Christmas - the media spectacle

Christmas is a marketing triumph.

The inane catchy jingles played constantly, the lights and the decorations, the kitsch, the sentimentality and nostalgia, the peer pressure, the overindulgence...

People willingly spend money they do not have on things they do not need.
They do this for no reason whatsoever. 



Your wage is represented as a number. You deduct various other numbers from your wage and the figure diminishes.
It is quite easy to look at your bank statement and see £40 deducted here and £300 deducted there.
If you were to actually hand over the money physically, you may see the situation differently.

Counting out £300 in cash is altogether different from seeing a figure on a credit card bill.


Re-discover Christmas #2

In the 1970's Peter McNally (the local Scout leader) used to take large gangs of children and adults around the village on Christmas morning.
He'd found out which old people were alone and had no family. He'd filled shoe boxes with presents and asked people to sign cards.

Then he took everyone to visit each and every lonely old person. We would all stand and sing outside their houses.
The expressions on the faces of the old people said it all.



Treat someone well. Really help them out. Make them have hope again.

But do not stick around for thanks. Leave the person wondering why you did it but grateful that you did.
Smile and walk away.


Promoting unwanted tension

If you bring a horizontal wrist in front of the chest, whether facing out, up or down... you will feel immediate tension in the shoulders, chest and back.
The arm muscles will also tighten.

Students who lack good body awareness and physical sensitivity seldom realise that their faulty hand position is making their upper body tense.

Look at the human skeleton: the arms hang at the sides of the body.
Bringing your hand to the front occurs by bending the elbow joint and rotating using the radius bone.
The wrist is vertical/diagonal and the action is linked to the waist, taking place on the horizontal plane.

The horizontal wrist position must be explored thoroughly in order to find and maintain peng, and avoid tension.


The danger with abstraction is that it blinds you to the dangers of over-spending.
You are seduced into spending money you do not have.

This process is not an accident.

It has been cynically planned and implemented by financiers of various kinds.
Everyone wants a piece of the action.
You are the 'mark'.
These massive companies want a piece of your money.

Through your carelessness, and the process of abstraction, you have been distanced from the reality of your finances.

When your house is re-possessed, you realise that numerical abstraction may have hidden the reality from you - but reality cannot be ignored.

Crippling debt is the outcome of confusing the menu with the food.



  Advanced level taijiquan self defence skills are not remotely showy. They are impossibly understated.
 The attacker is felled without any real sense of what happened.
 They may not even recall being touched at all. But they were touched. They simply did not notice.

 This is not magic. But it looks like it.


Make sure that you have fun. 
Be inspired by what you encounter in class, surprised by the physics and the applications.
But do not take yourself too seriously.

If you can have fun, learning is easy.
Play with the art but do not struggle with it.
You are where you are and you are as good as you are.
If your ambitions demand more of you, then practice more often, but keep it relaxed.

The way

In Japan, martial arts are classified as being either 'jutsu' or 'do'.
Jutsu means 'science' or 'method'. A jutsu class teaches technical skills, techniques and combat.
'Do' means 'the way' and refers to the study of tao. A 'do' class teaches refinement of character.

Chinese internal arts address both 'do' and 'jutsu' as part of the curriculum.
The material is just too dangerous to be taught to students who have not worked to rid themselves of negative emotions, pettiness and hang-ups.

The instructor is responsible for the process of refinement.



Taoism is filled with stories featuring wise people who are referred to as a 'sage'.
But what is wisdom?
Wisdom is not the same as knowledge.

It reaches beyond the information to see inner qualities and relationships that are not immediately apparent.
It is synonymous with awareness and care, with insight and consideration.

Knowledge alone is dangerous.
It must be tempered with good sense, morality and prudence.


Show me

Baguazhang is not easy to learn.  
A student must show aptitude as well as enthusiasm.

If you can demonstrate that you have been training hard and are making progress, then you can study the art.


No one

Sifu Waller does not have any lineage students yet.
Nobody has demonstrated the integrity necessary to perpetuate the art.


The Tai Chi Book by Robert Chuckrow


The trick with taijiquan is to keep your training mild.
It is not a gym workout.
You are not meant to be sweating and straining.

Go easy on yourself.

Little and often is the key.
If the training is gentle but works your muscles nicely, then it is easy to sustain and your energy levels will stay high.
Overdo-it and you will suffer from fatigue, aching joints and sore muscles.


