Teaching can also be counterproductive if you lower your standards in order to make a larger profit. It is also true that in the beginning, many are driven to teach for all the wrong reasons and burn out as instructors, and often as practitioners. Others are seduced to the Dark Side (at the risk of sounding melodramatic) and end up teaching because of the financial rewards and ego gratification of playing the master.
Sadly, for your efforts, few in any group of students will bother to practise what little they learn—much less make the physical effort necessary to advance to the deeper aspects of the art, and even fewer will have any real aptitude or drive to excel.
On the other hand, it is also true that bagua can be many things to many people and that helping the out-of-shape to rediscover the pleasure and benefit of regular physical activity can bring almost as much satisfaction as teaching someone how to defend themselves against a variety of attacks.
There is quite a strong prejudice (in North America, anyway) against instructors who charge for their lessons. The sentiment seems to be that a good teacher will happily teach anyone who wants lessons for the pure joy of instruction. The taxman, landlord, and those who provide my Studio phone line have a different opinion—as does my wife—so I don't think that there is anything wrong with charging reasonable fees for your services.
Many students will not take you seriously unless they feel that they have to get their money's worth out of you. However, in some ways, it is easier to teach for the love of it, or to share what little you know if you can do it for free while earning your living in a 9—to—5 job.
Many commercially successful masters are abusing their students financially and earn a very good living while providing relatively little in return to them.
For example, some excellent teachers with thriving schools will become popular on the workshop trail—do a few, realise how much money is to be made, and go on the road many weekends or weeks per year. This can have unforeseen effects on family life—the divorce rate is high among martial arts teachers because of the long evening hours away from home and the temptations offered by groupies. This also tends to alienate the better students of the teacher's main school, as they feel abandoned and left to their own devices more and more frequently.
In some classes, it is very hard to be patient with the obvious lack of practice or having to correct the same mistakes in the same person for the hundredth time. There are other days when everything aches in my middle-aged carcass, and I think to myself, "Why am I doing this?" However, despite all these caveats, I do believe that teaching—whether it is on a one-to-one basis or in groups—is essential for a while in the same way that structure is essential, but in the end both may become limiting.
Ultimately, the only good reason to teach is to help you grow as a practitioner while helping your students find a path that can bring them better physical health and greater emotional and spiritual maturity. Which brings us to the next topic—martial virtue!
I will finish with the wisdom of an old-timer in the internal tradition that has remained with me since I first read it—how true it seemed to the spirit of teaching:
I see myself as a guide. I am just a tool for my students to know how to teach and share the knowledge according to the student's specifications and abilities____
You can practise as a group, but the whole idea is very personal. Each student should move at this pace. This days (sic) many people think only about fighting. Fighting is something natural for the human being, and learning how to use your skills in combat is part of the traditional Kung-fu, but it is important that teacher also teaches how to avoid fighting. In a way, by learning how to fight we also learn the value of not fighting. Self-control is very important. I would strongly advise not to intellectualise the art. Kung-fu can be intellectualised, but the real practice is what is important. It takes more patience and hard work and less words. —Li Jian Yu, Secrets of Internal Kung-fu, May Issue, 2001.
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