Introduction to self defence course

Self defence skills can be a valuable asset in everyday life.
Noticing dangerous situations and avoiding them can save you a lot of hassle.
Our course introduces basic self defence concerns, teaches preliminary skills and encourages composure in the face of threat.

If you are wanting something more in-depth, please study the kung fu syllabus.

A complete art

Kung fu training is thought-provoking and insightful; with lessons about living, as well as about combat.
There is nothing macho, aggressive, confrontational or competitive about kung fu.

For more information, read The Sword Polisher's Record: The Way of Kung Fu by Adam Hsu...

Why encourage you to attend workshops?

Minute for minute you learn far more in a workshop than you will in any class.

The more skill you possess, the more fun the art will be.

Killer energy

Yang style has something of the feeling of 'killer energy' about it; it is more martial in appearance. A spectator can see the applications of the movements when they watch the form.

(Master Xu Shu Song) 


Wabi sabi

It is not for nothing that the samurai have chosen for their truest symbol the fragile cherry blossom.
Like a petal dropping in the morning sunlight and floating serenely to earth,
so must the fearless detach himself from life, silent and inwardly unmoved.

(Eugen Herrigel)

Study options

We offer 2 ways to learn self defence:
  1. Kung fu syllabus
Students can begin at any time throughout the year. Just come to class and give it a go.

Chinese martial art

Kung fu is an ancient Chinese martial art that has been practiced for thousands of years.
It has been developed and refined with each generation.
The skills are sophisticated and intelligent.
There are dozens of different styles of kung fu.

Partner work

The aim is to gain a monkey-like playfulness of spirit and a gentle, nimble agility of movement.


What is kung fu?

Kung fu (or gong fu) literally means work, time, skill.
More specifically: martial skill.

What is self defence?

Self defence is the ability to protect yourself from harm: physically, mentally and emotionally.
It is not about fighting.
The aim of self defence is to incapacitate the attacker, not score points, win trophies or trade blows.

Tai chi chuan students:

• Gain confidence
• Avoid entanglement
Find alternatives to panic
• Become mobile and nimble
• Learn how cope with gangs
Become playful and creative
• Learn how to manipulate balance
• Learn how to disarm an opponent
Discover how to see situations differently
• Learn how to adapt, change and improvise
• Learn how to strike rapidly and effectively

• Understand how to use the human body to their advantage
• Learn how to use everyday objects as improvised weapons
• Learn how to lever joints, apply pressure and seize painfully

Protecting yourself from harm has nothing to do with fighting or sport.


We do not offer self defence courses

Some people have naïve expectations regarding self defence.
They expect to learn a few techniques, tips and pointers, and be perfectly capable of defending themselves.
This is not realistic.

You cannot take a self defence course, walk away and expect to be protected for life.

Self defence courses are like urban myths; they promise something that is not delivered.

Cultural arts

Taoism and its off-shoot zen have produced many fascinating non-martial expressions that are well worth exploring.
Japan in particular has many rich traditions that incorporate a taoist influence.

Painting, textiles, music, pottery, literature, tea ceremony, sculpture, gardening, food presentation, calligraphy, wrapping things using fabric, flower arrangement, poetry, theatre, architecture, clothing, food and language all provide opportunities to deepen your understanding and appreciation of what 'tao' represents.


Slow travel

Slow Travel is an evolving movement that has taken its inspiration from nineteenth-century European travel writers, such as Théophile Gautier, who reacted against the cult of speed, prompting some modern analysts to ask "If we have slow food and slow cities, then why not slow travel?".[4] Other literary and exploration traditions, from early Arab travellers to late nineteenth-century Yiddish writers, have also identified with slow travel, usually marking its connection with community as its most distinctive feature. Espousing modes of travel that were the norm in some less developed societies became, for some writers and travellers from western Europe such as Isabelle Eberhardt, a way of engaging more seriously with those societies.[5]

Advocates of slow travel argue that all too often the potential pleasure of the journey is lost by too eager anticipation of arrival. Slow travel, it is asserted, is a state of mind which allows travellers to engage more fully with communities along their route, often favouring visits to spots enjoyed by local residents rather than merely following guidebooks.[6] As such, slow travel shares some common values with ecotourism. Its advocates and devotees generally look for low-impact travel styles, even to the extent of eschewing flying.

