Category Archives: Meet The Teacher

Meet Steve Goodeve

Steve Goodeve has been training in Tai Chi since 1994, and long been interested in Eastern philosophies. Steve is interested in combining human anatomy within TCC practice, while sustaining health and meditative focus. 

Steve teaches in the far western peninsula of Cornwall.

Contact: Mobile 07714 766901 Website www.taohearttaichi.co.uk

How many years have you been practicing tai chi?

I started studying TCC February 1994. I have studied Yang, Wu and Sun TCC family traditions, including hand and weapon forms (sword, walking stick, whip stick, staff and fan), and began studying Bagua in 2001, initially Gao style, followed by Sun style then within a Taoist monastic tradition with an emphasis on health and meditation. I have also studied many Qigong sets, routines and exercise systems, including standing meditation and Zhan Zhuang. I first engaged with the privilege of teaching TCC in 2006.

What stimulated your interest?

I have long been interested in Eastern philosophy, starting with Buddhism and Sufism. These led me to Taoist ideology and here I found a way that for me embraces and blends universal truths, and offers a guide to living well.

What does TCC mean to you?

TCC embodies the Tao and brings together movement, meditation and self-defence, as a focus for spiritual cultivation, while nourishing physical and health wellbeing.

What is the most important aspect?

Meditation in movement and harmony of mind, body and spiritual wellbeing are  important aspects to me, however each of the component parts of TCC; movement, meditation and martial arts, combine as an integrated experience.

Do you have any personal goals?

I have a particular interest in human anatomy and try to demystify some of the more esoteric aspects of TCC instruction by referencing body parts that are engaged during certain movements, for example, movements from the ‘kua’ can be confusing, but relating this to muscle groups within the hips can help to identify those muscles that are ‘switched on’ to perform certain movements. I am interested in teaching and supporting the acquisition of precision in movements, that once integrated into a sensory memory, present a structure, so that movement may be have a foundation of precision but flow.

Who or what inspired you?

Naively but honestly, I was first inspired in the early 70’s by watching an ‘East meets West’ cowboy TV series called ‘Kung Fu’, wherein a travelling Shaolin priest prevailed over all in the Wild West with a combination of faux mysticism and ‘kick-ass’ Kung Fu. Many years later I began studies in Yang Style long form.

Since starting TCC, I have often been lucky but also always sought to find teachers that exemplified high standards, I hope I have ‘been ready when the teacher has appeared’, they may think differently!

What do you make of tai chi’s current popularity?

It’s good that TCC is so readily available, but quantity and quality are not always in congruence. The availability of distance learning through the internet and DVD is useful, but live and direct teaching is essential. Also this proliferation of instructor training courses may dilute traditional in-depth learning from skilled practitioners, and the experiential understanding that is found in longer training programmes, wherein the teacher/student relationship is more of a bonded apprenticeship that can be tried and tested before the student is invited to teach, and becomes a ‘qualified’ instructor.

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art?

The martial aspect is part of the three essential elements of TCC, alongside health and meditation. All parts of form have applications and martial functionality. I exemplify martial applications to improve understanding and muscle memory, not for fighting. Martial applications also tell a visual and kinaesthetic ‘story’ that can help students remember form movement sequences.

Of greater significance to me is the development of a ‘martial spirit’, this is less about fighting but resides in the ability to manage conflict, and the development of humility, perseverance, and integrity. What I often call a ‘Tai Chi mind’.

Pushing Hands (Tui Shou) practice to develop sensitivity, leverage, timing, co-ordination and positioning awareness within a playful partner context is a feature within my classes, and is a reminder to be in the present, feel and respond to what is, relax and explore the 13 Principles.

What are your views on competition?

I have never participated in a competition, it has never seemed relevant to me, but know that many find the process stimulating and feel it sharpens their technical skills development. ‘Never say never’, but for now, this is not for me.

The Tao provides guidance for competition, the challenge is internal, and in being able to let go of the desire to win in order to compete with a receptive and open mind and body. To do this our mind needs to be peaceful, not contentious, because the objective is self-realisation and improved health.

What direction would you like to see tai chi going in the future?

There are now so many opportunities to practice TCC, it has become widely accepted, but it is not routinely regulated, so the quality of teaching can be inconsistent with good practice. With the possible exception of those teachers who have a clear lineage connection, I would like to see a shared standard applied to TCC teaching with all teachers expected to register with an organisation such as TCUGB. Such a formal register may remove barriers to TCC acceptance as a mainstream exercise and wellbeing system, and potentially a discipline complimentary to medicine. Further to this I would like to see more long-term research into the potential health benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong.

I would also like to see more unification between Eastern terminologies for movement and Western medical and human anatomy studies. This may demystify some of the internal aspects of TCC ‘choreography’; however I would not wish to see TCC reduced to a synchronised sequence of ‘by-number’ movements.

 

In general the descriptions of movement could be more accessible to the western mind, but the sense of wellbeing generated by TCC practice is not easily accessible to explanation, like ‘the Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao’, perhaps it’s best experienced and enjoyed rather than analysed.

Meet Cher Robins

meet-cher-robbinsCher Robins is based in Brighton and teaches at Tai Chi Wisdon School. She can be contacted on 01903 369501 or you can visit the website at: www.taichiwisdom.net

How long have you been practicing Tai Chi?

I started practicing in 2002. I began with Cheng Man Ch’ing style hand form, sword and pushing hands. Now I train the traditional Yang Style Curriculum as taught Master Sam Masich; it covers hand forms, weapons and pushing hands and gives me enough to study for at least the next few lifetimes!

What stimulated your interest?

Between the ages of 12 and 28 I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. After successful treatment with CBT and graded exercise, I was finally well enough to begin a full life. However, I soon realized that there was more to health than just the absence of illness. I wanted to fully trust my body again. My GP recommended Qigong and so I found a local teacher and began training. I haven’t looked back since; I feel I know my body and can talk its language with an ever increasing vocabulary.

What does Tai Chi mean to you?

For me Tai Chi is about wholeness. I enjoy studying all aspects of the art as I feel this gives me the most opportunities for integrating all aspects of myself. I love the suppleness and smoothness of movement that Qigong brings; the mental clarity of moving or standing meditation or weapons practice and the emotional balance I gain from pushing hands practice. It is my time for me to be me.

What is the most important aspect?

Simply because it is my favourite it would have to be pushing hands. I love a challenge and for me the greatest one is the subtlety of applying my solo practice in the dynamic of two person work with all the questions that brings up.

Do you have any personal goals?

There are always curriculum goals and the list simply grows longer as I become aware of more layers to study; the trick, as I tell my students, is to find it inspiring rather than overwhelming.

At some point, when my children are old enough, I would love to attend one of Sam Masich’s 3 month intensives that cover the full curriculum – maybe when I retire and the kids have gone to university!

Who or what inspired you?

I am lucky, I married my teacher (Simon Robins) and am therefore constantly inspired. I have another wonderful teacher in Sam Masich, whose skill and generosity is astounding. Watching him do form or feeling his pushing hands is always an inspiration and extends the horizon into yet more unknown.

What do you make of Tai Chi’s current popularity?

I think it could be a lot more popular than it is. We’d need to work together as a community to present a coherent message; rather than focusing on the differences, we might do better to communicate the similarities. I found it quite confusing when looking for a class to begin and many teachers I spoke to dwelt on why their style was better or best. I always remember this when talking to students new to Tai Chi.

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art?

I’m always a little confused by the word ‘aspects’ in this question. I tend to think of Tai Chi as a martial qigong. It does improve health and posture when studied without any partner work, but it is most beneficial when taught with a thorough and detailed understanding of the martial purpose to give the choreography of solo forms integrity, meaning and purpose. As Yang Chengfu said,

‘Without an understanding of the methods of form and function, very few will obtain any benefit to mind or body.’

.

What are your views on competition?

For some students it is a vital part of motivating them to study. One of our students won a silver medal for pushing hands at the British Open a couple of years ago and it was the hardest three weeks of study he did. For others, Tai Chi is what they do to get out of the competitive world they inhabit at work all the rest of the week. As a teacher, it is important for me to recognise the individuality of students’ needs and experience.

What direction would you like to see tai chi going in the future?
Anything which brings joy and healing to people must be a good thing. Personally, as a secondary school teacher, I love to see an integrated curriculum which allows students to build their skills and develop along a clear path. I have been lucky to do this with both styles I have studied.

Meet David Gaffney

meet-david-gaffneyDavid Gaffney has been training in the Asian martial arts since 1980 and received an instructor’s certificate from the Chenjiagou Taijiquan School. He holds a 6th Duan grade with the Chinese Wushu Association. He teaches in Manchester and Cheshire and can be contacted on 0771 2616920. Website: chentaijigb.co.uk

How many years have you been practicing tai chi?

I was introduced to TCC in the mid- 1990s, so about 18 years.

What stimulated your interest?

