Southwood's training tips

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Southwood's tips

Peter Southwood has a range of training tips that are pretty useful. His aim is to maximise productivity through sustained concentration and mindful practice.

Little & often

Lengthy training sessions may suit some students, but many people have quite low attention span and find tai chi to be potentially boring.
Counter this by doing short stints and varying the work.
The average adult can typically only manage 40 minutes sustained practice without rest or variety.

Prioritise the fundamentals

By regularly training the fundamentals every day, the student lays the necessary foundation quickly and can constantly ensure that they remain stable and strong.
Neglecting the basic material leads to weakness throughout the practice.

Daily training

The main reason why people fail to make progress is simple lack of training. The tai chi is just not familiar enough. Muscle memory requires high repetition over a long period of time.
Stagger the material across the week.


There is a tendency for students to underestimate how much concentration is needed. When driving my car I tend to be able to handle the car competently almost on auto-pilot.
However, when faced with unfamiliar road layouts, bad drivers or adverse weather... I must concentrate much harder. Tai chi requires that level of attention.

Self defence

It is easy to forget that taijiquan is concerned with real life combat. e.g. a knife is a killing weapon. In training, limbs can be broken, spines snapped, throats crushed, breath taken.
There is a high degree of risk. This is not the time to be half-assed or spacing-out...

Weekend home practice

Take advantage of the weekend morning to get a good, long session of practice completed early in the day. Train everything that you neglected during the week.

Intense sessions

If you have a week off, train in the afternoon and evening as well. The benefits of a really hard training session will echo throughout your art.
A hard week of intensive training affects what you do thereafter.

Burn your bridges

Do not allow yourself excuses. Do not spare yourself. Do not lie to yourself. Do not let fear or laziness hold you back. Take every step deliberately and knowingly. Without compromise.

The essence

Focus on the essence of the movement, drill or exercise. What is its intrinsic purpose? Understanding the nature of something will enable you to see why, how and what is being trained.


Unless you can apply the art using the principles that govern the art, you are a novice. You must be capable of application in a wide range of unpredictable situations.
All applications must be thorough and convincing.

Read, read, read

Progress through the taijiquan syllabus is contingent upon an ever increasing level of knowledge. If you do not know what Sifu Waller is talking about, how can he discuss the art with you?
Neglecting the reading is a major folly. It enriches the art, makes class more enjoyable and enables you to better comprehend your instructor.

Avoid changing anything

Students often change what they are being taught or they over-think the training; usually attempting to 'martialise' a fairly mundane exercise. This is truly pointless.
Just do what you are asked to do. Don't change it. Sifu Waller will simply change it back and that wastes his time.


If Sifu Waller tells you a joke or an anecdote... be wary. He is an exceptionally private person, has no need of approval or personal validation. Ask yourself: what is the point of his story?
There is a lesson to be learned and it probably has some direct bearing on your practice. But he won't simply spell it out for you.

Don't ever 'try it on'

Some people have been macho with Sifu Waller over the years. This is a major mistake. He is very business-like with trouble causers and has no surviving enemies.

Give it time

Taijiquan is a very, very dangerous art and you do not want to undertake any aspect of the training prematurely. Sifu Waller teaches everything appropriate to ability.
He genuinely wants to teach you the exciting material and never withholds the teaching. But you must be strong enough and skilled enough to handle the training.


If you are frustrated at your lack of martial skill, don't ask your instructor for a handout. There is a syllabus in place. There are grades.
Would a karate yellow belt ask their sensei to teach them black belt material? No, of course not. Progress is earned.

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Page created 18 November 2007
Last updated 13 January 2020