Tai Chi Gradings for a Black Belt 3rd Degree level was successfully achieved by Steve Williams. Instructor Liz Simpson conducted the interview with Steve and they uncovered some tips that will help you on your tai chi journey.
On 15 October 2016, Si Hing Steve Williams was examined for his 3rd Degree Black Belt grading. His performance was a great inspiration to everyone who came along in support and we were all in agreement that our favourite part was the demonstration of his amazing applications, Si Hing Steve’s particular forte.
It was fascinating, relaxing and pain-free to sit back in the audience and enjoy ‘the show’, but Si Hing Steve’s recollections of the many years’ training and preparation, then their culmination in a three-hour grading examination were somewhat different. Read what he has to say when he was asked:
Question 1: Black Belt gradings require a minimum of 3 years between levels (and often they take a great many more). Whom or what kept you motivated during this time?
Si Hing Steve: “The person who inspired me the most and was always there to encourage and understand any problems I had, whether they were practical, theoretical or emotional, was Si Gung Charles Tsui-Po. Also, I was keen to keep learning, even though at the back of my mind was the desire to finish, yet I didn’t want to do that until I felt I was ready”.
Question 2: Gradings are generally a mixture of enjoyment and stress. What did you enjoy the most during your years of training and what did you find the most stressful?
Si Hing Steve: “Applications have always been my favourite aspect of tai chi and I also enjoy working on the Forms. For me, the written theory is a challenge and I kept putting off because I find it stressful. But Si Gung is always intuitive and empathetic and he managed to find a way that worked for me to present it…and I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when it was over!”
Question 3: How did you prepare yourself for a three-hour grading?
Si Hing Steve: “I gradually increased the amount of time I spent practising. Throughout the past year, that involved at least 5 hours, 4 times per week, which was a combination of teaching and personal training.
But during the final 6 week before grading, I was training every day. All the additional practice took its toll on my knees though so I had to be careful not to overdo it.”
Question 4: That’s the physical side, but the emotional side can also take its toll. How did you manage to stay emotionally positive?
Si Hing Steve: “I’ve always recognised my weaknesses and therefore sometimes felt anxiety and suffered from self-doubt. I kept telling myself that I could do it and found that by focussing on what I had to do before each move and planning in my mind how it would happen, that I could actually make it happen. Most of the time that method worked, so the success helped keep me positive”.
Question 5: How do you feel about the entire experience now that you’ve had time to recover and reflect?
Si Hing Steve: “In lots of ways I’m relieved that it’s over, although in many ways I like the pressure that comes from expectations that others have of me and also what I put on myself. It’s hard work and can often be overwhelming, but the sense of achievement at the end is so fantastic that it makes all the work worthwhile”.
Question 6: Often students discover character traits along the way that they didn’t know existed. Have you discovered any, and do you feel you have ‘grown’ from this particular grading experience?
Si Hing Steve: “I regularly look at the Golden Lion’s 8 Qualities and try to follow them. Perseverance is usually the hardest one for me and I feel I managed to achieve that one at last! That, and being more accepting and tolerant towards myself of my own weaknesses makes me say, Yes, I think I have grown from the experience”.
Question 7: Now you’ve completed your 3rd Degree Black Belt grading, apart from Tai Chi, what else have you learnt from the experience that might potentially help other students at the Golden Lion?
Si Hing Steve: I’ve learnt that it’s possible to achieve anything you set your mind to, even though it might seem an impossible and overwhelming task to start with. I found that instead of building a huge wall between myself and the goal (as I’ve sometimes done in the past) that the answer is to avoid looking only at the big picture. Instead, by taking small, achievable steps, one at a time, telling myself I could do it, focussing, planning, acting on the plan, I was able to succeed. For anyone else who’s struggling and putting a grading in the ‘too-hard basket’, that would be my best advice”.
Question 8: What are your new short and long-term goals?
Si Hing Steve: “Short-term, I’d like to keep following my own tai chi journey and expanding my knowledge. Long-term…hmmm..4th degree? A scary thought but I’ll keep following my own advice and who knows what the future holds!”
Thank you Steve and Good Luck for the future.
Si Jie Liz Simpson, Tai Chi Instructor