Grades explained

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Most tai chi classes do not have grades or
belts or even a syllabus. How come? Who knows?
Even modern China has implemented some sort of grading/belt structure inspired by the Japanese model.

Cycling & gears

Have you ever seen people cycling down the road? Quite often the cyclist is pedalling frantically but not really getting anywhere. How come? Many cyclists don't know how to use the gears...

The seeker wants another level of mind
and strives for it without distraction
like a grandmother shopping at market.

(Loy Ching-Yuen)


The idea behind gears is to enable the cyclist to rotate the pedals at a comfortable walking pace: regardless of terrain. By adjusting the gear, the easy, comfortable rotation is maintained.
When a cyclist pedals frantically and goes no faster, they are obviously using the wrong gear. To solve the problem they simply need to increase the gear...

Grades are like gears

Taijiquan skill cannot be cheated, bullied or forced. Steady, even sustained work is necessary. The student should be working at a measured, comfortable pace at all times.
Forward progress is inevitable unless the student stops pedalling altogether.

Changing gear

If the taijiquan material seems too easy, then the student should go up a gear. This is accomplished by working through every item on the syllabus associated with that grade. Including assignments

There are many similarities between the hard and soft fighting systems; both use animal movements and forms, for example, and both incorporate the five elements, but because of the Taoist influence, the soft arts exhibit a stronger and deeper relationship with the natural world.

Since the Taoist concepts are rooted in the most distant past with the most ancient beliefs of the Chinese, it is difficult for the Western mind to understand them. Therefore, before you can investigate the internal martial arts, you must first back to the very origins of thought in ancient China.

(Howard Reid)

Right gear

A student may think that they are worth a higher grade and should be training in a higher grade. Prove it. If you have not completed every item for your grade, you are exactly where you need to be.
Cherry-picking indicates arrogance and naivety. It is also dishonest

Hard terrain

If you are finding assignments tough to complete, then this is great news. You have found your weakness. Remedy it.
There is now an opportunity to turn your weakest area of skill (the mind) into your strongest skill: embrace the challenge.
Failure to address the weakness simply serves to validate and confirm that the weakness was correctly identified by the syllabus.

A higher gear

When used correctly, cycle gears enable the cyclist to move faster and cover more terrain without actually pedalling any harder. This is in fact the purpose of the gears. Grades are the same.
A student will find each new grade just challenging enough but not overwhelming.

Personal challenges

For students who want to increase gears more frequently there are personal challenges that you can set yourself:

  1. Full circle qigong

  2. Qigong development

  3. 100 days challenge

There is no pressure to undertake these challenges - we will not seek to persuade you either way - nor offer counsel. Ultimately the challenge is for you, so you must decide for yourself.

Wrong gear

Should the student be trying really hard but getting nowhere, clearly they are in the wrong grade entirely. This is like pedalling like crazy. It is pointless and frustrating.
Sifu Waller will move the student to the appropriate grade for their ability level

Gears understood

When you get the hang of gears, cycling becomes far less strenuous. The syllabus and the grades are just the same.
e.g. a student works on 'form applications' because they have the necessary stamina, strength, aptitude with form, hours of practice, experience and theoretical understanding to handle that topic without having to try too hard.

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Page created 18 August 2002
Last updated 15 February 2020