Tai chi chuan membership
Written by Rachel

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Rachel's class

Rachel's 'Newcastle Tai Chi' class is the default for the school. It teaches qigong and tai chi.

Sifu Waller
's class

Sifu Waller's class within Newcastle Tai Chi is called 'Dynamic Balancing Boxing' (which means 'tai chi chuan'). Membership is subject to qualifying criteria.


Tai chi chuan membership is subject to certain mandatory criteria:

  1. Prior martial arts experience

  2. Not training another martial art

  3. No medical problems

  4. Emotional wellbeing

  5. Attitude & etiquette

  6. Attendance
    - weekly classes
    - workshops

  7. Friendly to other students

  8. Playful rather than macho

  9. Making progress

  10. Not struggling unduly

Not up to it

Tai chi chuan students who are not suited to martial arts training will be moved to qigong & tai chi. This is not a penalty. Your health and wellbeing must come first.
Ultimately, we always act with the safety and wellbeing of the student in mind.

Kung fu for the elderly?

Some martial arts schools offer programs tailored for children or for the over 60's. We do not. Teaching martial arts to those age groups requires specialised training and insurance cover for this type of practice. Unfortunately, we're neither trained nor insured to teach children or seniors. Most adults can train qigong & tai chi though.

To get the most out of martial arts training, finding a tailored program for older adults is essential. Some standard features that may be important for older adults include shorter classes with more repetitions, modifications for those with disabilities, and instructor certification in geriatric martial arts.

(Graying With Grace)


Most people who join our class are not expecting to learn a martial art.
In fact, they are usually pleasantly surprised to find out that there is the opportunity to learn
tai chi skills alongside the health/fitness, meditation and relaxation training.
New starters commonly opt to undertake martial training because it looks exciting but not intimidating.

Martial arts are dangerous

The British Medical Association Guide To Sports Injuries states:

Combat sports such as boxing, judo, karate or kung fu make tough demands on the body; training is intense, and participation requires all-round fitness. Regardless of the fitness of the participants, however, the aggressive blows traded between opponents means that these sports always carry a serious risk of injury.

Injured? Poorly? etc

In martial arts, if you attend the lesson, the assumption is that you are fit enough to train. If there's anything preventing you from training properly that night, Sifu Waller's lesson is not suitable for you.
Instead, ask to train in Rachel's class until you're able to resume martial training. For further insight please read Dave Lowry's book In the Dojo.

Hair and nails

If your hair is long, you will need to tie it back (using a soft tie. No clips or pins). Nails need to be short in order to avoid injury to others or being injured yourself.
These are healthy & safety concerns in every martial arts class.


It is our aim to offer a tai chi chuan (dynamic balancing boxing)
program that enables students to gain a comprehensive range of fighting skills. Typically the student is not exactly 'hard-core'.
They want to have fun, they want to gain martial abilities but they do not want to make too big a commitment.

White belt

The first level of training is about reaching a basic level of health and gaining familiarity and competence with partner work. It is not a martial grade.
Students still wear a white T-shirt and explore preliminary concerns.
The onus is upon starting to get fit, stronger, more supple, better coordinated and somewhat more relaxed. Good alignment, ergonomics and elementary physics are all introduced.
Students learn how to focus and work with one another in a constructive manner.
It should take the average student about 4-6 months to complete all 3 parts of the
white belt.

Tai chi chuan syllabus

Once they have passed
white belt a student wears a black T-shirt and a sash.

There are 20 belts in the tai chi chuan syllabus:

  1. White 1

  2. White 2

  3. Yellow 1

  4. Yellow 2

  5. Orange

  6. Green

  7. Blue

  8. Purple

  9. Brown 1

  10. Brown 2

  11. Black (1st dan)

  12. Black (2nd dan)

  13. Black (3rd dan)

  14. Black (4th dan)

  15. Black (5th dan)

  16. Black (6th dan)

  17. Black (7th dan)

  18. Black (8th dan)

  19. Red 1/Black (9th dan)

  20. Red 2/Black (10th dan)

3 kung fu approaches on offer

Chin na (seizing), shuai jiao (take downs) and tai chi chuan (dynamic balancing boxing) are offered by Sifu Waller. They are all combined into 1 syllabus.
Progress is contingent upon a range of factors i.e. attendance of classes and workshops, fitness level and movement through the grades.


The student has nothing to offer but an absolute willingness to follow the teacher's instructions and direction without question or comments or personal improvisation.

(Dave Lowry)

A minimum of
15 workshops a year

White - green belt student training the tai chi syllabus must make the necessary commitment. If you haven't signed-up for workshops, don't ask to be assessed/graded in class.

A minimum of 20 workshops a year

Blue - brown belt 2 students require at least 20 workshops each calendar year in order to study tai chi and grade.