I was practicing and competing in external martial arts and initially used TCC as a form of cross training to increase my looseness. After about six months I met Chen Xiaowang for the first time. He gave a short lecture on Chen TCC and then stood up and unleashed a series of fajin that blew my mind. At that point I had spent about 15 years training, first in Karate and then in Shaolin gongfu and kickboxing. I had trained with some very strong teachers, but this was just on a different level. From that moment I have trained only Chen TCC.

What does TCC mean to you?

TCC is more than a martial art, it is a complete way of life. At its heart TCC involves the search for balance in both physical and psychological terms. Using the vehicle of martial arts we try to balance the internal aspects of the emotional and logical mind and external aspects such as body structure and the equilibrium of hard-soft, fast-slow, open-close etc. The road to mastery in Taijiquan (and anything else) is the path of patient, dedicated effort without attachment to immediate results. Great success in any physical endeavour, including Taijiquan is built upon consistency and patience. We must be prepared to pay the price both in time and energy.

What is the most important aspect?

I believe in a ”whole syllabus” approach rather than picking out separate bits of the system. Every part of TCC is inter-related and there for a reason. Basic exercises like standing pole and reeling silk exercises, hand and weapon forms, push hands, pole-shaking etc complement and support each other. To get the most out of TCC, practitioners should also appreciate

the history and underlying philosophy of the art. What is the most important aspect to a person can change over time. The young are naturally active and like low postures and explosive movement; the strong may be drawn to the combat side; as people get a bit older health maintenance suddenly seems like a good idea; the elderly may look to maintain their mobility and suppleness. Ultimately to be successful in our practice we need to be able to adapt our TCC over time, all the time staying in line with the principles that have been laid down.

Do you have any personal goals?

Really Taijiquan is about the journey rather than the destination. I just want to carry on training with great teachers, following the traditional Chen village method and continue to develop naturally. A saying that is often repeated in Chenjiagou is that ”you can’t force the fruit to ripen”. There are no shortcuts. The students I like the best are the ones who quietly show up week after week, year after year and just get on with it. No hurry, no impatience to get on to the next thing. Just consistent honest effort…

Who or what inspired you?

First I’d like to mention John Bowen the teacher who first set me on the martial arts path back in 1980. His passion for the Oriental fighting arts sparked an interest that has taken me to China and the Far East almost 20 times. He died tragically young, but I do wonder sometimes what he would make of my martial arts journey. Over the years I have been fortunate to learn from some great TCC teachers who have each inspired me in different ways: The aforementioned Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing, Chen Zhenglei, Zhu Tiancai, Chen Ziqiang and Wang Haijun … The first time I went to China in 1997 it was like opening the door to a different world. For the last decade I’ve been training in the Chenjiagou Tai Chi School with Chen Xiaoxing. Anyone who has trained with him will be aware of his penchant for simple, repetitive and excruciating emphasis upon basic training, with no truck paid to entertaining students. He offers what works and then it is up to you to put in the effort. Don’t think about success. Just follow the rules and grind out the skill.

What do you make of tai chi’s current popularity?

For sure TCC is popular in terms of numbers, but there are still a great many misconceptions about the art. Many people come to TCC classes with the idea that it is an easy option that doesn’t need any effort or commitment. I read a recent article during which a person mentioned that his seventy something year old mother had gone to a Tai Chi class. She said she wouldn’t be going back again as ”she got more exercise during the walk to and from the class than during the class itself ”. The continuing move towards shorter and more simple forms and to fast-track instructor courses all feed into this. Taijiquan is much more than just learning a few sets of movements or a few push hands tricks. It is the development of complete physical and energetic coordination. It means striving to follow a set of rules that have been passed down for many generations. If it is to maintain its credibility newcomers to TCC need to be steered towards qualified teachers who have taken the time to learn the art properly, and teachers need to be encouraged to continue working on own development.

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art?

TCC is a martial art. Within Chen TCC we can trace back almost 400 years during which every generation, until recent times used their skills to defend themselves and their community. People often try to understand the martial aspect of TCC by comparing it to other more obvious martial arts. TCC has its own unique way of training martial skill. It requires us to train the whole body as a system rather than training individual techniques. Many learners become fixated on training set applications rather than the underlying method. Simply training hard is not enough. We must understand and train in line with Taijiquan’s principles and philosophy. For example if we are to develop effective fajin we should first learn to ”fang song” or loosen our body. Taijiquan’s unique brand of looseness allows us to use strength effectively. We should also understand spiral force, the requirements for each part of the body, how to coordinate the crotch and waist, how to use the floor to employ the system’s ”rebounding force” …

What are your views on competition?

Competition has its place. Before I came to TCC I competed many times in external martial arts competitions and once taking up TCC was successful in several push hands competitions. All valuable experience in terms of being tested under pressure. If your goal is to achieve fighting skills, you can learn a lot about yourself and your ability when faced with a non-compliant opponent. It’s okay to talk about this or that technique, but can you continue to fight after you have been hurt? Can you control your emotions when facing a strong opponent in a full contact bout. Do you realise how much punishment you or another person can take, without even being aware of it, when your adrenalin is flowing? Answering these questions gives confidence and a sense of realism to your training. Forms competition can motivate some people to train harder. Ultimately I find that the majority of students are not that interested in competition, which is also okay.

What direction would you like to see tai chi going in the future?

Regardless of style, I would like to see more people keeping confidence in the traditional systems. The traditional way is harder to learn, but it is worth learning.

Meet Ros Smith

meet-ros-smithHow long have you been practicing Tai Chi?

15 years. In September 1998 I had my first Tai Chi lesson with Joe Harte, who was training with Patrick Kelly, a long term student of Master Huang Sheng Shyan. The teaching is based upon Master Huang’s 5 loosening exercises, Cheng Man-Ch’ing’s 37 movement short form, Yang style 108 long form, fixed pattern pushing hands and meditation. After 18 months Joe Harte moved to the North East and I was lucky to continue this training with Dave and Jean Haines, also long term students and senior instructors of Patrick Kelly.

What stimulated your interest?

In 1989 when I was a Superintendent Physiotherapist in Elderly Care our Chinese Consultant asked me why I wasn’t doing Tai Chi with our Day Hospital clients like they did in China. At the time I had no idea what he was talking about. A career break for children followed and it wasn’t until ten years later that the instructor on a ‘Muscle Balance’ course suggested Tai Chi might help improve my poor posture and reduce low back pain. This time I was determined to find a class.

What does Tai Chi mean to you?

I feel Tai Chi helps to keep me young and slows down and reverses the aging process! It has helped improve my posture and I rarely get back pain any more. Tai Chi has also helped teach me how to be calmer. This has helped in all areas of my life, such as my other hobby, horse riding. Being more relaxed helps the horse to stay calm and move more freely.

What is the most important aspect?

The internal aspects of Tai Chi. I am a rather busy and active person, always doing something either mentally or physically and if it wasn’t for Tai Chi I would not actually stop! Tai Chi helps me slow down, become internally calmer, and take time out for myself.

Do you have any personal goals?

To keep working with my teachers, Dave and Jean, in Patrick Kelly’s system of training and to keep improving. Also passing on this knowledge to my best ability to my students. I’d also like to inspire other Allied Health Professionals to start using adapted Tai Chi and Qigong with their clients to improve their health.

Who or what inspired you?

Firstly, listening to Patrick Kelly explain in minute detail the internal aspects of Tai Chi and then watching him demonstrate this in the Tai Chi form as well as in partner work. Secondly, attending a lecture by Dr Lorimer Moseley, an Australian Clinical Neuroscientist studying pain in humans explain how it is possible to remodel the brain and nervous system to treat people with chronic pain. This made me realise that teaching chronic pain patients to listen or feel their body’s internal sensations – joint, muscle and pressure sensors etc in the Tai Chi form, rather than concentrating on pain could possibly help rehabilitate damaged nervous pathways. Finally, the late Linda Chase Broda, founder of the Tai Chi and Chi Kung Forum for Health for getting together experienced Tai Chi players who were willing to share their expertise in using Tai Chi in the health field.

What do you make of Tai Chi’s current popularity?

I think Tai Chi’s popularity will continue to grow as research proves it’s benefits in health and well being. It is now a recognized form of treatment in the NHS for older people as research has shown it can reduce the risk and rate of falls. Tai Chi and Qigong’s potential as a therapy is being found in many other areas such as palliative care, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation etc.

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art?

I have no problem with Tai Chi being a martial art. This is the reason that it is so valuable in the health field. The external teaching, learning upright posture, the detailed choreography of the form etc strengthens postural muscles, improves flexibility and balance. The internal teaching, with concentration on working the mind in a meditative state to develop relaxed muscle tone, joint position and spatial body awareness is essential in a martial situation.

What are your views on competition?

