by Ronnie Robinson
Having taught taiji and qigong for over 20 years, the last 10 of which have been as a professional instructor, I have worked with a wide range of people from many social backgrounds and, through this time I am slowly coming to believe that, despite our many differences, we all seek the same goal, inner peace, and contentment. This being the case I am becoming acutely aware that often the search takes us further away from ourselves and makes it harder to find this inner contentment.
One of the first things I do when starting work with a new group is to ask them why they have decided to come to the class, in one or two words. Around 80% of the reasons given include the words, relaxation or stress reduction. Of course, if we asked these good people to expand upon their single word responses, we would hear terms like increased energy, better health, less resistance to disease etc. All of us who teach or practice these arts would see these as potential benefits which can be gained from continued practice but, the main problem is in creating a place that allows students to experience the benefits as quickly as they can, so that they are suitably stimulated to devote the necessary time and commitment to the work of achieving their goal of becoming more relaxed, less stressed and ultimately at peace with themselves.
In my early days as a teacher, I would spend a lot of time checking for correct postures, looking out for the usual potential dangers that can result from over-doing things, as well as taking care to impart what information I had in a clear, methodical manner. Getting it right was my God. Show them how to perform the movements, let them make a few mistakes, but slowly work to put things right. I continually spoke to the group, advising them of where their arms should be, told them to relax their shoulders, go a little slower, feel the gentle opening up of the body and so on...