the world beyond?

so many movies and tv series address the theme of there being another reality just beyond the reach of 'ordinary' folk
films ranging from the harry potter series to the last witchhunter or constantine or the matrix all tease the existence of something more

it is a very common theme
the yearning for something beyond the mundane
a sense that there is more to life than work a house a family holidays a pension a dog and then death

people occasionally have a 'mid-life crisis' - a reaction to the perceived limitations of the life they have carefully crafted or accepted
others indulge in fantasy beliefs - unicorns and auras - chakras and qi

but this yearning is founded on a truth
there is more than your job your house your possessions
it is not to be found in shangri-la or a monastery or a fairy dell

those who lack wisdom are convinced that they are truly awake
 they think they understand what is happening
 they think that the king is really the king
 and the servants are really servants
 (chuang tzu)

taoism and zen are about seeing the actuality of life
the really real
this is not some make believe world where hogwarts exists but rather the actual world that we are encouraged not to notice

why are we blinded?
a distracted person is anxious greedy confrontational and competitive
they spend money and accumulate
they buy insurance and indulge in one-upmanship

meditation is about rooting your consciousness in the immediate
in the moment
and seeing rather than looking

often taijiquan students are amazed by what they find themselves able to do
by simple biomechanical insights and skills
how a slight adjustment can significantly increase or drain power

lao tzu even wrote a book about it
as did chuang tzu and so many others

taijiquan is about discovering the is-ness of reality
and using it to your advantage
in everyday life and in combat

the journey is a fascinating one
and as lao tzu pointed out - you don't need to go to china to find reality - because it is already right in front of you

"welcome to the real world neo"


Other definitions

Temper is more than just anger. It has other definitions:
  1. Improve the hardness and elasticity of steel by reheating and then cooling it
  2. Serve as a neutralizing or counterbalancing force
  3. Tune a piano so as to adjust the note intervals correctly
Consider what these words indicate.



If you have lost your temper, what is it you have lost?Balance.

Emotions are the biochemical reactions experienced by your body in response to stimuli.
In order to re-gain your temper, you need to let these bodily chemicals settle.

The main thing to do is to stop. Do not perpetuate your loss of temper.
Negative emotions have a harmful effect upon the body and can lead to long-term physiological and psychological damage.


Working with others in class

If you cannot maintain emotional balance when working with other people, you become a liability.
In martial arts training, you may be roughed-up, struck or thrown to the floor.
These events can cause alarm.
Even so, the student must retain composure.

Losing your temper when practicing vigorous partner work with other people means that you no longer have your partner's welfare in mind.
You are thinking only about yourself.
This makes you clumsy, careless and potentially reckless.


Calm down

If you need to be by yourself for a little while, and cool down, then go somewhere quiet.
But avoid brooding.
Instead of festering and stewing, blaming and raging... be more constructive.

Why are you acting like this?
What is it that annoyed you so much?
Are you possibly over-reacting?
Could you be the one who is at fault?
Is it worth fighting about?



Seeking to win and one-up another person can set you down a path that leads only to destruction.
Things will not and cannot always go your way.
It may be wiser to seek common ground.

'Give and take' is a healthy, adult approach.
Cooperation is far healthier than conflict.
Aim to work together.
Work with the other person, not against them.



In martial arts practice, it is necessary for a student to remain composed at all times.
The maxim is simple: master self before attempting to master others.
Self defence practice trains the individual to cope with stress and danger. To keep a cool head.


Morning song

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
 The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
 Took its place among the elements.

 Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
 In a drafty museum, your nakedness
 Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

 I'm no more your mother
 Than the cloud that distils a mirror to reflect its own slow
 Effacement at the wind's hand.

All night your moth-breath
 Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
 A far sea moves in my ear.

 One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
 In my Victorian nightgown.
 Your mouth opens clean as a cat's. The window square
 Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
 Your handful of notes;
 The clear vowels rise like balloons.

 (Sylvia Plath)

Do not brood

Brooding is very unhealthy.
It perpetuates your loss of temper and can lead to an unpleasant outburst at a later time.
You could over-react to a minor irritation.
You may be snappy or curt, off-hand or abrupt.

The thing to remember about brooding is that other people can see that you are brooding.
The surliness is not a secret.

It is far healthier to talk about whatever is troubling you.
Attempt to broach the subject gently and tactfully, without sounding opinionated, defensive or judgemental.
Seek to convey your feelings rationally.


Does tai chi involve physical contact?

Yes it does.

Tai chi students explore qigong, form and partner work.
Qigong and form are solo training methods. Partner work involves training with other students.

Physical contact is necessary
in order to receive feedback (tense/relaxed/connected etc) and to practice the tai chi skills.

Some tai chi schools may offer non-contact classes but we do not.


A disagreement can be a good thing.
It can lead to the airing of an issue. 

Hearing both sides - different perspectives - can be healthy and beneficial.
It can lead to a greater understanding and perhaps a resolution.

Be open-minded.
Putting yourself in the other person's shoes may help you to recognise that your own actions may not have been ideal.



