As you like it

Taijiquan students who continue training long term tend to work at a pace that suits their own personality.
They may have lofty aspirations/ambitions, but these are tempered by the reality of who they are and how committed they are. This is quite a Taoist way of being



Sports can be significantly more expensive than martial arts training. And sometimes cheaper too. How much does the clothing cost? Gym membership? A season ticket?
As with all things, the cost of something is relative to what you think is appropriate and what you are prepared/willing to pay...

90 minutes

Dr Michael Greger (author of How Not To Die) recommends 90 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day.

The three doctors who wrote The Okinawa Program maintain that tai chi - with its ancient origins and incredible health benefits - is the ideal form of exercise for modern people. 
If this sounds like a lot of exercise, why not chop it up into smaller increments spaced throughout the day? How many people watch 90 minutes of TV every day?



Tai chi is the one exercise that can universally help solve our growing health crisis. It has stood the test of thousands of years. We have a generation of baby boomers with increasing health problems; old people who are sick, in pain, fearful, and cranky; a middle class that is increasingly incapable of affording most of the drugs that are prescribed for their ailments; children that are flaccid, diabetic and asthmatic. People of all ages are addicted to drugs, alcohol, sugar, cigarettes, and caffeine. Stress follows almost everyone like a shadow. 
(Bruce Frantzis)


Not cheap...

Martial arts lessons are not cheap. Usually you should expect to pay for some (or all) of these items:

- Monthly tuition fees
- Annual membership
- Affiliation with a third party organisation/federation
- Insurance
- Licence
- Competitions
- Grading
- Uniform
- Patches/badges
- Equipment/weaponry

Many classes expect new students to buy a uniform within a month of starting a class. The new starter is also asked to pay annual membership, insurance and commit to a monthly standing order.


Imagine waking up each morning full of energy and vitality yet also feeling calm and relaxed about the day to come. It sounds like a miracle yet this state of abundant health and wellbeing should be our birthright. In our natural state we would face each day with joy, peace, and a deep connection with our bodies.

(Jane Alexander)



Tai chi is about using your body carefully. That way, as you get older, your wear and tear is unusually low for a person of your age. 
The training is intended to 
improve health and wellbeing through frequent, regular practice using low effort.



People commonly believe that they can have it all without having to give anything up. This is simply naive. To have one thing you must give up something else.

Motor learning

For many people, their fitness regime does not take into account 'motor learning'. Motor learning is about the process of using the body, rather than simply exercising the body.

Agility, mobility, relaxed spontaneous movement, balance, structure, alignment, biomechanics, efficiency, ambidextrous body use, joint health, coordination, skill, emotional wellbeing or psychological flexibility.

Tai chi combines exercise with motor learning.

1950's China

Faced with a major health crisis, the People's Republic of China turned to Yang style taijiquan for a solution. Just think about what that means...Yang style taijiquan's reputation for health was so well founded that the government of China thought to employ the Art officially as a means of improving wellbeing.
The Art was introduced to schools nationwide.



The drawback with validating opinions is that they are drawn from memories and experiences. In a tai chi class, this is a problem.

A student may feel/think that an exercise or drill should be performed a certain way... so what?

Their opinion is worthless. What matters is the means, the outcome, the actual, the truth.

Doing things your own way can be martially suicidal; for you are drawing upon zero experience and no skill rather than many years of taijiquan practice.


Something for nothing?

The best things in life are free. This is what people say. Does this mean that friendship does not involve give and take? That marriage is one-sided?

Can you rear children properly without time, great effort and attention? What you get out of something is usually proportionate to what you put into it.

Most things in life involve some sort of exchange. You want a new car? You must pay. You want to learn French? You must study, set time aside, practice and persevere.

You want to eat healthily? You will need to research, buy fresh ingredients, prepare and cook the food.


Real life combat

Take a look at MMA people featured on-line. A few of these guys look like extras from a Mad Max movie; brutal, savage, criminal.

Martially, you cannot expect to neutralise them if you use force against their onslaught. 

On a level playing field they will destroy you


Free lessons?

A lot of people seeking tai chi tuition expect to be taught the Art free of charge. This is an interesting notion. It would be curious to see how the supermarket responds to such ideas...

Or the petrol station. Are banks offering free mortgages these days? The optician free glasses? Do masseurs treat people for free? What do personal trainers charge?
How much do colleges charge for night school courses? University tuition? Are most yoga classes free? Pilates? The gym? Piano lessons? Do they give away free driving licences too?



School children are encouraged to voice their opinions, beliefs, assumptions and point of view from an early age.

Many refer to this as "their own truth" - which in itself is clearly a naive misconception - and nicely highlights the issue.

They are voicing a perspective, not the truth. The truth (reality) IS, and is not subject to bias, speculation or opinion.


I very much enjoy your sessions - without any false flattery, you have been one of the best instructors I have had for any martial art. Your commitment, patience and dedication to the art and your students is something that I believe many instructors should aspire to. To your credit, Sifu Waller, you have shown me something that has I did not expect to find in taijiquan... a comprehensive fighting system in itself. I wish the rest of the MA community would wake up and see what you see.

I really enjoy the training and being able to get a glimpse of the more martial side, even though still at a basic level, is eye opening and good fun. I can definitely understand the need to have a good level of health and fitness before even attempting the intermediate syllabus!

It’s a more traditional approach to training. I would think any insights you make are more meaningful this way, rather than being spoon fed the detail. But if you are not fully awake, you would make no progress either. The importance of not only training but also reading and learning around the subject are even more important.

