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Judging Criteria

Part One - Recommended Scoring Systems & Pointers for Judges

There are usually three to five categories in national and international competitions: beginners, intermediate, advanced, senior and expert. The scoring system is universal, which means that scores are not adapted according to a category, but scores are given using the same scale. Categories exist in order to make a competition possible for people with a similar level of experience.

So it is irrelevant what category is being judged. If an identical form was seen in Beginner, Intermediate or Senior categories, it would receive the same score. At times you might encounter an exceptionally gifted beginner who deserves a score that is of a typical intermediate or senior standard, as likewise a competitor from a senior category may fall short of ability and receive a mark typical of a beginner or intermediate level.

A typical form at the respective levels would look as follows, with a score according to the system described in Part Two:


Beginner:A recognizable form, a reasonable grasp of basic mechanics of posture, balance, co-ordination and weight distribution, according to basic principles of Tai Chi Chuan. In reality probably still a little stiff. Scores around 6.8.

Intermediate:A basic grasp of circularity with flow, continuity and relaxed external co-ordinations. Better than a beginner but not as good as a senior. More confident than a beginner but in reality only a little less stiff with inconsistencies of root and han shun ba bei, chi shun tan tien, and hui lin din jin. Scores around 7.2 - 7.4.

Advanced & Senior:Accuracy of body posture, circular movement, focused mind control and breathing. Better than intermediate but not as good as expert. Loose, relaxed and rooted with substance and power generation and maintenance of correct height. Evidence of Sung and principles of Tai Chi Chuan. Senior has more assurance and ability than advanced. Scores around 7.6 - 7.8.

Expert:A very good level of ability with each aspect of Tai Chi Chuan. Movements propelled with concentrated spirit and awareness, natural and at ease. Scores around 8.4+.


Part Two - Common international scoring system

Typical scores in competition are:


Olympic Level:9 - 10 Average = 9.4.


International World Championships:8 - 8.9 Average = 8.5.

National / International:6 - 8Average = 6.8. Up to 8.9 if international quality.


Each of the ten criteria is marked up or down accordingly from the average.


Below average:6.3Forgets form and stops.

6.4A little stiff.

6.5Separation of upper & lower, co-ordination inconsistent.

6.6Not really relaxed.

6.7Faulty balance.

Average:6.8Good balance, relaxation, co-ordination and looseness.

Above average:6.9Very good balance.

7.0Very relaxed.

7.1Unity of upper & lower, very smooth co-ordinations.

7.2Very loose.

Pluses on remaining criteria:7.3Turns.

7.4Martial spirit.

7.5Roundness and substance.

7.6-8.0Excellent differentiation of yin and yang, full and empty, open and closed, stillness and movement, propelled movements showing internal maturity, and depth of all criteria at a very high level.

8.5International level.

8.9Extremely high international level.


Sometimes excellence isn't just technical accuracy, because it is human to make mistakes, but some contestants override faults with a unique quality of presence and individual ability, and can gain marks accordingly.

Part Three - General Criteria for all judging all Tai Chi styles

The Ten Point Criteria are:

1. Correct Stances and Weighting (hip, legs, feet).

Stances may be high or low according to style. Foot positioning; leg, knee and hip; weight, i.e. 100%, 70/30, 60/40, etc.

2. Correct Postures (whole body).

Chin tucked in, the crown of the head should be suspended as if from the ceiling. Mouth closed and breathing through the nose. Spine straight, extension of the back and hollowing of the chest, pelvis tucked in, arms relaxed, elbows and shoulders down, with proper extension and contraction of the arms and hands. Postures may be slanted or upright, high or low, according to style.

3. Balanced turning and stepping.

Body balanced (both in upright and slanted postures). Balanced movements, stepping and turning, with clarity of motion. Rooting (Sung), with relaxation, suppleness, softness and firmness. Steady step and shifting of weight. Weapons emphasize agility.

4. Distinguishing Yin and Yang.

Positive and negative balance of weight distribution embodied in the transitions of changes and manifest in the hands. Hands energised with yin yang differentiation, wrists supple and relaxed.

5. Co-ordination of movement.

Correct function and turning of the hip and waist. Movement of the upper and lower body is co-ordinated.

6. Smooth transitions

Smooth transition from one posture to the next with synchronization and co-ordination of whole body movement, continuous and flowing.

7. Intent and focus.

Martial intent and focus showing vitality of internal power, eye-hand co-ordination, evidence of technique using the mind, not force.

8. Relaxation and softness.

Looseness of actions with chi breath sinking to tan-tien.

9. Aesthetic appearance.

Head, body, hands, uniform and overall look. Presence.

10. Martial Spirit.

Movements propelled by internal energy. The spirit of vitality raised and expressed through the eyes and showing substance of bodily actions expressing a quality of hardness within softness combining naturally integrated principles of Tai Chi Chuan. Weapons include control, jing and harmony of weapon.

Part Four - Criteria for judging specific Tai Chi styles

In testing, trainee judges will demonstrate examples from each of the specific features of the competition form, as distinguished from the general features described in Part Three.

Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan

Basic characteristics and unique features:


  • Body balanced (both in upright and slanted postures).

  • Body soft and loose: Head floating up, relaxed lower back (bottom hanging down), chest empty, (lower) abdomen full

  • Coordinating upper and lower (Three External Harmonies).

  • Legs relaxed, stepping controlled and lively.

  • Absence of 'double weighting'.

  • Eyes lead and the body follows.

  • Body leads and the feet follow.

  • Opening and closing of the kuas.

  • Uninterrupted spirals winding through the body (shun and ni).

  • Use of the back of the waist (yao) in movement.

