Mutually destructive

Every martial artist seeks to defeat their opponent in combat.
But at what price?

Blocking, struggling, forcing, striking a balanced opponent... these are also harmful to your own body.
In defeating your opponent you may also harm yourself.

If defending your own body results in injury to your body, is this success?
Have you not failed in your intention?

Bruises, sprains, stiffness, soreness, cuts and damage are all bad for you.


High stance, small circle

The highest level of tai chi chuan practice is high stance and small circle. In high stance and small circle you can conserve your energy to a maximum level. This is very crucial in battle. Endurance has always been the crucial key to survival in a long battle. Moreover, due to high stance and smaller posture you can reach to the deepest relaxed stage, the mind is highly concentrated, and the sensitivity and alertness can be extremely sharp.

 (Yang Jwing-Ming)



People are typically very guarded and defensive. They hide behind pretty solid walls.

These defensive measures are what make people tense and jittery. They represent a conflictive response to adverse conditions.

Instead of joining, blending, accepting, the individual objects, blocks and fights. This is not the tai chi chuan way.


Understanding the relationship

You sought the instructor. The instructor did not seek you.
It is important to remember this.

The student is not a client or a customer.
They are an 'apprentice' and the teacher is the 'master'.



Make your mistakes in class rather than the street. The class is a safe, controlled environment. The street is not.

Learn from your corrections and be spared pain in real life confrontation.


Learn from everything

Taoism is not a philosophy or a religion.

It is about learning from everything.



Ed Parker says, "The only reason men fight is because they are insecure; one man needs to prove that he is better or stronger than another. The man who is secure within himself has no need to prove anything with force, so he can walk away from a fight with dignity and pride. He is the true martial artist - a man so strong inside that he has no need to demonstrate his power."

 The Chinese word for this kind of confidence is 'sai', which can be defined as 'presence'.

 (Joe Hyams)


Yu-chun on retreat

Yu-chun is going on a 6 month meditation retreat to South Africa. She will be returning to class in the Autumn.

 Dear Sifu,

I feel very lucky to have found your school and have had the opportunity to be your student.

I really do enjoy all the lessons and learning about the art. I know what I have learnt from you will always stay with me.

Thank you Sifu for your generosity and the passion you put into teaching.

Warmest wishes for the coming months and the future.




Good morning Rachel,

I just wanted to again express my thanks to you for inviting me into your home and to Sifu a truly inspiring workshop. I can say that it was one of the most educational and enjoyable workshops I have ever attended, and I've been doing martial arts since I was 15!

Please pass on my thanks to Sifu for allowing me to attend even though I am ungraded, I really appreciated the opportunity.




I have trained with many instructors including yourself where I know that I want what they have.

However, you have a training method that works and have students with real abilities.
This is very rare in the internal arts.




Zen Master Unmon said: "The world is vast and wide. Why do you put on your robes at the sound of a bell?"


Conventions and traditions encourage a formulaic response to reality. By their very nature they lack spontaneity and genuine feeling.

Valentine's Day is an exercise in kitsch.

The sale of cards, chocolate and flowers have made Valentine's Day a marketing triumph.
How much money is spent of token items intended to express genuine love and affection?

If you love your husband/wife, partner, friend... then you should show this all year round.
Do not simply go through the motions one day each year.
Do not perform the empty ritual because it is expected of you.

Where is the passion? Where is the life?



In order to teach any subject, an instructor needs certain requirements:
  1. Subject knowledge
  2. Teaching skills
  3. A goal
  4. A syllabus
  5. Topics
  6. Discrete lessons
  7. Proof
An expert must have at least 10,000 hours of practice behind them.
Dr. K. Anders Ericsson found that this was true of any art; whether tai chi chuan, dancing or playing the piano.


Form, but no substance

A tai chi chuan class should offer you a system of exercise (and self defence) that builds your strength and skill, gently and consistently.
It should also balance body, mind and emotions.

In order to fully understand the tai chi chuan, the instructor must possess an in-depth martial understanding of the art.
Mere theory is insufficient.
Self defence tips & pointers are plain useless.
There needs to be a fully comprehensive working knowledge of the system, and the capacity to use it spontaneously.

As a student, you may not care for self defence at all. This is fine. Not everyone wants martial skills.
But the instructor is different.
An instructor cannot afford to have huge gaps in their understanding.
What the instructor does not know, they may assume or omit. This can be a dangerous and foolhardy approach to take.



The word 'concentrate' means to enrich, to make more rich in essence.
This can be a very good thing. It can lead to significant refinement.

But it also refers to the process of focussing on one thing at the exclusion of all else.
This is not always a good thing.

Tea Sutra in Newcastle


Self defence classes

A lot of people go to martial arts classes in order to learn self defence. They want to avoid violence and look after themselves.

There are quite a few ‘serious’ martial arts classes available in the UK where the training is so realistic that you actually get assaulted. You may learn great skills but the whole point in attending was to avoid being attacked…

Other classes promise self defence and offer nothing of tangible value.

Children in a playground ‘rough each other up’ without any animosity, fear or pain. It is just fun.

Our school looks at self defence as play. If adults can adopt a playful, exploratory attitude, they can develop practical useable skills without getting hurt or memorizing fixed responses.

Good martial arts classes of any style should be able to offer a practical syllabus without brutalizing students or giving them empty skills.


You hide your skills well...

Your tai chi chuan skills cannot be hidden from others, for they should be part of your everyday movement, your everyday being.

We walk, and our religion is shown (even to the dullest and most insensitive person) in how we walk. Or to put it more accurately, living in this world means choosing, choosing to walk, and the way we choose to walk is infallibly and perfectly expressed in the walk itself. Nothing can disguise it. The walk of an ordinary man and of an enlightened man are as different as that of a snake and a giraffe.

(R H Blyth)

If your internal skills are not evident when you work with other people, you should question whether they exist at all. The absolute necessity of partner work is irrefutable.

Partner work separates those who practice tai chi chuan from those who do not.


Natural responses

If you simply follow drills and deliberate patterns, there is no way to gauge what will emerge in reality. Random attacks - incorporating a variety of punches, kicks and grapples - test your ability to respond spontaneously.

The exercise should be playful and fun, but the attacker must strike with the intention of making contact.

Afterwards, you look at areas of weakness and doubt. Focus upon the gaps and deficiencies: consider what you did wrong, why it didn't work and what you need to do in order to improve your response. Your partner should help you with this, along with your teacher (if required).