Connection is literally the process of uniting body parts.
It is the most basic and simplistic concern.
Instead of moving your arms via the shoulder or relying upon local muscle strength, you 'connect' the arms to the back and move via the torso and legs instead. Maintaining connection when performing different tasks is a major undertaking for the new student.
It is not enough to do a movement.
You must move in a whole-body manner.

The hardest part of this requirement is to remain relaxed but not floppy, flaccid or crumpled.



People often confuse the image with the reality.
A person feels afraid and works hard to project an outwardly tough persona.
They shave their head, lift weights, get a tattoo and strut.

This pantomime remains unconvincing.
Nobody is fooled.
Not even the fearful individual.

Fear is something you learn to live with. It cannot be glossed over with a 'macho man' image.


Why bother?

Imagine that you have a large amount of work to do and you give it to 1 member of staff...
Now, consider sharing that same amount of work amongst 100 members of staff?
Instead of 1 staff member working extra hard to do the job, 100 people are working together.
The job will be done more quickly and each individual has less of the overall responsibility for completing the job.

Conventional muscle use involves a limited number of muscles being assigned to a given task.

Whole-body power entails all of your muscles being used together.
Consequently, the task feels less strenuous and is more easily fulfilled.



Brian is studying taijiquan.

1. When did you start Newcastle Tai Chi?

I started the class as far as I am aware in 2005.

2. How old are you (approx)?

I’m 38 years old.

3. Why Newcastle Tai Chi?

Well to be honest I lived in Wallsend and was looking for a tai chi class local to give a go and this one sounded the best.

4. What is good about the school?

The school has a friendly approach to the art and let’s people take things as slow or as fast as they would like. Whether that is for health reasons or to learn taijiquan.
Master Waller’s skills are immense and it is a privilege to be taught at such a high level.

5. Has it affected your day-to-day life?

It has certainly affected my way of life physically and psychologically. I had suffered from a hip problem for years and it hasn’t bothered me for years now. I believe this is because I have trained my posture correctly through the exercises taught by Master Waller.
Also I see the world differently now, a lot calmer and relaxed...

6. Do you study taijiquan with the school? (if yes, what do you think of it?)

The taijiquan training is intense and not for everybody but if you put the time in you will quickly become skilled in an art that is an extremely effective self defence mechanism.


Neigong is concerned with whole-body movement.
This is distinct to how most people normally move in that every body part should be involved in every movement.
Accomplishing this is not easy.

As a child you possessed whole-body movement, but as an adult you have lost it from a lifetime of bodily misuse and bad habits.


Neigong qualities

Having gained a crude sense of connection, a student may feel like a robot.
This is not correct.

The aim is to move freely, comfortably - in an agile, supple, flowing way - without ever losing connection.
How is this accomplished?
By incorporating subtle yet sophisticated concerns into how you move.

These neigong qualities serve to unite the body in a manner that is not awkward or clumsy.

The body mechanics of the internal martial arts are significantly more sophisticated than those of the external martial arts. 

(Bruce Frantzis)


Constant correction, revision and progress

Refinement is ongoing.
There are no plateaus or stopping points.
Students are challenged every lesson to hone their existing material and learn new skills.

Regular challenges aid the student in recognising the worth of what they have learned.


Refinement of character

In traditional Chinese culture, tai chi chuan was seen as a means for refining character.
It enabled the individual to balance all aspects of their being.

The challenge of learning tai chi removes conflict, macho urges and aggression.
A student learns how to move in a graceful, balanced, harmonious way and maintain composure at all times.


Technical skill

Technical skill can refer to the accuracy of your form, the refinement of your combat drills and the study (and incorporation) of neigong qualities.
However, there is more...

'Technical skill' also refers to specific combat insights/tactical skills that require considerable training and practice to master.
These are not taught in the beginners class.
A beginner focuses only on the basic pattern/outline.


John passed Blue belt (part 2)

Since April this year, John has passed 6 belts.


Martial sets and form application represent the first steps toward a refinement of the more abstract-seeming taoist and tai chi principles.
They offer a degree specificity without narrowing the scope.
The syllabus eventually dismantles every martial set and form application, increasing the potential once again.

We must continually take the abstract and consider specific applications, and then return again to the abstract.


Martial sets

Every martial set and partnered drill is taught in the same 5 stage way as form: the student moves from coarse to refined as their practice and skill develops.
The key to progress lies in awareness.

A beginner may feel that a set is comfortable and familiar.
This is fine initially.
But, as the student becomes more adept, they will realise that the pattern is not entirely correct.

New starters @ £7.50

We offer two beginners classes in Newcastle:
Doors open at 6:45 PM

If you want to try the class, there is no need to e-mail in advance.
Just come along.

