Partner work

In taijiquan we consider touch to be very important. By working with somebody else we can help them to feel how their own body operates and help ourselves as well. We encourage people to become accustomed to physical proximity from the start of their training, to relax, soften and be receptive to other people.


Wasting energy

People can feel energised or drained relative to rest, diet, situation or activity. Bad poise/posture putting the body under duress, failure to rest, relax, stop, time management/commitments, personal life, work - can all make you feel drained. So can tension, stiffness, compressed cavities, closed joints, collapsed muscles, pushing (physically & mentally), hands too close to the body or too far away, thinking, stretching, exaggeration, over-commitment, disconnected movement and exertion. They are all physically taxing; wasting energy.


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.


The Tai Chi Classics

Read The Tai Chi Classics. Implement the teachings. The knowledge from these treatise offers the students a small, tangible step away from ignorance and amateurism towards a re-discovery of this once famous, amazingly subtle, powerful martial art.
I initially looked for a form of exercise that I would be able to continue for life and that would also build my strength and health, having had years of illness. Tai Chi seemed to fit the bill perfectly so I looked for a suitable class. Luckily I found Sifu Waller and have now been attending Newcastle Tai Chi classes for more years than I like to remember. 

The teaching by both Sifu and Rachel is so in depth and thorough and there is always something new to learn. Just when you think you have mastered an exercise, you find that there is another layer to progress to. The class itself and the students who attend are very friendly but we are expected to work hard. Have a look at the website. It is amazing - you can spend all day just reading and learning, all written by Sifu for his students. A great school taught by a master.



In almost any subject, your passion for the subject will save you. If you care enough for a result, you will most certainly attain it. If you wish to be good, you will be good. If you wish to be learned, you will be learned. You must really wish these things and wish them with exclusiveness and not wish one hundred other incompatible things just as strongly.

(William James)

In many martial arts schools the practice was carried out in secrecy and the school's very existence was frequently concealed from the authorities. For example, taijiquan is based on body of theory known to be around 2000 years old yet it was not revealed until 1750.

(Howard Reid)


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.


There are many similarities between the hard and soft fighting systems; both use animal movements and forms, for example, and both incorporate the five elements, but because of the Taoist influence, the soft arts exhibit a stronger and deeper relationship with the natural world.

 Since the Taoist concepts are rooted in the most distant past with the most ancient beliefs of the Chinese, it is difficult for the Western mind to understand them. Therefore, before you can investigate the internal martial arts, you must first back to the very origins of thought in ancient China.

(Howard Reid)

Form application

Cheng Man-Ching once warned a would-be challenger; saying that if the attacker was courteous, he would be courteous, but if the attacker was an arse, Cheng would use form applications. Such a promise highlights the fact that form applications are bad news for the attacker.


I joined Sifu Waller's class around two years ago, I wanted to join a school where I could learn and practice an original form of kung fu. I’ve been meaning to write a review for a while but since there are so many great facet’s to this class I struggle to do it real justice, you’ll have to come and try it for yourself! I’ll try to give a flavour of the benefits of the class, but what’s the use in reading the ingredients of a cake, you have to eat it to appreciate it.

Newcastle Tai Chi is a hidden gem, not only as the class is unpretentious and friendly but because we have a true master teacher who teaches us to use our body in the most optimal way to achieve maximum results with great ease. With correct application, a skilled student of Master Waller’s class will never have to brawl as they can finish the aggressor's intention and ability to fight without prolonged combat.

I can with confidence say every week Sifu Waller amazes even the most experienced of students, by the depth of his knowledge and insight plus the masterful execution of efficient applications with such ease that it is often humorous.

If you have the good fortune to spend a little time with Sifu you will quickly realise that Sifu has sincerely dedicated his life to acquiring knowledge and mastering skill in Kung Fu and Tai Chi. His dedication also translates to providing a dynamic framework for willing students to gain more than just knowledge and skill of this secretive internal art.

Sifu Waller teaches a great syllabus and classes complemented by a variety of focussed workshops, a web site that is like the encyclopedia and guide to not only Tai Chi but many aspects of personal victory and most importantly an earnest teacher that will continue to inspire.

I’m truly grateful and honoured to train under Sifu Waller, it is truly a great opportunity to learn from the ‘cream of the (martial world's) crop’.



A convenient catch-all

Some tai chi people use the word 'qi' a lot. It is a catch-all employed to explain pretty much everything they don't really understand. Virtually anything can be attributed to qi. This makes genuine knowledge, skill and real understanding less important to such exponents since qi explains everything. But does it?


Why is second-guessing instructions a problem?

The instructor has a purpose in what they are teaching.
Teachings will

* build on what has come before,
* link diverse parts of the syllabus, and
* lead on to something new.

The student rarely has insight to these things.
You should never second-guess an instruction, because you do not know what is in the instructor’s mind.
This wastes time (both your own and the instructor’s).