I didn’t realise that Tai Chi competitions were so big until I recently joined the TCUGB and read about the European competition in the magazine. I am concerned about developing the internal aspects so it would be counterproductive and makes no sense for me to compete. Also it is nice to have one area of my life that is not competitive.

What direction would you like to see tai chi going in the future?

I would like to see more emphasis placed on teaching and learning the internal aspects of Tai Chi and of course more people of all ages taking up Tai Chi. In the health field more high quality research studies into Tai Chi with different conditions such as chronic heart failure, chronic obstructive lung disease, chronic low back pain and fibromyalgia etc will help convince the medical professionals of the benefits of this form of exercise.

Ros Smith is a Chartered Physiotherapist based in Cockermouth, Cumbria and can be contacted on 01900 829545 or  Tai Chi Exercises.

Meet Douglas Hardie

meet-douglas-hardieHow many years have you been practicing tai chi?

I was introduced to Tai Chi in the mid nineties, and immediately got a little obsessive about it. I should have noted the date, because I can’t be much more specific than that. Let’s say I’ve been practicing for 18 years or so, and began teaching 11 years ago.

What stimulated your interest?

I’ll be honest: I had no interest in Tai Chi at the time, but agreed to go to one of Bob Lowey’s weekend residentials in Allershaw out of a sense of duty to my girlfriend at the time. I expected a lot of New Age nonsense, but instead met lovely people and discovered something that seems to just fit with my ideas about how the body could work, about movement being an art.

What does TCC mean to you?

To me, TCC is a structured and rational way to look at how we use our bodies, and to investigate the relationships between how we move and our mental and physical health. Where it really stands out, is that it gives us a way to change our instinctive and learned behaviours over time.

What is the most important aspect?

Those who attend Tai Chi Caledonia, or any of the other big Tai Chi events will know that there are almost as many different approaches and objectives to the art as there are practitioners. This, to me, is one of the greatest strengths of the arts – it is a process, not an objective in itself. Using the same core principles and training methods, I can apply them to such a wide range of students’ needs. Falls prevention, mental health issues, the needs of inmates in prisons, stroke victims, martial artists, people with a wide range of debilitating illnesses, Alzheimer’s sufferers…the list of my client groups is long and very varied. The teaching I offer is varied too, but the core systems are the same.

Do you have any personal goals?

To be better.

Who or what inspired you?

I was very lucky to have two very different, but very good teachers at the very start of my training: Gordon Faulkner and Bob Lowey. Between them they introduced me to a wide range of skills, approaches and philosophies. They also introduced me to some frankly amazing people in the Tai Chi world, and made me feel part of a connected, worldwide network of Tai Chi obsessives.

Notable people would have to include Professor Zhang Guande in Beijing, Luigi Zanini, John Bolwell and John Grocott, Chris Thomas, Epi Van De Pol and Mantak Chia.

What do you make of tai chi’s current popularity?

Great. This is how I make my living – the more people interested, the better. Yes, there will always be quality issues about those that are supplying the demand, but the really obsessed will end up with the good teachers.

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art?

Most of my students are interested in the martial side, but mostly at an academic and abstract level. They want to know and to see that there is a physical validity to what they are learning, but have little interest in the fighting arts themselves.

It is part of my teaching that the qualities that need to be mastered as a fighter apply to every aspect of living, that controlling and choosing our responses to stress is one of the core outcomes of tai chi training.

What are your views on competition?

I haven’t been involved in any competition, so I would be wary about passing judgement on them. All the same, I am not convinced that competition is especially meaningful in terms of a learning process, nor as an indication of ability.

What direction would you like to see tai chi going in the future?

There’s some amazing cross- pollination taking place at Beijing Sports University, and elsewhere, where differing views and research on related subjects are being absorbed and played around with (see the Youtube video of a Chicago cop brought into BSU to teach grappling techniques to Wushu Students). I’m looking forward to Tai Chi being developed and changed, growing from a minority past-time towards something that is influencing teaching in all aspects of life, while maintaining it’s core truths and validity.

Douglas Hardie is based in Muir of Ord, Ross & Cromarty and can be contacted on 01463 871965 or  Highland Taijiquan

Meet Tony Hardiman

meet tony hardiman

How many years have you been practicing tai chi?

In 1960 I learned what might have been described loosely as the martial applications. The classes were haphazard and at times, became a free for all. Having already experienced a variety of fighting arts, I did not see the core of Tai Chi until after many years of Aikido and my reintroduction to the 24 forms about 15 years ago.

Since a child, I have used Chi energy but did not know what it was. Chi Kung was an essential part of my early learning. About 1953 I started to self develop the energy skills that appeared to warrant my being taught in 1958 by some who had escaped the trouble in China. Such privilege was not truly appreciated by an ignorant young person.

What stimulated your interest?

Most children are born with some ability of ‚’Hands on healing‚’. I did not lose the ability when adults told it was not possible to do this. Upon meeting exiled Chinese masters in 1958, my life took a different path. It was then that I experimented with many different forms and started to learn Tai Chi and Chi Kung.

After a few years I was finding TCC the more interesting and deeper subject, so I dropped the karate.

What does TCC mean to you?

It has become a vehicle for all that I see as worthwhile.When I teach, I incorporate the healing arts and mercy, a tolerance of all in the Daoist traditions.

What is the most important aspect?

Tai Chi forms may be used for all ages and physical abilities. They provide the skilled teacher with means of helping people to health and fitness in a way that may be adjusted to suit the individual. For me, it provides the opportunity to meet others, to help host seminars such as Health Qigong, to attend seminars and competitions, to train with experts and refine my forms. What I learn is helping me to help others in so many ways.

Do you have any personal goals?

Goals are sometimes a bit of a let down once achieved. I just need to develop at my own pace and keep fit enough to pass on my knowledge to others. Life offers such excitement when unplanned and little light bulbs keep flickering on when I least expect it.

Who or what inspired you?

I have been interested in Tai Chi since the 60s, when I practiced Kung Fu. Those movements and Chi Kung are as relevant now as ever. Learning Aikido from Sensei Don Weir then Master Lee Ah Loi was a formative part of my life. Since reawakening my interest in Tai Chi through Lee Fairweather, I have learned a great deal from the seminars with Masters Faye Li Yip, Tary, Richard and Simon Watson and the visiting masters. I am in the right place in my life to better appreciate their skills.

What do you make of tai chi‚’s current popularity?

There appears to be growing despair in the minds of many who feel that the NHS has let them down. Many are seeking a different way to actually self manage their own lives and conditions. Disempowerment is soul destroying and common sense has to return. Tai Chi has had a lot of ‚’Good press‚’ and the various styles addressing falls

prevention, self-confidence and particular ailments are becoming of interest to more people.

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art? I have taught martial arts and fitness since I took my first self- defence classes in 1963. I have taught hundreds of people and seen many whose life has been altered for the better. I see the martial arts as the completion of the healing arts. The paradox of life is duality and the Law of Opposites. For me, the more one may heal the more one may be able to destroy. In order to maintain a balanced personality, one should learn all aspects. Not all are physically or emotionally capable and many find the martial side frightening and abhorrent. It‚’s not for everyone. However, an introduction to the purpose and application assists comprehension of the form.

What are your views on competition?

I am all for competitions yet I have a great respect for the view that these arts are about personal development and the loss of ego. I go to have fun.Competitions are great for meeting others of like mind from all over the world and maintaining standards.

What direction would you like to see tai chi going in the future?

The way ahead is opening up. Those who teach Tai Chi must be flexible and to a certain extent, opportunistic.I do not see that trying to ram it down the throat of sceptics is going to do any real good. Only by example and patience will it grow.

The Chi Clinic

Meet Sue Weston

Sue Weston

How long have you been practising T‚’ai-Chi?
23 years, I have continued to study and deepen my practice over the years and have a particular interest in Chinese Medical Qigong.

Who or what stimulated your interest?
In 1986 I injured myself in performance, I was a professional dancer for many years. I needed something slow to keep me moving. T‚’ai-Chi intrigued me and as it was slow, just what I needed after the injury. It was difficult then to find a T‚’ai-Chi teacher but I finally found John Kells in London.

What does T‚’ai-Chi mean to you?
T‚’ai-Chi and Qigong are practices that liberate our natural wisdom and compassion. Through the cultivation of inner and outer poise: a clear, calm mind, a relaxed, flowing posture and ease in breathing, the practitioner gradually discovers their confidence, stability, strength, flexibility and softness. This enables the dissolving of neurotic tendencies and the engagement of the power of our innate wisdom. Our stability allows us to connect with the kindness and compassion of our vulnerable hearts.

What is the most important aspect for you?
Awareness, a consciousness of self, leading to empathy for others. In my classes and retreats I am inspired by the ah-ha moments of realisation as participants link the internal aspects of the forms to their every day life. Taking the essence of these movement philosophies into life brings wholeness to the practice so it does not exist solely in the studio, but everywhere. Ultimately T‚’ai- Chi and Qigong are preparations for loss and death. This awareness releases the practitioner to live life joyfully, creatively and outrageously.

