Other forms

We teach a number of forms derived from the Yang Cheng Fu form:
  1. Sabre form
  2. 2 person cane form/drill
  3. Staff form
  4. Walking stick form
  5. Pao chui form
  6. Straight sword form 


For strength or for combat?

Different schools teach tai chi chuan 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).

Master Waller's form is practiced for combat. The postures are exactly the same as the self defence movements. 
Strength and combat are trained simultaneously.


3 years of basics

Traditionally, at least three years of dedicated training were required before a student could be considered to have acquired a rudimentary knowledge of tai chi skills.

(Zhang Yun)


Training opportunities

We offer a lot of training opportunities for our students.
Whether or not people avail themselves is really down to the individual.

If you simply want to attend weekly and do no practice at home, that is fine. Just recognise that progress will be slow.


Is it new?

When I first started training with Sifu, I found that he periodically gave students glimpses of what I thought was 'new' material: bagua, sword, sticks etc.

Years later, I now know that most of the syllabus is dan-level and never revealed to beginners by Sifu. The unfamilar things we are occasionally shown are not new material. They are glimpses of the syllabus that lies way beyond our understanding.

Peter Southwood taught the same way. Nobody really knew what Peter knew because he didn't advertise his skills or share things readily. To see, you must earn the knowledge. Through hard work and patient practice.

Sifu never demonstrates on cue. He's not a performer. Occasionally, he'll indulge the keener student, but usually he wants people to keep their mind on the work at hand.


5 stages

There are 5 stages to learning any form:

(i) The pattern

The outline, the sequence of movements.
This stage of learning is often called 'the square form' because it is crude and largely inaccurate.
The form is practiced slowly.

Unfortunately, most tai chi people only learn the first stage, and remain a perpetual beginner.
Neglecting the remaining stages leaves the form meaningless and empty.

(ii) Internal strength

Internal biomechanical concerns are incorporated.
The way in which the body is used is now the concern.
Every single movement is imbued with internal strength.

An understanding of The Way and Its Power, the tai chi classics and taoism is necessary.

(iii) Application

Traditionally, it is said that there are at least seven applications for every form posture.
There are three types of martial application within form: chin na, jing and shuai jiao.
Competence in all three areas of skill is required.
A student must be capable of skilfully applying the form in a thorough and convincing way against an earnest attacker.

Applications must adhere to the tai chi principles (4 ounces of pressure, softness, stickiness, yielding, peng etc).

(iv) Shen

Shen is a vitality that can be seen shining through a person; it enlivens the body and refreshes the mind.
The eyes look expressive and alert.

For 'shen' to manifest, a person must lose all self-consciousness.
There is no more self or other, just movement, just sensation/feeling.
Instead of feeling apart from what is happening, we feel the physics of the movement, the kinetic flow.

(v) Natural

Instead of glossy, flamboyant, outward show, the attention turns inward.
The tai chi is not ornate.
It is simple, direct, flowing and natural.
Within the slow spirals, curves and gentle steps can be found a grace that is difficult to articulate.


Training sessions

If you attended lessons for 4 years, but did no home training, how much practice have you done?

Assume that you attended 45 lessons a year: 45 x 4 = 180 training sessions.
This is the equivalent of 6 months daily home training.


Weapons night

Students are given the option of learning weapons after passing their second belt.
Weapons training helps to increase strength, flexibility and coordination.
It improves the ability to use either hand.

Rubber-coated sticks are required for partner exercises.

If a student wants to learn broadsword drills they will need to bring their own sword.



All weapons must be trained equally with each hand, whether drills, form or partner work.

What good is a weapon if you can only use it with one hand?


Mirroring the form

Traditional tai chi forms are asymmetrical; favouring the right-handed person.
They do not offer a balanced workout.
In order to balance the body the form must be mirrored.

Our students mirror every form in the syllabus except pao chui.



It is common for a student to ask for more and more detail.
They want web pages that explain every nuance and subtlety, that elaborate upon each minutiae of practice.
Essentially, they want you to give the art to them. It does not and cannot work this way.

If students cannot remember what they have been taught, they should make their own notes in lessons rather than ask the instructor for them.



Most people have seen groups of tai chi students moving together in a dance-like sequence.
This is referred to as 'form'.
The definition of the word 'form' is: "shape, appearance, the way in which a thing exists".

Form is one long sequence in which the body explores a variety of different movement patterns.



Yang Cheng Fu advocated using mind rather than force, and this sentiment lies at the heart of what we practice.
Clarity, composure, inner stillness and calm enable the student to be present at all times.
The focus is upon the essence of things.
To quote the taoist maxim: "eat the fruit, not the flower."

A mind that is here and now is better capable of responding to the needs of the moment appropriately and effectively.
To complement the mind, the form taken must be natural and easy, fluid and restrained.
The aim is to go from a neutral state, to action, to neutral again; without disturbing the inner harmony.


Traditional ethos

I do not enlighten those who are not eager to learn, nor arouse those who are not quick to give an explanation themselves.

If I have presented one corner of the square and they cannot come back to me with the other three, I should not go over the points again.



Tai chi chuan instructors

A tai chi chuan instructor needs at least 10 years of experience and a serious commitment to home practice.
Martial instructors must show clear evidence of ability in all
8 areas of skill.

An expert has 20 years study and 10,000 hours of practice.

A master should have 30-40 years martial arts experience and 30,000 hours of tai chi practice.
They are capable of teaching other instructors.

A grandmaster must have taught an extensive number of high-level instructors.
They would be in a position of significant responsibility within a school and have influence within the wider tai chi/martial arts community.



The movements we use are motivated by neigong considerations and martial application.
Students are not permitted to lean, reach or over-commit.
Disconnection is unacceptable.
Tension is unnecessary.

The postures are natural, comfortable and useable.
Nothing is exaggerated, stylised or awkward.

Small circle movements are favoured over sweeping ones.
Students are required to use jing rather than li.