  • Manifesting horizontal and vertical 'strength'.

  • Manifesting each of the following Yin Yang qualities: Active and passive, soft and hard, solid and empty, slow and fast, open and close, store and release (root to extremities).

  • 'Release' sudden and crisp with no residual tension or shaking.

  • Linking store and release (esp. in Paochui).

  • Integration and internalisation of the above points.


Cheng Man Ching Style Tai Chi Chuan

Basic characteristics and unique features:


  1. Beautiful or fair lady's hand - Hand is relaxed and (reaches from) the wrist. No bends or kinks.

  2. Shoulders and elbows should be lowered with hand rising.

  3. Body upright - Spine hangs vertical from (Bai Hui) Pai Hui (crown of head) point to Wei Lu (tailbone).

  4. Hands do not pass feet.

  5. Sung (Song) - the body and mind appear relaxed and balanced.

  6. The 'empty' foot rotating on the heel, to finish the posture rather than before the posture - weight is transferred from rear to front leg and toe of the rear leg is rotated (not heel) to bring the hips to 90 degrees.

  7. In Repulse Monkey, feet are parallel and forward facing.

  8. Maintain cross connection (cross-pumping) with opposite hand and foot.

  9. All movements controlled from the (Kua)Yao (Hips/Waist) and powered by the legs.

  10. Stances are 1 shoulder width wide by 1 ½ to 2 long.

  11. Hips are square to the weighted leg not open as in Yang style.

  12. Steps can be big, but hips always horizontal.

  13. During movements, stepping, head always stays at the same height.

  14. All movement are steady, calm without any acceleration.


Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan

Basic characteristics and unique features:


  1. Moving Steps - advance steps are followed by a half a step up of the back foot, and retreat steps are followed by half a step back from the front foot.

  2. Small frame movements with arms are closer to the body and stances are less extended.

  3. Most of the foot work is based on T stance (one foot is solid with body weight, the other resting closely at front, side or behind) has a constant shifting in body weight, without apparent pause.

  4. Opening stance -heels together with toes pointing at corners forming a 90 degree angle.

  5. Correct use of body weight in 'san ti posture' (three body stance) is 60% weight at back and 40% body weight to front.

  6. Hands are naturally open with fingers slightly separate.

  7. Open and close hands are frequently used in connecting movements, particularly when body turns.

  8. In open and close hands, hands open to shoulder width and close to the width of own head.

  9. Co-ordination between hands and toes, elbows to knees, shoulders to hips.

  10. Relax the Kuao (hips/waist) and let Qi to sink into Dantian; while crown of the head should be suspended from the ceiling.


Wu Family 54 Competition Form

Basic characteristics and unique features:


  1. Parallel feet.

  2. Toes pulled back on the sitting back stance, and foot flat on the floor before shifting the weight forward.

  3. Level control of stepping and turning. Stepping forward with heel then rolling the foot flat, and backwards stepping with a flat foot and not the toe first. Knee and foot (toes) point in the same direction and are directed by the hips.

  4. Slant Posture, triangular vector of the two feet and head.

  5. Single Weight, 100%.

  6. 99% Turning of the hip [Shanghai Style have minimum hip turning.]

  7. Twisting spiral movements.

  8. Compact narrow, streamlined elliptical circles.

  9. Sectional joint system, bending and stretching [Hong Kong Wu Family system].

  10. Lithe compact, economic, agile, light, natural, refined and soft neutralising movements.


The Seven Basic Stances (foot, knee and hip), high or low:


  1. Parallel.

  2. Sitting back empty.

  3. Horse.

  4. Bow.

  5. Slant.

  6. Treading.

  7. One leg.


Wudang Style Tai Chi Chuan

Basic characteristics and unique features:


  1. Stepping - heel first in forward movement. Toe first when stepping back.

  2. Back should be straight and upper body inclines forward in line with back leg in forward stances. E.g. Brush Knee, Twist Step.

  3. Full 100% weighting in back and forward stances.

  4. Even weight distribution in Horse stance.

  5. Both feet flat on floor in front stance. Front toe raise in back stance.

  6. An awareness of Yin and Yang, martial spirit, intent and focus.

  7. Contraction and expansion at appropriate times.

  8. Form should be generally smooth, but broken rhythm (also known as pulsing) is allowed where appropriate.

  9. Eyes directed toward the line of force where appropriate.

  10. Agile, expansive, soft and powerful movements.




  1. Back (7 Star).

  2. Forward (Bow).

  3. Horse.

  4. Parallel.

  5. One leg.


Yang Family Traditional Forms

Basic characteristics and unique features:


  1. Differentiate Yin and Yang in the legs.

  2. Basic body alignment not broken during changes. Defined changes in body posture from upright to straight and back again.

  3. Arm energy completed on all movements, whether in high, medium or low frame.

  4. Line up the hands and feet, elbows and knees, shoulder and hips.

  5. Keep hands alive; open the space between thumb and first finger (tiger's mouth).

  6. Keep to parameters when rotating torso (no 'swinging' of the body).

  7. Whole body used in final adjustment of toes approaching the end of each frame in bow stance.

  8. In bow stance, heel down first, then gradually toes down before shifting weight. Back foot at approximately 45 degrees in relationto leading foot. In diagonal bow stance, step back with heel down first. Otherwise, step back with toes first. Step sideways with toes first.

  9. In the legs, moving and stepping is relaxed and agile. One link at a time.

  10. All parts of the body moving fully co-ordinated and integrated. Refinement in transitions, lithe, elastic, propelled movement.




  1. Horse.

  2. Bow.

  3. Empty.


Hand Forms:


  1. Palm.

  2. Fist.

  3. Hook.

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