View Full Version : Is certification for Tai Chi teaching essential?

10-27-2004, 12:20 AM
This topic was a highly debated topic last year.

As to my opinion and experience, Master Jan highly shares this view: What our merits are, how high our skill is and how well we can share this to the community will be something we simply convey by actions and behaviour. However, we do live in an institutionalized world and a certificate will firstly provide legal security against insurance thievery and secondly provide a written proof of our experience and skills. Many health funds and foundations require some sort of certification.

Very often when i would like to enter a business relationship with an institution they tell me that they are convinced that I can do the job very well, I simply put across a very good impression. But with a certificate they can market me better and it simply LOOKS better. A certificate does not make me better qualified in any way, but it can be presented in a more credible manner. I remember my regular partners were impressed by Paul's certification"Tai Chi for Diabetes". They knew I was a specialist but it simply looked so good on my bio...

Any thoughts?

10-27-2004, 01:00 AM
I dont think that either of my Shifu's are certificated... but I would put them against any certificated and "qualified" teachers any where any day... they learned in China the traditional way and can convey the knowledge very well... IMHO I would not take much notice of a certificate saying a person can teach... rather as you say their actions and ability to share the knowledge make the impression on me... sadly in todays world where a bit of paper can mean so much when really it means so little (eg being able to buy pretty much any degree or certificate you want on the net, education for sale at schools etc) people put too much stock in a certificate... (and I say this in no way belittling the achievement that it represents for those who have done the hard yards)...

10-27-2004, 06:21 AM
In some places more than others, certification is a necessity due to the litigious nature of society. Presentation is important meaning how you present the topic, what audience and how and why tai chi can help. According to Soraya, the certificate does not make one more qualified but it does present the person as having gone through some type of training/orientation so as to be able to have a background.

To have the certificate but no practice is another matter.

10-27-2004, 10:51 AM
From a students point of view, it is nice to know a teacher has some certificates to say he or she has attained a good level of profficinency, but it is good to have a skilled teacher who knows how to bring out the best in their students, and is good at judging the students skills.

10-27-2004, 04:36 PM
yup we bin down this road before;in the days of it's inception there was no certification for teachers of t'ai chi chuan,few would have had the education to read such a document in the first place;learning was transmitted orally and by example and often took place only within the confines of immediate family members;times have changed but a good recommendation from a qualified source plus a bio and some references is usually good enough.
if you studied with Wu Tunan,that's good enough for me;anything you have to hand over from a respected source will be of value as far as myself and others are concerned

10-27-2004, 08:39 PM
From my experience I feel the certification is a BIG plus. Teaching for six different organizations, I've found one of the first things they look for is that certificate.

Other positive traits and experience appears also as a factor, but most of these above organizations have informed me it was a REQUIREMENT to teach for them.

Personally, however, I know it takes many other factors done well to become an effective teacher. Hope this helps.


10-28-2004, 05:16 AM
what does your certification consist of bob?

10-28-2004, 08:21 AM

When one teaches taijiquan (tai chi) in the public domain, there are certain pre-requisites they ask for:

a. Knowledge in the subject
b. How you arrived at that level
c. What you did prior
d. ABility to teach people
e. Knowledge of CPR
f. Knowledge of fitness fundamentals
g. ABilty to show how its principles can help in a coherent manner
using the jargon of health, wellness with elements of quality of life, endurance, flexibility, etc

Not all organizations reuqire this level of knowledge but again, it depends on the focus of said entity.

10-28-2004, 09:33 AM
thanks stanton,but i'm curious as to what format bob uses to reflect his own certification.

10-28-2004, 10:40 AM
Part of the certification for me is I do a health form of Tai Chi. I wouldn't visit an unqualified doctor or accupuncturist, or aromatherapist.

In our own waysall of us are teachers, although not in the formal sense. We share our experiences, and others learn from us. There are no cetificates for passing through the college of life, and graduating!

