Darker belts
Tai chi chuan syllabus

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Darker belts

The The blue, purple, brown belts are more martial than the pale belts. Applications, martial sets and weapons work predominate. A comprehensive sense of theory is important.

20 workshops a year

In order to gain the necessary level of practice and exposure to relevant material, a student training towards the darker belts must commit to 20 workshops/boot camp/private lessons each calendar year.


The darker belts in any martial are viewed as being a stage where the student begins to acquire some credible fighting skills. It is a time for growing confidence and assertion.
Instead of settling into complacency, the student is compelled to drive themselves forward towards black belt.
The instructor is looking carefully at the attitude of the exponent; gauging whether or not they are showing the degree of commitment and enthusiasm associated with a darker belt.

The beginning is darkness within darkness. Find things and thoughts in light; find the beginning of things and thoughts in darkness. All knowing begins in the mystery in darkness.

(Lao Tzu)


The internal arts seek to employ the tai chi without tensing-up, without using force and without aggression. This is a tall order. Consequently, the training is more detailed, methodical and thorough.
Every belt challenges the student to become increasingly sensitive, relaxed and adaptive.


The truth about tai chi training is that you need to do the same thing over and over again if you want it to become familiar. There is no way around this.
If you are enthusiastic and enjoy the training, then it will not be boring at all. You will feel great and habit patterns will be established.


You cannot reasonably expect to through the blue, purple & brown belts (and beyond) without making a tremendous effort. This is simply unrealistic.
In any endeavour, you must be willing to sacrifice time, money and work hard to make progress. Tai chi is no different. No matter what you think.

Looking for an answer

Passing blue requires practice. There are no shortcuts and no secrets that will aid your tai chi. You simply need to do the work.
A student finds that a little home practice will enable them to learn the skills required to pass blue quite easily.


It is common for a blue belt student to become quite clumsy and forceful. Problems encountered:

Fighting back
Too slow
Fear of falling
Use of tension
Lack of composure
Confusing jing and li
Poor understanding of peng
Seeking to control rather than allow
Failure to employ 4 ounces of pressure

The student must be gently encouraged to let-go, relax and go with the flow.


A student finishes learning the outline of the Long Yang form during the blue belt syllabus. It is prudent to start mirroring the form as soon as possible, in preparation for brown belt.

Martial set

The first is san sau; a short 2-person combat set.
San sau serves as a stumbling block, catching the less committed student unawares.
Without regular, established home practice, it is very hard to learn the set and remember it well enough to pass the belt.

No expert

A brown belt student is certainly no expert, but they are no beginner either. At this level of practice, the student must start to show some sense of the art they are practicing.
There should be:

No forcing
No dithering
No heavy footwork
No ineffectual applications
No more clumsy use of tension

Wearing a brown belt indicates a sharp increase in skill and the first inkling of martial competence.


Reliance upon any kind of tension to mimic peng must cease by brown belt. The brown belt student should be capable of manifesting peng to some extent.
Supplementing this improved peng skill, 3-D and the complete use of the 70/30 stance will extend your range and amplify power.


By the end of brown belt, Sifu Waller is looking for a marked change in your combat skills.
You should know how to make space, evade the incoming force, and neutralise effectively by the time you complete brown belt.
The legs and arms should work in conjunction, and there must be an increased use of the body to generate power. To pass the belt, the student must show a significant improvement in martial skill.


Why is brown belt so hard to pass? To test your mettle. Are you the sort of person who quits at the first obstacle, or do you train harder and work around the problem?

Weapons drills

The purple belt student learns stick drills (3 sets). These will help to improve strength, coordination and dexterity. Practicing these drills will increase your ability to use both arms skilfully and deliver jing.


A brown belt student is expected to arrive at class early and help Sifu Waller and Rachel prepare the room for the lesson. They should also remain behind afterwards and offer to clear things away.

Martial concepts applied

Brown belt precedes black, so the expectations increase also... The student must address more earnest unrehearsed, spontaneous combat. Martial concepts applied is a tough wake up call.

Slow down

One big focus of tai chi is slow motion movement. Now that you are making progress it is necessary to address the pace of your exercises.
Qigong, form and solo drilling should be performed at a notably slower pace in order to attain full strength.


Ideally, the darker belt student will be training daily at home, along with weekly class practice, all workshops and boot camp.
We will not let anyone study at a black belt level unless they show the necessary degree of aptitude.

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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 05 December 2023