Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art focused as much on self-defense as internal growth, known as Neijia. Physical training combines with spiritual practice, including meditation, to achieve total wellness in body and soul.
The physical and spiritual benefits of Tai Chi are well established.
With proper instruction and regular practice, Tai Chi “can be a positive part of an overall approach to improving your health,” reports the Mayo Clinic. Benefits of Tai Chi:
- Decreased stress, anxiety and depression
- Improved mood
- Improved aerobic capacity
- Increased energy and stamina
- Improved flexibility, balance and agility
- Improved muscle strength and definition
There is also evidence that Tai Chi helps with:
- Quality of sleep
- Strengthening the immune system
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing joint pain
- Improving symptoms of congestive heart failure
- Greater overall well-being
- Reducing the risk of falls in older adults
As a teacher of Tai Chi, you can enjoy the professional satisfaction of helping individuals improve their strength, physical condition and inner tranquility while maintaining your own practice in this ancient art. You can also make a good living. Let’s get started in discovering what you need to do to become a Tai Chi instructor.
In this article you’ll learn:
- How much money you can make as a Tai Chi instructor
- The required training and certifications
- Professional groups to join
- Employment opportunities for Tai Chi instructors
- Finding clients
- Plus helpful tips
How much money can you make?
The national average pay for Tai Chi instructors is $42 an hour, according to a recent ZipRecruiter survey. Based on a 40-hour work week, that adds up to $80,640 per year. Tai Chi instructors at the top of the pay range are making $74 an hour, or about $142,000 annually. If you choose to open your own studio, the earnings potential can be much greater, although you also have to factor the cost of running a business, including rental studio space.
Training and Certification
While there is no formal license required to teach Tai Chi, most martial arts studios will not hire someone who is not certified in the art they propose to teach. There are many certification programs to choose from.
The Tai Chi/Qigong Certification from American Tai Chi and Qigong Association independently accredits Tai Chi teachers, schools and practitioners of any style, program, lineage or application. Basic certification involves completing 150 hours of Tai Chi training and submitting two letters of reference from individuals with direct knowledge of your training. The association offers two categories of certification:
- Tai Chi/Qigong Practitioner
- Tai Chi/Qigong Instructor (Associate Level, Level I to Level III, and Master Level)
The American Sports & Fitness Association offers an online certification program starting at $129 for a year or $399 for lifetime renewal.
Another option is Tai Chi Healthways, offering both online and 5-day in-person training programs leading to certification. Basic certification is $275 and upgrading to higher levels is $150.
Tai Chi for Health offers a well-known training program. The focus is on teaching Tai Chi as a path to health and wellness.
Because the number of inexpensive online training options can become tempting but also overwhelming, one approach to choosing a training program would be to contact Tai Chi studios where you are interested in working and ask the owners about their preferred certification standards. This offers you a measure of protection in your time and education investment, since a $10 Tai Chi online instructor training program might be greeted with indifference when you apply for a job.
Some of what you’ll learn in training:
- How to teach Tai Chi skill and knowledge effectively, including principles and forms
- Classroom safety
- Creating programs appropriate to age and health considerations of different students
- Preparing class lessons and a course curriculum
- Basic business principles relevant to operating a Tai Chi school
Professional Groups to Join
Getting involved with a professional organization shows you are dedicated to your career as a Tai Chi instructor. These memberships look great on a resume and can only impress potential students who will see your enthusiasm for the art. Here are the top pro organizations for Tai Chi instructors:
Tai Chi Foundation has a mission to “study and teach tai chi to increase health and consciousness and to cultivate ‘strength of softness’ in an atmosphere of support, compassion and wisdom.” Full membership is $120 annually. Benefits include: Newsletters, special full member rates for TCF programs, advance notice of training opportunities and more. You also get access to the TCF Member page on their website, where the foundation regularly posts new articles, videos, and sample online classes you can download.
American Tai Chi and Qigong Association is a national non-profit organization with a mission to promote Tai Chi and Qigong (Chi Kung) – in any style, lineage, or application – in the United States for health, fitness and wellness. A professional membership is $65 a year and includes access to liability insurance at group rates, as well as ongoing training materials and business referrals. A premium membership at $85 a year comes with all the professional benefits, plus the association will build and host a website for your Tai Chi business as long as you remain a member.
A quick search on social media sites such as Facebook will turn up dozens of informal Tai Chi groups you can review and consider joining.
Look for job opportunities for Tai Chi instructors at martial arts studios, public recreation centers, the YMCA, larger gyms with fitness programs and fitness centers focused on children.
You’ll want to make copies of your resume, both printed and for online distribution. When sending resumes by email, the best way to attach this document and supporting materials is by creating .pdf files of the documents with Adobe Acrobat. These types of files are considered safe to send and are less likely to trigger a spam alert in the recipient’s mailbox. Follow this tip and you’ll have a much better chance that your online correspondence lands in front of a real person, not a spam folder.
Also make photocopies of your professional certifications and memberships in Tai Chi organizations and clubs. These extra materials can pull your application to the top of the pile and set you apart from competitors for the same job.
Business cards and a basic website should be the core of your marketing toolkit as a Tai Chi instructor. The website can be as fancy as you like, so long as it is attractively designed, with photos of your studio, students practicing their moves and a few images of you in action, teaching students. Your business location and contact information should be clearly visible at the top of every page on your website. Search engines scan this information to match your website geographically with people searching for a Tai Chi instructor.
In addition to your business website, the next thing to do is create an Instagram account to showcase your Tai Chi studio. Instagram is the #1 online venue for professionals to promote their work. It’s a free marketing tool that’s always working on your behalf.
Now set up a Facebook page for your Tai Chi school. This is a great way to build a following and keep people up-to-date on your offerings.
Be sure to create a Google My Business page, where you can add hours of operation, photos and an interactive map of your location.
All of the above services are free and setting up a page on each site takes less than an hour.
Other strategies for attracting new business:
- Create a referral program with discounts for returning Tai Chi students who bring new people to class.
- Ask students to review your Tai Chi training online. According to a recent survey, 90% of people say their buying decisions are influenced by positive online reviews.
Good to know
Tai Chi is as much a spiritual art as it is a method of self-defense that also delivers many health benefits. As such, it’s important for new instructors to remember that Tai Chi affords an opportunity for reflection, meditation, and these spiritual qualities should be built into the lesson plans. Experienced Tai Chi instructors offer these tips for giving students maximum value in their class time:
Relax and be playful
Encourage students to develop a deeper connection with surrounding life.
Take delight in nature
There is pleasure to be had in observing the natural flow of energy in nature, whether sun and rain, thunderstorm and lightning, or softly hissing snow.
Be aware of your base
Your gong (base) is the foundation on which all growth is built. To build on a solid foundation we must be centered and in control.
Feel the energy flowing through your body
Natural energy and movement begins in the base, following your conscious intention.
Encourage practice outside of class to ensure progress
“Learning is eating, practicing is digesting.” Huang Sheng-Shyan (1910-1992), a Tai Chi champion.
Practice with a friend
This motivates both you and your friend to practice regularly, while offering insight on movement and technique.
Forgive quickly and unconditionally
One goal of Tai Chi is to empty tension from the body to achieve balance, Yin and Yang, which requires the mind and heart to let go of the past.
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