We welcome adults of all ages.
Prior experience is not expected. New starters are treated as beginners.



A new class can be a confusing, intimidating experience.
You quickly realise that you know nothing about tai chi, or about the syllabus ahead of you.
Recognising this brings a sense of relief.
There is no need to 'get a handle on things'.

Relax and go with the flow.
Get used to being in class.
Pretty soon, the unfamiliar becomes familiar, the preliminary skills are comfortable and you are making steady progress through the syllabus.


A beginner only learns one form: the Yang Cheng Fu slow form.
It takes 10 belts worth of practice to achieve a reasonable reproduction of the form.
But it is still riddled with faults.

The 6 experienced belts teach one new form per belt, along with a wide range of additional material.
These new forms draw principles and postures from the initial form and enrich the practice.

In terms of the Yang Cheng Fu form, the intermediate focus is primarily upon understanding the meaning of the postures.
The student must apply every posture martially.



Having watched movies, YouTube, the news or read things... new students often have certain notions concerning combat.
They want to know how to deal with multiple opponents, with knives, with this or that scenario.

This is to be expected.

In truth, most new starters have trouble standing or moving in a balanced manner.
Their bodily awareness is poor and their nervous system dysfunctional.
A lifetime of bad habits stand in the way of progress.

There are 3 beginners belts.
These focus on unlearning bad habits, using the body in a more healthy, effective way and becoming composed.
At this level of ability, combat is irrelevant.
There are more immediate matters to attend to.

Actual combat is reserved for intermediate-level students and beyond.

Refining the pattern

Once the pattern has been crudely memorised, the student cannot consider it 'completed' or 'learned'.
This is simply too naive.

Working through the 5 stages will drastically change the pattern.
The sequence of postures (moving patterns) will not change, but the way in which they are performed will continue to change for as long as you train tai chi.
Do not stagnate.

If you videotaped your form during your early weeks of practice, and then filmed it again periodically you should see significant changes occurring over time.
Over the course of many years the form will evolve.
If this does not happen... you are not making any progress at all.


Structured learning

Students who seek to learn tai chi earnestly join the school.
As a school member they are taken through a highly structured syllabus that has clear learning goals.
Their progress is closely monitored by the instructor.

Something new is taught each and every lesson.
Regular assessments ensure that the student is constantly developing and refining their tai chi practice.


There are 5 stages to learning any form:
  1. The pattern
  2. Internal strength
  3. Application
  4. Shen
  5. Natural
With the advent of tai chi sport forms emanating from modern China, many modern practitioners never proceed past stage 1.
Indeed, few people even realise that there is more to form than the outward show.

The sad part about this is that the pattern is essentially incorrect unless augmented by the other 4 stages.


Partner work

The initial partner work is very straightforward. It addresses balance, footwork, physics and playfulness.
Students rediscover how to have fun and work sensibly and safely with other people

Partner work is important because it allows students to receive biofeedback: genuine, tangible results.
i.e. This way works and this way does not.

Column 1, 2 & 3

Students are given a qigong/neigong ticksheet when they join the school and this is used throughout their training.

Column 1 is
just about the crude pattern.
It is the outline of the exercise, with no real refinement.

Column 2 is explored in the blue belt syllabus.
his is about accurate, controlled performance and learning to incorporate neigong qualities.

Column 3 occurs in the 5th dan syllabus.
Every exercise is a whole-body movement; smooth, efficient, optimal.

This ticksheet represents a crucial yardstick for individual progress.
Only by working through the columns can the exercises be honed and ultimately understood.



People begin to learn the first tai chi form sequence.
Patience and persistence are required.
You must gently persuade your nervous system to cooperate with your intentions.

Everyone is allowed to work at their own pace.


Every qigong exercise is studied crudely at first, in order to gain simplistic coordination.
This enables the student to move the body in a gross way.

Tendons and ligaments are stretched and basic connection principles are introduced.
Significant attention is placed upon alignment, positioning, structure, balance, mobility and good body use.
Optimal usage is encouraged.
Every action should be natural, comfortable and not exaggerated.



New students are taught a simple range of qigong exercises designed to increase strength, coordination and relaxation.
The exercises are not strenuous or unduly tiring.

There is no pressure and no real expectation of progress.
You simply do what feels comfortable for you.

The onus is upon bodily awareness, biomechanics and recognising how the body is used in tai chi.


What is different about Newcastle Tai Chi?

• Professional
• Quality of tuition
• Depth of understanding
• Fully-differentiated syllabus
• Range of skills available for study
• Comprehensive martial application


Starting a class is quite a challenging experience.
You undoubtedly you have all manner of ideas and expectations...

