Tai Chi for Health - Curriculum

Ancient Wisdom for The New You’s Tai Chi for Health Ranking System
by Shifu Andrew Plitt

     Although Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) traditionally has no ranking system, I felt it was necessary to create this system to make sure my curriculum is structured and my students get the most out of their training. 

     This system not only allows my students and me to keep track of their progress, it also encourages each student to continue training each skill that they learn.  As you can see from the list of requirements there are 3 levels to each rank.  When a student tests for the 2nd level of a rank, they must retest the 1st level skills.  When they test for a 3rd level, they must retest the 1st and 2nd level skills.  This encourages each student to review and refresh his or her skills frequently, and facilitates better learning.  

     When a student is moving from the "beginner ranks" (white - orange) to the "intermediate ranks" (purple - blue) they must retest all skills learned in the "beginner" section, then test for their 1st level Purple Rank.  When a student is moving from the "intermediate ranks" (purple - blue) to the "advanced ranks" (red - black) they must retest all of the "beginner" and "intermediate" skills, then test for the 1st level Red Rank.

     My desire is to make my students fully capable to teaching Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) and Qigong anywhere in the world and be able to offer real substance to anyone interested in learning from them by the time they reach their Instructor Rank.  But I do want to emphasize that the ranks are not the point here.  The knowledge and skills are the point and the ranks are just a way to offer structured learning and accomplishment recognition for my students.

I do require my students to test unless doing so violates their personal beliefs.  Testing should not be stressful, but rather a fun experience where each student gets to show what they have learned.  I encourage my Tai Chi for Health students to think of it more as "Show and Tell" rather than and examination.  Some of the testing will seem slightly physically demanding, but this is a good measure by which a student can assess their progress.

Required Book for Testing Students:  Students wishing to earn rank will need to purchase the book, Tai Chi--The Perfect Exercise: Finding Health, Happiness, Balance, and Strength by Shifu Arthur Rosenfeld, before their first test because there will be required reading from this book for each rank test.  I understand that people have busy lives and I am not trying to make life more hectic by assigning “homework,” which is why the required reading sections only need to be completed before rank tests.  There are usually several months that pass between tests, so the small amount of reading should be very easy to complete.  When I read this book I was very impressed with the way in which the author presented many of the foundational concepts of Tai Chi in very easy-to-understand terms.  He covers just about every basic concept you will need for your Tai Chi training and does so with respect to other styles and points of view.  I feel that this book will not only help clarify questions, but also act as an aid to your practice times away from class.  There will not be a written portion to the rank tests, so the information in the required reading section of the rank test is for your deeper understanding of Tai Chi.  The only proof of reading that I will require is that you bring your copy of the book to each rank test and that you verbally affirm that you have completed the reading required for that test.  On a final note, it should be remembered that this book is written by a practitioner of Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan, while our learning is a mixture of Chen Style and Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan.  This is important to note because some of the things in the book will not fit exactly with what we do, but the concepts contained in the book are beneficial regardless of style.  So you will come across things in your reading that are different, but I see this as a benefit because it will cause you to form questions that you might not have thought of otherwise, and it will give you a wider perspective of the world of Tai Chi beyond what we do in class.  That being said, this is a book that I would recommend to all of my students, whether they are planning to test or not.

Below is a list of Ranks and the Required Skills in Which a Student Must be Proficient to Earn Each Rank.  

The Tai Chi for Health Ranking System works as follows:

  • A Small Rectangular Colored Patch worn on the left side collar of a student's uniform indicates their color rank.
  • Small Yin/Yang pins worn on the right side collar of a student's uniform indicates their level within the color rank
  • Examples:
    • The rank of White Patch, Level 1
      • The student will have a white patch on their left collar and no Yin/Yang pins on their right collar
    • The rank of White Patch, Level 2
      • The student will have a white patch on their left collar and one yin/yang pin on their right collar.
    • The rank of White Patch, Level 3
      • The student will have a white patch on their left collar and two yin/yang pins on their right collar
  • When a student advances to a new Color Patch Rank, the old color patch is replaced with the new one and the yin/yang pins are removed until a new level within that color patch rank is achieved. 
    • Example:
      • When the White Patch, Level 3 student from above tests for their Yellow Patch, Level 1; Their left collar will have a Yellow Patch on it and their right collar will have no yin/yang pins on it. A yin/yang pin will be added to their right collar when they reach Yellow Patch Level 2, etc.




