by World Tai Chi & Qigong Day Founder, Bill Douglas
For ANY Teacher of ANY STYLE. A great guide for new teachers to avoid the pitfalls before falling into them. Also, experienced teachers may find new insights into teaching approaches, marketing approaches, etc.
"Before human's came on the scene life changed at the pace of physical evolution, but with the dawn of humanity the speed of change increased a thousand times in the form of social evolution. With the dawn of the information age we have moved into light speed, and technological change is now doubling exponentially every eighteen months." Bill Joy, Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems (paraphrased from an interview with Charlie Rose).
"Human beings were not prepared by evolution for such rapid change." J.W. Forrester, M.I.T. (excerpt from To Hear the Angels Sing)
"Humanity is in dire need of a technology that fosters
mental, emotional, and physical flexibility. That technology began
to be developed 2,000 years ago and has evolved over the millennia
to become what we now know as Tai Chi & Qigong. In the last
twenty years it has spread across the globe to every single country
in the world. There are masters of these mind/body sciences now
speaking every language on the planet and poised to teach this
profound tool to their native culture. This book and World T'ai
Chi & Qigong Day were created to foster and expedite the hope
these teachers offer." Bill Douglas, Founder of World Tai
Chi & Qigong Day
From my experience with Tai Chi teachers, the first thing on your mind is probably, "Who is Bill Douglas, and why does he presume he can teach me anything about Tai Chi that I don't already know?"
Excellent question, with a complicated answer. The first thing to realize is that I don't presume to know more about Tai Chi then you do. In fact, I'm sure you could teach me a great deal about Tai Chi. Therefore, this teachers manual teaches no Tai Chi movements or Qigong Warm Ups because it assumes that you already have your own. However, this book does offer insight into ways to take what you are already teaching to the next level, by making your Tai Chi and Qigong more pleasurable, tangible, meaningful, expansive, and fun for your students, no matter what style you are teaching. What I have become quite an expert at, is learning how to explain, or market, Tai Chi to a mass audience, enabling people to walk away "believers" after the first workshop, while keeping true to the essence of Tai Chi. This book will impart a rather uniquely modern approach to teaching Tai Chi & Qigong, to even further enhance your already high quality teaching. If you can rest assured that your teaching is good, then you will feel comfortable with absorbing the ideas I'm offering you. If you've had a student who tries so hard to perfect every detail that they brace and feel deflated each time you offer a deeper insight into the movements to them, and then had another student who exercised humility and humor as you taught them, you know that the latter absorbed much more information. So, the best teachers will relax into my suggestions and reap benefits without bracing against new concepts. If you have this book you are one of those teachers, because a teacher with self-doubt would never pick up a teaching manual written by another teacher in the first place. Your self-assurance enables you to become more and more, without judging yourself as wrong for having not seen it yourself.
Like many of you, I have had a host of health professionals from many fields in my classes. One of my favorite comments on my classes was from a clinical psychologist who wrote, "Bill Douglas explains the complexities of T'ai Chi and Qigong in the form of an invitation, easing his students into a greater understanding of the usefulness and purpose of this ancient form of meditative movement." Another favorite comment on my teaching approach came from a Stress Management Counselor at San Francisco's Beyond Anonymous, who wrote, "Bill has done for Qigong what Apple & Microsoft did for the computer - he's brought it to the people." What enabled me to make Tai Chi so tangible to so many people is that Tai Chi and Qigong were "not easy" for me to learn, but rather difficult. I had two left feet, I was toxic from alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes, and I had a driven personality, hot temper, and limited attention span. Therefore, my Tai Chi journey took me through all the mental tricks and personal tribulations that anyone could face. I'd seen it all you might say, and my rough rode, gave me compassion for all the challenges anyone faces when they begin Tai Chi. I help them through the rough spots and so can you, I'll show you how, and your classes will get bigger. This will also come from marketing tips I'll share.
