Saturday

Delusional

People love to show off their tattoos.
Why? Did they design them? Did they ink them?
Unlikely.
They simply purchased them.
The artist may deserve credit, but not the consumer.

The same would be true if you bought a 'prestige car' - did you design it? Build it?

Friday

In addition to clumsy shoulder hunching when lifting, almost universally there is a lack of variety in what we do. You can become tethered one way and develop a degree of forward stoop of the upper back.

(Sarah Key)

Aesthetics

Sword forms may well be beautiful to watch and entertaining. This is fine.
As such, they represent an art form. In much the same way as dance.
However, it is quite another matter to train a sword as though it represented some measure of self defence.
We are not living in the past.
Modern times require modern methods of combat.
A sword is not a viable means of defending yourself in the 21st Century.

Thursday

Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarrelled with him?
(Blaise Pascal)

Contemporaneous

Sword forms were invented to address the needs of the 16th Century not the 21st.
Your modern urban opponent carries a baseball bat, knife, screwdriver or gun. Not a sword. 
You will not be carrying a sword either.
Swords were once the favoured combat weapon.
The martial arts which grew around swordplay were a necessary and relevant area of study.
The sword skills were literally a matter of life and death.
Not any more.

Wednesday

Common

Virtually every tai chi school in the UK is teaching 'tai chi for health'.
Usually there is no real syllabus and the material is simplistic.
Some classes may advertise themselves as 'taijiquan' but are in fact teaching tai chi for health.

Tuesday

Finding a class

When a new starter scours the web looking for the Art they are faced with an array of approaches that are all called 'tai chi' but are often quite dissimilar.
In truth, there is often little consensus
.
It is important to find out for yourself what taijiquan really means.
There was a samurai who had a rat in his house and could not get rid of it. He acquired a superb cat, stalwart and robust. But the rat was quicker and simply made a fool of it. Then the samurai got another cat, more cunning and astute. But the rat was on his guard and hid except when the cat was asleep. Then a Zen monk from a nearby temple lent the samurai his own cat, the most ordinary-looking cat you could imagine, that spent all its time drowsing and napping and paid no attention to anything around it. The samurai shrugged and said the cat was no good, but the monk insist he keep it. So the cat stayed and slept and slept, and soon the rat grew bold again and began trotting forth right in front of the cat, which showed absolutely no interest in it. Then one day, with one swipe of its paw, it caught the rat and pinned it down. Strength of body and technical skill are nothing, without vigilance of mind!

 (Taisen Deshimaru)

Friday

Alive

Taijiquan does not exist apart from you.
It is not separate - like a car.
It cannot be inked onto you - like a tattoo.

Your own body brings the Art to life and the quality of what you produce is created entirely and only by you.
Some styles of tai chi contain all of the information about how the physical body works so that the sophistication of the movements can really go deep into your body. But other styles of tai chi lack this component. Their movements are very loose and are not very sophisticated when looked at from a purely physical perspective. This usually happens because the people who learned did so just by watching someone and mimicking what they did, and were not able to learn the finer aspects of the movement.

 (Bruce Frantzis)

Thursday

The outcome

The quality of your taijiquan is directly proportionate to the degree to which you invest in the Art.
If you are a 'toe dipper' - a tourist - then you will never get very far.
Only by plunging fully into the training can you hope to gain real skill
.
An understanding of taijiquan requires commitment, sincerity, humility and a lifetime of practice.

Wednesday

The technically learnable part of it must be practiced to the point of repletion.

 
(Eugen Herrigel)

Tuesday

Ability

Taijiquan is akin to playing a piano.
The Art exists to the degree that you can produce the skills using your own body.
If you cannot move in a graceful, nimble, coordinated, agile, functional and pragmatic manner... there will be no music.
The quality of the taijiquan is entirely determined by you. It cannot be bought or bullied into existence
.

Monday

Skill

Skills are not like commodities.
They cannot be bought.
If you buy a piano it doesn't just play itself. You have to do the work yourself.
The quality
of the music is entirely contingent upon how skilfully you personally can play that piano.

Friday

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)

Thursday

Using your arm badly involves poor stabilisation of the scapula through under-activity. At the same time, there is over-activity of the upper trapezius. When lifting, the scapula fails to stay glued to the back of the chest wall. It puts the small muscles of the rotator cuff to greater effort but, by making the neck muscles contribute, it causes chronic neck strain.

(Sarah Key)

Wednesday

Wrong muscle use

The muscles supporting the shoulder are not very strong when you compare them to the enormous muscles of the legs and buttocks.
Poor use of scapula and limited core strength lead to misuse of the shoulder.

Tuesday

Tai chi for health

Faced with a major health crisis in the 1950's, the People's Republic of China turned to Yang style taijiquan for a solution.
They wanted a form of exercise that could be performed by students of all ages.

The simplest way to achieve this was to remove the more demanding fitness component and the kung fu (combat).

