How many years have you been practising Tai Chi?
I have been practising Tai Chi for nearly ten years now. This is ten years continual practice. I always set aside time for myself to practice, whether it be in the park in the mornings, or at home, as well as teaching.
What stimulated your interest in Tai Chi Chuan?
I had heard of a Tai Chi class near where I live, whilst I was trying to find something active to do but not too over physical, as I was trying to recover from a devastating back injury due to a car accident. I had always been extremely active doing all sorts of sports and other martial arts before my accident. The problem then, was that I could hardly move, and was in a lot of pain all the time with my back. To cut a long story short, Tai Chi along with osteopathic treatment, got me back on the road to recovery, where all else had failed. My instructor Michael Davies who is extremely patient stimulated my interest further as I soon began to realise how much there was to learn not only from the health side which had helped me, but also from the martial arts side which to this day I find challenging and fascinating.
What does Tai Chi Chuan mean to you?
People reading this have most likely heard it before, but Tai Chi to me is a way of life and can be applied to virtually all situations we encounter in our everyday activities. Once you start probing deeper into the workings of tai chi and the body, not forgetting the mind, you realise how it can help you as an individual and if you teach, how it can help others.
What is the most important aspect for you?
I find it difficult to extricate any one particular aspect of tai chi to say, “this is the most important”. For me personally it is split between the health side and the martial side. Whilst I continually feel the benefits to my health from practising Tai Chi, I absolutely enjoy the challenges from the martial aspect and working with colleagues in this area.
Do you have any personal goals in Tai Chi?
I always want to know more, and tend to have a very curious nature. I continually attend courses and seminars throughout the year, plus I regularly attend Tai Chi Caledonia. I do not deliberately go out of my way to set myself goals, but because of my hunger to learn more, I cannot wait to learn from some of the top practitioners in this country. Also I feel it is incumbent on myself as a teacher to continue the quest for learning, improve my skills, and pass this knowledge onto my students.
Who or what inspired you?
There are so many top instructors that have inspired me, and I feel so lucky to have been able to train with them. Really, my initial inspiration is my own instructor Michael Davies, he is such a good teacher, he has no ego whatsoever, he is very good at how he handles people, he also has a lot of in depth knowledge of Tai Chi.
What do you make of Tai Chi Chuans current popularity?
The main problem I see in this area is that the popularity can be short lived. It is interesting to talk to other instructors for example when we meet at Caledonia only to find that it is not unusual for a lot of students to fall by the wayside very quickly. It is popular to a degree, but when you look under the surface a lot of the students want a quick fix, so the popularity quickly wanes away. Everybody is an individual in their own right, and consequently they want their own individual rewards from learning Tai Chi. To a certain extent the instructor needs to be aware of this and manage these needs into a wider understanding and practice of the art, having said this I do not force anything on any of my students. This either makes the instructor adapt if he/ she truly loves teaching, without compromising the principles of tai chi, or the instructor just sticks rigidly to his/her way of teaching.
As a Teacher, how do you feel about the Martial aspects of Tai Chi?
I cannot imagine learning Tai Chi without knowing the martial aspect of the art. To me it is another part in the jigsaw to understanding how tai chi chuan can benefit the individual.
What are your views on competition?
I feel competition is good in many ways. For those who want to compete, it can test their skills against others. But I would not denigrate those who do not wish to enter, as each must follow their own path. One is not necessarily better than another just because they compete or visa versa.
What direction would you like to see Tai Chi Chuan going in the future?
This may seem highly contentious, but I would love to see a Tai Chi Chuan Academy set up in this country. This would provide full time and part time courses of varying in depth levels, to provide knowledge and training for instructors/students. All aspects of Tai Chi Chuan would be taught from the very beginning, including the classics, all types of hands forms, bagua, xing yi, push hands,weapons, the martial side, chi gung etc. Also for those that want to learn Chinese medicine, calligraphy, and the Chinese language and their history. I feel a standard could then be set at this academy and recognised qualifications attained by those students who have attended and passed. Finally this would allow instructors/students to be graded on these courses by a panel of experts at the academy.