It is amazing how many people think that learning bagua or the internal martial arts of any kind is easy, and that they don't have to bring any physical abilities or enthusiasm to their classes in order to make progress. For example, I did a survey at the first introductory bagua group class I ever taught at a community centre, and only three of more then ten in attendance on the first night were used to regular physical activity or had ever seen bagua done at any level. Most did not know it was done quickly and was physically demanding. Not surprisingly, only four remained at the end of ten weeks, even though each class only lasted one hour, and there was only one class per week.
Martial arts documentaries on television or movie fantasies don't do bagua teachers any favours by showing elderly Chinese people practising bagua in the park, as the average viewer forgets that an elderly person makes it look easy because he or she has been doing it daily for years!
Conversely, I have also learned the hard way that it is more difficult than it seems to guess correctly which of the beginners will persevere, and improve, and continue their training. Sometimes it is not the one with lots of aptitude who seems so enthusiastic in the first few classes, but the slower, duller student who goes the distance and ends up learning something of real value.
Don't take it personally when people drop out or seem half-hearted. It will take you some time to develop your own rhythm and style as a teacher of this discipline. A few students along the way will blossom, and most will either coast or drop out. Studying bagua is not easy, and very few will bother to make the necessary effort or will find that they don't enjoy the training and will go elsewhere to find other disciplines that suit their physique and nature better. And that is okay too.
In some ways, teaching at noon-hour in a fitness centre is more likely to attract those used to regular exercise as well as those looking for stress reduction. However, it is very difficult to sell the value of standing still and circular movement to aerobics fanatic, weight lifters or modern hard style martial artists unless you can get them to give it a real try and convince them that bagua can be a useful supplement to other training—and not a replacement.
Conversely, you have to be careful and considerate of people with special physical needs, but mustn't cater to them so much that it is unfair to the others without such limitations. Qigong and the Chinese internal systems tend to attract people with severe problems of one sort or another, and many of them either want miracles from you or are unable to cope with the physical movements.
It is important to be honest and sometimes blunt with beginners—you are not a miracle or counselling service and, even for the simpler health-oriented methods, some people are not up to the challenge physically if they are badly out of shape or have acute or chronic medical conditions. It is worth repeating that you should steer the acutely ill to a competent Western or qigong doctor, rather than teach them methods that may worsen their lives.
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