12 week challenge

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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. Tempted?

Why bother?

Most people who start tai chi classes don't make a lot of progress. They have a nice time. They explore new material. They chat. They relax. They feel good.
But they don't move up the syllabus...
Treating tai chi like a drop in session is fine if that's what you want to do. But don't kid yourself that it's '


When life is too easy, we become lazy. Difficulty causes you to be more creative because the demands of the situation require a more flexible, adaptive mind and body.
That is why we propose challenges.

Get strong

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.

Don't be lazy

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

Embrace challenges

Dr. K. Anders Ericsson found that long-term intensive practice of any demanding discipline will lead to a measurable increase in grey matter. Your brain can literally get stronger - just like a muscle.
Providing you stay out of your comfort zone and don't stop developing your skills.

Stretch goal

A stretch goal is where you have an idea/goal/target that takes you far outside your comfort zone. Typically a stretch goal sounds tough, unreasonable or unrealistic. Intimidating.
This is the entire point. A stretch goal necessitates major upheaval and change.


You cannot just leap from where you are right now to the end result. It isn't going to happen.
A stretch goal isn't like taking a product off the supermarket shelf and then paying for it at the checkout. You're going to have to think it through somewhat...
Consider what is necessary to be able to achieve the desired outcome.

Be honest

Ask yourself:

  1. How much time do you need to set aside for practice?

  2. Do you have any supplementary resources? School DVDs?

  3. How much time can you commit to watching the DVDs?

  4. Can you remember the exercises explored during the Induction Course?

  5. Have you asked Rachel to tick off the Induction Course exercises?

  6. Can you make it to class earlier in order to receive tips/pointers/corrections?

  7. Do you take notes?

  8. Have you tried doing your qigong in front of a mirror so that you can evaluate accuracy?

  9. Can you perform each exercise using either your right or left hand?

  10. Are you genuinely keen to get past the lowest level of training/understanding?

  11. Are there any workshops on offer that might help to increase your grasp of the art?

Deliberate practice

Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool, Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg,
Grit by Angela Duckworth and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg all maintain that progress is best accomplished by employing 'deliberate practice'.
This entails carefully monitoring your progress and ensuring that you are continually improving. Seek proof.
Hard work alone is not enough, though.
Simply working hard will not necessarily lead to progress. It needs to be deliberate, focused improvement designed to improve your practice by developing key skills outlined by your instructor.
The student must implement corrections, study the teachings, deepen their understanding and challenge their comfort zone.

SMART goals

Set small goals for yourself that can be achieved. Nothing outrageous. Your aim is to pass the qigong exercises. Do this methodically and systematically.


If you experience any memory problems, this is easy to address. Firstly, clear your mind before practice. Switch off your phone, the TV, the PC. Go somewhere quiet. Or get up early...
Secondly, practice more frequently. Little and often. We remember what we do every day. Develop a daily routine for yourself.

Month 1

Start sensibly.
Can you remember/reproduce the exercises explored during the Induction Course? If yes, then ask Rachel to tick them off.
Now, look at the qigong ticksheet. The standing qigong exercises are very easy to learn and remember. Pushing peng is simple. Seek to get those ticked off next.
Then move onto the reeling silk exercises:

  1. Plate exercise

  2. Standing post

  3. 4 directions - forwards & backwards

  4. 4 directions - to the side

  5. Opening & closing - to the side

  6. Cloud hands

Work through the 6 exercises one-by-one.

Month 2

Ba duan jin only features 8 basic exercises. If you learn at least 3 per week, you'll pass no problem.

Month 3

The third month is for moving qigong. This will be more difficult. However, if you've been practicing all of the preceding material on a daily basis, your strength, coordination and memory will be better.
Work through the 8 exercises one-by-one.

Allow time for corrections

You may think you've mastered the exercise. Rachel may not. Allow for this. Unless you are a qualified taijiquan instructor, you are in no position to evaluate the quality of your own training.

Do the exercises have to be in order?

This is one of those tongue-in-cheek questions where the teacher struggles to think of a polite reply. Of course the exercise have to be in order. The order helps you to learn and reproduce them.
It also helps your brain get used to patterns and sequences - which is vital for tai chi

Can you use handouts for reference?

No. If you need a handout, you don't know the material well enough

Still a beginner

Students who are still making beginners mistakes need to spend longer working on the errors. They won't go away by ignoring them and learning new things.
If you can't do the material you've already been shown, why ask for more? You won't be able to do that material correctly either because the basics are poor.


Don't be disheartened if you don't learn every exercise within 12 weeks. Look back over your SMART goals and see if they were unrealistic or if you didn't stick to them. Try again.
If you've been practicing qigong for 100 days, then you've already passed the 100 day challenge. A bonus? Well done.


Don't stop now. Keep it going. Set yourself new targets. How long will it take to finish your form? Pass the beginners syllabus? Read a book from the reading list? Do an assignment?
This attitude of positive growth and change will affect all areas of your life.


Taijiquan students have to undertake a full syllabus revision every year. In addition to grading. Adopting a 12 week challenge attitude can help the keener student get through this rapidly.


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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 18 February 2020