Classes resume 8th January

Assistant teacher - David Cousins

David has been with the school for over 2 years and is an incredibly talented, funny, modest guy.
He has a background in karate, 2 medical degrees and an impressive professional career.
David is a man of diverse interests and many hidden skills e.g. David designs, bakes and decorates stupendous birthday cakes for his sons.
Thoughtful, insightful and astute, David is a keen observer of human behaviour. He finds himself deeply intrigued by taijiquan biomechanics.

Allusion & metaphor

Taijiquan and baguazhang rely heavily upon Taoism. Both arts are the embodiment of Taoist principles: yin/yang & bagua diagram. To truly understand, use and communicate in these arts, you need to speak the language. This doesn't necessarily mean Chinese, but rather, Ancient Contemplative Taoism and martial theory.

A similar situation occurred in Star Trek The Next Generation where Picard meets a race that only communicates in references to events/incidents/people that are unique to their own own culture e.g. "Shaka when the walls fell..." Huh?

Sifu and myself share much a common familiarity with The Book of Five, The Way and Its Power, The Way of Chuang Tzu, The Art of War, The Tai Chi Classics (and many other books), so we can easily and readily refer to themes contained within those texts.


Midlife crisis?

It is common for people to crack up, do erratic things: buy a sports car, take up a reckless pursuit, travel the world, get divorced, have an affair...
These are knee jerk reactions. 
They may provide a short-term thrill but are simply an attempt to paper over the cracks.
The real problem is you.

Last lesson 2017



When the presents have been opened and the food eaten, it is tempting to wonder if Christmas was really worth all that fuss...
Why bother making the effort?

Taoism addresses this question.
Verse 5 of The Way and Its Power - Straw Dogs:
The samurai thought about it too:

Taoism and the samurai both felt that a full, rich life entailed immersing oneself fully.
No trepidation or half-heartedness.
They advocated complete commitment and resolve; knowing full well that one day we will die.
After all, what alternative is there?
Should we lie in bed all day? Not shower? Not shave?
Life will continue whether we live it or not.
Tai chi encourages us to embrace life and enjoy these fleeting moments. They are important, albeit ephemeral.
The quality of our life can be measured not in terms of money and possessions but rather in its fullness and its joy.

Be honest

The first step in living a deliberate life is to recognise - fully and completely - that you made the choices.
Not somebody else.
Your current situation is the outcome of hundreds of choices across the span of your life.
Is this not true?
Now, recognise that you can make new choices.
Different choices... Better choices...


Are you wiser in hindsight?

Many of the things we have done in our lives seem less than impressive in hindsight.
There were many mistakes; poor choices.
This is OK.

If we can look back and see that they turned out to be mistakes - and honestly see the folly - then we are a little wiser.
Nobody is perfect.
We cannot see the future.
Are we smarter now then we were then? This is the real question...


Did you invest in yourself?

Since leaving school/college/university how much time, effort and money have you committed your own self-development?
How many languages have you learned?
What skills have you acquired?
Do you eat a nutritious, organic, healthy diet?
Is your fitness good?
Have you invested in a form of exercise that is sustainable throughout the span of your life?
Did you spend time exploring the nature of life?
Do you meditate?
How many calm-inducing activities and practices have you adopted?
Are your daily habits peaceful or stressed
Is your body strongagileflexible, supple, resilient?
Do you need medical assistance?
Are you taking prescription pharmaceuticals?
Would you say that you are capable of defending yourself against assault?
Have you spent much time on your spiritual life?
Do you study?


Not knowing is nearest

Where do I go? What will I do? How will I cope? Can you tell me the answer?Doubts, uncertainty, risk, insecurity...
This is the stuff of life.
Nobody knows the future. Nobody can say what will happen.
Not knowing is what makes life thrilling.
If you want answers, find them out for yourself.



Seek out sources of inspiration.
There are countless books worth reading; things that will radically change how you view the world and your place in it.
Not fictional stories about vampires, werewolves, serial killers or sex maniacs.
Books that have survived the ages and still have powerful lessons to teach.
Watch Ben Stiller's movie: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.



Image is dangerous. It distances you from the truth.
Tao, Zen and taijiquan are only interested in the real, in the essence, not the 'front'.
If you are emotionally aware, you will see through the image and read the emotional state unconsciously.
If you want to emotionally interact in a healthy way, you need to start by addressing your own emotions.
How composed are you?
How honest?



