Taijiquan syllabus

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If you want to move up a grade there are 2 things to keep in mind:

  1. Weekly attendance

  2. Workshop/boot camp/private lesson attendance 

Sifu Waller will not grade you if you have not committed to enough training opportunities this year. This is standard practice in most martial arts classes.

Not revision

Grading is not revision. It is pass or fail.


Some students find grading to be very rewarding and useful. They are truly grateful for the opportunity to correct their many errors.

Fragile ego?

Other students are affronted by the realisation that their taijiquan quality isn't quite what they thought it was...
Instead of humility, they respond with vanity, ego, emotion, pride, arrogance and defensiveness.
This latter attitude is cringy and not appropriate for a martial arts class. Compared to an instructor, what possible worth is the opinion of a student?


There is absolutely no scope for negotiation. The instructor's word is final. We keep grading friendly and informal, but if you don't know the material, you don't now the material.

When you come to the dojo, it is a recognition the teacher there has something you want. He will give it to you in his own way. You must accept that. If you do not, you are free to leave. The dojo, however, is never run by consensus.

(Dave Lowry)

Self-assessment is worthless

A student is unfit to judge their own training.
On what basis is the student assessing their taijiquan? How are they measuring the skill? What criteria are being applied? Which qualities do they consider to be valuable?
Do they really understand The Tai Chi Classics? Does their art embody the Taoist precepts?
A martial art has measurable skills and clear standards. Opinions are irrelevant.

Fit to judge

Unless you are a qualified taijiquan instructor, you are in no position to evaluate the quality of your own training. And even then, most instructors are grateful for corrections and new insights.

Corrections are vital

Frequently an individual is making a whole range of mistakes - ranging from minor to major - that they are completely unaware of. The long-term practice of errors is harmful to the body.
They need to be identified and corrected ASAP.

No longer a beginner?

Prove it. The whole point of the grading is to give students the opportunity to prove that they are no longer a beginner. Expect no latitude or charity.
 This is your grading.

External examiner

Most martial arts ask an external, impartial examiner to assess the quality of their student's skill.
The examiner doesn't know the students and marks the material on a 'pass/fail' basis based on the performance of the given student. Sadly this practice is uncommon in Chinese martial arts.

What will be tested?

Every single thing you have encountered in the syllabus so far. Sifu Waller is very thorough

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)

Can you use handouts for reference?

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


If you pass the grading you get to move up a grade. It's that simple.

Try again next month

If a student is not yet fit enough or competent enough to move up the syllabus, they stay where they are and work on the deficiencies exposed by the assessment.
Focussed revision and refinement is advised. Repeated failure will be considered 'struggling'...

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.

Further reading

Comfort zone

school database

Page created 1 March 1997
Last updated
28 June 2012