As I said, the first thing that helped in my teaching, was that I was initially horrible at Tai Chi. Every new movement was mind boggling, and I played every mind game in the book on myself so I could have an excuse to drop out again and again, so that I could go home with a six-pack, a pack of smokes, and M.A.S.H. on the television. I felt safer at home with a beer on my growing belly, a cigarette in my hand, and Hawkeye and Trapper John having cocktails with me. In Tai Chi class I was being challenged to grow, you see, and that made me uncomfortable. Over these years of teaching and observing, I've realized that growth and change makes most of us uncomfortable. Constant comfort without challenge is the antithesis of growth, and our society is addicted to the illusion of "constant comfort." Of course, as I said, I was too. So part of my Tai Chi teaching is helping people endure and eventually enjoy the challenges Tai Chi and Qigong put them through. As I said, I was an expert in "running from change and growth", so I know how the mind plays these games.
WHAT CHALLENGED ME TO POPULARIZE TAI CHI? I never dreamed in a million years I would ever actually "teach" Tai Chi. However, over time I began to experience just how wonderful Tai Chi could make me feel, as it enabled me to smoke less, drink less, and even worry less. Eventually I became a bit of a Tai Chi evangelist, not trying to teach people per se, but just telling them how great this stuff was. My family got sick of my constant prostheletizing and kind of tuned it out, so I gave up trying to teach them.
Then one day my Mother called me up and asked me to come home because she was having an angioplasty procedure to clear her arteries from the damage years of unmanaged stress had accumulated there. I loaned her a book I'd brought so she'd have something to read the night before in the hospital. Coincidentally it was a book of Taoist poetry, The Wisdom of Laotse. The next day my Mom passed away. I found my book in her room and in it was a note to me - her very last words. They read, "I wish I could go back a few years and learn the art of relaxation you tried to teach me for a healthier mind and body. I so would've loved to see my grandchildren grow up." I wept.
From this event, I gathered the courage to not only start teaching more, but to reach out past the normal venues Tai Chi teachers normally teach in. That note eventually steeled me to teach these tools in places I would have never had the nerve to teach in before. As I taught physicians in hospitals I discovered that there is an epidemic of stress disease cutting short the life of hundreds of millions of people annually, which further emboldened me to go in and sell the toughest crowds imaginable like Rotary Clubs and medical staffs, on Tai Chi's wondrous benefits. This occurred when I was teaching in the Kansas City Missouri area. This is the American Heartland, and is called the "Show Me State," meaning that if you can't show somebody that something works, they don't want to know about it. So, I developed an introductory program that explained the science behind Tai Chi easing students into feeling comfortable with the concepts, so that their analytical mind could relax and allow them to flow down the soothing river of Sitting Qigong Relaxation Therapy I'd introduce them to, enabling them to open more deeply to the pleasure of Moving Qigong Tai Chi Warm Ups, and ultimately actually experience a taste of the real pleasure of Tai Chi ON THE VERY FIRST 1 or 2 HOUR WORKSHOP CLASS.
This successful "show me" approach got me invited to begin teaching for major corporations, in the form of stress management seminars which usually developed into Tai Chi classes in boardrooms and penthouses during lunch or after work hours. I was contracted to teach for major health networks, hospitals, universities, and medical schools. I also taught for inner-city court sponsored drug rehabilitation programs, and for programs for students with learning and developmental disabilities, and high school health science classes, and teaching university and school faculty programs.
I eventually began to write these insights into novel ways to teach Tai Chi down, and these writings became articles for business journals and health magazines, which eventually landed me a contract with Macmillan Publishing, a division of Simon & Schuster at the time, to write The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & Qigong. When my book was first released, I was surprised to find a few Tai Chi teachers resisted the idea of "popularizing" Tai Chi, however my life experiences left me certain that this was what needed to happen at this critical time in human history. My instincts received powerful validation as United States Tai Chi Forms Champion, Sifu Hong Yijiao, and Team USA Senior Coach, Michael Steward both expressed great delight at the way my book made Tai Chi simple and tangible to a much larger audience. Their moral support gave me the confidence to go forward and link Tai Chi teachers worldwide for the creation of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day. My first big endorsement came from the Hong Kong Martial Arts Association, which it was very important to me to have their approval and support. With their support it was much easier to approach all Tai Chi teachers worldwide with this enormous task of creating an annual mass media event to inform the world of Tai Chi and Qigong's benefits.
