Your mind

People often find that their mind struggles with complex material as they age. This can be a significant impediment when learning a martial art. The answer lies with patience and practice. The older you are, the more regularly you need to practice. Little and often is best.

What is 'feeling'?

When people claim to feel this way or that way about something, they actually mean 'think', not feel.
Thinking is based upon memory, experience and opinion. It is not feeling.

Physical touch is not feeling. It is sensation.

Emotions are not feelings, they are responses to events. Emotions are related to thoughts. Emotion is commonly used as a form of blackmail.
What we think of as being an emotional 'feeling' is in fact an attempt to control events, to shape circumstances to suit our preferences.

So, what is feeling?



Does Master Waller have any indoor students?

Only his wife.


Your teacher tells you to remain soft and loose, that you can move somebody simply by shifting your weight and turning your waist...
If you don't believe them, what happens?
You use local muscle tension. You seek to accomplish the task through incorrect means.

Your lack of faith in the tai chi and the teacher results in your failure.
Half-heartedness - trying rather than doing - is caused by doubt .
If you believe that you can move the person, you will use the tai chi.
Your mind and body must join to create intention.
If you commence a task with an attitude of failure, then you will fail because you have chosen to.



Rick Faye, my kali instructor in Minneapolis, has an interesting view of the arts.In a newsletter he wrote that at the origin of every 'traditional' martial art was a creative individual, a rogue - someone usually outside the tradition - who was different from his contemporaries. Unorthodox and effective, he did what worked. What was communicated in the teachings of these individuals was basically the techniques of their art. These techniques were handed down and a 'traditional' martial art was established. Sincere exploration is not supported in 'traditional' classes, but rather obedience to the 'style'. Yet this is precisely what the founder undoubtedly broke away from.

(Ron Sieh)


The silent flute

Inspired by Krishnamurti's teachings, Bruce Lee developed a story which eventually became a film called The Silent Flute.
The film was about a martial artist who seeks truth. Instead of finding 'truth' he found himself.

One can function freely and totally if he is 'beyond system'.
The man who is really serious, with the urge to find out what truth is, has no style at all.
He lives only in what is.

(Bruce Lee)

The silent flute symbolised an inner rhythm; an inexpressible essence within each of us.
It is our own harmony with tao. Beyond words and thought, there is something that makes you uniquely you.

The film teaches us that the journey is what matters; the journey within.
Everyone is different and must find their own way.

In our school, we explore tai chi together and encourage students to learn through experience.
Once the fundamentals have been discovered, guidance and obstacles are presented.
The student is responsible for their own progress.

We offer the small circle, small frame Yang Cheng Fu form and encourage students to adhere to the correct sequence.
How they apply it is up to them providing they follow the tai chi principles and it works in combat.



I have several friends who studied in the Cheng Man Ching tradition of tai chi chuan.
These people have as the foundation and trademark of their art the tai chi set that was modified and shortened by Cheng Man Ching.
They are very meticulous concerning the choreography of that set: fingertips level with the eye, just so far away from the body,the weight exactly seventy percent on one foot, thirty percent on the other.
Typically there is no deviation.
There is also a pride and certain arrogance in having studied with the man who many consider the authority, the lineage holder (although the Yang family disagrees) of Yang Cheng Fu's style of tai chi chuan.
Yet none of the disciples come close to what Cheng Man Ching could do, and all seem unwilling to explore outside the dogma of their teacher's teaching.

(Ron Sieh)


When the hands are clapped, the sound issues without hesitation. When flint is struck with steel, the spark comes out at once.

(Alan Watts)

Standing in your own way

A stiffness corrupts the tai chi when people refuse to let go.
They become locked in the act of trying...
It is the product of thinking rather than feeling, forcing rather than allowing.
In your effort to achieve, you actually hamper your own progress.

Tai chi is the process, the how, the way, the nature - not the outcome.

Pay attention to the means and the end will take care of itself.



I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying that I approved of it.

(Mark Twain)


Newcastle Tai Chi classes

Our classes are a forum for discovery. They operate as workshops for experimenting with tai chi.

If you want to just come along and copy, you are in the wrong school.

We want you to undertake your own journey of creation.
You need to be burning with imagination and curiosity, playing with every aspect of the training - honing, adapting, changing and learning.
Making it yours.

You cannot wear somebody else's shoes. Be yourself. Do not try to be somebody else.


How do I 'not do'?

