What is different about Newcastle Tai Chi?

• Quality of tuition • Professional
• Extensive range of skills available for study 
• Learn new material every week
• Fully-differentiated syllabus 
• Depth of understanding
• Tai chi
theory & philosophy
• Comprehensive martial application (optional)


That which does not kill you...

We have long believed that real, significant progress can be accomplished through mild ordeal.

Hardship tests our character.
It tells us something about who we are and how we respond to things.


What about tradition?

If you are a Christian, give to the poor.

If you are not, why let marketing and commerce bully you into feeling guilty for not buying presents? People are just trying to make money out of you. They want you in debt.
They want you spending more than you can afford. Your greed finances their greed.

If you recall the Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol you may remember that celebrating Christmas traditionally entailed giving gifts to the poor.
This is seldom the case these days...

There is nothing miserly about rejecting consumerism.
Do whatever you want to do.
Don't be led by advertising or peer pressure.

Tai Chi Classics

Across the years, various masters have expressed their tai chi expertise in writing.
These works are referred to as 'the Tai Chi Classics'.
They represent the essence of the art and students are encouraged to read the classics and imbue their tai chi with the spirit of these insights.

The classics highlight considerations and qualities necessary for tai chi.
The student must study the classics carefully and apply them according to their own skill and insight.
Without the characteristics depicted in the classics, the training cannot be called tai chi.



Wu treatise

The mind mobilizes the qi.
Make the qi sink calmly;
then the qi gathers and permeates the bones.
The qi mobilizes the body.
Make it move smoothly, so that it may easily follows the mind.
The intention and qi must interchange agilely,
then there is an excellence of roundness and smoothness.
This is called "the interplay of insubstantial and substantial."
The mind is the commander, the qi the flag, and the waist the banner.
The waist is like the axle and the qi is like the wheel.
The qi is always nurtured without harm.
Let the qi move as in a pearl with nine passages without breaks so that there is no part it cannot reach.
In moving the qi sticks to the back and permeates the spine.
It is said "first in the mind, then in the body."
The abdomen relaxes, then the qi sinks into the bones.
The shen is relaxed and the body calm.
The shen is always in the mind.
Being able to breathe properly leads to agility.
The softest will then become the strongest.
When the shen is raised, there is no fault of stagnancy and heaviness.
This is called suspending the headtop.
Inwardly make the shen firm, and outwardly exhibit calmness and peace.
Throughout the body, the intention relies on the shen, not on the qi.
If it relied on the qi, it would become stagnant.
If there is qi, there is no external strength.
The jing is sung, but not sung; it is capable of great extension, but is not extended.
The jing is broken, but the intention is not.
The jing is stored by means of the curved.
The energy is released by the back, and the steps follow the changes of the body.
The mobilization of the jing is like refining steel a hundred times over.
There is nothing hard it cannot destroy.
Store up the jing like drawing a bow.
Mobilize the jing like drawing silk from a cocoon.
Release the jing like releasing the arrow.
To fa jing, sink, relax completely, and aim in one direction!
In the curve seek the straight, store, then release.
Be still as a mountain, move like a great river.
The upright body must be stable and comfortable to be able to sustain an attack from any of the eight directions.
Walk like a cat.
Remember, when moving, there is no place that does not move.
When still, there is no place that is not still.
First seek extension, then contraction; then it can be fine and subtle.
It is said; “If the opponent does not move, then I do not move. At the opponent's slightest move, I move first."
To withdraw is then to release, to release it is necessary to withdraw.
In discontinuity there is still continuity.
In advancing and returning there must be folding.
Going forward and back there must be changes.
The form is like that of a falcon about to seize a rabbit, and the shen is like that of a cat about to catch a rat.
(Wu Yu-hsiang)


Take a break

The main appeal of Newcastle Tai Chi is the total break from everyday life.
We offer a vibrant, active learning environment free from cliques and politics.
There is a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere of camaraderie and good humour.

Enjoy an evening without pressure, the need to play a role or keep up appearances.



The danger with abstraction is that it blinds you to the dangers of over-spending.
You are seduced into spending money you do not have.

This process is not an accident.

 It has been cynically planned and implemented by financiers of various kinds.
Everyone wants a piece of the action.
You are the 'mark'.
These massive companies want a piece of your money.

Through your carelessness, and the process of abstraction, you have been distanced from the reality of your finances.

When your house is re-possessed, you realise that numerical abstraction may have hidden the reality from you - but reality cannot be ignored.
Crippling debt is the outcome of confusing the menu with the food.



We live in a culture where people adore fame, celebrity and all the paraphernalia that goes with it.
There is a tendency for people to get carried away. They become fans. Groupies. They become obsessed.
Rock stars and TV personalities are just people. Just like you.

Be entertained by all means, but do not lose all sense of perspective.

The martial arts world is not the entertainment industry.
It is a quiet place of intense study, introspection, discovery and communion. It has no interest in celebrity.



Your wage is represented as a number. You deduct various other numbers from your wage and the figure diminishes.
It is quite easy to look at your bank statement and see £40 deducted here and £300 deducted there.
If you were to actually hand over the money physically, you may see the situation differently.

