We live in a world of fast-food, conveniences and high-speed transport yet people claim that they have too little time.
This is an amusing statement and seems to suggest that they have been denied their allotment of time.

We all have as much time as one another - it is all a matter of what you choose to do with it.


Self discipline

An internal martial artist needs self-discipline.
They must be internally motivated and responsible for what they are doing and how they do it.
Outside pressure is not required.

If you are responsible for your life, then your internal and external realities need to be aligned.

A scattered, confused, jumbled mind usually results in a untidy living environment and a lack of organisational skills.
A relaxed, balanced mind has pared things down and knows where things are.
Such a person does not become easily confused or flustered.

This is not about control. It is about awareness.
When your thoughts settle and you see more, your internal serenity will become manifest externally.
You take time over things and do not rush. You are thorough and methodical. You are patient.


Small san sau: whole-body movement

You must avoid disconnected movement at all costs.
Coordinate your body so that all parts are working together.

Do not force a limb or push a stationary opponent.
Feel where the power is coming from and move your body accordingly.
Correct application works in accord with the incoming force, so no force is necessary.

If you cannot find harmony with the attack, focus on the most basic partnered drills and re-train timing and sensitivity.


Gaps & deficiencies

The small san sau was designed with the recognition that every counter potentially leaves you vulnerable.
By countering skilfully, you can limit what the attacker can do.

Having committed and failed to make contact, the attacker must select the next target.
They will typically choose the target that offers the greatest reward for the least amount of risk.

The small san sau is designed to cultivate an awareness of these targets and uses them as bait to lure the attacker.



The footwork uses in the small san sau is pretty straightforward.
The skill lies in performing it very accurately.
Poor coordination leads to bad positioning, and the set simply will not work in practice.

Your steps need to be nimble and smooth.


Casual student

Casual students are welcome to attend as often or as little as they like.
They are only required to pay for tuition.

Students who attend casually receive a balanced workout each session but they do not work through the syllabus.

Casual students are guests in our school, but they are not class members...


Seeing things differently

In order to learn self defence, it is necessary to change how you look at things.
You must remove anger, aggression and conflict from your life.
Instead of fighting with people: physically, verbally, emotionally and psychologically, you learn how to approach situations differently.
It will affect every aspect of your life.


The Beginner's Guide to Martial Arts by Ron Sieh

The Little Zen Companion

Sustained power

In the internal arts, first and foremost, you never have a second where you don't have power. Regardless of whether you are yielding or attacking, there is no time when you lack power in your arms or anywhere else in your body. That's how the internal arts are done, and it has many practical benefits. For one, it prevents exhaustion.

 This issue of unbroken power is a pretty basic difference between internal and external martial arts.

(Bruce Frantzis)

Re-inventing the wheel

There are a number of controversial teachers offering a new route to taijiquan skill and power.
They explore the art in seemingly innovative ways and appear to offer a fresh new approach.
Yet, are these methods worth considering?

The danger with re-inventing taijiquan is that the art already exists and it already works.


Martial tai chi

A number of taijiquan schools are actively promoting taijiquan as a martial art.
This sounds great.
However, some teachers see taijiquan as just another fighting art, akin to karate, kickboxing or wing chun.


Magicians, mystics & sages...

Not everyone is capable or willing to explore the hidden teachings of the arcane arts.
Internal power cannot be mastered by the lazy or the inattentive.
In order to learn the skills you need to be self-reliant.
Responsible for your own progress.


Modern classes

Many modern taijiquan classes offer a watered-down version of the art.
It may be more properly called "taiji-style exercise" or "performance art taiji".
Although these classes may indeed have some worth and produce some benefits for their students, are they truly teaching taijiquan?

Ultimately, it is up to the student to determine what it is they personally want to learn: martial art, performance art or pseudo-taiji?


Syllabus (highlights) - coloured belts


· Qigong



· Chin na escapes
· Monkey paws
· Pushing hands
· Yielding exercise



· Central equilibrium exercise
· Countering
· Yang Cheng Fu form (section 1)
· Yielding basic skills



· Playing the attacker
· Qigong development
· Shuai jiao basic skills
· Small san sau



· Dying ground
· Pushing peng
· Silk arms
· Yielding/chin na



· Countering punches, kicks and grapples
· Form application
· Knife drills
· Penetrating defences


Brown (part 1)

· Gravity striking
· Walking stick drills
· Yang Cheng Fu form (section 2)
· Yielding/countering


Brown (part 2)

· 13 postures
· Balance, rhythm, timing
· Countering a knife
· Neigong
· Yang Cheng Fu form (section 3)


Esoteric knowledge

Understanding ancient teachings requires determination, enthusiasm and patience.
A commitment is necessary.

The student undertakes a lengthy journey of discovery; acquiring skills and knowledge as they proceed.


Not just a class...

Learning tai chi is different to attending a night school course or a keep fit class.
The mandate is far broader

With a keep fit class you can attend intermittently, and train as much or as little as you like.
It makes no real difference.
The student is just a number in the register.

When learning tai chi you are expected to have a different attitude.
There is a detailed syllabus offering a clear pathway of progression, and a specific code of conduct.
Students are asked to train between classes and attend regularly.

