Pale belts
Tai chi chuan syllabus

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Clean slate

The syllabus is about leaving everything behind. White belt is like learning a new language. Your body and mind may resist the unknown but you slowly improve and get the hang of it.
Passing white belt will enable you to wear a black T-shirt.


People who pass a couple of belts imagine that they have moved on from their bad habits and preconceptions, only to find them alive and well, and hampering their progress.
It is only possible to move on when you start to leave bad habits behind. A person is simply incapable of performing blue, purple & brown belt material until the past has been left behind.


For many people, it will be a tough internal trial involving a lot of unnecessary frustration.
Those who make serious progress in our syllabus are not the same people who started it; they have undergone a deep internal change. Nothing worthwhile is easy.


White, yellow, orange & green belts are all about improving fitness. A student is required to work at notably improving their stamina, flexibility, coordination, cardiovascular health and agility.

15 workshops a year

In order to gain the necessary level of practice and exposure to relevant material, a student training towards the pale belts must commit to 12 workshops/boot camp/private lessons each calendar year.

The well-spring

The reading requirements in our syllabus feature books written by sages and martial artists. It is extremely useful to read the insights that led to the creation of tai chi.
Understanding the principles will enhance your practice considerably.

Fellow martial artists

The martial books were written by people who undertook the same journey as you. Different time, different culture, maybe even a different martial art... but still a fellow martial artist.
Texts such as The Book of Five Rings have an amazingly contemporaneous feel to them and remain entirely relevant to your own practice.

Read a small amount daily

Buy a book and read just a small amount every day. Make a habit of it. A page, a verse or a chapter will slowly mount up and before you know it you will have read the entire book.


In terms of getting through the syllabus and passing your belt, focus on one topic, learn it and then move onto the next one. Be patient with yourself.

Set realistic learning goals

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

Do not neglect material from previous belts

With tai chi, you must constantly refine and improve your basic skills. The most simple-seeming and obvious drills are with hindsight actually quite complex and sophisticated.
As you move through the belts, 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.

Can't remember?

What an embarrassing admission. The problem is laziness, not memory.
A student who works through a list of exercises on a training handout regularly at home will find themselves referring to the handout less and less.
Eventually, they will know the order and the list becomes unnecessary.

Repetition and familiarity

The only person that can train your body do tai chi is you. Talking, watching video clips or reading books will not lead to skill. You must get on your feet and do the work.
This means lessons, assessment, regular repetition of movement patterns and familiarity with partner work.

A fraction

The initial training methods constitute only a fraction of the overall curriculum yet it takes relatively longer to learn than later aspects of the tai chi. Why is this?
You must start out with the absolute basics and learn. More importantly, you must unlearn a lot. All of your habits, preconceptions and misconceptions must be shed. This takes time. It takes patience.
And it takes determination: a quiet resolve to stay the course.

Begin with the light but move towards darkness.

(Lao Tzu)

Darker belts

A blue, purple & brown belt student will learn more quickly than a white, yellow, orange & green belt student because they have a strong foundation beneath them.
The fundamental body skills have been trained in the pale belts and do not need to be learned from scratch.

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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 30 November 2023