Counting out £300 in cash is altogether different from seeing a figure on a credit card bill.

Wang treatise

Tai chi comes from emptiness and is the mother of yin and yang.
In motion tai chi separates; in stillness yin and yang fuse and return to emptiness.
It is not excessive or deficient; it follows a bending, adheres to an extension.
When the opponent is hard and I am soft, it is called yielding.
When I follow the opponent and he becomes backed up, it is called adhering.
If the opponent's movement is quick, then quickly respond; if his movement is slow, then follow slowly.
Although there are innumerable variations, the principle that pervades them remains the same.
From familiarity with the correct touch, one gradually comprehends jing (internal power); from the comprehension of jing one can reach wisdom.
Without long practice one cannot suddenly understand tai chi.
Effortlessly the jing reaches the headtop.
Let the qi sink to the tan tien.
Don't lean in any direction; suddenly appear, suddenly disappear.
Empty the left wherever a pressure appears, and similarly the right.
If the opponent raises up, I seem taller; if he sinks down, then I seem lower;
advancing, he finds the distance seems incredibly long; retreating, the distance seems exasperatingly short.
A feather cannot be placed, and a fly cannot alight on any part of the body.
The opponent does not know me; I alone know him.
To become a peerless boxer results from this.
There are many boxing arts.
Although they use different forms, for the most part they don't go beyond
the strong dominating the weak, and the slow resigning to the swift.
The strong defeating the weak and the slow hands ceding to the swift hands
are all the results of natural abilities and not of well-trained techniques.
From the sentence "A force of four ounces deflects a thousand pounds"
we know that the technique is not accomplished with strength.
The spectacle of an old person defeating a group of young people, how can it be due to swiftness?
Stand like a perfectly balanced scale and move like a turning wheel.
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.
To adhere means to yield.
To yield means to adhere.
Within yin there is yang.
Within yang there is yin.
Yin and yang mutually aid and change each other.
Understanding this you can say you understand jing.
After you understand jing, the more you practice, the more skill.
Silently treasure knowledge and turn it over in the mind.
Gradually you can do as you like.
Fundamentally, it is giving up yourself to follow others.
Most people mistakenly give up the near to seek the far.
It is said, "Missing it by a little will lead many miles astray."
The practitioner must carefully study.
This is the treatise.
(Wang Tsung-yueh)



Long jing?

Niwa (pure place)

Our training hall is a place where you can relax, have fun and learn.
It is not a place of violence and machismo.

The challenge of learning tai chi removes conflict, macho urges and aggression.
Students learn how to move in a graceful, balanced, harmonious way whilst maintaining composure at all times.


Chang treatise

In motion the whole body should be light and agile,
with all parts of the body linked as if threaded together.
The qi should be excited; the shen should be internally gathered.
The postures should be without defect,
without hollows or projections from the proper alignment;
in motion the form should not become disconnected.
The jing should be rooted in the feet, generated from the legs,
controlled by the waist, and manifested through the fingers.
If correct timing and position are not achieved, the body will become disordered
and will not move as an integrated whole; the correction for this defect
must be sought in the legs and waist.
The principle of adjusting the legs and waist applies for moving in all directions;
upward or downward, advancing or withdrawing, left or right.
All movements are motivated by mind, not external form.
If there is up, there is down; when advancing, have regard for withdrawing;
when striking left, pay attention to the right.
If the mind wants to move upward, it must simultaneously have intent downward.
Alternating the force of pulling and pushing severs an opponent's root
so that he can be defeated quickly and certainly.
Insubstantial and substantial should be clearly differentiated.
At any place where there is insubstantiality, there must be substantiality;
Every place has both insubstantiality and substantiality.
The whole body should be threaded together through every joint
without the slightest break.
Tai chi is like a great river rolling on unceasingly.
Wardoff, rollback, push, squeeze, pluck, split, elbow, shoulder are equated to the Eight Trigrams.
The first four are the cardinal directions; the second four are the four corners.

Advance, withdraw, look right, look left and central equilibrium are equated to the five elements: metal, wood, fire, water and earth.
All together these are termed the Thirteen Postures. 
(Chang San-feng)


What are our students like?

Our classes attract students from all walks of life.
Friendly, receptive, intelligent people seeking something that will challenge them long-term.
Curious individuals who are willing to acquire new insights, adapt and change.
Playful, relaxed, sociable people who are aiming to make tai chi a part of their lives.



Businesses seek to make money. They accomplish this in many ways.
One method is 'abstraction'.

Instead of handling money with your hands, you are encouraged to use 'electronic' methods of payment:
  1. Credit card
  2. Debit card
  3. Store card
  4. Standing order
  5. Direct debit
  6. Mobile phone contract
These all serve to distance you from the transaction itself.

Knife escapes

30 minute standing qigong endurance challenge


Why join?

