7th dan is concerned with finding out what it means to walk alone...

The practitioner is both a teacher and a scholar, possessing a considerable sense of the art and its philosophical heritage.
Study, research, practice and progress must continue. The art must unfold and your insight deepen.

Taijiquan is an incredibly complex, sophisticated art.
Being 'advanced' requires an understanding that transcends rote learning and repetition.
You need decades of practice, skill and teaching experience.

The student must now make a unique, personal and significant contribution to the art.

This can take the form of new insights, approaches or applications.
The contribution must be meaningful and extensive.
It needs to affect every aspect of the training.


Not what you want to hear?

When people ask a question, they often have an answer in mind.

If the reply does not suit their expectations, they may be confused, surprised, disappointed or upset.

Be careful not to use questions as a means of gratification.
Ask, but do not attempt to shape the answer.

Even if the answer is unexpected, it will teach you something.
Some lessons are less obvious than others.


Difficulty and change

A tai chi student will face many obstacles and challenges. Some are physical. Others are psychological and emotional.

These difficulties are necessary. Only through perseverence can you grow. Progress requires change.



Cord: Who are you?

Blind shepherd: Whoever you think I am or want me to be, I am.

(The Silent Flute)



We see the world according to how we are, not according to how it is.
Perception colours everything.

There is no such thing as 'objectivity'. Objectivity is just a concept, akin to 'infinity' or 'eternity'.
These are words without meaning.

Everyone is subjective.
Your mind interprets what it sees relative to your education, conditioning and perspective.


Yang style

The standard Yang set today is Yang Cheng Fu's final revision of 85 postures, which he demonstrated in his book published in 1936. Most of the other books published since then, including many Western ones, are either variations or reflections of the author's own personal expression of the set.

One should note that right from its creation, Yang tai chi has always been combat-oriented. Yang Cheng Fu always emphasised that the set should be practiced with its martial applications in mind. These applications may be taught through the fast set, individual posture explanations, tui shou (push hands), san shou (fixed-step sparring) and san da (free sparring).

(Alex Yeo)



(i) Accuracy

Tai chi offers an opportunity to come to terms with making mistakes and also the experience of 'being corrected'.
The complex nature of the art demands a very unusual degree of accuracy.

A slight deviation from the necessary position can mean weakness and imbalance.

(ii) Concentration

Students learn to focus on what they are doing. They keep their mind on what is right in front of them.
For many people, this is a very challenging endeavour.
It will take considerable practice and patience.
And it cannot be forced...

Concentration is a necessary first step.

(iii) Mistakes

Some new starters become paranoid about making mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes, and not just in class. Our lives are littered with words and acts of foolishness. It is human.

You cannot avoid making mistakes.
But perhaps you can learn from them, grow and move on?

(iv) Corrections

Initially, your teacher must correct your tai chi.
The teacher corrects you because they care about your progress and your wellbeing.

In time, you learn to feel where the groundpath lies. You adjust accordingly.
You can also pressure-test your own framework and application by working with a partner.

Eventually, you learn how to correct your own practice.


Form collecting

If all you learn is a lot of forms, you just become a good dancer.

(James Wing Woo)


Learning from mistakes

People frequently fail to learn from their mistakes. They just keep on doing the same thing again and again and again.
There is far more to intelligence than acquisition. We must be alert.

If something does not work, it is necessary to determine why it failed and try something else.
This capacity to change is a key factor.
A dull mind is doomed to repeat the same error continually. An intelligent mind adapts and moves on.



Accuracy develops through corrections and awareness.

The teacher corrects your form.
Your capacity to understand and implement those corrections is directly linked to how receptive, observant and attentive you are.
If you are prideful, stubborn or lazy, you will not make changes to your form.

Awareness is something that needs to be cultivated.
It involves having an eye for the art, for perceiving what the teacher is actually doing. Not what you think they are doing.



Partner drills and form application teach the student how to minimalise their movements.
Balance, timing, structure, softness and mind combine to create the desired outcome: a twitch instead of an arc.

The effect looks like magic.
It looks to be fake.
But it is not.

To accomplish this level of skill, a very good sense of groundpath is necessary.


Short form?

Some of you have talked about learning a short form of tai chi, which has certain transitional motifs eliminated. The reason for these repeating transitions is to help you flow within the form - to ride over it without thinking. When these repetitions are cut out, some of the major movements become awkward and jam together. The sequence loses some of its smoothness.

(Chungliang Al Huang)


Impressing people

Sifu has a serious aversion to performance. He's no interest whatsoever in proving himself to you or impressing you. He'd quite happily let you think him a fool or incompetent if the alternative meant "dropping his pants" to assuage your ego and your curiosity.

(Shaun Ullah)




Chinese grappling/wrestling is called 'shuai jiao'.
It is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of approaches.

Shuai jiao is not to be confused with Western styles of wrestling.