Indications of the external

People often think that they are using internal power but are still tensing their muscles or just moving their arms.

These are the telltale signs:
  1. Pushing when delivering force
  2. Their arms tremble when you push them
  3. There is no 'give' (folding) in the joints
  4. They push back into you rather than employing inherent peng to absorb and channel the force (yielding)
  5. Wardoff/peng is seen as a stiff barrier rather than a springy 'feeler'



Hope is a desire for change combined with a certain expectancy.
It is often considered to be a dreamy quality - a little naive and unrealistic.
Yet, hope has given comfort to many people in despair.
At the heart of hope lies the possibility of improvement, the belief in change.

Is it so naive to be hopeful? To be optimistic? Things do change in the world.


Negative thoughts

Loss of temper is a psychological reaction.

This means that you have a choice concerning your own behaviour.
It is not necessary to lose your temper.

Try meditation, contemplation or reading book about your problem. Find constructive ways to avoid conflict.


Leave no footprints

Taoism is unique in that it is probably the only major religion in the world whose practitioners as a rule have not sought great secular power. In the past, taoists took on such power only out of necessity to correct specific abuses. After these excesses had been corrected, they were always ready to relinquish the power and fade away, or "leave no footprints" as they put it.

(Bruce Frantzis)



If a beginner is struggling to come to terms with baguazhang palm changes (form), then they should focus on learning the tai chi chuan form instead.
It is far easier to learn and requires a lesser degree of balance and coordination. 

We will not allow a beginner to struggle for too long.
You will have a chance to see for yourself that your ambitions exceed your ability.
If you fail to see this, we will ask you to focus on the tai chi chuan instead.

Paring away

Sifu has practiced and then dropped more forms, exercises and drills than I've even learned. He's got no problem casting aside many years of work, never to pick it up again.

I don't get it personally, but he's unsentimental. He just walks away from things and never returns. His training is constantly being re-evaluated. Sifu changes his personal routine frequently; depending upon his current emphasis. His only interests are martial pragmatism and health.

(Shaun Ullah)


What you are doing is very special - nothing like it in this area!

(Steve Pardue)


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
· Broadsword form
· Staff drills
· Staff 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.


Palm-in or palm-out

Peng can be either palm-in or palm-out.

When it is palm-in, the hand is closer to the body. The palm rotates up and away from the body. The arm spirals outward.
When it is palm-out, the hand is further away from the body. The palm rotates down and away from the body. The arm spirals outward.

Be careful not to lift the elbows or affect the shoulder joint.
Note that in order to maintain open elbow kwa, palm-out is further away from the body than palm-in.


Why is baguazhang difficult to learn?

A beginner lacks coordination and they are usually extremely tense.
Their body is yet to do what they want it to do.
Tension prohibits free movement.

The solution to this is to focus on learning simpler movements.
This is why 
white belt and yellow belt focus upon qigong, and orange belt is mainly about section 1 of the tai chi chuan form.

When your body lacks the basic skills, there is a danger of injury.
You may hurt yourself.
You may harm somebody else.

What would you contemplate?

That is entirely up to you.

The purpose of contemplation is to increase your perception, to use the focussed thought as a means of seeing how you think.
By looking deeply into any subject or problem, you can observe your own mind.

Ultimately your scrutiny may well
reveal more about your character than the subject you are considering.



The Art of War lists the qualities expected of a leader.
One of these is the need to be stern.

Definitions of 'stern':

  1. Serious and unrelenting, especially in the assertion of authority and exercise of discipline
  2. Strict and severe; using extreme measures or terms
  3. Putting someone or something under pressure


What is contemplation?

Contemplation is the intense consideration of a very specific subject.

Rather than gloss over a matter, you commit
time to deliberately think it through thoroughly and completely.

It is easy to live a superficial life.
Yet, often something is missing and for all your possessions, it can feel hollow.

Thinking long and hard about something can provide new insights and unexpected outcomes.


Stop doing

You do not need to look, listen or reach out of yourself to experience the moment.
The information comes to your body unbidden. You see, hear and feel automatically. Involuntarily.
It is not necessary to do anything. Instead you need to stop doing.

Doing is led by the mind, whereas awareness is passive.

This condition of absolute presence will emerge without effort if you allow your mind to stop seeking, forcing and straining.
Just be.
Let your awareness grow. Notice things. Be curious. Be alive. Be alert. Let-go.