Aspects of slow travel, including some of the principles detailed in the Manifesto for Slow Travel,[7] are now increasingly featuring in travel writing. The magazine Hidden Europe, which published the Manifesto for Slow Travel, has particularly showcased slow travel, featuring articles that focus on unhurried, low-impact journeys and advocating a stronger engagement with communities that lie en route.

A new book series launched in May 2010 by Bradt Travel Guides explicitly espouses slow travel ideas with volumes that focus very much on local communities within a tightly defined area, often advocating the use of public transport along the way. Titles include Bus-Pass Britain, Slow Norfolk and Suffolk, Slow Devon and Exmoor, Slow Cotswolds, Slow North Yorkshire and Slow Sussex and South Downs National Park.


When faced with hostility or violence, most people panic.
Panic is an adverse reaction to unexpected events.
Instead of going with the flow of what is happening, the mind begins racing and composure is lost.

When you are caught off-guard by an assailant, what is going to happen?
Your stomach is churning, your thoughts racing and your vision has narrowed.

Do you earnestly expect to remember techniques from a self defence course?


Not sport

People make the mistake of seeing violence in terms of sport or something they see in the movies...

In real life, you are likely to face situations different to those encountered in the training hall, dojo or boxing ring.
A genuine assailant may be armed, they may have friends and they may have severely hostile intentions towards you.

Remember that a classroom environment, a sporting event or a scene in a movie is a controlled situation.
There are rules.
In the street there are no rules at all...


Fancy something different?

Tai chi is quite different from sport, conventional exercise and most other martial arts.
There is no competition, no stress, no ego, no aggression, no strain, very limited risk of injury and absolutely no pressure at all.
Natural, healthy, comfortable body movement is encouraged, with an awareness of what is taking place at all times.

Instead of being in your head; thinking, planning, worrying and anticipating… the tai chi person is present, alert and calm.
They are conscious of their own physicality; with a moment-by-moment sensitivity to what is happening right now.



The more gullible spiritual tourist may find themselves gulled into believing that zen is some exotic practice:
- they may be told to shave off their hair
- they may be given an exotic-sounding name like 'Shambala'
- they may wear special robes
- they may learn new jargon words
- a seeker may even be encouraged to travel thousands of miles and commit months to a meditation retreat

Sadly, none of these things have anything whatsoever to do with zen.

Facing death

Japanese samurai used to contemplate death. This was not some morbid fixation.
Admitting their own mortality forced the warriors to accept that life is a precious and fleeting gift.

They regarded the cherry blossom as a symbol of this insight.
Cherry blossoms bloom for a brief period and then fall at the very height of their beauty.
To the samurai this was a melancholy reminder of
death amidst life.
It was an example of great beauty and sadness.

Starting your day with tai chi

It is beneficial to start your day with tai chi practice.
Instead of feeling stressed, rushed, tired and anxious... your day begins with clarity and ease.
You will feel:

• Alert
• Warm
• Relaxed
• Energised
• Composed

This makes driving safer.
You will be capable of thinking more clearly and effectively throughout the day.

Remember: in order to get the benefits of tai chi you do actually need to practice the art...


A commitment to your body

Is a threadbare commitment to your health, strength and wellbeing good enough?

Suppleness, flexibility, joint mobility and a strong, pliable spine should be a given.
Think of tai chi as being a daily investment in your own wellbeing and longevity.



In our superficial age, it is tempting to follow the crowd and pine for lasting youth.
It is tempting to coat things in a veneer, a gloss.
It is tempting to embrace the superficial, to lie, to excuse and pretend.

We must not do this with tai chi.
See it as it is, in all its simplicity, with its strengths and its flaws. Without adornment, costumes, traditions and rituals.
It may look coarser, more rough around the edges. But it is real. It is what it was meant to be.

Tai chi as a tonic

Make time for tai chi in your life.
That way, your body receives a daily tonic.
You unkink those unpleasant aches and pains, stiff muscles and sore joints.
You gently, softly encourage your body to move freely and comfortably.

Instead of hammering and punishing your body, you treat it with respect and care.
Your body must last you a lifetime.


Beauty in imperfection

In taoism, beauty is found in different things.