  Obviously I only have two years training, and have only done a tiny fraction of the syllabus but it’s starting to become clearer how thoughtfully put together the training is by Sifu. Getting our mindset right from the beginning, trying to get us to be proactive in our study rather than the “attender” level most people are at.

 It reminds me of the university approach: give the outline but expect the student to fill in the gaps and make the connections. Rather than the classic school approach of spoon feeding the pupil whether they take it in or not.



Convenient tai chi

If you are just looking for the cheapest class or the one that is closest to your home or is held on a particular night, then these concerns will hold sway. This criteria is solely based on personal convenience.


A sophisticated art

If you are seeking a more sophisticated martial art, then taijiquan and baguazhang are worth considering. But be warned; you need to read the small print:

The internal martial arts were designed to be practiced daily
They are very hard to learn
You must take responsibility for your own progress and development
Not every instructor possesses a meaningful syllabus


Our values?

Applying our own value system to unfamiliar situations has serious pitfalls. In the case of tai chi, the Art already has criteria. Seeing the Art through our own agenda merely serves to impede learning.
We see only what we want to see.

Instead of understanding tai chi in its own right, we filter our exposure to the Art through our own opinions and ideas of what tai chi is about. This prevents us from learning.
Validating our own viewpoint has taken precedence.

Comparison assumes that you are judging like with like. Yet this is seldom the case.


I really enjoyed Sifu’s class last night. I felt I learned so much in a couple of hours that I had to make a couple of pages of notes as soon as I got home to avoid forgetting anything. So much to learn...




We are educated to discriminate: this/that, mine/yours, here/there, good/bad, right/wrong, more/less, hot/cold... This capacity to pass judgement is cultivated from a very early age. Few people think to question its validity.

In Taoism the pretence of certainty is highlighted. We are invited to ask:

  1. By what criteria do we make the judgement?
  2. In what way are we fit to judge others?
  3. Are we without fault ourselves?
  4. How do we know that we are correct?


Short-changing your health

Cheapskating on health whilst enjoying a lavish lifestyle is essentially "penny-wise and pound-foolish" (idiom). Health should be your priority. Not an afterthought.


40 years old...

Rachel Waller is a very healthy example of what daily tai chi, a good diet and a balanced lifestyle can offer. She doesn't look 40, does she?

I've never felt a presence as strong as Sifu Waller. It's like 20 people in one!



The form as demonstrated by Sifu and yourself is so fluid and understated, yet the martial undercurrent is clear throughout. It’s quite inspiring to watch!


Lifestyle bias

People invest in expensive technology, a car that they have to buy on 'hire purchase', bottles of wine, trips to the coffee shop and expensive holidays.

Yet, they are not willing to spend money on their own fitness and wellbeing. A mobile phone will probably date in a couple of years... how long will your body be with you for?


Bargain hunting

When people consider which tai chi class to attend they often treat it like bargain hunting. They look for free taster sessions or the cheapest class.

  This may be fine if you are undertaking a supermarket 'price comparison'
. It is not so good for taijiquan.


Confirmation bias...

Imagine that you have a belief such as - 'people are generally good'. This belief causes you to notice information that confirms your belief and discount information that disputes it. See the problem?

A belief introduces a bias, a perspective, and it alters how you look at the world. You essentially see what you want to see. Having opinions, ideas and preconceptions can make you narrow-minded.

Once we determine what is important, we set out to find something that fits our criteria. But what if our values are askew? What happens when we encounter things that we don't really understand?


As a teacher I am continually impressed with Sifu Waller's teaching system, resources and the time he takes with classes. I often feel like emailing him to thank him for another outstanding lesson but a) this could happen most weeks and b) I do actually feel guilty for not being a good enough student.


5 mins = £100

Imagine if you were told that 5 minutes tai chi training would earn you £100... Would you do the exercises? Of course you would.

 Yet, people are told that daily home practice = good health, fitness and better quality of life... and they dismiss it. Curious?

This illustration shows how many people value an obvious monetary reward but are unwilling to appreciate the value of health, vitality and fitness.


The assistant teachers who help me to teach tai chi for health have asked about wearing a different T-shirt in order to better distinguish who to ask for help in class.

The grey colour is very nice and I like the message too!



Talk is easy...

Many people e-mail every week regarding tai chi classes, fitness and diet. Other people talk to me in person.

How many people actually commit to classes, getting fit or losing weight? Not many at all.

  For some people, talking about things seems to be enough. They expend a lot of energy explaining why they can't make commitments or lifestyle changes.


An amusing insight regarding 'corrections' is this: in real terms your teacher doesn't actually correct you...

They merely point out what you are doing incorrectly and provide an accurate example. It is the student themselves who does the correcting.

After all, the teacher cannot make you practice at home between classes, can they?

Once the teacher has highlighted a mistake, it is the student's own responsibility to implement and practice the correction.


Every year my charity has a Strategy Day. A professional Facilitator is usually hired for the event. Up to a dozen people put their heads together all day long and never produce very much.

By contrast, by the time I get downstairs in a morning, Sifu has already written a 'to do list' of new insights for me to consider. These cover a diverse range of topics (including but not limited to):
- class management
- teaching
- qigong, taijiquan, baguazhang, core strength, combat insights
- the syllabus
- meditation
- time management
- diet
- targetting muscle groups I feel are underworked

 How often does this happen? DAILY.



A tai chi class

Most tai chi classes in the UK are essentially drop-in sessions. Students attend as and when they feel like it. The teacher is often not qualified and there is no syllabus in place.

The attenders usually have a good time. T
hey follow along with the group and do more or less the same things every week. Very little progress takes place but people enjoy being there. 

Boot camp