Simple - you stop.
When an object in motion is left to settle, it eventually comes to rest.
Tai chi only starts to work when the student stops trying and doing.
Stillness and silence cannot be forced.
Do you force your heart to beat?
Your body does not require your intervention.
When you cease doing, nature is allowed to act according to its own way.
Wu wei requires that you do not interrupt the flow.

Our approach to tai chi is concerned with feeling how the body wants to move and letting it move that way.


Freedom from the known

Tai chi requires you to unlearn what you have learned, to forget what you think you know.
People are reluctant to let go.
This is a hindrance to learning.
Free your mind from the past and be prepared to discover the new.



Some people subscribe to the view that a student is defined by their teacher.
They believe that the student cannot exceed the teacher.
This is a 'lineage' approach and amusing when you consider people such as Einstein or Mozart.

Clearly Einstein exceeded the sum of his teacher's expertise; he is considered to be one of the most powerful thinkers of all time...
What was his physics teacher called?

Every good teacher wants the student to exceed their own limitations.

The barrier

Ultimately, tai chi is not about exercise or self defence. These are by-products.
Instead, tai chi exists to show you that there is a wall in your mind; a wall so familiar and complete that you do not notice its presence.

If you are relaxed and let-go, the wall does not exist.
If you push the wall with your body and mind, it will not yield - tai chi cannot be forced, cajoled, coerced or dismantled by thought.

Only when you yield, will the wall cease to exist.

The wall is your conflict, your resistance, your need to control what cannot be controlled.
Years can be spent in unnecessary frustration, as you seek to will your way through the system - and for all your apparent accomplishments, you will have nothing.

When you can see the barrier in your mind, you have come a long way.
Awareness is the beginning of change.

If you stop pushing and forcing, you will find that you possess energy in abundance.


Our way

There are many aspects of the syllabus that will be different to how other schools approach the material.
Every school has its own agenda and focus, and the way in which tai chi is practiced will reflect the character of the teacher as much as anything else.

We are keen to avoid the 'cult of the personality' and feel that the teacher should remain in the shadows rather than the forefront of the class.

Our syllabus follows martial science and the tai chi classics, rather than the opinion of one individual.

MEA House students

Losing fatigue

The root of fatigue is to be found in the way in which we do things.

Our approach to tai chi emphasises the process above all else; if you do not consider the principles involved, you do not fully understand a topic.

Fatigue comes from attitude.
We do too much, we are greedy, we do not rest, we use too much strength, we have forgotten how to relax, we eat the wrong types of food in the wrong amounts at the wrong time of day.


Andy & Carole


You must exercise in a relaxed, comfortable manner; not straining or forcing anything.
Slowly your condition improves and you become stronger.

Conditioning work is vital in tai chi; you cannot hope to practice it martially without a strong centre and bow tension.
These things only come with time, patience and daily training over many years.


Doing sounds more positive than trying because struggling has been removed.
However, doing usually entails self-consciousness.
Doing involves the use of willpower.

Willpower is the act of forcing; attempting to re-shape reality to suit your own design.
The whole point of taoism and tai chi is that it is not about you.
You must move as part of the situation, rather than regard yourself as the lead role or focus of attention.
There must be no division between yourself and another.


Doing some good?

Many people know their skills are lacking but continue teaching because people like their classes.
They argue that even a limited sense of tai chi is better than none.

If somebody is unfit, walking around the block will do them good. Moving around will do them good.
But this does not make it tai chi.

Would you be satisfied if your employer chose to only pay you 5% of your expected salary? No.
Yet, you spend years tooling around with poor quality tai chi-style keep fit exercise in the belief that you are receiving the complete art.

Why are you so easily satisfied? Raise your standards.

Most people are on a path with a dead end.
They train ten years and they end up with nothing.

(Paul Gale)

Jason, Keith & John


There is the image (or concept) and the reality.
The process of bending reality to fit the image is what we call 'trying'.

Trying is a kind of forcing; it is the act of seeking to adhere to an idea or pattern that exists in your mind.

When you try, exertion is required.
Effort creates anxiety and tension.
Tension impedes you.

Rather than try... allow.
Allowing is a passive, relaxed approach that involves stepping out of the way.
Some things happen by themselves.


Lao Tzu saw tao as permeating everything.
He thought that if a person could accord themselves with the nature of existence then resistance would be removed.
Without resistance there cannot be conflict.

The reality of his observations can be seen by studying wind or water.
This accord is also known as 'wu wei'.