White Patch (beginner):

Level 1 (No yin/yang pins)
  • 8 Fundamental Stances – Static  (Ji Ben Ba Shi)
    • Able to hold each Stance for 30 seconds 
      • Horse Stance
      • Bow and Arrow Stance
      • Sitting on Crossed Legs Stance
      • Four-Six Stance
      • Tame the Tiger Stance
      • False Stance
      • Rooster Stands on One Leg Stance
      • T-Step
  • Wushu Salute and Its Meaning
    •  Explain the meaning of the fist
    •  Explain the meaning of the Hand
    •  Explain why they are held the way they are
    •  Explain where the thumb of the left hand should be and why
  • Required Reading
    • "Etiquette" P~195-197
    • "Classes" P~197-200
    • "Introduction- What is Tai Chi?" P~1-17

Level 2 (One yin/yang pin on the right collar)
  • All components of Level 1, plus the following:
  • 5 Stepping Practices – Solo and with a partner (Wu Bu)
    • Stepping Forward
    • Stepping Backward
    • Stepping to the Left – Inside and Outside
    • Stepping to the Right – Inside and Outside
    • Keeping the Center
  • Required Reading:
    • Chapter 5 Intro: P~97-99
    • "Qi Flow in the Body" P~99-103
    • "Tai Chi Breathing" P~104-106
    • "What is Qigong?" P~106-109 
      • Note: in this section Shifu Rosenfeld discusses a Qigong set called "The Eight Pieces of Brocade" and explains the movements of the set.  The movements that are described in this section of the book are in essence the same as those that I teach, but vary in detail.  This is a good example of the variety that exists in Chinese martial arts and Qigong sets.  For instructions on the Eight Pieces of Brocade Qigong set that I learned and teach please view my "8 Pieces of Brocade Qigong" video series on YouTube.  (If you are up for some fun, try comparing the exercises taught in the book, with the exercises in my videos and try to find the differences.  Make a list of those differences, then try each version of the exercises and make note of the different sensations you feel during each, then try to construct a logical reason for why each exercise variation exists based on what it does for the body.)
    • "Staying on a Good Qigong Path" P~110
    • "Belly Breathing" P~113-114
Level 3 (Two yin/yang pins on the right collar)
  • All components of Level 1 and Level 2, plus the following: 
  • Yang Tai Chi 10 Posture Form:
    •    Entire form from beginning to end without stopping. The form should flow smoothly without any pauses to think about where you are or your next move.  You should know the form well enough that each move flows into the next naturally. 
      • 1. Begin Taiji
      • 2. Repulse the Monkey
      • 3. Brush Knee and Push
      • 4. Parting the Horse's Mane
      • 5. Cloud hands
      • 6. Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg
      • 7. Kick with Heel - Right and Left
      • 8. Grasp Sparrow's Tail
      • 9. Cross Hands
      • 10. Close Taiji
  • Basic Off-Balancing Concepts
    • Explain the concept of the “3rd leg of the triangle”
    • Demonstrate where you want to lead someone to take them off balance from Horse Stance, Bow and Arrow Stance, and Four-Six Stance
      • Note: Since this curriculum is not focused on the martial side of Tai Chi, this exercise is to help each student to better understand their own balance.
  • Required Reading
    • Intro to Chapter 9: P~191
    • "Practice" P~192-195
    • Intro to Chapter 1: P~19-20
    • "The Iron Lollipop" P~ 21


Yellow Patch (beginner): 

Level 1 (No yin/yang pins)
  • Required Reading
    • "Specifics of Tai Chi Relaxation" P~22-23
    • "Harmonious Body Mechanics" P~24-26
    • "Rejuvenation and Repair" P~26-28
Level 2 (One yin/yang pin on right collar)
  • All components of Level 1, plus the following:
  • Required Reading
    • "Rooted in the Wondrous Past"  P~ 53-55
    • Chapter 2 Intro P~ 39-40
    • "The Importance of Roots"  P~ 40-41
    • "Palm Trees, Gravity, Earth and Space" P~ 41-43
Level 3 (Two yin/yang pins on right collar)
  • All components of Level 1 and Level 2, plus the following:
  • 8 Doors (or 8 Jins) of  Tai Chi (Peng, Lu, Ji, An, Cai, Lie, Zhou, Kao)
    • Must explain the concept and show at least two moves from previous training that demonstrate each of the 8 doors.
  • Required Reading
    • "The Less Tangible Roots of Tai Chi Lineage and Tradition"  P~ 43-44
    • "Transmitting Force to the Ground"  P~46-47
    • "Rooting Through Angles"  P~ 48-49
    • "Top-Secret Tai Chi Movements and Energies" P~ 41-43
      • After reading the above section read the following explanations for Peng, Lu, Ji, and An from a Yang Style Tai Chi perspective.  The perspective presented by Shifu Rosenfeld is from a Chen Style Perspective.  Note how the two perspectives are similar and how they are different. (Click each on to read the description):
    • "Taoist Master and Tai Chi"  P~ 74-75