Sifu Waller's home training

This has been Sifu Waller's daily routine since 1992:
  1. Strength-building
    - balls & grips
    - self-massage (100+ exercises)
    - 3 circle qigong (15 minutes)
    - ba duan jin (8 exercises)
    - reeling silk (6 exercises)
    - 16 elbows
    - moving qigong (15 exercises)
    - leg stretches: day 1 or 2
  2. Baguazhang
    - 8 palm changes (clockwise & anticlockwise)
    - 8 mother palms
    - 6 direction changes
  3. Drills
    - small san sau
    - silk arms
    - 5 pre-emptive measures
    - pushing peng/double pushing hands/da lu/penetrating defences/reflex drills
    - 3-tier wallbag
  4. Weapons
    - knife drills
    - small stick drills
    - stick drills (Monday - Saturday)
    - broadsword drills (Sunday)
    - sabre form (regular & mirrored)
    - 2 person cane form/drill (regular & mirrored)
    - staff form (regular & mirrored)
    - walking stick form (regular & mirrored)
    - straight sword form (regular & mirrored)
  5. Tai chi chuan
    - pao chui
    - Yang Cheng Fu form (regular & mirrored)
  6. Hard qigong
    - full circle qigong (2 postures)/qigong development (2 postures)/form posture qigong (2 postures)/high circle qigong/qigong on one leg
  7. Cool down
    - stretches & joint work (10 exercises)/psoas exercises (5 exercises)

  8. Meditation
    - constructive rest position
    - guided relaxation
  9. Reading/study


Be honest with yourself

It is good to be honest with yourself about just how serious you are...
Some people are casual students, whilst for others it is simply a hobby.
A few individuals are committed.
Not many people are serious.

There is nothing wrong with approaching the art in the way that best suits you.
Your own level of interest and commitment are your affair.
What you get out of the art will be directly relative to what you put into it.


Taking advantage

It is quite normal for most students to take a class and the teacher for granted.
Sadly, it is a sign of the times.
Our culture has become very selfish and many people genuinely believe that the world revolves around them.

Occasionally, a student chooses to moan/complain/vent their frustration at the teacher.
What can the instructor do about this?
Should they indulge the student?


What is grading?

Students are evaluated every 12 weeks. Sifu offers advice, corrections, tips and pointers. 
If you understand the fundamentals of your grade well enough, you can move up to the next belt.



With a keep fit class or the gym 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.

Learning tai chi is a little different to attending a night school course or a keep fit class.



This morning I was attempting to remember and re-organize my discipline, love, honour, and commitment vis a vis my life and martial arts training. I discovered your web site and it is so beautifully organized and to the point of my thoughts, that I had to email you and say thank you for having it on the internet.




I learned more in one afternoon about the art of Yang Cheng Fu style tai chi by browsing Sifu Waller's website than I have in the 2 months this thread has run. Some people are better at putting these things into words than other people. Sifu Waller is one of them.

 The art as explained on Sifu Waller's website is obviously the real deal.

 (Ricky Wood)



Meditation is the process of growing awareness.

You must root your attention in the 'here and now' unless deliberately allowing yourself to dream.
As you sit right now, what is your body doing? How is it is positioned? Are you relaxed or tense?
What are your thoughts? Do you feel at ease?



In order to be soft, you must first relax. In order to be relaxed, your joints must first loosen. When your joints are loose, you can move your body as one unit and manifest your jing like a soft whip.

 (Yang Jwing-Ming)



A casual student is not capable of learning our syllabus.


Lineage candidates

We are looking for these qualities in a potential candidate:

• Combat skills
• Good attitude
• Passing belts quickly
• Competence with form
• Twice-weekly attendance
• Evidence of home training
• A serious commitment to training
• Assignments completed punctually
• Enthusiasm with shido-geiko responsibilities
• Studying both supreme ultimate fist & 8 trigrams palm


Health & safety

Dr Paul Lam emphasizes the importance of understanding what you are doing with your body during each movement in tai chi.

For example: knowing the difference between pelvis and hips will spare your knees considerable discomfort.

It is not enough to feel relaxed. Your body must be used with awareness.



No humans command it;
it is even by nature.

(Lao Tzu)


Cigarettes & alcohol

Addictive substances are used to prop people up.