Who or what inspired you?
My first classes were confusing: the class was extremely crowded, there were mirrors covering two walls of the studio and there was none of the discipline and generosity that I had become accustomed to in my professional dancing life. It was shocking. The class had more men than women and the martial art aspect dominated. It wasn‚’t a comfortable environment for me, after my dance world. John launched us directly into pushing hands, most of the time this manifested as pushing anger, very uncomfortable. At one class I pushed hands with one of his long-term students and it was like dancing with sparkling water. That inspired me and I yearned for that quality. I knew from years of working physically and philosophically with movement through my dance that this quality was not going to arise overnight. I then committed to the long-term uncovering of this quality within myself. And learnt to be flexible within the class and give up expectations of the sociability of my dance world.

Do you have any personal goals in T‚’ai-Chi?
I wish to continue adapting my practice to a body that sometimes fails: I already have one new NHS knee. I wish to continue learning and teaching as I grow older. My changing and aging physicality has its advantages – when I am working with elders and differently-abled people I can empathise with their conditions, uncovering ways to mould the techniques to their capabilities.

What do you make of T‚’ai-Chi‚’s current popularity?
Marvellous! My heart swells with gratitude to Gerda Geddes and her inspiring life‚’s work that gave T‚’ai-Chi to the West in a way that makes it available to every church hall in the land and not a minor martial art practiced by the few.

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial art aspect of the art?
I did not know that T‚’ai-Chi was a martial art when I started learning it. A few classes later I realised that I had been setting myself up as a target, being a ‚’visible‚’ sort of person. My curiosity aroused I began to see that this could be something I might practice, and would be available to someone like myself (woman, not so young etc.). The internal aspects of self-defence interests me more than the external physically of uprooting another. For me the martial art aspect, the protection, is contained in awareness of the mind, the breath and the posture, three simple and yet almost impossible qualities to balance within ourselves.

What are your views on competition?
I was and still am more interested in the inner meaning, the psychology, of our moving physical beings. Competition implies some are right, others wrong, instead of each doing their best with what they have at that moment.

What direction would you like to see T‚’ai-Chi go in the future?
I love watching the way that different directions are opening up for T‚’ai-Chi and Qigong: as a full-on martial art, as a gentle practice for physical and mental health, in schools, refuges, prisons and hospitals, on retreat, in the spa, the gym, the art centre… My own T‚’ai-Chi practice and teaching focuses on empowering and healing through meditation (which I have been practising long before T‚’ai-Chi came into my life) and Chinese Medical Qigong. It continues to be a daily resource; a treasure trove of philosophy and insight.

Meet Steffi Sachsenmaier

Steffi Sachsenmaier

How many years have you been practicing Tai Chi? Very few years! I never like being asked this question when I teach, as I feel that if I am being honest, my skills and quality might be doubted by the students. So my answer always is: for a few years, but I have been training basically every day! I only teach beginners at this stage in our academy.

What stimulated your interest in Tai Chi Chuan? When I lived in Paris a few years ago, having a bit of a difficult time, I often saw tai chi practitioners in the park nearby which I lived, the Jardin du Luxembourg. I thought, this is what Ineed to do!I was taken by the sense of internal connection of the movement, and was longing to be able to practice a ‘form’ as such, by myself, which I could investigate on a daily basis. I could see it was something that would give so much back.

What does Tai Chi mean to you? It has become pretty much the ‘framework’ of my life, very quickly. I am discovering ‘questions’ for life in it, as well as ‘answers’. Through training I constantly discover ‘principles’ that I can apply to other parts of my life, which is a great treasure. Also in the practical sense it structures my day, as I train on a daily basis, even if I can’t get to class at my academy. No matter what else happens in life, I always feel that my tai chi progresses, so it is a very positive part of my daily life.

What is the most important aspect for you? The wisdom that is in the art, which is inexhaustible.

Do you have any personal goals in Tai Chi? To practice on a daily basis with humility, for the rest of my life!

Who or what inspired you? Apart from somehow just having ‘clicked’ with the art, it is my Sifu, Gary Wragg, who is my strongest inspiration. I feel through him I aspire to the highest standards, and I admire him for what he set up and makes possible. Our academy is open every day, and it has become a strong part of the lives of a large group of his students. What he seems to have achieved personally in and with tai chi chuan is inspiring, specifically in the sense of integrating it into his work as an artist. I can relate strongly to this, as I also work creatively (in the performing arts). He is an amazing teacher, and without his constant presence and invested teaching I would not have had the chance to make tai chi such a strong part of my life.

What do you make of Tai Chi Chuan’s current popularity? I am supportive of a growing awareness and interest in tai chi chuan, but would want to see it happening for the right reasons. I myself have witnessed before I found our academy a way of teaching and promoting tai chi chuan that makes no sense to me anymore, for its lack of martial attention and bad teaching for money overall.

As a teacher, how do you feel about the martial aspects of Tai Chi? Tai chi is a martial art! Every class I teach includes training applications, and how those relate to the form. I am also intrigued by discovering from Sifu Gary Wragg how the martial aspect and health are always related. He keeps saying, what is good for martial is good for health!

What are your views on competition? They are a great incentive to train, to achieve smaller goals, and to test yourself in a specific moment, on many levels, including skills, technique, calmness of mind, humility… Everything has to be there at a precise moment that is not of your choice. Training for such an event brings another level to your practice. It becomes about training to ‘be in the moment’. I have learned so, so much in competitions that I could not have gained from normal training. Everything becomes just a little more ‘real’ when you are doing pushing hands competitions for instance, and it is not easy to recreate this sense in a training session. The same goes for the forms. Also I find competitions important events for an exchange of knowledge and awareness of different practitioners, practicing different styles and techniques, and in this regard they are an integral part of fostering some form of a ‘tai chi community’.

What direction would you like to see Tai Chi going in the future? I would like tai chi to be widely recognised for the rich internal martial art that it is. It would be amazing if it were to become an Olympic discipline, as it would give the art the status and recognition it deserves as an authentic, traditional as well as modern discipline.

Meet Rita Mikalauskas

meet Rita Mikalauskas

How many years have you been practicing Tai Chi? I started studying Tai Chi in 1996; originally I studied Cheng Man Ching’s 37 posture form, and then in 2002/3 I studied LuiHe Ba Fa with Andy Harris, but since 2004 I have studied Yang style with my teacher Dr Wang Zhi Xiang from Shanghai.

What stimulated your interest?

I first saw TaiChi in a book called The Way of Harmony in the early 90s and tried learning the form from it, unsurprisingly, I didn’t actually manage to do so but it struck a chord with me. However, my first actual foray into Martial Arts began by my studying Shotokan Karate; unfortunately I found that the only time I was any good at it was when I went into class all wound up! Additionally, I was finding it hard going on my body, I already had a lot of problems with my shoulders and realised I was never going to make it to a black belt. Shortly after giving up karate I met an old acquaintance who told me about a Tai Chi class that was running at the local college, I signed up, attended class and felt like I’d come home.

What does TC mean to you?

Letting go. Being natural. Exploration. Life. I love the way that everything comes back to Tai Chi.

Do you have any personal goals with TC?

To carry on letting go, opening up and transforming all the hard, stuck places. To continue deepening and refining my understanding of Tai Chi’s principles.

Who or what inspired you?

Several individuals have acted as catalysts for me during my Tai Chi journey. Nigel Sutton for his openness and humour, Simon Wired from whom I first gained a deeper insight into Tai Chi theory, and Andy Harris for telling me to go and find my own teacher. However, it is both my teacher Dr Wang Zhi Xiang and Tai Chi that inspire me now. Dr Wang for his skill, depth of knowledge, openness and honesty when teaching and his profound understanding of Tai Chi principles and theory: and my Tai Chi practice that lets me explore what I learn and that sometimes reveals a deeper insight into its realms.

What do you make of tai chi’s current popularity?

I see it as a good thing, as more and more quality research is published, the more mainstream and entrenched it becomes. Nonetheless, I find that many peoples’ expectations of Tai Chi are unrealistic inasmuch as they don’t understand that benefits come with commitment to practice.

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspects of Tai Chi?

The martial aspects are an integral part of Tai Chi. What we learn is a martial art, how we learn it and our emphasis when learning may differ but without at least an understanding of this potential limits ones overall understanding of Tai Chi.

What are your views on competitions?

Early in my Tai Chi career I entered a competition for open hand form and won a gold medal (1999 Zhong Ding International Championships) so I think they can be a valuable way of assessing ones own development vis-a –vis ones peer group and that well organised, professionally administered competitions act, on a large scale, as a forum for disseminating information and good practice; on the other hand I’ve seen some push-hand competitions that looked more like a rugby free for all.

What direction would you like to see TC take in the future?

