How many years have you been practicing Taijiquan?
I began in 1995. My original teacher was Rick Attix, an American who is now a resident in Thailand. When I returned to the UK in 1997 I joined Master Soon, They Tuan, at Wutan International. I now attend workshops & seminars, at the Deyin Institute as well as following the teachings of Professor Cheng, Man Ching through his books covering the 37 postures.
What stimulated your interest?
I had been to Hong Kong in the 1980’s saw the ‘strange’ exercises people were practicing in Kowloon Park. I joined Wutan around the time of my heart attack in 1997 so I was interested in the health benefits which provided mentally relaxing, enjoyable exercises and at the same time certain challenging aspects such as 42 step sword.
What does Taijiquan mean to you?
A process of exercises to improve my own and others wellbeing. A wonderful system to learn, practice and share with the community, especially Chi Kung which I hope will take on a greater significance. I enjoy presenting, demonstrating and introducing TCCK to various groups and organisations.
What is the most important aspect for you?
Health & wellbeing. By using my skills I hope that sharing my knowledge will improve the lifestyles and longevity of players.
Do you have any personal goals in Taiji?
As I am 70 this year it is to enhance my life and enjoy retirement with my wife and friends. I’m interested in gaining further awareness and skills in Chi Kung and its relationship within T’ai Chi. I would also dearly love to see the day that the NHS – City Councils – Health Workers recognise the importance of prevention and make the necessary funding and facilities available, instead of the reliance on ‘treating’ the disease or illness.
Who or what inspired you?
Normally I intend to take a lead and seek methods that work for me and others. I recall working with a lady from Social Services/ Primary Care trust to form ‘Drop In’ 45 minute sessions for the Over 50 community in late 2003. We began a 4 week taster programme in January 2004 which has now, combined with standard programmes, increased to over 30 sessions a week.
During numerous visits to Hong Kong I meet with Pyeboon Cheng and his group who welcome me as a friend and fellow player in Kowloon Park where my interest was initially whetted. Encouragement is also gained from Faye and Tary Yip and other like minded instructors throughout the TCUGB.
What do you make of Taijiquan’s current popularity?
Personally I do not feel that TCCK has reached anywhere near its level of popularity. Recognition of systems such as Pilates and Yoga need to be surpassed to permit TCCK to become a major player in the drive to reap the overall benefits for our society. The current work and efforts by TCUGB senior personnel devoting time to workshops and international events must surely form the platform for many years of future growth.
As a teacher, how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art?
We should not forget the original precepts of TCC and always acknowledge that players can develop self defence skills by attending ‘Martial Arts’ schools and becoming disciples. This is an area where considerable effort will be required to encourage the younger generation to progress into the world of internal arts. Personally I have limited interest in the martial aspects although I do feel that demonstrating outcomes of postures is relevant on occasions With respect to the older person (yours truly) it is of significantly less importance than the health & wellbeing benefits.
What are your views on competition?
Having competed in numerous sports throughout my life and welcomed the chance to ‘win’ and not just ‘take part’ I would encourage competitiveness but probably keeping to ‘styles’ and not the grappling elements I have sometimes witnessed. Leave this latter aspect to the wrestlers and external arts practioners. I do however believe that youngsters need to compete physically. For those of us in our later years the competition can be more to do with the learning process, both in the history of TCCK and its application to modern society.
What direction would you like to see Taijiquan going in the future?
Whilst wishing not to see overall & regimented ‘standard’ Tai Chi – Chi Kung sets I would wish to observe greater co-ordination between the various schools and instructors, maybe against a rather more formal joined up approach. It concerns me that ‘weekender experts’ can jump on the bandwagon and dilute the skills necessary to convey TCCK to the public. I would be delighted if the efforts to engage the Government and its many areas (NHS etc.) were really successful and that significant values of investment funding was channelled toward TCCK to become the undisputed exercise systems for Health & Wellbeing.
Keith Sharp is based in Southampton and can be contacted on 07775 736380 or by email.