Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | May 26, 2009

Teaching Tai Chi

I’m in the middle of a project video taping me teaching the wu style tai chi form. It’s an amazing amount of work, but I’m enjoying it immensely, and I get to do tai chi while I’m teaching. It’s almost as much fun as teaching to real people. The hardest part of this is trying to teach something in a week or less for video that normally takes 6 months to a year to learn, so I’m really packing in the information. I’m also realizing one of the advantages of live teaching week to week is not just so you can offer constant corrections to the student, but also so the teacher had a chance to add new teachings when the student is ready for it or if you actually forgot something the first time. But, primarily, when you first show a student a movement, you show the gross, outer movements, then start to hone in on the details and the internal.

When we learn to teach, the first important lesson for us is that people learn in different ways. Some like to read, some need to be shown, some like and need hands on correction, some can just watch and follow. It’s important, as a teacher, to get to know your students and apply the teaching methods that work.

Tell, show, do, was a mantra in training at my last place of employment, and I like the method. I remember teaching someone how to pull shots of espresso. It was an older bar with a heavy portafilter(the thing with the espresso in it) and it had to go up into the machine and twisted right to be locked into place. This young man couldn’t get the hang of it, and had to bend down and look up and tried using both hands, but he just couldn’t line it up. We let it go for the day, but it bothered me all night. The next day, I had a brainstorm, and asked him if he was left handed. He said yes. I had him use his left hand, and he got it in one move!



  1. Hey guys, thanks for checking out the blog. Agreed, short snippits is good. I’m making 5 to 6 minute clips of just one or two moves. So with wu style 108 long form, I may end up with over 200 clips. But I’m trying not to sacrifice detail. Having taught, I kinda know what common mistakes people are going to make and can address most of them. As for learning from video, it can be done, if you’ve learned basics from a teacher. Then you can apply what you know to the video stuff. If you’ve never had a teacher, it should be for entertainment only. As for purpose, again, you can’t learn to fight watching videos, but if you have an idea and learned some, then you can learn a whole lot from videos. Boxers study film, football players study film, and tai chi players should study film. As for the venue of my presenting the films, I’m not sure yet

  2. We found that teaching on video you have to reduce it to very small bite-sized chunks. Students don’t want to have to wind back and forth through a long video to find the bits they want.

    We also found that you have to take a lot of detail out, as you say 6 months can’t be squiched into a 2 hour video.

    I guess if the video gets them good enough to benefit their health we’ll have done our job.

    I should ask, what’s the ultimate aim of your video? We took the slant that we just want people to be healthy

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