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What you start with

New students usually begin martial arts training with preconceptions, misconceptions and unrealistic ambitions in mind. They possess no skill. No knowledge. No experience.
Yet, the student has already determined just how hard/easy it will be and what will be involved in the training.

A notion

The new starter has an idea, a notion, an opinion. And nothing more. This idea is not the reality of the training.


This absurd starting point is typically the first obstacle facing a new student
. They will even judge the value of the class based on their expectations.

Taijiquan fighting method

There are 4 building blocks for the lower grade student:

  1. Strength & will 

  2. Body control

  3. Sensitivity

  4. Application

Without gaining competence with each level, the student cannot realistically proceed to the next. They simply lack the required degree of skill.

4 skills/4 levels

There are only 4 skills to learn:

  1. Qigong 

  2. Form

  3. Pushing hands

  4. Application

These 4 skills correspond directly with the building blocks mentioned above.

If, then

If you possess the coordination to perform qigong, then your form will build upon this capacity. It will require greater mobility and balance.
If your form is OK then you should be able to maintain peng, good positioning, stickiness and actively yield during pushing hands.
If you can employ all preceding skills successfully relative to a practice partner, then you will be able to apply the art in martial 'practice'.

Trip wire

Martial arts require proof of success at each stage of progress. This is akin to placing a trip wire low to the ground. To avoid falling flat on their face, the student must step higher.
The amateur/time waster is always tripped up.


Most students never get through the beginner's syllabus. Although the work is not hard, it is tougher than they expected so they fail from the onset

Based on what?

The problem facing students is their faith in what they know. They may have read a little about taijiquan or attended a few classes.
Although their actual skill is shallow, they fill in the blanks quite confidently. This is a mistake.


It is highly unlikely that the standards of a taijiquan instructor will correspond with those of a student. The road is steeper than you can imagine. But the journey is well worth the effort.

The journey of a lifetime

There are many books written by authors who have undertaken the journey. Read: Angry White Pyjamas,
Moving Zen, The Sword Polisher's Record, Zen in the Art of Archery et al.

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Page created 1 October 1996
Last updated 13 January 2020