Build your strength

For a long time tai chi has been promoted as being an effortless exercise.

Do not be misled by this: if it were truly effortless, there would not be any exercise.

The word 'effortless' should refer to the absence of resistance in your body and the surprising effect of your actions once conflict has been removed.
Tai chi involves physical work, the strengthening of muscles and bones, the stretching of the elastic tissues.
This is not to be confused with gym work, sport or weight training.


Ready to teach?

No one should consider becoming a teacher until they have something to teach. Many tai chi classes are tutored by people who have seen a fraction and believe it to be the whole.

Teaching people a fragmented view of tai chi is deceptive; it denies the student the richness of the complete art.

No matter what the style, tai chi practice must always contain the tai chi principles.

The principles are what make the art 'tai chi'. If your teacher does not know them, they should not be teaching anybody.

Structure & movement

Tai chi chuan focuses upon learning a sequence of movements. The movements are known as 'postures' and the sequence itself is called 'form'. The postures train good body usage and promote health.

In tai chi we look for optimal alignment and relaxation at all times. Form exists to provide a framework for movement.

The movement must ultimately be allowed to operate without the scaffolding of fixed postures.
Tai chi chuan is the movement itself, not the postures.

A different body

Most of your training is concerned with developing a certain way of moving.
This kind of motion is called 'internal'.

Various drills have been designed as a means of experimenting with how you use the body.
It takes time for your muscles and nerves to re-grow but they will.
Once you have gained a new body skill, it will remain.

We regard the body as a conduit through which energy and motion can be transmitted.
Until your body changes and becomes loose, it will block the flow of energy.
Fa jing will not pass through a stiff body.


Philosophy & religion

Our school does not subscribe to or promote any form of organised religion, philosophy or faith.

The study of taoism and zen can be likened to physics or chemistry; they are more about science than religion in the conventional sense.
Neither are 'philosophical' in nature - both are simply the observation of reality.

If you think of taoism as being an 'ism', as being some sort of religion or philosophy, study further.
You have perhaps misunderstood.

There is no spoon

Shadows & illusions

When your mind finds the beauty of life you will see cultures, conventions, traditions and habits break loose of their fixity and float.

For they are all dreams.
Dreams so widespread and accepted that we think of them as real...
And unless we see the illusion for what it is, we will never be free to choose for ourselves.

That is why you fail.

Luke: I don't believe it.

Yoda: That is why you fail.

Do less as standard

Conservation of energy is a major theme in our school.
If a movement is flamboyant or exaggerated, it wastes energy and takes time to perform.

You learn to listen to your body.
Trimming off what you do not need is the beginning of living in a more energised way; you cease to waste resources on the unnecessary.



How can I become a teacher?

Many people expect to become a tai chi teacher overnight.

This is an unfortunate by-product of questionable tai chi schools who make false promises and hand out teaching certificates to people who possess no skill whatsoever.

You can only teach tai chi once you have gained an advanced-level understanding of the art and know how to articulate it to a class of people such that they can learn something too.

Trainee teachers know the art. They are long-term students with considerable experience in tai chi.

If you do not know it yourself, what can you possibly teach?

Expect to be studying for a decade before you are taught how to teach somebody else.

There is no tomorrow

Damian & John

Hard qigong


Learning is a complicated process.

People tend to think of learning in a very formal way. They go to school, college or university and they learn.
Or they are taught something at work.

Setting time aside in order to learn is a wasteful use of our brain. Ideally, we want to be learning all day every day.
This is not about making time to study. Or 'bettering yourself'. It is about absorbing things informally.
Instead of sitting down and studying, we can learn things constantly - by interacting, by observing.

You do not even need to try.
There is a difference between looking seeing, listening and hearing.
A healthy mind is like a sponge. It learns constantly. It is passive but receptive.

Learning is not simply proceeding from a condition of 'not knowing' to 'knowing'.
That is merely acquisition, the collecting of information.
What good is that?

Penetrating defences against a knife

Adapt, change, improvise

Intelligence is all about awareness. About seeing and moving with what is happening.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

(Charles Darwin)
In tai chi self defence, it is not enough to learn by rote and then churn out techniques.
This simply will not work in reality.
You need to proceed with no techniques, no formulas, no methods.

Intelligence is not about planning or being prepared in advance.
It is about 'thinking on your feet', making the best use of what is available and being capable of instantaneous change.
Appropriateness is entirely contingent upon your ability to keep adapting, changing and improvising.
You do what is necessary, and you keep on changing as the situation demands.