Meanwhile, in my own instruction in Kansas City, I was continually challenged to find ways to explain and expand people's awareness of Tai Chi's benefits. Many of the people I was teaching had never heard of Tai Chi or Qigong, and were not interested in holistic health, or new age spiritualism. They were ordinary people like my mother who knew on some level that stress was literally killing them every single day of their lives. My challenge was to do with them, what I could never do with my mother. To help them "get it." This constant challenge both in me and in my community created from the friction a beautiful pearl. My classes became rather enormous, and when I organized what would become the very first World Tai Chi & Qigong Day in Kansas City, about 200 of my students came and CNN reported it as the biggest gathering of Tai Chi practitioners ever gathered outside of China, which as you now know has spread to 80 countries on 6 continents.
However, what even further expanded my insight into how to popularize and mass market Tai Chi was information I began to acquire from other Tai Chi teachers from around the world. Because of my efforts initiating World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, I was invited to the National Qigong Association, and the American Qigong Association and World Qigong Federation's Annual Conferences. Also, I have been in constant communication with Tai Chi teachers and organizations worldwide from every culture. I have discovered that all the challenges I face trying to teach Tai Chi, are being faced by other teachers worldwide. This realization was liberating, because I no longer felt like a defective teacher when my students would drop out. This insight fostered my own self-acceptance and enabled me to begin experimenting more with ways to modernize Tai Chi teaching and to learn from these other teachers on innovative ways they were working to popularize Tai Chi as well.
One thing I realized was that we have to cast a huge net across society in order to connect with those people who are "ready for" Tai Chi. And those who we meet today, who may not be ready today, may be ready next month or next year. So, I realized databasing contact information in order to do mass mailings over larger areas, and learning how to utilize community resources to the maximum is crucial to Tai Chi's spread. I began to breathe the flexibility of Tai Chi into my Tai Chi teaching, and found that there are many support systems out there we can weave our classes into. I began to move past the studio instruction martial arts was born from, and wove my web of community connection outward into many creative avenues in the community, and allowed my Tai Chi to become more and more adaptable to fit into different environments, be it education, healthcare, drug prevention and rehab., business, etc. Since Tai Chi benefits and enhances everything we do, it is just a matter of focusing on the appropriate benefits for the group you are working with that day. Tai Chi is a shining crystal of health and by slightly turning our focus we can reflect an endless array of brightly shining workshops and seminars to fit any group or venue in society. I have taught Sitting Qigong/Tai Chi intros at Rotary Club's and Women's Business Groups, as well as at California's famous maximum security prison at Folsom.
Before teaching Tai Chi, I spent years as a community organizer working on environmental and human rights issues. This experience of networking with existing community resources to reach the most people with the least monetary expenditure enabled me to do the same thing with Tai Chi. Tai Chi has become a community health issue of mass proportions. In fact, it is much easier to network resources around an individual health issue and practice like Tai Chi than to organize around a more abstract issue like the environment. Also, unlike environmental or human rights issue organizing, we don't have to entirely rely upon "donations," to "get the word out." In a very real way everyone who is paying you for your Tai Chi or Qigong classes is donating to global healing when you focus your income and energy on "spreading the word" on Tai Chi's benefits in your community and beyond.
There is a multi-billion dollar drug industry that is continually informing the world that drugs are the solution to everything. It's not a conspiracy, but simple market forces at work. Tai Chi's growing popularity can create a new market force to balance our nation's and world's healthcare practices. You see, even though one of the leading causes of death in America is drug poisoning from legally prescribed drugs (Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA), and Tai Chi & Qigong may dramatically reduce the need for drugs as their use spreads through society, still very few know about Tai Chi & Qigong. They only hear a Tai Chi teacher talk about this once in a blue moon, while they are inundated with drug commercials every 15 minutes every day, day after day after day. Therefore, Tai Chi teachers by becoming more affluent can afford to "advertise," and support efforts like World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, and to affect reality in a profoundly healthful way through market forces. We can use the expanded abundance we create through expanding our classes to shift the health paradigm in our nation and our world.