Lost interest?

Not many people leave class with good reason. Typically they have just lost interest.
The training is too hard, they are lazy and cannot be bothered.
This is OK.
You have a choice.
Internal martial arts practice is not for everyone.

You may wish to cease training, or you may want to find an easier class.

Strength and tension

My husband showed us this week how our perception of strength was in fact tension. Postures that we deem strong are actually stiff or resistant.

This was startling; and easily demonstrated by Sifu.

Low, sunk, deep stances felt very strong, however it was impossible to ripple the spine or shift the weight rapidly and smoothly. The only power these stances had was in the legs. Although it could be manifested through waist turns, this felt more akin to karate rather than taijiquan.

Standing almost upright, with relaxed knees, adhering to the 70/30 stance criteria meant that we were agile, mobile, nimble. The power channelled through to our fingertips.

Sifu pitched us all spontaneously and powerfully across the room. Our bodies crumpled and time seem speeded up. It was suddenly over. No one could quite reproduce the level of effect expressed by Sifu but we had some sense of his teaching.



Sifu aks a simple question and the class fires off random answers from the taijiquan glossary in the hope that one of the words or phrases hits the mark: peng, jing, groundpath etc...

The answers usually lies within the question, and in hindsight is glaringly obvious but we seldom see it when questioned. Sometimes one student seems attuned to Sifu and answers smoothly and easily. The next lesson, they are once again confused.

Physical training is not enough. We must walk, read taoist, zen, wabi-sabi literature etc. We must sit quietly an reflect. Lie down and stop. This is why Sifu possesses such accuity.


Whatever happened to...?

People occasionally see an ex-student in the supermarket and then begin wondering what happened to ex-students. They ask my husband about ex-students: does he still hear from them? Is he in contact? etc.

The truth is simple: no. Sifu has no interest whatsoever in ex-students. He never mentions them, thinks about them or keeps track of them. Sifu is rooted in the now. He is perculiarly immediate.

The only ex-student Sifu ever mentioned was Shaun Ullah, his old friend. Shaun trained everyday as Sifu's indoor student for several years before converting to Islam, getting married, and being persuaded by the mosque not to study taijiquan anymore.

It is notable that Shaun is the only ex-student noteworthy enough for conversation and memory. To the best of my knowledge all of the other ex-students were (by today's standards) just beginners. They never penetrated the art or got very far with my husband's teachings. They did not impress Sifu at all.

So many people have come and gone over the last 16 years, is it any wonder that Sifu forgets all about them?


Esoteric skills

Advanced level taijiquan self defence skills are not remotely showy. They are impossibly understated.
The attacker is felled without any real sense of what happened.
They may not even recall being touched at all. But they were touched. They simply did not notice.

Can an inexperienced student possess such power?


Open or closed centre?

If you hug a tree and bring your fingers too close together... you will feel immediate tension in the shoulders, chest and back.
The arm muscles will also tighten.

The hands need to be in front of the shoulders, otherwise your body will stiffen.


The Art of War


If a piano student wishes to move up through the grades, they must be rigorously tested.
A high standard is expected.
A wide range of technical skills must be demonstrated consistently and competently.



When you are in the valley, the peak may not seem so far away. But in the foothills, you realise that its much further away than you think.

R x



Driving a fancy/expensive car or making your house the envy of the neighbourhood is not stealthy at all.
Parading electronic devices in public is not the way.
Think instead of becoming mysterious.

Drive a boring, banal car.
Do not carry anything openly that looks expensive or eye-catching.
Let you house be entirely anonymous; your garden is not filled with 'the works' and there is no sign of evident wealth.


Sifu the inscrutable

My hubby: threshing our minds free of opinions, beliefs, habits, misconceptions. Challenging us to gain a higher state of consciousness. And failing?

Sifu really 'held down the pillow' in conversation and everyone wilted under the intense pressure of his non-bullshit quest to embrace reality. Fun, hard, and maybe a headache and the odd bruised ego!

Rachel x


Student point of view

Were an advanced-level tai chi instructor to share their deepest, most profound insights with a student, it would be a waste of breath.
Understanding requires context.

Lacking the necessary foundation, a student would dismiss the insight as irrelevant.
Because it means nothing to that person at their current level of progress.

Usually, a student has no real idea what is important in the greater context of their tai chi study.
They pick and choose based upon their own opinions, expectations and limited experience.
Pearls before swine?



I think that students grow to resent Sifu because their own skills never get closer to his. But how could they? As the student improves, Sifu improves (but faster and more extensively). There is no catching up with the instructor.



My hubby sometimes makes me think of Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. Yoda has no real interest in teaching Luke Skywalker. He knows that Luke is unlikely to complete the training, and lacks the necessary discipline, patience and commitment.

It must be hard to teach classes knowing that few students (if any) share your own enthusiasm.



Moving slowly does not alert the nervous system.
The mind ignores slowness.
It is not seen as being a threat.

Watch how a cat moves. It is silent and stealthy, cautious and vigilant.

It takes a lot more effort to move slowly. It taxes the muscles and enhances the nervous system.
You need to be in the immediate moment; aware of what is happening right now, of what you are doing right now.


A sense of perspective

An inexperienced student thinks of the martial art first, and taoism as an afterthought.

An advanced student is the other way around.
Taijiquan is an expression of taoist principles and insights.
Taoist principles must be utilised in all aspects of your life, not just in the training hall.