Indoor student of taijiquan

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Good intentions

Most people start tai chi lessons with lofty ambitions, only to falter almost immediately and quit. Or settle into a rut; remaining a beginner.
Often they are keen and friendly but hardly dedicated.

Why learn tai chi?

You pay for driving lessons so that you can drive a car. You attend Spanish classes so that you can speak Spanish. You learn French cuisine so that you can cook better.
Why do you learn tai chi?
You learn tai chi in class so that you can practice and use the principles and combat skills of tai chi in your everyday life. You want tangible, concrete results.

If you can't do it, you don't know it.

(Mike Sigman)

Active learning

The teacher cannot help anyone. Their job is to offer the material and provide lessons. It is the student's job to actually do the work.
To quote the proverb: You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

Real progress

In modern terms, an 'indoor student' is somebody who is genuinely committed to getting through the syllabus. Whether fast-track or at their own pace.
Indoor tuition is aimed at people who are wanting to put their 'money where their mouth is'. They are not content to be a talker...
These students don't want to be in a rut. They don't want to remain beginners indefinitely. They want to learn the real art.
They train daily, progress consistently and learn the art more thoroughly than other class members.


The 'inner school' offers serious depth and is not for the half-hearted student. Indoor tuition is aimed at people who want fast-track progress through the tai chi syllabus.
Indoor students are people who train very closely with the instructor. They have a chance to really feel the art.

Inner school

An inner school is also known as a 'closed school'. Traditionally, lessons were taught at the teacher's home. An inner school focuses upon the real substance of the art.
Every form nuance, every neigong, every martial application. Great emphasis is placed on the small details. A minor change can produce a significant effect.
At the heart of the inner teaching is neigong (whole-body strength), jing (internal power) and combat skills.

Why bother?

You get the 'good oil'. Sooner, better, faster. You will no longer be part of the outer (public) school.

VIP Membership?

No. We don't offer that. Taoism loathes self-importance, as it runs contrary to reality.

Just do the work

Unlike lineage, nothing is expected of the indoor student except steady progress and enthusiasm.

Indoor sessions

An 'indoor session' is akin to boot camp but way, way more martial and detailed. Same price, duration etc but different style of session. More focussed. Like a very long workshop...
e.g. for a lower grade student, indoor would mean carte blanche access to every topic in the coloured belts - with as much detail as you can handle.
Vastly more in-depth than Monday night or workshops. An indoor student essentially picks and chooses what they want to explore.

Time & cost of indoor sessions

Indoor sessions take place on a Saturday morning, start at 6:00 AM, last for 120 minutes and cost 25 per person.
The topics on offer are typically ones that have yet to be fully addressed in class.

Payment procedure

Please note that if you pencil in an indoor session, please transfer payment within 48 hours.

Good value for money

A 2 hour indoor session is good value for money. The student is essentially enjoying a shared private lesson for 12.50 an hour. That is 7.50 cheaper than a regular shared private lesson.

Better than a workshop

Think of how much more detailed a workshop is compared to a Monday night class? In terms of detail, an indoor session is a step up from a workshop.
At a workshop, you have to take 'pot luck' with who you're partnered with and the quality of your training will be affected by this.
At an indoor session there won't be anyone there who isn't like minded, sincere, committed. Plus, the lesson will be geared towards your progress rather than the lowest common denominator.

Of all the people who begin the discipline of tai chi, only a handful will continue past a year or so. Humility, compassion, lack of ambition, non-aggression, spontaneity and silence are not qualities that our societies value. There is no more difficult journey than the journey to the self.

(John Lash)

Areas of interest

An indoor student is not required to learn every single thing that the instructor knows. They may choose to only focus on a given subject such as qigong, weaponry, martial sets, chin na or form.
This is ideal when the individual wants to pursue a specific field of interest.

Common misconception

If you read Sifu Waller's journey, it can sound very intimidating. But remember that he was a 'lineage student'...
A lineage student is vastly more serious than an indoor student. An indoor student is simply accelerating their progress and gaining some perspective on just how amazing the art can be.
Lineage students are obligated to keep the art alive. Indoor students are not. They are not under any obligation at all. Mainly, they have a priority shift; focussing more upon combat than anything else.
Being an indoor student is about personal progress, not lineage.

