Two years ago -- July 4, 2008 -- I launched my online internal arts school. I was laid off from a 6-figure position at the University of South Florida, went home and told Nancy, "I want to stop working for people I can't depend on. I want to start an online school."
She said, "Go for it."
I started working, taking the curriculum I had been teaching for over a decade and creating video lessons, e-books, and other material. I quietly opened the online school to my current students in June, 2008 and opened it to the world on July 4.
I knew -- the tai chi world being what it is (far pettier and more jealous than you would believe) -- that I would be flamed by some. "Who does he think he is?"
Well, I have a different kind of school. I tried the bricks-and-mortar type of school but I didn't like the experience. I simply have the ability, because of my background in radio and TV news, to create videos a little easier and much cheaper than most people. I also edit all the videos and put them online, do the Photoshop work on the pictures and place everything on the site myself (Nancy is frequently my ace videographer). Not many martial artists have this ability. An online school like this would cost other people many thousands of dollars each month.
My local students get training at a very low price (all they have to do is join the site) and they appear in videos when I need them. It's a sweet deal for everyone, at least that's my intent.
So instead of starting another local school, renting a building, and going through the nightmare of overhead, my school would be online and the audience would be anyone around the world who wants to study these arts but doesn't have a teacher nearby. As long as they speak English, they can study online.
Each week, I get emails from people telling me the site is amazing -- there is a lot more material than they expected and they enjoy the down-to-earth, straightforward teaching style (I have little patience for tai chi teachers who try to make things mystical and abstract).
I've been very gratified at the growth. Right now there are about 100 members, each paying a monthly fee. Some have been on the site the entire two years. Others have lasted a year or more -- then others join for a few months and then leave. It's all good. I believe there are hundreds more around the world who don't know about it yet but would like an insight into the internal arts that the site offers. Some of the people who have joined are teachers, and a few of them have told me that no one ever taught them some of the principles that they learn here. Other members are already studying with a teacher and use the site to supplement their current training. Others are new to the arts and haven't studied before.
At this point, there are more than 400 video lessons online (and I add more each week), several e-books, audios, a discussion board. This time next year, I want at least 600 video lessons on the site -- more e-books, more audios. Not bad for $19.99 per month (the basic fee).
One thing that has surprised me is how some people will join the school, stay on for several months, and never contact me in any way -- no emails, no discussion board posts -- and that baffles me.
On the other hand, I've made some friends through this, too. I could go to several different countries now and know someone because of this website.
The past two years have been very interesting. I'm looking forward to the next two.