Versatility is the key to good self defence.
Choices, options, variables, possibilities, opportunities and nuances offer you creativity.

Self defence is not to be found in any form or drill.
They only represent material.

Your ability to defend yourself must transcend the lessons.
It must extend into your everyday life...


Qigong/neigong framework

All of those countless qigong exercises, form movements and neigong qualities function to create a framework of strength.
This network of connected body parts exists at all times. It is inherent.
You do not to tense-up or apply contracted muscle power.

All you need to do is trust that this framework exists.



Trying is born of failure.

Students of tao learn to move with what is.
Instead of opposing, you allow, and then gently re-direct.
There is no resistance.
No tension.
And no thought of control.

Let-go and yield.

If you are trying, then you are struggling.
And that is not the way.


Martial arts fashion

Not many martial artists actually reach an impressive level of skill. The sad truth is that real martial arts are dying out because modern life doesn't value such things anymore. Unless its trendy and cool, who cares? Martial arts have become fashionable nowadays and students flit around like blue flies. The dogged staunch student of yesteryear who works diligently at one art, one mastery is almost gone. Sir Galahad or some such crusader; a lost knight in search of a forgotten mystery? Do modern people want Zen? Do they seek one-ness or enlightenment? Is there much evidence of Art?

(Andrew Clarke)




In the dojo, an attack or a response succeeds or fails. That's it. There is no need, no place, for excuses, no matter how relevant they may be.

(Dave Lowry)



There is a story about a king who wanted an artist to paint a bird.
The king asked the artist how long it would take him to produce the painting. The artist said "One year."
A year passed and the king called upon the artist.
The artist promptly proceeded to paint the bird whilst the king watched.

The king asked, "Why did you tell me that it would take you a year?"
The artist took him into a room. The room was littered with practice paintings, sketches of birds and research material.
The year of preparation enabled the artist to paint the bird spontaneously.



It is unusual to actually hold a posture in tai chi yet superficially that is exactly what we are doing with standing qigong.

With the feet shoulder-width apart, knees naturally bent (not forced), we extend our arms as if embracing somebody and then hold that position.

The scapula is pulled forward very slightly at first. Later, it is relaxed again.
Shoulders, elbows and wrists are loose and dropped, the fingers are open and apart.
Keep the arms rounded in shape.

The hands should be about chest height.
Place the tongue on the roof of the mouth as if saying 'la' and keep it there.
The eyes remain open and breathing should be relaxed.
Position 1 should be held for 10 minutes every day.

When complete, the arms lower to waist height and position 2 is held for a further 5 minutes.



Miyamoto Musashi was one of the most inspiring martial arts legends.

The man was a total genius and his Book of Five Rings has influenced our syllabus to a serious extent.
It contains countless practical hints and pointers concerning martial application.
His suggestions are relentless; the sheer volume of material is bewildering.

Any serious martial artist should be well-versed in his teachings.



When fighting an opponent who feints, stay calm, don't respond.
If your opponent is in range it doesn't matter whether the attack is a feint or not,
just step in and attack.

(Lau Kim Hong)


Psychological receptivity

The mind can easily become rigid and inflexible so it is important to make it supple again.

Reading texts such as Tao Te Ching and Chuang Tzu or studying Krishnamurti will help to release your mind from old ways of thinking.
Such material cannot be apprehended without considerable change within.

Meditation is the second aspect of this change.
This does not mean chanting, special breathing anything transcendental.
Simply be present.



It is very important to comprehend that you are not striking in the conventional way.
Tai chi is not like boxing.
You must not 'cock' the shoulder.

The power must come up and out - directed by the hips - inward to your opponents centre.

If groundpath is present, you should be capable of placing your hand on your opponent and delivering though without retracting the hand or cocking the shoulder.
'Moving qigong' will develop this ability.



When you are feeling tired it good to hold each standing qigong posture for a little longer than normal.

I try to hold one or two postures for around 20 mins each. It feels great...



There is a small risk of injury in melee.

Every participant must be careful to only use soft contact. Otherwise, it is very easy to break something.
Our aim must be exuberant play.

The disorientation of repeated ceaseless attack is necessary.
You stop conceptualising and just respond.

But be careful.
Without control, you are an amateur
The greater your skill, the softer and more flowing you will be.


The more you learn the less you know...

Progress in tai chi brings with it an expanded consciousness. You come to recognise that the art is much, much deeper than you realised and that the study you have undertaken to date is essentially superficial.

There is always a layer beyond what you now know, and another layer beyond that, and so on.

