Know the basics
Tai chi basics

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Level of difficulty

The initial training contains no martial material whatsoever. The practice is health oriented. This is why the students wear a white T-shirt.
It introduces basic topics:

  1. Ba duan jin (8 exercises)

  2. Form posture qigong

  3. Full circle qigong

  4. Moving qigong (8 exercises)

  5. Reeling silk exercises (5 exercises)

  6. Standing post

  7. Standing qigong/3 circle qigong

  8. Assignment #1 - Q & A

  9. Assignment #2 - Attitude & etiquette

Although nothing is unduly complex, there is plenty to learn. Unfortunately, there is no secret formula. You just need to practice every day.


Qigong is the key to getting the hang of things. The more time you spend practicing the exercises, the easier it will be to learn anything and everything in the syllabus.
Standing qigong will build strength, teach alignment and develop structure. Moving qigong teach stance (foot position), coordination, timing, relaxation and flexibility.
Once you have learned the exercises, practice them every day. That way, you'll benefit and you also won't forget them. If you can't remember the exercises, buy the Qigong DVD.

Practice every day

Failure to practice qigong frequently enough or thoroughly enough will retard progress.
Ideally, a student should stand for 20 minutes and then perform plate exercise, standing post, 4 directions - forwards & backwards, 4 directions - to the side, opening & closing - to the side, cloud hands, ba duan jin (8 exercises), moving qigong (8 exercises).
10 repetitions of each. Every day

12 week challenge

A great way to take yourself out of your comfort zone is to set yourself a "12 week challenge". Aim to pass all of the qigong exercises on the ticksheet within 12 weeks.
This is quite a reasonable target if you think about it. A whole month to learn the reeling silk exercises, another month for ba duan jin and a third month for moving qigong.


I don't stop when I'm tired.
I only stop when I'm done.

(Marilyn Monroe)


Everything in the tai chi curriculum has an order for practice. If you are struggling to remember the order, be smart about it...e.g. ba duan jin:

  1. Copy out the names of the 8 exercises

  2. Make notes about each exercise

  3. What is each individual exercise about?

  4. Explain its purpose

  5. Which characteristics make it different from the other exercises?

  6. Copy out down the names of the 8 exercises ten times

  7. Now try and write down the 8 names again - without referring to your notes, the handout or the website

  8. If you can't remember the 8 exercises, try again tomorrow


If you can't remember the exercises, buy the Qigong DVD, Qigong Corrections DVD and Partner Work DVD so that you can practice the exercises at home between classes.

Do the assignments ASAP

Deepen your understanding by committing the time to the assignments. The questionnaires provide context

Commit to workshops

Often new people don't commit to workshops. To pass tai chi basics you need to attend 12 workshops. This is a tai chi membership requirement.


Beginners overanalyse the tai chi rather than just get on with the practice. This is bad in class. Thinking is the outcome of memory.
Lacking experience in tai chi, you have no useful memories to assist you in class. Understanding is the product of hindsight.
Useful knowledge and experience can only be gained through practice...

Seek those challenges

Practice them at home as well as in class e.g. full circle qigong.

High repetition is crucial

When you are shown a new movement, new concern or a form correction, drill it repeatedly until familiar. No matter how many times it takes.
Difficult movements may require hundreds of repetitions to become easier. How may times? As many as it takes...


Eventually the training becomes familiar and the patterns are more comfortable. Then you can start to improve.
This is the stage where your awareness will help a great deal. Observe your tai chi carefully and drill corrections thoroughly.

Provide proof

Sifu Waller expects students to critically self-assess their own practice and then seek an evaluation. If the tai chi is good enough for the grade, it will be ticked-off.
You can then learn something more advanced. Being assessed is the only way to progress to the higher grades

Passing the basics

  1. If you can perform each exercise (or drill) to an adequate standard, it will be ticked off by Sifu Waller

  2. Once everything has been ticked off, Sifu Waller will confirm whether or not you have committed to all of your required workshops

No practice?

If you simply choose to attend class and not practice at home, that is OK. Nobody can force you to train. Simply allow that your progress will be very slow. Like a health student.

The Sword Polisher's Record

Why not consider reading The Sword Polisher's Record?
  The book will help you to understand how tai chi is taught.

Beyond the basics

Passing white belt is important. Once you pass, you can start wearing a black T-shirt.


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Page created 4 August 1995
Last updated 14 February 2024