10-28-2004, 08:00 PM
My certifications are as follows:

--Tai Chi for Arthritis and Diabetes
--Yang Tai Chi (108-movement)
--Yang Tai Chi (Short form)
--Certified Fitness Leader
--CPR and Standard First Aid

In addition to the above certifications I have studied tai chi and chi kung for 10 years, while a certified tai chi instructor at a martial arts school for several years. All of this helps, but it still appears, to my clients at least, that the certifications are of utmost importance. It seems that in many disciplines these days that certifications have become more relevant. Hope this helps to answer your question, Shark. Take care and keep up the good posts.


10-28-2004, 09:19 PM

Is your Yang certification endorsed by a private school or registered organization? Many organizations such as mine is under the roof of the World Chen Taijiquan federation.

I have a few certificates like:
Yang 108 by the European Yang association under the roof of the World Yang association. Training is fulltime including medical and safety subjects, TCM and psychology/methodology(exempted due to my medical and sports background). Wushu and Taiji theory

Chen world association level IV.
This is a vigorous training over a few years, the best system i ever know. Many members are from the medical field. Level V is Master level. Don't misunderstand, it is a big leap between IV and V. You need to be appointed as a master, after various
achievements and rewards

2 lineage trees tracing back to Chen Fake and Yang Cheng Fu
1 lineage tree to Yip Man(Wing Chun)

10-29-2004, 09:29 AM
more than answers it bob,thanks.
thanks for interesting thread soraya & background

10-29-2004, 01:41 PM

That brings up a good insight!!!
Whose certification is endorsed by whom is a different level.

I have seen 'dorkie' (i hate that work but i use it a lot) tai chi groups whose certifications are bogus to the max but because they can explain its modern application and adapt to fitness language they can get an i'n' in the alternative/complementary circles that are using the buzzwords of success.

10-29-2004, 08:32 PM
Thanks for your question also--I feel honored being asked questions by such knowledgeable people in the field! I have to admit I feel like a rookie at times after reading some of your posts--you guys are so up on things that I never heard of before. However, it's been a great learning experience for me and I appreciate chatting and sharing with all of you.

In answer to your question now, my Yang-108 form is endorsed by an instructor from the USA who studied in and received his master's degree from China. I'm not sure of the lineage, but I am sure that he learned his lessons well over there from some great masters.

Hope that helps with your question and I'll look forward to reading your great posts, sharing with you at times and continue to get help when I so often need it. Best wishes.


10-29-2004, 09:14 PM
actually i was looking for more of what bob used as a resume outline rather than qualifications.
i know you guys hate the "lineage" word but give me a name dammit.
Paul Guo,TTliang,Cheng Man-Ching,Yang Zhen Duo,i'm happy and know that what you have to pass on will be of value,whatever it is.
Institutions as a rule know nothing of these names and are
(in general) more concerned w/where you worked before and how well that went;references and referrals go a long way
(my experience only).
t'ai chi chuan certification is a nebulous area as far as i am concerned;certified by whome? a second or even third generation student?
what constitutes your training for certifiction,weapons? competition forms?
expd.push hands? other forms?
there is no set consensus
to qualify the taiji instructor that i am aware of,everyone seems to have a different idea

10-29-2004, 09:25 PM
Shark and others!

I'm so glad to have started the thread. So many new insights from old and new members on this board.

Yes, certification is something formal. But.......would you like me to operate on you without a certification as a doctor? lol...i'm not a qualified surgeon anyway so my certificate says i can perfomr brain surgery but i would advise any patient against this! The same with acupuncturist, this is an invasive treatment and has to do with skin act.

A good teacher and lineage serves as a CREDENTIAL more than any certificate. But in Germany YZD and CXW have 1generation disciples who endorse an internatiolly recognized certificate. If you are interested in the curriculum please view:www.wctag.de

Of course apart from the certificate references from good sources like anything else are most important. I have been teaching in hospitals and schools, everybody is more interested in these credentials

10-30-2004, 08:27 AM
there is no standard i know of that consitutes a recognized certification document for t'ai chi chuan;everyone has different ideas about what certifies them and what doesn't.so when someone tells you they are a "certified",meanings can vary

10-30-2004, 10:28 AM
The value of certification is as I see it, only as good as the reputation of the individual or organization that is providing the certification. With regard to "lineage", the qualifications and skills of the student are not necessarily a reflection of the teacher.