Because of its tremendous range of benefits I would like to see Tai Chi become part of the national school curriculum in addition to seeing it utilised far more by the Health Authority. However, I think it’s really important that we do not lose site of its origins and that wherever possible or practicable these benefits are understood within Tai Chi’s theoretical and martial foundation.

The depth of Tai Chi, its energetic quality and its principles. How it makes me feel.

Do you have any personal goals with TC? To carry on letting go, opening up and transforming all the hard, stuck places. To continue deepening and refining my understanding of Tai Chi’s principles.

Who or what inspired you?

Several individuals have acted as catalysts for me during my Tai Chi journey. Nigel Sutton for his openness and humour, Simon Wired from whom I first gained a deeper insight into Tai Chi theory, and Andy Harris for telling me to go and find my own teacher. However, it is both my teacher Dr Wang Zhi Xiang and Tai Chi that inspire me now. Dr Wang for his skill, depth of knowledge, openness and honesty when teaching and his profound understanding of Tai Chi principles and theory: and my Tai Chi practice that lets me explore what I learn and that sometimes reveals a deeper insight into its realms.

What do you make of tai chi’s current popularity?

I see it as a good thing, as more and more quality research is published, the more mainstream and entrenched it becomes. Nonetheless, I find that many peoples’ expectations of Tai Chi are unrealistic inasmuch as they don’t understand that benefits come with commitment to practice.

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspects of Tai Chi?

The martial aspects are an integral part of Tai Chi. What we learn is a martial art, how we learn it and our emphasis when learning may differ but without at least an understanding of this potential limits ones overall understanding of Tai Chi.

What are your views on competitions?

Early in my Tai Chi career I entered a competition for open hand form and won a gold medal (1999 Zhong Ding International Championships) so I think they can be a valuable way of assessing ones own development vis-a –vis ones peer group and that well organised, professionally administered competitions act, on a large scale, as a forum for disseminating information and good practice; on the other hand I’ve seen some push-hand competitions that looked more like a rugby free for all.

What direction would you like to see TC take in the future?

Because of its tremendous range of benefits I would like to see Tai Chi become part of the national school curriculum in addition to seeing it utilised far more by the Health Authority. However, I think it’s really important that we do not lose site of its origins and that wherever possible or practicable these benefits are understood within Tai Chi’s theoretical and martial foundation.

Meet Richard Odell

How many years have you been practising Tai Chi?
14 years.

What stimulated your interest?
I went to an adult education class to see what it was like and was lucky enough to find Katherine Allen a wonderful instructor teaching the Wudang style which offers a complete system all aspects of which I have enjoyed and found rewarding. I found Tai Chi to be very much the right thing at the right time and although I did not realise initially that it would become as important as it has I wanted to do more and more of it. The way Katherine taught offered understanding of what we were trying to achieve and why at every step of the way and also continually asked us to do more than we thought we could and this very much appealed to me.

What does Tai Chi mean to you?Development. It is of course not the only way of developing but I find that genuine focused practise provides genuine results and it is the most natural and rewarding way of developing that I have come across. Tai Chi puts into place a system starting with basic developments in physical health right up to levels which allow you to explore your limits and then realise that perhaps they were not your limits and there is more to be explored.

What is the most important aspect for you?
Balance. I very much believe in the principles of yin and yang and my previous reference to exploring limits means exploring them in all directions so that an overall balance might be achieved and so the real answer to what is the most important aspect is everything.

Who or what inspired you?
The most inspiring thing for me is Tai Chi itself but this might not be the case if I had not had good instructors and so Katherine is my most inspirational person. As I progressed and started going to Dan Docherty’s workshops I saw dedication and excellance at a rare level and was also inspired by people like Godfrey Dornelly and Ray White who were doing the same training but making it look wonderful.
I am continually inspired by my students in many ways.

Do you have any personal goals in Tai Chi?
I hope to continually remind myself that no matter how complicated things appear to be the answer lies in the simple basics of Tai Chi and life in general.
I would like my classes to continue to reflect my belief that Tai Chi has something to offer everyone. I would also like to remember that the most important thing I do for my students is to practise. In competitions I would like to play a part in standardising and improving judging and will try to support Gary Wragg’s efforts in this.

What do you make of Tai Chi’s current popularity?
Overall I think it is splendid. There are dangers the more money there is to be made out of it but the more people who are introduced to Tai Chi the better as far as I am concerned.

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art?
I have very much enjoyed and benefited practising Tai Chi as a martial art. It has not altered my view on violence which is something that I hate and it upsets me and I am not cut out for it but I have found this has not prevented me from practising all aspects of a style which is well known for maintaining Tai Chi as a fully martial art. The fitness benefits are such that when I starting my first sparring practise just after my 40th Birthday for the next few years I felt fitter and stronger than ever before even though I had always played a lot of sport.
Even though I have a big variety of classes, there are none in which I pretend that Tai Chi is not a martial art and I always explain that to obtain the full benefits of Tai Chi we must practise all aspects. Limited practise produces limited results but if you have trouble even getting out of a chair those limited results may be very desirable.

What are your views on competition?
Before I began training in Tai Chi I believed that I did not have a fighters spirit and was not competitive. In my 11th successive year of competitions I now know that I do not have a fighters spirit and am not competitive.
Competition can offer a focus and increased desire for quality in training and a means of testing oneself under pressure. In my first competitions I was happy just to get through them but year on year I have used the experience and training to develop and I will move away from competing as an individual now not because I ended up winning medals but because I can now go into a pressurised situation confident that I can produce my best which is what it was all about.
I do not feel contaminated or changed by competition, it has been a very beneficial process and I have a debt of gratitude to those who have been strong and brave enough to stage competitions particularly Dan Docherty.

What direction would you like to see Tai Chi going in the future?
I would really like to see the basic principles of Tai Chi being reflected in the organisations and people who are at the forefront of its development. That is not to say no one is doing that at the moment but anyone who has read the magazines and attended gatherings will know that our opposing forces are not always working in harmony. I firmly believe that Tai Chi has something to offer all people, from those who want or need to do full contact fighting to those who are just trying to slow their declining health. It is right that we should try to expose the charlatans and disingenuous and preserve the integrity of Tai Chi but the good must be together to achieve this.

Meet Richard Small

Richard Small

How long have you been practicing Tai Chi?
On and off I have looked at Tai Chi since about 1980, seeing several different teachers whose names I mostly cannot remember but whose skills I still admire. I started to practice regularly, what I then thought was Tai Chi, about 1996. In truth I think only now am I beginning to practice what I currently believe is real Tai Chi. So to answer the question, I could say, over twenty years ‚’ that‚’s for image and ego, but better to say it‚’s only a few months that I‚’ve practiced ‚’real‚’ Tai Chi. Another question might be, ‚’how long have you been learning Tai Chi?‚’ then the answer would be, ‚’for ever‚’.

Who or what stimulated your interest?
Firstly, the TV series ‚’Kung Fu‚’ in the 1970s, after which I sought a class and found Aikido. A growing interest in the martial arts led me to look further and notably in Tai Chi I found an experience and pleasure that interested me.

What does Tai Chi mean to you?
It‚’s inherent part of my life; it means discovery, excitement, friendship, peace; it means travel to China, culture; one foot in history the other in the future ‚’ sort of yin and yang. It leaves me in wonderment at the seemingly ‚’magic‚’ power that senior practitioners can exhibit ‚’ a power hidden to all but the receiver. Tai Chi means association with great masters whose skills demand world recognition yet in their humility they ask for nothing. Tai Chi puts you in touch with yourself; it puts you in touch with kindness, gentleness, devastating power and an energy powered peace. Tai Chi is a journey, a journey for life, in life, and a journey to enjoy.

What is the most important aspect for you?
Discovery, body awareness, the chance to share ‚’ there is no one important aspect really.

Who or what inspired you?
We gain inspiration from so many places, people and events. I remain grateful to all my teachers, be they Master or student.
In my 20s I met a lady called Iris who was in her 60s with arthritis, but her Tai Chi was graceful, balanced and seemingly pain free, she used such wonderful expressions like, ‚’Carry Tiger to the Mountain‚’ . Others include, my Aikido teacher, Tony Sargeant who travelled to China to further his martial arts studies, Simon Watson for his skills and excellent teaching, his father, Richard whose congenial, generous nature conceals years of extensive effort in search of perfection in the martial arts. Master Wang Yanji, Professor Li DeYin, Alan Smith, Kung Fu man that taught me lots of Tai Chi form, Mick Leslie for his kindness and generous teaching, Tary Yip of the Deyin Institute for his calm fortitude in the face of any disaster. Trees growing on mountains, elderly students that skip in to class with a smile, the list is endless.

Do you have any personal goals in Tai Chi?
To keep going and keep learning, to free the body and mind from tensions and find that beautiful power the masters have ‚’ and when I have I‚’d like to share it with others.

