4 types of student

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4 types of student

There are 4 types of student in your average tai chi class:

  1. Attender

  2. Student

  3. Indoor student of taijiquan

  4. Lineage student

1. Attender

Most people in tai chi classes are 'attenders'. An attender is somebody who joins a school and attends weekly lessons. This type of student comes to class most weeks but does no training at home.
For them, tai chi class is a pleasant evening out: a relaxing break from their everyday stresses and an opportunity to chill out in good company.

An oasis

Attenders enjoy the supportive atmosphere of trust and care they experience in our tai chi training hall. It is a safe place to be.
Our students interact with one another in a healthy, friendly manner, free from the competitive norms found in wider society.
There is no meanness or petty behaviour, no malice or sarcasm. Good humour, camaraderie, polite manners, consideration, respect and fun result in a pleasant training environment.


Attending class and working through the syllabus are sometimes mutually exclusive matters. Many people compartmentalise class.
They set aside Monday night for tai chi and have a great time but think no more about the art until next week. This is not at all the same as working through the grades.


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)

2. Student

By definition, a tai chi student is engaged in 'studying' e.g.:

  1. Lessons in class/explanations

  2. Practice in class

  3. Reading text books

  4. Heavy repetition of basic elements every day at home

  5. Revision

  6. Working through the syllabus; moving continually onto unfamiliar material

  7. Proof of progress

  8. Regular feedback 

Paying money for lessons does not mean that you are learning tai chi. It means that you are paying for lessons. And nothing more than that. What you choose to do with those lessons is up to you...
Indeed, you may not be learning at all. Learning is different from attending e.g. an attender will never become a martial artist.

Learning is active

A student of tai chi trains at home between classes and commits to a daily regime. They complete assignments with enthusiasm and attend workshops frequently.
They embrace adversity and hardship, passes grades with regularity and are actively working through the syllabus.
This type of student has chosen to treat tai chi as a daily tonic and wants their commitment to produce a notable result. They are above average in terms of commitment and attitude.

A commitment to wellbeing

A student of tai chi has made time in their life for tai chi. Their body receives a daily workout. They unkink those unpleasant aches and pains, stiff muscles and sore joints.
Every day their body is gently, softly encouraged to move freely and comfortably.

More ambitious?

Some people want to get fit from their tai chi and being fit entails a wide range of concerns e.g. increased flexibility, suppleness, strength, cardiovascular fitness, agility....
Getting in shape requires on-going, daily work. Adopting the right attitude radically affects your fitness. You are far more likely to exercise, eat properly, rest and organise your time constructively.
By taking responsibility for your fitness, you recognise what needs to be done and you actually do it.

Mind power

A tai chi student must cultivate a strong mental attitude. They need to be self-sufficient and rigorous. The training is hard. Nobody gains skill overnight.
To become competent at the art you must significantly change your habits, lifestyle and attitude.

Martial expectations

A taijiquan student is thinking in terms of decades. They are aiming to train for a lifetime... They train patiently every day. Their expectations are realistic.
Neither lazy nor complacent, the student works through the many challenges and obstacles, becoming stronger, calmer and more adept.

McDojo mentality

Modern students often expect high-level skills to emerge almost immediately. In any martial art this is improbable. For an advanced martial art it is certainly not realistic.
Progress cannot happen overnight. Your rate of progress is entirely contingent upon how much time and effort you invest.

3. Indoor student

Some students are more earnest: they want to learn the nuances, extra insights and skills. They may want fast-track progress or martial skills sooner rather than later.
They may want to explore a particular field of interest in greater detail.
The determined and exceptional individual considers tai chi to be a significant part of their life. They have made a notable commitment and are willing to make sacrifices.
They do not need to be told to work hard

Indoor doesn't mean 'lineage'

People might imagine that we expect them to leap from 'student' status to being someone like Sifu Waller. This is implausible. Remember that Sifu Waller was a 'lineage student'...
Indoor status is mainly self-serving. Lineage is not.


Not many people are cut out for lineage but most keen people are capable of becoming an indoor student and would benefit from that extra attention.
An indoor student wants to accelerate their progress and gain further perspective on just how amazing the art can be.
They have a priority shift; focussing more to a higher degree on what interests them. Being an indoor student is about personal progress, not lineage.

Ability begets ability

People who excel, do so because they put in more time and commit to greater practice than other people do. They also receive regular feedback, learn from their mistakes and get better (continuously).
Read Grit, Smarter Faster Better, 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, The Power of Habit and Peak... Find out for yourself.

Direct transmission

Interaction with the instructor is of particular importance for students who want to climb high, as this commonly entails the passing-on of knowledge, bespoke physical corrections and the exploration of deeper philosophical issues pertinent to the training.
Nothing compares to one-to-one work with the instructor. You feel how they move, how soft they are and what they are doing.
It is not about the methods and responses they manifest. It is the Way of their moving, the essence. Everyone who spends time partnered with the teacher undergoes a transformation in their tai chi.

A cunning thief...

An indoor student aims to steal their teacher's art.
The real tai chi is beyond the verbal. Only by taking responsibility for their own learning can a student hope to learn the true depth of the art.
They must transcend the ordinary expectations of learning and far exceed their own ambitions.

4. Lineage student

A lineage student has a
t least 5 years unbroken taijiquan training with our school and are dan standard.
The individual possesses a
high level of competence with form, takes the initiative when it comes to promoting/supporting the class and undertakes study, research and assignments with enthusiasm.
Their sense of humour helps them to maintain humility and perspective despite their superior skill level and high order commitment.

What type of student are you?

Most likely an attender. If you train at home every day then you are a tai chi student. Your level of commitment speaks for itself.

As you like it...

Students are taught relative to initiative. Passive people are left alone; they attend, they enjoy the night and there may be a minor improvement each week.
By contrast, active learners make the best use of their time and make the most of every training opportunity.
Everyone is encouraged to work at the pace that best suits their own interest, motivation and grade. We avoiding putting students under pressure.
If you want to train at home, then do so. If you do not, then that is OK too but you may need to adjust your ambitions accordingly.

You decide

If a person wants to move to the next stage of training, the opportunity is there. The criteria is clearly stated and the student knows what skills are necessary.
Whether or not the individual is prepared to do the required work is entirely up to the student
. We don't decide what you can or cannot do. You decide this for yourself. By the proof of your actions.

Asking Rachel...

Some people approach Rachel and tell her that they want to become a martial artist... OK.
What do they want Rachel to say?
It isn't up to Rachel, or even Sifu Waller. It's up to you. The eligibility criteria is clearly stated on the website.
And, even if you start taijiquan practice, you will only become a martial artist if you train like one...

Consider this: Most people live lives that are not particularly physically challenging. They sit at a desk, or if they move around, it's not a lot. They aren't performing manoeuvres that require tremendous balance and coordination. Thus they settle into a low level of physical capabilities - enough for day-to-day activities or maybe even hiking or biking or playing golf or tennis on the weekends, but far from the level of physical capabilities that a highly trained athlete possesses.

The reason that most people don't possess extraordinary physical capabilities isn't because they don't have the capacity for them, but rather because they're satisfied to live in the comfortable rut of homeostasis and never do the work that is required to get out of it.

The same thing is true for all the mental activities we engage in. We learn enough to get by but once we reach that point we seldom push to go beyond.

(Anders Ericsson)

More information

Advanced martial art
A beginner forever...
The essence of the art
Forgotten how to learn?
Indoor student of taijiquan
Inner school
Inner teachings
A life less ordinary
The road less travelled

Steal my art
Strong mental attitude

school database

Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 15 February 2020