Frequently asked questions

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Common questions

People send
e-mails with a variety of questions. This is a sample:

  1. Does tai chi involve physical contact?

  2. What kind of tai chi do you teach?

  3. Do you teach classes for the elderly?

  4. Who can study tai chi?

  5. Why are your classes more expensive than the guy down the street?

  6. Do you allow spectators?

  7. Do you offer discounts?

  8. Do you only teach on a Monday night?

  9. Can you offer medical guidance?

  10. What is tai chi?

  11. Can I call in for a chat?

  12. Is tai chi a martial art?

  13. I want to learn tai chi as a martial art, why do I need to become a member? 

  14. Can I train tai chi alongside another martial art?

  15. Isn't tai chi just for old people?

  16. Are martial arts safe?

  17. Kiddie kung fu?

  18. Kung fu for the elderly?

  19. Isn't tai chi slow and boring?

  20. Can I come with a friend?

  21. Are you offering lessons in Heaton, Gosforth, Jesmond, Whitley Bay (wherever)?

  22. Is tai chi easy to learn?

  23. Is tai chi easy to practice?

  24. Do you offer weekend training courses?

  25. How long does it take to learn tai chi?

  26. Is tai chi just form?

  27. Can I pick the subjects/topics that appeal to me?

  28. Will tai chi help me to lose weight?

  29. Is tai chi compatible with the gym?

  30. Do we enter competitions?

  31. Do we perform public demonstrations?

  32. Which style do you teach?

  33. Can I learn tai chi using books, DVDs or YouTube?

  34. Can I be fast-track student?


  1. Can I become a tai chi teacher?

More information:

  1. A-Z

  2. Finding a tai chi class

  3. Common misconceptions

  4. Understanding

  5. How can you tell?

Most students ask too many questions too soon. An inquisitive mind is not wrong, but too much questioning often signifies that the student failed to practice enough or didn't take time to analyse and investigate the problem on his own.

(Adam Hsu)

Does tai chi involve physical contact?

Yes it does.

Tai chi classes feature 3 main areas of study: qigong, form and pushing hands/partner work.
Qigong and form are solo training methods. Partner work involves training with other students. If you are not undertaking partner work, you are not really training tai chi.
Physical contact is necessary in order to receive feedback (tense/relaxed/connected etc) and to practice the tai chi skills.

If you are not comfortable with physical contact, we recommend that you consider an alternative form of exercise or try a different tai chi school.

What kind of tai chi do you teach?

We offer 2 Yang style approaches:

  1. Old/classical Yang style tai chi chuan (dynamic balancing boxing)
    - a Chinese martial art

    - Sifu Waller teaches this
    - 'Long Yang' version

  2. Qigong & tai chi
    - for wellbeing

    - Rachel teaches this

Please note that our classes are not tailored for the elderly or for medical treatment.

Do you teach classes for the elderly?

Some tai chi classes have specialist areas of tuition e.g. t
ai chi for the elderly, tai chi in a chair, tai chi for children, tai chi for people with mental health issues or tai chi as performance art.

These are not areas that we
specialise in.

Who can study tai chi?

Qigong & tai chi

Qigong & tai chi for health can be practiced by anyone who can perform the movements. The exercises are low impact and do not strain the body. Fitness and age are not so important.

(ii) Tai chi chuan

Tai chi chuan (dynamic balancing boxing) is not suitable for everyone. If you fancy discovering martial arts you need to be realistic in terms of expectations. We reserve the right to decline tuition:

if we feel that a student is physically unable to study tai chi safely
if an individual demonstrates the wrong attitude for tai chi study

Why are your classes more expensive than the guy down the street?

Print off these pages:

  1. Authenticity

  2. Chang treatise

  3. The essence of the art

  4. Fit to teach?

  5. Wang treatise

  6. Wu treatise 

Take the sheets to another class and ask the instructor to explain and illustrate/demonstrate each facet to you. This will answer your question.

Do you allow spectators?

Being a spectator is problematic:

On what basis is the new starter assessing the tai chi?
How are they measuring the skill?
What criteria is being applied?
Which qualities do they consider to be valuable? And why?

Most people are motivated by self-gratification or by values/standards that they personally consider relevant and meaningful.

Watching a tai chi class is pointless. This is not TV. Participate, study, learn. Deep your understanding. Gain some context. A spectator in a tai chi class is a time waster.

Do you offer discounts?

Yes we do.

School members who train in the park get 30 minutes of extra tuition for their 10.

Do you only teach on a Monday night?

No. We teach throughout the week:

(i) Wednesday night

Sifu Waller offers workshops for school members every Wednesday night.
It is a 90 minute lesson.

(ii) Saturday morning

We teach indoor students on a Saturday morning.
We also offer boot camps. These take place several times a year.

(iii) Sunday morning

Sunday morning is usually tai chi in the park.
These sessions are offered relative to interest and numbers.
It is a 2 hour lesson.

(iv) Weekdays

Most of our classes are private lessons.
It is a 60 minute lesson.