What do you make of Tai chi‚’s current popularity?
I wish it was actually more popular than it is; it has so many benefits to offer so many people. Many ‚’popular ‚’exercisesystemshave crowded classes, yet they do not in my opinion touch the essence as Tai Chi does. If I advertised a new class where people could learn the latest fad, ‚’Pilats-Chi-med‚’ , a rich combination of Pilates, Tai Chi and Aborigine dream time meditation, all done to new age Swaziland Bongo drums, then a million people with handfuls of money would queue for a place. Tell them it‚’s an ancient well proven exercise system, virtually guaranteed to improve your life and health called Tai Chi and you‚’ll struggle to pay the hall fees.

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art?
How can it possibly be ignored? How can it possibly be Tai Chi if we don‚’t recognise where it came from and why it existed? The martial aspect, even at a cursory level aids the focus of energy, creates a semblance of confidence, gives a sense of power, and creates interaction with others ‚’ real or imaginary. All have their place, surely?

What are your views on competition?
I know little about it, but have admiration for those who seek to test their skills after dedicated practice. No doubt competition makes for a more rounded Tai Chi student as they come closer to what there was in the origins of the art.
‚’To master others is partial victory, To master self is total victory‚’ The competitor can do both.

What direction would you like to see Tai Chi go in future?
It needs a national boost in awareness, there are things going on but in a fragmented and sometimes insular way. TCUGB do an excellent job, particular credit to the magazine, and we should support them. What a shame the Chinese couldn‚’t persuade the Olympic committee to give Tai Chi more prominence in 2008.

Tai Chi is good, it has no enemies …whatitcoulddowithisafew more friends. Sadly our material world has pushed the spiritual to the edges. I hope in some way my classes and web site site will make a difference, just like anyone could. ‚’ remember that it only takes one seemingly weightless snowflake to add to the others to break the branch … be that snowflake.

Meet Richard Farmer

How many years have you been practicing Tai Chi? I began practicing Tai Chi in 1977 so I guess that means 26 years! I founded The Rising Dragon Tai Chi School in 1979.

What stimulated your interest? I saw a friend of mine playing the form and I was struck dumb by its beauty, grace and ‘other worldliness’. I was very unhappy at the time and new that I needed help of some sort. So when I asked him what he was doing and learnt that it was Tai Chi Chuan, I thought I would give it a go. I quickly realized that if I didn’t give it 100% how would I know if it would help me? So I decided to give Tai Chi 100% for 10 weeks and if it did not help me, I would stop and seek something else. Well as you can see I am still exploring and it is still helping

What does Tai Chi mean to you? Tai Chi Chuan means everything to me. It is a wonderful way to move – it is a disco with only one record that I move ecstatically to each time! It keeps me healthy and flexible by showing me the mind of resistance, which when released allows that part of the body, where the mind of resistance was stored, to be completely free. It is a gentle way to learn to deal with any kind of threat because it shows me where I am in the way. It is a perfect mirror. It is a true spiritual path as it gracefully and sometimes fiercely, allows me to understand the meaning of non-action and how Richard Farmer can live rather than survive this life.

What is the most important aspect for you? The understanding of non action and the ability to rest in the centre of action

Do you have any personal goals in Tai Chi? To become totally natural

Who or what inspired you? Dr Chi Chiang Tao. Dr Chi was a personal student of Cheng Man Ching for many many years and I believe vice president of the Taiwan Tai Chi Chuan association as well as one of its senior instructors. He was very good. When he pushed me it was like being lifted by the wind. When I went to approach him all I felt was air. One of his favorite things was when you went to push him in double push hands, he would suddenly be behind you! He would get between my intention to push and the action so fast that I could not see him move. However after a personal meeting with Jesus in a dream, he gave up official Tai Chi in favor of a spiritual life. Some time later, he did begin teaching again but mostly on a one to one basis and then only through recommendations from people close to him. I was fortunate to have spent some time with him. I asked him to teach me spiritual Tai Chi and after testing me thoroughly he agreed. I am still exploring what he showed me. He said the essence of Push Hands was, “When your partner move, you move”. He was not just talking about physical movement.

What do you make of Tai Chi’s current popularity? I think it’s great

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art? Martial artists dance, self defense people fight. Tai Chi Chuan is the ultimate martial art; in fact it is a martial art of life. We use the body to understand the mind and we explore that mind in relation to living this life. As a means of dealing with aggression, both physical and mental, Tai Chi works, this has been proven to me in reality. However, ultimately, the aim is to become Tai Chi and create harmony even amidst chaos.

What are your views on competition? I think in competitions there should be no winner or medals or belts, that way people would attend because they want to play Tai Chi rather than to win. Of course people do attend to play together, but the medal distorts the view, in my opinion.

What direction would you like to see Tai Chi going in the future? In what ever way the Tao decides. The art of Tai Chi has unlimited potential, there are so many aspects that could be developed and that means the paths are limitless. So which ever way each practitioner is inspired to develop Tai Chi, that is the way to go and the Way may be opened for you to share it with others. It is in the hands of the Tao.

http://www.risingdragontaichi.com

Meet Ray Pawlett

ray Pawlett

How many years have you been practicing tai chi?

I started in 1990. My Taijiquan has been supplemented over the years by studying healing arts, meditation, Energy and other martial arts. The common thread is that I have been fortunate to have studied with the some of the most highly trained teachers and educators living today.

What stimulated your interest?

It is the understanding and use of Chi. The whole concept fascinates me as much now as it did then. In the old days my ideas were quite fanciful and ungrounded but experience and study have refined my consciousness to the point where Chi is a very real experience that can be experienced by anyone with an open and enquiring mind ‚’ and the correct training.

What does TCC mean to you?

I studied for many years with Christopher Pei. His explanation of Taijiquan is that it is a system that trains in health, martial arts and meditation. The glue that binds the three areas of health, martial arts and meditation is Chi. Taijiquan is a skilful method that trains the willing student to strengthen their body, mind and spirit in a way that allows them to connect with their own internal Energies and ultimately the Energies of others and that of the Universe.

What is the most important aspect?

The study of Chi. Without an understanding of Chi, it is not easy to reach the higher levels of being and consciousness that Taijiquan offers.

Do you have any personal goals?

There comes a point when the Taijiquan practitioner realises that it matters little how many different forms there are but it does matter what they do with it. As the ultimate goals of Tai Chi are spiritual, then it is my opinion that to become highly refined in the art without using it to help others is just food for the ego. My goal is then, to use Taijiquan and Energy arts to help raise other people‚’s spiritual vibrations, to create a positive influence on the world.

Who or what inspired you?

I have been inspired by and have gratitude and respect for my many teachers, fellow Taijiquan players and students. Taijiquan is a Taoist art and as such it recognises the flows and patterns of nature. This inspires me greatly.

What do you make of tai chi‚’s current popularity?

My personal belief is that the evolutionary spirals of mankind and Taijiquan have become more fully entwined. As Taijiquan has evolved, it has transformed itself from being a martial arts discipline to something that is popularly practiced worldwide and has therefore become a part of the Universal consciousness of mankind. It offers a myriad of learning and developmental opportunities ‚’ each of which can help the practitioner to become more grounded and connected to the Universe around them. Taijiquan along with many of the other spiritual disciplines can create healing for the individual and for mankind.

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art?

Taijiquan started as a martial art and still is a martial art. If a student really does not want to work with anything that is connected with martial arts then that is fair enough but the result is not Taijiquan. It would be Chi Gung or something similar. There is no reason that Taijiquan exercises could not be included in the coaching but I feel that it should be clear that it is not Taijiquan.

However, there is no reason to exclude anybody from Taijiquan. I have taught Taijiquan to people who have had an understanding of the martial aspects but would never consider themselves to be martial artists. This understanding gives a blueprint to getting the body positions and intent correct but does not require the student to be a martial artist ‚’ unless they want to be.

The martial aspects of Taijiquan are like a map of how Taijiquan works. I see many people who have excelled at the martial side of Taijiquan but have not investigated the more spiritual aspects. I see this as an incomplete understanding of the art. What are your views on competition?

I think that as long as the competitor is very clear about their reasons for entering that it can be a valuable spur to their training. Competition success gave me an opening to write my first book and helped me to gain confidence in my work on Taijiquan.

What direction would you like to see tai chi going in the future? Taijiquan means something different for every individual player. It is important for modern instructors to determine which part of the Taijiquan spectrum their clients want to work in and let them develop that area in an open way. Taijiquan players will meet their own challenges and make their own developments that are completely different to their instructors that are completely valid. The instructor must respond to these challenges individually using their knowledge of Taijiquan and Chi to help the player meet their challenges. Taijiquan can continue to evolve and educate both the coaches and the students of the art and yet maintain respect and understanding for the tradition from which it comes.

Ray Pawlett is based in Bourne, lincolnshire and can be contacted on: 07413 620344 or at Ki Ways

Meet Ranjeet S. Sokhi

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.

