In order to become skilled with a weapons form, you must have some sense of how to use it.

Beginners always train with lightweight sword, and this is necessary. However it can give the wrong impression to the student.
A lightweight sword (strictly speaking) is not a weapon.
If you bashed a wushu sword or a cheap steel sword against a real jian, the blade would bend and be immediately useless.
Flashy twirls and flourishes, and over-extended arms are impossible when the sword has some weight.

Cane and staff forms do not need to be trained with an oak staff.
The rattan stick is the weapon. It is tough, flexible, durable and fast.
Oak is slow, heavy and unwieldy.

If you want to practice sword forms with some sense of realism and work through the 5 stages, then you need to use a heavy weapon at some point.

Christmas feedback

Greetings Sifu Waller: I like your Xmas views.

Margot & I decided no presents for each other this year.
Well that is not strictly correct. I give Margot $210, she gives me $210.
We then pool the $420 & send it to India where a Tibetan Buddhist Monk's father will have an operation and regain his sight.

I think I am starting to get that Christmas feeling again.




Seek expert guidance from a trained professional

Do not entrust your wellbeing to an amateur.


Rise & shine - tai chi-style...

Sifu wakes with the sun and the birds and has no real need of an alarm clock.

He wakes with dynamo-like energy and is already training before I can pry my eyes open and consider the possibility of getting out of bed...

A lifetime of early mornings and nearly 40 years of martial arts training has programmed Sifu to rise and shine no matter the occasion. Sifu is so seldom ill that for him not to wake with zeal is a bad, bad sign indeed.


3 years to grasp the basics

Traditionally, at least three years of dedicated training were required before a student could be considered to have acquired a rudimentary knowledge of tai chi skills.

(Zhang Yun)


Not so Christian Christmas

If Christmas is intended to celebrate the birth of Christ, how come its a commercial holiday?

Jesus said, "Take everything you have and give it to the poor."

The modern Christmas is not very Christian.

Slow & boring?



Finding a tai chi class may sound like a simple enough proposition, but there are many considerations to take into account.

Many classes purport to be teaching tai chi, but are really offering tai chi-style exercise.
Often the instructor only knows a few warm-up exercises and a short sequence of movements.
They move their arms around and the class copies.

Synchronised arm waving is not tai chi. No matter how pretty it looks. Or how nice it feels. Or how popular the class is.

Choose your class carefully:


Key factors

Learn what the key factors are:
Apply these - as best you can - to every activity in class.


Time served?

Some martial arts award belts for 'time served'.
This is preposterous.
A beginner is a beginner no matter how many years they attend class.
Awarding a certificate of attendance is meaningless. It is not worth the paper it is written on.

If you want to move past the beginners grade then there is only one answer: pass belts and move on.


Bad tai chi

Not all tai chi will help your body.
Some classes are very badly taught and will actively damage your body.
Be careful when choosing a tai chi class; there are many well-meaning amateurs teaching these days.


Slow down

If you rush, you will make a mess of things.
Tai chi chuan is synonymous with slowness; keep this in mind when you practice.
Being slow enables you to notice things.

Your body will not adjust to new activities as quickly as you would like it to.
It is necessary to give yourself time, to be patient.

You cannot force an outcome.

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)



Partner work is an excellent way to develop the awareness required to feel and understand tai chi.
Exercises such as pushing hands can be practiced very softly so that the subtlest pressure and tension can be felt immediately.

There is no competition involved; no rivalry or aggression.
Students are primarily concerned with cultivating internal skill and maintaining appropriate body use.

Christmas approaches

The Western world goes mad with greed every Christmas. Why? What is the point?
If you must buy, why not buy from charities?


Flowing chin na

Once the principles are familiar, students will learn how to flow from one chin na to another.

The ability to flow from one chin na to another has distinct advantages:

  1. It enables you to persist with your intention of inflicting injury
  2. You remain sticky
  3. You maintain in control
  4. You demonstrate your skill
  5. You can inflict a wider variety of damage without risk of an effective counter



A new starter must learn how to relax their muscles and utilise skeletal alignment to their advantage.
Habitual muscular tension actively prevents optimal alignment.
Tense muscles lock the joints and impede natural, healthy skeletal use.

Letting-go of tension and trusting the skeleton requires a leap of faith, and here is where the difficulty lies.
The student must stop doing what is comfortable and familiar, and try something entirely new.

Hence the catch-22:
- in order to use the skeleton properly a person needs to relax and allow the joints to open and the spine to settle
- relaxation requires confidence and confidence assumes security
- the unfamiliar promotes insecurity/fear and fear keeps the body tense



What will you be doing on December 25th?
Will you be opening presents you don’t need, eating too much food and going through the motions for another year?
How about the people who cannot afford Christmas?

Very few people actually appreciate how wealthy they are and how much we take that wealth for granted.



It is common to see new students attempting to jump ahead: trying out more complex skills prematurely.
This may be the result of enthusiasm.
Or it may be impatience.

Whatever the cause it usually results in failure.

Skills take time to cultivate, explore and understand.
There are no quick fixes, no shortcuts, no sudden enlightenment.

The danger with ignoring the step-by-step learning process is that you begin to follow the dictates of your own ego, rather than the direction of the instructor.
You are imposing your own agenda.
What you value and regard as being important is unlikely to coincide with the values of your teacher.

Be simple and methodical.
Follow every exercise and drill step-by-step.
Do not deviate.
Do not add or remove anything from the instructions provided by your teacher.

If you were capable of doing a more complex application, you would have been shown it in detail.


What if you're small?

I'm small in stature and don't weigh a lot. This makes heavy weapons practice a problem.

The oak staff strains my shoulders, and the real jian and sabre used by Sifu Waller (at over 2lbs in weight) are unworkably heavy.

So, what do I do?