In reality, the main concern initially is just to have an open mind. Be prepared to learn new things, and shed a great many bad habits

The pattern

Students begin by learning the 'pattern'.
This is a crude rendition of the exercise or form and serves to familiarise the student with the approximate shape of the movement.

The student is expected to practice the pattern until the movement becomes easier.
When the pattern has been remembered adequately, refinement can begin.



Students always begin large.
The arms are extended quite far from the body and the weight shifts and waist turns are large.
Sweepings arcs are necessary.

This gross stage of learning is unfortunately necessary.
Subtlety, grace and intricate nuances would be utterly wasted on the student.
Even if they could see the detail, their body has yet to possess the biomechanics required to perform the task correctly.


Bodily awareness

The cultivation of bodily awareness is paramount.
For the average student it can take a couple of years before the individual begins to recognise good and bad body use.
This is just the beginning.

Removing the old habits and acquiring new ways of standing and moving is the real challenge facing the student.
It is an ongoing concern.


Getting it right?

Students occasionally ask: "When will I get it right?" or "Is this right?" after only a few short months of training.
This may seem like a reasonable question. 

Unfortunately, the student is yet to realise that they are missing about 99% of the syllabus.
Given that there is still so much to learn, how can even the most simple exercise be correct?
Everything must be refined.
Again and again and again and again.



A new starter tends to have very tense muscles and limited flexibility in the hip and groin.
Elbows and shoulders are lifted, and the knees bent deeply instead of the hips.
The back is commonly stiff and rigid.

With this mind, the student cannot hope to be ambitious.
And yet they frequently are.
It is common for a student stumble through a form without the slightest grasp of alignment or relaxation, and then ask to learn something more challenging.
A polite response is necessary.


A false start

When a new starter begins class they bring with them all manner of baggage:
  1. Physical tension
  2. Bad habits of body use
  3. Emotional issues
  4. Preconceptions
  5. Fear
  6. Very poor bodily awareness
  7. Poor balance
  8. Poor coordination
Usually the student is completely unaware of these impediments. They engage in practice without allowing for these problems.

This situation is anticipated by the instructor and the student is taught relative to their capacity to learn.
In most cases this means that the tuition is extremely basic, with only a gross outline being offered.


Form postures

Form is the tool used by tai chi and baguazhang to teach the student how to find and practice optimal alignment.
The extensive variety of form postures challenge the student to find the best possible 'pattern of movement' for each posture.

Learn how to align yourself well throughout each and every form.
This is an activity best undertaken at home, through lengthy practice and contemplation.
In class, ask other students to pressure test your individual form postures.

Sifu hates computers

Sifu used to work in IT, and now only uses the computer to update his website or for marketing his school.
To him, a computer is a tool not a toy.

He finds computers to be twitchy, unreliable, expensive and time consuming.

You will never find him with an iPad, iPhone, Blackberry etc.

He absolutes loathes computers; they serve as a necessary evil, and are only used to promote his business.
Social networking, twitter, facebook, blogging... business use only.

Every frustrating second spent on the PC is time that could be better spent interacting with real people, training, walking outside or the million other alternatives.



The connected network of body parts must move as one unit, but not in a rigid, robotic manner.
A significant degree of play in the joints is required if you desire the ability to release energy.

Do not let the framework become a rigid cage.
Your body must act as a conduit for the the expression of kinetic energy.
Use your mind to establish groundpath.

Joining the school

If a student is seeking to learn the art more thoroughly, they need to join the school.
Joining the school costs £40 and enables the student to fully explore our in-depth tai chi syllabus.

Members of the school:

• attend regularly
• work methodically through the syllabus
• are taught, assessed and corrected frequently and consistently by the instructor



First steps

Very few people ever advance beyond the initial beginners belts, regardless of martial art.
How come?

Progress requires effort, patience, time and a commitment.
In modern society, people are reluctant to invest in acquiring any real skill.
Our culture has become facile.
It is easier to skim the surface than to commit to a lengthy, open-ended course of study and hardship.

Casual students

A casual student is a person who has not yet made a commitment to the school, or to their tai chi practice. They come and go as they please.
They are welcome guests in our school.

Drop-in/casual students receive a healthy, balanced workout every time they attend.
They explore a limited (but enjoyable) selection of material from our syllabus.

The emphasis is upon fun, stress relief and relaxation.


Put your money where your mouth is

Martial arts classes offer a degree of clarity not found in everyday life.
Your words and your deeds must become one.
If you talk big but don't practice, you will flounder against an attack.

The reality of your situation is tangible.
Theory and observation mean nothing against a punch, kick or grapple.
You can't avoid a knife by simply reading about it or watching a YouTube clip.


Come and try the class.

Taster sessions cost £7.50.