A student once commented that after a few weeks of tai chi chuan he’d stopped drinking altogether. No effort was involved; he just didn’t feel like it anymore.

He remarked, “Happy people don’t drink.”


Test your teacher

If your tai chi chuan teacher has groundpath, you should be able to put your hands on their arms at any point during practice and ‘bounce’ their structure.

When they are halfway through form, ask them to freeze. Then test their posture. Is it substantial? Is it stiff? Are they tensing-up against you?

Be vigorous. Feel for gaps and weaknesses.

They should be springy like elastic, yet internally connected. They should feel relaxed but strong, with absolutely no conscious effort required.

If your teacher crumples in a heap or pushes back into you, find another instructor.


“It’s all in the hands,” the man assured me after watching my tai chi chuan form. He seemed quite confident that tai chi chuan was all about moving your hands around.

It isn’t.

Movement is generated by the feet, directed by the waist and comes out of the hands. Or feet, shoulder, elbow, whatever…

If you think it’s in the hands, you’re either not looking closely enough or the demonstration is lousy.

Some teachers fuss about hand positions, and whilst these are important, they are secondary to the feet. A subtle change in hand position will only make a mild difference to form whereas incorrect foot alignment can actually damage the knee joint.

‘Faulty sensory appreciation’/‘sensory mis-appreciation’ can mean that you think that the insides of your feet are parallel or that your knee is pointing in-line with your toe... but when you look down, this is not the case at all.

Tai chi chuan isn't just in the feet any more than it’s all in the hands, but the feet are a good place to begin.


The Inner Way


In order to pass on the art effectively and comprehensively, a teacher must include two factors in their teachings:
  1. What they were taught by their own instructor 
  2. What they have learned for themselves
Every teacher should aim to contribute to the art.
They should share their own insights, experiences and perceptions.
It adds to the wealth of knowledge and makes the legacy richer and more worthwhile having.



Your tai chi lessons are about tai chi, not the teacher; the teacher must never become more important than the subject.
 Follow the tai chi, not the teacher.
 Every instructor changes what they learn, either subtly or greatly.

 This can be through a lack of understanding, inaccurate practice, or a deliberate alteration intended to emphasise one aspect of the tai chi; such as health.

 Lineage cannot prevent this change - each person adds or removes something from the tai chi.
 Every school has its own version (or interpretation) of somebody else's version...

 What really matters is whether or not your school encourages you to explore the system for yourself and whether or not it teaches the tai chi principles correctly.
Without the fundamental principles, tai chi is not actually tai chi - irrespective of who taught who.




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)




Concentration has its place, but in terms of meditation and self defence, it is not desirable.
A more appropriate skill is 'attention'.

Attention is the ability to have awareness without shutting out everything else.
It is about being one with the moment; present and alert. 
There is no process of isolation or exclusion.
You are being mindful.



Tai chi chuan self defence is unlike other martial arts.
It possesses a strange kind of serenity, a detachment from the event.
This is accomplished conversely by being utterly immersed in the moment, in the happening.

An attack is launched and the student is one with that movement - joining and neutralising, flowing and countering. There is no effort. No resistance or struggle.

Conventional strength is unnecessary, for we do not challenge strength or allow no strength to be exerted upon us.

Every movement and every nuance is a whole-body action. No part leads and no part is left behind.
Even the smallest step is integrated and soft, agile and alive. The student is alert and sensitive to everything.


The instructor

A good instructor is concerned with the spirit of the art. Their tai chi chuan should be lively and fresh, not droll.
Vibrant tai chi chuan possesses spirit.

The instructor should look lively and expressive.
Their applications are varied and diverse, spontaneous and effective.
The art flows from them without effort. They are natural, comfortable and at ease.


Palm changes

Palm changes are essentially form. We practice 8 different palm changes.

Palm changes are quite short in length.
They teach the body how to move in a bagua manner and enhance your ability to walk the circle.
A student learns how to coordinate changing, stepping, turning and arm movement.


Your own agenda

Everyone has an agenda.
The more honest and open you are about your own, the more likely you are to find a suitable class.

Do you have health-problems? Have you bad knees? A bad back?
Are you concerned about being thrown on the floor?
Does the prospect of self defence training frighten you?
Is your age an issue?
What are your expectations?
Are you willing to commit to a weekly class?
Do have previous tai chi chuan experience? (Are you hoping that the new class will be the same as the old?)
Are you attending class because you really want to, or because you think you should?