Negative group emotions are harmful and unsettling: you can tangibly feel the anxiety, stress and bad feeling.
Such negative group situations are best avoided.
Seek out groups with positive emotions instead... 
If the supermarket at 4 PM on a Saturday afternoon feels particularly tiring and stressful, why not try going shopping at odd hours?
6 AM is a whole other story; there are too few people to generate group emotion, the aisles are virtually empty and you feel no pressure whatsoever.


A new way

Taijiquan was designed to be trained every day regardless of mood.
The best time to train is shortly after you get out of bed.
Even half-asleep, you can work through most of your qigong and be onto the 
Long Yang form before you realise it.

Over time, this habit of getting up and getting on with the practice become deeply ingrained.
Like going to work.
Like brushing your teeth.
Like flushing the toilet after using it.


I find the Classes and the School educational, entertaining and an excellent vehicle for creating change in myself. I appreciate the following about them: Relaxed, friendly and good-humoured feel to them along with an attitude of let’s get on and practice. All this within a clear structure that encourages attention to task and a sense of safety. Each class I have attended has given me very specific feedback about what I need to do differently. The class is split into either groups of similar ability or individuals working on their own set goals. I like that. There is a clear and detailed syllabus outlining progress through the grades. There is acceptance that some people may choose to remain beginners forever whilst others can make relatively rapid progress up the grades.

 The website is a wonderful cornucopia of information and advice. Finally my smartphone has a genuinely useful purpose (as well as making phone calls). Throughout there is an up front message that what you get from tai chi is very much dependent on how much time and energy you are prepared to commit. 

 The workshops are most beneficial. They offer material not available in the wider class and also go into much greater detail. I know that some it is too advanced for me now, but there is more than enough useful stuff to make them well worth the investment in time and money. After last night I was able to fill an A4 page with new things to practice as well as how to do things I already “know” differently and thus more effectively. I appreciate that efforts were made to make the workshop as relevant and accessible as possible for a beginner like me. It is also beneficial to spend 2 hours doing partner work, especially with the more experienced senior students as partners. The business like work ethic is well balanced by the humour - Sifu Waller is to be complimented on his ability to generate good learning states in students.

 I have become seriously “hooked “ in the best possible way!


Emotional environment

Your home and work environment should ideally be a place of good emotional feeling.
The home should be healthy, wholesome, loving and welcoming.
The workplace should be positive, supportive, productive and vigorous.



Chris is the assistant teacher for qigong.
He has 2 years experience working directly with Sifu Waller and has demonstrated a serious commitment.
With an extensive background in martial arts (including karate black belts) Chris brings a lot of insight and martial experience to his taijiquan.
Chris endeavours to attend a large number of additional training opportunities, in particular - workshops with Sifu Waller and private lessons.
Possessing terrific people skills, Chris is a 'natural' when it comes to teaching students.

On-going tuition?

It is quite unusual for people to commit to on-going tai chi lessons. We get e-mails every week from different people that say exactly the same words: too busy, too many commitments, don't want to make promises.

Do they use a template?

The really sad part is that these same people are a physical (and often emotional/psychological) wreck. And the reasons why they're a wreck are the exact same reasons why they won't attend class.


10 questions to ask a tai chi teacher

Try asking these 10 metacognition questions:

1. Which treatise(s) would you consider to be The Tai Chi Classics? Which author is most accessible to you? And which parts do you struggle to put into your practice?

2. What role does 'shen' play in tai chi?

3. Explain the significance of 'folding'.

4. The name of the Art refers to the 'yin/yang' diagram... So, how does tai chi use yin/yang? 

5. Illustrate the difference between 'jing' and 'li'. What bearing does this have on 'peng'?

6. What does the expression 'invest in loss' refer to? 

7. Explain the difference between the first 4 powers and the second 4 powers.

8. Which of the Taoist Classics do you find most relevant/pertinent to tai chi? And why?

9. What is 'mutual arising'?

10. How does '4 ounces of pressure' operate in practice? What are the active/passive manifestations? And how do they differ?

If a tai chi teacher cannot answer every question comprehensively - verbally & physically - they are not skilled enough to be an instructor. Look for somebody who can provide good answers.


Take steps to cut-out negative emotions and become attuned to group emotion.
Avoid getting caught-up in anything unpleasant.
Engineer an environment that you want to be in.
A hawk stands as though dozing,
a tiger walks as though ill;
these are ploys by which they claw and bite.
(Huanchu Daoren)


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) 


May your wishes come true

Adults often act out of whims, boredom, restlessness... rather than out of necessity.
Gratification and entertainment are common motivations for action.
Mood becomes a factor.