Wrinkles, creases, wood grain and irregular patterns in the sand are all examples of an alternate aesthetic.
They are called 'li' and are seen as being similar to incense smoke rising or the swirling, unpredictable flow of water.

Wrinkles show character and creases add texture.

Being honest

Admittedly, other concerns do encroach. This is understandable.
People have a life beyond the tai chi.

Yet, it is important to avoid lying.
If you do not want to train or if you lack motivation, you should question your commitment to your health.
Playing the victim is pointless.
You have a choice.
If you do not want to practice, at least be honest with yourself...


Nature predominates

Eventually nature has the final say.
Everything rots, deteriorates and dies.
Wabi sabi appreciation is the acceptance of this process instead of seeking to preserve or halt the inevitable decline.

Finding balance

Tai chi is about recognising that balance must be found.
If you want to play sport or go to the gym, fine - do so.
But aim to perform your actions with as much awareness as you can manage.


Quality of life

There is more to life than work, showing off, acquisition of goods, power, prestige, wealth and vanity.
Neglecting your health or addressing it coarsely may have long-term adverse side-effects.
Treat your life with care.

Start positive change sooner rather than later.
It is easier to invigorate your body when you are 30 rather than 65.
Both the mind and the body are more receptive to change when younger.


Wabi sabi haiku

Dying cricket –
how full of
life, his song.


Home practice

Most people are not used to training at home.
The key to home training is to work into it gently.
Try doing a small amount every day.
Nothing ambitious.

Gradually cultivate the habit of doing tai chi at home. Eventually, you will find yourself wanting to do it.
And if you miss the training, you will notice its absence.


Tai chi chuan exponents

You may encounter many different people in a tai chi school.
The martial path has 6 tiers:
  1. Student
  2. Lineage disciple
  3. Instructor
  4. Expert
  5. Master
  6. Grandmaster
Every practitioner begins at the first level.
Levels 2-6 require a much deeper degree of commitment and practice, and will not suit most people's lifestyle.
It may be useful to determine what level an instructor has reached.


A tonic

Tai chi is not going to fix you up.
It was never intended (or designed) to be something employed for repair.
At best, it may be seen as a tonic.

A tonic is a medicine taken daily in order to maintain and invigorate the body.
It may significantly improve your health.
However, you should take note of the small print, the conditions of use:

  1. It must be administered every day 
  2. When you stop taking it, the health benefits go away
This is something to really think about. Re-read the paragraph if you need to.


Wabi sabi

Zen art can be seen in 'wabi sabi', in the love of the transient, the impermanent.

Our lives are fleeting, and we suffer greatly, either through ill health or other hardships.
This may cause sadness but the beauty of life can only be appreciated in contrast with the difficulties and sorrow we experience.

The symbol for the samurai is the cherry blossom. It is a beautiful flower. Yet it falls at its peak of glory.

Andy got married

Tai chi is not a priority

People set time aside for television, going to the gym or playing 5-a-side football.
But few people will allocate even 10 minutes a day for tai chi.

A common lie is to say that they do not have the time.
We all have the same number of hours as one another. The issue is how you choose to spend them.


Tai chi as an afterthought

Many people experience day-to-day limited flexibility in the spine, soreness, clicking joints and significant postural tension.
These problems are largely ignored.
They also get worse as you get older.

Some people may even attend a weekly tai chi class in a vague hope of addressing these concerns but there is no earnest commitment to change.
Change requires a person to do something different.
To investigate the cause of the problem.
To stop bad habits.

Once a week tai chi practice is not enough to promote real change in your life.


Tai chi is different

Tai chi is quite different from sport.
There is no competition, no stress, no ego, no aggression, no strain, very limited risk of injury and absolutely no pressure at all.
Natural, healthy, comfortable body movement is encouraged, with an awareness of what is taking place at all times. 

Instead of being in your head; thinking, planning, worrying and anticipating... the tai chi person is present, alert and calm.
They are conscious of their own physicality; with a moment-by-moment sensitivity to what is actually happening right now.


Recommended books concerning wabi sabi

Leonard Koren has written an excellent book called Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers.
He examines zen, tea ceremony, aesthetics and design in an attempt to unravel a deeper root significance.
We highly recommend that you purchase it.

Another good book is Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence
by Andrew Juniper.