Tai chi master

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


When to concentrate

Concentration is a specialist tool and should be employed sparingly.
There are many situations in which it is important to concentrate.
Other occasions would benefit from attention rather than concentration.

Determining the appropriate application of concentration can improve learning and help you to narrow down options.


Things people say...

I've heard people comment that tai chi chuan cannot be used in self defence... or that the bagua palm changes are a training method rather than martial...

These comments/opinions tell me two things:

1. The person saying them cannot personally apply these arts
2. They have not attended our school

It is dangerous to generalise about martial arts; applicability rests in the hands of the instructor. The better your instructor, the more they can do with the tools they have been given.



After long years of practice, your body will regain the qualities of a baby, and you can respond to everything around you with the simplicity and naturalness of a child.

(Yang Jwing-Ming)


Concentration is the act of focussing. It is a narrowing of perspective.
Extraneous distractions are blocked out and the attention is directed towards a limited target.

Keeping your mind on what you are doing is excellent. It improves quality.

Sometimes, it is good to be distracted, to notice unexpected possibilities, to wander off in new directions.
However, there is a danger with distraction: the more distracted you become, the less competent you are.


Is tai chi chuan dance?

Tai chi chuan may look like dance and move like dance but it is something else - something far more complex than dance.

The art has many facets.
It is a healthy form of exercise, a system of self defence, meditation training, the physical embodiment of taoist insights and a spiritual journey.

The student

A dedicated student aims to steal their instructor's art.
This is akin to acquiring a trade secret.
Only by taking responsibility for their own learning can a student hope to learn the true depth of the art.

Motivation, commitment, intelligence, enthusiasm - these are all relevant factors.
To quote the proverb: You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.



Some beginners want to collect forms. Instead of learning one form thoroughly, they want to accumulate.
As a consequence, superficial knowledge is sought, and the beginner never penetrates the art.

Collecting forms and drills is not a good thing. It leads to an attitude of flitting.
The untrained mind becomes goal-oriented and skips around.
By doing more, we accomplish less. Do not spread yourself too thinly.

Thinning our time and our attention leads to a watered-down outcome, rather than a richer one.



Lineage students

Taking private lessons and/or training with an instructor for many years does not make you an 'indoor student'.

If a class member wants an indoor relationship with the instructor, the process is quite formal.
The student must become a 'lineage student' and this entails meeting certain criteria and fulfilling specific obligations.


How long will it take to pass green belt?

This is entirely up to you.

A student who attends weekly classes, trains at home and uses all available resources may be capable of passing the grade within 6 months.

It may take a less committed student a little longer.



This was what we were cultivating - purity of being and pure attention to each other's being.

(Ron Sieh)



Tai chi chuan students do not need to perform press-ups, sit-ups, weight training or cardiovascular work.
Strength can be gained without straining the body.
A more gentle approach is practiced.



Advertising and mass media use 'pretty people' to sell everything and anything to you.

Slim, muscular, healthy-looking models munch on cake and pout as they take each bite. Their clothing, hair, make-up and body language suggest that a deeply sensual experience is taking place, and you are missing out on it.

Meanwhile, articles in magazines tell you that chocolate is better than sex. And films like Chocolat really sell the product.

Let's get real.

Imagine Chocolat in the real world. Instead of the lithe Juliette Binoche we would have a flabby, obese person weighing 15-20 stones, with bingo wings and a face swallowed by fat. Hardly romantic.

Consider the adverts? An obese person munches on cake, with chocolate smeared around their face and on their hands. They talk to you whilst eating. Who would buy the product?

You are being manipulated. That is what media does.


Give it a chance

The first lesson you have in tai chi chuan will be hindered by your own personality.
Even if you have trained tai chi chuan before, you are unlikely to see past the veil of your own self-consciousness and fears.

It is usually worth trying a few classes.
That way, you can settle-in a little and really observe what is taking place in class.
Pay particular attention to the more skilled students: what are they training? How adept do they seem? Are they having fun?



People are occasionally reluctant to follow instructions. They get smart with the instructor or seek to debate the issue.
Martial arts classes are not democratic.


Emotional investment

A lot of martial arts instructors are emotionally invested in what they teach. They are adamant that their system is the best.
Sifu Waller is not like this.
He sees the tai chi chuan and baguazhang as being the best thing for him.

