As a qìgōng (氣功) and tàijí (t’ai chi -太極) instructor, I get these two questions frequently. The answers are simple. Yes. No. However, there is more to the answers than meets the ear. Let me explain.
Can I try a class for free?
When people ask me this question, I always think the same thing, but I do say, “Yes.” So, what is it that I am thinking? Well, there are two main thoughts that go through my head.
Would you go to any other professional or business and ask the same? Would you go to a dentist and say, “Could you just clean one tooth for free so I can try it out?” Would you go to a restaurant and say, “Could I try out an entrée for free so I know if I like it or not?” I realize that people want to be satisfied when they are paying for something. I completely understand. However, people sell products and services, and often the only way to find out your level of satisfaction is to commit. There are exceptions, of course, but we are all trying to make a living. I am trying to run a business, but I do want your business. So, I keep these thoughts to myself, and I say, “Sure, when would you like to get started?”
This is not a typical exercise class. This is not like a step class or an aerobics class where you show up, follow along with what the teacher does for an hour, put in your time, go home, and do not think about it or do again until next class where you once again mindlessly follow your teacher’s exercise routine. Furthermore, there is much more to the movements than meets the eye. You may see me raise my arms, but if you were to try to duplicate that, you would raise your arms up in a similar looking fashion, but you would not know how I was raising my arms. Most of what goes on in the classes is about learning a new way to move. Easily for the first 6 weeks or so, most students are just trying to grasp the concept that there is such a thing as a different way to use one’s body. Sure, they are learning the choreography of movements, but they still have no clue otherwise. It is frustrating for them. Memorizing movements can be frustrating. Facing your body’s bad and inefficient habits can be frustrating and challenging to your ego. Trying to learn a new way to use your body can be frustrating. Students are typically frustrated for many months during the initial stages of learning. Those that have faith in the process will stick with it despite those initial frustrations, and they will start to learn and benefit from the process. However, there is not much of anything that I can teach you that you can learn in one free class session during a normal class with other students in the class that also need my attention and are paying for it that will let you get a feel for what the total class experience is really like. Sure, you can get a feel for my teaching mannerisms, the general nature of the other students, the training area itself, etc., but really you cannot effectively judge at all as a beginner whether or not you will like it because you will actually have no idea at all what “it” really is. It takes time, dedication, and practice.
Can I pay by the class?
Again, when asked this question, I usually have specific things going through my mind. The short answer is, “No.” My current rates can be found here. I have two main lines of thought in giving this answer, and I usually give these explanations for those still interested in what I have to say after being disappointed and bothered by my answer of “No.”
Class payments are tuition. As with other tuitions, you pay for the class material. It is up to you to show up and learn. You payments basically fund me to teach. I will show up and will be here teaching. You have to decide if you are really interested in learning, and you have to make the commitment to do so. If you signed up for a college course, you would not be paying only if you showed up to the classroom and not be paying if you did not. Again, I am trying to run a business. I do want your business, and I want commitment from you, not just for my business’s sake, but for your own benefit as well. This leads us into my closely related second thought about this.
As I mentioned in #2 above in the section about trying a class for free, this is not a typical exercise class. This is not like a step class or an aerobics class where you show up, follow along with what the teacher does for an hour, put in your time, go home, and do not think about it or do again until next class where you once again mindlessly follow your teacher’s exercise routine. This is not the kind of class that will give you the expected benefits just from following along in class and doing nothing else with the material outside of class. This is not putting in your exercise time twice a week to increase your level of physical fitness. I am not saying that it will not increase your physical fitness if that is all you do. It will. You will get a work-out from class, but that is not the end goal. This is so much more than just exercise, and there is a huge learning process involved. In class, I am there to teach you, and I will have to teach you the same things over and over again until you start to understand. This is done in the context of choreographed movements which from an outside perspective looks like exercise. At home, preferably on a daily basis, you must practice not only the choreography, but also what I was trying to get you to learn. In your following class, I do check your choreography, which is easily corrected, but I am more interested in if you learned what was being taught. Having an attitude or mindset that you will show up every now and then, paying by the class, when it is convenient for you or when you do not have anything else better to do, will not get you anywhere. You will be wasting your own time and money, and you will be wasting the time of others in the class, as beginner level students require much much more of my attention during class time than those who have already started to grasp what it is that is really going on. If you are an “every now and thenner” you will always be a beginner. If this is what you really want, your money and time will be better spent purchasing a DVD with which you can just follow along.
I hope you now have an understanding of my reasoning behind the answers to those two questions. In the classes I teach, there is a much to be learned. If you have no previous experience, I recommend that you do some research into the topics of qìgōng and tàijí (t’ai chi) to first see if those are things that you think you are interested in enough in order to make a commitment. If so, then just get in touch with me for the class schedule and to let me know when you want to try out one class for free. I look forward to working with you on your journey to a new and better you.