How many years have you been practicing Tai Chi?
I started over 20 years ago and have been teaching alongside my partner Patrick Foley in our school ‚’Longwater Tai Chi‚’ for 6 years. Originally I learned a Yang Style Long Form, then switched to Wu Style. I also studied Qigong and Nei Gong from the ‚’Energy Arts‚’ System and have absorbed aspects of other internal arts and exercise systems from Malaysia and in the UK.
What stimulated your interest?
My partner Patrick and I wanted to do something together. He‚’d suffered serious knee injuries in martial arts competitions and had been told to stop all contact sports. He remembered Tai Chi from his childhood in the Far East, so we went along to a local class and got lucky by finding Brian Cooper, an excellent and inspiring teacher who was at that time involved in the early days of TCUGB. Brian introduced us to his teacher, Bruce Frantzis.
What does TC mean to you?
It makes me feel really alive and gives me a focus for developing my full human potential. It has changed my life. I love the combination of structural precision and the art of going with the flow. I practise for health, energy and wellbeing and to share the benefits in the wider world. I love the constant changes and challenges that help you to relax into naturalness.
What is the most important aspect to you?
I am engaged on a spiritual path and Wu Style Tai Chi is an excellent vessel for exploring this when it is taught by a Lineage Master in both Taoist Meditation and Tai Chi. I am slowly and steadily learning to integrate the path of meditation deeply into my Tai Chi, in the traditional manner.
Do you have any personal goals with TC?
I want to share my knowledge for the benefit of others. I really enjoy teaching beginners as I have seen how even very simple tai chi and qigong foundations can help improve people‚’s lives enormously. I have practised in the Far East with big groups of people who do not aspire to be great tai chi players, but who glow with health and enthusiasm after their daily exercise. There are many millions of these ordinary people with stories about what tai chi has done for them and it would be wonderful if the same thing could come about in the West.
Who or what inspired you?
My teachers inspire me, as does seeing some real talent and dedication amongst much younger instructor trainees. The Tai Chi Classics are a great inspiration and give guidance again and again, from every angle. At present I find inspiration in dipping into shorter texts and www.taichimaster.com is just right. Pouring Taoist Meditation and Nei Gong into the Wu Style Short Form is an inspiring and pragmatic solution for those of us wanting depth of practice alongside many external commitments in life. I also find it inspiring to visit other teachers and Masters when the opportunity arises.
What do you make of tai chi‚’s current popularity?
The aging population, global economic situation and lack of spiritual focus for many people mean that we are heading for a vast crisis in terms of both physical and mental health. Tai Chi is tried and tested and is incredibly valuable to humanity. It‚’s a good thing that it is becoming more popular in the West, but it still has a long way to go. I applaud the efforts of the TCUGB to promote it in the UK and now with Taiji Europa.
As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspects of Tai Chi?
It‚’s important for serious students to understand the context of the art within the moves of the form, but it‚’s difficult and inappropriate to teach to many people doing tai chi for health. When I first started studying Tai Chi with Bruce Frantzis he was very, very martial and there was no doubt about the extraordinary efficacy of this art for fighting. Everyone got to viscerally experience the physical and energetic aspects of internal versus external punches and throws as the groups were small. I think it‚’s important for teachers to have encountered the martial applications as demonstrated by someone at top level who can genuinely use Tai Chi to deal with whatever anyone throws at him/her in martial terms. I often talk to men and women who are teachers but who have never once been on the receiving end of a serious internal punch or Fa Jing throw by a Tai Chi Master. It simply has to be experienced.
What are your views on competitions?
I like the old adage ‚’invest in loss,‚’ you gain experience by learning from your mistakes. I don‚’t think this is why most people enter tai chi competitions but it‚’s the best way to play push hands.
What direction would you like to see TC take in the future?
I would like to see more widespread awareness of the benefits of tai chi and qigong and more good quality teachers. It would be great to see less ego and more co-operation and exchange between teachers to promote the art. I think serious students and teachers should also be more willing to visit teachers other than their main one, to gain insights from different teaching styles and practices.