How many years have you been practicing Tai Chi?
8 years in total so far, although I started learning martial arts in 1987 or possibly ’86, I think.
What stimulated your interest?
My interest was while at Leeds University in 1995, I was already training in Aikido and a Bujutsu weapons style, I had heard about a martial art called T’ai Chi Chuan. Ed Hines was teaching Tai Chi and also Ba Gua. In my first class with him, I was not too impressed, it seemed to involve a lot of standing about, moving excruciatingly slowly and no applications. Ed very kindly showed me how it can be used effectively to hit or throw people, so I continued in both his classes, fully reassured that I was learning something useful. What re-stimulated my interest was not being able to train in martial arts at all as I had damaged my joints through overtraining, but had to do something that involved movement. I looked around for a teacher near where I was living (Cambridge) and ended up training with Mike Tabrett learning 24 step and Chen style.
What does Tai Chi Chuan mean to you?
Practising T’ai Chi Chuan means that I can feel healthy, relaxed and hit people.
What is the most important aspect for you?
The meditational aspect of Tai Chi Chuan is very important for me. In my day job, I work with people who have challenging behaviour and/or mental health issues, being centred, or able re-find your centre, is a useful skill to have. I also used my Tai Chi Chuan in a recent self defence situation, keeping calm and centred was very important while I diffused some aggressive behaviour from somebody. The quiet and still aspects of this martial art are fascinating to explore.
Do you have any personal goals in Tai Chi?
My personal goals are to keep practising regularly and improve.
Who or what inspired you?
I am being inspired now, by all my teachers and students. My ideas of what Tai Chi Chuan is about are constantly being challenged attending Tai Chi and Chi Kung Forum for Health (TCCKF) seminars, with whom I did my teacher training. Because of the Forum, I will teach anyone with a pulse who wants to learn Tai Chi Chuan from me.
What do you make of Tai Chi Chuans current popularity?
I think it is very good, for a start it means I am being paid to teach it! Another good thing about the current popularity, is that it is now much easier to find high level tuition in this country without having to travel thousands of miles, which is what teachers of much more experience than me have had to do.
As a Teacher, how do you feel about the Martial Aspect of Tai Chi?
Tai Chi Chuan is a martial art, and without the martial side, it is empty. Knowing the applications or possible applications of a movement help with understanding the form and the internal energy. Applications practise also help with understanding push hands. However, the martial aspect of the art is not just about how to thump somebody or stop somebody thumping you. A martial situation can be any circumstance in which you feel uncomfortable, someone being verbally or physically aggressive, teaching a group of young adults with dementia, driving in a big town. Tai Chi Chuan is an excellent way of practising how to deal with adversity. Through Tai Chi, you can potentially deal with all sorts of awkward situations, you can adapt, you can “let go”, or you can throw a few strikes, whatever is appropriate for the situation.
What are Your Views on Competition?
Once I get round to trying out, or at least attending, a Tai Chi competition, I will be able to say what my views on competition are. I would however like facilities made available for people with disabilities who might wish to enter Tai Chi competitions.
What Direction Would You Like To See Tai Chi Chuan Going in the Future?
I am involved with the TCCKF, so from a personal perspective I would like Tai Chi Chuan made available to anyone who wants to learn it, regardless of health condition or disability. I would also like more people with disabilities teaching Tai Chi Chuan. You don’t just have to be able to stand and move around on two legs to be able to produce good quality Tai Chi Chuan.