Ben is the assistant teacher for qigong.
He has 2 years experience working directly with Sifu Waller and is making strong progress through the kung fu syllabus.
In addition to attending evening classes, Ben takes every opportunity for additional practice.
A regular visitor to his instructor's house, he likes to go to boot camp, workshops and private lessons.
As a medical doctor, Ben is fascinated by the taijiquan use of the human body.


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! An amazing functional system taught by one of the best instructors in the world. 

Sifu Waller's understanding and knowledge is outstanding. The syllabus is both deep and broad allowing a structured development of each student as they progress. This is a martial art that is subtle and effective, using body structure and biodynamics to achieve success. 

Anyone that thinks Taiji is for old people has clearly no idea what the total art is about. I can highly recommend this class for anyone with the passion and dedication to learn a true martial art.


The right thing

If a child said that they did not want to brush their teeth, flush the toilet or go to school, a parent might gently persuade the child to 'do the right thing'.
As an adult, we often have the luxury of determining for ourselves what we want to do.
This is not always a good thing.


Expressing the teaching

Being an assistant teacher is a challenge; it requires the student to articulate skills and ideas in a way that makes sense to other people.
This requires considerable effort.
Much of what is learned is not fully understood, and the act of expressing it to somebody else is not be easy.



Karen is the assistant teacher for the tai chi for fitness syllabus.
She has been with the school for 5 years. Her main interests are tai chi, qigong, Taoist Yogamassage, core strengthcardio work and psoas exercises.
When Karen first came to class she had very stiff elbows and really bad back/shoulder ache from her job as a screenwriter.
After working with Sifu Waller (and taking responsibility by practicing every day) Karen was able to release the tension from her elbows entirely and rid herself of the back/shoulder pain.
As a consequence of her enthusiasm, Karen has significantly increased her strength, suppleness, flexibility, balance, as well as improving her poise and mobility.


Rachel I want to thank yourself and Sifu Waller for the school. The art is taught in such a surprising and lively way, every class feels like a new and wonderful beginning!




Assistant teachers all possess qualities necessary for tai chi instruction:
  1. Friendly and personable
  2. Interested in other people
  3. Caring
  4. Reliable
  5. Earnest
  6. Committed
  7. Trustworthy
  8. Genuine
  9. Punctual
  10. Motivated
While the teachings of a martial tradition may be recorded in scrolls or expressed verbally, those outside the tradition who gain access to this information have little chance of learning much of practical value.

Such instructions invariably consist of vague references or riddle-like aphorisms.

These cryptic axioms suffice for the conveying of deep secrets because the martial artist who receives them properly has spent an enormous amount of time apprenticing under his master.

They have in common, teacher and student, the specialized vocabulary of their tradition, as well as similar experience in the physical actions demanded in learning it.

The teachings, however, opaque they may appear to the outsider, have meaning to the initiate and his master because the two have endured the long process of training together.

(Dave Lowry)
Good morning Rachel,

I just wanted to again express my thanks to you for inviting me into your home and to Sifu Waller a truly inspiring workshop. I can say that it was one of the most educational and enjoyable workshops I have ever attended, and I've been doing martial arts since I was 15!

Please pass on my thanks to Sifu Waller for allowing me to attend even though I am ungraded, I really appreciated the opportunity.



Marc is the assistant teacher for the tai chi for health syllabus.
He has 10 years practice behind him. A good friend of Sifu Waller, Marc likes to attend boot camp, workshops and private lessons.
By gentlypatientlymoderately working on his taijiquan over many years, Marc has succeeded in developing a considerable amount of whole-body strength.
In class, Marc likes to help beginners work through their form pattern and partner work.
Easygoing and modest, Marc is very approachable and friendly to work with.


Most studies agree that there are a number of key personality characteristics that are important for healthy aging: easygoing, cheerful, self-confident, adaptable, active, independent, creative, happy, relaxed, satisfied, calm, open, agreeable, conscientious, sociable and having a high tolerance for frustration being mentioned most often.

 The traits that lead to an unhealthy, shorter life? Being repressed, dogmatic, stubborn, hostile, neurotic, angry, guilty, sad, fearful, anxious, depressed and aggressive.

 (Dr Bradley Wilcox, Dr Craig Wilcox and Dr Makoto Suzuki)
The website is truly a thing of wonder. I get lost in it - it’s a bit like going travelling and constantly coming across unexpected delights that enlighten and open up further doors to different pathways. It has a beautifully organic feel to it.



In this world there are two times.
 There is the mechanical time and there is body time...
 The first is unyielding, predetermined.
 The second makes up its mind as it goes along...
 Each time is true, but the truths are not the same.



Can I just thank Sifu and yourself for continuing to make the sessions so enjoyable on so many levels.... 