Realistic expectations

People might imagine that we expect them to leap from 'student' status to being someone like Sifu Waller. This is implausible. Indoor status is mainly self-serving. Lineage is not.
Not many people are cut out for lineage but most keen people are capable of indoor status and would benefit from that extra martial grit.


An indoor student is akin to an old-fashioned apprentice. They commit themselves to earnest study under a skilled craftsman in order to learn the art for themselves.
Their aim is to 'steal the art', to acquire the abilities. The apprenticeship is lengthy, difficult, and will entail a lot of hard work along the way.


Any kung fu student may ask to become an indoor student, but there are conditions.

Small print

Unlike a lineage student, there is no contract, no tea ceremony, no bai shi. The indoor student relationship is simple:
If the indoor student trains hard, they reap the rewards. If they find that indoor tuition isn't working for them or they can't commit the time, they return to 'normal' student status.
There's no pressure or hassle involved. Students proceed at their own pace, in their own time, in their own way.

Inside the door

An indoor student is paying for an unparalleled opportunity - a chance to learn more than anyone else in class, faster and more comprehensively than the average student.
It is also the first step on the path to lineage.

While the teachings of a martial tradition may be recorded in scrolls or expressed verbally, those outside the tradition who gain access to this information have little chance of learning much of practical value. Such instructions invariably consist of vague references or riddle-like aphorisms. These cryptic axioms suffice for the conveying of deep secrets because the martial artist who receives them properly has spent an enormous amount of time apprenticing under his master. They have in common, teacher and student, the specialized vocabulary of their tradition, as well as similar experience in the physical actions demanded in learning it. The teachings, however, opaque they may appear to the outsider, have meaning to the initiate and his master because the two have endured the long process of training together.

(Dave Lowry)

Become a thief

The indoor student
of tai chi gets a privileged level of tuition, insight and attention from their instructor:

  1. Opportunity to book additional weekend sessions
    - akin to boot camp
    - martial training exclusively

  2. Longer private lessons (at no extra cost)

  3. Pursue specific fields of interest

  4. Access to The Book of Neigong

  5. Accelerated tuition:
    - san sau
    - chin na (misplacing the bones) applications
    - shuai jiao applications
    - form applications
    - stick drills
    - sword drills
    - wallbag drills
    - form(s)

  6. More comprehensive biomechanical insight

  7. Opportunity to complete more book assignments

  8. Faster progress through the grades

  9. Harder combat training with a view to an earlier emergence of fighting skill

Indoor tuition is more traditional

It's how people get to really understand what needs working on and why. Sifu Waller can't offer that on a Monday night.
Indoor student status isn't like lineage. It's more akin to 'tailored learning' but in a good way. The student gets to focus on areas of interest. The training develops in many directions.


Traditionally, in China a martial arts instructor was very reluctant to take on new students. How come? If the student's skills were inadequate it would directly reflect on the teacher.
On a mild level, this made the teacher look incompetent and affected their reputation. More seriously, it could mean that the teacher would be put to death for failing in their responsibility.
Consequently, traditional tuition tended to be harsh and severe. The teacher hammered the student and adhered strictly to Confucian terseness.
Sifu Waller's teacher (Peter Southwood) followed this method.

How much time must I

Please note that by definition an indoor student seeks more tuition than your average students, so this means attending ALL available training/learning opportunities.
If this is not a viable expectation, then don't seek to do indoor.

What if things change?

The main point of indoor tuition is to get the most out of class and out of Sifu Waller.
Life is full of changes. Surprises. Aim to do as well as you can for as long as you can. At some point it will end. But it ends in fullness rather than indifference and apathy

John Garrett: Let me be clear... Going with me will be the hardest thing you've ever done. But, on the other hand, no one will ever screw with you again...

(Agents of Shield)

Worth reading

Indoor student
Indoor student conditions
Indoor student expectations
Inner school
Inner teachings  
Steal my art
Direct transmission

school database

Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 15 May 1997