Meet Pam Ladd

Pam Ladd

How many years have you been practicing Tai Chi?

I began in late 1980s and was attracted to the slow graceful movements and the leg strength needed to perform them correctly. On returning home, I found an instructor and wanted to learn quickly but it was not until I realised that learning Tai Chi is a long slow journey that I began to make some progress.

What stimulated your interest?

Various teachers, starting with Paul Chen (a great inspiration) and including Angus Clark whose relaxed and individual attitude to his practise and teaching influences me a great deal. At Tai Chi Caledonia, I met Faye Li Yip who impressed me greatly and now I also study with Deyin Institute teacher training in Qigong including travelling to China where the integration with Chinese practitioners, masters andlocalsintheparks,isalsoa very stimulating

What does TC mean to you?

Yang style forms that I practise and teach bring a strong sense of peaceful strength while integrating the intention and purpose that come with some knowledge of the basic martial art applications. Qigong exercises are a joy to perform and can be very strong and beneficial in increasing internal energy. I genuinely believe that regular practise influences and improves many aspects of physical and emotional health.

What is the most important aspect to you? In addition to the health, wellbeing and enjoyment of my own learning and practise, I get immense satisfaction from facilitating groups and introducing new comers to the many benefits of TCC. This is particularly so when I see students enjoying their sessions, and making great improvements to their own health and lifestyles.

Do you have any personal goals with TC?

The more I learn, the more I realise how little I know.What IwouldsayisthatIaimto continue travelling the taiji journey. I suppose my goal is for my health and energy to continue so that I can teach my great students and enjoy my own practise/instruction with masters and friends I meet at various TCC & Qigong events.

Who or what inspired you?

As well as my teachers I would say the U3A in Camberley who asked me to facilitate a small (!) group of students in some simple taichi/qigong. At that time I had not thought of teaching but decided if I could safely pass on some Yang form and simple qigong exercises it might work. It did. There were soon 2 large groups each week so I went on my first teacher training course with Dr Paul Lam for Tai Chi for Arthritis. Subsequently I have had great inspiration and encouragement from Faye and Tary Yip the various masters at Tai Chi Caledonia.

What do you make of tai chi‚’s current popularity?

A tricky question. I am delighted that so many people have the opportunity to learn the practises but I also feel strongly that the teaching of Taijiquan and Qigong needs to be to a standard that is approved or under the auspices of organisations such as the Tai Chi Union of GB.I know that this is difficult if not impossible to control and there are many excellent instructors with deep knowledge and experience who are not recognised by the Union or other organisations but still pass on their knowledge with care and expertise.

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspects of Tai Chi?

I think that understanding how tai chi works as a martial art and comprehending individual moves is essential to discovering why tai chi forms ask us to make the shapes we make.Do I needto use it as a martial art to validate my study of tai chi? That I‚’m not so sure.

What are your views on competitions?

I like the idea of competition because it allows players to discover whether what we think we know actually works. I haven‚’t yet taken part in any competition because it was never asked of me . Perhaps it‚’s something I still have to do.

What direction would you like to see TC take in the future?

I‚’d like Tai Chi to continue to be used by individuals to maintain their physical and mental health. I‚’d like all the different roots of tai chi to hold to their traditions and styles so that Tai Chi Chuan can still show its many faces in years to come and not be like our modern highstreets where all shops offer the same product. Everyone has different needs and ambitions for their tai chi journey and I‚’d like to see all options kept alive so that people can be fufilled.

Pam Ladd is based in Charmouth, West Dorset and can be contacted on 01297 560264 or at CHARMOUTH TAI CHI

Meet Pippa Cherrington

Pippa Cherrington

How many years have you been practicing Tai Chi?

I started my tai chi journey 14 years ago though as I‚’m fond of saying to my students, its not the number of years that matters it‚’s the hours and quality of daily practice during that time that count. I‚’d love to be able to say I‚’d spent 6 hours of every day practicing but in truth I try to practise every day with the length and focus of practice varying to suit family and business demands.

What stimulated your interest?

My interest was stimulated in the most haphazard way. My children were just babes at the time and I wanted an hour to myself in the week. I saw an advert for a class and had no idea what it was, just went along to see if it was fun. The class was half way through the term, I was the only newbie but I was hooked. I quickly went to doing 3 classes a week.

What does TC mean to you?

For me Tai Chi is about connecting, firstly to myself, then my surroundings and others. When I play tai chi I feel whole, complete with no other thoughts…

What is the most important aspect to you?

When I‚’m teaching the most important aspect is to remain true to the principles of tai chi and yet enable everyone to connect to chi or life force within themselves, to start their own journey with Tai Chi. This often means adapting moves or explaining them in very simplified, elemental terms as I also work with people who have either physical or mental challenges. For myself the most important aspect is to switch off my teaching mode be open minded like a beginner and experience tai chi for myself.

Do you have any personal goals with TC?

I‚’d like to spent more time with teachers who can demonstrate, not just talk about using ‚Äú4 ounces to deflect a thousand pounds‚Äù. In the summer at Push Hands UK I met Andrew Heckert, he chats a lot but what he says he can do. With the lighest of touch big men went rolling. I want some of that. I‚’d also like to study with Chen Xiao Wang.

Who or what inspired you?

Angus Clark, my first teacher most definitely inspired me. He‚’s really good at making Tai Chi accesible to the beginner, keeping it relevant to our living today and not shrouding it in great mystery. He loves the great outdoors and Tai Chi on Dartmoor is very definitely uplifting. Adrian Murray has fed my thirst for a greater understanding of where I need to take my own tai chi practise. I always come away from his weekends exhausted but excited by what I have learnt whether it be new moves, corrections or philosophical discussion. I gain a lot of inspiration from mixing with other teachers, players and students as they all bring something new to the mix.

What do you make of tai chi‚’s current popularity?

I think a lot of people are being recommended tai chi as a cure all but they are not prepared to put the practice in to get the benefits they‚’ve heard of. I had a health worker phone me up to ask if I ran any short instructors courses. It transcribed they were looking for a weekly class of about six weeks in length so that they could then use the moves with their clients! Is there a danger of the art becoming ever more diluted?

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspects of Tai Chi?

I think that understanding how tai chi works as a martial art and comprehending individual moves is essential to discovering why tai chi forms ask us to make the shapes we make. Do I need to use it as a martial art to validate my study of tai chi? That I‚’m not so sure.

What are your views on competitions?

I like the idea of competition because it allows players to discover whether what we think we know actually works. I haven‚’t yet taken part in any competition because it was never asked of me. Perhaps it‚’s something I still have to do.

What direction would you like to see TC take in the future?

I‚’d like Tai Chi to continue to be used by individuals to maintain their physical and mental health. I‚’d like all the different roots of tai chi to hold to their traditions and styles so that Tai Chi Chuan can still show its many faces in years to come and not be like our modern highstreets where all shops offer the same product. Everyone has different needs and ambitions for their tai chi journey and I‚’d like to see all options kept alive so that people can be fufilled.

Meet Matthew Rochford

Matthew Rochford

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.

Marta Arce-Dubois

Bob Lowey

How many years have you been practising tai chi?
11. I studied a variety of forms and styles, as well as qigong and bagua with internationally recognized Master Bai Li Juan, student of Professor Li Deyin and Coach of the National Chinese Martial Arts Jang Su Team for 14 years and, more recently, UK Team Coach for the World Championship in Hong Kong (1999) and for the European Wushu Competition (2000) When I decided to start teaching, I took two accredited instructor courses, which included elements of traditional Chinese medicine and philosophy, as well as health and safety awareness. I am a qualified instructor of Chinese Health Qigong by the British Health Qigong Association. I also have had the honour of training with Masters Faye Li Yip and Tary Yip from the Deyin Taijiquan Institute.

What stimulated your interest?
Like many other people, I discovered tai chi after an injury that made me rethink the way I exercised and give up some of the more strenuous high-impact physical activities I had been practising for years. My mother had been practising tai chi for a while in Madrid, where I am from, but I had never considered it. I soon realised that tai chi was much more than just an exercise system that would benefit my body. I could feel it working on the deeper layers of my psyche and my emotional wellbeing.

What does tai chi mean to you?
Taijiquan and Qigong are a way of life for me. I have other interests, but tai chi, qigong, and everything these art forms represent and are related to have become a physical, mental and emotional necessity for me. They permeate everything I do in my life and how I see the world.

It‚’s a journey that never ends, and one that I am fully enjoying.

What is the most important aspect?
That it has given me a much greater knowledge and awareness of who I really am, and of the world around me. Through this awareness, it helps me to cope with all the challenges life throws at me, as well as to fully enjoy and appreciate the good times.

Do you have any personal goals with tai chi?
I want to continue to enhance my practice, to bring it to a deeper level, to become the best player and teacher I can be. I want to share some of what I have learnt from my teachers with as many people as I can, so that they can also have a good life.

