The benefit of strenuous practice lies in an enhanced ability to see all things as they really are.

 (Dave Lowry)



All movement is generated using the entire body.
This removes any need for flamboyance.
Subtle curves, spirals and stickiness - combined with a skilful use of peng - provide the necessary in-roads to penetrate defences and incapacitate the attacker.

Every action involves every body part moving as a combined network of strength.
This provides a pliable, yet powerful means of utilising the body in combat and everyday life.

To accomplish this, a great deal of internal strength must be cultivated.
Patience, practice and long hours of dedicated work over many years is required.

Buying a sword (1) - waster

Begin with a wooden sword (waster).
This will give you an initial feel of the weapon and can be used in partnered drills safely. 


Social events

There are a couple of social events each year that couples/friends can attend.

Meeting people out of class can really help you to get along with one another.
We are not interested in competitiveness and rivalry. We want fun, mutual respect and friendship in class.

More weapons being revealed

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.


Art moves through 3 stages:
  1. New
  2. Classical
  3. Baroque
Many modern tai chi forms are baroque; separated from functionality and true purpose.
Not in our school.
There are no wasted movements. No crowd-pleasing displays.
The art is 'classical': simple, direct, focussed and effective in combat.

Steal my art

Stuart Alve Olsen’s book Steal My Art is about his experiences learning tai chi chuan from T T Liang.

Liang would not simply give the art away to people.
He expected his students to be like thieves: sneaky, cunning, observant and resourceful.

Sifu Waller uses this same attitude.
We provide detailed lessons, a website and handouts. But these things do not contain the complete art.



I know from my own experience that the master knows you and each of his pupils much better than we knows ourselves. He reads in the souls of his pupils more than they care to admit.

(Eugen Herrigel)

Art of War

When torrential water tosses boulders, it is because of its momentum; when the strike of a hawk breaks the body of its prey; it is because of timing.

(Sun Tzu)


Nobody is perfect

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.



Composure is emotional balance.
The ability to remain emotionally stable in the event of crisis or stress can be a valuable quality.

We encounter many things in life that might upset a person. Tai chi chuan teaches us to slow down and remain calm.

Wanting to be a better instructor

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.


This higher dan grade is for instructors.

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.

Reading and study is now much more in-depth.


Negative emotions

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.


In order to escape from danger, one need only take the line of least resistance, just as liquid spills from a vessel over the lowest point of its rim.
Concentrate only on escaping.

(I Ching)



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 consider:
  1. Their own level of fitness
  2. Their capacity to learn
  3. The scope of their ambitions
  4. How much work lies ahead of them
  5. 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 beginners.
Few students have the resolve to endure the journey.
Most people never make it past the first step.

Buying a sword (2) - lightweight steel

 Try a lightweight metal sword once you are familiar with the wooden one.

 Do not invest in an expensive weapon at this stage.
 There is nothing more embarrassing than a low-ability exponent wielding an expensive blade.

 Trying a heavy sword prematurely may lead to injury. Be patient.


Play & explore

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
The simplicity and the wider implications of the tai chi chuan cause wonder, not fear.

Friday fast

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.

Starting incorrectly

A form cannot be taught correctly to a beginner.
It is taught in accordance with the students ability to learn.

Beginners are physically incapable of the sophistication required to practice the form correctly, so a cruder version of the sequence is taught at first.

Once the exaggerated sequence has been learned, it can be made smaller and subtler.
Most movements will be altered as the student progresses and their body becomes more receptive.


Getting in your own way

I went on to find that the solution to many seemingly difficult tasks is not to 'try harder' but to leave oneself alone.

 (Michael Gelb)

External strength

'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.



Many studies have proven that 'exuberant play' is the most effective learning medium.
Students are free to relax and explore at their leisure.

The paradoxical physics associated with tai chi chuan emphasises the importance of relaxing and letting-go.
Play encourages this.


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:

  1. Chin na
    - cavity press
    - dividing the muscles
    - misplacing the bones
    - sealing the breath
    - seizing
  2. Jing
    - projections
    - striking
  3. Shuai jiao
    - escapes
    - floor work
    - take down
    - throwing
Our aim is not to advertise our intentions, so all movement must be immediate and spontaneous.


5 stages

There are 5 stages to learning any form:
  1. The pattern
  2. Internal strength
  3. Application
  4. Shen
  5. Natural
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 show.

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.



If you feel the need to force something, consider it further.
Force requires resistance, conflict.

Find the way of least resistance instead.
Learn to interpret situations appropriately, and move with the flow.

Form appearance

Sifu Waller's Yang Cheng Fu form looks very understated:
  1. Stances quite high
  2. Knees only slightly bent
  3. Reliance upon internal power
  4. Not much actual arm movement
  5. Waist movements no more than 45° turn
  6. Very subtle spirals, circles and angles - led by the centre
  7. Focus upon shen, one-pointedness and martial application

Buying a sword (3) - real sword

 As your strength increases and you become familiar with the form, explore a heavier weapon.
 If you can find an unsharpened blade, this is perhaps the wiser purchase initially.

 A genuine sword weighs between 1-2lbs; which is quite heavy when held in front of you.
 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 weapon.



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.

(Michael Dutton)


"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:

1. Timing.

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.

(Bruce Frantzis)

No matter what I do, he defeats me. He moves slower than I do and yet I am incapacitated immediately."