• Work through the full curriculum
• Receive regular corrections, tips & pointers
• One-to-one consultation with Master Waller every 3 months
• Request bespoke tuition
• Have an on-line personal progress page
• Use weapons 

• Learn neigong (whole-body strength)• School database
• Seek training guidance and advice from Master Waller
• Wear a uniform
• Buy school DVDs
• Pass belts 

• Discuss tai chi theory and related philosophies with Master Waller
• Attend workshops, boot camp and class social events


Purple (part 2)

Paul Barry has passed part 1 of the purple belt. Well done! He has one belt left before black.

No longer a beginner

 Matthew has passed his green belt and is now an intermediate student. Well done!


Choose your path

 Choose either tai chi for health or kung fu:
  1. Tai chi for health - tai chi
    - qigong
    - form
    - pushing hands
    - meditation
    - theory & philosophy
    - whole-body strength

  2. Kung fu
    - tai chi chuan
    - baguazhang
    - self defence
    - qigong
    - form
    - pushing hands
    - meditation
    - theory & philosophy
    - whole-body strength
    - weapons
    - chin na
    - shuai jiao
    - jing
    - form applications



School members work through a clear, fully-differentiated syllabus.
This ensures on-going, continual progress and development.
Achievement leads to a feeling of wellbeing.
Nothing beats success.

By taking tangible steps forward, a student gains a sense of self-worth and confidence in their own abilities.
I did this. I accomplished.
On-going progress is good for your health: physically, emotionally and psychologically.



Even if Master Waller sought to imbue you with his tai chi skills, he could not.
It simply doesn't work that way.
You must gain the skills through hard work, time and patience.
Your body and mind re-grow.

Now, consider the Confucian quote...
Confucius is saying that the student is responsible for the learning, the practice, the insights and the degree of progress.

Tai chi chuan students should look at themselves as Peter Southwood might have done, and ask the question; are you a martial artist?
The answer is very simple:
You are only a martial artist if you behave like one.


Show me

Confucius made it clear that he would only teach those students who were passionate about learning:

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.


Peter Southwood adhered to this maxim rigidly and expected a lot from students who desired to steal his art.
At first you may see this approach as being unduly harsh.
Yet, as with so many examples of ancient Chinese wisdom it more subtle, more relevant and more true than you may realise.


Good oil, bad oil

Another Chinese attitude is derived from the sale of goods.
Keen, loyal customers who show commitment and friendship are given the best that is on offer.
Irregular, infrequent customers are given what is left.

Peter Southwood practiced this also.
Unless you trained privately with him over many years, he would not share anything beyond the Yang Cheng Fu slow form, pushing hands and qigong.

Santa Claus

Santa Claus was not always a mythical Hollywood character.
 St Nicholas was born in Patara on the southern coast of Turkey. He was raised as a Christian and used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering.

No reindeers. No North Pole. No elves. No present lists. No Christmas cards, tinsels, trees, cakes, holly, mistletoe or carol singing.

Deviate from the essence and all is lost.


One face for giving and one face for taking

This Chinese saying means that people often perform the right actions and say the right things when they want something.
They are pleasant and polite.

Yet, when asked for something in return, they are aloof and distant.

Poverty spiral

Caring at Christmas explain how it can be very difficult to get out of a homeless situation:
  1. No work means people are unable to pay for conventional lodgings.
  2. Homeless people do not necessarily have a family home to go to.
  3. Without a permanent base, it is hard for people to make themselves presentable.
  4. When finding work becomes difficult and depressing, they may be tempted to find relief in alcohol or drugs and become even less employable.


Kung fu student?

Calling yourself a kung fu student and behaving like one are two different things entirely.
The difference can easily be seen in combat.
A talker will be defeated immediately.

Kung fu behaviour can be seen without resorting to combat:

  1. School spirit
  2. Passing belts
  3. Home training
  4. Class attendance
A kung fu student is loyal, committed, eager to assist the master and support the school.
They act in a manner that indicates integrity, respect and honour.



Peter Southwood treated students according to how they behaved.
If you joined his class and told him that you wanted to learn tai chi chuan, then he would not say anything at all.
Instead, he would teach you tai chi exercise and see whether or not you behaved like a kung fu student.

Your own conduct would determine what you were taught.


Chinese curse

Peter Southwood let students determine how they studied.
This is not as kind as it sounds.

There is a Chinese curse: May your wishes be granted.
Why is it a curse?
People seldom consider the consequences of getting what they want.
And when they finally get their way, their desire may have shifted to something new. 


This is a true story. It is a story about a thirteen year old boy who lived in the wealthy suburbs outside of Philadelphia. His name is Trevor Ferrell. One night he was watching the news in television and he saw homeless people on the streets in the downtown area of Philadelphia. He went to his father and said, “We have some blankets in the garage. I want to take those blankets downtown and give them to people. They’re sleeping on the grates where the steam comes out.”

His father thought it was a strange idea, but he took him down there, and it was very rewarding to Trevor and his father. The next day Trevor started putting signs up in the grocery store and other places: “Does anybody have blankets they don’t use? Is there any food you don’t need?” Within a week he had a warehouse full of food, and now in Philadelphia there are a number of warehouses that are called Trevor’s Place that feed the homeless.

(Mark Greenberg)



Peter Southwood was an ardent reader of Confucius.
His lessons reflected a kung fu approach to learning tai chi; very traditional.

