Are you a Black Belt in Tai Chi and Qigong?

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A Black Belt in Tai Chi?  A Green Belt in Qigong?  Seriously?

Don’t worry, folks.  I haven’t gone nuts.  Traditionally, there are no belts in these arts, and I have no plans to mess with that tradition.  However, I think that the following question may be useful for Tai Chi and Qigong practitioners:

Question: What belt would I be?

Year ago, I earned black belts in 2 different styles of Karate, so I know that there are advantages and disadvantages to the belt system.  One disadvantage is that belts are often given out for money rather than merit.  One advantage, however, is that students have a good idea where they stand in the curriculum.

Let’s imagine that you’ve been practicing Tai Chi or Qigong consistently for about 2 years.  Where do you stand in the curriculum?  If there were belts, what belt would you be?

For fun, I’ve created the following checklist.  It’s not perfect, and please don’t come asking me for your Green Belt, but I think that it may be useful for some of you. If you can check off 90% of a given list, then you can promote yourself to the next belt. If you find this checklist useful, then please post your thoughts and experiences below.

(Note: the checklist below is specific to my school, but I’m sure that those of you from other schools can still benefit from this thought experiment.)

You are a White Belt if…

You are a Yellow Belt if…

  • You have learned face-to-face from a good instructor.
  • You have been practicing regularly for at least 6 months.
  • You know Lifting the Sky.
  • You can do Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow on your own.
  • You know the 15-Minute Routine.
  • You practice at least 5 times a week (not including classes).
  • You have kept a progress chart for 3 months.
  • You have seen progress in at least 2 areas of health and vitality.
  • Tai Chi only – You know the Wuji Stance.
  • Tai Chi only – You know some strength and flexibility Qigong.
  • Tai Chi only – You know at least 1 variation of Cloud Hands.

You are a Green Belt if…

  • You have received at least 24 hours of face-to-face instruction from a good instructor.
  • You have been practicing regularly for at least 1 year.
  • You practice at least 25 days per month.
  • You have seen progress in 4 areas of health and vitality.
  • You know 9 of the 18 Luohan Hands.
  • You are at least 90% pain free.
  • Tai Chi only – You can do 10 repetitions of Three Levels to Ground.
  • Tai Chi only – You cultivate Internal Force at least 3 days a week.
  • Tai Chi only – You can easily do Hugging the Tree for 10 minutes.
  • Tai Chi only – You know Grasping Sparrow’s Tail.
  • Tai Chi only – You know the 7 Warrior Postures.

You are a Brown Belt if…

  • You have received at least 48 hours of instruction from a good instructor.
  • You have been practicing regularly for at least 2 years.
  • You practice almost every day.
  • You have resolved at least 1 health issue.
  • You know most of the 18 Luohan Hands
  • You are at least 95% pain free.
  • Tai Chi only – You can touch your toes without bending your knees.
  • Tai Chi onlyYou know most of The Art of Flexibility.
  • Tai Chi only – You cultivate Internal Force at least 5 days a week.
  • Tai Chi only – You can easily do Three Circles for 15 minutes.
  • Tai Chi only – You can defend against basic pushes.

You are a Black Belt if…

  • You have received at least 72 hours of instruction from a good instructor.
  • You have been practicing regularly for at least 4 years.
  • You know all 18 Luohan Hands.
  • You know all 12 Sinew Metamorphosis.
  • You can cleanse at the Bone Level.
  • You can do Abdominal Breathing.
  • You can feel dantian clearly.
  • You have clearly felt pulsations at mingmen and baihui.
  • You are 99% pain free.
  • You are healthy.
  • You are full of energy.
  • Tai Chi only – You know at least 2 Tai Chi sets.
  • Tai Chi only – You cultivate Internal Force almost every day.
  • Tai Chi only – You can use Tai Chi to defend against basic punches.
  • Tai Chi only – You can use Tai Chi to defend against basic kicks.
  • Tai Chi only – You can use Tai Chi to defend against basic throws.
  • Tai Chi only – You can use Tai Chi to defend against basic grips and locks.

Mindfully yours,
Sifu Anthony

I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world to use qigong for their own stubborn health issues. I teach online courses, and also lead in-person retreats and workshops.
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19 Responses to Are you a Black Belt in Tai Chi and Qigong?

  1. Mary Bast March 20, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    This is interesting, surprising, and motivating. I assumed I would have a green belt, but I’m only half-green. 🙂 Looking forward to gaining more skills (and to pictures). Thank you for this clarity.

    • Sifu Anthony March 21, 2012 at 9:38 am #

      I’m glad that you found it motivating, Mary.

  2. Carole Bosch March 21, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    I Found it super motivating!!!!! for sure yellow belt! going on to green belt!
    I like it! thankyou!