You do not have to agree with everyone else all the time. Why should you?But allow that you may not be 'in the right'.
It may be you that is at fault. Or maybe no one is at fault?
Your loss of temper may be due to your embarrassment at being wrong.
Instead of conceding your error, you become defensive and hostile.
That is called 'pride', with a touch of arrogance.


Negative thoughts

Loss of temper is a psychological reaction; it is caused by your thoughts.

This means that you have a choice concerning your own behaviour.
It is not necessary to lose your temper.

Try meditation, contemplation or reading book about your problem. Find constructive ways to avoid conflict.


Losing your temper

Losing your temper entails a loss of control.
The emotional reaction to a situation overrides reason and you act in an irrational, hostile, perhaps even violent manner.
Rash, ill-considered action can lead to undesirable consequences.


Sifu Waller's classes

Our classes are a forum for discovery. They operate as workshops for experimenting with tai chi.

If you want to just come along and copy, you are in the wrong school.

We want you to undertake your own journey of creation.
You need to be burning with imagination and curiosity, playing with every aspect of the training - honing, adapting, changing and learning.
Making it yours.
You cannot wear somebody else's shoes. Be yourself. Do not try to be somebody else.

What is temper?

People typically associate the word 'temper' with anger. A person with a bad temper tends to get angry easily.

In the 'heat of the moment' you may say or do things you later come to regret...


An expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions and judgements simpler through knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore.
(Edward De Bono)


Bruce Lee maintained that our physical movements must express our innermost selves.
The passion and intelligence of a person should be discernible when they move.

A tai chi form reflects the awareness of the student; a beginner's form will look uncertain whereas a master's form looks confident and alive.

You must move as though surrounded by danger, yet unmoved by the threat.
The form should have dignity and grace, composure and power. 

Tai chi as a creative process

Whoever invented, developed or adapted tai chi did so in order to accomplish certain requirements.
Perhaps they sought to counter specific weapons or allow for group attacks?
Maybe certain movements simply felt better if performed differently?
We will never know.
As a student, the challenge of tai chi does not lie in the past but in the immediate.
We gain an understanding of the tai chi through the doing of it, through the creative application of the forms and drills.
How we perform the tai chi and what we do with it must be relevant to our time and our culture.
We do not live in medieval China.
People will most likely not attack you with spears, swords and metal fans.

What we do with the tai chi must be pertinent to now.
It is essential to breathe life into our practice and discover what lies at the root of tai chi. 


 The internal arts are by nature against showmanship.
 Public demonstrations are a contradiction in terms.
 Hidden skills are meant to be concealed.
 Not paraded.

One day Banzan was walking through a market. He overheard a customer say to the butcher, "Give me the best piece of meat you have."

 "Everything in my shop is the best," replied the butcher. "You can not find any piece of meat that is not the best."

 At these words, Banzan was enlightened.



There is always the possibility that there is a simpler way to do something.
Even if that is not always the case it is always worth investing some thinking time and creative effort in trying to find a simpler approach.
(Edward De Bono)
The lightness of your step relates directly to the lightness of your energy,
emotions and thoughts and vice versa, though lightness does not mean airiness.
Every footstep must make intelligent contact with the ground.
The soles of your feet are important receptors which collect information from the ground.

(Barefoot Doctor)

Credibility problem

The lack of parity within the tai chi community means that the general public are unlikely to change their opinion regarding tai chi as a martial art.
 With so many approaches; martial and non-martial all called 'tai chi' it is quite a mess.

 By researching and studying various styles, people can easily understand the differences between tai chi approaches.
Realistically, is the average person interested enough to do this?


Is it time to free the healthy from restrictions?


No matter who your master is or how good they may seem, their art must follow tao.

Tai chi is performed in a taoist way. It follows the teachings of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu.
Understanding tao is as important as being taught good quality tai chi.

Studying tao will offer you new insights and deepen your understanding of what tai chi is about.


Leda and the swan

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By his dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
How can anybody, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins, engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

(W B Yeats)


Some people subscribe to the view that a student is defined by their master.
They believe that the student cannot exceed the instructor.

This is a 'lineage' approach and amusing when you consider people such as Einstein or Mozart.
Clearly Einstein exceeded the sum of his teacher's expertise; he is considered to be one of the most powerful thinkers of all time...
What was his physics teacher called?

Every good teacher wants the student to exceed their own limitations.



When the spine closes, it must open again and when the hips is turned one way, it must return again.
When the weight moves to one leg, it must shift back to the other.