Cold jing

Learning from mistakes

People frequently fail to learn from their mistakes. They just keep on doing the same thing again and again and again.
There is far more to intelligence than acquisition. We must be alert.

If something does not work, it is necessary to determine why it failed and try something else.
This capacity to change is a key factor.
A dull mind is doomed to repeat the same error continually. An intelligent mind adapts and moves on.

Yielding/chin na

Tai chi in your area?

People ask us to recommend other classes and schools. We cannot do this. Every tai chi school has its own agenda. Each school has its own values, concerns and interests.

These are not necessarily compatible with other schools.

Our advice is to explore what is available in your area. Try out some classes. You may find something you like. Something that appeals to your values, concerns and interests.

Look for the virtue. The tai chi-ness of 'tai chi'. If you can find it, enjoy the journey.

Yielding basic skills

Alicja & Trevor

Knife escapes


The way in which our school teaches tai chi is unique.
It has been developed through our own experience and study.
We follow the taoist principle of returning the mind and body to a child-like condition.

We encourage students to be fresh and open, supple and curious...

Rather than add to your existing habits patterns, physical and psychological problems, we plan to take away what you have.
You have to let-go, to lose, to give-in, to fail.
Shedding the accumulated impediments of a lifetime will be an arduous but rewarding experience.
Like dropping a rock you never knew you were carrying.

Countering a knife


Trevor & family


Beyond mere competence is expertise.

Expertise suggests a very strong grasp of the art, an ability to make connections and associations, to turn things on its head.

This level of skill is evident in every move you make. There is ease, grace, flow and power.
No faltering, no hesitation, no loss of power.
Every application is functional, devastating and final.

If you pass beyond 3rd dan, you may well be an expert.

Stretches & joint work

Tai chi

We teach people to become incredibly aware of their own bodies.
To feel the most subtle tension; to identify it, be with it and then allow it to pass.
Then to take this sensibility into partner work and ultimately self defence.

When you have augmented your body with the first series of neigong qualities, you move in a new manner.
Internally united, your structure feels strong, yet possesses the same degree of looseness apparent in a child.

Every gesture joins mind and body together: you feel calm, composed, relaxed and energised.
Alert and vigorous, you are unflustered by passing and changing of life.


Reeling silk in form

Yielding in life

Yielding is harder than people realise because it requires humility.

e.g. You book a plumber to come and he doesn't turn up. Your instinct is to ring up and complain but instead you ring to let him know that you have to go out and you arrange a different time. At no point do you lay blame or complain.

He knows that he never turned up and so do you. The fact that you did not get upset demonstrates a different kind of strength.



13 postures

Starting anew

If you are 40 (or over) and starting a martial arts class for the first time, be careful. You are not as resilient as you once were. Injuries, bumps and bruises will not heal as fast as they once did. And getting up off the floor may be somewhat harder than it was 20 years ago.

Don't be macho.


Meditation is not about sitting for long hours. It is about presence, about being in the immediate moment - wide awake and aware of what is happening.

You can sit all day long and never reach a condition of meditation.

Ideally, your tai chi should have a meditative component to it. You can also benefit from working on meditation exercises independently from your tai chi practice.

Moving qigong

High cocoa solids: the stuff of nightmares

If you want a good nights sleep, don't have high cocoa solids after your evening meal.



Good' and 'bad' are value judgements applied to things relative to how well they meet our expectations.

Taoism has no equivalent form of assessment. It gauges value relative to whether or not something is true to its nature.

In terms of tai chi, there is no such thing as good or bad tai chi. There is tai chi, and there is exercise or martial arts practice that simply cannot be called tai chi.

Tai chi follows certain taoist principles and must meet certain criteria. It is a martial art, a viable, working form of self defence. It uses softness and yielding rather than force and aggression.

It is also a way of moving, a way of interacting and a way of being.

Wedding photos

Wedding photos:

Honeymoon photos:



Seek out quality

Authentic tai chi can be found. You just have to look for it. Be patient. Be discerning.

Go to different schools and find out what they are teaching and how they are teaching it.
Be humble. Be quiet and receptive.

A good teacher should be able to illustrate internal power without any difficulty.
Watch for ease, comfort, consideration and softness.
It should look like no effort was required. It should feel to be without force, without conflict.

A good teacher is composed. They are graceful, smooth, unhurried. Never aggressive.

