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Students of tai chi often want to learn tai chi as a martial art. Having read a few tai chi books, they expect to acquire skills that exceed those of wing chun, karate, aikido or ju jitsu.
This sounds like a reasonable ambition. But the individual is seldom prepared to put in the time or effort necessary. A student of judo may train 2-3 times a week in class.
How can a tai chi person expect comparative skills when they only attend 1 class each week?

Be honest

Most tai chi students are not martial people. They do not have a martial attitude. In truth they are health students who are interested in combat.

Hard work

Tai chi requires hard work. It involves hard work. You will not get the skills without hard work.

Tai chi sounds easier than judo

Most adults who
choose tai chi over judo are expecting a free ride. They imagine that the skills will be magically imparted.
This is made worse by kung fu instructors who talk about qi all the time. Qi is made to sound like 'fairy dust'. Tai chi is physical. It is not mystical or magical.
Tai chi is an advanced martial art. This means that the training is actually more challenging than normal martial arts. Tai chi is the harder option, not the easier one.


Every martial art requires dedication and commitment. There are no shortcuts or exceptions. The internal and external arts are the same in this regard.
Although the training itself may be markedly different, the need for sustained hard work is the same. If you expect to use tai chi as a martial art, be prepared to put in the time and effort.


Learning a martial art typically involves a considerable financial commitment:

  1. Uniform & equipment

  2. Insurance

  3. Annual membership

  4. Monthly standing order for lessons

  5. Workshops

  6. Resources

Sound pricey? Imagine if you liked cycling, scuba diving, golf or fishing? How much does a decent road bike cost? Or if you wanted to learn a new language or how to play an instrument?
Would it cost less?


A martial artist is paying to learn a skill: combat. That skill typically involves getting fit and strong, conditioned and powerful.


Many martial art styles and systems can only be practiced safely until a certain age. You can continue tai chi indefinitely; and it will keep on improving your fitness and wellbeing.
Tai chi is a lifelong investment. Despite all these considerations, the real commitment is time and energy, not money.

Healthy combat

Ultimately, tai chi works on fitness first of all. If your body is not strong, fit and balanced, what use is it in combat?
You may take longer to gain combat skills, but how many other martial arts can be trained for most of your life?  How many medical studies/journals cite the positive fitness benefits of the art?
Do you read any equivalent journals regarding judo? Maybe, but it seems doubtful. In some martial arts you are deemed 'a veteran' by the age of 40. You gracefully retire and become a judge/referee.
This seems like a waste of time, effort and skill.


A karate blue belt will most likely possess more viable combat skills than a tai chi student with an equivalent degree of experience. This is to be expected.
External arts teach self defence much more quickly and successfully than internal arts do.
A tai chi student must learn a different range of skills first: whole-body movement, jing, relaxation and sensitivity. These are the priority. Combat is introduced gradually and systematically.

Home training

Partner work and corrections are vital in tai chi, so you need to attend as many lessons as you can. However, the majority of your training should take place at home.

Train what you know

A new starter may not choose to train at home. A beginner might only train sporadically or maybe 30 minutes a day. A more experienced student should be putting in 90 minutes.
This does not need to be in one stint, but it needs to be daily. If you are not making this commitment, that is OK. You may need to temper your ambitions and have a little bit more patience with yourself.


Our students have many opportunities for study:

  1. Evening classes

  2. Workshops

  3. Private lessons

  4. DVDs

  5. Recommended reading

  6. Home training

It is important to recognise that you are directly responsible for your own progress. You may have the desire. You also have the opportunity.
But if your commitment to practice does not tally with your ambitions, this will be a slow, arduous journey. Be patient. Do not lose faith.

Holding fast/enduring

Progress in our tai chi class is simply a question of tenacity. If you have the wherewithal to stick the syllabus, attend regularly and train at home, you will gain the skills.
Learning is not a haphazard process. Each student has the opportunity to fulfil their potential. We have designed a sophisticated syllabus. It is fully differentiated. All you need to do is practice.


Being the martial arts equivalent of a bargain hunter will not get you internal skill. Focus on the one art, the one approach, the one system. This is the Way to skill. We teach the Yang system.
It involves learning qigong, form, and a whole range of ancillary drills and training methods. The material is extensive and thorough, relevant and related.


Not everyone is as capable as everyone else. We all start from a different place and approach the material in our own unique way.
The curriculum we have devised ensures that every student who puts in the work will gain the skills. It is not a matter of natural ability, secrets or happenstance.
The syllabus is thorough and builds the necessary foundation. Everyone can benefit. Everyone can learn. Gaining the skills is not a matter of chance. If you have the commitment, we have the Way.


Our classes follow a very clear Zen tradition of tempering the
ego. This is necessary because combat is potentially dangerous. Students need to come to terms with who they are and how they are.
Without self-knowledge there can be no progress in tai chi, the Tao or Zen.

It is absurd to think you are going to get anywhere by giving only an hour a week to your practice or that you can regularly skip classes. Martial arts is not like a bridge club, where you drop in when you have nothing better to do. Martial arts will always make greater demands on your time than would most hobbies or avocations.

(Dave Lowry) 

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Page created 18 November 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023