For Sifu Waller, these arts are vehicles for the exploration of self defence and sophisticated body use.


Authority in martial arts

The student must decide to what extent you are prepared to accept the instructor's authority.
If you wish to remain in the class, then you must accept it unconditionally.

If you are unwilling to acknowledge the worth of the instructor, then you should leave.



If your partner needs a bunch of flowers, teddy bear or chocolates one day per year to remind them that you care, something is probably amiss with your relationship.

Your love should be apparent in your everyday treatment of them.

Insincere greeting cards containing messages of phoney sentimentality (written by someone else) aren't romantic. They're kitsch.

Don't cheapen your partner with trite verses and tinsel. Show your feelings all year round.




Yang tai chi chuan and Jiang baguazhang share certain characteristics (which is why we chose to study and teach them):
  1. Stances are rounded and natural
  2. High stance
  3. Martially viable
  4. Good vehicle for chin na, jing and shuai jiao
  5. Nimble footwork
  6. Alive, agile body use
  7. Energy based (jing) not bone/muscle (li)



Focussing can cause anxiety. You address one concern and ignore another. The more concerns you have, the harder it is to address them all skilfully.

This approach is like juggling.
Instead of going with the flow and feeling what is happening, you are trying desperately to catch one ball whilst keeping all the others still up in the air.

What is the answer?

There is no fixed answer.
Sometimes it is beneficial to look at the individual details and address them in depth.
At other times, you must consider the overall event and feel the essence of what is happening, the flow.

Tai chi chuan instructors

A tai chi chuan instructor needs at least 10 years of experience and a serious commitment to home practice.
Martial instructors must show clear evidence of ability in all
8 areas of skill.

An expert has 20 years study and 10,000 hours of practice.

A master should have 30-40 years martial arts experience, with at least 30,000 hours of tai chi practice.
They are capable of teaching other instructors.

A grandmaster must have taught an extensive number of high-level instructors.
They would be in a position of significant responsibility within a school and have influence within the wider tai chi/martial arts community.



Your awareness and perceptions of things around you must be clear and not distorted by emotions or preconceptions.

 (Yang Jwing-Ming)


Every school is different

No two martial arts schools are the same.
Every instructor teaches according to their own values, interpretation of the material, and personal preferences.
Ask yourself:

Does the class teach a 'complete martial art'?
Do you need to supplement the training with gym work, running or weight training?
How concerned is the class with health and wellbeing?
Are the students friendly and relaxed?
Is there a macho atmosphere?
Can smaller students use the art effectively?



Force on force alerts the nervous system. A block or a tense strike represents an obstacle and the attacker's body automatically stops and resists.

This does not happen when the counter is soft.



Our syllabus is very versatile.
It offers a wide range of skills, including kicks, punches, grapples, floor work, weaponry, joint manipulation, energy projection...

There is also a significant health component, and very little risk of injury despite vigorous self defence work.




In combat, you cannot be overwhelmed by your emotional mind. If you fight only with your emotional mind, you will lose control of your self spiritually and physically. When the emotional mind is calm, your mind is clear and the judgement will be accurate.

 (Yang Jwing-Ming)


The rabbit and the fox

This excellent story comes from the book Zen in the Martial Arts:

A zen master out for a walk with one of his students pointed out a fox chasing a rabbit.

"According to an ancient fable, the rabbit will get away from the fox," the master said.

  "Not so," replied the student. "The fox is faster."

"But the rabbit will elude him," insisted the master.

"Why are you so certain?" asked the student.

"Because the fox is running for his dinner and the rabbit is running for his life," answered the master.

(Joe Hyams)

The same lesson can be applied to fighting and self defence.

A fight is a mutual conflict - about something.
Self defence is when somebody assaults you - and you must protect yourself.

When you are defending your wellbeing (and possibly your life) the stakes are high.
You have everything to lose.



If we take taoism as our starting place, we can find the most comfortable, nature position to be in throughout the movement of each and every posture. No strain, no tension, no imbalance. Optimal comfort and optimal power. Without effort. Without force.


Effort-to-reward ratio

What makes the training appealing is the fact that the applications are simple, direct, subtle and effective.

There is no struggling, sweating and straining.
No forcing.
If you are using obvious strength, you are doing something wrong.

In fact, once you possess neigong, the less effort you use, the greater the effect.

