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.