(Andy Urwin)

San sau

Martial sets explore how form movements, strategies and martial principles can be adapted to create highly effective combat sets designed to promote an awareness of 'gaps & deficiencies', how to favourably exploit this, along with close quarters combat skill.
I have been involved in the world of martial arts since I was 8 continuing until the birth of my son. My son is now 6 so decided I wanted to return to training now I've turned 40. I have been interested in the internal arts, specifically Taiji and Bagua for many years but realised how hard it is to find someone teaching the authentic art. With Sifu Waller I finally found what I was looking for!
Sifu's understanding and knowledge is outstanding. The syllabus is both deep and broad allowing a structured development of each student as they progress. Sifu Waller teaches the full art not just the commonly seen "health tai chi". This is a martial art that is subtle and effective, using body structure and biodynamics to achieve success. I can highly recommend this class for anyone with the passion and dedication to learn a true martial art.



When a master of taijiquan faces an opponent he brings to the confrontation thousands of years of philosophical, martial and practical thought. He has lived most of his life according to the principles established centuries ago and in the process, he has strengthened his body and probably earned a long and healthy life.

(Howard Reid)


Most taijiquan/tai chi for health exponents in the world have absolutely no idea what to do with the form movements. For them, form is essentially a dance or 'moving yoga'. This is a little sad. The once great martial art (supreme ultimate fist) - considered the pinnacle of Chinese fighting systems - has been largely forgotten in modern times. People have settled for less, and the Art is at risk of extinction.


The level of knowledge Sifu Waller has as a martial arts teacher is profound to say the least. Whether you are an absolute beginner to any martial arts (which I was) or more experienced, Sifu will teach you not only how to train physically but mentally also. His approach is by far the most authentic in the North East, but does not come without hard work. If you want to improve your health, gain insights into body/mind & eastern philosophy and throw someone across a room with little to no effort -- this is the school to go for. It may just change your life for the better. It certainly has for me.

(Brett Cereza)
A hawk stands as though dozing,
 a tiger walks as though ill;
 these are ploys by which they claw and bite.

(Huanchu Daoren)

What is the drawback of cross training another martial art whilst studying tai chi?

The drawback of cross training with another martial art is that is does not work.

Tai Chi is complete in itself, and needs no adjunct.

It involves learning a new way to use the body involving softness, relaxation, and whole-body movement.

To learn in parallel with another martial art will go against what you are trying to achieve in either art.

Tai Chi is an holistic approach to life and health.

To mix this with any other approach will lead to dilution and confusion.

By failing to commit fully to either art, you will only ever achieve a limited level of competence.



Alternatives to blocking

Blocking is an external way of affecting an incoming force. It involves meeting force with force, and absorbing the energy of the force within your body. This is both damaging and tiring. Instead, Tai Chi uses softness and sensitivity to affect an incoming force.

There are a number of methods that we can utilize instead of blocking, such as filing, blending, wardoff, growing, interrupting, sticking, yielding, intercepting, wrapping, neutralizing, leading, borrowing, deflecting and folding.

While challenging to learn at first, these methods allow the practitioner to respond to the incoming force in a more subtle and effective way.

 (Andy Urwin)
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)


You make it happen

In taijiquan there are no shortcuts, no cheats. You get out of the training only what you put into it. You are a taijiquan student by virtue of your actions, not your good intentions.


The movements are difficult and often performed in opposition to a fellow trainee. Because of this, students quickly become disciplined and aware of the need not to be hurt or to hurt others. The aggressive urges that brought the student to the training hall are soon controlled, and guided into constructive activity by the instructor. Under this guidance, the student's confidence grows and fear recedes. At the same time an awareness of physical being, of the body's shape, size and potential ability, is born.

(Howard Reid)


I've been attending Sifu Waller's class for a year now and I can honestly say that it's been amazing. He teaches a complete syllabus which develops body mechanics, martial application and mental development in a way which I would not have believed before starting! His insights are amazing and I have certainly noticed the benefits of my learning and practice in daily life, even though I am very much in the early days of my study. The class offers teaching in a ruthlessly effective martial art, but much more besides. Like so many others in the class, I just wish I had found it earlier!



Saving energy

Tai chi addresses energy wastage by advocating rest, relaxation, good body use. It is no more magical than switching off the light to save on your electricity bill.

