Different types of bad tai chi teachers

When you’ve been doing martial arts with a critical mind for as long as I have, and are committed to acquiring only the most balanced and harmonious of movements inline with the core principles of Tai Chi and Aikido, you come to recognise b/s in all its guises.

There are different kinds of teachers out there, most of whom are revered by their respective students, but practically all of them contain some level of b/s that’s either obvious on the surface or noticeable after a while of practising their moves – either way it prevents me from fully immersing myself into their teachings. Here’s some common examples:


Amateurish teachers

Amateurish Tai Chi They didn’t get far, they can’t think for themselves – blindly following tradition

Many teachers don’t know how to feel for themselves, and many of them don’t even realise that they should. They just teach what they know, and they haven’t been doing it for enough years to look upon their own moves pragmatically.


Fancy-pants teachers

Fancy Tai Chi

See also: Bullshido

They learnt enough to show off, and they made the rest up – good actors

Most teachers will do funny poses even though the moves they’re doing haven’t been refined or even looked at with a self-critical eye to determine if it’s actually fully-rounded and balanced like a tai chi move should be.

These guys may be teaching genuine martial arts moves but they’re not teaching true tai chi, which is meant to be about doing purely the most balanced of movements for graceful, non-fancy evaporation of on-coming aggression, to most efficiently disperse the opponent’s energy and stay capable of doing whatever move needs to come next – no over-commitment into any particular move – no over-reaching or vulnerable collapsed or twisted positions.

Tai Chi fraudster striking a pose

The guy in this picture would probably fall over very easily if pushed in the right place from the right direction. In true Tai Chi, we never keep one foot off the ground for more than a fraction of a second at a time – it’s a vulnerable position to pose in – not a genuine Tai Chi guard position.

It should all feel completely relaxed and centrally balanced at all times – capable of changing into any necessary position from whichever position you’re in at any time, no matter which direction the opposing force is coming from and no matter which part of your body is being targetted.

A rule of thumb I tell my students to live by: listen to your instincts – if it feels awkward then it’s probably off-balance in some way and therefore not true Tai Chi. Only do moves that feel relaxed and flawless, but don’t rule it out until you can find a specific reason to do so.