I've been thinking about this since one guy asked me if what I did at MIND was the same as what I do at the Wu's Tai Chi Chuan Academy, in Bethnal Green...

Depending on where I am, or who I'm teaching, there are definite differences in my lesson structure.

Sometimes this is very obvious - for instance, one group I teach want to sit on chairs to do all their exercises. These are a more mature group, with some having various physical disabilities. For them, I do a variety of exercises and chi kung (qigong) routines, encouraging them to do one or two that they remember at home. Also some of the exercises I include for this group are aimed at strengthening the muscles supporting the knees, as arthritis and knee replacements are a major issue for them. After three months with this group, they have improved to the extent that we now do two of the exercises standing up - that might not sound a lot, but for them it's a huge improvement, and tai chi is all about starting from where you are, not trying to compare yourself to anyone else. So this progress is huge and deserves to be celebrated as such. The key to their improvement has been their willingness to do a couple of exercises at home - if only people in all my groups would do that!

Then there are groups that are special event groups, for whom this is a one-off experience, so I try to give them a taster session, which incorporates a number of different tai chi activities, so that they feel the fun aspects, as well as the health aspects. If people in any of these groups are encouraged to take up tai chi afterwards, then I count that a great success!

For one of my regular groups, since there are a lot of attendees that attend irregularly, due to various issues, it makes making progress harder. So for them I do a traditional tai chi lesson, but instead of doing individual form practise, we do  that part as a group, with everyone practising the same thing, and me counting off. This particular group need the counting especially, not just for the accuracy it gives, but also for its helpfulness in taking their mind awareness out of their thoughts and into their body movements. With their issues, having somewhere they can come and be accepted and do things as part of a group is one of the most important parts of their tai chi experience. We all need that, but for them, I try to make it explicitly a welcoming experience, where people can experience the relaxed group atmosphere.

Some of my private clients want to learn their way through the form, which gives me great joy! For them, persistence has been the key to their progress. Many people have natural talent, but that counts for very little, compared to persistence. Just doing things over and over will lead to progress. A while back there was an article on sports education about kids, where the writer's theory was that kids who had natural talent tended to fall by the wayside as soon as they encountered difficulties, so that the less sporty kids actually achieved more in the long run, because their experience was already of having to overcome a series of difficulties throughout their learning.  Teaching one to one is a whole different experience, where I can tune into what that particular person needs, that will help them make one little but crucial improvement as they come to whatever particular point.

The biggest class I've done was for 150 - yes 150 - people. For this, I had the help of a second instructor, and the two of us had headset mikes. So we'd do the air hostess thing, with one of us speaking and doing, and the other at the far end of the hall doing the same thing in synch, so everyone in the class could copy one or the other of us. That was great fun!

Anyway, being adaptable to what each group needs, is how to help each group improve, starting from wherever they are, and tuning into their particular needs. The aim is for them to enjoy what they are doing, to help them improve and make progress at their particular rate, after all.