With today's round-the-clock access to news we can now receive a twenty-four-hours-a-day parade of mostly negative information about random shootings, drug wars, environmental disasters, racially motivated hate crimes, rampaging serial killers, and gruesome sex crimes. As they say in the world of television news production, "If it bleeds, it leads." The news, in fact, has become so stressful that health experts recommend 'news fasts' to improve psychological health.

 (Dr Bradley Wilcox, Dr Craig Wilcox and Dr Makoto Suzuki)



Dr Michael Greger (author of How Not To Die) recommends 90 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day.
Tai chi neatly fulfils this requirement. 


Lazy students are often after quick results and will happily cut corners. Taijiquan is not an “easy pastime”, it requires hard work and commitment to learn effectively.

(Alex House)



There are 3 areas of fitness:

1. Cardio
2. Strength
3. Flexibility

In order to exercise the body properly, you need to gain aptitude in all 3 areas.

Many people can lift heavy weights but they are not flexible/breathing hard after mild cardio.
This is not good enough for a comprehensive training approach.


Fine motor skills

The repetitive nature of many 'adult toys' (mobile phones, tablets, video games) dulls the nervous system; causing a decrease in sensitivity.

If you want to improve fine motor control, you would be better off washing the dishes by hand rather than playing with your smart phone.

Doing craft work or building and painting a model demands fine motor skills.
By contrast, tapping a screen is simply not the same...


People often like to fiddle with things.
Fiddling reflects an agitated, bored, restless state of mind.

It is quite common to believe that fiddling with electronic devices such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets or video games will improve your motor skills...
But is this true?

Chapter 6 details the immense benefits of daily tai chi practice


A few other guys were watching a teacher of taijiquan. Never had I witnessed such deceptive power. He performed the Art with enormous dignity and force, and I realised I was seeing something which, although I could not understand, I had to respect. Mr Wang was at least fifty, and probably older. His power was fantastic.

I once asked Nakayama if he thought karate was the best of the unarmed fighting arts. He answered that he thought it was. In that case, I countered, what about taijiquan? Nakayama sensei laughed, and with a smile he said, "For human beings, karate is the best way. But there are some men who are superhuman, and perhaps a few of the taijiquan sensei are just that."
(C W Nicol)


Even in our most basic actions, such as sitting, bending and standing, we have developed habits which lead us into an inaccurate assessment of the effort needed.

(Michael J Gelb) 
We are checking our smartphones on average 221 times a day. Recent research found that 80 percent of millennials look at their phones upon waking; this addiction is a strong one. As a result, our cognitive processing has become shallower and we have become so distracted that we play directly into the hands of the autopilot. Digital devices are the modern day equivalent of tranquillisers. They instil a trance-like state almost immediately as they are anchors for our subconscious to take over. 
(Chris Barez-Brown)

After a long day at work I might commit 45-60 minutes to watching something we've rented or bought on DVD. Occasionally a movie. It is supposed to be relaxing; a way to unwind from dealing with the trials and tribulations of my day job... Yet, so many modern films are really quite miserable. Last night we tried to watch Collateral Beauty. Big mistake. It was a bunch of actors talking about bereavement and cancer. Hey, I encounter the real thing at work. And worse. Why do I want to watch an actor pretend that they care? DVDs should have more detailed classification on the back of them. If you rent/buy Moana, it's going to be pretty safe. But even a so-called 'rom-com' nowadays involves trauma/upset/death/misery... Why? If I wanted to be miserable I'd watch the news.

Sifu said that he thinks that films/TV should either entertain, educate or enlighten. I agree with him but it is exceedingly rare to encounter anything that educates or enlightens.



We will be closed Monday 9th October as the hall is unavailable.


Form application

Students usually find taijiquan form applications to be difficult to understand and learn.
The reasons why are straightforward:
  1. They don't know the form itself well enough
  2. They are not using their body in a whole-body way
  3. Applications are being perceived as techniques
  4. The student is attempting to employ 'external' methodology to an internal martial art
  5. The mental representation of the taijiquan principles/combat approach etc is not fully formed 
These problems can best be remedied through diligent study and practice.


5 mins = £100?

Imagine if you were told that 5 minutes tai chi training would earn you £100...
Would you do the exercises? Of course you would.

Yet, people are told that daily home practice = good health, fitness and better quality of life... and they dismiss it.

This illustration shows how many people value an obvious monetary reward but are unwilling to appreciate the value of health, vitality and fitness.


