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Students are welcome to move up through our syllabus at their own pace but ability must be proven at each step of the Way. Our assessment methods are relaxed, informal and cost no extra money.
Each grade in our syllabus ends with a grading.


Apart from the grading, students require weekly corrections and revision with Sifu Waller.

Ask yourself...

Can you do form (section 1) without requiring any obvious corrections from Rachel or Sifu Waller? Do you know the qigong exercises well enough to perform them at home by yourself?
Are you able to perform the applications on every school member without any problems? Is the application thorough and convincing?
Would you be willing to let somebody pressure-test your application?

Driving a car

Think of tai chi skill as being like driving a car... If you are competent, you should be quite comfortable having a Driving Examiner test your driving any day of the week, at any time.
This is quite reasonable. Your skills should be active and present at all times. Otherwise, you are not fit to drive.

Tai chi

Will you get to choose how, when and where you need to use your tai chi skills?
A student once got hit by a car and involuntarily yielded. This reflex/habit saved him from serious injury.
He did not get prior warning. Will a real life attacker give you a heads-up? Two days to get ready?


If you cannot pull off a skill convincingly and consistently, let's face it... you don't know it well enough. Will a real life attacker cut you any slack?
Don't spare yourself. That is just lazy and absurd. It only serves to show how unrealistic you are being about combat.

Neo: "I know kung fu."
Morpheus: "Show me."

(The Matrix)


What matters is what you can do right now. It is not about how well you have revised or prepared.
If you do not know something, fine. This is the truth/reality of the situation.
Practice some more. Practice until you own it.

Cheating yourself?

When you are certain you know the material well enough, let Sifu Waller or Rachel know and you can move up a grade.
However, if you cannot do the skill adequately, you probably know the truth. Which most likely means that your instructor knows the truth too...
There's actually no one to lie to. Should Sifu Waller or Rachel doubt your ability, they will test it. This is not mean. It is helpful.

Go easy on yourself

Tai chi cannot be forced; it takes as long as it takes. Take small, methodical steps forward.
Proceed at a pace that suits you and your level of ability and commitment. Do what you can without becoming anxious or stressed.


Focus on a topic, learn it and then move onto the next one. Be patient with yourself.

Set realistic learning goals

Each grade involves only a limited number of topics, exercises and drills. Aim to pass a couple of new items every time you are assessed.
Look to existing skills. Correct any mistakes, remove gaps in your knowledge.

Do not neglect material from previous grades

With tai chi, you must constantly refine and improve your basic skills. The most simple-seeming and obvious drills are actually quite complex and sophisticated.
As you move through the grades, Sifu Waller will be looking for increasing skill in all areas of knowledge. You cannot just learn a skill and move on. You must also go back and re-consider.

Tai chi principles

We are not expecting to see 'perfect' practice, but you must demonstrate tai chi principles at all times. Considerations:

  1. Did it work?

  2. Did you compromise yourself? Were you over-committing?

  3. Was there any adverse feedback?

  4. What did it do to the opponent?

  5. Were you forcing an outcome? Or did it flow?

  6. Was it easy to perform?

  7. Smooth or jarring?

  8. Was it hurried and quick? Were you calm and composed?

4 ounces, no tension, composure and softness are the Way. If it looks like kickboxing or mixed martial arts, it is not correct.

What happens?

Your tai chi assessment is straightforward:

(i) Sifu Waller and Rachel will offer corrections, tips & pointers
(ii) You will be expected to practice these without supervision
(iii) Once you can demonstrate the requisite skill it will be ticked off


At some stage you will have worked through every item for your grade and can perform everything in a satisfactory manner.
This is the point where you need to be graded.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

(Lao Tzu)



school database

Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023