This is not about form collecting, or acquiring new things to practice. It is about thoroughness. Tai chi is complex and sophisticated. Your body use, application and adherence to the tai chi principles entails an unending journey of growing comprehension.

There is no actual conclusion.

Having proceeded into the experienced syllabus, the diligent student recognises that their new perspective brings not arrogance and ego, but humility. The territory seems vast from the heights, and largely unexplored. Ahead, unimagined mountains loom in the clouds.



Strength DVD is excellent ! Lots of material, and the pace/detail is good as well.




Questioner: My mother has been dead for some years. Quite recently I have lost my father also, and I am full of remorse. My sorrow is not only remorse, but also the feeling of suddenly being left alone. What am I to do? How am I to get over it?

Krishnamurti: If one may ask, do you suffer for your father, or does sorrow arise from having no longer the relationship to which you had grown accustomed?

Questioner: I don't quite understand what you mean.

Krishnamurti: Do you suffer because your father is gone, or because you feel lonely?
You are suffering, surely, not for your father, but because you are lonely, and your sorrow is that which comes from self-pity.



Soft meeting

Soft meeting refers to the way in which we encounter an opposing force.
If we stiffen and offer resistance, then the force can enter us.
If we remain relaxed and allow the force to move us, then then it will not find purchase.

Force meeting force is not tai chi.
Force must be met with softness and yielding.
Soft meeting requires a serious degree of physical sensitivity and awareness within your body; the ability to feel the tension within the incoming force and to dissipate your own tension at the same time.


Internal power

Internal power is different to external strength.
It unites the entire body and never uses local strength. The larger muscles of the torso and legs do most of the work.

Not many martial arts use internal power. It takes longer to learn, but requires far less effort to apply.



If you cannot gauge how much power to use, you are a liability to your practice partners and need to slow down until your sensitivity develops.

The use of muscular strength is the main sign of incompetence.
Tensing your arms, and shoulders means that you are struggling with the attacker, and this is not the way.
Only by letting-go can you hope to make progress.

Tensing blocks movement - both your own and the attackers.
What is the benefit of this?
What is the point of this?

You must be fluid and flowing like water, not stiff and unyielding like a robot.


The 70% rule

If you remain well within your limits at all times there is less risk of injury.

Most people exceed their natural range of safe movement frequently throughout the day without realising it.

The 70% rule encourages them to be aware of their natural range.
In self defence, over-commitment is a serious flaw because you have little room for failure.
Holding 30% in reserve is a useful safety precaution.



A karate blue belt will most likely possess more viable combat skills than a tai chi student of an equivalent grade/level of experience.
This is to be expected.
External arts teach self defence much more quickly and successfully than internal arts do.

A tai chi student must learn a different range of skills first: whole-body movement, jing, relaxation and sensitivity.
These are the priority.
Combat is introduced gradually and systematically.



When somebody attacks, they attack you with movement. Without movement, there can be no attack.
It is the movement they use to strike you and it is the movement that you must respond to.

This led to the exercise we call 'yielding'.
Yielding is all about incoming force. The line of force.

Yielding represents the foundation exercise for melee. It applies to punches, kicks and grapples.
Once you can sense and continue the line of force, your scope for response is increased.

As you proceed through the syllabus, yielding is attached to other drills in order to extend their scope.


Knowledge & insight

Knowledge without insight will never produce wisdom.
It is important for you to 'get out of your own way' and let the skills emerge of their own accord.

Thinking, pushing, second-guessing can all lead to arrogance and ignorance.

Understanding requires context, and context comes from experience, patience and insight.


Question to Sifu Waller re martial practice

Question: You always emphasise the martial principles and application in all your classes. With so many tai chi classes NOT doing this, are you not swimming against the stream?

Answer: Form follows function. Tai chi is a martial art. If your form is not practiced with martial concerns in mind, what is it following? It is following your ego.



Progress in tai chi is always hampered by physical, emotional and psychological tension.
This barrier must be dissolved from within.
Surrender. Give-in. Stop fighting.

There is so much more to tai chi than simply being relaxed and moving in a choreographed manner.
A person may train for decades and never truly let-go.
Tension is such an ingrained habit that a person seldom appreciates how brittle they really are.

The mind and the body develop 'holding patterns' of fixity intended to create a sense of security and stability.
Unfortunately, in reality they disconnect you from the ground and make you insensitive.
You must open-up, yield and become receptive.

Involuntary shaking during qigong practice is the first sign that you are letting-go and allowing your body work with gravity.