai chi teachers often offer classes to the public at their own or rented studio space. Others can be found in private practice, group practices, affiliated with chiropractic clinics or hospitals, multi-disciplinary wellness centers, athletic and sports organizations, retreat centers, skilled nursing facilities, spas, etc. More options continue to present themselves.

What kind of income can a tai chi teacher expect?

Income depends on where you work and the “going rate” for tai chi teachers.  If you work for an organization, a variety of fee splits (between you and the organization) are possible and subject to negotiation.  If you have your own practice, you can consider the “going hourly rate” for tai chi teachers in your area and how much overhead you can cover, which might include classroom rental costs, administrative or promotional costs, insurance, royalties, etc.

Generally, a certified tai chi teacher can charge anywhere from $40 to $120 per hour depending on their reputation and track record.

Our Professional Training Program

How many class hours does it take to become a TCF-certified tai chi teacher?

It takes approximately a minimum of 2 years of weekly or intensive study with us, (about 60-70 hours), plus about 75-100 hours of specialized teacher training.   Additional hours, estimated at about 40 hours, over a period of weeks and months go into supervised teaching in actual beginner classes, where the teacher-in-training gradually takes on increasing levels of responsibility to verbally instruct and/or physically model the movements until he/she is an active and equal member of a teaching team. Naturally, it could be said that becoming a teacher is not a matter of adding up hours of training and preparation. To truly become a teacher in the highest sense takes a lifetime of continued personal practice, peer interaction, and continuing education. However, we estimate 250 – 300 hours spread out over 5-8 years to arrive at a base-line functional level of competency. Those contemplating Tai Chi Teaching as a Career are best advised to consider it like a fine wine that should not be rushed to reach its full maturity.  Thankfully, we have a thorough and comprehensive professional method for training someone who is serious at taking on Tai Chi Teaching as a Career.

What does this program of study cover?

The Certification Program is intended to supplement the regular Teacher Training program that many have gone through in our school’s long history:

To teach the movement art of tai chi and/or qi-gong with clarity and calm confidence.

To impart the qualities and principles of movement we consider essential to tai chi study.

To physically guide a student to a position or movement so that he/she experiences greater relaxation and better balance.

To know our teaching material in its component units and understand how what he/she is teaching fits into the larger context of our comprehensive curriculum.

To become familiar with and to comply with our code of ethics.

To adhere to our policies related to professional conduct when representing this teaching or our school/organization.

To take on the financial responsibilities of being a teacher or team member and to observe best-business practices.

To follow without exception our policies about non-discrimination, no harassment, and fairness.

How do I apply?

  1. Your interest in becoming a teacher can start with either you or your teacher initiating a conversation about it.

  2. There’s an application to Teacher Training (also called “the B1 Apprenticeship”) to fill out and submit to the Admissions Committee. Click here to be directed to the application form.

  3. You are interviewed by a member of the Admissions Committee. The interview  includes a conversation about your interests or occupation, and what is involved with being trained to teach, an evaluation of your tai chi form, your commitment, and your potential to grow into a capable teacher.

  4. When/if accepted, you are directed to any intensive training where you can take the Teacher Training classroom hours, typically about 25-30 hours, to learn to teach the instructions for the first third of the form.

  5. Those classroom hours are followed by monitored hours in regular local classes where you participate in increasingly active functions until you can demonstrate ability to teach a class by yourself if that were needed.

Teacher certification is an optional additional process, although both the Teacher Training and the Certification are aimed at producing quality professional teachers. Those that complete our teacher training programs and apprenticeships may choose to teach without certification or may apply to be evaluated and certified and then placed wherever there is demand for corporate or organizational wellness style programs. Contact [email protected] for further information on TCF Certification.

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