Most modern tai chi classes are teaching an Art that an old person could cope with...
By definition this cannot conceivably be a martial art.

Monday

How long do I need to train? Many people have asked me. And I answer, "Until you die. " They're not very happy with that answer. In the West people want to learn fast; some people think once is enough. But the dojo is not like a university. You have to practice until you die.

(Taisen Deshimaru)

Friday

Health problems

Many modern people have unhealthy shoulders.
Frequently the shoulders are rounded forwarded, frozen, suffer a rotator cuff injury or shortened trapezius muscles (gym shoulders). Most of these problems are the outcome of lifestyle choices.

Thursday

Hard work

A person who wants to get fit normally has a positive mental attitude and fully expects to have to work to get fit.
Students with health problems are seldom willing to take responsibility for their own wellbeing
.

Commodity culture

We live in a world where people are used to buying things.
If you want a tattoo, you pay someone to ink it for you.
If you want a flashy car, you go out and buy one.


The drawback with this is that people mistakenly believe that buying something means more than it does...

Wednesday

Myths

The modern perception of tai chi for health revolves around the idea that tai chi will miraculously heal up all ailments.
Without any real exercisediet or lifestyle change.
Like some sort of elixir.
This is a very pleasant fantasy albeit somewhat ludicrous

Tuesday

We want to scale the steepest cliffs to lofty heights.
 But forget about ambition;
 get on with the work of climbing,
 this is what the sages tell us.
 Vinegar has its own sweetness.

 
(Loy Ching-Yuen)

Monday

You can use many techniques to gain strength but not all of them are appropriate for fighting.

 (Frederic Delavier)

Thursday

Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger.
 What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?
 Look at the strength of your body, the desire in your heart.
 

 (Conan the Barbarian) 

How much does Sifu Waller train?

Sifu Waller trains over 2 hours a day of taijiquan, baguazhang & qigong, 365 days a year. He has been practicing since 1975.

Monday - balls & grips, massage, ba duan jin, leg stretches (set 1), psoas exercises, sword forms (2), Long Yang (empty form) (regular & mirrored), pao chui form (regular & mirrored), small san sau (regular & mirrored), silk arms (regular & mirrored), pre-emptive methods (regular & mirrored), knife drills (regular & mirrored), small stick drills (regular & mirrored), pushing peng exercise, chin na applications (solo), sealing the breath (solo), 3-tier wallbag, mother palms, baguazhang palm changes (regular & mirrored), Taoist Yoga (set 1, 2 or 3), constructive rest - ideally two to three times a day, reading, walking or cycling

Tuesday - balls & grips, massage, reeling silk exercises, leg stretches (set 2), sword forms (2), Long Yang (empty form) (regular & mirrored), pao chui form (regular & mirrored), small san sau (regular & mirrored), silk arms (regular & mirrored), pre-emptive methods (regular & mirrored), knife drills (regular & mirrored), small stick drills (regular & mirrored), double pushing hands (solo), chin na applications (solo), dividing the muscle (solo), 3-tier wallbag, direction changes, baguazhang palm changes (regular & mirrored), cardio work (set 1), weight training (set 1), Taoist Yoga (set 1, 2 or 3), constructive rest - ideally two to three times a day, reading, walking or cycling

Wednesday - balls & grips, massage, moving qigong, leg stretches (set 1), core strength (set 1), stick drills (set 1), stick forms (3), Long Yang (empty form) (regular & mirrored), pao chui form (regular & mirrored), small san sau (regular & mirrored), silk arms (regular & mirrored), pre-emptive methods (regular & mirrored), knife drills (regular & mirrored), small stick drills (regular & mirrored), da lu (solo), chin na applications (solo), cavity press (solo), 3-tier wallbag, circle walking, baguazhang palm changes (regular & mirrored), Taoist Yoga (set 1, 2 or 3), constructive rest - ideally two to three times a day, reading, walking or cycling

Thursday - balls & grips, massage, stretches & joint work, leg stretches (set 2), stick drills (set 2), sword forms (2), Long Yang (empty form) (regular & mirrored), pao chui form (regular & mirrored), small san sau (regular & mirrored), silk arms (regular & mirrored), pre-emptive methods (regular & mirrored), knife drills (regular & mirrored), small stick drills (regular & mirrored), penetrating defences, shuai jiao applications (solo), sealing the breath (solo), 3-tier wallbag, figure of 8, baguazhang palm changes (regular & mirrored), cardio work (set 2), weight training (set 2), Taoist Yoga (set 1, 2 or 3), constructive rest - ideally two to three times a day, reading, walking or cycling

Friday - balls & grips, massage, ba duan jin, leg stretches (set 1), core strength (set 2), stick drills (set 3), stick forms (3), Long Yang (empty form) (regular & mirrored), pao chui form (regular & mirrored), small san sau (regular & mirrored), silk arms (regular & mirrored), pre-emptive methods (regular & mirrored), knife drills (regular & mirrored), small stick drills (regular & mirrored), reflex drills, shuai jiao applications (solo), dividing the muscle (solo), 3-tier wallbag, 9 palaces, baguazhang palm changes (regular & mirrored), Taoist Yoga (set 1, 2 or 3), constructive rest - ideally two to three times a day, reading, walking or cycling