10-30-2004, 11:16 AM
No organization I have worked with have asked for taijiquan (tai chi) lineage. They specifically ask where I have learnt/studied it and how I intend to apply it and if I can teach to a specific group.

They ask for references and my experience(s)
a. Wrote an article for Tai chi magazine some years ago
b. Presented a seminar on TCA for National Psorisais Organization
c. Worked in VA system as Recreation Therapist
d. Worked in nursing home as Activity Director
e. Work in a health care industry
f. Teach TCA for local park district
f. Lead support groups like cancer, arthritis, etc

The skill set has to do with ability to present a programme, know how to adapt/adopt research principles and teach in a systematic manner.

bobo711 Fitness Leader certification is an excelent skill set since its pronciples can be incorporated into tai chi and other methods, that is why American College of Sports Medicine (ACMS), AFAA, and other fitness credentials are important.

10-30-2004, 01:55 PM
well......lineage is a subject that would need to be explained to a potential employer so that he or she gets the full impact of what you are bringing to the table;sports medicine and cpr are certainly handy things to know;the title of fitness leader may be great if you want to teach a high school P.E. class;otherwise what's it got to do with t'ai chi? nothin'

10-30-2004, 03:31 PM

here's the story. PE classes are not the only places for Fitness Leaders. They are employed by Fitness Centers, Rehab Institutions, YMCA, YWCA's etc and it certifies that the person leading the group has knowledge of basic information regarding some diseases, what to look out for, who to call, what postures may be contraindicative to people with hypertension, NIDDM, etc.

Someone with this qualification has a "heads up" on teaching TCA depending on environment (be it hospital, support group leader for fibromyalgia, CFS, and arthritis among others). Depending on how long they have done this, they will be a shoo in for any position. Keeping in mind some fitness leaders certifications are more rigorous than others!!! ACSM as a main example.

Lineage is less important in these scenarios. If one is on probation at an institution who requires taijiquan knowledge ( mostly qigong but) and you state you are proficient, then people will observe you through objective criteria for teaching like:
a. How do you interact with the target group (seniors, arhtritis sufferers, etc)
b. How are you rated by said group? DO they believe you are doing a good job
c. Do you explain in language they can understand, etc?

I am aware of at least 3 studies with Tai Chi Chih but many will state 'those people' have no lineage but they have put Tai Chi Chih up for scrutiny and it has come out smelling like a rose, lineage or no lineage!!!

The tai chi study that changed the way people thought about tai chi (balance-Emory University) had only 10 posture (Yang style), and most tai chi studied are short forms and they can hardly be considered 'lineage'

CPR and similar criteria are part of the teaching and insurance aspect since as you know in US, people will sue for anything they can get their hands on. You kjnow that! One may never use CPR but they know when to call someone, who to contact and signs that something may not be right, swaeting, fainting, etc. it is most important.

Where one is conducting the programme determines the level of certification or basic experience.

10-31-2004, 12:45 AM
If you teach in traditional Tai Chi circles, I can tell you that lineage does play a role. Elan, a lineage holder is normally appointed by a disciple. I am appointed by the GM himself.

Stanton is right about institution, it depends where you teach where certain certificates are required. If you start anti-stress classes in the park then it depends on the manner how you communicate with the people.

However, when you present a TCA group to a psoriasis organization then several references, primarily from the health institutes are needed. As a fellow of ACSM I only agree with the Fitness Leader Programme. In Germany the health funds only pay when the teacher is either physical therapist, fitness leader. OT, doctor etc.

When i want to teach Tai Chi in hospitals they were more interesed in my experience as a doctor. My lineage(Jan
Silberstorff has international reputation) serves as an addition to the certificate he endorses, along with GM Chen) Many lineage certificates in Germany are endorsed along with medical authorities.

