The essence of the art

Every tai chi student in the world should be working towards acquiring these abilities and knowledge:
  1. 4 ounces of pressure
  2. 5 centres
  3. 6 balanced pairs
  4. 13 postures
  5. Accord
  6. Blending
  7. Central equilibrium
  8. Chin na (seizing): misplacing the bones, dividing the muscles, sealing the breath & cavity press
  9. Close-range combat
  10. Composure
  11. Connection
  12. Conservation of energy
  13. Double weightedness (avoidance of)
  14. Filing
  15. Folding
  16. Freeform triangle
  17. Groundpath
  18. How to apply every form posture martially
    - at least 7 different ways
    - in a thorough & convincing manner
    - using shuai jiao, chin na & jing
    - in keeping with the Tai Chi Classics
  19. Invest in loss
  20. Jing
  21. Lead into emptiness
  22. Listening
  23. The meaning and application of the Tai Chi Classics
  24. The meaning and application of the martial classics 
    - The Art of War
    - The Book of Five Rings
    - 36 Strategies
  25. The meaning and application of the taoist classics
    - The Way and Its Power
    - The Way of Chuang Tzu
    - The Book of Changes
  26. Mindfulness
  27. Moving from the centre
  28. Mutual arising
  29. Opening & closing
  30. Optimal use of alignment and structure
  31. Peng
  32. Practical applications of yielding
  33. Reeling silk
  34. Reverse breathing
  35. Shen
  36. Sinking & rooting
  37. Small circle movement
  38. Spontaneity
  39. Stickiness
  40. Strategy & tactics
  41. Substantial & insubstantial
  42. Sung
  43. Tzu-jan (of itself so)
  44. Uniting upper & lower
  45. Weaponry
  46. Whole-body movement
  47. Wu nien (not preparing)
  48. Wu wei (not forcing)
  49. Yin/yang
Please see Neijiaquan: The Inner School website for an explanation of much of this material.

This list is not comprehensive or exhaustive; it merely serves as an illustration. Many more skills might have been included.
Other tai chi schools might consider additional skills to be equally important.

Can I study baguazhang?

Baguazhang is physically and mentally challenging, with a complex form, unique training methods and counter-intuitive tactics.
A high degree of balance and coordination is necessary.

There is no beginners or intermediate level in baguazhang.
A student gains the foundation skills through the study of taijiquan
sensitivity, footwork, timing, biomechanical awareness, whole-body movementjing, root...
Baguazhang employs a considerable amount of shuai jiao and chin na applications, so a thorough grounding in these skills is a must.
A potential baguazhang student must show considerable aptitude with taijiquan if they want to study a second art.


Further reading?

• The Essence of Tai Chi Chuan - The Literary Tradition by Lo et al
• Tai Chi Secrets of the Ancient Masters by Yang Jwing-Ming
• Tai Chi Chuan: The Internal Tradition by Ron Sieh
• The Tai Chi Journey by John Lash
• The Tai Chi Book by Robert Chuckrow


Tai Chi Classics

There are certain things that every tai chi student should know.
This knowledge and ability will enable the student to follow the teachings outlined in the Tai Chi Classics.
Strict adhesion to the classics assures correct practice of tai chi, regardless of what style you practice.


Can you recommend a class in my town/area?

We cannot offer any recommendations. 
Every tai chi class has its own agenda. Each school has its own values, concerns and interests.

Our advice is to explore what is available in your area.
Try out some classes.
You may find something you like. Something that appeals to your values, concerns and interests.


What kind of qigong is being taught?

Qigong is a very diverse area of study and approaches can vary wildly.

(i) Strength building

Good classes seldom speak about qi.
Instead, the emphasis is upon good body mechanics, balance, breathing, lengthening the muscles and relaxation.
If all of these factors are taught well, the body will become notably stronger.
Expect a gently challenging workout.

(ii) Hippy classes

A 'feel good' qigong class may have all manner of qi-enhancing... but are these bona fide practices or bogus?
Does the student feel stronger?
Is their body stronger, more balanced, their emotions settled and the mind calm?
Would your time be better spent walking the dog around the park?

(iii) Spend your time wisely
Qigong should ideally be infused with neigong (whole-body strength), and this will prepare the student for martial training and physical activities in every day life.
There is no need to talk about qi.
A clear, tangible, scientific attitude is much wiser.

Focus on how you use the body. 
Gain strength, ease of movement and mental clarity. Get the postural muscles to do most of the work rather than your localised limbs.
Let your qi take care of itself...