These constant changes are at the heart of the form.
They are a necessary by-product of the way in which we use the body in tai chi.
Everything must come from and through the body, like a wave travelling through water.


swords and other weapons?

the value of swords in taijiquan is a debatable issue
in terms of self defence they are useless and illegal
but all weapons used in taijiquan do serve a function albeit not the most obvious or apparent

knife drills train whole body movement
swift changes and strong thrusts

stick and sword drills strengthen the arms and the back
the wrists in particular benefit
especially when training with a rattan stick

nimble footwork comes from the 2-person cane
eye to hand coordination increases
there is risk
the very real chance of being hit

sabre is about solid grounded footwork whilst building up to hefty chops and deep thrusts

jian is light sly and sharp

walking stick is playful and varied
with continual shifts of the weapon
all parts of the weapon are employed and the strikes are unpredictable

the small stick drills are small circle
economic and tight
exceptional wrist flexibility is required
as with the 2-person cane there is no opportunity for distraction or carelessness

weapons teach dexterity
ambidextrous body use
coordination of hand mind feet and body

they furnish the exponent with a deft grasp of physical objects
after all - weapons are inert - they are given life through your skill
through your movements


Our form must not be random.
The movements are designed to twist and turn the body to avoid incoming punches; to store power and then release, before storing once again.

Randomness is wasted motion; we seek the opposite - optimal body use at all times.
You should never move without purpose or resort to feints.

The form has its own unique rhythm.


 The internal arts hide their  secrets in the open.

 Your inability to comprehend them is a reflection of your own occluded nature.
 To unlock tai chi, you must change yourself.

 If you are not discerning and scientific in your study, years may be spent practicing material that conflicts with the Tai Chi Classics, and does not really follow the way of tai chi.

Led astray

In your quest for martial power, it is very easy to be led astray.
Gimmicks, short-cuts and secrets will promise you everything you desire.
The danger lies in the fact that you are inexperienced.

Your quest is based on your perception of what is important, of what is necessary.
To a more experienced student, those same concerns may seem irrelevant or misguided.


Your body

People are seldom comfortable with their own bodies.
A variety of outside influences make you unaware and physically awkward.
Bad habits and postural faults lead to a limited sense of feeling.
Tai chi aims to re-unite you with your body.

2-person form

Tai chi people usually work at one speed: slow.
Slowness is good for developing muscle tone, balance, control and accuracy; but will fail in combat.

If the art is to be viable in self defence, we must vary the pace constantly; stillness, motion, pauses - with no apparent rhythm.
This should not be a random process, however, for like the dancer, we must be guided by the rhythm of the movement itself and our partner.
2-person form trains broken rhythm in a pseudo-combat scenario.

Martial classes

Within classes that teach tai chi as a martial art there are many interpretations as to how the art should be applied.
 There are differences of style, perceptions of relaxation, sensitivity and softness.

 One class may teach karate-esque practice that bears little resemblance to the art outlined in the Tai Chi Classics.
 Another class may be ultra-soft and subtle.


Rhythm in combat

Combat is never neat and tidy; the pace will switch abruptly from total stillness to a sudden burst of speed.
Your rhythm must follow the way of the opponent; changing as they change, endlessly combining stillness and motion.

It is important that your solo training reflects this; uneven and never predictable.
The subtle shifts and changes found within form will produce a less predictable rhythm when faced with an opponent.

Even pace

Dancers understand rhythm but few martial artists have any idea at all.
It is very common for the form to be practiced at a steady even pace, with each movement timed by the breathing.

Yang style is different and if you seek to impose regularity on the form, you miss the point.
An even pace trains predictability, and that is the last thing we want.

Our way

There are many aspects of the syllabus that will be different to how other schools approach the material.
Every school has its own agenda and focus, and the way in which tai chi is practiced will reflect the character of the master as much as anything else.

We are keen to avoid the 'cult of the personality' and feel that the master should remain in the shadows rather than the forefront of the class.

Our syllabus follows martial science and the Tai Chi Classics, rather than the opinion of one individual.



He sat up slowly, and around his left side
all his long life's muscles ached.
His death was torn from him like caked
gauze. Rising was as hard as having died.

(Frederic Will)

Feeling rhythm

When you practice the form, you find that the movements have a certain duration.

The combination of waist, spine and weight shift lend each movement its own pace and unique character.
A long, sweeping movement could never be delivered using fa jing and a short, abrupt movement would certainly require it.

As your experience grows, you learn the rhythm of the form itself.
You must blend the rhythm of the form with the rhythm of your own body; and the synthesis of the two is your form.


Train your tai chi in desolate, quiet places. Undisturbed. Look for stillness and tranquillity.
Go outside early in the morning and you will find it, regardless of where you live.
Do not draw attention to yourself.

If tai chi was designed to be 'performed', why is it an internal art?
Why are the applications hidden within the form?
Why not show them openly?
Why is the whole-body strength commonly known as 'hidden strength'?

Think. Switch off your TV. Stop following the herd. Think for yourself.


If you went to a dojo to study aikido then in all cases you should encounter a martial arts class.
 Naturally, there may be significant differences in teaching and style, but all classes should be teaching combat.

 Now, consider this in reference to tai chi.
When you go to a tai chi class what exactly will you  encounter?

Qi fantasies

Chinese movies have long depicted qi as being an energy force projected through the hands, like lightning. This is obviously fantasy.

Unfortunately, some tai chi instructors have pretty outlandish ideas concerning qi, qigong and tai chi.
They use words like 'etheric', 'aura', 'visualising golden light'... be wary.