Orange Patch (beginner):
Level 1 (No yin/yang pin on collar)
  • Ability to Hold 8 Fundamental Stances for 1 Minute Each
  • Keeping the Center (i.e the Rabbit and Hunter Game)
  • Required Reading
      • "The River of Life"  P~ 136-137
      • Chapter 6 Intro P~ 121-122
      • "What is Tai Chi Sensitivity?"  P~ 122-123
      • "Eavesdropping on a Hidden World" P~ 123-124
      • "Rabbit and Hunter"  P~ 183-184
Level 2 (One yin/yang pin on right collar)
  • All components of Level 1, plus the following:
  • Yang Side Tai Chi Push Hands: Yin Yang Pattern
    • Solo and Partner Practice
      • Rocking Practice
      • Forward and Backward Stepping Practice
      • Circle Stepping Practice
  • Required Reading
    • Chapter 3 Intro  P~ 57-58
    • "A Special Twist on Flexibility" P~ 58-59
    • "The Towel, The Corkscrew, and The Spine"  P~ 59-60
    • "The Gyroscope we Call Dantian" P~ 60-61

Level 3 (Two yin/yang pins on right collar)
  • All components of Level 1 and Level 2, plus the following:
  • Yin Side Tai Chi Push Hands: Yin Yang Pattern
    • Solo and Partner Practice
      • Rocking Practice
      • Forward and Backward Stepping Practice
      • Circle Stepping Practice
  • Push Hands: Coiling Stationary
    • Clock Wise
    • Counter Clock Wise
  • Required Reading
    • "Watering Your Mind"  P~ 61-63
    • "Straight Line Vs. Spiral"  P~ 68-69
    • "Spirals In Our Joints"  P~ 70-71
    • "Rooting With a Partner" P~ 50-52



Purple Patch (intermediate):

Level 1 (No yin/yang pins)
  • Retest skills from all previous tests, plus the following:
  • Push Hands: Coiling Pattern – Moving Practice
    • Clockwise
    • Counter Clockwise
    • Changing Direction
  • Required Reading
    • Chapter 8 Intro P~ 165
    • "Martial Tai Chi in the Modern World"  P~  165-167
    • "Important Martial Concepts"  P~ 167-169
    • "Tai Chi's Unique Combative Flavor" P~ 185-187
Level 2 (One yin.yang patch on right collar)
  • All Level 1 skills, plus the following:
  • Required Reading
    • "Pushing Hands"  P~ 125
    • "Pushing Hands as Diplomatic Currency" P~ 126-127
    • "Pushing Hands"  P~ 188-189
    • "Spirals Contending with Force" P~ 72-73
Level 3 (Two yin/yang pins on the right collar)
  • All Level 1 and Level 2 skills plus the following:
  • Push Hands Basic Patterns:
    • Single Hand Practices Stationary – (Parallel Feet and Rocking)
      • Horizontal 
      • Downward 
      • Upward 
      • Sideways 
      • Vertical
Blue Patch (intermediate):

Level 1 (No yin/yang pins)


Level 2 (One yin/yang pin on right collar)
  • All Components form Level 1, plus the following:
  • Push Hands Basic Patterns:
    • Two Hand Practices Stationary (parallel Feet and Rocking)
      • Horizontal 
      • Downward 
      • Upward 
      • Sideways 
      • Vertical
      • 1st Change (Ward Off/Seal Tight)
      • 2nd Change (Lu)
  • Required Reading
    • All of Chapter 7  P~ 139-163

Level 3 (Two yin/yang pins on right collar)

Level 1 (No yin/yang pin)
  • Push Hands Pattern (stationary): Peng, Lu, Ji, An
Level 2 (One yin/yang pin on right collar)
  • All Components from Level 1 and Level 2, plus the following:
  • Push Hands Pattern (stepping): Peng, Lu, Ji, An
  • Push hands Pattern: Large Roll Back (Da Lu)