Master Waller follows a more taoist model, coupled with ideas gleaned from his professional teaching training course, practical experience and reading a lot of useful books about teaching/zen/taoism/spiritual inquiry/martial arts.
Although Master Waller's methods are in many ways successful, there is still a lot to be said for the more traditional attitude.


I don't stop when I'm tired. I stop when I've done.

(Marilyn Monroe)


Martial arts fundamentals

The problem with treating tai chi like a mixed martial art lies with the fundamentals.
Tai chi requires the practitioner to remain physically loose, soft, flexible and adaptive.
Stickiness, listening, sensitivity, yielding... going with the flow.
Health comes first.

There is no forcing, no aggression, no blocking, no struggling, no violence, no isolated limb use.
The aim in combat is to incapacitate, not score points or fight.

Does this sound like ju jitsu, karate or taekwondo?
Would an external martial artist ever regard 'yielding' as being the primary strategy?


Cross-training martial arts

Cross-training tai chi alongside other martial arts is a recipe for failure.
When you start an external martial art, the instructor moulds what you have into something useful.
In tai chi we want you to throw away what you have and start again.

People argue that there is no difference between internal and external or that both can be trained side-by-side.
This seems an odd perspective given that the two approaches differ in almost every measurable way.
The skills you acquire in an external class will almost universally be regarded as mistakes in a tai chi class, and corrected as such.


We live in an age where nothing seems certain.
Commitment is increasingly uncommon in modern culture.
You no longer have a job for life. Relationships fail, families fragment and the future feels unclear.

Being part of an established tai chi school brings a quality of stability to your life.
Every week you can come to class and feel relaxed, welcome and at ease.
You are part of something that is healthy, good and wholesome.

Tai chi chuan has endured for centuries.



Exercising your body in different ways will either add to or reduce tension relative to what the activity is, and how you choose to perform it.
Any form of exercise done to excess can harm the body.
Moderation is the key.

Common forms of exercise such as yoga, swimming, cycling, dancing and walking are all potentially compatible with tai chi.
It just depends how you train them.

Weight training (for example) is entirely unsuitable alongside with tai chi because it does the opposite of tai chi.
The very habits we are seeking to lose are the ones being practiced when you lift weights.

Have you ever seen a pumped-up Chinese person doing tai chi?


Habits outside class

Everyday body use can promote ongoing, chronic muscular tension as your contracted, clenched body inhibits freedom in the joints.
How you stand, sit and move can profoundly affect how much physical tension you experience.

Cultivate your awareness. Study yourself in action.
How do you use your body?
Do you strut, slouch, stride or stumble?
Are you tired, vigorous, lively or dull?
Is your speech calm and clear or do you mumble or speak rapidly without breathing?



You may certainly talk the talk, but are you genuinely soft enough?

Even some experienced tai chi people do not fully understand just how soft you need to be in order to meet the specifications of the Tai Chi Classics.
Tai chi is exceedingly gentle.
The art requires extreme sensitivity, grace and subtlety.
This will take time to achieve...


Mental fixity

Commonly people seek to understand new things on the basis of old experiences.
This clearly has limitations.
It is important to recognise that change requires the introduction of the unknown, the unfamiliar.

Many of the things that you think, feel or believe will not aid you in tai chi.
The habits you came to class with must be shed like a husk: in order for the nimble, supple, freer you to emerge.

This process of unlearning operates side-by-side with learning.
As a student you are continually shown the usual way of doing things, and then offered a whole-body alternative.


How you can help

There are many ways in which you can help us to reduce your tension:
  1. Practice a little at home between classes
  2. Reduce the amount of stressful activities in your life
  3. Try to find time to lie down on the floor and rest each day
  4. Read some of the books from the reading list and/or this website


Don't worry

Remember: every new starter is tense.
There are no exceptions.

The good news is that you've come to the right place.
Our aim is to rid you of tension... but we will need your help.


I am relaxed...

If all you know is tension, then relaxation is a term that you understand relative to your own experience.
Can you see the drawback?

You are perhaps not the best person to determine how tense or relaxed you are.
This is a zen maxim: the eye cannot see itself or the knife cannot cut itself.


What you start with

New starters always commence class with a significant amount of muscular tension.
This is usually supplemented with emotional and psychological stresses.
Typically the student is only vaguely aware of these problems.

The entire beginners syllabus was designed to introduce people to this tension.
To train their nervous system to actually feel it in their own body.
It usually comes as a surprise; and this is the drawback of habitual poor body use: the dulling of the senses.


Can you be like an infant that cries all day without getting a sore throat?
Or clenches his fist all day without getting a sore hand?
Or gazes all day without eyestrain?

You want the first elements?
The infant has them.

(Chuang Tzu)

Self defence feedback #6

This weeks self defence training was concerned with observing how an opponents balance can be taken when their feet are in certain positions. This proved useful in understand how the legs correspond to the shape of the body. The illusion of strength and security even in a bow stance, you are vulnerable.