Saturday - balls & grips, massage, reeling silk exercises, leg stretches (set 2), sword drills, sword forms (2), Long Yang (empty form) (regular & mirrored), pao chui form (regular & mirrored), small san sau (regular & mirrored), silk arms (regular & mirrored), pre-emptive methods (regular & mirrored), knife drills (regular & mirrored), small stick drills (regular & mirrored), double pushing hands (solo), shuai jiao applications (solo), cavity press (solo), 3-tier wallbag, baguazhang palm changes (regular & mirrored), cardio work (set 1 or 2), weight training (set 3), Taoist Yoga (set 1, 2 or 3), constructive rest - ideally two to three times a day, reading, walking or cycling

Sunday - balls & grips, massage, moving qigong, leg stretches (set 1), core strength (set 3), stick forms (3),Long Yang (empty form) (regular & mirrored), pao chui form (regular & mirrored), small san sau (regular & mirrored), silk arms (regular & mirrored), pre-emptive methods (regular & mirrored), knife drills (regular & mirrored), small stick drills (regular & mirrored), da lu (solo), shuai jiao applications (solo), dividing the muscle (solo), 3-tier wallbag, baguazhang palm changes (regular & mirrored), Taoist Yoga (set 1, 2 or 3), constructive rest - ideally two to three times a day, reading, walking or cycling

Sifu Waller also trains partner work with his wife Rachel (that's me).

Wednesday

Fantasy

A lot of new starters have a fantasy idea of themselves performing complex martial arts movements involving excellent choreography, strength and skill.
There is just one problem with this...
Their own body lets them down.

Tuesday

When a student is good, becoming better than his fellows, his pride must be destroyed, he must be driven without mercy so that his spirit and skill will not suffer from conceit.

 (C W Nicol)

Monday

Myths

When taijiquan came to the West, a lot of people got this idea that a few qigong exercises, pushing hands and form would provide combat skill.
This myth prevails today in most tai chi classes.
It is hopelessly naive.

Friday

Patience is the ability to wait without experiencing anger, anxiety or frustration.

 
(Dale Carnegie)

Thursday

Moderation

It is OK to train a wide range of exercise methods without ruining your taijiquan.
The key concern is moderation.
Avoid over-doing it: over-stretchingstraining or exerting.
Be mindful of posture, poise and tension.

Wednesday

Congruent

Sifu Waller has designed the syllabus such that everything works together.
There is no discord between different facets of the curriculum.
Every exercise, drill and form works in conjunction with everything else.
The entire syllabus follows the teachings of Taoism and The Tai Chi Classics.
All areas of study are in harmony.

Tuesday


Modules

These training methods are systematically taught as the student works through our curriculum:
  1. Standing qigong (various)
  2. Moving qigong (4 sets)
  3. Form (8)
  4. Solo drills (various)
  5. Partnered drills (various)
  6. Weapons drills (various)
  7. Balls & grips
  8. Leg stretches (2 sets)
  9. Psoas exercises (4)
  10. Floor exercises (3 sets)
  11. Cardio work (2 sets)
  12. Taoist Yoga (4 sets)
  13. Neigong (50)

Monday

Modular

Sifu Waller's approach to strength training is to offer modules; each lasting 5-10 minutes approximately.
They 
are intense and focussed.
The aim is to avoid complacency and boredom.

Friday

No shortcuts

To reach a high level of skill, the taijiquan student needs to take a lesson from sport
They must become a martial athlete.
The training doesn't get easier. You get stronger. But only if you practice.

Thursday

Get fit

To get fit for combat a martial arts student must commit to different training methods designed to encourage the maximum muscular development for the least amount of time commitment and effort.
Also, they cannot afford to bulk up. Body building will impede mobility and agility.
Suppleness, nimbleness, flexibility and cardiovascular health are vital.

If a fighter is panting for breath after 10 minutes of cardio, they are not fit enough for combat.

Wednesday

The norm

Most martial arts recognise the need to get fit.
Consequently, they include a very extensive range of stretching, cardio and strength building exercises in their warm-up.
Taijiquan classes usually do not.
This is odd.
Maybe they imagine that qi is going to fill in the blanks?

Tuesday

Qi magic?

Taijiquan practice, neigong, form and baguazhang will certainly build much stronger, necessary muscles... but the training only goes so far.
Between a 
MMA fighter and a taijiquan student there is a dangerous fitness gulf that no amount of qi will fill.

Monday

Do more qigong?

Doing extra qigong won't help you to build truly versatile combat fitness. 
More of the same will not lead to growth and versatility. 
You will max out quite soon
.