Ian, Moira & Craig Cameron
It is with great sadness we learned of the passing of Dan. He was without doubt a force of nature and will leave a massive gulf that will be impossible to fill. He was singular in his passion for tai chi chuan, which may have caused controversy along the way, but there is no doubt that his contribution to tai chi will leave a lasting and important legacy.We met some 50 years ago and shared many experiences in Hong Kong, China and teaching along with sifu Cheng Tin Hung and Tong Chi Kin in the UK.The first time I met him, he visited my class in Edinburgh. It wasn’t long before we put on the gloves and had a ‘friendly’ sparring session. All I will say is: “I remember it well.” We also, on the odd occasion, enjoyed a few whiskies together, impressing sifu with our capacity to ‘shift a few’ and we used to laugh at the odds of two Scots guys ending up on the same rooftop in Hong Kong learning tai chi. Over the years we kept in regular contact, and although we went our own ways, it is a testament to our relationship that we never lost that connection.Dan was also very thoughtful never failing to pass his best wishes to my family.We will all miss him greatly. Condolences to all of Dan’s students from all at Five Winds Tai Chi. Deepest condolences to Ellen and Ronin.He will always be my tai chi brother.
Betty Sutherland UK Tai Chi
Dan was a driving force of tai chi in the UK and Europe. I knew Dan for 28+ years both from Scotland and later when I moved to Yorkshire. He was instrumental in putting Wudang tai chi on the map and supported me and my school over the years. A larger than life character, he will be sadly missed. My thoughts go out to his family, friends and students – he was indeed ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’
Ihave been a tai chi instructor for almost eight years. before qualifying I had to submit a video of my ‘form’ to a committee which would assess my suitability.
Dan was on the assessment committee and I was told that he was something of a legend. I had never heard of him but it made me even more nervous about how the video would be received. In the event I was accepted.
Although I never met Dan I always felt that it was a privilege to have been assessed and accepted by a committee of which he was part. It was like we did meet, just not in person.
A very special guy who will be sadly missed. Deepest condolences to Ellen and family.
One afternoon in London in 1990, I knocked at the door of a tai chi center. Unfortunately, I did not fit in. I was a visitor.Their terms were strict: annual fees and lessons payable in advance for a three month session. