How many years have you been practicing Tai Chi?
over 19 years now, I started when I was 22 and living in the north east of england
What stimulated your interest?
Several things, and a coming together of various factors at the same time. Essentially I was seeking some method of finding more balance in myself and had an interest in esoteric teachings, meditation and Buddhism; I met a teacher, Alan Higgins via a friend and he had a certain presence about him that intrigued me. it was at his classes that I first connected to tai Chi (and Qigong) and through this was able to train with Peter Warr and Master Huang Jifu. I read and trained a lot, feeling great benefits along the way, but kind of came to a dead end about 5 years ago. at that point I sought another teacher to help me re-ignite things.
What does TC mean to you?
to me it is all about training the mind, enjoying the process of letting go and enhancing the mind/body connection; It is about benefitting others; It is also my livelihood and pays my mortgage; It is about great friendships; It’s challenging and hard; It’s easy and effortless; I have a lot to be grateful for – tai Chi is a big chunk of my life. What is the most important aspect to you? I love (and hate) push hands as it reveals so much about where I actually am as a practitioner, and this is really challenging to my sense of who I am. However I love the reality check it gives me. I also mainly practice for my mind. the mind aspect is really where my passion is. By mind I mean the aspect of mind that is awareness and the aspect that is intention. Learning to move the mind through the body with intention and listening to the results with awareness interests me a lot.
Do you have any personal goals with TC?
Yes- at the moment they are to consciously get my body to release more deeply and my mind to listen more clearly.
Who or what inspired you?
originally it was my friend Harry Simmons, a fellow practitioner. He introduced me to my first teacher and helped me a lot during the early years. these days my main inspirations are Luke Shepherd – for his clarity and honesty and Patrick Kelly whose life (in my view) has been marked by dedication to the inner truths of tai Chi (and beyond tai Chi). there have been other inspirations too, outside of the tai Chi world, such as Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.
What do you make of tai chi’s current popularity?
I am not quite sure what to make of it. Sometimes classes are very full, but the usual story is of high attrition rates. I welcome the fact that people want to learn tai Chi, but there are ten times as many people doing Yoga. Why? Perhaps a better question is "How do we make tai Chi more relevant to peoples lives'?". I think Tai Chi could be more popular if it was presented in a way that people could really relate to. one of my missions in life is to present tai Chi to the world in a contemporary and relevant way.
As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspects of Tai Chi?
to me tai Chi is an (internal) martial art of the highest kind, but Tai Chi for fighting (external) does not interest me at all.
What are your views on competitions?
i no longer have any personal interest in them. When I was in my twenties I entered a well known UK competition – but that was to prove to myself that I could demonstrate my art in front of others without fear. as a way of personal growth it helped me. I did not want to find out what mark I got, that to me was completely irrelevant.
What direction would you like to see TC take in the future?
I can only speak for my own organisation for this one: I would like us to be working with more clients and bringing the principles of tai Chi to different types of training courses. I'd like us to continue in our quest to make tai Chi highly relevant to today's world and today's challenges. i'd like us to grow in our tai Chi wisdom in a compassionate and confident way, according to our abilities and interests.