Advanced-level taijiquan is not a matter of new forms and material.

It is to be found in the comprehensive nature of the practice.
The thoroughness of the understanding. The simplicity, sensitivity, softness and ease of ability.
Every action should contain the taijiquan principles.

Advanced skill is versatile and complex - demonstrating a broad degree of insight.
It is also remarkably understated.


10,000 hours

Being a taijiquan expert is more than just talent. You need to put in the work.

An advanced-level practitioner should have at least 10,000 hours of practice behind them.
Dr. K. Anders Ericsson found that this was true of any art; whether taijiquan, dancing or playing the piano.

Do the maths: if you trained taijiquan for 2 hours a day (every single day) for a year, that would mean 730 hours a year.
At that rate, 10,000 hours would take you 13 years of practice.



A beginner focuses upon learning the fundamentals of the art.
They must work hard at simple principles and themes.
Everything is unfamiliar.
Each of the 3 beginners belts adds another layer of skill and comprehension.

A beginner is expected to attend weekly lessons and the occasional workshop.


3 instructor levels

There are 3 instructor grades in our school:
  1. Level 1
    - training takes place during the 3rd dan syllabus
  2. Level 2
    - training takes place during the 6th dan syllabus
    10,000 hours of practice required
  3. Level 3
    - training takes place during the 7th dan syllabus
Having completed each level of instructor training, the student is given a certificate qualifying them to teach our syllabus.


Measurement of quality

Quality is commonly measured in 3 stages:
  1. Beginner
  2. Intermediate
  3. Advanced
Sifu Waller does not agree with this format. He regards it as being limited and inaccurate.

Does a student suddenly leap from intermediate-level to advanced?

The divide between these two levels of standard seems huge.

Surely there must be a period of development in-between these two levels?
A time to become seasoned, practiced, familiar?



Arrogant students may seek to jump ahead and bypass certain stages of learning.
This is the outcome of naivety.
Lacking an understanding of what is to come, how can they conceivably gauge what is important, and what is not?

In order to advance through the syllabus, some degree of quality must be demonstrated.



It is necessary to gain a certain standard of ability in one topic before attempting to work on what comes next.
Learning is broken down into steps, or stages.

This enables the student to focus on a particular level of skill, and take the time to gain confidence before addressing something new.
Familiarity encourages relaxation, and the student is not under pressure.

Back to Beginnings



The gifted student needs to practice in order to remember what they are learning.
The less able student should really train harder, because they are struggling and need to put in the practice.

How much you train is up to you, not us.

In this way, the syllabus is self-differentiating.
Students are welcome to progress at whatever pace best suits their level of commitment, and competence.
You only get out of taijiquan what you put into it.


There are no secrets

Were an advanced-level taijiquan instructor to share their deepest, most profound insights with a student, it would be a waste of breath.
Understanding requires context.

Lacking the necessary foundation, a student would dismiss the insight as irrelevant.
Because it means nothing to that person at their current level of progress.

Usually, a student has no real idea what is important in the greater context of their taijiquan study.
They pick and choose based upon their own opinions, expectations and limited experience.
Pearls before swine?


Less effort, more effect

Every tai chi student must work to reduce the size of their circle.
It is martially imperative for your movements to be small.

You must move without alerting the attacker's nervous system.
Like a shadow. Like a thought.


Small circle

By balancing frame size, relationship with the opponent and intent, a student can ensure that they employ the optimal framework.
Every movement produces a more significant effect.

The external movement decreases as the internal work increases.
Neigong and intent enable greater effect with markedly less effort.

Instead of sweeping arcs, the student uses twisting, coiling, spiralling action to generate internal pressure in the soft tissues of the body.
These are movements-within-movements.
Smooth, fluid, small, hidden, unnoticed.


Improved frame

With practice, a student learns how to shape their body into the optimal framework required.
This framework enables the student to express groundpath without effort.
It is a medium for the delivery of kinetic energy.

As the student's skill improves, the physicality of the taijiquan diminishes.
The frame serves to supplement the mind.
A more subtle physical expression is now possible.


Michael Garofalo: generous blogger

Michael Garofalo has shared on-line tai chi information for many years via his blog and his other extensive on-line resources.


Peng & groundpath

Every tai chi pattern of movement must contain peng at all times.
It is important to consider every single form movement and partner drill to ensure that the optimal peng framework is maintained.

Once peng is present, the student can consider the pathway of force.

Unless the framework has peng, groundpath cannot be transmitted using the wave-like undulation of the spine, waist turn and weight shift.


External impediments

External martial arts often emphasise habits that are not conducive to internal development.
Tension is encouraged.
Disconnected body movement.

In order to cultivate peng, you must discard anything that impedes neigong.



When a student makes their framework too small and does not possess peng, their structure will collapse when pressure is applied to it.
This is a failing on two counts:
  1. Structure
    - elbows are not kept open and the 90° angle is lost
    - the kwa are closed too far
    - framework is not rounded

  2. Yielding
    - never allow the opponent to apply more than 4 ounces of pressure to your body
    - never employ more than 4 ounces of pressure
    - to accomplish this requirement, yielding is necessary
    - when a student fails to yield to force, tension occurs and it becomes a battle of strength



Learned more from Sifu Waller in 6 months than I did in almost 2 years with my previous school.



Beginners connection

The beginner needs to cultivate connection within the body.
This is accomplished by:
  1. Alignment
  2. Stretching slightly
  3. Keeping the muscles as relaxed as possible

A large, rounded framework is established in order to create a network of connected body parts.

Unfortunately, a beginner has no idea what relaxation means and will use an unnecessary degree of tension.
There is also potentially a likelihood of postural exaggeration; which may limit joint movement and again produce tension.



Jing is the means by which we affect the opponent.
Read about jing, play with it in class and ultimately manifest it.

How do you know if its jing?

Simple: it works. It feels easy. There is absolutely no adverse feedback because all of your energy is outward; affecting the opponent.



Using a smaller frame means that you must rely to a greater degree upon the three dimensions.
You will find it easier to make space.


4 ounces

If you try to force a result, you are invoking Newton's 3rd law and actually making the opponent stronger.
This is not tai chi chuan.

4 ounces is just what is necessary.
Not too much and not too little.

This cannot be verbalised. It must be felt, practiced and understood.

No more MEA House

Sifu Waller is no longer teaching at MEA House.


Waist turn

Look at every form movement and partnered exercise... they all feature distinct waist turns.
45° to the left or to the right.
Unless you tai chi is led by the legs and torso - not the arms - it simply will not work, and you will rely once again upon arms for power (or lack of).

Most students are not skilled enough for subtlety. Make the turn 45°, and coordinate it with the weight shift.


Slow down

The most obvious error present in literally everybody's practice was rushing.
By rushing, you fail to feel.

An exercise like monkey paws is so utterly simplistic, yet watching the class, I saw it devolve into something worthless.

Instead of maintaining range/proximity, staying sticky, turning the waist distinctly left or right, rolling the arms... it becomes an arm rotating exercise, featuring token waist joggles.
Monkey paws can teach you how to effortlessly evade close contact strikes, chin na and grapples.
But only if you slow down and observe the features of the drill.

Apply these insights to every drill you practice.



Common mistakes that are stopping your peng from working:

- reliance on tension/muscular contraction
- force on force
- rushing
- disconnecting shoulders & elbows
- panic
- stances too large
- irregular foot placement: too long, too wide
- knees too deeply bent
- slouching