Yang Cheng Fu form

The Classical Yang form does not involve any fancy footwork.
There is plenty of stepping throughout the form, but it is far from dynamic.
How come?

The Yang Cheng Fu form encourages the student to perceive stepping as being an 'adjustment'.
You alter position favourably by stepping.
But you only step if and when you need to.


Green belt students are sometimes asked to undertake shido-geiko responsibilities in class.
We look for people who are helpful, considerate and show an enthusiasm for the art, the school and Master Waller's teachings.

If you demonstrate an aptitude for shido-geiko, you will be a strong instructor candidate later in the syllabus.

Shido-geiko is considered to be a privilege.
You have an opportunity to help pass-on the art.


Qi Jian

I found a page about one of Sifu's swords: http://cashanwei.com/prod_Detail.aspx?id=SH2295&name=Qi%20Jian

There is quite a nice YouTube documentary. Sifu's jian is called 'night song'. The page explains why.

The handle of Sifu's qi jian has been worn white from daily use:


A catch-22 is a paradoxical situation in which an individual cannot avoid a problem because of contradictory constraints or rules. Often these situations are such that solving one part of a problem only creates another problem, which ultimately leads back to the original problem.





Beginners always start classes with all manner of preconceptions, ideas and opinions.
This is normal, and to be expected.

Unfortunately, these very notions will seriously impede your progress.


You may have all sorts of wonderful ideas, what you consider to be valuable contributions and insights, your own personal take on matters. Nobody cares. Quite the opposite. The fastest way to alienate yourself in a dojo is to make known these ideas or to volunteer your suggestions on how training might be better or more effective.
(Dave Lowry)


A martial arts class is not about gratification. This is a very important thing to recognise.
We are not in the service industry.

Martial arts schools have existed for centuries. They have only one purpose: to teach you combat skills.

Everything else is secondary.
If you are hoping to express your emotions or parade your ego, a martial arts class is the wrong place to do it.
Traditionally, the training would have been very gruelling and perhaps even cruel.
Yet, it all served the one purpose.


When you come to the dojo, it is a recognition the teacher there has something you want. He will give it to you in his own way. You must accept that. If you do not, you are free to leave. The dojo, however, is never run by consensus.

(Dave Lowry



The form must adhere to the tai chi classics.
Without a comprehensive understanding of the three treatise, you cannot determine whether or not you are performing the sequence properly.

Underpinning the classics is the need for substance; internal strength/power.
Whole-body movement.
The ability to move your body as fluid, fully-connected network of parts is essential.

An extensive understanding of jing is also necessary.


People do not complain when they think that things are going their way.
They only moan when they encounter an obstacle.
The urge to complain reflects a need to be heard.

The moaner feels cheated, marginalised or let-down. Instead of addressing their own faults, they look outward. 

Another student will quietly endure hardship, set-backs and difficulty.
They might politely ask about their progress and seek tips and pointers.
A moaner looks for somebody else to blame.


As your skills improve, it becomes evident that you can use the F = M x A equation quite easily:
- the more relaxed you are, the more effective your mass will be
- the more quickly you can move, the greater the acceleration

Combining these qualities will enhance the outcome of your movements.



The ability to apply the patterns of movement is not something to be overlooked.
Each movement contains at least 7 different applications.

There are three ways to apply a posture:

Consider the application relative to a punch, kick, grapple or hold.
Use the tai chi chuan principles.

Without an understanding of application, the student performs the sequence in a vague, ambiguous manner.
Application hones the focus.

Traditionally, students were not taught form applications... they had to figure them out by trial and error.


A casual student is not capable of learning our syllabus.

Force = Mass x Acceleration

Bracing prevents the effective release of stored energy.
You cannot accelerate with the brake on.

The body must be free to move without impediment if you seek to generate and deliver kinetic energy powerfully and spontaneously.


Should I lift weights?

It will not help your tai chi.
Weight lifting/body building/gym work shapes the body according to vanity and fashion.

Tai chi encourages the body to be natural.
It employs healthy biomechanics for strength-building and everyday usage. Strength is built carefully and safely.




If you do not counter-attack and incapacitate the opponent, they will simply continue to assault you.
Flowing with the attack will enable you to respond using one of the three combat skills:

None of these skills will work if you are bracing.

30 minutes

Sifu tends to commit around 30-45 minutes to each facet of the training:

Qigong & stretching (60-90 minutes)
Bagua (30-45 minutes)
Partner drills and wallbag (15 minutes)
Weapons drills & forms (
30-45 minutes)
Tai chi empty hand forms (30-45 minutes)
Should you train this much? It depends on what you want. Do you want be Mozart or just to play a tune?