Losing the natural curvature

Instead of relaxing the lower back and allowing the pelvis to remain neutral, many people shorten the lower back.
The spine loses its natural curvature and becomes weaker; more vulnerable to injury.
They are typically unaware of this habit because it is 'familiar' and seems 'normal' to them.
Releasing the lower back is easy. However, you need to monitor it repeatedly throughout the day until it becomes an established habit.


THE TOPS OF the mountains beyond the lake were in dark, heavy clouds, but the shores of the lake were in the sun. It was early spring, and the sun wasn't warm. The trees were still bare, their branches naked against the blue sky; but they were beautiful in their nakedness. They could wait with patience and certainty, for the sun was upon them, and in a few weeks more they would be covered with tender green leaves. A little path by the lake turned off through the woods, which were mostly evergreens; they extended for miles, and if you went far enough along that path you came to an open meadow, with trees all around it. It was a beautiful spot, secluded and far away. A few cows were sometimes grazing in the meadow, but the tinkling of their bells never seemed to disturb the solitude or take away the feeling of distance, of loneliness and familiar seclusion. A thousand people might come to that enchanted place, and when they had left, with their noise and litter, it would have remained unspoiled, alone and friendly. That afternoon the sun was on the meadow, and on the tall, dark trees that stood around it, carved in green, stately, without movement. With your preoccupations and inward chatter, with your mind and eyes all over the place, restlessly wondering if the rain would catch you on your way back, you felt as though you were trespassing, not wanted there; but soon you were part of it, part of that enchanted solitude. There were no birds of any kind; the air was completely still, and the tops of the trees were motionless against the blue sky. The lush green meadow was the centre of this world, and as you sat on a rock, you were part of that centre. It wasn't imagination; imagination is silly. It wasn't that you were trying to identify yourself with what was so splendidly open and beautiful; identification is vanity. It wasn't that you were trying to forget or abnegate yourself in this unspoiled solitude of nature; all self-forgetful abnegation is arrogance. It wasn't the shock or the compulsion of so much purity; all compulsion is a denial of the true. You could do nothing to make yourself, or help yourself to be, part of that wholeness. But you were part of it, part of the green meadow, the hard rock, the blue sky and the stately trees. It was so. You might remember it, but then you would not be of it; and if you went back to it, you would never find it.

Another reason to move slowly and gently is to allow yourself time to approach movement in an exploratory and curious manner, and to put a great deal of attention on the subtle details of the movement. Becoming more coordinated is essentially a matter of rewiring the neural circuits that control movement, which is an example of a very fashionable process called “neuroplasticity.” Neuroplasticity simply means the brain’s ability to change. According to Michael Merzenich and other prominent neuroscientists, attention and awareness are major preconditions for neuroplasticity to occur. In other words, your brain is much more likely to get better at a certain activity if you are paying close attention while doing it. Slow movement can help your ability to pay attention to exactly what you are doing when you are doing it.

 (Todd Hargrove)


Motor learning

For many people, their fitness regime does not take into account 'motor learning'.
Motor learning is about the process of using the body, rather than simply exercising the body.

Agilitymobility, relaxed spontaneous movement, balance, structure, alignment, biomechanics, efficiency, ambidextrous body use, joint health, coordinationskillemotional wellbeing or psychological flexibility.
The balanced approach is to combine exercise with motor learning.


There are several excellent reasons to use slow and gentle movement as a means to develop coordination. Probably the most interesting reason (I'll start with that one) is based on an obscure principle called the Weber Fechner rule. The Weber Fechner rule describes the relationship between the magnitude of a particular stimulus and the brain's ability to sense differences in the amount of the stimulus. The basic rule is that as you increase the stimulus, the ability to tell a difference in the amount of the stimulus decreases. This is a very common sense idea. Imagine you are in a dark room with only one candle lit. It will be very easy to sense the difference when one additional candle is lit. But if you are in a room with two hundred candles, you will have no idea when an extra candle comes on.

 This rule works for all varieties of sensory perception, including sensations of muscular effort. So, imagine you are holding a one pound potato in your hand while blindfolded. If a fly landed on the weight you would not know the difference, but if a little bird landed you would know. Now imagine holding a fifty pound potato. You wouldn't be able to feel the little bird landing. It would have to be an eagle. The point is that when you increase the weight from one pound to fifty pounds, you become about fifty times less sensitive to changes in the amount of muscular force you are using to lift the weight.

 (Todd Hargrove)


Visit other classes

It is easy to assume that your martial art is 'the best' and to dismiss all other arts.
This is also naive.
Have you been to other classes?
What are they teaching? How are they teaching it? How skilled are the students? Is their technical knowledge advanced or simplistic?

Go find out for yourself.