Can you offer medical guidance?

We are not medical professionals. Tai chi for health was not designed to be a treatment. It was intended to improve overall health and wellbeing.
Many people have sought out our tuition in order to address specific medical concerns, but we cannot ethically claim expertise in medical matters.
Nor can we commit one-to-one time within a lesson for individual medical guidance.


What is tai chi?

This website is intended to give you some idea of what tai chi involves. However, tai chi cannot be summarised in a few words, a sentence, photographs, or in terms of something you are familiar with.
Tai chi is a physical art. To understand tai chi, you must practice tai chi.

Can I call in for a chat?

(i) Reassurances

New people often want to be reassured that the class will be to their liking.... how do we do that? We do not know the person, their tastes, expectations and preferences.
We have no idea what they are looking for.

(ii) Guarantee

It is like seeking to guarantee in advance that you will like a meal, a book, a DVD, a song or a holiday. Who knows what will happen? The risk is part of life.

(iii) Physical

Talk is cheap. Tai chi is a physical exercise. You cannot possibly understand anything about the art by chatting.

(iv) Verbal understanding

People ask more and more questions in the hope of attaining a verbal understanding or some kind of guarantee... They want the training to be tailored to suit their own personal requirements.
This is naive.

(v) Read...

If you think that words will help you, then read this website. Please do not call down to the training hall hoping for a chat. Come to train, not to chat.

Is tai chi a martial art?

Originally yes; it was developed as a system of combat.

The true science of martial arts means practicing them in such a way that they will be useful at any time, and to teach them in such a way that they will be useful in all things.

(Miyamoto Musashi)

In modern times tai chi is typically taught for exercise. Martial classes offering a complete range of skills are very rare in the UK. Sifu Waller specialises in teaching tai chi as a martial art.

I want to learn tai chi as a martial art, why do I need to become a member

Tai chi is more difficult to learn than tai chi for health. It cannot be approached haphazardly.
A clear, structured syllabus must be in place, along with a logical step-by-step teaching plan determining just how the syllabus is implemented.
Students who attend weekly and are willing to practice between lessons will find tai chi to be a challenging learning experience.

Isn't tai chi just for old people?

Qigong & tai chi for health are suitable for people who can manage to perform the movements. Please note that our tai chi classes are not tailored for the elderly or for medical treatment.

Tai chi chuan (dynamic balancing boxing) is another matter entirely and can be quite challenging. Age is a factor.

Are martial arts safe?

The British Medical Association Guide To Sports Injuries states:

Combat sports such as boxing, judo, karate or kung fu make tough demands on the body; training is intense, and participation requires all-round fitness. Regardless of the fitness of the participants, however, the aggressive blows traded between opponents means that these sports always carry a serious risk of injury.

Kiddie kung fu?

Kung fu for children is quite popular these days. We don't offers such classes. The minimum age for kung fu with our school is 18.

Kung fu for the elderly?

Our age range for new starters seeking to learn kung fu is 18-60. Providing you pass the eligibility criteria. (If you start aged 59, you don't have to stop when you reach 60).

Risks for older martial artists:

A fracture or medical emergency caused by falls or other accidents
Injury from blows to the head or body
Risk of developing arthritis from overuse or improper techniques
Possible spinal cord injury from improper techniques
Risk of developing joint pain from improper techniques
Risk of developing a concussion or other head injury
Risk of developing stress fractures in the bones due to physical activity

Doing martial arts is rough on the body. Many martial artists suffer injuries. This is why over-50's eligibility is strict. It has to be. For the safety of the student. Ultimately, we always act with the safety and wellbeing of the student in mind.

Some martial arts schools offer programs tailored for the over 60's. We do not. Teaching martial arts to new starters over the age of 60 requires specialised training and insurance cover for this type of practice.
Most adults can train qigong & tai chi though.

To get the most out of martial arts training, finding a tailored program for older adults is essential. Some standard features that may be important for older adults include shorter classes with more repetitions, modifications for those with disabilities, and instructor certification in geriatric martial arts.

(Graying With Grace)

Isn't tai chi slow and boring?

Some tai chi exercises are slow, whilst others are not. Tai chi chuan (dynamic balancing boxing) training starts slowly and then speeds up as the student becomes more skilled.
A good class will always have a comprehensive syllabus in place; ensuring on-going development and access to new material.
The training challenges your
mind with unexpected insights, skills and possibilities. No two lessons are the same.

Can I come with a friend?

Training with a friend or partner can be useful in terms of motivation, pooling knowledge and practicing at home.

Are you offering lessons in Heaton, Gosforth, Jesmond, Whitley Bay (wherever)?

Our new starter class is listed on the website. The Monday night class is the only session suitable for people who are new to our school.

Is tai chi easy to learn?

Everyone is different. Some people pick things up quickly whilst others require more time. A good tai chi school will have a tried and tested syllabus in place.
By systematically learning one skill at a time, the student gradually accrues information, gains physical awareness and increases the range and scope of their understanding.
But this does not happen overnight. There is a considerable amount of information to learn. It must be revised, refined, honed and practiced thoroughly.