Finally the course was concluded with some Chin Na applications. This proved exceptionally effective. I learned the value of not over thinking at this stage in my studies as this will only be a hinderance in application. ‘The money rub’ required no ‘force’ in the traditional sense, but rather with an increase in focus you can inflict a significant amount of pain. Thankfully in class this was very temporary.

All in all, the self-defence training is proving to be very useful and enjoyable. Clearly, there is a lot more to learn. The experience is definitely enhancing my understanding of Tai Chi.  


When joining Newcastle Tai Chi class I was mainly concerned with the health benefits. I specifically looked for a tai class as I wanted something with that could also provide some mental stimulation in order to maintain long term interest. I certainly have not been disappointed! The training has led to me being physically more relaxed yet stronger. I also feel mentally more relaxed, resilient and better able to cope with demanding situations.

 From an interest point of view, there are seemingly endless opportunities to draw from Master Waller's incredible depth of knowledge. A major strength of the class is that whilst students are always encouraged to work hard and progress, they are allowed to do so at their own rate as their circumstances allow.


Gaining freedom

Tai chi was designed to free your body from tension, to calm the mind and settle the emotions.
Providing you avoid hampering your own progress, you will enjoy the benefits of a freer, more responsive body quite quickly.

The Tao Te Ching is filled with good advice concerning the use of tension and force: 

People at birth are soft and supple;
At death they are hard and stiff.

When plants are alive they are green and bending;
When they are dead they are dry and brittle.

Soft and bending is the way of the living;
Hard and brittle is the way of the dying.

Softness overcomes hardness.

The softness of water overcomes the hardness of stone.
Yielding overcomes unyielding.
The weak outlast the strong.
Those who bend endure long after the unbending have broken.

A bow pulled too far will break.
A blade oversharpened will not hold an edge.

Those who stand of tiptoe cannot maintain their balance.
Those who hurry cannot sustain their pace.

By yielding, overcome.
By bending, remain straight.
By emptying, be filled.

Because the sage does not struggle with the world, the world does not resist.

Those who use force soon exhaust themselves.

Force creates resistance.
Because those who follow tao do not use force, force is not used against them.

Force can master others, but only strength can master self.

When force is not used, people do not resist.
What is not resisted cannot be opposed.



It can be frustrating for an instructor if you are also training with another instructor.
Historically, in China it was considered to be a betrayal of trust and the master would withhold their teachings.
Even asking permission was seen as an insult.

Most of the tuition time is spent undoing the teachings of the other instructor.
The student makes no progress.

Master Waller will not instruct a student unless the student is fully committed to our school and our syllabus.



Refining your sensibilities does not mean acquiring a taste for high-class living.

The zen monks of ancient Japan could not afford expensive Chinese tea ware and sought another option.
Instead of lavish, expensive goods... the humble, rustic simplicity of Korean tea cups were purchased and appreciated.
A new, humbler, more modest sensibility was formed.

Everything concerning the Japanese tea hut and its associated ceremony was re-designed to cultivate just the appropriate condition of quietude, dignity, ease and reflection.
Nothing was arbitrary or careless.
High ranking people from all over Japan sought the compassion, beauty, simplicity, humility and purity of essence associated with the tea ceremony.
It centred them and brought life into focus for a brief moment, an interlude.

We seek to bring this same mood into our tai chi.


Real tai chi always smacks of hearth and home. Deep down, commercial tai chi is essentially shallow.

(Robert Smith)

Self defence feedback #5

I had completed one workshop on floor work many months before this weeks self defence class and it can be quite surprising how much you remember that you had forgotten. Floor work in self defence is an essential skill that may prove life saving should circumstances demand it. The exercise of employing certain leg movements to neutralise an attacker in a rape scenario was illuminating and proved extremely effective. Having gone to the self-defence class on both nights, I felt I had gained a thorough understanding of the exercises as well as finding certain painful points to attack should I get the chance.  



In order to appreciate the wonderful genius of tai chi chuan and the many zen and tao arts that exist, a student must refine their sensibilities.
They must learn to see, feel, touch, and even think differently.
Every aspect of their being is transformed.

By slowing down and really paying attention to things, the student becomes aware of their own motivations, opinions, emotions and impediments.
They notice relationships between everything.
Details become significant.



Tai chi was once practiced in secret.
The skills of the art were closely guarded.

Even today, most tai chi people are privy to only a very small fraction of the potential contained within the art.
To really understand the tai chi chuan, a student must undertake a long and difficult journey.
There will be many pitfalls, obstacles and setbacks.

Self defence feedback #4

As the basics of self-defence had been introduced, this week focused more on muscle layout/sensitivity and using an improvised weapon when countering knife attacks. The techniques of massage proved to behold many different advantages, not just in relaxation, but also understanding where one muscle starts and ends. This is important in combat to further develop how you know your opponent. The countering was also useful in providing confidence if faced in such a situation.  I now understand the effectiveness of an improvised weapon, and to feel pain was beneficial. I thoroughly enjoyed beating my fellow class mates with a newspaper.




The beauty of being understated is that nobody notices and nobody cares.
This means freedom from attention.

Tao and zen arts relish obscurity.
There is no reason to be in the spotlight and certainly no need.