  3. Maggie March 21, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    Thank you for the checklist. I found it gave me a sense of accomplishment or at least it will give me a sense of accomplishment. I am only a white belt at the moment but am happy to have skills to work towards.
    I am very excited about my new journey and even though I have found this path late in life (60) I have already felt benefits both in my mind and body.
    Thank you Sifu Anthony.

  4. Bill B March 22, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    A very useful analogy Sifu Anthony.

    It gives a very meaningful perspective to an otherwise esoteric collection of disciplines.

    it has given me more clarity on the big picture.

    i am looking forward to you filling in even more detail on each of these skills.

    Thank you for your dedication to detail and thoroughness in teaching.

  5. David Young March 23, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    Interesting concept you have going there.. I have determined I am a Brown Belt in Chi Kung, so to speak.. At least I can determine where I stand. And by the way some Traditional Kung Fu school’s use “Sashes” for the awareness of how much one has attained or progressed…

    • Sifu Anthony March 23, 2012 at 11:35 am #

      David, colored sashes are not traditional. They are a modern invention adopted in order to compete with the Karate and Judo belt systems. Traditional Kung Fu sashes had nothing to do with rank or attainment.

      • David Young March 23, 2012 at 11:34 pm #

        Yes I am fully aware that the Modern Sashes are more of an incentive to join with a Kung Fu school, claiming Tradtional Style or no.. Just pointing out another idea that is all…Though we are more accustomed to Karate Belts. Still I like where you are going with a way to determine progress..

  6. JR September 4, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    To be completely honest, this post was rather startling to me! I’ve becoming something of a big time traditionalist, so I was a little taken aback by the idea of belts being issued to practitioners of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. I am not at all trying to say that my cup is full, of course. I was just saying that I was really shocked at first at the thoughts of giving out ranks for this particular art. I’ve heard of schools that do that, and it seems really strange to me. As a motivational tool, though, this makes a lot of sense and I wasn’t trying to be critical one bit!

    Since I’m trained according to a different progression, things are a bit different for me. Nevertheless, it’s still pretty inspirational and proves that there’s no end to the amount of things left to learn in the traditional arts. I wish I would have discovered this earlier, and been more open to it. In the past, I eschewed the martial arts and thought that many of these concepts were ridiculous. I accept, today, that I was seriously misguided but I also realize that no amount of wishing is going to bring back tomorrow. I can only work to move forward with that much greater fervor to make up for lost time.

    • Sifu Anthony September 4, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

      JR, just to be clear, we don’t actually have belts in my school. It’s just an analogy.

      • JR September 5, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

        Oh, I totally realize that now! I was just saying I was startled at first, but now I can how great a motivational tool this can really be. I also wanted to say that it makes me realize just how far I still have to go in my training, which is naturally never complete.

        Thank you.

        • Sifu Anthony September 5, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

          Motivating students is super important. That’s one of the main reasons why I wrote this article.

  7. Beth Acampora November 6, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    Very nice. We didn’t use belts in our system, either, but this listing is a good reference for progress. Nothing wrong with a little organization and goal setting —

  8. Glen August 23, 2014 at 10:35 am #

    Hello, Sifu Anthony, I had to laugh at all this, I see what you were getting at.

    In philosophy or life often the trees block the view of the forrest so to speak.

    You have a Nice Web sight. I am glad to have found it and perused it. congratulations.

    By the way you have written your material you have much wisdom and a good heart, it is good to see. I hope that you keep that spirit.

    Myself? I started learning Qigong from my mother about 49 years ago and spent many a hour training under many different teachers of different styles of Martial arts and healing for many years. Some teachers 90 years old, some not so. All is a journey. I have had the same mission as yourself, and I have been teaching for free, for about 35 years.

    there are many forms of Qigong and aspects that are recorded, many are not sadly.

    There is one thing that is consistent in all, whether they be martial arts or health related aspects of The way.

    “When teacher becomes student and student becomes teacher, Oh what joy… ” :o)

    personally I will always be a white belt :o)

    I believe that we prepare the way for others to become teachers. whether they are our children or those students we take in as family, the goal is often the same. every one has a wealth of life experience from which all of us can learn, even the wisdom from a child.

    Remeber Above all else, carry your stillness within you wherever you go..

    May peace, good health. happiness. and harmony find you always amongst good friends. Glen

  9. Paul March 13, 2017 at 3:46 am #

    Going to my first Tai Chi class this event. Very much looking forward to the journey.

  10. stevetaichi June 2, 2017 at 7:58 pm #

    i am very excited about your post. This has sparked me to go back and look at my training thus far and categorize what i have learned and apply it to your progression. Although the style is different the mindfulness and intent is the same. This is not only for me but also my students. I will be able to address weak spots in my [their] training. Belts are good for holding up your pants. but using that analogy how big or strong is your belt and what is it holding up.
    well done.

  11. Fr. David July 14, 2017 at 11:26 am #

    Please explain to me the idea of defending against punches kicks or pushes and grabs. That sounds more like a martial art when i thought it was mostly an exercise for getting in touch with physical energy.

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