How long does it take to pick up?

There is no conclusion to tai chi study; no end certificate or finishing point.
Taijiquan was designed to be part of your life; something that you do regularly. Your body must last you a lifetime and tai chi will help to accomplish this.

How quickly you progress is down to you personally. Everyone is different. There are so many variables.
  1. Do your ambitions match your degree of commitment and ability?
  2. How often do you attend lessons?
  3. Do you practice at home?
  4. How good is your memory?
  5. Are your coordinated?
  6. What are your expectations?
  7. Did you think it would be easy?
  8. Are you open and receptive?
  9. Have you any existing health problems that might impede training?
  10. Are you patient?


Do we enter competitions?

By removing competitive attitudes from our classes, students enjoy a friendly training environment.
There is no rivalry.
Many people find this to be a refreshing change when seeking to find harmony in their everyday life.


I’ve found the class a very positive experience and one which I want to commit to. I have felt welcome from the outset and the class is remarkably collaborative. It’s refreshing to find people who practice and embody the art they are studying, and none more so than Sifu Waller. With Sifu Waller there is a sense of ‘deep time’ - some teachers spend hours labouring points superficially but Sifu Waller gets right to the heart of the matter and can convey meaningful and stimulating guidance in a brief interaction. The syllabus is excellent and I’m starting to work my way through the classic texts. All told, excellent!


Can you study tai chi using books, DVDs or YouTube?

Good quality books and video clips are great for supplementing lessons yet tai chi requires skilled tuition.
Ideally, you should seek out the best instructor you can find.

An instructor will provide new material, insights, challenges, corrections, suggestions, tips & pointers... these cannot be gained from a book.
Untutored tai chi practice can lead to injury and serious misconceptions about the art.


Meditation in tai chi

The meditation aspect of tai chi training encompasses a wide variety of different approaches, all designed to cultivate presence.
Solo and partner training exercises challenge the student to remain here and now.

By bringing the mind to the immediate moment we aim to become unselfconscious - not thinking, not talking, not emoting. 
Just being.


Can I train 2 different styles of tai chi simultaneously?

Sifu Waller is a traditionalist and does not believe in form collecting or mixing styles/approaches. 
All of our material is fully integrated.

'Form collecting' is a modern habit which arises when a student is unwilling to commit the necessary practice to mastering one style of tai chi.
In short, the student gets bored.

Many excessively bounce around learning the next 'new' form or movement set without ever extracting the real internal value from any of them.
(Bruce Frantzis)


External ways

Students often make the same mistakes when attempting fa jing:
  1. Pushing upon impact
    - this approach is external in nature - the classic 'punch through the opponent' strategy
    - it is not taijiquan
  2. 'Cocking' the pelvis and/or shoulder
  3. Lunging forward
  4. An obvious build-up
  5. Jerky
  6. A step
    - your step should occur because of the release, rather than to cause the release
  7. Tension in the striking tool
  8. Overall tension in the body
  9. Emotional tension: anger, aggression
  10. Forcing
Fa jing is altogether different to these approaches.


Soft meeting

The aim must always be to strike with the whole body, every part soft and loosely connected.
This is the essence of 'reeling silk' and is cultivated by whole-body strength.

Performed correctly, this should ensure 'soft meeting' upon impact.
Whole-body strength and reeling silk will not prevent adverse feedback on impact unless you are soft, sensitive, and have awareness. 

This is not so hard to achieve. It just takes a little practice. In time it will be second nature.
Study Newton's 3rd Law of Motion.


How much of the force you are delivering is actually going into your opponent?

If you are tense, then much of it will bang off your attacker's body and back into you.
There is a concussive shockwave that travels along your arm, into your spine and throughout your body.
This is not good for your health.

This is why 4 ounces of pressure is fundamental.
The moment of contact must be heavy, soft and penetrating. Do not push.


For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction

Do not push on impact.
That way, the kinetic energy will travel out of your body instead of just bouncing back.

Your intention goes through the opponent. Your punch does not go through your opponent. The effect goes inside your opponent. 


