Meet John Rowland

John Rowland

How many years have you been practicing Tai Chi?
I started in 1982 at the British Tai Chi Chuan Association classes in central London.

What stimulated your interest?
I had done a lot of Judo, Jujitsu and some Aikido. However I was in my late forties and found I was was not bouncing off the mat as easily as previously. Also I had an extremely stressful job and wanted something to give me a bit of relaxation. I was impressed by the demeanour of the Tai Chi practitioners whom I had met and their obvious serenity.

What does Tai Chi mean to you?
Tai Chi is the ideal vehicle for self development, both physical, mental and spiritual. From a mundane point of view it means that at nearly 70 years of age I am fit and active and rarely catch a cold. Also I had always been interested in Eastern spirituality and began to understand that Tai Chi was a philosophy and that theTaoist concepts of Change within Changelessness could be expressed with one’s body.

What is the most important aspect for you?
Apart from the personal aspects described above I have seen Tai Chi and Chi Kung working as a great force for healing. People feel and get “better” if they attend sessions regularly. I would like to be a great martial artist, (Who wouldn’t!) but seem to mainly attract those requiring help of one sort or another.

Do you have any personal goals in Tai Chi?
My first teacher said that one should become “One with the Tao” and acquire “Tai Chi Mind,” this is what I strive for. Another teacher states that interpreting energy is the highest accomplishment to which one can aspire.

Who or what inspired you?
My first teacher was John Kells, who was a disciple of Dr. Chi Chiang Tao. John was totally dedicated to his Art, practicing and teaching several hours a day, seven days a week. I believe he is still active somewhere in North London. He is a remarkable man with great internal and external power. His Tai Chi was also very soft. Without wishing to restart the empty force controversy, I have seen this phenomena demonstrated by him on many occasions both in controlled conditions and also spontaneously. His students used to regard such manifestations as commonplace. Being pushed by him was like being hit by a wave. I later studied with Dr. Shen Honxun who has similar powers and great knowledge of Tai Chi, both technically and historically. Over the last few years I have also studied with Professor Li Deyin and Master Wang Yanji. These gentlemen have a different approach, which, I would suggest, is of a very technical, athletic and modern nature. Recently I met Dr. Paul Lam who is first and foremost a healer. With him I have completed the Tai Chi for Arthritis programme. Other sources of inspiration have been my fellow teachers in the North of England and my students.

Finally, and this may seem odd, I gained much insight into Tai Chi by working briefly with Karel and Eva Koscuba on their Yi Chuan course. I hope to continue with them in 2006.

What do you make of Tai Chi’s current popularity?

I am not surprised. Tai Chi attracts very nice people. It makes them feel good. Those who are prepared to persevere with their training find that they are making new and meaningful friendships. As a formerly active participant in the Dance Camp/Community camp movement I see Tai Chi as a form of “Networking.” This is important nowadays when people feel increasingly isolated.

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art?

It is very important. Even when teaching your average intake in, for example, Adult Education, it is important to demonstrate basic applications, if only to show how the energy is focused and to demonstrate the principles of Yin and Yang. It is also important to practice pushing hands whenever possible. The martial function is inherent in the Art anyway. Two lady colleagues of mine, both Tai Chi teachers, have told me of how they quite easily coped with aggression in incidents in their everyday lives. As Master Yu Yong Nian states, ” He who tempers himself can ride the tiger.” Thus constant thoughtful and dedicated practice should give us confidence and an edge in these troubled times.

What are your views on competition?

Personally I think the expression “Tai Chi competition” to be a contradiction in terms. Not a Taoist concept. It appears to me that such competition can become very much like what happened to Judo. Two big fellows grunting and groaning and straining for the advantage, forgetting the exquisite principles of their discipline, as propounded by Professor Kano. This is a personal viewpoint and despite my previous remarks I can see that Competition meets a need and that there may benefits for those who take part.

What direction would you like to see Tai Chi going in the future?

Tai Chi, though Chinese, is a gift to the world. Cheng Man-ching said it was primarily for the health of the nation. As such it should touch as many lives as possible. With this in mind I should like to see much greater emphasis on Chi Kung. This is generally less complex and more people can handle it. It also obtains quicker benefits from a health point of view. It can be a good stepping stone to Tai Chi proper. I’m also a great believer in Forums, e.g. Linda Chase Broda’s Special Needs Group and our recently formed teachers’ group in West Yorkshire, which has been and is very successful.
I think Tai Chi will go its own way and it will continue to grow and prosper. It will always have dedicated followers and there are plenty of skilled and dedicated teachers to help it along its way.

John Rowland
John Rowland began practicing Tai Chi in 1982. He studied initially at the British Tai Chi Chuan Association in London with Dr. John Kells. He was a student of Dr Shen Honxgun. His present teachers are Professor Li Deyin of Beijing , Master Wang Yanji of Stockholm and Dr. Paul Lam. He is an accredited instructor with the T’ai Chi Union for Great Britain and also Longfei Taijiquan Association. He practices Yang and Sun styles of Tai Chi, Tai Chi Sword,Yi Chuan, Chi Kung and T’ai Chi Ruler. Also Pushing Hands and martial applicatons. In addition to the above he is a qualified instructor in the worldwide Tai Chi for Arthritis programme.
Classes are currently being held in the Skipton and and Ilkley areas.

He can be contacted on 07989 452570 or email, john@little-napoli.fsnet.co.uk