In memory of a valued teacher

Dear Sifu,

Thank you for putting a message on your board regarding Peter. I have attended his classes since 2005. We were informed yesterday that he had passed away and it was a shock.

Best regards



RIP Peter Southwood

I received an e-mail today telling me that my tai chi teacher Peter Southwood has died:

Dear Master Waller

I think you may be the guy I did tai chi with 15 years back in Girlington. I am afraid I learnt today that Peter Southwood died suddenly. Thought you might to to know. I don't know what has happened yet but it must have been very sudden. I still do tai chi and will miss Peter a lot, massive in fact . He was for me a great teacher.

(Clive Whittaker)

Peter was a student of Chu King Hung and many other teachers.
I had a Master/disciple relationship with Peter for 20 years, training as a private student, in his evening classes and as an indoor student. I taught self defence/applied tai chi in his evening class for a few years.
Peter was a dedicated tai chi practitioner.



Rushing is another sign of fear.
You must come to terms with your fear, and relax. If you get hit, you get hit. Accept this.

When you flinch, anticipate or tense-up, you have lost control completely.
A more skilled opponent will defeat you instantly.

Yield, make space. Take your time.
Rushing is a timing fault. Your awareness is askew. You are not present in the moment.

How much do corporate sessions cost?

£40 for 60 minutes (excluding travel expenses)

- teaching up to 20 people


Mrs Waller

For strength or for combat?

Different schools teach tai chi in different ways, and the purpose of the form changes relative to each school's agenda.
Low stances and long stances are commonplace.
These postures indicate that the form is being used to develop strength, and that combat skills are trained separately (if at all).

The small frame, small circle form is practiced for combat.
The postures are exactly the same as the self defence movements.
Strength and combat are trained simultaneously.


Newton's Laws of Motion

Familiarity with Newton's Laws of Motion will aid your understanding of our approach to partner work:
  1. An object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by a net force
  2. Force equals mass multiplied by acceleration
  3. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction




Sinking and rooting provide an inherent use of gravity.
Dropped shoulders, elbows, sunk hips and relaxed spine, knees and ankles improve root.
Without root, you are 'floaty' and weak.

Additionally, you must weight shift with every striking movement except for kicks.
If your weight is not behind the movement, where is it?

When shifting weight, the alignment of the pelvis, hips and knees must be considered.


Detox: end of week 2

Maintaining an improved food intake is challenging but rewarding.
Eating significantly less food each day becomes notably easier.
You actually begin to enjoy feeling genuinely hungry.

The meals are something to look forward to.


A fundamental structure

When you make any movement in tai chi, the framework must remain integrated.
Standing qigong is a training method that develops the underlying physical structure of tai chi.

It trains the body to relax whilst maintaining certain specific internal tensions.
No matter what you are doing in this system of tai chi there must be the unseen physical connection within the body.
We call this 'inherent peng'.


Common misconceptions

Beginners seldom express wardoff internally.
Most students manifest the physical shape of wardoff without the internal energetic quality that makes it a jing.

Common misconceptions:

stiff block
- fundamental error in perception

- yielding is paramount. Without it, there is no tai chi
- strength vs strength is not tai chi

tension used rather than connection/groundpath
- beginners-level error

rigid legs, only turning hips
- external attitude
- stance too low

not using bow stance
- posture lacks 5 bows

use of arms and shoulders
- unite upper & lower timing sequence lacking
- wardoff is not being produced by spiralling & rippling
- power must rise up from the ground


Sifu exploring


Most martial arts employ some form of blocking technique.
But what is a 'block'?
A block is an attempt to stop the path of incoming force.

The opponent punches to your face and you raise your arm to prevent the fist hitting your face.
Instead of hitting your face, the fist misses.
The impact of the blow passes through the arm.

Blocking may indeed stop you from being hit, but it has certain drawbacks.

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


Keeping going

Hard style martial arts have a time stamp attached. You can do them for a certain number of years and then you really start to pay. Adverse impact work and high kicks can damage your back and your knees. The external arts are certainly impressive, effective and exciting - but they usually harm your health.

