Finding the right teacher
Tai Chi is quite widespread these days almost mainstream and we list around 3000 classes in our directory. We include listings from instructors who are members of the Tai Chi Union, The Lam Association, John Ding Academy, the BCCMA and many other fine organisations.
You can use our directory to search for local classes which is now even easier with Google's 'locate me' button.
What are the benefits of tai chi?
With this proliferation has come variety or diversity and you may find yourself in the enviable position of being able to choose from a number of different teachers. This can be difficult because when we start we usually have notions of something to relax me, calm the butterfly mind, and maybe defend myself if need be. Some may be looking for pain management (Matthew Brewer specialises in this area) or help with medical conditions such as diabetes or have limited mobility. The teacher may speak in terms of their curriculum which may include qigong, empty hand forms of tai chi, push hands (partnerwork) and weapons forms.
If you can then try out different classes. It is worth mentioning that tai chi is usually best viewed as a discipline that can improve general health rather than a treatment for specific ills. There is evidence for improvement in many conditions through regular tai chi practice but it is a lifestyle choice. To gain the benefits it is important to find room for regular practice in your life. Indeed if your aim is mastery of the art, then like other sports you need to put in your 10,000 hours ;-)
Classes at the gym
As is the case with yoga, which has a lot in common with tai chi, you will probably find classes in your local gym offered as part of the membership. Such classes are fine as an introduction but will often by their drop-in nature be forced to cover the same ground many times as new people join the class.There are also classes in things like 'Body Balance' which despite what they may say is not tai chi. If you do feel a lack of progress then it may just be that you have reached that difficult stage we all go through in our training. Your teacher can advise you or you can find out more by reading the book 'The Five Levels of Taijiquan'.
There are generally considered to be five main styles of Tai Chi Chuan. Apart from Chen style which resembles Shaolin, they (Sun, Wu, Wu (Hao)) are all derived from Yang style. Not sure where Lishi fits in. If you find a class that suits then don't worry about the style. It is only relevant to existing students moving to a different location and wishing to maintain their training.
See also our tai chi faq