By "hand sharpening," presumably you're talking about freehand sharpening on bench stones. At the end of the day, it's probably the best way to get a truly superior edge on a difficult blade. Beyond that -- speaking, perhaps not ex cathedra, but as someone who is a good freehander, and has been for decades -- I'm not so sure. It seems to me that for everything but a few styles of knives that the Edge Pro and the Wicked Edge (by reputation, I've never used the WEPS), can do excellent work with a far flatter learning curve.
Not that I'm trying to talk you out of learning to freehand. I'm all for it.
There are a lot of ways to approach sharpening. The most powerful and best is the burr - deburr method. E-Gullet has a good FAQ by Chad Ward describing how to do it. Steve Bottorff has a website. Chef Knives To Go has an excellent (and free!) series of videos posted. Perhaps the two best books on the subject are Razor Edge Sharpening by John Jurantich and An Edge in the Kitchen by Chad Ward. You might also want to poke around the sharpening article at CookFoodGood.
Considering where you are in your journey you may want to buy Ward's book. There's a lot there which will help you get a clearer look at the lay of the land before you start spending serious coin (if you ever do). Jurantich's book might be better borrowed. As it John only discusses the sort of stones which aren't fast enough for the sort of hardened blades which represent today's best. But, read it if you can. Most of what I understand about the practical aspects of sharpening originated with things learned from John.
Although I've learned important things from all of those guys (and many more), I don't sharpen exactly like any of them, or -- except for the basics -- much like any of them. But at least they'll give you an appreciation of some of the possibilities and a powerful way of looking at the process. I see that as: Shaping, raising a burr, chasing the burr, deburring, and (possibly) polishing. It's not the only way of understanding the subject, but it's probably the best and most powerful especially where western style edges, i.e., bevelled on both sides, are concerned. It's also the easiest way to learn and improve.
A very important lesson to be gleaned from these sources is that everyone -- at least anyone who's any good -- sharpens at least a little differently. At some point, you'll have to find what works best for you.
At $40, a 10" Forschner chefs has a lot of good things going for it. It's light for a European type knife, comfortable, gets sharp, is easy to maintain on a steel, and is well finished. On the downside it goes out of true very easily (good thing it's so easy to steel), dulls quickly, and is not very agile.
A better, although more expensive choice might be something like a Fujiwara FKM or Tojiro DP -- each around $80 for a 24cm blade. Not that either doesn't have its own issues, but they're entry-level, good gyutos (Japanese made chefs knife) and better in almost every way than a Forschner -- the exception being fit and finish and perhaps some handle issues. I think you'd get more out of starting with one of them than a Forschner, much as I like Forschner. They get sharper, cut better, and you'll enjoy your knife more.
Now, I actually own, use and like a few Forschners but no inexpensive gyutos. This is a "do as I say and not as I do" sort of recommendation, and I don't know how you feel about that. Chalk it up to our very different histories and current circumstances.
A lot of people learn to sharpen on beaters. I didn't, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good idea for some people. The most important thing is that you're comfortable and not distracted by extraneous circumstances. It's not very complicated. Mostly you have to learn to listen to and use your body. The less your head is filled with thoughts the better the whole thing will go.
Sharpening lessons aren't a bad idea -- depending on the teacher's approach and skill level. If you're going to pay, don't pay much. Also, if you are going to take a class, I don't want to get any more specific about sharpening recommendations so as not to conflict with your teacher.