The internal arts are a lifetime’s work. You can start aged 40 and potentially still be training for the rest of your life. You do not need to quit once you are 50. Tai chi is not dependent upon conventional muscle strength.

No blocks in tai chi

There are no blocks in our tai chi.
Rather than block, we affect the incoming force in other ways:

– absorb, bounce up & forward

– spread forward within the defences

– rubbing, sliding, forward

- catching the opponent before their expression is manifest

Adhere & stick
– connect & remain, listen with your body

– no resistance

– meet the attack, adhere, neutralise

– curl/slide around opponents arms

– softly redirect

– overextend opponent further, but do not force it

– bounce the attack back into opponent

- join the line of attack and move with the opponent

– slightly bump the attack away, rather than adhere

– bend, forward

There are many other jing that could be used but these are the main alternatives to blocking.


Kicking, striking & being thrown

(i) Kicking

Many martial artists suffer from back injuries caused by kicking too high. Perhaps the individual has failed to warm-up and stretch properly? Or their form is poor and the body use unsound?Who can say? Yet injuries from kicking are common. As you get older, injuring your back is not a good idea. You lack the suppleness of a 20 year old. Injure your back when you are 40 and you may be paying for it for the rest of your life.

(ii) Joints

Striking thin air or hard pads can cause joint injury. It is a question of physics. Using power but not hitting anything with it means that external tension will keep much of the force trapped in your own body. This can jar the joints quite severely. Hitting pads, bags and people - and then pushing upon impact - causes adverse feedback that has a deleterious effect. Look at Newton's third law of motion? Most external arts strike this way.

(iii) Being thrown

A number of martial arts neutralise their opponents by throwing them to the ground. This is a tried and tested highly-effective way of deterring an attacker. It can be surprising, and it is usually painful. It is also very hard on the body. The older you get, the longer it takes you to get up off the floor.

Small san sau knife defence


No power, no responsibility...

Self defence

Self defence is not fighting; it is the ability to protect yourself from harm.
It is about doing whatever you need to do to survive an attack.

In our school, we aim to incapacitate the attacker without causing them unnecessary injury.
A student should know how to adapt, change, improvise, yield and strike.

You should be capable of handling punches, kicks, grapples, multiple opponents and armed assailants.


Not karate

You cannot take the tai chi movements and use them in the same way as karate, ju jitsu, kickboxing or wing chun.

Tai chi is unlike mainstream martial arts. It relies upon softness, sensitivity, gravity, neigong and change.
Conventional strength is not used at all.

Self defence



In self defence, you must do whatever feels appropriate.

Some of your responses will have gaping holes in them, but others will not.
The more skilled you become, the more effective your responses will be.

Gauge the appropriateness relative to the effect:

Did it work?

Are you compromising yourself? Over-committing?

Was there any adverse feedback?

Did you allow for multiple attackers?

What did it do to your opponent?

Were they rooted when you struck/manipulated them?

Was it easy to perform?

Smooth or jarring?

Was it hurried and quick?

Were you calm and composed?

Be honest with yourself and work on any weaknesses in your composure, body use and application.

Beyond the medical

It is easy to think of tai chi study in terms of how it improves your health, but tai chi is far more than treatment.
Exponents typically find that the benefits of the study extend to all aspects of their lives.
People look at things differently. They change how they live. Priorities change.


Tai chi self defence skills take longer to learn than those in other arts because the emphasis is different.
It is not enough to defend yourself. You must also simultaneously improve your health.

Combining looseness, relaxation, composure and pragmatic self defence is quite an endeavour, but very worthwhile.

If a person is learning tai chi with a view to gaining self defence skills it is essential to prove that these skills work when you need them.
To obtain a black belt, every student must have certain proficiencies and undertake a variety of challenges.


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...