Showing off

It is quite common for a person to advertise their financial prosperity by purchasing symbols that serve to broadcast their wealth.
Chuang Tzu strongly argues against this approach.

What purpose does showing off serve?
It attracts the interests of thieves and malcontents, it generates resentment and bitterness.
It invites challenges.

There are many other ways to show off.
Tai chi competitions are a good example.
Despite some earnest practitioners - eager to share their insights - competitive events attract all manner of people.

Taoism encourages the individual to remain quiet, obscure and understated.

Tai chi is now evolving into a sport of tawdry tournaments and trophies in which an internal form of moving meditation is judged by the criteria of external dance.

(Robert Smith)

Self defence feedback #3

This lesson furthered my understanding of how to connect the body and using the ‘rolling’ and ‘spiralling’ method to neutralise a possible threat. This method also highlighted the need to be more curious as to how an opponent’s body reacts to your movements. This experimentation was further demonstrated with the 9th yielding exercise. Self-defence at this level is starting to get more complicated and the need to be completely engrained in development is proving to be essential to success.



When you listen to how people communicate, there are many words but little substance.
Words are spoken sloppily or shunted out urgently; with an undercurrent of anxiety in order to emphasise their importance.

earing is commonly employed in preference of eloquence.
There are few ideas and feelings in life that cannot be better articulated with a good vocabulary.

Then, there is that which exists beyond words...



Modern culture does not really promote introspection, contemplation or spiritual inquiry.
People are led by money, advertising, television, fashion technology and superficial interests.

Few people possess the patience or the interest to delve deeper.
It simply isn't fashionable.

Slowly, things coarsen.
Manners, politeness and courtesy are neglected or seen as being old-fashioned and pointless.
Good diction, eloquence and intelligence are valued less, and school exam standards are lowered to compensate.
Pursuits that require time, effort, tenacity and self-sacrifice only appeal to a shrinking number of people.

Self defence feedback #2

Footwork training was a real education opportunity. Using Peripheral vision has been a topic on the Tai Chi syllabus from the early belts and I fear an area that becomes overlooked in time. To be refreshed and given context on how useful this skill actually is was an eye opener. The stepping exercises, although seemingly quite a simple concept, provided most difficulty for the majority of the class. Bringing it back to basics of ‘don’t think, just walk’ was incredibly effective (once you got the hang of it). I also felt other aspects such as yielding and weight shifting flowed naturally from this exercise and heightened its effectiveness.  


Natural selection

Zen or tao-influenced arts - whether martial or otherwise - require the student to cultivate an eye for subtlety.
There is a deliberately obscure quality to these arts.
Much is left unsaid.

Seen in this way, tai chi is akin to an Asian joke.
Hidden within dance-like forms and playful partnered exercises, a deadly martial art lies unnoticed by most people.
To approach the art, you must let go of tension and fixity; physical, emotional and psychological.
This makes tai chi chuan especially inaccessible to people who have an aggressive or forceful character.

Some things cannot be bought with money.
They require a serious commitment and a willingness to sublimate the ego.


Peter Southwood's tips #23 Apply the lessons in everyday life

If you do not apply the lessons in everyday life, you will compartmentalise them.
Wisdom in the training hall and during study is one thing.
Wisdom in daily life is something else entirely.

Self defence feedback #1

Master Waller outlined the use of the first form posture in a real way and was my first introduction to pain in a Tai Chi class. This was an extraordinarily useful experience. It was only the tip of iceberg in terms of what real danger you could be in if approached on the street and certainly outlined just how vulnerable I am. But not completely with some degree of defences. Further exercises reassessed sticky-ness using a qigong posture and ‘rolling out’ of being choked. It was a first step which introduced the class in an honest factual way. I couldn’t help but get excited for the weeks ahead.


Pushing hands

If you have pushed hands with Sifu of late - especially monkey paws - you may find yourself rapidly being compromised: crumpling or caught off-balance by your own inflexibility.
This is happening to me as well.

This will continue to be the trend: you get better, Sifu shows you more and it gets harder.
And your belt colour will darken.




There are places to be found everywhere you go.
The lack of cars, people and noise will be your initial clue.
Look for signs of nature.

A feeling of serenity and peace may settle upon you.
Don't panic.
Just stay with it and enjoy.



To find lost places you need to become a little lost yourself.
Not lost in drink, drugs, illusion or stimulation.
Quite the opposite.

You will need your wits about you.
You need to step off the familiar pathways of your life and walk somewhere different.

Sunday morning boot camp


Chattering monkey

If you do not commit time to quiet study and rest, your mind may never know stillness.
Even in the midst of stunning beauty and peace, tranquillity will elude you.



Leading is not teaching.
To teach any subject correctly it is necessary to become more involved in the progress of the individual: to monitor, test, correct, enable and encourage.
This requires a teacher who is invested in the student.
A teacher who pays attention and takes the time to ensure that everyone is actively learning rather than passively following.



