Performance stances

Many pictures show tai chi people training in China with very deep stances. The stances are almost yoga-like in nature; very long but narrow, with the lead knee 90°relative to the ground. These gymnastic stances are very impressive but should not be undertaken lightly. The performers are exceedingly supple and fit.



Most people are not capable of defending themselves, their loved ones or their belongings. This is a disturbing fact. Although society still offers the same dangers it always has, the general public's attitude towards personal protection has changed. People are often too lazy to learn how to protect themselves. They imagine that a cocky 'attitude' and a big mouth will work against a real life assailant.



Leeds University Alumni

University of Leeds

Prominent alumni - Sport

Ashleigh Ball
Medical Sciences 2007
Medal-winning hockey player, 2012 Olympic Games

Natalie Binstead

Biochemistry with Molecular Biology 2003
England women's rugby squad

Alistair Brownlee MBE

Sports Science and Physiology 2009
World champion triathlete, 2012 Olympic gold-medal winner

Jonathan Brownlee

History 2012
Silver-medal world championship triathlete, 2012 Olympic bronze-medal winner

Claire Cashmore

Linguistics and Phonetics 2011
Medal-winning swimmer, 2012 Paralympic Games

Kenton Cool

Geological Sciences 1994
Record-holding mountain climber

Karen Darke

Chemistry and Geological Science 1992
Medal-winning hand cyclist, 2012 Paralympic Games, World champion paratriathlete 2012

Rebecca Gallantree

Sports Science 2005
Great Britain diver

Tim Glass

Broadcast Journalism 2001
Producer, Sky Sports News

Jon Holmes

Political Studies 1971
Chairman, Jon Holmes Media; sports manager

Carol Isherwood OBE

History 1982, PGCE Education 1984
Regional Manager (London), The Football Association

Tom Palmer

Physics 2001
Professional rugby player

John Pares

Chemical Engineering 1987
Medal-winning ultradistance marathon runner

Steve Patterson

Mathematics 2005
Professional cricket player

Don Riddell

Communications 1994
London based sports anchor, CNN

Andrew Shovlin

Mechanical Engineering 1995, PhD Mechanical Engineering 1999
Formula 1 Senior race engineer

Nicholas Waller

PGCE 1996
Master, baguazhang and taijiquan 


To lift an Autumn hare is no sign of great strength; 
 to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight;
 to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear.
 What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, 
 but excels in winning with ease.
 Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage.
 He wins his battles by making no mistakes.
 Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, 
 for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.

 (Sun Tzu)



Conventional martial arts favour the younger, stronger, fitter student.
By contrast; the internal martial arts encourage a mature mind.
Instead of retiring from combat at the age of 40, a student can look forward to spending the rest of their life training the art.

Tai chi chuan works the body in a very safe, healthy manner.


At what cost?

Success at any cost is not advocated by our school. The aim of tai chi chuan is to avoid injury, not sustain it. The internal martial arts of tai chi chuan and baguazhang aim to incapacitate the opponent without sustaining any injury to yourself.


There is no shortcut

Building up your strength takes time, practice, commitment and patience. In truth, you may not even realise it is happening. Internal martial arts training is not strenuous or stressful. You undertake regular practice and let the mild exercise build up layers of strength. The effect mounts up over time. Pretty soon you have a level of strength you never expected. This is not the strength required to lift a massive weight. It is the strength to deliver a penetrating strike, snap a limb or flip an opponent without trying. It is strength that will aid you in your everyday life.


Effort/reward ratio

Internal body use challenges conventional wisdom and the conventional application of strength. The body must be strong. The application of that strength is unorthodox. The aim is to unite the entire body in application. Every action is a complete action. Every part of you does every movement. This may sound strenuous but it is not. Instead of delegating the workload to your arms and shoulders, every part of the body is involved. Instead of forcing your will upon the entire attacker, you limit your attention to a small part of their body and use everything you have on that target. The strategy comes from The Art of War.



The weakest part of any new starter is the mind. Modern minds are lazy, distracted, eager for gratification and entertainment. The calm, detached, logical, disciplined mind of a martial artist is very different to that of a 'consumer'. We recognise that there is more to life than shopping, celebrity, fleeting fads and fancies. Patience, tenacity, endurance... these develop a quiet strength.


Body strength

We are not interested in pitting strength against strength. Our aim is to evade strength, re-direct power and destabilise the attacker. Instead of force against force, we circumvent. We break the root. We lead into emptiness. You do not need to be immensely strong in the upper body. The power will be coming from the ground, so stronger legs and torso are more important.


Conventional fitness

The ability to lift heavy weights, run, swim or workout in the gym may well improve your overall fitness level. But this kind of fitness will not help your tai chi chuan training. A student must learn how to use their body in a very different way. The body needs to become agile, flexible, adaptive, sensitive and strong. Engorged biceps are not going to help.