For a person who would like to teach in any organization, especially health industry, I strongly recommend Fitness Leader. Paul's TCA does require this.

Personally people never wanted to see any certificate from me but hey were asking.....

10-31-2004, 01:19 AM
Master Peter Yu from Sydney has been appointed to teach in a clinical trial conducted by the University of New South Wales. His credentials are his lineage and 40 years of teaching. But he is quite well-known and has a few connections among his students.

10-31-2004, 08:07 AM
ok stanton that's all well and good but although no prospective employer knew enough to ask me about lineage,none of them asked me if i had any of the other "qualifications" you mentioned either,sports medicine,cpr,or "fitness leader";don't get me wrong i'm not decrying any of these fine practices,just saying that i think they are irrelevant;as you say much depends on where you happen to be applying.
as for insurance i would never work for any institution that does not carry it's own liability insurance,it's just too risky for my taste.
the greater concern though as i've stated ad nauseum here is that an attempt to standardize these "credentials" for t'ai chi instruction could alienate many really good teachers who don't have them.
i personally wouldn't want to give the impression to anyone reading this forum that they immediately need to go out and get all these certifications as a prerequisite to teaching t'ai chi chuan because that's simply b.s.
now,teaching people with disabilities is a whole different affair,one that i wouldn't touch wth a ten foot pole unless i was an M.D. in addition to being a t'ai chi instructor.

11-01-2004, 12:46 PM
Please ignore this if I'm derailing the topic, BUT....

In Karate, originally people taught to pass on an art, for fun, or to pick up a few Yen on the side. In recent years, styles have been taught in bigger and bigger "markets". If you have 30,000 schools teaching Shorin, Goju or whatever, each paying dues of $100/year for "Certification", suddenly this is big business. The upshot is that the Karate education is increasingly fragmenting as organizaions/certifying bodies declare themselves and sell certification as their product. I'm not saying that such organizations are bad. I do value certification by large organizations which don't have a financial stake in certifying people, however.

That's Karate, not Tai Chi. Could the same thing happen in Tai Chi? I'm confident that we aren't there yet, but it is very conceivable that students trained under responsible certification could form their own styles, change the way it is taught and claim some right to certify, etc. Bill

11-01-2004, 01:49 PM

When one starts introducing financial stake, certifying bodies, etc it is then, I believe, the essence of taijiquan will be lost, if it ever happens. I try to be modern regarding outlook and health benefit but that dynamic does not fit per my view (per financial). It can, I suppose. If financials are a driver, then all hope is lost.

"market share' and such is not what tai chi is about

p.s. it seems to be going that way so you are not getting away from the topic.

Marc Heyvaert
11-02-2004, 09:05 AM
This is such a complex subject...

I have no certificate whatsoever, yet I'm working at a system for certification within the VWuF (Vlaamse Wushu Federatie). But it is no easy going, so many things you have to take into account.

In Flanders (a region of Belgium) the TCC-landscape is very fragmented. A lot of teachers, most teach Yang style (some Zheng Manqing), some Chen style, a few do Wu style. Lineage is not always clear. Quality varies a lot. Some have a lot of students, some only a few and there isn't always a link with the quality of the curriculum of the lineage. Actually we should perhaps start a thread about what keeps students interested and happy...

My problem as a member of the executive of the VWuF and as president of the 'Internal Style Committee' ( :) sorry for the heavy words, we only have about 900 members, 300 TCC and 600 external wushu, so it is only a small federation) is to get as many members and teachers as possible into our federation. The current situation is that we only represent about 300 of the approximately 6.000 people who practice Taijiquan in Flanders on a regular basis.

I cannot afford to be to rigid. So I make it my job to know what's on offer and to accept as many teachers as possible. Some teachers out there get a definite 'no', but it is rather the exception. A lot of teachers are not that good really, but I prefer to have them in the federation rather than outside it. Inside we can work on improving the quality of teaching, we can circulate the correct information, we can organise classes. Actually we are going to start classes for teacher next year that will lead to certifcation by BLOSO, an official sports body. The subject of these classes is not even TCC, it's all about sport pedagogical and medical stuff. At the same time we think about a series of lectures that are complementary to these courses, not lineage or style specific, but that will try to convey the essential point of TCC.