Ideally a green belt beginner should commit 30-60 minutes a day to training whilst a black belt student would be looking at 1-2 hours.

An instructor is another level entirely, with 3-5 hours solo practice a day. Reading/study, additional exercise (i.e. walking), constructive rest and teaching comes after. 


A beginner shouldn’t be working on the same things as a black belt.
 Each stage needs to be understood, assimilated and savoured before moving onto the next.
 A fighter needs to build firm foundations before going higher.

(Goran Powell)


Puzzles & games

Some puzzles and games are good for your brain. Others are not.
The main danger lies in training your mind to fulfil a specific skill; such as play sudoku or answer a crossword puzzle.
These activities are arguably limiting; an end in themselves.

Seek instead to undertake activities that expand consciousness, teach new skills and challenge how you perceive reality.


Yielding serves to re-direct the incoming force of an attack.
It neutralises the power.

Instead of wasting the incoming energy, you can return it to the attacking by borrowing their force.
This is accomplished by the use of listening, peng, stickiness and reeling silk.



The first stage of learning is concerned with learning the crude outline of the form.
This is called the 'square form'.
It is crude and ungainly but trains the approximate movements and directions.

The sooner a student can learn the sequence, the better.
Only through regular, intensive repetition of the sequence can the patterns become more familiar.

John has passed his orange belt...

That's 3 belts in 4 months - a record.

To his credit, John isn't rushing or sloppy. He's attending 2 classes a week, referring to our DVD's and practicing between lessons. And progressing...

Weapons forms (excerpt)



Step with the flow of the incoming/outgoing force.
By harmonising with the opponent you avoid alerting their nervous system.
Anticipatory footwork will backfire.

Sensitivity is paramount.

A feather cannot be placed, and a fly cannot alight on any part of the body.

(Wang Tsung-yueh)


Starting incorrectly

A form cannot be taught correctly to a beginner. It is taught in accordance with the students ability to learn.
Beginners are physically incapable of the sophistication required to practice the form correctly, so a cruder version of the sequence is taught at first.

Once the exaggerated sequence has been learned, it can be made smaller and subtler.
Most movements will be altered as the student progresses and their body becomes more receptive.

Yang Cheng Fu form (excerpts)



Inflexible, sluggish feet will result in overall stagnancy.
We seek agility and nimbleness, not fixity.

The ability to step swiftly, decisively, and appropriately is the hallmark of a skilled practitioner.


If you don't do martial arts, it may be hard for you to understand the importance we place in the people that teach us. They are not like schoolteachers or lecturers, where the tuition is compulsory. In the martial arts the teaching and the learning is voluntary. It's a shared passion. The rewards of your instructor's lessons go deep.

(Goran Powell)

Pao chui (excerpts)



Patterns of movement

A form is comprised of patterns of movement known as 'postures'.

The term 'posture' is actually very misleading because it suggests a static condition.
It is a mis-translation.
In the 1960's when tai chi chuan was emerging in the West, yoga was very popular and tai chi chuan was mistakenly perceived as being "moving yoga".
Yoga features postures, and tai chi chuan was seen to be similar.

Many tai chi chuan practitioners still think of the art as being akin to yoga.
They are concerned about the end position rather than the entirety of the movement itself.
This constitutes a major error in perception and practice.


A fixed stance is not required in either tai chi chuan or baguazhang.
It is strategically unsound to maintain an unyielding position when faced with an opponent or group of attackers.
Flexibility, freedom and mobility is necessary.

Stance refers to the relationship of the feet, not to a position of rigidity or fixity.
Think of stance as a flowing, moving condition rather than a static one.


Qigong student

If you have no interest in learning tai chi, you are quite welcome to attend lessons as a qigong student. You will be taught a physically and mentally challenging curriculum, but no tai chi at all. There will be no partner work. Qigong students focus upon flexibility, suppleness, relaxation, mobility, strength building and boosting their energy.


If somebody pulls on your arm and you are employing a 70/30 stance, you will eventually topple forwards unless you step.
By stepping you avoid bracing, and maintain central equilibrium.

It is very hard for an opponent to exert force on you or manipulate your body when you move as they move.

Sinking to one side allows movement to flow; being double-weighted is sluggish.
Anyone who has spent years of practice and still cannot neutralize,
and is always controlled by his opponent, has not apprehended the fault of double-weightedness.
To avoid this fault one must distinguish yin from yang.

(Wang Tsung-yueh)



Peng must be maintained at all times.
When force is applied, turn, step, move but do not crumple.

If you feel crowded, or your peng is costing you effort, then you are too close to the attacker.
Make space.


