STN Taiji Festival – Holland 2008

Dan Docherty

Stn Taiji Festival 08

The festival was held again in Amsterdam at a well appointed sports hall. Despite the untimely death back in March of Joppe Douwes, one of the mainstays of this event, everything was as well organized as usual by the effective STN team.

Only two weeks previously I had the pleasure of working as a judge with Cora van Geel, Rob Volke, Ceciel Kroes and Richard Zwaart at the TCFE Championships in Sweden, where their good humour and common sense were much needed.

It was good also to talk to Julian Webber, transplanted Welshman, who has taught Tai Chi in Holland for some years, specializing in working with children. He has an interesting and unusual approach to training.

Epi van der Pol was as before an informative master of ceremonies during the eclectic demonstrations which began with four youngsters doing wushu gymnastics with flags followed by their seniors performing external Taolu; it was lively and fun. Nils Klug and Judith van Drooge demonstrated pad punching from the William Chen School. I have seen Nils do this demo a few times with his usual nonchalant humour and hope TCC practitioners understand that if they are to hit someone correctly, it makes sense to learn to hit something (pads for example) with the correct structure.

Ismet Himmet who trained on Wudang Mountain for six years, demonstrated Wudang Boxing in a lithe and skilful manner, but having visited the mountain and some of its boxing schools six times between 1984 and 2004, I remain dubious about the authenticity of the boxing now taught on the mountain and believe it to be at best a fusion of old and new.

More interesting was a demo of the Russian Speznatz self defence method of Systema by Jan Bloem and students. After a very gymnastic warm up, Techniques were shown to deal with attacks with bare hands and knife. The defender blends with rather than opposing the attack much like in TCC and Baguazhang. There were some nifty techniques.

Kevin Magee and his American Okinawan Karate troup came on to demonstrate Peter Ralston’s art of Cheng Hsin. Peter describes it as “the art of effortless power” and with its clear Aikido and Baguazhang influences it was not so different from the Systema we had seen earlier


Peter Dekker gave an unusual display of Manchurian archery, stringing his bows then firing dummy arrows at a target from a variety of positions, including firing on the run. In the main he was pretty accurate.

Job Koesomobroto and his assistants gave us an interesting display of sabre attack and defence from the Peter Ralston school. He then very effectively used the same counters in test-cutting with a live blade.

TCUGB involvement in the competition came in the form of veteran competitor Tony Ulatowski who took a bronze in Tui Shou. On a personal basis the Dutch idea of having 2 forms competitors in the same area at the same time and in front of the same judges makes a lot of sense, especially where there are many entries in a particular category. I intend to introduce this at the next British Open Tai Chi Championships on April 5th, 2009.

I hope to encourage greater TCUGB involvement next year, although as I told Epi don’t expect me to have a metaphorical rabbit every time. Thanks again to all at STN for their hospitality.