Their self defence skills should be quietly impressive. Effective. Decisive. Final.

Full circle qigong


Reeling silk

What does 'tai chi' mean?

Tai chi is an abbreviation of tai chi chuan. Other spellings commonly used - t'ai chi, taiji or taijiquan.
It is pronounced 'tie jee'.

Tai chi is usually translated as 'great ultimate' or 'supreme ultimate' but this does not explain what the words mean.'
Great ultimate' is a reference to the yin/yang process of dynamic balancing.
Chuan means fist, boxing, or martial art.

Tai chi chuan means yin/yang boxing or supreme ultimate fist.


Ba duan jin


We are told that life must have meaning and purpose, but who says so?

And why do you choose to believe them?
Are they saying what you want to hear?
Is that it?

Maybe we do not have a purpose. Maybe our actions are largely meaningless.
Do you know for sure?

Stretches & joint work (sample)

Trevor & Alicja


I have found your website to be very helpful with my practice. My teacher is very open to questions, but as a beginner it is sometimes hard to put into words the right question to ask, and in addition the site often offers a slightly different take on the material learnt in class.

 It is the inspiration that you offer that I find most invaluable, delivered through the website, but also through the blog. Both pages are a positive influence on me, and I wanted to thank you for your day to day insights which provide nuggets of contemplation to anchor me to my day. It is so easy to get wound up about everyday chaff, but I feel that you help me put these things in context.

 Sincere thanks,



16 elbows


Tai chi is not Western in conception or application, so it seemed appropriate to design a syllabus that adhered to an Eastern aesthetic.

The zen qualities found in Japanese garden design suited tai chi tuition particularly well.
This may be confusing to new starters but there are some things that cannot be approached in a logical, linear fashion.Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel captures the experience of learning a martial art in this way.



Stick drills


Tai chi pays close attention to how you are using your body. If you are feeling discomfort, it is possible to adjust what you are doing and solve the problem. People do suffer from injuries and illness as they age. And these limitations cannot be ignored. Much of the deterioration is the normal and acceptable outcome of growing older.

If you are over 40, you are unwise to ignore your body and force it to pretend that its 20 years old again. A 'no pain, no gain' attitude will only lead to suffering. Go easy on yourself. Do not put yourself under pressure or duress. What would be the point?


A lot of tai chi classes operate on a 'follow-the-leader' basis, where the students simply watch and copy the teacher.

The students are never asked to train the form by themselves.

This is contrary to learning. Copying is not understanding.

If a student cannot practice the form without the teacher, then the teacher is a failure because they have not taught anything.

The role of the teacher is to pass-on their knowledge and skills.


Tai chi applied as karate

Many tai chi people apply their art as if it were karate.

But tai chi is not karate. Karate is karate. If you want to use contracted muscles, learn karate. Karate is effective in combat. Contract your muscles in tai chi and you ruin everything.

Tai chi self defence is based entirely on yielding to force.


Koans explained

Nobody can answer a koan for you.

It may take years for your mind to see what a koan is telling you - a sudden unexpected flash of insight will occur.

Some interpretations you may come across are rather misleading: esoteric, convoluted religious explanations that assume an understanding of Buddhist precepts.
They go against the child-like simplicity and immediacy of zen.


Giving it time

Students want the ability to defend themselves using the body in a relaxed, soft manner - whilst simultaneously improving their health. This is quite a lot to ask for.

It is very clear in the class where people are in the syllabus. We do not encourage competition or rivalry, yet some people do try to one-up each other. They hold too tightly or behave in an unnecessarily awkward manner with their partner. This is naive and macho - not in the spirit of tai chi at all. You are where you are, and it will take as long as it has to. Pushing for a result is force on force and this will not work in tai chi.


Less is the new more

Try doing less.

Cancel appointments, reduce commitments, neglect and pare away at things until hardly anything is left. Now you have lots of time. Don’t make the mistake of filling it.

A weekend without activity can last at least a fortnight.



When you can simply 'do' tai chi, you are a skilled exponent. You have transcended the point where conscious thought intrudes.

At this point in your learning, you can perform tai chi very well but could not realistically teach what you can do.
To teach, you have to methodically unravel the process that got you there.

When you can dismantle how you got there and teach it to others such that they can do it too, you are an instructor.

Thanks for being there...


Sifu and Rachel got married today

Our best wishes to everyone...

We would like to thank those people who have endeavoured to make our lives easier and more enjoyable.