Tai chi without tao

If your tai chi does not contain the insights and lessons of Tao Te Ching, you possess an empty shell.
Your teacher may be skilled enough to provide you with a working system, however, the deeper understanding is absent.

The principles and insights of taoism are essential to tai chi.
The art was built with these in mind; it was intended to accord your body with 'the way' in order to borrow 'its power'.


The power

If 'the way' is difficult to comprehend, 'the power' may prove even more challenging for you.
Te refers to a power that can be used but not kept.

By according yourself with the way, you find that things flow.
You gain use of power.

Putting this into practice involves a combination of biomechanics, sensitivity, structure, perception and balance, rhythm and timing.
The effect is often quite astounding.
It may even look 'magical', but it is not magic at all. It is the direct application of Tao Te Ching.

If you are successful in according yourself with tao, then your application of tai chi will be graceful.
There will be no exerting or forcing.
Ease, gentleness, appropriateness... these are the hallmarks of skill.


Peter Southwood's tips #15 Meditate

Zen is really about sitting still and doing nothing.
Being present.

If sitting does not suit you, lie down, but do not fall asleep.
Stay here and now.


Solving the mysteries of Tao Te Ching is an important part of learning tai chi.
There is more to the art than physical exercise.
This is a journey of discovery.

Unless you undertake the journey with genuine curiosity and wonder, you will not get very far.
Enthusiasm, tenacity and endurance are necessary.
You must penetrate the mysteries of the art.



Tao Te Ching is not a fanciful book.
Read it scientifically.

You will notice many insights that can be directly incorporated into your tai chi practice.
The insights are tangible, concrete.
And they work.


The way

Tao Te Ching is not a religious or philosophical book. It is an attempt to explain something that eludes explanation.
This may sound absurd.

However, imagine trying to explain 'love' to somebody...
It is not that easy.
Love is not a thought. It is not a word. It is a feeling.

Now, try to explain 'wind'...
Wind exists but can we feel it?
Do we feel wind itself or the air and dust particles moved by wind?

'The way' must be felt without intellectualisation. It must be seen through its effects.



I first became interested in tai chi about 6/7 years ago following some amazingly successful acupuncture treatment for a back and elbow injury.

I did attend a different tai chi class in Durham. I signed up for a terms evening class at a local comprehensive with my daughter who is a language teacher. After the first lesson my daughter confirmed my thoughts that this guy is hopeless. He was everything that Sifu Waller is not. He was late for class every week, there was no weekly agenda let alone syllabus and at the end of term he gave us a certificate indicating some proficiency in tai chi. Unfortunately it has coloured my daughters judgement of tai chi forever and although she lives out of the area now is not interested in joining any local tai chi class as she says her memories of the last class are enough. However I did find some of the science/physics most interesting and was determined to keep looking.

By chance I came across Sifu Waller’s class. So imagine my surprise and bewilderment when I walked into the hall on the first night to see people standing shaking, fighting with knives and newspapers, trying seemingly to beat each other with sticks, and performing these quite complicated movements quite easily. I thought that I could never do that but quickly realised that these people must have been like me and come into class cold at some time. I was quite fascinated and have remained so ever since.



In conclusion...

There is no conclusion to your tai chi training as such; simply an ongoing exploration of existence, relationship, mind, body, balance, movement...
Nothing will be mastered.
You simply keep on training. Continue studying.

The passing of the years will bring you good health, martial skills (that require very little physical effort), calmness, insight, clarity, humour and humility.
You know that there is so much that you do not know.
You have the wisdom to see that the world is vast, and we are all so very small.

In quietude and obscurity you find an ample measure of peace, and realise that the journey was worth the effort.
You have gained extraordinary insights and enjoyed the mystery of it all.

The challenges and the obstacles were not impediments at all. They helped you to grow. They kept things interesting.


Valentines Day?

What is Valentine's Day?

If you want to show your love and appreciation for husband, wife or partner, do so every day.
Your daily treatment of your partner demonstrates your love.

Words, tokens and promises are worthless.
Make your actions count.

If you behave like an ass all year round and then think that chocolates, flowers and a card (written by somebody else) somehow demonstrates your true nature, think again...

Nobody is that stupid. Or that easy.
You cannot buy somebody off with flowers. Or placate them with a card.
Not unless they have no self-respect. No dignity.

You don't need Valentine's Day.
Respect your husband, wife or partner... and don't insult them with token symbols.


The effort

And what price did you pay for all that training?
How did it affect your life?

You missed a little TV. You spent time training rather than idling.

So what?


Coping with doubt

After an initial spurt of enthusiasm, even the most ardent student may suffer from doubt.
The mere promise of self defence skills, good health, flexibility and martial prowess are no longer as meaningful.
There must be something else.

Other interests and commitments may begin to encroach.
It becomes easy to miss lessons. To stop training. And to consider the possibility of quitting.

No instructor can guide you through this period of doubt.
You will either come to see the art as being something you want to persevere with, or you will simply quit.

You may see that the art is more than the sum of its parts.
That it has changed you in ways that you may not be able to explain.

Students who choose to stay often recognise that they have lost faith and become half-hearted.
They train harder, attend more training opportunities and quietly make space in their lives for the art to flourish.


The folly of teaching other students

Be patient.
And be wary of asking the blind to lead the blind...

There is an Indian folk tale about six blind men inspecting an elephant:

The first man encounters the side of the animal and believes it to be a wall.
The second man imagines the tusk to be a spear.
The third man thinks that the trunk is a snake.
The fourth man considers the leg to be a tree.
The fifth man feels an ear and believes it to be a fan.
The sixth man finds the tail and is certain it is a rope.

You do not understand the syllabus.
You are the blind man and the syllabus is the elephant.
You see what you want to see.
What you are capable of seeing.

Be patient.


Marc, Kelly, (new girl) & Sifu


Chocolate fudge cake

Highly-strung waiter


Udon noodles






The role of qigong in the internal martial arts

Taijiquanbaguazhang and xingyiquan use forms to practice combat movements, build strength and gain agility.
The forms are highly intricate, with many different levels of skill.

Yiquan (mind fist)/dachengquan (the great accomplishment) - an offshoot of xingyiquan - does not use forms.
Instead, it uses static standing qigong postures in lieu of form.

Xingyiquan uses form(s) for power development.
Dachengquan uses standing qigong.
See the difference?

What should a tai chi school do?The answer is somewhat self evidentisn't it?
Taijiquan is not dachengquan.
It uses forms, not standing qigong postures.
Read The Tai Chi Classics... There is no mention of standing qigong but a whole lot of information about movement.

Leg stretches



I feel extremely lucky to have found a martial arts school where integrity and being a nice person matters, this is missing from every school I have ever attended.

(Dave G)