Is tai chi easy to practice?

Qigong & tai chi for health movements are not physically strenuous and will not strain or tax the body. However, easy or difficult are relative to the individual.
It depends on memory, coordination, patience and how committed you are. Also, there is the question of how fit you are to begin with.

Tai chi chuan (dynamic balancing boxing) is much harder to learn and requires a greater commitment to practice. You cannot reasonably hope to understand tai chi overnight.
The art is very in-depth, with many levels of skill and achievement. There is always more to uncover...

Do you offer weekend training courses?

Some endeavours offer a weekend training course and then give attendees some sort of 'certificate' stating that they're good enough to teach other people. This sounds like some sort of joke, doesn't it?
Imagine if driving instructors received their qualifications this way? Dentists? Doctors? Electricians?

Tai chi and qigong are more akin to learning to play the guitar, piano or performing ballet on stage. The level of skill required to do it properly will take quite a lot of time to develop.
Tai chi is a whole different situation. Traditional martial arts have a much more complex curriculum and nobody below 3rd dan black belt would dream of training to be an instructor.


How long does it take to learn tai chi?

There is no conclusion to tai chi study; no end certificate or finishing point. Tai chi was designed to be part of your life; something that you do regularly.
Your body must last you a lifetime and tai chi will help to accomplish this. How quickly you progress is down to you personally. Everyone is different. There are so many variables.

  1. Do your ambitions match your degree of commitment and ability?

  2. How often do you attend lessons?

  3. Do you practice at home?

  4. How good is your memory?

  5. Are your coordinated?

  6. What are your expectations?

  7. Did you think it would be easy?

  8. Are you open and receptive?

  9. Have you any existing health problems that might impede training?

  10. Are you patient?

How long does it take to learn to play the guitar? How many lessons are needed to speak Japanese? Obviously it depends upon your purpose. Do you want to be the next Segovia or Clapton, or just to play a few simple tunes? Do you intend to translate haiku, or are you simply preparing for a two-week vacation? Although the skill of your teacher and your talent level will certainly influence your progress, the duration and intensity of your study will be determined ultimately by the level of expertise that you seek.

(Michael Gelb)

Is tai chi just form?

Form is just 1 area of practice in tai chi. 13 areas of knowledge and ability provide a balanced comprehension of the art:

  1. Qigong

  2. Form

  3. Pushing hands

  4. Principles

  5. Taoism

  6. Brain work (meditation, awareness, metacognition)

  7. Neigong (whole-body strength)

  8. Jing (whole-body power)

  9. Self defence

  10. Martial skill

  11. Chin na (seizing)

  12. Shuai jiao (take downs)

  13. Weapons

A tai chi student should work towards competence in each of these areas and also uncover the essence of the art.

Can I pick the subjects/topics that appeal to me?

Cherry picking has serious drawbacks. Our syllabus offers a balanced, step-by-step approach to gaining a thorough and comprehensive understanding of tai chi.
Emphasising the parts that you like best or omitting the aspects you do not care for is self-indulgent and will lead to major gaps of knowledge and skill.
Consider: you want to learn French but you have no interest in verbs... You want to be a chef but do not care to chop... You seek to drive a car but do not like to turn left...
See how ridiculous this seems?

Will tai chi help me to lose weight?

Weight loss usually involves balancing your food intake and activity. Undertaking a daily qigong and tai chi regime will most certainly help your body exercise.
This must be paired with a diet that best suits the individual.

Do we enter competitions?

By removing competitive attitudes from our classes, students enjoy a friendly training environment. There is no rivalry.
Many people find this to be a refreshing change when seeking to find harmony in their everyday life.

Do we perform public demonstrations?

Putting on a performance is an area of skill in its own right and has absolutely nothing to do with tai chi.

Which style of tai chi do you teach?

Yang style.

Can I learn tai chi using books, DVDs or YouTube?

No. Absolutely not. Good quality books and video clips may help to supplement lessons but are not a substitute for professional tuition.
An instructor will provide new material, insights, challenges, corrections, suggestions, tips & pointers... these cannot be gained from a book.
Untutored tai chi practice can lead to injury and serious misconceptions about the art. Ideally, you should seek out the best instructor you can find.

Can I be a fast-track student?

If a student is seeking a faster rate of progress, they need:

  1. Frequent exposure to the material

  2. Heavy repetition of basic elements

  3. Practice in class with a variety of partners

  4. A commitment to daily home training

There are no shortcuts, quick fixes or secret methods to assist you. There is just practice.

If you are seeking a fast-track journey through the tai chi syllabus, the onus is upon making the most of every available training opportunity and resource. Attend weekly lessons, workshops, boot camp, watch the school DVDs.
More serious students tend to seek indoor tuition and private lessons.

Can I become a tai chi teacher?

We welcome anyone who wants to become a tai chi teacher. Our teacher training course is free of charge.

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Page created 26 August 1997
Last updated 20 February 2024