Initial stages of learning

Small san sau is taught in two ways initially:
  1. Sequence
  2. Combat concerns
The 'sequence' is just the pattern of movements: the framework.
It must be performed quite well.

The second learning stage is concerned with how to use the set in actual combat.
Subtle changes and corrections enhance the set, making it much more versatile and functional in combat.

Chuang Tzu

Viewing Tai Chi as a complete system which needs to incorporate the ways of thinking evident in Taoism and Zen with internal features of form and martial applications is key. Indeed, since starting with the class as well as ‘re-training’ the body to effectively transfer energy, relax, yield and the like; retraining the mind with a more ‘here and now focus’ and by not forcing the physical or the mental has been beneficial to my health. Reading text such as Merton’s and other exercises like the questionnaires compliment form, qigong and application studied in class. This has been emphasised recently by Master Waller where this aspect of the study is essential and informs internal aspects of the art.

(Dr Leigh Riby)

4 ounces

Unless you yield when pushed or pulled, you violate the 4 ounces of pressure maxim.
Bracing presents the opponent with a surface with which to apply force.

When your partner exerts force, allow that force to move you and do not fight against it.


Forms and drills

Forms and drills teach habit patterns.

A new starter moves in a random, unpredictable, unfocussed way which is not economical or powerful.
Sloppy, undisciplined body use is careless and can lead to injury.
Martially, it is unsound.

Form corrects this by training you how to move differently.


I realised fitness is the bedrock of a fighter's ability. It breeds confidence, determination and fighting spirit., which can make a huge difference. These simple things can compensate for some lack of technical ability.

 (Goran Powell)


Pattern of movements

A form is comprised of patterns of movement known as 'postures'.

The term 'posture' is actually very misleading because it suggests a static condition.
It is a mis-translation.
In the 1960's when tai chi chuan was emerging in the West, yoga was very popular and tai chi chuan was mistakenly perceived as being "moving yoga".
Yoga features postures, and tai chi chuan was seen to be similar.

Many tai chi chuan practitioners still think of the art as being akin to yoga.
They are concerned about the end position rather than the entirety of the movement itself.
This constitutes a major error in perception and practice.

Yield to force

Instead of bracing when pulled, you yield and go with the pull.
When pushed, yield and go with the push.

This follows Newton's 3rd Law of Motion.


Self defence

The real test of your understanding lies in your ability to apply the art in a thorough and convincing manner against a diverse and varied range of attacks.

It is difficult to remain connected, relaxed and composed if the internal way of moving is not ingrained and intrinsic.

It doesn't make sense...

Why do you expect it to?

This is what learning means.
You are being exposed to the unfamiliar. Challenged by the unknown.

Try it again. And again. And again.
Make reference to the website, to class, to books, to your own experiences and insights.


'Bracing' is about making your structure feel stronger:
- if pulled; the student seeks to feed the force into the front leg and thereby gain stability
- if pushed; the student uses the rear leg for support 

Neither of these methods are correct practice for tai chi chuan or baguazhang.


Partnered exercises

Training partnered exercises enables the student to determine whether or not they are employing the principles correctly and effectively.
Inappropriate body use becomes immediately apparent when working with a partner.

No fixed application

Fixed applications serve only to introduce the kind of skills possible within the art.
It is essential that the student avoid reducing the applications to mere techniques.

The 70 applications are not something to be selected during combat.
You just move... and something comes out.

Thinking makes you slow.
Instead of paying attention to what is happening, your mind is reflecting upon memories, options, opinions... the past.

3 belts for beginners

There are 3 coloured belts offered to beginners:
  1. White
  2. Yellow
  3. Orange



I was thankful for my fitness. I was beginning to realise how important it really was. It could make the difference between getting away relatively unscathed or getting seriously hurt. If you're unfit, you can easily end up at the mercy of your opponent. If you're sparring you might get a battering.

 (Goran Powell)


Weapons forms and drills require the student to take all of their existing knowledge and utilise those skills when wielding a weapon.
This may sound easy, however, extending your peng through the weapon is difficult.

Practicing a weapons form in a martially-viable manner is another consideration entirely.

Form application

Once a student is capable of performing all 70 basic applications, they must turn their attention to the forms.
Not only can countless shuai jiao and chin na applications be found in the forms, but jing expressions also.
The student must study every movement and develop at least 7 applications per posture.
These must adhere strictly to the tai chi principles.

The 70 beginners applications attune the brain to see possibilities within movements, relationships, positioning and angles.
Instead of moving through a lifeless dance, the student finds form to be alive with opportunity.
Every movement and nuance offers new ideas for the creative mind.



