How many years have you been practicing Tai Chi?
It has been a pleasure to study with Richard & Simon Watson for 15 years. I have also had many opportunities to train with Professor Li Deyin and Master Wang Yanji. My training has been mainly in the Yang Style but I have also some experience of Sun style and have attended some sessions on the Chen style with Eva and Karel Koskuba.
What stimulated your interest in Tai Chi Chuan?
My interests in martial arts and eastern philosophies began in my mid teens. I remember spending many a long days at Birmingham’s Central Library researching into the teaching of Buddhism and Taoism. This was at the expense of doing `normal’ things like hanging out with my friends. These earlier experiences were obviously the seeds that would grow and stimulate my interests in internal martial arts.
What does Tai Chi Chuan mean to you?
I am drawn to its vastness and depth and to the beauty of its simplicity. By simplicity, I am referring to the fact that it does not rely on complex methods or techniques. In practice, it is a dynamic martial art and a health system based on deep-rooted philosophical concepts and principles which guide the development of our whole being.
What is the most important aspect for you?
The deeper meaning and the benefits come to me from analysing, practicing and understanding the applications of each individual movement. Having said this, all aspects of Tai Chi are important to me, be it forms, pushing hands, Chi Kung, Zhan Zhuang or meditation. My instinct or driving force when practicing Tai Chi is to try and understand what I am doing physically, what I am feeling internally, what I am realising spiritually and finally how all these aspects are interconnected.
Do you have any personal goals in Tai Chi?
My day to day goal is to practice harder, persevere when the going gets tough, be open so that I can learn from people around me and share what I have learnt with others who are interested. My longer term goal is to project Tai Chi Chuan as a comprehensive martial art and not just as a health promotion system.
Who or what inspired you?
I am continually inspired by the founders of this great art. History gives us many examples of ingenuity, immense sacrifices and dedication demonstrated by great masters such as Yang Lu Chan, Yang Cheng Fu and Li Yulin. I am equally inspired by the skills, integrity and openness of my teachers Richard and Simon Watson.
What do you make of Tai Chi Chuan’s current popularity?
It is great to see that many people are becoming aware of Tai Chi but at the same time I have concerns about how this art is being perceived. In the eyes of the general public, many of stereotypical images such as Tai Chi being just for the old or just a set of slow exercises are still prevalent. This, I feel, discourages younger people to become involved.
As a Teacher, how do you feel about the Martial aspects of Tai Chi?
Understanding the application of each move is critically linked to the better appreciation of the forms and how they should be practiced. When the forms are practised correctly, the health benefits are maximised. To me, the martial arts aspects are at the core of Tai Chi and should always be emphasised or at least explained when teaching the forms.
What are your views on competition?
Although I have never personally participated I can see the attractions and benefits for students and for promoting the art to the public. However, I do have some reservations about the ever increasing levels of acrobatics and other more physical aspects being introduced in the competition arena. What direction would you like to see Tai Chi
Chuan going in the future?
The innovation that led to the emergence of the different styles needs to be protected and nurtured.We need to look at a variety of teaching methods but retain the traditional principles and practices which make Tai Chi unique. There seems to be a momentum building for developing systems for grading. Tai Chi has been isolated from these changes. Despite the difficulties, I feel that there is a case for considering appropriate guidance or even standards for Tai Chi Chuan teachers and students. It is probably better for us to think about these issues ourselves as a community than to have them thrust upon us from outside.