 Many tai chi classes are not actively teaching the art.
Instead, the teacher leads and the students simply follow.
If the teacher were to quit, could the students continue the training on their own?
Would the quality of their tai chi improve over time or diminish?
Copying the teacher and following their movements is not learning.
It is dependency.
It is lazy.


Notice things

The first indication of a growing sensibility for quietude lies in your capacity to notice the world around you.
Instead of driving past in your noisy car, you walk slowly.
You see.

Insignificant-seeming things catch your attention: a butterfly, a leaf, a flower, the sound of an insect or the call of a bird.
If you experience genuine awe and delight, then you are learning.


The dark side of the street

Finding quiet places requires some degree of effort.
They may be subject to time, day or season.

You might need to get up very early or stay up very late.
These places can be found.

In order to find these places, you must slow down.
You must want to step off the treadmill, into the shade and find peace.



There are quiet places to be found in every city and every town.
You just have to seek them out.

Lost places, where people seldom go.
Leaves overgrown the streets and wildflowers are abundant.
Nature flourishes.
The air is cleaner and there are no cars and few people.


A bubble of stimulation

Most people exist in a bubble.
They wake in their own home, get into their car and then go to work/shops/wherever.
There is seldom any time spent in the fresh air.

Homes, cars and public places are usually filled with noise and stimulation.
Visual images, flickering screens, twittering voices, gossip...
Where is the peace in your life?
The stillness?


Small circle

When you are accomplished with adjustment, a very small movement can be used to immediately affect the attacker's centre.
This imperceptible touch instantly renders the attacker subtly off-balance.
As the attacker seeks to re-gain the advantage, the student must continue to adjust themselves in order to maintain the uproot.

Presence, sensitivity and a lack of self-consciousness are all required.
The subtle adjustments taught throughout the Yang Cheng Fu form now come into play.
Overt, unnecessary stepping would break the connection between attacker and defender, rendering the tai chi ineffective.


Weight shift

Shifting the weight between the legs and turning the waist is an alternative to stepping.
It requires less physical effort and relies to a greater degree upon timing and accuracy.

Although stepping is a safer option when you are being attacked, you may not be afforded the time to step.
Skill with peng, listening and yielding is now paramount.


Functional stepping

Stepping enables you to remain close to your attacker: balanced, structurally aligned, relaxed, sticky and sensitive.
But it should not be arbitrary.
You should only step as and when you need to and then only in order to improve your positional relationship with the attacker.


Which form?

When speaking about the Yang Cheng Fu footwork, which form is considered?
Typically the long form.

This particular form is performed slowly whilst the several other forms are not so slow.
The weapons forms and pao chui form all require nimble footwork.

Also, there is more to the Yang Cheng Fu style than just form...



The function of adjustment is maintain the optimal position at all times.
This skill is trained throughout the entire Yang Cheng Fu syllabus with numerous partner drills teaching the skill.


Stepping in the form

During the long form stepping is minimal.
This serves a particular, specific martial purpose: adjustment.

Evading an attack is the first stage in countering the attack and this often - but not always - requires a step.
However, if your step is too large you will be too far away to remain sticky and deliver an effective counter.
Therefore, stepping is not about escaping.
It is about adjusting your positioning.


Yang style footwork

The Yang Cheng Fu style of tai chi is occasionally criticised on account of its apparent lack of dynamic footwork.
Usually the obese size of Yang Cheng Fu himself is cited as the reason for this.
This may be true but is not the real reason.



Sport tai chi, 1960's hippy approaches and Age Concern classes still predominate the public perception of tai chi.
It may never be possible to change this public image.
But you can still train the art with integrity.


Peter Southwood's tips #18 Power

Do not force, tense up or hold - just quietly do the exercises thoroughly and well.
Without exertion or strain.
Strength will follow.


Tactical skills

There are many tactical skills that must be applied in combat, including:
  1. 3-D
  2. 4 ounces
  3. Balance, rhythm, timing
  4. Becoming the centre
  5. Disintegration
  6. Energy drainage
  7. Entry methods
  8. Everybody falls
  9. Finishing off
  10. First hand, second hand
  11. Floor work (control)
  12. Folding
  13. Holding down the pillow
  14. Kinetic pathway
  15. Large rhythm, small rhythm
  16. Latent movements
  17. Mutual arising
  18. Neutral state/composure
  19. Newton's Laws of Motion
  20. Overwhelming attacks
  21. Penetrating defences
  22. Sparing yourself
  23. Unite upper & lower
  24. Yin body
  25. Yin/yang 
Proficiency in these skills will radically alter the effectiveness of your tai chi. 



The more closely your form follows the natural inclination of your body, the more likely you are to use the lessons it teaches in actual combat.
The accuracy of the form must pertain to the spatial parameters of groundpath, the strength of good alignment and skilful body use.



Tai chi classes that study the art martially need not train in a uniform manner.
They may never have anything like the martial credibility of judo, karate etc... but it is possible to train the martial art with integrity.

Trained properly, tai chi should offer all the same skills as any martial art.
And a lot more besides.
To accomplish this you need a comprehensive understanding of what 'internal' actually means.
It is necessary to recognise the differences between combat stances, strength training stances and performance stances.
Your art must be tailored to function martially.