Many people suffer from neck, knee, elbow and back problems. Mental health, stress, the inability to relax and chronic muscle tension are all major health issues in modern society. Regular tai chi chuan training (with a skilled instructor) will address these concerns.


Every school is different

No two martial arts schools are the same. Every instructor teaches according to their own values, interpretation of the material, and personal preferences. Ask yourself: Does the class teach a 'complete martial art'? Do you need to supplement the training with gym work, running or weight training? How concerned is the class with health and wellbeing? Are the students friendly and relaxed? Is there a macho atmosphere? Can smaller students use the art effectively?


You get what you pay for

If you shop at the pound shop you cannot expect the produce to be the same quality as Marks & Spencer's or Waitrose.
The same applies to martial arts tuition.

Most martial arts are pretty effective, so why learn tai chi chuan?

Ask yourself: What are you looking for? What is your criteria? How old are you? How fit are you? Are you looking for kicking, punching, grappling? Do you want to fight in the ring? Or do you want self defence for real life situations? Are you seeking a more philosophical component? Tai chi chuan teaches a wide variety of powerful skills and an in-depth philosophical component. It encourages a calm, focussed mind and trains a supple, strong, flexible body.




One of the key features of taoism is that things make sense but you cannot necessarily articulate this understanding. You simply have a growing comprehension.

Master Waller encourages students to express what they understand by offering questionnaires and assignments for consideration. This brings people face to face with the challenge of saying what cannot be said (Tao Te Ching?).


8 areas

The 8 areas of skill serves to highlight the fact that most tai chi people only know a facet of the art: qigong, form, pushing hands, maybe a few self defence techniques?
This is not enough...
Master Waller shows that a complete study requires a broader range of topics.

This is why a blue belt in tai chi may be less martially adept than a blue belt in aikido. Our student is learning how to move in a whole body manner, harm and heal, and furnish the art with the theoretical and philosophical background. The aikido person is mainly learning techniques.



Master Waller tends to teach in such a way that everything operates on multiple levels simultaneously. The keen student picks up on different concerns to the less experienced class member.

This approach enables Master Waller to offer a finite syllabus with arguably infinite depth relative to student ability and perception.


Tai chi chuan training

Most people don't realise that tai chi started life as a martial art...
150 years ago tai chi chuan was the pinnacle of the Chinese martial arts.
Hard to believe?

Tai chi chuan is only taught to students who join the school:

• Kung fu (combat)
• Self defence
• Weapons
• Qigong (energy work)
• Neigong (whole-body strength)
• Forms
• Pushing hands
• Meditation
• Theory & philosophy
• Chin na (seizing)
• Shuai jiao (take downs)
• Jing
• Form applications
• Kicks, punches, palm strikes
• Finger strikes, elbows, knees
• Accuracy
• Evasive footwork
• Optimal use of alignment
• Minimal movement
• Conservation of energy
• Defence against a knife
• Multiple opponents/gangs
• Joint locks
• Trapping
• Focus
• Stickiness
• Physical sensitivity and awareness
• Balance, rhythm and timing
• Throws
• Escape from holds
• Close-range combat
• Grappling
• Defence whilst on the floor


The answer to anything is everything

Many of the syllabus topics pertain to multiple areas within the syllabus. For example: qigong movements lay the foundation for everything else and so affect all 8 areas.

Form extends qigong and so does the same as qigong. Form is the source of pretty much everything in the syllabus so again, you cannot see the whole by analysing the parts.

And beneath it all is neigong...


Who taught you how to use your body?

This is a reasonable question, and most people could not give a decent answer.
Did anyone teach you:
  1. Optimal body use
  2. How your muscles work
  3. Coordination
  4. Timing
  5. How and why to relax your body
  6. Balance
  7. Proprioception (relative position of body parts/awareness of how much strength is being applied)
  8. Rhythm
  9. Mind/body unity
  10. Leverage
  11. Kinaesthetic awareness (knowing where you limbs are positioned without needing to look)
  12. Biomechanics
  13. Footwork
  14. Biofeedback
  15. Ambidextrous use of the limbs
Your parents probably did not teach this to you.
School did not teach it either.
PE or physical education in school translates to mean 'sport' and sport is not teaching you how to use the body for anything other than what the sport requires.


We do it to ourselves

Many health problems are caused by the way in which we stand, walk, sit and use our bodies during everyday activities.
Headache, fatigue, stiff neck, bad knees, back problems are usually caused by our own bad habits.Incorrect muscle use, imbalance, sloppy posture, work and many forms of exercise only serve to perpetuate poor health and muscle tension.

The solution is quite simple.
We need to learn how to use our bodies in a healthy, natural, balanced and comfortable manner.



Consider Newton's third law of motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The more force you apply, the more resistance you will encounter.
This is clearly counter-productive.

Slow, smooth, soft movements are a sure indicator of skill.



Muscles serve two main functions:
  1. They help to hold the skeleton upright
  2. They move the bones
If you encounter resistance but continue to push against growing pressure, which of these functions is being served?