Our syllabus
Written by Rachel

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Some of the newer students may naively think that Sifu Waller is teaching a syllabus laid down by The Tai Chi Union for Great Britain or his own teacher.
No. This is not how it works in tai chi.


The instructor develops their own syllabus based on what they have learned, what they can do, their proclivities, emphasis... and how they feel it should all fit together.

Master of taijiquan

Taijiquan principles

The essence of the art


I always feel that students don't really get it with martial arts. In some sense taijiquan is little different from taekwondo or karate in that the individual exponent makes it what it is.
And every instructor is different - interpreting it their own way e.g. in taekwondo there was much standardisation but major differences in skill and emphasis.

The task of the craftsman is not to generate meaning, but rather to cultivate in himself the skill of discerning meanings that are already there.

(Dreyfus & Kelly)

Chinese culture

Tai chi tuition is usually chaotic compared to mainstream martial arts. There is often no syllabus to speak of. Read Chinese Boxing for examples...
Historically, students may be taught relative to how well they get on with the teacher and how much they pay. No professionalism or standards to speak of. The 'good oil' is withheld.

Tai chi classes

Many tai chi classes just do qigong, sloppy (or prissy) form, push hands, goof around with swords and some self defence applications that don't work. They also talk about qi a lot...
There's often little distinction between tai chi for health and taijiquan, with the two often being confused. In modern China, taijiquan is highly standardised but often empty of substance.


Your instructor

Sifu Waller went to University to do PGCE in order learn how to create a scheme of work etc so that he could teach taijiquan in a logical, consistent fashion. His approach to taijiquan emphasises:

Martial application
I Ching qualities (spontaneity, adaptation, change, unpredictability)
Applied Taoism
Applied yielding
Strict adherence to The Tai Chi Classics
Healthy biomechanics
Biomechanical 'advantage'
The cultivation of intelligence
Being your 'authentic self'
Progress & development
Lifelong learning
Concrete, tangible, physical results
Mind, body & spiritual development
Study all 13 areas of practice

The long years

When I tell people that Sifu Waller started martial arts training in 1975, they just don't do the maths. As I write this, Sifu Waller is into his 5th decade of training. That's 3-7 hours a day for over 40 years.
Practice, reading, exploring, planning, researching. How many hours is that? And the training isn't linear. It grows in unexpected ways.

Peter Southwood

Sifu Waller's old student Shaun Ullah told me that Peter Southwood (Sifu Waller's master)'s art was very different to Sifu Waller's. Different people = different emphasis.
And that Sifu Waller is way more martial than Peter. Sifu Waller is more subtle, softer, technical and detailed. Peter mainly taught old people. Sifu Waller only teaches martial students.

The world used to be, in its various forms, a world of sacred, shining things.

The shining things now seem far away.

(Dreyfus & Kelly)

Natural power

Being natural is a big theme for Sifu Waller. Doing what your body wants to do. What feels biomechanically correct, not ego-driven, but body-driven.
Therefore, if any movement feels physically awkward, there's going to be a pretty good reason. Usually it is bad (inaccurate) form, not 'listening' to your body, forcing, tension, lack of flexibility etc.
Nothing should feel uncomfortable in our classes. Unfamiliar - yes. The more unfamiliar, the better. But never physically painful or uncomfortable.

Using the mind

Sifu Waller is very committed to following Yang Cheng Fu's dictum: "Using the mind instead of force". His taijiquan syllabus requires the student to understand the art rather than simply copy it.
Developing the mind is essential in our classes, with students being offered numerous avenues for learning and individual study.


The tone of our lessons is friendly and playful; and this is especially apparent in Sifu Waller's workshops where students frequently laugh with wonder and joy at the ease of the art and it's effects.
Being calm, composed, at ease is very important. Given the truly dangerous nature of the material being offered, Sifu Waller seeks to keep the tone compassionate rather than macho.


Keener long-term students usually come to realise that Sifu Waller has made the ancient Chinese teachings accessible to the modern student, and amazing to learn.
The students are insightful and experienced enough to understand that each individual makes the art what it is; whether good or bad.
With Sifu Waller, nothing is static. He grows, evolves and improves the art every day. His commitment, ingenuity and dedication makes taijiquan wonderful, and for that we are grateful.

Other schools of tai chi

If you went to another class - in Newcastle, London, Kuala Lumpur or Taipei, you'd find that the syllabus and approach would be very different.
In Malaysia, what I saw looked so amateurish compared to Sifu Waller's taijiquan.

Find out for yourself

And if you think this is just PR, why not try the other tai chi schools in the North East and determine the truth for yourself?
Don't take my word for it...

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Page created 18 April 2016
Last updated 15 February 2020