I hope that in time our 'certification' will become a token of quality.

As for a lot of certificates out there...I am always sceptical about their value. Often it's only a matter of money really. A lot of the big guys see certification as a way to make some extra bucks, not necessarily as a way to improve the quality or guarantee the level of teaching. I have problems too with the way some GM's try to monetize their reputation (often gained through a lot of hard work and possibly a hard life as well, and I respect that) by 'franchising' their schools. In spite of all the talk about 'inside' and 'outside' students I see students who after a minimum schooling period and maximum money can open an 'official' school from a certain lineage.


11-05-2004, 05:18 AM
Originally posted by carolinew
From a students point of view, it is nice to know a teacher has some certificates to say he or she has attained a good level of profficinency, but it is good to have a skilled teacher who knows how to bring out the best in their students, and is good at judging the students skills.

In todays society here in America, a piece of paper stating your qualifications goes a long way in opening normally closed doors. This in no way inhances the mental or physical abilities of the bearer. The certificate mearly states that the bearer has completed a reconized course in that indever, I.e a doctors certificate/ Diploma says to practice ?? Can we not at least say our certificates have the same merit. ( To practice our arts as we understand them.)

11-05-2004, 05:33 AM
Having studued the arts since 1952 I thing I have a unique insight into what has changed over the years. Yes in the beginning Martial Arts meant protecting ones self with honor. Over the years manny a person decided they at perhaps 2 or 3 years training had more knowledge then the masters from over seas. Hence I am a black belt ( looking in the mirror and presto). Point is a certificate is not always the answer, quality of instruction is what it is all about. I tell any one who wants to be one of my students, please sit watch several classes. Be sure this is what you want and that you are satisfied with my ability to teach you. Then allow me to give you one free class so you might better understand the physical side of it better. So first mental agreement by watching a few classes then physical ability by taking a free class. Together this makes for a better student with an understanding of what it is all about. Not oh sure in 2 years you will be master of masters, just pay me.. Your choice, it is the road you must walk once you decide.

11-05-2004, 07:47 AM
well,(and i'm so done with this thread by the way),i think the discussion centered around not whether a certificate was a reflection of someones teaching abilities but whether a standard certificate should be issued for t'ai chi teachers citing various qualifications that may or may not be directly relevant;as usual opinions differ

11-05-2004, 09:26 AM
Along with ones 'certificate', presentation of self and ability to interact/convey the topic is important to the target group is important.

Tai CHi CHih lineage and Cheng Man Ching lineage, though they are different and unique do seem to go beyond the norm regarding how they are known in the greater community.

"Will you walk into my parlour?" said the spider to the fly.
just a little humour dor the day.

11-05-2004, 05:39 PM
Thank you very much for your replies, a few of them are very interesting. Marcs reply on how to set a certification in Belgium is similar to the one in Australia. I think the topic is a bit derailed, among others on whether a certificate is a true reflection of quality or is being sold by a master providing minimal qualification and training.

If you would like to go back to my first post, I stated that a certificate was a big plus in the sense of marketing and media awareness. I just would like to hear from other members whether a certificate was ESSENTIAL or at least NECESSARY to teach Tai Chi. I met many instructors who do not have any sort of certification but to the best of my knowledge I am conviced that they understand WHAT they are teaching and they do know HOW to communicate their art. They also possessed basic knowledge of sports medicine, practical or formal.

11-06-2004, 07:22 AM
the truth is that the qualifications for t'ai chi certification reside in the mind of the certificate holder

11-08-2004, 08:59 AM

Certification is part of process, not necessary but it MAY be essential in the teaching process. If one is teaching TCA, then potential problems will be minimal. When dealing with diabetes as an example, there are certian precaution, observations, criteria on what to look for so that the teaching preocess reamins safe, and if not who and when to call.

I think people will actually have to go through the process to understand why certification is needed, or else they will never have an idea.