Two hit Joe

People wanted to know what an internal strike felt like, and volunteered to be hit. Using gravity and weight shift, a blow was delivered to the upper chest. Typically, it knocked the student back a few paces.

There was nothing macho about the entire event - people genuinely wanted to know what they were working towards. Joe was struck and stumbled backwards. He then asserted that he hadn't felt anything at all. I explained that I was reluctant to hit him harder and certainly had no plans to use fa jing. All I could offer was to hit him again. Joe thought that this was a good idea and asked me to hit him a second time. This second blow knocked him backwards once more. He once again claimed that the strike was ineffectual.

I got an e-mail from Joe a few days later, explaining how much he had really enjoyed the class but didn't want to continue. He asserted that the strikes had been way too painful for a man of his age to endure and implied that he'd been bullied.

When I mentioned this to the class, they were astonished. "But he asked to be hit twice!" exclaimed a student.



Once connection is established, it needs to become something else: peng.

Peng and connection are not the same thing.
A karate student can easily gain connection, but the very nature of their system would preclude the possibility of cultivating peng.
There is no tension with peng.

Peng is a springy, pliable framework.


There Are No Secrets by Wolfe Lowenthal


Insights arise from the clarity of our seeing.
Instead of looking and seeking - which are both products of the self/the mind - we are passive, we see.

Seeing the essence/character/nature/quality of something is very important.

This involves paring away everything that impedes our seeing. We must invest in loss and shed the accumulations of a lifetime.

Insights are not the product of conscious thought, they arise unbidden from the depths of our minds.
Unexpected associations and connections emerge, new possibilities, nuances, variations and options.


Martial arts

Not all martial arts practice can be considered functional in modern life.
You cannot reasonably carry a sword, knife or staff in the street.

Many training drills teach important lessons and tactics, but they are not all intended for actual combat.


Instructor levels

There are 5 levels of Tai Chi Instructor in the UK these days:

  1. Tai Chi for Health & Fitness Teacher
    - 10 years experience
    - these are the majority
  2. Tai Chi Chuan Instructor
    - equivalent of 3rd dan black belt in any martial art
    - 10 years experience
    - these people are less common
  3. Tai Chi Expert
    - 20 years experience
    - 10,000 hours tai chi chuan practice
    - 10 years teaching experience
    - fewer to be found
  4. Tai Chi Master
    - 30,000 hours tai chi chuan practice
    - 20 years teaching experience
    - pretty rare
  5. Tai Chi Grandmaster
    - extremely rare

Peter Southwood has graded Sifu Waller as being a Tai Chi Expert based upon his practice quality and experience.


Does the possession of knowledge imply wisdom?

The human race has stored vast sums of knowledge over millennia yet there are still wars, there is still hunger, there is still selfishness and greed.


No rules

In real life, you are likely to face situations different to those encountered in the training hall, dojo or boxing ring.
Remember that a classroom environment is a controlled situation.
There are rules.

In the street there are no rules at all...


No competition

Competition combat is a serious endeavour and can really test your courage.
However, there are still rules.

However, serious a competition may be, it is still sport and sport is not real life.


Tai chi

Tai chi may be physically easy to perform but it does require awareness.
The mind must be without thought in order for you to move internally.
Beginners initially learn standing qigong because this helps them to calm the mind and be present.

The exercise is uncomplicated and offers almost no physical challenge except to remain relaxed and aware.
It is the very simplicity of the qigong that causes problems for people; it is an exercise that lacks activity.
An agitated mind needs entertainment and rebels against inactivity.

Once the mind settles, the senses become more acute and you begin to notice more.
This is the beginning of presence.


What is 'self defence'?

Self defence is the practical application of your art.

This means that you should be capable of handling:
  1. Punches
  2. Kicks
  3. Grapples
  4. Multiple opponents/gangs
  5. Armed assailants
  6. Unexpected attacks
  7. Going to the floor

It is necessary to maintain composure, stay calm and apply a wide variety of pragmatic skills in combat.


Meaning & purpose

Many aspects of modern life are warped. The original meaning and purpose has been lost and only a parody remains.
Consider 'marriage': people commonly spend a colossal amount of money on an immense event that lasts only a few hours.
For what? What does it all mean?

In many cases, the wedding has become a pantomime of greed.

A couple becomes engaged and expect presents.
Then they spend a year planning a wedding and booking countless elements before indulging in a lengthy hen night or stag night, before the actual day itself.
They pretend to be Christian in order to be married in a church because it looks nice on the photographs.
Finally, there is the honeymoon.

How much of this actually has anything to do with getting married?


 Excellent website and photos. Very thought provoking!



Self defence

Self defence is not fighting; it is the ability to protect yourself from harm.
It is about doing whatever you need to do to survive an attack.

In our school, we aim to incapacitate the attacker without causing them unnecessary injury.
A student should know how to adapt, change, improvise, yield and strike.