Individual progress is monitored and supervised by the instructor.


Different skills

Freeform self defence teaches you how to deal with an assailant.
Non-cooperative self defence teaches you how to deal with an assailant who fights back.
Pao chui teaches you how to deal with someone who can match your skills and counter your counter.

San da teaches you how to deal with unpredictability. It challenges your ability to adapt, change and improvise.
You are free to mix and match a wide variety of skills against an opponent who is seeking to do the same to you.


Traditional learning

Taijiquan is a well-established Chinese martial art that has been practiced for centuries.
It has a history and tradition.
Many great teachers and exponents have contributed their own insights.

Learning from a traditional teacher can offer the student an opportunity to learn the art in the manner it has always been taught.


Playing the attacker

To pass green belt, you must play the attacker well.

The syllabus features a lot of combat practice and you need to play a realistic attacker.
This means accuracy, commitment and correct use of timing and positioning.

A poor attacker is also a poor defender; you cannot counter-attack if you cannot attack skilfully.



Every counter begins with soft meeting, using wardoff.
Wardoff allows you to make contact without banging or jarring.
Without wardoff, contact is external.

Qualities of wardoff:
  1. keeps the distance
  2. ‘feeler’
  3. soft meeting
  4. springy
  5. ‘hug tree’ qigong posture
  6. exists within every tai chi posture to some extent
The use of wardoff will feel imperceptible to the attacker, with the defender skilfully moving into another jing immediately.
There is no one-two rhythm. The moment must flow.


Tai chi for health & fitness syllabus

Students who attend casually receive a balanced workout each session.

Committed students may choose to join the school and work through a structured training program.
The syllabus is unique to our school and is the product of decades of experience.

There are 10 tai chi for health & fitness grades to work through.
Competence at each stage is necessary before moving on to the next level.



Why is taijiquan trained slowly?

Some of taijiquan is trained slowly, but not all of it.
Certain concerns are practiced slowly in order to improve accuracy, control, balance, rhythm and flow.
Smoothness and relaxation are paramount.

Performing the form slowly is far more difficult than doing it quickly.
It will tax your muscles.


Our approach

Bagua can be as deep or superficial as a teacher chooses to make it.
Some schools will just teach circle walking and palm changes. They may not even teach combat skills.
As with tai chi, this is a common approach in the UK.

Our school takes all of your internal skills and puts them into the baguazhang:

  1. Chin na
    - cavity press
    - dividing the muscles
    - floor work
    - misplacing the bones
    - sealing the breath
    - throwing

  2. Countering punches, kicks & grapples

  3. Defence against a knife

  4. Freeform

  5. Group work/melee/multiple opponents

  6. Jing

  7. Neigong

  8. Shuai jiao

  9. Striking
    - jing
    - speed
    - being hit
    - the use of weight
    - whole body power
    - energy release (fa jing)



When we are utterly invested in the here and now, the self fades and we become immersed in just being.
The division between this and that, self and other fades.
We become one with the moment.


Buy your books on-line

If you see a good book in your high street bookshop, don't just buy it there and then.

Compare the price with on-line sellers.

You may save a lot of money by ordering your books on-line.



Leaders live in big houses,
while the fields are full of weeds.
The granaries are empty,
while the rich wear the latest fashion.
People carry weapons and eat and drink to excess.
Their riches are stolen from the poor.

(Lao Tzu)

Tai Chi Master

The term 'Master' in the martial arts usually refers to a practitioner who has dedicated at least 25 years of hard training to their chosen art, amassed tens of thousands of hours practice and is very good at their stuff.
There is no real consensus as to what constitutes a 'Tai Chi Master'.

Peter Southwood suggested the following guidelines: 40 years martial arts experience, 20 years teaching experience, 30,000 hours of tai chi practice, stage 5 skill with all forms and be capable of teaching other Instructors.

Mastering tai chi requires the following:

• A lifelong commitment to the furtherance of the art
• Spontaneous demonstration of every and any aspect of the art
• The ability to train other people to become Tai Chi Instructors
• An embodiment of the principles outlined in the Tai Chi Classics
• Highly accurate rendition of every exercise/form/drill/application
• Extensive knowledge of every facet of every subject in the syllabus i.e. 'jing'
• An in-depth understanding of every facet of the exercise/form/drill/application
• How the exercise/form/drill/application links to other aspects of the curriculum
• The ability to dismantle and explain how and why the different components operate
• Grace, ease, subtlety, sensitivity, nimbleness, appropriateness, simplicity are all a given
• The willingness to train disciples to acquire every aspect of the teaching and perpetuate the art themselves
• Unselfconscious, skilled and utterly effective application of the art in combat employing chin na, jing and shuai jiao
• The ability to develop, improve and deliver a thorough, fully differentiated syllabus suitable for all ability levels and all ages
• The ability to dismantle and explain how and why every form posture operates and how it can be applied in at least 7 different ways
• Comprehensive theoretical knowledge and the ability to discuss and explain how taoism, martial theory and actual practice all tie together
• The ability to apply the tai chi principles (yielding, stickiness, peng, jing, composure, connection, 4 ounces etc) in every situation with absolute ease and certainty