Tear & repair mentality

The drawback of sport is that the emphasis is not upon good body use, optimal alignment, emotional, physical and psychological wellbeing.
The onus is upon the outcome rather than the process involved.
There is the pressure to win, to succeed, to perform, to be the best.
People push themselves.
The body can suffer.

Seeking to repair the body afterwards is not as smart as avoiding injury in the first place.



People who enjoy playing a sport such as football are typically not overly interested in their health and wellbeing.
Their focus is upon enjoyment, and of course winning the game.

Many people spend all day working at a job that does not prioritise health.
Numerous health problems can develop: bad posture, back pain, neck tension, repetitive strain injury and stress
Rushing around makes things worse.


Fix me up

It is quite common for people to engage in a whole range of sporting activities such as football, gym, swimming, running, squash, golf... and then use tai chi as a way of patching-up the ensuing injuries.
Unfortunately this does not tend to work in practice.

Rachel's blog



In the traditional Japanese farmhouse, light and ventilation were provided typically by removing the clay plaster from a section of a walls interior and exterior, leaving a hole and the exposed bamboo latticework lathing.

This kind of rustic window, a renji-mado (lattice window), was incorporated into the architecture of the tea ceremony, and many tea huts feature renji-mado. The light from such a window is beautifully filigreed by the grid of latticework, leaving a play of shadow. It is a kind of illumination defined as much by the pattern of shadows as it is by the presence of light.

(Dave Lowry)

Wabi sabi qualities

Common wabi sabi qualities:
  1. One of a kind
  2. Variable
  3. Relative
  4. There is no progress
  5. Believes in the fundamental uncontrollability of nature
  6. Organic
  7. Soft, vague
  8. Natural
  9. Crude
  10. Degradation and attrition
  11. Corrosion
  12. Function and utility not so important
  13. Dark and dim
  14. Irregular
  15. Intimate
  16. Unpretentious
  17. Earthy
  18. Murky
  19. Simple
  20. Get rid of all that is unnecessary
  21. Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness

Home practice

Remember: in order to get the benefits of tai chi you do actually need to practice the art...


Real Masters

The pleasant irony in encountering a real Master is that the experience is far richer and more rewarding than watching a movie.
Would you rather eat a meal or read the menu?

Fictional characters may inspire but they cannot offer you the depth of challenge you will find when dealing with the genuine article.
More subtle than Hollywood or Hong Kong Cinema creations, an actual Master is apt to be highly articulate, sophisticated and cryptic.
They may well tell you their secrets but you are unlikely to initially understand what they are sharing.

There are some journeys that you can travel alone and some you cannot.
If you want to penetrate the mysteries of tai chi, you need to find a Master in the real world.




You cannot create wabi sabi. It is not a fashion or a style.
By its very nature it refers to processes that occur naturally as things are used, wear out and eventually break down.

As with 'zen' the term wabi sabi has been adopted in modern UK culture to mean something Asian and exotic.

Masters we enjoy

The entertaining depictions of mastery in popular culture have struck a deep chord within our consciousness.

The saint-like Masters of the old Kung Fu TV series represent a benchmark of mastery in the minds of some martial artists; serene, wise, calm and skilful
Yoda - despite being a glove puppet or a computer generated image - is surprisingly engaging and noble.
Obi-wan Kenobi: wispy old Alex Guinness and the rugged young Ewan McGregor are both memorable figures.
Mr Miyagi is endearing, inspiring, patient and a little sad.
Morpheus from The Matrix is cool and driven.
Li Mu Bai in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon yearns to set aside his reputation and find love; a romantic yet doomed Master.

This is not an exhaustive list.



Something to strive towards

Heroes in modern films and TV programs are often depicted as being flawed, riddled with issues and tortured by nameless personal demons.
This might indeed reflect reality.
But it can be nice to put reality on hold now and again.
This is the very reason why we watch movies: to escape from mundanity and experience an example that engages our dreams.

How many young people were compelled to go out there and learn martial arts after watching a Master perform immense skills in a movie?



Is wabi sabi a positive thing?

Yes and no.
You wouldn't call your business wabi sabi.
That would be like naming your martial arts class 'Deterioration Tai Chi'.