Whilst learning the fundamental movements, a student is introduced to form.
Form serves to challenge the student.
The movement principles and habits must now be employed in a significantly more diverse manner.
Variety, combinations, permutations and stepping all require the student to extend their range of skill.

Form also has the added difficulty of being martial in nature.
Not only must the pattern be accurate in appearance, it must also contain internal strength.

Long-term, the student must possess the knowledge of how to apply the form in combat.

What are you doing?

Ask yourself why you are doing tai chi and what you are expecting from it.

Then consider how you train and what you train.
Question whether you are taking your age, condition and health into account.

White belt - it came with the uniform...

In martial arts circles, the white belt is seen as being the belt that came with the uniform.
This should give you some idea of its status.

Passing the
white belt syllabus is not a great feat.
Students should endeavour to learn the basic material as quickly as they can.


Do we teach techniques?

A technique is a step-by-step formula for addressing a particular type of attack.
The purpose of these applications is different.

Students learn how to manipulate and manoeuvre their opponents body in an effective, comfortable, flowing, natural fashion.
The principles used can be applied to a variety of different attacks.

Back-up blog


Chuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu was the Chinese philosopher who is credited by some people with transforming aspects of traditional Buddhism into today’s popular Zen. Much like some of the more popular text related to Zen and Taoism that I have read since beginning my Tai Chi study, Merton’s The Way of Chuang Tzu informs my Tai Chi practice. Since there is a long tradition of Taoist monks performing Tai Chi it is hardly surprising scholars such as Chuang Tzu’s writing influenced Tai Chi.

(Dr Leigh Riby)


Forcing a result is not the tai chi way - it is foolish and can lead to injury.
Injuries can be painful and restrictive; hampering your ability to do the training in the first place.

Everything must feel easy, comfortable and natural.


Why do we learn shuai jiao & chin na applications during the beginner syllabus?

Beginners struggle desperately to see any applications with the forms of baguazhang and tai chi chuan.
By learning a wide variety of applications drawn from these forms, the student begins to recognise that form movements are not abstract and serve a deliberate, functional purpose.

All of the applications can be applied in self defence.

Health problems

If you have a health problem, an injury or a history of physical neglect, you cannot reasonably ignore this when commencing tai chi.
It is important to start sensibly and safely.

Be honest.
If something feels uncomfortable, say so - serious health problems may well preclude you from learning tai chi.

Ignoring a knee or back injury and trying low stances or self defence is a sign of recklessness.
Allow for your age, your health, your fitness and your condition - and train patiently and carefully.


Our teacher

Master Waller is aiming to offer students a rich tai chi experience that combines modern and traditional aspects of teaching in order to offer the most comprehensive learning opportunity in the North East.

Many people would argue that he succeeds in this aim.
His classes are highly detailed, compelling and never boring or routine.



Some schools stylise the form in order to aid learning.
Unfortunately, this can lead to long-term mistakes and misconceptions.

We do not stylise any form movements



How you move and use your body in everyday life will radically affect your progress in tai chi chuan and baguazhang.

Day-to-day habit patterns are the strongest.
These are the hardest to lose.
If you spend all day hunched-over, tensing-up, nervous, over-extending... this cannot be ironed out with a 90 minute class.

It is necessary to think about body usage as you are using it.
If you catch yourself off-balance, strained, tensing - then stop.
Re-establish equilibrium and perform the task again, with mindfulness.

This may sound a little difficult, and it is, but with practice you will improve very quickly.
As new habit patterns emerge and you begin to move as a unified whole, disconnection will be immediately evident and feel physically uncomfortable.


Letting-go is not easy.
Doing less, wanting less, finding space and freedom in your life will require change.
And people are often reluctant to change.

But, as with all things in tai chi, nothing is forced.
If you want something, and value it, you will find the time and it will not be a chore.

He who knows when he has got enough is rich.

 (Lao Tzu)


Foot work

People often think that the Yang Cheng Fu style of tai chi chuan involves poor footwork.
This observation no doubt arises from watching the slow motion Classical Yang form; which is indeed quite ponderous and involves no nimble footwork whatsoever.

It is important to remember that this form is just the first of a number of Yang Cheng Fu forms.
As a student works through the weapons forms, pao chui and the numerous partnered drills and training methods, their feet become agile and swift.

The careful footwork of the Yang Cheng Fu slow form is deliberate.
It trains central equilibrium, economy of motion and strategic stepping.
Essentially, you only step when and if you have to.
This reduces the tendency to 'bounce', dither or otherwise alert the opponent's nervous system.

