How many years have you been practicing tai chi?
What stimulated your interest?
I knew I was looking for something but I wasn‚’t sure what. I was fairly active with rock climbing and playing football at the time and interested in oriental philosophies. One day a picture of people playing tai chi in a park in China caught my eye. It was on the cover of ‚’Tai Chi Ch‚’uan ‚’ The Technique of Power‚’, my first book on tai chi. It inspired me to find a class.
What does TCC mean to you?
When I asked Dr. Chi what Tai Chi was he answered me straight: open, close, full, empty, yin yang and central equilibrium. For me tai chi has become like a good friend and a reminder. It gets me connected. We spend time together and I feel better for it. It offers me good guidelines for life. Tai Chi is part of my day-to-day life with running trainings, classes, retreats and so on. It‚’s an avenue for my teaching and it connects me with many different people from many walks of life.
What is the most important aspect?
I know I‚’m not alone in experiencing tai chi as a multi-dimensional practice and this is what I love about it. – Dr. Chi spoke of the 7 levels of tai chi: 1. Force Against Force; 2. Correct Technique; 3. Jin Energy; 4. Chi; 5. Mind; 6. Spirit and 7. Natural Way. The overall journey is from 1 to 7 but all levels are active, open and influencing one another at all times. These days I like to base my personal enquiry as well as my teaching on 5 main areas of development: 1. Freeing; 2. Aligning; 3. Focusing; 4. Sensing and 5. Being. These apply in the mental, emotional and physical planes. Once again all 5 aspects are as important as each other. It‚’s this holographic constellation of tai chi that makes it so special.
Do you have any personal goals?
Yes. Developing my own practice and understanding of the art. As well as this, I‚’d like to do more with the notions of ‚’natural way‚’ and ‚’soft power‚’ in schools, health arenas and the workplace.
Who or what inspired you?
So many wonderful beings! I am deeply grateful to my teachers, friends and students who have helped me and who continue to inspire me to travel further. There are too many to list here but if you are interested they‚’re on my website. I am often moved by what I witness in nature ‚’ I love the way seals relax in those massive scary Atlantic waves that crash against the bottom of the cliffs; I can‚’t resist stopping to study the trout in the clear, moorland river water. I see how they align with and yield to the force of the current.
What do you make of tai chi‚’s current popularity?
Yes, there are loads more classes around these days aren‚’t there? If more people experience the benefits of tai chi movement as a way of feeling and keeping well then I‚’d say this is a good thing.
As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art? If tai chi‚’s a cake and the martial dimension the eggs, then what‚’s a cake like without eggs? Pretty flat and not that tasty!
I fully support the excellent Andrew Heckert who recently used the word ‚’genius‚’ in appreciation of how tai chi addresses both martial and health dimensions. The connectedness that helps a person stay rooted under external physical pressure from another person is the same connectedness that helps an elderly person with their balance and confidence. I feel that my challenge as a teacher is to understand who ever I‚’m working with and respond appropriately. If you‚’re feeling stuck, then we look at ways of freeing. If you‚’re wobbly, we look at aligning, postural integration and states of mind. Relaxing the hands for better listening; relaxing the shoulders; softening into the root; aligning shoulders, hips and feet; joining; going with the force ‚’ these are requirements for good tai chi and martial application that are as applicable with a group of frail people as with a group of bustling and boisterous youths.
What are your views on competition?
It has its place as it‚’s important for some people. However, I always think that there‚’s the danger, if you win, of thinking that you‚’re good at tai chi. And if you don‚’t win you may think you‚’re no good. For me Tai Chi is much bigger and broader than being about competing. When you consider Tai Chi as a personal experience and a developmental journey, then being ranked better or worse than another doesn‚’t make sense. I can understand the idea of pitting your skills against another as a personal test. And I also appreciate the learning and sharing that can happen around an event. But both these areas can be fully experienced in other types of events the likes of Rencontres Jasnieres, and the excellent Pushing Hands UK.
What direction would you like to see tai chi going in the future?
I‚’d like to see tai chi continue to bring joy and inspiration to many people in all sorts of different ways. I‚’d like to see tai chi evolve and to establish its place in schools, areas of health and the workplace. I‚’d like to see more of the events like Jasnieres and Pushing Hands UK where people openly come together to learn and share. On a larger scale I‚’d like to think that tai chi may play a part in helping us all in this world where notions of soft, listening and responsive can help us shift from competitive to cooperative as a race of people.