Wabi sabi embraces the melancholy as well as the upbeat aspects of life.
Your favourite Uncle has died and you smile at their memory; happiness and love tinged with regret.
An old pair of shoes look broken down and useless but you enjoy their comfort despite their fading functionality.
A vase has a crack in it and can no longer hold water but you can't bear to throw it out.
An old bucket in your garden has rusted in the rain and has a hole in the side.

Larger than life

In this modern age of cynicism and mediocrity, it is wonderful to think of these fictional characters and the inspiring examples they have set.
People need role models.
Masters don't have to be perfect but they need to possess that certain indefinable 'something extraordinary' that captures our hearts and our imaginations.



Popular culture

Our ideas concerning 'Master' has been heavily influenced by popular culture; in particular movies.
We are accustomed to watching actors such as Jet Li playing Masters or Star Wars characters wielding lightsabers.
The popularity of such characters reflects a need in the audience.
More than entertainment, we want to see people that are really good at something.
People who excel.



What is wabi sabi?

Sabi originally meant chill, lean or withered and wabi meant the misery of living alone.
Over time the term has evolved to represent an aesthetic appreciation of the passage of time and its effect.
It refers to things that tarnish, rust, decay and age.

47 Ronin

Mind, body, spirit

Tai chi combines mind, body and spirit in every action.
The student feels acutely alive and alert; energy-filled and passionate.

By using the body more efficiently, we can become less tired and feel more lively.

Applied physical intelligence

Feeling physicality how to perform a skill is entirely different to thinking about it.
Usually thoughts simply get in the way.
This is why an apprenticeship focuses upon many years of doing rather than years of thinking or talking.
Tai chi is mainly learned through the body.

Duke Hwan of Khi, first in his dynasty,
sat under his canopy reading his philosophy.
And Phien the wheelwright was out in the yard
making a wheel.

Phien laid aside hammer and chisel,
climbed the steps
and said to duke Hwan,
“May I ask you, Lord,
what is this you are reading?”

Said the duke: “The experts, the authorities.”
Phien asked: “Alive or dead?”
The duke said: “Dead, a long time.”
“Then,” said the wheelwright,
“you are only reading the dirt they left behind.”

The duke replied, “What do you know about it?
You are only a wheelwright.
You had better give me a good explanation
or else you must die.”

The wheelwright said,
“Let us look at the affair from my point of view.
When I make wheels, if i go easy they fall apart,
and if I am too rough they don’t fit.
But if I am neither too easy nor too violent
they come out right,
and the work is what I want it to be.

“You cannot put this in words,
you just have to know how it is.
I cannot even tell my own son exactly how it is done,
and my own son cannot learn it from me.
Se here I am, seventy years old, still making wheels!

The men of old took all they really knew
with them to the grave.
And so, Lord, what you are reading there
is only the dirt they left behind them.”

(Chuang Tzu)

The role of qigong in the internal martial arts

Taijiquanbaguazhang and xingyiquan use forms to practice combat movements, build strength and gain agility.
The forms are highly intricate, with many different levels of skill.

Yiquan (mind fist)/dachengquan (the great accomplishment) - an offshoot of xingyiquan - does not use forms.
Instead, it uses static standing qigong postures in lieu of form.

Xingyiquan uses form(s) for power development.
Dachengquan uses standing qigong.
See the difference?

What should a tai chi school do?The answer is somewhat self evidentisn't it?
Taijiquan is not dachengquan.
It uses forms, not standing qigong postures.
Read The Tai Chi Classics... There is no mention of standing qigong but a whole lot of information about movement.


Mental stimulation

There is growing scientific evidence that the brain can be kept healthy and functioning as we grow older.
Challenging existing modes of thought, dropping long-held opinions and learning new skills causes the body to grow new brain tissue to cope with the demands of change.

The Yang Cheng Fu tai chi syllabus taught by our school was designed to promote mental acuity and encourage a more flexible brain.
Master Waller's diverse curriculum engages the curiosity of the student with thought-provoking insights, new discoveries and unforeseen possibilities.

Physicality & thought

Many people fail to distinguish between the body and thought.
They believe that the ability to speak about a subject denotes some level of comprehension and understanding.
But talk really is cheap.

The body is concerned with the physical interaction with the physical world.
This is processed and experienced by the brain.
However, physicality is not thought.
Physical is physical.

Physical intelligence is not about thinking in relationship with your body.
It is not about thinking at all.