There is no spoon

Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Spoon boy: There is no spoon.

Neo: There is no spoon?

Spoon boy: Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

(The Matrix)



Group dynamics and evasion strategies cannot be codified into a step-by-step guide.
You must learn to go with the flow, responding and adapting to the needs of the situation.
This takes patience and practice.

If you lose your composure, you lose everything.

You need to work with punches, kicks and grapples. It needs to be varied, confusing, unsettling and unpredictable. A melee.


Asking for it

Provocative behaviour will draw attention to yourself.
Wearing your martial arts costume, sweatshirt or lapel badge all call attention to what you do.
Similarly, macho behaviour only demonstrates an inner weakness. An insecurity. Your fear.

Keep your skills quiet and subtle. Avoid being noticed.


Pressure test

Freeform self defence is not akin to kickboxing. We are not in a contest. It is not a match or a bout.
The assailant(s) are pointedly seeking to compromise you.
They have no interest in scoring points or playing by the rules.
If they can cause you to become flustered, then they will press home the advantage.

Talking, floundering or being aggressive simply will not work.

You are essentially naked in the face of the situation. You either face it honestly and succeed or you are insincere and you are struck.
Lies and excuses will not save you.

Think about real life... Will an earnest street attacker cut you any slack at all?
No way.



Our modern age accepts insincere talk as part of our culture.
People lie, excuse, exaggerate and evade responsibility - and we accept it as being just part of life.
This kind of attitude will not work in self defence.

If somebody tries to punch you in the face and you cannot deal with the attack, you will be hit.
No amount of talking will make the impact vanish.


Form practice

A beginner needs to become familiar with the sequence.
This will take a lot of practice.
Ideally, at home, between lessons.

A common excuse offered by lazy students is that they do not want to practice at home for fear of making mistakes...

How exactly can they hope to do the form correctly without practice?
Improvement comes from familiarity.
Yes, they will make many, many mistakes. This is inevitable.

The reason why you should train at home is to gain the habit of where to move, what to do.
It will not be accurate, but it is a necessary starting place.

Weapons work in our curriculum

Tai chi chuan practice involves training with weapons:

· Knife drills
· Countering a knife
· Escapes/knife
· Chin na against a knife
· Broadsword drills
Sabre form
· Staff drills
· Staff form· Walking stick form
· Straight sword form
· 2 person staff form/drill
· Small stick drills
· Improvised weaponry/knife

Some of this training is suitable for
tai chi for health & fitness students.



If you think about it, there are few things in life that are easy to learn.
Should you decide to become a very good cook, you will need to put in a lot of time and effort.
How about learning to play a musical instrument?
Drive a car?
Speak a foreign language?

Many people have unrealistic expectations. About themselves. About the subject they are hoping to learn.
Usually, students underestimate the amount of effort involved. The time it will take. The financial cost.
Ambitions are easy.
Fulfilling them is far harder.



Self defence students do not need to beat one another senseless in the pursuit of self defence skills.
This seems somewhat counter-productive.

We adopt a playful attitude - like children who exuberantly throw one another around, without aggression, without malice and without harm.



The main problem with the square form is that the beginner is normally extremely tense.
Only through ongoing relaxation, ease and patience can they hope to lose the unnecessary stiffness in the muscles.
Relaxed, lengthened, flexible muscles will allow your joints and vertebrae to move freely and easily.

It is this process of relaxation which starts you on the journey towards the round form.


Peter Southwood

Sifu Waller is Peter Southwood's top student and only disciple.
He taught in Peter's class (Bradford Yang Style Tai Chi Association) and trained with him privately every week for 14 years.

This year Sifu Waller will move to the North East but still plans to see Peter as often as possible.

Over the years Sifu Waller has been to many workshops with Peter and is a regular guest at Peter's house.
They have explored the art at length and had countless debates/discussions/conversations concerning the nature of tai chi.

Much of our syllabus is derived from Peter's teachings.


Black belt and beyond

Many people labour under the illusion that the black belt symbolises some sort of martial arts graduation.
This is most odd.
Passing your black belt simply means that you have a firm grounding in the basic precepts of the art.
It is not the pinnacle.
It is the end of the beginning.

In tai chi, most of your study and training takes place after you have passed 1st dan.

Everything you know so far must be dismantled and reconsidered.
Many new skills must be acquired.
Each movement you make has to imbued with countless neigong concerns.

The journey is now suddenly far steeper and vastly more interesting. Your skills will expend in directions you never imagined.
Refinement and subtlety will reveal unseen facets of the art.
You will possess wholly unanticipated new concerns.



Martial tai chi

Many taijiquan exponents mistakenly believe that the softness/yin of taijiquan must be balanced by hardness/yang of an external art.
Their syllabus offers taijiquan alongside external arts such as ju jitsu or kickboxing.
This attitude demonstrates a poor grasp of yin/yang and of taijiquan.

Yin is heavy, dense, sunk, sticky. It is not flighty and weak.
Being struck by a yin punch will feel immensely painful and it will penetrate deep into the body.
That is the yang part.

Taijiquan cannot be 'balanced' by an external art.
Mixing hard and soft martial arts only ever produces one outcome - an external parody of taijiquan.
You cannot experience the awareness, sensitivity, relaxation and flow of taijiquan when your body is repeatedly fighting force with force and being tense.

The true nature of taijiquan is overlooked.


Shuai jiao

Shuai jiao is a very good self defence skill.
It teaches you how to keep the body free and mobile, and see opportunities within every situation.

Students learn shuai jiao from the very beginning.


Beginners strength

Beginners learn a series of exercise designed to cultivate whole-body movement.

In truth, a beginner will not master these exercises.
They only learn the pattern.
Refinement takes a number of years.

The exercises are supplemented with form and partner drills which serve to extend the beginner's physical awareness and build a necessary foundation of strength.
We encourage all beginners to undertake the 100 days challenge.


Internal shuai jiao

Grappling can be used to counter punches and kicks.
It ties the attacker up and allows the student to take their root.

Internal shuai jiao uses the skills learned in pushing hands: balance, listening, rhythm, stickiness and timing.
Various jing skills can also be used.

The tai chi forms contain many shuai jiao applications.



7th dan is about becoming a scholar. You must be extremely familiar with:
  1. The Art of War
  2. Biomechanics
  3. Chuang Tzu
  4. I Ching (Book of Changes)
  5. Martial theory
  6. Meditation
  7. Mutual arising
  8. Taijiquan classics
  9. Tao
  10. Tao Te Ching (The Way and Its Power)
  11. Te
  12. Teaching theory
  13. Tzu-jan
  14. Yin/yang
  15. Zen


Understanding Tao Te Ching

If you struggle to understand Tao Te Ching, consider reading around the central text and/or try other translations.
Zen books, Chuang Tzu, Krishnamurti and other sources may yield better understanding.

Also, you may want to be patient.
Just read a verse a day.
Over time you will become familiar with the themes of the book, and 'the way' may seem to be somewhat less obscure.



The purpose of this web log is to jot down amusing events or insights as they happen. It is not meant to be profound or meaningful. If you take tai chi too seriously, you are missing the entire point.

Should you disagree with anything written here, that is ok. You're entitled to think what you like.