Tuesday

From simple to complex

Moving qigong is much easier to practice than form.

The coordination is simpler and the health benefits more immediate and tangible. Form takes much longer to learn and quite a long time to actually perform competently.

Anyone can do qigong. There is a lot less to think about. The exercises are focussed and clear. You need not complicate matters by thinking about self defence applications or any other concerns.

It is also important not to get caught up thinking about qi. Let the energy take care of itself. Keep your mind on the exercise. Intention leads the qi and the qi leads the blood. Breathe and relax.

Once you are competent at qigong, take what you have learned into form. Form is essentially moving qigong with extra features. The extras include increased balance and coordination, martial application and energy emission.

Monday

Moving qigong

Moving qigong is similar to standing qigong except the onus is now upon smoothness and relaxation in movement.
No extraneous muscle usage is permitted.

Alignment, softness and breath are important.

Each exercise can be used as a training ground for whole-body movement.
Instead of just moving the arms and shoulders, every part of the structure is involved.
Even the simplest movement should spiral from the toes to the fingertips.

Performed correctly, this is just as difficult as standing qigong.
The body is trained to coordinate left and right, upper and lower, along with cross-patterning.
The muscles serve only to move the bones and must never stiffen or tense.
Tight joints prevent movement.
These exercises are designed to facilitate fluidity with strength.

Qigong is not something that is trained for a while and then discarded.
The student comes back to it repeatedly as they get better at kung fu.
As the ability to move with whole-body strength increases, the exercises can be re-evaluated and trained with a new emphasis.
A movement that once connected the arms to the back now becomes a means of training energy discharge.
Qigong changes as you change.

Sunday

Tree hugging

Most students begin standing by ‘hugging a tree’/‘holding a balloon’ at chest height. 
Essentially, the arms are positioned in a circular shape and the fingers are lightly opened.

This innocuous exercise quickly becomes a challenge.
The skill is to maintain the posture without in any way ‘holding’ the posture.
Muscle usage must be minimal. Psychological ease and relaxation are paramount.

The posture must be natural and comfortable. Do not strain the knees by squatting.

The idea is to let go.

This is not easy.  A lifetime of tension will pain you and the temptation will be to hang on.
Liz Koch, author of The Psoas Book maintains that you must reach a stage where the body feels safe and begins to shake.
This shaking is quite disconcerting. It is not muscle fatigue. It is the product of deep relaxation.
All the stored tension in the joints and vertebra is being let out.

The shaking cannot be forced or contrived. It is accomplished by not-doing.
By stopping the habit of tension.
By letting go.

Daily standing for 15-20 minutes will produce the required outcome providing internal relaxation takes place.

Saturday

Energy & muscle

Qigong operate on two levels simultaneously; they encourage the healthy flow of energy and they strengthen the structure of the body.

This process of building strength is seen by many people to arise from the energy flow alone but this is rather misleading.
Qi does not move the bones, muscles do. Nerves direct the muscles and energy fuels the entire system.
Without energy, nothing would happen, but without muscles there would be no strength.
Muscles turn energy into motion.

This is not to be confused with gym work or weight training. The degree of muscle usage in qigong must be minimal.
The aim is to employ the tendons, ligaments and fasciae for increased strength and support.

You must only use the degree of muscle strength necessary to hold the limb in place; and this is always far less than you first realise.

Friday

Qigong

Start your quest for whole-body strength by standing still; qigong is the foundation of kung fu.

It involves static postures and slow-motion movements that are easy to perform.
The static postures are held for lengthy periods, often up to an hour.
The moving sets are small groups of exercises, with about 10 repetitions each.

Thursday

Moving with kwa

If you can feel the kwa moving, it is possible combine a number of neigong for the second stage of uniting upper & lower.
In a bow stance, use the kwa to spiral the lead leg back towards the centre.

This serves to draw the thigh bone and squares the pelvis; it leads the energy up from the ground and into your hands.
It also lays the foundation for what may someday become centre-directed jing.

Wednesday

External strength

The conventional use of strength involves the application of force at a given, specific moment in time. If the aim is to break an arm, the individual exerts for a moment and the effect occurs.

The problem with this is that it is tiring. It wears you out.
Exerting the muscles is not very energy efficient because most of the effort accomplishes nothing; it feeds back into you when resistance is encountered.

'Internal power' is altogether different. Exerting never occurs.
The limbs are imbued with strength at all times, so an arm break would be performed with no more force than raising a glass of water to your mouth.

Where does the power come from?

It comes from unifying the body and projecting a wave of kinetic energy (jing) throughout the entire structure as and when necessary.
It is the wave that breaks the arm, not the local muscle strength.

Tuesday

Kung fu attitude

I teach in the UK and my wife is from Kuching, Borneo (Malaysia). We are continually surprised at the bad attitude we encounter from modern students in our own classes and other UK classes we hear about.

My wife is used to the Asian way and is appalled by how English students treat their teachers.

Reading Sifu Kenneth Ware's Kung Fu Instructor Facebook group (and others), it is great to hear that there is such a good kung fu attitude in the US: http://kungfukntc.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/students-with-honour.html

Monday

http://rachelwallertaichi.wordpress.com/

Power?

Consider Newton's third law of motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The more force you apply, the more resistance you will encounter.
This is clearly counter-productive.

Slow, smooth, soft movements are a sure indicator of skill.