Keep it simple by Nick Page


High kicks?

You are trying to kick higher.

High kicks are not encouraged in tai chi or bagua, and kicking will not be taught until 2nd dan.


Conventional martial arts favour the younger, stronger, fitter student.
By contrast; the neijiaquan encourage a mature mind.
Instead of retiring from combat at the age of 40, a student can look forward to spending the rest of their life training the art.

Tai chi chuan is the gentlest of the internal arts, and works the body in a very safe manner.


Second-guessing the instructor is foolish.
Inevitably you are lacking the entire picture.
You are making a judgement from an incomplete perspective.

Playful training in class

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 joy of learning

Gaining skill is an occasion for enthusiasm and fun.
If you are studying something you enjoy, it should not feel like hard work.

As your abilities improve and your insight deepens, you recognise how much you have learned.


Be smooth. Do not prepare. Do not suddenly counter. Do nothing. Then act as if not acting. Do not alert the attacker by being abrupt or jerky. Think of the I Ching. Think of being in a neutral state.

True learning

She did not consciously think, "Ah, today I learned this and that; I gained this much." You do not do it step by step that way, by adding on coatings of varnish, or new paint. When learning becomes you, then it appears as you need it, when you are being you. Sometimes true learning surprises you when it emerges.

(Chungliang Al Huang)


Adding new material

The syllabus was designed to teach you what you need to know at each stage of your development.
It is a massive, comprehensive syllabus.
It is very well thought out.

Adding something from the outside is unwise.



There are many aspects of the tai chi practice that cannot be conveyed on-line, via DVD/video or a book.
We have no intention of illustrating form on-line, teaching gravity strikes or attempting to explain neigong in detail.
If you want to understand these things, you will need to take lessons.

This is not a commercial decision. It is a functional one. Tai chi chuan requires direct transmission.


Just do it

When instructed to do something, just do it.
If the directions are unclear, ask for confirmation. But refrain from argument, discussion or debate.
Just act.


Peter Southwood's tips #5 High repetition

High repetition is used to encourage the student to pass the threshold of self-consciousness.
To become so fatigued that they can no longer think clearly.

Worn out, struggling and clumsy... the student finally lets go and begins to produce spontaneous, natural, honest responses.
The applications may not be skilful but represent what the student is capable of under pressure.

Teaching experience

Sifu Waller has considerable experience teaching tai chi chuan:
  1. Bradford Yang Style Tai Chi Association (1995 - 1999)
  2. Dynamic Balancing Boxing (1999 -2004)
  3. Newcastle Tai Chi (2004 - present day)


Swift feet

Considerable balance is acquired through learning baguazhang.
Walking the circle requires the student to sink their root deep into the ground in order to become stable in motion.
Evasive footwork is vital.
The feet must be agile, alert and swift.

Circle walking needs to be smooth and natural, casual and comfortable.
Awkward stepping cannot be used in self defence.


Test your teacher

If your taijiquan teacher has groundpath, you should be able to put your hands on their arms at any point during practice and ‘bounce’ their structure.

When they are halfway through form, ask them to freeze. Then test their posture. Is it substantial? Is it stiff? Are they tensing-up against you?

Be vigorous. Feel for gaps and weaknesses.

They should be springy like elastic, yet internally connected. They should feel relaxed but strong, with absolutely no conscious effort required.

If your teacher crumples in a heap or pushes back into you, find another instructor. Yo-chi and kara-chi are not the way.



Most martial arts are pretty effective. The question really is: which system suits you?

What are your criteria?
Are you looking for kicking, punching, grappling?
Do you want to fight? Or do you want self defence?
Are you seeking a more philosophical component?

See what is on offer.

Does the class teach a 'complete martial art'?
Do you need to supplement the training with gym work, running or weight training?
How concerned is the class with health and wellbeing?
Are the students friendly and relaxed?
Is there a macho atmosphere?
Can smaller students use the art?



An instructor should have an in-depth, extensive syllabus, good teaching skills and the ability to perform all aspects of the art spontaneously and easily.
The lessons should be stimulating; challenging and thought-provoking.
The instructor should be articulate, calm, composed and skilful.



Your movements will be agile and your spirit of vitality will be high. You will begin to feel that your tai chi practice goes beyond simple form training, and you will be able to perceive things as energetic combinations rather than as static physical bodies.

 (Yang Jwing-Ming)