Internal harmonies

Shen fuels intention which in turn directs the energy:
  1. Shen (spirit)
    emotional content: "
    the shen is like that of a cat about to catch a rat" (Wu Treatise)
    vitality "
    When the shen is raised, there is no fault of stagnancy and heaviness." (Wu Treatise)
    - at one with the moment/immersion "
    The shen is relaxed and the body calm. The shen is always in the mind." (Wu Treatise)
    - loss of selfego, self-consciousness, vanity, pride
    The Tai Chi Classics speak of shen being the focus, not qi
    - shen can be seen in every movement and in your eyes
    - not machofearfulangryfrustrated or aggressivecompetitive - "
    Inwardly make the shen firm, and outwardly exhibit calmness and peace." (Wu Treatise)
  2. Intention
    - intention is not to be confused with 'willpower' (forcing)
    - it is about coordinating mind and body; having your mind in the here and now, feeling your body itself and relative to another person
    clarity, awareness, presence
    going with the flow; yielding
    adaptchange and improvise
    - respond to what is taking place, not to thoughtsopinions or ideas

    - intention enables the student to manifest specific jing - "
    If the mind wants to move upward, it must simultaneously have intent downward." (Chang San-feng)
    "Throughout the body, the intention relies on the shen, not on the qi. 
    If it relied on the qi, it would become stagnant.(Wu Treatise)
  3. Energy
    - bad poise/posture putting the body under duress
    - the need for moderation; not too much, not too little... just enough
    - failure to rest, relax, stop
    time management/commitmentspersonal life, work
    gaps & deficiencies "
    The whole body should be threaded together through every joint without the slightest break.(Chang San-feng)
    - "
    In motion the whole body should be light and agile, with all parts of the body linked as if threaded together.(Chang San-feng)
    - removal of impediments: tensionstiffness, compressed cavities, closed joints, collapsed muscles, pushing (physically & mentally), hands too close to the body or too far away, thinking 
    - 'dead movement' - when a movement ends and then a new one must begin afresh "
    Taijiquan is like a great river rolling on unceasingly.(Chang San-feng)
    - failure to perpetuate the use of energy is a mistake in taijiquan (solo/form or partnered/application)
    stretchingexaggeration, over-commitment, disconnected movement and exertion are all physically taxing; wasting energy
    applications of a start/stop variety fail to use energy skilfully

    jing-based practice- lightness, agility & grace "
    A feather cannot be placed, and a fly cannot alight on any part of the body." (Wang Treatise)- not li (force against force, more than 4 ounces of pressure exerted by you or expressed by you, localised arm and shoulder movement, deep, long or wide stances, fixed legs - disconnected upper & lower, tensed muscles, over-emphasis of the hip joint, incorrect use of the pelvis and hips, pushing upon impact, aggression)


And things are not always what
 they seem to be.

(Loy Ching-Yuen)
A lot of folks say they are relaxed... that they are Christian or Buddhist or Muslim or something that says you know I'm concerned for my fellow man. But when somebody puts their hands on these people you'll see that that priest or that monk or that rabbi becomes just as rigid and as violent as anybody else who would never ever describe themselves as being God fearing. Why? Cos they're not used to the pressure.

You would like to believe you're relaxed and when someone puts their hands on you and pushes all of a sudden you realise just how indignant you are about that whole thing happening.

 Some people are very stretched and they have a full split or they are very balanced on their hands and they can do a handstand but when you put your hands on them all that ability goes out the window and they resort to Cro-Magnon behaviour.


 (Roberto Sharpe)

Hands & feet - dynamic interplay

Our taijiquan requires interplay between the feet during a taijiquan movement. Consider moving within a bow stance: You shift the weight from the rear leg into the lead. The rear foot pushes and the lead foot uses the ball of the foot actively as pressure is fed into the foot - this is called 'sending and receiving'. The pressure bounces back slightly to create a waving action between the legs.


A higher gear

When used correctly, cycle gears enable the cyclist to move faster and cover more terrain without actually pedalling any harder. This is in fact the purpose of the gears. Grades are the same. A student will find each new grade just challenging enough but not overwhelming.

Hands & feet - stepping

In order to step, all of your weight must first move into the supporting leg - making it 100% weighted.
The unweighted leg then lengthens and the foot places.
There is no more weight in the foot than the weight of the foot itself.
When stepping, transfer weight from the heel to the ball of the foot.
Feel how the ball actually pushes slightly back towards you when it receives pressure from the weight shift.
This awareness is very important because it prevents the knee joint from being bent too far.


Is qi energy?

The whole notion of qi as energy is controversial. It stems from Georges Soulie De Morant a foreign diplomat in the early 20th Century who provided some of the first translations of Chinese Medicine classics for the West. It was he who translated 'qi' as energy (having a pre-existing bias from studying Ayurveda where prana is seens as an invisible life force. Thus he believed qi was a synonymous term) and he translated 'mai' as meridian, an invisible pathway carrying invisible life force energy. Therefore, this dominated Western ideas of how acupuncture and other Eastern practices and techniques work.

