Where you Teach

Traditionally, parks were used as training grounds, but weather is often a factor that can severely limit outside training time in many parts of the world for month after dreary month. I don't practise outside in hot and humid, freezing, wet, or snowy weather—so I can hardly complain when my students don't!

In my experience, the worst places to teach tend to be fitness centres in government or big business complexes, as there is often no fresh air, lots of loud music, other members talking, coming and going, or using noisy fitness machines while you are trying to teach. It is very difficult to teach even the basics of qigong and walking the circle, let alone forms and partner work, in such a distracting environment.

In addition, many workers have good intentions about attending noon-hour or after-hours programs, but then soon discover that they must attend last-minute meetings, or work through lunch or late into the evening. Anything, like bagua forms, that must be learned sequentially, is very difficult to teach or learn when students miss a lot of classes. They quickly realise how hard it is to keep up if they miss class frequently and give up and drop out. Conversely, catering to them slows the learning and frustrates those who make the effort to come to class regularly

Finally, if you try to get a study group going where you work but there is no fitness centre available there, it can be hard to schedule a suitable space for a bagua class. It is very distracting to do as I have done and hold your classes in the foyer of a large building (listening to vacuuming after hours is no fun) or in a boardroom full of furniture that has to be moved out of the way for each class and replaced when it is over!

Teaching in your home, if you have the space, is a very traditional way of giving lessons, and it used to be considered an honour to be invited to teacher's house for studies. If you have suitable free space, teaching at home is ideal for private classes, once you know the student, or perhaps for very small groups but rarely appropriate for large group classes or for attracting beginners who, rightly or wrongly, assume that someone competent will have a more commercial location. Also, you may find it impossible to teach the weapons forms from lack of space to swing the weapons freely. My wife used to take a very dim view of what my broadsword did to the ceiling of my training room while I was learning and teaching that weapon. Oh, and a broken table lamp is good for several hours of hot tongue and cold shoulder.

This also brings up practical issues, such as whether you live in an area that is zoned to allow such activities in a residence, as well as insurance liability for paying customers coming to your residence.

Teaching out of your home also makes it harder to attract female students who understandably may be reluctant to come to a man's residence and possibly be alone with a stranger. For a woman instructor, the danger is that some men will confuse what she is offering with what men often want from an unknown woman who invites them into her house.

Church halls or community centres are sometimes affordable and/or available on weekends free of charge if you are teaching on a not-for-profit basis. However, in the first case at least, a surprising number of priests, ministers, mullahs and rabbis feel that their flock may be tainted spiritually by doing bagua because of its connection to Buddhism and Taoism. More than once over the years I have read articles by fundamental Christian and Muslims denouncing the practice of bagua, taiji, and qigong as being somehow the tools of Satan.

As to starting your own school from scratch, be prepared financially to live off your cash reserves (if you have any left after paying for premises and renovations) for at least one year. Taxes, advertising costs and office expenses will quickly demand that you either commercialise your teaching to ensure the numbers of students necessary to support such an establishment; or, as is often the case, you will have to rent out space at your school to those teaching other complimentary disciplines (yoga, dance, qigong, other martial arts) to supplement your income.

By the way, teaching endless groups of beginners or having to do endless private classes may result in you finding that you no longer have the enthusiasm for this art you once had, or you will burn out physically or emotionally from trying to earn a living. I am not trying to be discouraging, but you cannot appreciate being a teacher until you have done it with some dedication and suffered some of the arrows that come with trying to do so as a supplement to your income or as its sole source.

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