Tai chi for self defence

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No martial arts experience?

The tai chi for self defence syllabus was designed for people who have no prior martial arts experience and want to get a foothold on taijiquan self defence fundamentals.

What is tai chi for self defence?

All students begin with tai chi for health. Some go onto learn tai chi for fitness, which is essentially tai chi for health + fitness material.
Tai chi for self defence is tai chi for health + tai chi for fitness + self defence material.

Who teaches tai chi for self defence?

Rachel is in charge of tai chi for self defence. Sifu Waller assists Rachel with tuition (when required).

Starting out

Taijiquan students cannot begin lessons by immediately engaging in combat. They have no internal skill whatsoever. What would be the point? The fighting would not be 'taijiquan'.
It would be a waste of time.


New students learn how to relax, to move, to coordinate, to be strong, to be sensitive, to connect their separate-seeming body parts together...
Very few students last long enough to even commence martial training.

You must get fit

All martial arts require the student to be fit for combat and taijiquan is no exception. There are many lazy taijiquan classes in the world. This is naive in the extreme.

Step by step

Once physical fitness has been gained, the student develops their technical skills. These are extremely important.
It is necessary to have a high degree of physical aptitude and no remnant of tension. When the mind and body move as one, the student can really begin to fight.  

How to...

People who start martial arts training need to look at the absolute basics:

  1. How to stand

  2. How to step

  3. How to partner

  4. How to make a fist

  5. How to punch

  6. How to kick

  7. How to grapple

  8. How to escape from a hold

  9. How to slip a hold

  10. How to play the attacker (convincingly)


Martial arts are quite demanding to learn; requiring the student to significantly increase their strength, agility, endurance and speed. The challenges are both physical and mental.
A casual approach will not work. Body, mind and emotions need to be conditioned and honed through sustained, regular practice.
The training must involve a wide range of challenging martial concerns; increasing in difficulty as the student becomes more adept. To possess self defence skills, you must train self defence skills.

Means & ends

Unlike other martial arts, taijiquan is concerned with the means rather than simply the end result. The how rather than just the what.
Pragmatism. Effectiveness. Economy. These are our focus. Minimum effort produces maximum effect. Body use is very important.
Neigong (whole-body strength) and jing (whole-body power) enable students to generate kinetic energy, which we employ in combat.


Taijiquan is the art of balance. The more adept you are at affecting the opponent, the greater your taijiquan skill.
Good quality taijiquan application requires physical, emotional and psychological integration. There is a sense of calm. The pace is unhurried and the student is at ease.


It is not enough to do taijiquan, you must also do it easily and comfortably. Grace can be seen in the natural, uncomplicated movements of a skilled practitioner.
There is a smoothness, a subtlety in every gesture. Enfolded within the art are layers of sophistication.
Real grace appears impossibly simple and elegant. Inconsequential. Unremarkable. It is so innocuous that your mind slides over it. There is nothing overt to cling to.


Taijiquan is all about internalisation: the more skilled you are, the less an opponent can see. By internalising your movements they become more efficient.
Nothing is redundant. There are no gaps and deficiencies. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is pointless. There is no telegraphing. No advertisement. No blocking.
You become quiet and reserved, integrated and present. Your combat abilities are potent yet subtle.

Martial arts concerns

The tai chi for
self defence basics are supplemented with a range of important concerns:

  1. Conservation of energy

  2. Whole-body strength

  3. Strategy & tactics

  4. Elbows and knees

  5. Optimal use of alignment and structure

  6. Weapons

  7. Stickiness

  8. Physical sensitivity and awareness

  9. Evasive footwork

  10. Grappling whilst standing and on the floor


Your skill is directly proportionate to your
sensitivity. If the aim of combat is to affect the opponent, your ability to do this hinges upon your capacity to feel what is happening.
You must be in the moment, aware and tactile. Brute force and clumsiness are sure signs of inexperience.
True skill is evident when the exponent just moves and the outcome seems to arise of its own accord. There is no sense of effort. It happened.


Appropriateness stems from your ability to feel, to respond skilfully. You intuitively adapt, change and improvise. You see choices, possibilities and options.
Nothing is fixed and static. You move with the flow. Transcend the drills and form. Move naturally and freely.

Body usage

Taijiquan uses the body in a manner that conserves the use of energy. This is accomplished in a number of ways:

  1. No excess muscle tension is used

  2. The movements are functional and economical

  3. Good postural muscles support the weight of the skeleton

  4. The larger muscles of the torso and legs do most of the work

  5. Whole-body movement is employed rather than local limb strength

Beginners are encouraged to use less and less muscular strength; reducing tension further. This also calms the mind and relieves stress.

Chin na & shuai jiao?

There is only a limited amount of chin na and shuai jiao in the tai chi for self defence syllabus.

Kung fu?

When a tai chi for self defence student becomes adept with martial arts skills, they can choose whether or not they want to study kung fu.


The uniform is a black T-shirt worn with black kung fu trousers.


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Page created 26 August 1994
Last updated 21 November 2021