What is martial?

Spend some time researching the nature of combat. See what other martial arts classes and styles are doing.
Gain an understanding of what combat entails.

Do you know the difference between a martial art and a fighting art?
Between fighting and self defence?

Is your class exploring a realistic range of martial scenarios?
How do you address fear?


Self defence

Tai chi combat skills can be used in self defence.

The self defence training should include:

1. Countering punches, kicks and grapples
- solo attacker
- multiple attackers

2. Countering a knife

3. Escapes
- from a wide variety of holds, locks and situations

4. Floor work

5. Gangs/multiple opponents

6. Weaponry

Gaining credibility

You may not be able to persuade the general public to believe that tai chi chuan is a credible martial art.
But you can still train the art properly yourself.

The main thing is to adhere absolutely to the guiding principles of the art.
These were outlined in the Tai Chi Classics.
If your art deviates from these, then you have gone astray.

Seek tuition from a teacher who is committed to training an art that applies martial skills in a thorough and convincing manner.


Other internal arts

Baguazhang and xingyiquan do not suffer the same credibility problem as tai chi.
They have retained a more credible martial image.


Explaining the art

Explaining the art is problematic.
A verbal description will not capture the nature of the art, its complexity, nuances, skills and subtlety.
You will probably be faced with incredulity.

So, why bother to explain what you do?The menu is not the food.


Credibility problem

The lack of parity within the tai chi community means that the general public are unlikely to change their opinion regarding tai chi as a martial art.
With so many approaches; martial and non-martial all called 'tai chi' it is quite a mess.

By researching and studying various styles, people can easily understand the differences between tai chi approaches.

Realistically, is the average person interested enough to do this?


No consensus

There is no consensus in tai chi as to what needs to be taught in order for the art to function martially.
We insist that all martial students study:
This is not the case in many schools.


Martial classes

Within classes that teach tai chi as a martial art there are many interpretations as to how the art should be applied.
There are differences of style, perceptions of relaxation, sensitivity and softness.

One class may teach karate-esque practice that bears little resemblance to the art outlined in the Tai Chi Classics.
Another class may be ultra-soft and subtle.


What is tai chi?

Unlike other arts, the words 'tai chi' encompass a wide variety of approaches:
  1. Tai chi exercise
  2. Sport tai chi
  3. Tai chi dance
  4. Tai chi-style exercise
To make matters even more confusing, some people teach slow-motion movement and call it 'tai chi'.



If you went to a dojo to study aikido then in all cases you should encounter a martial arts class.
Naturally, there may be significant differences in teaching and style, but all classes should be teaching combat.

Now, consider this in reference to tai chi.
When you go to a tai chi class what exactly will you encounter?


Public perception

If you told a member of the public that you were studying aikido, karate, ju jitsu or kung fu, they would instantly assume that you were learning a martial art.
There would be no debate.

If you tell somebody that you are learning tai chi chuan, the response might be quite different.
Not many people think that tai chi is a martial art.
And in most cases they are correct.



Commitment means attending lessons every week and then going home and studying some more.
Only by exploring the art between classes will you gain the complete health benefits of tai chi.


Cutting swords

Cutting with the sword tests your grip.
If you are not holding the handle correctly you will hurt your hand.



The patience is primarily with yourself: things are not going to improve overnight.
Your mind needs to calm down.
Your body needs to adjust.


Active learning

To actively learn tai chi you must first recognise the need for patience and commitment.
What you get out of a tai chi class depends on entirely upon how much you are willing to put into it...



Many people treat tai chi classes as an opportunity to chill-out, relax and enjoy the evening in pleasant company.
This is fine.
Attending lessons in this way will reduce stress and improve your mood.


Quality of life

If your aim is to affect your day-to-day quality of life, then tai chi class needs to be more than simply a chill-out session.
The lessons of the art must be studied in class and then taken into your everyday life.
Classes become about learning, not just chilling-out.


On-line Hanwei sword sellers in the UK

I've recently had very frustrating dealings with the UK sword suppliers for Hanwei: Oriental Weapons. The Knight Shop and Barringtons.

They all seem to get their weapons from an unknown 3rd party, and are in effect merely middle men.
All sites display swords for sale that they neither stock nor can necessarily get hold of.

Whilst all are very polite and helpful when questioned, and do provide a professional service, Oriental Weapons and Barringtons don't necessarily stock the products they list on their site as being available.
Yes, Oriental Weapons do say to e-mail before ordering but it doesn't change the fact that this seems a little like false advertising.

To their credit, The Knight Shop site at least provides an accurate indication of whether or not they can obtain a sword for you in 2-5 days.

If these sword sellers showed an accurate range of:

1. What they actually hold in stock
2. What they can get hold of

their shop window might be quite barren indeed.




Chin na is concerned with seizing the opponent abruptly and painfully during grappling.
Students learn how to:

  1. Seize
  2. Misplace the bones
  3. Divide the muscles
  4. Seal the breath
  5. Strike cavities
  6. Manipulate fingers and thumbs
  7. Flow between applications
The Yang style forms and the bagua palm changes feature countless chin na applications.