IT BEGAN TO rain gently enough, but suddenly it was as though the heavens had opened and there was a deluge. In the street the water was almost knee-deep, and it was well over the pavement. There was not a flutter among the leaves, and they too were silent in their surprise. A car passed by and then stalled, water having gotten into its essential parts. People were wading across the street, soaked to the skin, but they were enjoying this down-pour. The garden beds were being washed out and the lawn was covered with several inches of brown water. A dark blue bird with fawn-colored wings was trying to take shelter among the thick leaves, but it got wetter and wetter and shook itself so often. The downpour lasted for some time, and then stopped as suddenly as it had begun. All things were washed clean. How simple it is to be innocent! Without innocence, it is impossible to be happy. The pleasure of sensations is not the happiness of innocence. Innocence is freedom from the burden of experience. It is the memory of experience that corrupts, and not the experiencing itself. Knowledge, the burden of the past, is corruption. The power to accumulate, the effort to become destroys innocence; and without innocence, how can there be wisdom? The merely curious can never know wisdom; they will find, but what they find will not be truth. The suspicious can never know happiness, for suspicion is the anxiety of their own being, and fear breeds corruption. Fearlessness is not courage but freedom from accumulation.


How can I tell what a tai chi class is offering?

(i) Most classes are health classes

Virtually every tai chi class in the UK is teaching 'tai chi for health'.
Classes offering taijiquan (the martial art) are very rare indeed.

Some classes may advertise themselves as 'taijiquan' but are in fact teaching tai chi for health.

(ii) Martial proof

It is easy to determine if a taijiquan martial arts class is bona fide.
Ask the instructor about:
  1. Their syllabus
  2. Teaching methodology
  3. Tai chi principles (4 ounces, 6 balanced pairs, 13 postures, fa jing, folding, groundpath, opening & closing, reeling silk, shen, softness, substantial & insubstantial, sung, yielding etc)
  4. Martial theory and application
  5. Examples of shuai jiaochin na and jing skill
A genuine taijiquan instructor will be able to prove their skill to you quite convincingly.

Intermediate training

The intermediate student must expand their taijiquan by learning a wide range of basic combat skills, form and drills.
 By working directly with Master Waller they slowly come to understand the subtlety of the art.

 Although much of the training now involves more complex partner work, the martial skills being explored are fairly rudimentary.
By practicing pushing hands every lesson, the student becomes increasingly sensitive, present and alert.

 The onus is upon learning applications and discovering the art through doing rather than talking.
 A scientific attitude is cultivated; with the student invited to adopt an experimental attitude; finding out for themselves what works, how and why.

 Instead of 'spacing out' , they start to feel.
 Rather than assert their ego and vanity, they begin to see things from a greater perspective and the seeds of humility and patience are planted.

Although intermediate students are not formally assessed, progress requires regular consultation with Master Waller, along with feedback and corrections.


The bite

Upon impact, your hand/elbow/knee sinks slightly into the opponent before bouncing back off again.
This process occurs naturally and need not be contrived.
If you pull off too soon, 4 ounces of pressure has not been established and the power will diminish.


A MOTHER WAS beating her child, and there were painful screams. The mother was very angry, and while she was beating she was talking to it violently. When presently we came back she was caressing the child, hugging as though she would squeeze the life out of it. She had tears in her eyes. The child was rather bewildered, but was smiling up at the mother. Love is a strange thing, and how easily we lose the warm flame of it! The flame is lost, and the smoke remains. The smoke fills our hearts and minds, and our days are spent in tears and bitterness. The song is forgotten, and the words have lost their meaning; the perfume has gone, and our hands are empty. We never know how to keep the flame clear of smoke, and the smoke always smothers the flame. But love is not of the mind, it is not in the net of thought, it cannot be sought out, cultivated, cherished; it is there when the mind is silent and the heart is empty of the things of the mind. The room overlooked the river, and the sun was upon its waters.



You do not have to be an intellectual to read and appreciate the philosophical aspects of tai chi.
Most of it is just common sense.
The main aim is to:
• Increase your mental flexibility• Improve memory• Develop concentration• Encourage new ways of thinking• Consider alternatives, choices and options• Cultivate awareness• Look more deeply into things 
By adding a philosophical element to your tai chi, your life will be affected in a more meaningful, profound way.



The aim of every beginner is to gain a reasonable grasp of the foundation exercises found in the taijiquan syllabus.

In taijiquan, a student does not start learning how to kick, punch and grapple.
First they learn how to stand and move without using tensed muscles.
They learn how to perceive things differently and recognise the limitations of their current physical habits.

Although beginners are not formally assessed, progress requires regular consultation with Rachel, along with feedback and corrections.
Familiarity with the preliminaries will enable the student to join the intermediate group and start working directly with Master Waller.