Tai Chi Classics

There are certain things that every tai chi student should know.
This knowledge and ability will enable the student to follow the teachings outlined in the
Tai Chi Classics.

Strict adhesion to the classics assures correct practice of tai chi, regardless of what style you practice.


Further reading?

• The Essence of Tai Chi Chuan - The Literary Tradition by Lo et al
• Tai Chi Secrets of the Ancient Masters by Yang Jwing-Ming
• Tai Chi Chuan: The Internal Tradition by Ron Sieh
• The Tai Chi Journey by John Lash
The Tai Chi Book by Robert Chuckrow

Neijiaquan: The Inner School


The real deal

A tai chi chuan syllabus must teach these items in a logical, systematic, incremental manner.

Each item warrants considerable study.
Incorporating the skills into your practice is no small endeavour and will require a lot of hard work.

Once your master has confirmed that you can do everything on the list, you will be following the Tai Chi Classics.
Your tai chi chuan will be the real thing.


Can you do it?

Many tai chi students have heard of the items included on this list. They may know what each item refers to. They may be able to talk about them in detail.
But can they actually manifest the skills?
This is what matters.

In taoism and zen, talk is cheap. Doing is what matters.


Tai Chi Master

Mastering tai chi requires the following:

• A lifelong commitment to the furtherance of the art
• Spontaneous demonstration of every and any aspect of the art
• The ability to train other people to become Tai Chi Instructors
• An embodiment of the principles outlined in the Tai Chi Classics
• Highly accurate rendition of every exercise/form/drill/application
• Extensive knowledge of every facet of every subject in the syllabus i.e. 'jing'
• An in-depth understanding of every facet of the exercise/form/drill/application
• How the exercise/form/drill/application links to other aspects of the curriculum
• The ability to dismantle and explain how and why the different components operate
• Grace, ease, subtlety, sensitivity, nimbleness, appropriateness, simplicity are all a given
• The willingness to train disciples to acquire every aspect of the teaching and perpetuate the art themselves
• Unselfconscious, skilled and utterly effective application of the art in combat employing chin na, jing and shuai jiao
• The ability to develop, improve and deliver a thorough, fully differentiated syllabus suitable for all ability levels and all ages
• The ability to dismantle and explain how and why every form posture operates and how it can be applied in at least 7 different ways
• Comprehensive theoretical knowledge and the ability to discuss and explain how taoism, martial theory and actual practice all tie together
• The ability to apply the tai chi principles (yielding, stickiness, peng, jing, composure, connection, 4 ounces etc) in every situation with absolute ease and certainty



The essence of the art

Every tai chi student in the world should be working towards acquiring these abilities and knowledge:
  1. 4 ounces of pressure
  2. 5 centres
  3. 6 balanced pairs
  4. 13 postures
  5. Accord
  6. Blending
  7. Central equilibrium
  8. Chin na (seizing): misplacing the bones, dividing the muscles, sealing the breath & cavity press
  9. Close-range combat
  10. Composure
  11. Connection
  12. Conservation of energy
  13. Double weightedness (avoidance of)
  14. Fa jing
  15. Filing
  16. Folding
  17. Freeform triangle
  18. Groundpath
  19. How to apply every form posture martially
    - at least 7 different ways
    - in a thorough & convincing manner
    - using shuai jiao, chin na & jing
    - in keeping with the Tai Chi Classics
  20. Invest in loss
  21. Jing
  22. Lead into emptiness
  23. Listening
  24. The meaning and application of the Tai Chi Classics
  25. The meaning and application of the martial classics
    - The Art of War
    - The Book of Five Rings
    - 36 Strategies
  26. The meaning and application of the taoist classics
    - The Way and Its Power
    - The Way of Chuang Tzu
    - The Book of Changes
  27. Mindfulness
  28. Moving from the centre
  29. Mutual arising
  30. Opening & closing
  31. Optimal use of alignment and structure
  32. Peng
  33. Practical applications of yielding
  34. Reeling silk
  35. Reverse breathing
  36. Shen
  37. Sinking & rooting
  38. Small circle movement
  39. Spontaneity
  40. Stickiness
  41. Strategy & tactics
  42. Substantial & insubstantial
  43. Sung
  44. Tzu-jan (of itself so)
  45. Uniting upper & lower
  46. Weaponry
  47. Whole-body movement
  48. Wu nien (not preparing)
  49. Wu wei (not forcing)
  50. Yin/yang
Please see Neijiaquan: The Inner School website for an explanation of much of this material.

This list is not comprehensive or exhaustive; it merely serves as an illustration. Many more skills might have been included.
Other tai chi schools might consider additional skills to be equally important.


Find the essence

A tai chi student seeks to explore all 8 areas of study.

The experience will be quite an adventure; demanding patience, tenacity, enthusiasm and curiosity.
There are many mysteries to be explored and secrets to be uncovered.
Within these areas of study there are at least 50 things that every tai chi student should know. 



The process of passing-on knowledge requires the student to re-think their own tai chi and examine how to explain things in a manner that makes sense to somebody else.
This leads to a better understanding of the art.
Teacher training takes time and necessitates the watchful guidance of a skilled master.



Tai chi chuan requires the student to move the body in an unusual manner.
Many students never realise this and practice the art as though it were yoga, wing chun or karate.

As a student progresses through the syllabus, the neigong concerns become increasingly intricate and subtle: with a small movement producing a disproportionately large effect.


Kung fu

Kung fu study is about learning how to use the tai chi chuan.
Without this knowledge and ability, a student is doomed to practice a meaningless set of movements that serve no real purpose.

Theory & philosophy

Correct practice of tai chi chuan requires the student to follow the teachings outlined in the Tai Chi Classics.
A wide variety of skills must be incorporated into your training.

Physical qualities include:

- 4 ounces, 6 balanced pairs, 13 postures, fa jing, folding, groundpath, opening & closing, reeling silk, shen, softness, substantial & insubstantial, sung, yielding

Taoist insights include:
- change, mutual arising, tao, te, tzu-jan, wu nien, wu wei, yin/yang



The aim of every serious martial artist is to be one with the moment, with what is happening. To be spontaneous, adaptive and responsive.

This requires the student to attain mindfulness, calm the mind and settle the emotions.