Who or what inspired you?
I was lucky to find a wonderful, inspirational teacher early on in my journey with weekly private training, for more than 3 years, and I continue my training with her. Master Bai is the one that made me fall in love with tai chi.

Today, training with other talented, accomplished Masters inspires me, as does sharing my tai chi and experiences with friends, and also my students and their progress.

What do you make of tai chi‚’s current popularity?
I have noticed an increase in the popularity of tai chi and qigong in the UK and in my country, Spain.

This seems to be happening all over the Western world. I like that it is slowly becoming more popular among the younger population, instead of being relegated to the elderly and the infirm. But there is still a long way to go, and organisations such as TCUGB have an important role to play in this process. And all of us who promote and teach these arts, have a great responsibility on our shoulders: making sure that standards of teaching are high and consistent, and that we teach taijiquan and qigong properly, preserving their essence..

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art?
A lot of practitioners don‚’t even know that tai chi is a martial art, and many instructors are wary of teaching the martial applications for fear of alienating students. I still have a lot to learn about it, but gaining a deeper understanding of the martial aspect of tai chi chuan has allowed me to bring my own practice to another level. As instructors, we must study and teach this important aspect of tai chi. We must find a way of gently introducing it to all types of students in an enjoyable way. Without understanding the martial aspect, you cannot give your taijiquan the depth, the focus, and the intent that it should have, and you will not derive its whole benefits.

What are your views on competition?
I believe competition can help promote and standardize the art. It can help some players gain confidence and further commit to their own practice. I don‚’t feel the need to compete but I recognize the purpose and usefulness of well-organized, high-standard, reputable competitions.

What direction would you like to see tai chi going in the future?
For tai chi and qigong to become widely known and widespread. To see all age groups practice these arts and recognize their value as a way of living, as systems that have far-reaching positive effects on our physical, psychological and emotional health. I would like to see more sharing between players and instructors, more standardization and regulation, and fair, objective control on the standards of instruction

Tai Chi and Chi Kung for Health and Fitness

Meet Mark Peters

How many years have you been practising Taijiquan?
20+ years I believe…I remember why I started and my first class with Nigel Sutton, but it’s been such a long time I forget when..

What stimulated your interest?
To be honest, I was initially just looking for something to do. Jenny (my wife) and I were looking through night-school brochures and kept seeing the name Tai Chi. We didn’t really know what it was so got a few books to read. It was Danny Connor’s book that got me hooked. Then came the long search for a ‘good teacher’, few back then had any real understanding.

What does Taijiquan mean to you?
It is a holistic art. The Cambridge dictionary defines this as “dealing with or treating the whole of something or someone and not just a part”. The development of mind and body in a system of real self-defence; Self-defence against the stresses and strains of daily life, and an effective defence martially. Previously as a project manager and manager of people, I have used the skills of listening, leading etc to control personal interaction; why meet things head on when you can get a more effective and effortless result.

What is the most important aspect for you?
I have become more aware and have learned how to listen and create time. Because of this I would say being mindful has become the most important aspect for me.

Do you have any personal goals in Taiji?
Yes. To become effortlessly effective…!! I am working more and more in the health sector and am involved with the Taiji Forum. At present I am working in falls prevention, cardiac and COPD rehab and head injuries. By training staff to use Taiji therapeutically its acceptance into the main stream is inevitable.

Who or what inspired you?
Initially Danny Connor’s book, but from there the teachers Nigel Sutton introduced me to especially Liang He Ching of Muar, Malaysia. Such a humble yet powerful man who has dedicated his whole life to the pursuit of martial virtue. More currently I enjoy the work of Peter Ralston and Willie Lim. Both have proved their effectiveness in combat and effortlessness.

What do you make of Taijiquan’s current popularity?
We seem to be working past the tie-died brigade and into the general public. As information becomes more accessible via the internet etc. in fact I have been getting more and more martial arts instructors from different systems coming to learn about personal balance, root, effortlessness etc. As demand grows information becomes more and more available, then people can be more informed and more discerning.

As a teacher, how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art?
Taijiquan is a martial art first and foremost. Training without martial understand has no substance. I have changed my approach over the years; initially I even put open challenges in Fighting Arts Magazine and we spent a lot of time sparring. Unfortunately we therefore only attracted a certain group of people. Now I teach in a more balanced way and find a better mix of people develop into the martial side once they have a greater understanding of the real life benefits rather than just the overtly physical.

What are your views on competition?
I used to compete and judge a lot, both in the UK and internationally. Suddenly I realised I had become very good at collecting medals but not too good at Tai Chi… I stopped competing and started really training again. If competitions had the benefit of increasing the public’s awareness of the many aspects of Tai Chi Chuan, I would be fully behind them, but in their current format they only attract those currently involved. Maybe they need a little more razzle-dazzle like WWF or for the push-hands events to look less like Sumo for slimmer people.

What direction would you like to see Taijiquan going in the future?

To increase people’s awareness of “the real Taiji”. As more material becomes available and more teachers strive to teach the whole art, the hangers-on and new-agers will fade into the background. As the general public feel more comfortable with it, it will become more socially acceptable to learn and in turn as demand increases so will the places to learn. We obviously need the TCUGB and BCCMA to have more power to ensure the rubbish gets filtered and to be stricter with their membership. Maybe it’s just my view but membership seems to have been ‘dumbed down’. I realise we all want more members but not all who ask to join should be accepted. Yang Cheng Fu said something along the lines of “Not all Taiji is the real Taiji, real Taiji has a different flavour”. Surely we know what that is by now. I also realise that there is a great strain on the panel so maybe we do now need regional offices. I would be more than happy to run a West Midlands branch….!!!! I have been with the TCUGB since the beginning and believe in it’s original aims strongly.

Mandeigh Wells

How many years have you been practising Taijiquan? 10 years.

What stimulated your interest? I was looking for a rehabilitive exercise after a back injury in a horse riding accident a few years previous. I had thought about taking up Yoga but a friend recommended Taiji to me and I set about finding a class. I saw taiji being practiced in a TV program and thought it was Japanese! But I liked the idea that it was practised slowly and the groups practising were always so synchronised. When I got to a class I thought it looked so graceful and beautiful and easy, that soon changed when I found out how poorly balanced and coordinated I was.

What does Taijiquan mean to you? Ultimately, Taijiquan to me is about self awareness, physically, and mentally. And also about keeping the essences in mind not only while practising taiji form but through all aspects of life: Walking with ‘high spirit’, driving with sinking shoulders and elbows etc.

What is the most important aspect for you? Practising correctly. Not just going through the motions for the sake of performance but being fully attentive throughout each and every movement. The attention to detail, but training with a light heart and having fun.

Do you have any personal goals in Taiji? My main goal is to do justice to the art and to understand it as fully as possible and practise better. Also to keep trying to involve all kinds of people in the art. So far I have been lucky enough to work with a wide range of people, from young children to the elderly and people with physical, mental, sensory and learning difficulties as well as very able-bodied people. It really can be practised by just about anyone.

Who or what inspired you? One of the earliest books on body mechanics I read was by a woman called Sylvia Loch. She has for many years been at the forefront of Classical Dressage and her book the Classical Seat, while written for horse riders is full of taiji principals. I first read this book when I started Taiji and every now and then I go back to it and understand more and more how true classical arts are intertwined and linked by the same common principles. I have also been inspired by everyone I have studied with, from workshops to prolonged study. Everyone has their own angle on things, their own way of explaining or demonstrating and I have been inspired not necessarily by what they were teaching, but more how they were teaching.

What do you make of Taijiquan’s current popularity? In theory it’s great, more and more people have access to this fascinating art. I do think that Taijiquan’s popularity has lead to a more questioning audience though and more and more people are seeking ‘the truth’ and studying accordingly.

As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art? I always find this thought rather difficult, I don’t feel there is a martial ‘aspect’ it is simply a martial art, end of story. The movements are all techniques or applications; the basic principles, are all martial art, awareness, controlling the body and the mind, the way you carry yourself, the forms training, building strength in the body etc .it is all martial art. . As for people practising the applications, well I believe that even if your basis for training is for personal development or health, you do need to understand the reason that the arms are placed like this or a foot like that. You don’t necessarily need to be throwing people around the room.

What are your views on competition? Competition has been around since the year dot. At one time it was fighting for survival, now it is fighting for points in a more controlled environment. It is a way for people to test themselves and their understanding of their art against other people’s, to open them up to criticism by allowing themselves to be judged. It doesn’t suit everyone, however along with competition usually comes advertising, so that in itself helps to raise awareness of Taijiquan and may inspire new people to take up the art.

What direction would you like to see Taijiquan going in the future? I would love to see accessibility for UK students to high level instruction, more visits from Chinese teachers to the UK and for the overall standard to rise. I would also like to see a truer representation of taijiquan in the world wide media so that potential new students have a clearer understanding of what taijiquan is about.

http;//www.taijiscotland.org.uk