Red Patch (advanced):

Level 1 (No yin/yang pins)
  • Retest skills from all previous tests, plus the following:
Level 2 (One yin/yang pin on right collar)
  • All Components from Level 1, plus the following:
  • Push Hands Pattern:
    •  Double Coiling Arms
      • Outside
      • Inside
      • Opposite
Level 3 (Two yin/yang pins on the right collar)

Brown Patch (advanced):

Level 1 (No yin/yang pins)
Level 2 (One yin/yang pin on right collar)
  • All components from Level 1, plus the following:
Level 3 (Two yin/yang pins on right collar)
  • All Components form Level 1 and Level 2, plus the following:

Black Patch (advanced):

Level 1 (No yin.yang pins)
  • Yang Tai Chi 67 Posture Straight Sword Form:
    • Moves 1-22
      • 1. Preparation
      • 2. Opening
      • 3. Circle the Moon with Three Rings
      • 4. Big Dipper
      • 5. Swallow Skims the Water
      • 6. Block and Sweep - Right
      • 7. Block and Sweep - Left
      • 8. Little Dipper
      • 9. Swallow Returns to Nest
      • 10. Agile Cat Captures Mouse
      • 11. Phoenix Lifts its Head
      • 12. Wasp Enters the Cave
      • 13. Phoenix Opens its Wing - Right
      • 14. Little Dipper
      • 15. Phoenix Opens its Wing - Left
      • 16. Casting the Fishing Rod
      • 17. Poke the Grass to Find the Snake - 1
      • 18. Poke the Grass to Find the Snake - 2
      • 19. Poke the Grass to Find the Snake - 3
      • 20. Embracing the Moon
      • 21. Birds Lodging in the Forest
      • 22. Black Dragon Swings its Tail
Level 2 (One yin/yang pin on right collar)
  • All Components of Level 1, plus the following:
  • Yang Tai Chi 67 Posture Straight Sword Form:
    • Moves 23-44
      • 23. Green Dragon Comes out of the Water
      • 24. Lotus Spins Aroung in the Wind
      • 25. Lion Shakes its Head - Left
      • 26. Lion Shakes its Head - Right
      • 27. Tiger Covers its Head
      • 28. Wild Horse Jumps the River
      • 29. Reining in the Stallion
      • 30. Compass
      • 31. Dusting the Wind - 1
      • 32. Dusting the Wind - 2
      • 33. Dusting the Wind - 3
      • 34. Pushing the Boat with the Current
      • 35. Shooting Star Chases the Moon
      • 36. Heavenly Horse Flies Over Waterfall
      • 37. Lifting the Curtain
      • 38. Left Wheel 
      • 39. Right Wheel
      • 40. Swallow Carries Mud in its Beak
      • 41. Roc Shows its Wings
      • 42. Fishing for the Moon at Sea Bottom
      • 43. Exploring the Sea Bottom
      • 44. Rhinoceros Looks at the Moon
Level 3 (Two yin/yang pins on right collar)
  • All Components of Level 1 and Level 2, plus the following:
  • Yang Tai Chi 67 Posture Straight Sword Form:
    • Moves 45-67
      • 45. Shoot the Wild Goose
      • 46. Green Dragon Shows its Claws
      • 47. Phoenix Opens Both Wings
      • 48. Step Over and Block Up - Left
      • 49. Step Over and Block Up - Right
      • 50. Shoot the Wild Goose
      • 51. White Ape Presents the Fruit
      • 52. Falling Flower - Right
      • 53. Falling Flower - Left
      • 54. Falling Flower - Right
      • 55. Falling Flower - Left
      • 56. Falling Flower - Right
      • 57. Maiden Weaves the Shuttle
      • 58. White Tiger Swings its Tail
      • 59. Tiger Covers its Head
      • 60. Fish Jumps Over the Dragon Gate
      • 61. Black Dragon Twists Around the Pole - Left
      • 62. Black Dragon Twists Around the Pole - Right
      • 63. Fairy Points the Way
      • 64. Incense for Heaven
      • 65. Wind Sweeps Plum Flower
      • 66. Presenting the Tablet
      • 67. Return Sword to its Original Position

Instructor: 
(Three yin/yang pins on right collar and Instructor Patch on uniform's left breast.)
  • Lead 100 classes, supervised by a person of instructor rank or higher.
  • Retest all previous skills, plus the following:





Shifu Plitt and His Master Practicing Straight Sword (Jian) Techniques in China