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?