During the last 12 months Sifu has widely demonstrated all of his weapons forms to students. He has previously withheld these from students until they reach the required grade.
What has changed?
Leigh, Sylvia, Jackie and myself have all shown a real enthusiasm for the weapons training; prompting Sifu to be more eager to share.
Also, he has sought to whet the appetite of the keener student with glimpses of what is to come.
As with so much of our syllabus, Sifu has no reason or incentive to show future material to beginners. What would be the point? We couldn't do those forms yet. To be shown more advanced material as a taste of things to come is an exctiting opportunity afforded the keener student.
Many modern tai chi forms are baroque; separated
from functionality and true
Not in our school.
There are no wasted movements. No crowd-pleasing displays.
The art is 'classical': simple, direct, focussed and
effective in combat.
You cannot force progress in tai chi chuan. To even try is self-defeating.
Remember what you can. Practice as little or as often as you want to. Decide for yourself.
Let it unfold as it will.
Give up trying to master anything. Drop the images and fantasies you harbour.
Perfection is a condition of untouched naturalness.
It cannot be achieved through any form of trying or doing.
Let-go of your ambitions and relax.
It is important for an instructor to understand the art well enough so that they can perform if effortlessly themselves and also be capable of dismantling it so that someone else can reach that ability level.
Sifu Waller passed a post-graduate teacher training course in order to understand how to teach.
There is so much more to teaching than being able to do the material yourself.
You must be capable of breaking the material down.
The syllabus needs to be offered piece by piece so that the knowledge grows incrementally and the student can understand it for themselves.
The advanced level is for people who have committed a significant chunk of their lives to the study of the art.
Teacher, scholar, innovator.
To reach this stage, all aspects of the syllabus must be comprehensively understood.
Every lesson should involve countless connections and associations from throughout the curriculum.
The exponent should be capable of spontaneously teaching any level of the syllabus without preparation or preamble.
The art should be at their fingertips: both theoretically and demonstrably.
A person training at this level must pass on what they have learned.
They should also add to the wealth of knowledge with their own insights, discoveries and contribution.
To become an expert, a student must show skill across a wide range of topics and an ease of application.
The baguazhang palm changes are now applied extensively, chin na is explored thoroughly and jing is finally given precision and power.
The large san sau 2-person set and 'pao chui' form offer a significant learning curve; with tai chi chuan versus tai chi chuan.
A high degree of sensitivity and agility is required.
The straight sword is examined in detail.
All aspects of the training are infused with neigong; bringing qigong to conclusion.
The student demonstrates significantly greater skill with form and self defence application.
Many drills are dismantled and re-examined, and the entire syllabus must be revised and reconsidered.
Negative emotions are biologically harmful and can make you ill.
When you become angry, your body is flooded with hormones and adrenaline; you enter a 'fight or flight' mode which is only intended for extreme situations in which your life is endangered.
'Fight or flight' puts your body under duress.
Tai chi chuan encourages a person to change the way they think in order to reduce the likelihood of becoming angry.
New starters often believe what they see in the
movies. It looks so exciting...
They want this for themselves.
The student expects to walk away with awesome skills within a few weeks.
After all, the man on YouTube can do it... why can't they?
Unfortunately, the student is typically unrealistic. They seldom
Their own level of fitness
Their capacity to learn
The scope of their ambitions
How much work lies ahead of them
How long it will take to learn the desired skills
Learning a martial art is not like buying a product in a shop. You make it happen. You do the work.
Not the instructor.
It is common for a new starter to commence class with excited ambitions,
only to falter almost immediately.
Martial arts schools expect a high turnover of
Few students have the resolve to endure
Most people never make it past the first step.
Yes, people are roughed up a little. People are struck. People are taken to the floor.
Martial arts cannot be practiced without physical contact taking place.
Yet, no one takes offence. No one bullies. And no one is embarrassed, hurt or made to feel useless.
The mood of the class is one of fun and exploration.
Instead of strutting around pretending to be Bruce Lee, our students are like scientists; amazed by how the art enables them to evade and counter with such seeming ease.
The simplicity and the wider implications of the tai chi chuan cause wonder, not fear.
Fasting on a Friday helps us to gain clarity and calm, shrink the stomach and reduce hunger cravings. It also detoxes the body.
We like to go without food from Thursday 6:30 PM approx through to Friday evening meal. We only drink filtered water: warm or room temperature. We put masking tape on the fridge and cupboard doors as a reminder.
'External' strength uses local muscular tension to perform an action. The elbows and shoulders are involved. Typically, the stronger, faster person has an advantage. If something fails to work, you just push harder.
Most martial arts use external strength. It is easy to learn and effective.
The weapons forms, baguazhang and partnered drills found in our
syllabus encourage nimble footwork.
Students become playful, agile and responsive.
Through sensitivity and
listening skills they learn to
adapt, change and improvise with ease.
There are three methods that we employ to effect the opponent:
Chin na - cavity press
- dividing the muscles
- misplacing the bones
- sealing the breath
With the advent of tai chi sport
forms emanating from modern China, many
modern practitioners never proceed past stage 1.
Indeed, few people even realise that there is more to form than the outward
The sad part about this is that the pattern is essentially incorrect unless
augmented by the other 4 stages.
The journey is unique to each individual.
We all come to the practice from a different place and have our own reasons for walking the path.
Those who persevere with the training gain a quiet sense of accomplishment.
An inner surety and confidence takes root.
Such people grow as their art develops and continue a journey that will change every facet of their lives.
They achieve something remarkable each day, re-awakening an inner joy as they continue their training.
As your strength increases and you become familiar with the form, explore a
If you can find an unsharpened blade, this is perhaps the wiser
A genuine sword weighs between 1-2lbs; which is quite heavy when held in front
Compensating for the weight will require you to connect throughout your body.
The blade makes it necessary to be both relaxed, alert and precise; you cannot
afford to be cut.
A good sword can cost quite a lot of money and needs to be handled
skilfully and maintained carefully.
The balance of a quality sword is entirely different from a cheaper
Tai chi chuan is not going to cure every ailment but it will make you feel good.
Increased mobility, flexibility, sensitivity and balance contribute to making a person feel energised and happy.
This form of exercise offers an improved standard of living for people throughout their lives. However, there is a catch and it is a pretty big one.
Your overall quality of life, health and wellbeing will dramatically improve for as long as you do the training.
If you stop practicing the art, the benefits will fade.
Sifu Waller had a kind of internal arts open-house in the late 80's/early 90's, with students from all kinds of martial arts calling at his house. He met them at work, in classes, in bookshops, at workshops. They came and they trained. Shaun Ullah converted his living room into a dojo of-sorts, complete with wallbag, heavy bag and weaponry. This was a time of great sharing and discovery, with Sifu Waller at the centre yet taking no credit.
"Sifu Waller's tai chi and bagua makes me think of this quote:
The equivalent process to seeking the "Holy Grail" in internal arts is the ability to move more slowly than your opponent and consistently win.
Slower speed that wins out requires three types of speed coming together simultaneously:
2. The signals required to maintain some level of conscious power.
3. The ability to release the internal gears of your body, which, if they freeze up, can create a momentary mental gap that breaks the connection between you and your opponent.
This method is referred to in the tai chi classics in the form of a question:
"How is it possible that an old man can defeat a group of younger men?"
Obviously, elderly men, even the most talented, are not physically capable of moving at the speed of young men. Virtually, by definition, the elderly move with slowness, and yet those old men internal arts masters by slipping in between the gaps, are justifiably well-known for defeating younger and faster men.
No matter what I do, he defeats me. He moves slower than I do and yet I am incapacitated immediately."