| |

Cultural Bias and Qigong Teachers

I’d like to say that race makes no difference, but I would be lying. In the realms of qigong, race counts for a huge amount. The sad fact is that the western audience can be so blinded by this that we end up studying with teachers more because of their appearance than their understanding or ability to teach.

Perhaps this is also the reason that we see western teachers dressing in Chinese clothes, but I digress.

Chinese teachers have a number of advantages over western teachers and some of these do indeed make them better teachers of qigong, but the situation is far from simple. Here are three main traits that feel relevant:

Gong fu is everything

The traditional approach to teaching qigong in China is based on a teacher’s ability with the practice (their gong fu) more than their teaching ability. The tendency is to spend time with the highest level practitioner and learn from them through a traditional pedagogical methods.

This approach has great potential as the teacher has achieved levels of practice that far exceed that of the basic student, but without effective teaching skills, it becomes difficult for the students to bridge the gap between their understanding and the gong fu of the teacher.

Pidgin English

Strangely, one of the greatest strengths of Chinese teachers is the use of simplified forms of English. 

When English is someone’s first language, we tend to assume they have a high degree of accuracy in the way they describe things. This assumption means that we are more likely to focus on the details of what they say as being a true representation of the underlying practice or theory. 

Working with someone who we assume has a less accurate grasp of the language means that we hold things more lightly. We are more likely to take time to assimilate our understanding because there is less certainty of the accuracy of the initial teaching. This, in turn, means we tend to have a more reflective approach to learning that leads to a greater level of understanding within the students. 

Cultural Ignorance

Another aspect that makes the Chinese teachers more effective in a non-Chinese environment is the cultural ignorance of the students. In short, when we have a clear idea of what is culturally acceptable, we are far less tolerant of behaviour, whereas if we have a less well formed idea of acceptable behaviour due to cultural differences, we are far more open.

Probably the best example of this is when a Chinese teacher is very direct with a student. We tend to accept far stronger directness from someone outside of our culture because we assume that this level of directness is normal behaviour.


Qigong is many things to many people and everyone engages with it in their own way and for their own reasons.

If you want to regain your health through the practice, it’s important to work with a teacher who can challenge your thinking and movement in such a way as they create the space within you to heal. The ability to create this space is something that should be within the skillset of any capable teacher regardless of their cultural background.

If you want to maintain your health and wellbeing through qigong, it’s important to work with a teacher who keeps the practice fresh and insightful. It’s important to ensure that you don’t get stuck in a routine that means you keep going through the same process over and over again without ever challenging yourself. Again, this is a basic skill of any capable qigong teacher and is not dependant on their cultural background.

If you want to use the practice for spiritual cultivation, it’s important that your teacher is able to help you to take the practice out of the practice room and into everyday life so that you can see the things that disrupt you in order to help you to transform. Once again, this is a basic skill that any qigong teacher should be able to help you with regardless of their cultural background.

We should not allow the ethnicity of our teachers to add credibility to their abilities, we need to be discerning and open minded. We need to understand the benefits that each teacher brings and enjoy the lessons that each teacher offers, but most importantly, we need to work with people who help us to find the freedom to live well in an open minded, open hearted state.

To find out about our teacher training, and how we can support you in being a safe, authentic and highly effective teacher through this link.

Similar Posts