For yielding/shuai jiao to work against an opponent, the student must learn when and how to step.
Superfluous footwork wastes time and energy.
Small circle responses are cultivated; with the minimum amount of effort being employed at any given time.

Knowing yourself

Coming to terms with yourself is not so easy.
It is necessary to observe your mind, emotions and behaviour without judgement.
To learn who you are and what motivates your actions.

Most people are so busy chasing the accoutrements of life that they do not make time for themselves.
Tai chi encourages you to slow down and eventually stop.
This may be harder than you imagine.


Fit & healthy?

Fitness and health are not necessarily the same thing at all.
A person may run the marathon but eat junk food, drink caffeine and smoke.
Many athletes have very tense muscles and a decided lack of composure.

People punish their bodies on the road to fitness.

Fitness is usually result-oriented, and the means is ignored - the body is made to perform, regardless of any adverse biofeedback.
This is not healthy at all.
Running the marathon is meaningless if it damages your knees or you have a heart attack.

Health is different to fitness: it involves a physical, mental and emotional balance that transcends any one activity.
Place wellbeing before fitness:
  1. Eat the right types of food (avoid additives, junk food, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine)
  2. Get rest and relaxation
  3. Exercise comfortably and naturally
  4. Feel happy and well-adjusted
You might well be healthy but not overly fit.



Not all tai chi practice is slow. But many of the exercise are fairly slow.
There is no need for rushing.
Rushing is the outcome of anxiety, of conflict between activities or choices.

We encourage students to settle, to give-up the race, to be relaxed, rested and composed.
This is usually not a familiar condition.


Shuai jiao & chin na applications

How to yield

The forms of tai chi chuan or baguazhang were designed to teach the student how to yield to incoming force by adjusting:
  1. Turn the waist & shift the weight into the other leg
  2. Step
  3. Bend at the hip


Spur of the moment

As a student advances through the syllabus, their responses should become spontaneous and easy.
The appropriate application should emerge without contrivance or conscious thought.


For chin na to work, you must concern yourself with the underlying principles rather than technique.
Once you understand how the principles work, you can use them spontaneously in accord with the requirement of a given situation.
This is more realistic.

Adaptation is essential; you change what you are doing relative to what is happening.
If your chin na is countered by your opponent, you move into a different one or adopt a different strategy entirely - such as stepping or striking.



Balance is a dynamic process, not a fixed condition.
Sensitivity must be cultivated, along with awareness and presence.

Learning to feel how your own body responds to stimuli, how it moves and what problems it encounters is a profound journey of personal discovery.
Along the way you may become more comfortable with your own physicality.
You may begin to slow down, to notice things.

Different condition

All things being equal, anyone should be physically capable of performing any tai chi movement from any style of tai chi.
In reality, things are not equal, and a twenty year old person with a supple body can usually manage postures that a fifty year old could not.
It is important to train tai chi relative to your own individual level of condition.

More or less anyone could learn
tai chi for health & fitness, whereas tai chi as a martial art is another matter entirely.

Resistance is common

Beginners inevitably resist force.
They tense-up, pull-back, contract and brace.


Harmony is the outcome of finding balance between yourself and other people, circumstances and events.
This requires a significant change of consciousness.
Mere physical exercise alone will not accomplish this shift of perception.

It is necessary to see life differently, to take the lessons of the art into your daily life.


Self defence

A basic premise of training to fight as an 'art' must be that the methods employed should make it possible for the smaller and weaker to defeat the larger and stronger.

(Tim Cartmell)


The hardest part is often to 'feel' where the arms and legs need to go.
Cultivating this requires tuition, partner work and biofeedback.
The physics is not hard to understand or implement.

Working with somebody else can quickly show you if your framework is relaxed, tense, over-extended or weak and prone to crumpling.


Although you possess more skill than some people, you will possess less than others.
All things in life are relative.

Arrogance stems from a poor sense of perspective.
Resist the urge to show off.


It is quite common to see older people exercising these days.
In principle this is a good thing.

However, there are many people running without consideration of good posture; stooped back, hunched shoulders and dropping heavily into their knees.
There are reckless cyclists charging down country pathways where a mishaps could mean broken bones and a hospital trip.
Weight lifters shorten their muscles and maintain a permanently distorted, hunched posture.

Aging cannot be avoided. But you can choose how to exercise. Not all physical pursuits are wise for the over-40's.
Choose your exercise appropriately.


Slowly, the atmosphere of the school and the attitudes of the art permeate.
The individual experiences a glimpse of calmness.
They recognise that in order to progress, harmony must be found, balance, grace and a sense of ease.

Through gentle daily practice, supplementary reading and a gradual lifestyle change it is possible for all students to find peace in their everyday life.