Thursday

Why become a member?

• There is no membership fee
• The opportunity to study 
chin na, shuai jiao, baguazhang, taijiquan, hard qigong, neigong, self defence, san da, san sau and weapons
• The option of grading or not grading

• New 
members receive 2 free DVDs
• Work through the 
full curriculum
• Receive regular corrections, tips & pointers
• Request bespoke tuition
• Have an on-line personal progress page
• Use weapons 

• School database
• Seek training guidance and advice from Master Waller
• Wear a uniform
• Access to highly detailed school DVDs
• Pass belts (optional)
• Discuss theory and related philosophies with Master Waller
• Attend workshops, boot camp and class social events

Tuesday

Betrayal

One theme that Master Waller has been talking about with female self defence students is the idea of being taught to 'betray ourselves'.

Consider school or work:
Our body says that it is uncomfortable. Our minds are bored.
Yet, we are told to remain motionless and endure.
We know we don't want to be there but we are are forced to remain.
Always at our own expense.
The damage to the body is small but incremental.

In many facets of life we are conditioned to suppress our genuine, natural, healthy responses in favour of somebody else's agenda.
This is one reason why the tai chi and self defence in our school puts such emphasis upon healthy, comfortable body use and easy, familiar-seeming martial arts responses rather than blocky, confrontational options.    

Sunday

What is membership?

Membership is about being part of the school.
It involves committing to monthly tuition fees, regular attendance and some measure of progress through the syllabus.
A member helps to keep the school open.

In return, a member has access to training opportunities, knowledge, skills and resources not available to non-members (i.e. members of the public or casual students).

Thursday

Wanting something more?

Students seeking to explore our full curriculum are required to apply for school membership.
A school member can study either:
Members gain a deeper comprehension and discover the proven benefits of the art for themselves.
On-going tuition ensures consistent improvement. 

Monday

There are so many different dimensions to what Master Waller's class offers, it is hard to know where to start. The main thing for me is that it is great fun - I never expected that learning to hit and be hit, escape holds and put each other on the floor would make me laugh so much. 

This comes from Master Waller's unique approach, sharing his vast knowledge in a down-to-earth and non-macho way, which I think leads to the whole class being a warm and supportive place to be. 

The key thing is that it works, such simple things that have a really dramatic effect on your body, not a spiritual, abstract set of moves but real 'I do this, he falls down' stuff.  I can feel my own body responding now too - getting firmer, more balanced, more in control - and I think the qigong exercises are making my mind much calmer as well.
(Robin)

Friday

10 years in the North East

After 10 years of compromising standards in the face of a changing society, I celebrate 10 years in the North East by restoring my kung fu syllabus back to its 1995 format:
My only concession is that I have kept the coloured belts:

Pay-as-you-go students

Pay-as-you-go students focus upon qigong, form and partner work exercises.
The benefits will affect your everyday life:

• Get fit
• Increase stamina and endurance
• Gain an unusual form of strength 
• Stress-relief 
• A calm mind and composed emotions
• Mobile joints, relaxed muscles and natural movement
• Boost energy
• Improved balance
• Use millennia old Chinese wisdom in functional new ways    
• Meditation 
• Confidence and resourcefulness
• Improved skeletal alignment, poise and coordination

The exercises are low impact, do not strain the body and can be practiced by people of all ages.
The training starts simple but becomes more challenging as you progress.

Thursday

Feedback

Master Waller,

For more then a year now, I regularly read and study, think, feel and muse about your very, very clear notes in the A - Z you made on your website. I enjoy the A - Z tremendously. It is a big help for me in my bagua and qigong training.

I am a women of 47 living in Haarlem, a city near Amsterdam in The Netherlands. A good two years ago I started bagua training; it came unexpectedly on my path. I had been practicing qigong for a couple of years and felt by then that I wanted to develop and learn much more about the world of inner feeling. I didn't know that bagua existed. A small flyer I picked up somewhere brougt me to my present teacher.

Bagua took me of my feet. For 8 months I searched the internet feverishly for information about this (for me) appealing and fascinating, strange and difficult, profoundly philosophical art, reading every night. That is how I found your site. For me it still is one of the most excellent and clear sites that the internet has on offer about tai chi and bagua. It is because you give a lot, but no advice.

It took me work, yes indeed, to get back to understanding that you have to do it yourself. My way of living has changed completely. Besides training qigong and bagua, I am now also a student of TCM. Now that I am becoming calmer and clearer (and sweating a lot less!), I begin to comprehend the meaning that every master can only show you the way. Here, in Holland, I am very lucky to have found two very good, traditional teachers in bagua and qigong. Your A - Z has become a kind of 'screen teacher' for me.

Just wanted to let you know. Thank you.

With my best regards,
(Saskia Wolda)

Wednesday

Structured training

We offer kung fu students a clear path of progress through our syllabus. 
They know where they are, what they should be working on and have an idea of what comes next.
Everything is taught in easy, simple, bite-sized pieces.

At each stage of the curriculum the student possesses clearly defined skills that can be proven in practice.
We know how to organise material in a structured manner and teach it systematically. This way, each student is free to progress at their own pace.

Monday

What is the induction course for?

The induction course is for people who are seeking to practice with our school.

These 3 introductory lessons prepare the inductee for the training ahead; teaching basic skills and insights pertinent to our curriculum.