The 'energy' model can be convincingly critiqued much to the discomfort of those invested in it. Joseph Needham and other scholars of the Chinese language state there is no legitimate reason to translate qi as energy. Rather, broadly speaking, it can more accurately mean the function of something or a concept of a vital essence in air - i.e. oxygen. In Chinese Medicine terms, for example, acupuncture can be explained by existing physiology, of which the ancient Chinese had an impressive understanding. The Chinese Medical model of health is having nutrient rich (ying qi), oxygen rich (qi) blood flowing unimpeded throughout the body. Acupuncture needles facilitate this through interactions with exisiting physiology - nerves and blood vessels. Those invisible meridians (the mai) are explicitly stated in the classics to be measurable and even visible around the ankle (doesn't sound like an invisible energetic pathway, does it?).

A better understanding that does justice to our Chinese predecessors' understanding of the body is a complex longitudinal arrangement of blood vessels and the muscles and organs they serve. Just calling the effects of acupuncture a result of interactions with an invisible force prevents its integration into mainstream medicine and hampers the development and understanding of the practice. Now I suspect similar ideas have filtered into Tai Chi.

In fact, Donald Kendall (author of the Dao of Chinese Medicine, who has clearly explained the above concepts) even states how the distortions of original Chinese theories by westerners have later been mistakenly taken up by the Chinese. As far as I am aware much of tai chi can be explained by a proper understanding of physics and physiology. I am not ruling out the existence of subtle energies etc as it would be foolish to think we understand all aspects of being. But until one comes across a phenomenon that requires looking to esoteric explanations because physiology and physics fall short, then why do so?

There is much to be gained in furthering both Tai Chi and acupuncture practice and application by utilising the vast gains in knowledge modern science has provided and using them to see just how advanced and elegant the systems our ancestors created were. If anyone is qualified to state whether there is evidence for energetic aspects of Tai Chi practice it would be Sifu Waller and if he has found evidence for this I would be very interested in anything he has to say about it.

 (Rob Veater)


The idea behind gears is to enable the cyclist to rotate the pedals at a comfortable walking pace: regardless of terrain. By adjusting the gear, the easy, comfortable rotation is maintained. When a cyclist pedals frantically and goes no faster, they are obviously using the wrong gear. To solve the problem they simply need to increase the gear...

External harmonies

Learn how to move in a more internal way:
  1. Hands & feet
    - hands and feet must coordinate
    - if the right hand is yang, the left foot is yang
    - the further past the feet you extend your hands, the less centred you are

  2. Elbows & knees
    - elbows and knees must both be naturally relaxed and in line
    - elbows and knees do not initiate any movement
    - knees are soft and loose, not locked or collapsed (this will allow the pelvis to drop naturally)
    - elbows are dropped and heavy and extended forward slightly

  3. Hips & shoulders
    - shoulders must be above the hips
    - do not lean upper torso forwards or backwards
    - vertical distance between shoulder and hip should not increase or decrease on either side


The 6 balanced pairs

These are the '6 harmonies':
  1. Hands & feet
  2. Elbows & knees
  3. Hips & shoulders
3 external harmonies, 3 internal harmonies.


The seeker wants another level of mind
 and strives for it without distraction
 like a grandmother shopping at market.
 (Loy Ching-Yuen)

Cycling & gears

Have you ever seen people cycling down the road? Quite often the cyclist is pedalling frantically but not really getting anywhere. How come? Many cyclists don't know how to use the gears...
The Chinese sage unifies in himself the two complementary sides of human nature - intuitive wisdom and practical knowledgecontemplation and social action.
(Fritjof Capra)



Most tai chi classes do not have grades or belts or even a syllabus. How come? Who knows? Even modern China has implemented some sort of grading/belt structure inspired by the Japanese model.
What your daily life is, your society is.
Society is not different from you, from what you are, what you have been
- that is, the community in which you live.
Social disorder exists because you are disorderly in your own life.

Yet order cannot come about through intellectual organisation,
through a plan - we have tried all these things for thousands of years;
so many human beings have endeavoured to create a new society,
a new community, a new way of living, and they have all failed, and they will always fail,
because they build on a formula, on a concept, on an ideology.


Faulty awareness

People are seldom aware of physical faults; their sense of balance is not reliable. When most students are asked to adopt a shoulder-width stance with the insides of the feet parallel, they usually have one foot askew but feel as if they don't. Then they look.



Students who complete the 100 days challenge experience a notable change in their health. They maintain and invigorate the body at the start of each day. Their posture is good: upright and strong, their eyes are clear and sharp. Instead of travelling to work feeling tired and emotionally strung out, the exponent feels great: creative, alert, lively and fresh.


Sung feels like the limbs are moving by themselves; all doing is gone.
It is more advanced than either connection or peng.

Balanced movement

The '6 balanced pairs' neigong is relatively easy because the first 3 are physical. By establishing a relationship between different parts of the body you can improve postural balance. Paying attention to postural balance affects the energy within your body and this in turn results in a general trend of positive change.