Expert (7th & 8th dan)
Tai chi chuan syllabus - expert level

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The expert understands how to practice the art and be capable of teaching students. They will typically open their own class. They may continue to teach on behalf of their instructor.
It depends on the individual.

The 10,000 hour rule

According to Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers, 10,000 hours of practice are necessary for a person to become an expert. Robert Greene quoted this in his Mastery book:

Although it might seem that the necessary time to master the requisite skills and attain a level of expertise would depend upon the field and your own talent level, those who have researched the subject repeatedly come up with the number of 10,000 hours. This seems to be the right amount of quality practice time that is needed for someone to reach a high level of skill and it applies to composers, chess players, writers, and athletes, among others.

Although the number of hours seems high, it generally adds up to seven to ten years of sustained, sold practice - roughly the period of a traditional apprenticeship.

Gladwell's insight was taken from a study of violinists performed by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson in the 1990's (explored in his book Peak).

Is the 10,000 hour rule true?

Dr. K. Anders Ericsson pointed out that whilst the '10,000 hours rule' has some merit, it is largely incorrect and misunderstood.
Indeed, in his study, violinists with 10,000 hours practice were nowhere near 'expert' level. At best, the rule might encourage people to
train harder but it certainly is no guarantee of skill.

Not so simple...

It is not just 10,000 hours... It is 10,000 hours of continued improvement, insight and development.
10,000 hours spent doing the same thing doesn't lead to expertise because the individual is still within their comfort zone.
For more detailed insights and information regarding 'deliberate practice' we encourage you to read Dr Anders Ericsson's book Peak.


The 7th dan grade is intended for instructors with 10 years teaching experience with our class.
The exponent must have also undertaken (at least) 300 private lessons with the instructor in order to receive a hands-on understanding of the art.

Training in class

If a student trained a martial art for 2 hours a session, three times a week for 50 weeks of the year, then they are logging 300 hours a year (2 x 3 x 50 = 300 hours).
At that rate it will take 33 years for the individual to amass 10,000 hours and they still might not be an expert.

Your day job

By contrast, if you worked a 35 hour week for 47 weeks a year, it should only take 6 years to amass 10,000 hours. The key factor here is practice time.
If you want to become good at tai chi, you really need to train at home between lessons. But don't quit your day job...

Taoist time

Realistically it will take the diligent student decades to become an expert. This gives a sense of perspective. Stop thinking so small and short-term.
Taoists aimed for extreme long life and great fitness. Why not do the same? The very challenge itself might be what keeps you alive...


There is more to expertise than hours spent training. It is also about quality. This is why the syllabus has a limited number of forms, drills and exercises to learn.
Not only do you have to learn the patterns and the applications, you must also dismantle everything and gain a deeper understanding.
Adding neigong to every factor of your practice will keep even the most serious practitioner occupied for the rest of their life.

Jing power

In order to facilitate vibration and effective reeling the student must:

  1. Express sung and folding

  2. Internalise

  3. Free the joints

  4. Avoid over-stretching

  5. Rely upon soft tissues

  6. Use a far smaller circle

  7. Make the stances smaller and higher

  8. Arcs and circles are largely replaced by spirals

The delivery mechanism becomes less overt, more subtle. The outcome/effect is quite different. Fa jing is comfortable.

Less qigong

As an exponent becomes more adept with higher level tai chi skill, they only do a small amount of qigong.
There is simply no need to stand for an extended duration since greater benefits can be gained through whole-body movement.

Time, energy & concentration

Tai chi is all about the conservation of energy. A high level practitioner needs to use their time wisely.
With only so many hours in the day, they should commit their efforts to the training that yields the highest benefits for the least amount of effort.
Time spent on simplistic training e.g. standing qigong is pointless. It will needlessly tire the body, increase muscular tension and blunt the concentration


More challenging neigong concerns are now taught.

 Stages of increasing skill: expert

transcends reliance on rules, guidelines, and maxims
intuitive grasp of situations based on deep, tacit understanding
has vision of what is possible
uses analytical approaches in new situations or in case of problems

(Michael Eraut)

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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 05 December 2023