Daily practice

This has been Master Waller's daily kung fu routine since 1992:
  1. Strength-building
    - balls & grips
    - taoist yoga self-massage (100+ exercises)
    - ba duan jin (8 exercises)
    - reeling silk (6 exercises)
    16 elbows
    - moving qigong (15 exercises)
    - standing qigong - single posture (20 minutes) or full circle qigong (30 minutes)
    - taoist yoga leg stretches: day 1 or 2
    - taoist yoga postures (30 minutes)
  2. Tai chi chuan forms (regular & mirrored)
    - slow form (regular & mirrored)
    - pao chui (regular & mirrored)
    - sabre
    - 2 person cane
    - staff
    - walking stick
    - jian
  3. Weapons (regular & mirrored)
    - knife drills/small stick drills/stick drills/broadsword drills
  4. Drills (regular & mirrored)
    - small san sau
    - silk arms
    - 5 pre-emptive measures
    - pushing peng/double pushing hands/da lu/penetrating defences/reflex drills
    - 3-tier wallbag
  5. Baguazhang (regular & mirrored)
    - 8 mother palms
    - 6 direction changes
    - circle walking
    - figure of 8
    - 9 palaces
    - 8 palm changes (clockwise & anticlockwise)
  6. Cool down
    - stretches & joint work (tao yin/taoist yoga)
    - psoas exercises
    - standing qigong (5-10 minutes)

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


Doubt can cripple your ability to learn; maybe you think that the tai chi will not work.
But - you could be wrong...
Your teacher can manifest the skills, so they must be doing something correctly.
Put your doubts aside - and act.

Do the tai chi exactly as you have been shown and see what happens.
If you fail, so what?
Re-evaluate what you did, change what needs changing and do it again.
Trial and error lies at the heart of learning.


De-tox: day 2

Cycling helps the purification process.

There are many different kinds of fitness.
You may be able to stand in a qigong postures/postures for 40 mins, practice for 2 hours without rest, but how do you fare on a bicycle?

I try to vary what I do.
Tai chi is the foundation of the routine, but I also train cycling and walking.

Even the tai chi isn't what most people imagine I might train.
Yes, the long form is slow, and so are the qigong, but not everything else is slow.
Pao chui, baguazhang and the weapons are vigorous and the combat work makes your heart beat faster.

Aging is inevitable

Life passes by so quickly and before you realise it, you are 40 years old. So what? Should we be concerned about getting older? Is 40 a significant age?

What you think about aging is your own business. However, you cannot ignore your physical body.

You may feel like a 20 year old, but you are not 20 anymore. It is important to accept your age.

Aging brings with it certain considerations, concerns and limitations.

De-tox: day 1

The first day of de-tox is perhaps the hardest,or at least it seems so at the time.

Other days will be harder than the beginning.

In some ways it is easy to begin something.
Much harder to endure.
To sustain.
And not to quit.

I cut out sugar, saturated fat, de-caff coffee, reduced my portions and increased my fluids.


Sifu's mantra "If it feels strong, you are doing it wrong"...

My husband maintains that jing is only felt by the opponent. It is the outcome of your actions. Any sensation of power/strength in your own body indicates tension, not strength. Only the opponent should feel anything. Your own body is merely the conduit.

Sifu illustrated this easily in class, but somehow my brain lags. It is like a zen koan: an apparent contradiction/paradox. My husband pointed out that the paradox does not exist, and that the knot lies inside our own minds.


Tai chi books and articles can sometimes read like an exercise in name-dropping; as though the skills of the quoted master had somehow been bestowed upon the author by the very act of naming the teacher.

This hardly seems realistic.

Rather than kneeling before another or climbing upon their shoulders, why not stand on your own feet?

Sifu exploring


Adding neigong to your tai chi will produce unseen substance and power.
If neigong is present and you remain relaxed and loose, your tai chi will work.
You should feel to be making no effort at all, yet another person experiences your strength.
This is the essence of 'jing'.

A jing is what the other person feels - they receive your energy and substance.

As you progress, your ability to express energy will improve.
The real skill is to avoid force.
You must elude your opponent's strength and incoming force, and express your own energy without tension or effort.

If this sounds improbable and unlikely, then you see the dilemma of faith in tai chi?

What is balance?

Balance is commonly seen as being a condition of stillness and rest.

Yet, people cannot reasonably find a fixed point of balance in their lives because life is not static.
The changing nature of existence means that we need to be re-adjusting constantly.

This process of continual re-adjustment is called dynamic balancing and occurs in relation to the changing nature of what is happening.

We cannot expect to be 'balanced' because nothing in our lives will ever remain stable and fixed.