Not enough workshops attended?

Not to worry. Rachel welcomes qigong & tai chi students. We have problem carrying your unused requirement onto the next calendar year.

Martial tasters

Periodically, there will be opportunities for lower grade students to explore basic martial concerns and insights. Mainly at workshops. But also occasionally in class.
These serve as a chance for you to experience how the tai chi principles are employed. Sifu Waller can also observe your behaviour when partnering with other students.


In many martial arts schools the practice was carried out in secrecy and the school's very existence was frequently concealed from the authorities. For example, tai chi is based on body of principles known to be around 2000 years old yet it was not revealed until 1750.

(Howard Reid)


Students will benefit immensely from buying class DVDs. The harder you work at the start of any endeavour, the easier the work will be in the long-term:

  1. Qigong

  2. Long Yang form (section 1)

  3. Exercises

  4. Weapons #1

  5. Partner work

The DVDs can be purchased in class.


Tai chi chuan practice is dangerous and there is a risk of being hurt. We need to have confidence that a student's head is in the right place. The 'mental component' is even more important than the physical one, and we need to be able to confidently say that you meet the liability requirement. The curriculum has dozens of assignments, designed to test focus, knowledge, critical thinking, and aptitude. The first 2 assignments are very basic.

Your goal

Demonstrate a good attitude: friendly, receptive, sociable, respectful, polite, hard working
Arrive before 7:00 PM so that you can make the most of the night
Complete all beginners material quickly
Read some books from the reading list (in particular Adam Hsu's The Sword Polisher's Record)
Build-up your strength and flexibility
Read this website as thoroughly as you can
Attend all lessons and workshops (if possible)
Seek to establish a home training regime appropriate to your grade

Your responsibility

Tai chi chuan membership does not pressure the student in any way. You may train as much or as little as you want.
Of course we would prefer all martial students to attend every class and train daily at home. But this is your concern, not ours.
We only get involved when you ask to do something that exceeds your capacity and the request is unrealistic/dangerous.


You may train weapons on weapons night providing you are capable of doing so safely. Students are required to supply their own weaponry. Rachel will indicate which ones are suitable.
Tai chi chuan students may study:

  1. Stick drills (3 sets)

  2. Knife drills

Workshops are important

Ideally, you want to gain the widest range of
fighting skills as quickly as you can. The greater the exposure to our syllabus, the faster you will learn.

Subject to fitness

Most of the workshops are suitable for all tai chi chuan students. Some are not. If in doubt, please ask Rachel for advice.


It is good to try a taster session for more advanced material. The experience will give you a sense of things to come, and the opportunity to see how different skills knit together as the syllabus unfolds.
However, the mainstay of your training must be suitable for your current grade.

Lessons with Sifu

Once you have completed the first belt to Rachel's satisfaction, you will start working with Sifu Waller. This will be a big step up in terms of training.
It will be mentally demanding as well as

Asking for more?

Prove that you can handle it. Read the FAQ regarding weapons forms. Our insurance company insists that students are taught relative to competence
If you want to learn more advanced material, you need to be capable of wielding the sword. Otherwise you will just get hurt. Do not ask for more if you are not going to put in the work.
Waller loathes time wasters.

Poor attendance?

Tai chi chuan students who do not attend lessons frequently enough will be moved to qigong & tai chi. This is for your own wellbeing rather than a penalty.
We must also adhere to the insurance requirements.
It is not possible to train any martial art with a low level of
commitment. All martial arts have a risk factor attached.
Poor attendance coupled with limited home practice is a recipe for injury

Poor fitness?

Students who show signs of poor fitness will be required to re-take the physical.
Tai chi chuan students who fail the physical will be moved to qigong & tai chi.


If a beginner considers themselves unable/unwilling to attend 12 workshops/boot camp/private lessons each calendar year, please don't insult your instructor by asking for charity.
Your time management skills and your finances have nothing to do with Sifu Waller. Don't try and make your problems his problem.
Should you feel incapable of attending the requisite number of additional training opportunities, either resign yourself to remaining in the beginners syllabus indefinitely or opt out and do qigong & tai chi instead.

Opt out

A tai chi student is welcome to opt out of the martial training any time they like. Switch to the qigong & tai chi syllabus instead.
This is a practical choice if you feel that the martial expectations are too much for you to manage.
Some people find the prospect of combat and the associated level of fitness to be intimidating or not suited to their requirements after all.

Refunds & cancellation

We request 7 days notice if you are planning to quit. That way the student has the time to cancel their standing order in advance.
Should the standing order be inadvertently sent after notice has been given, we will immediately refund the amount.

If you fail to give notice, don't attend classes or decide to cancel after the first of the month we will not refund the monthly fee.

school database

Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 6 February 2011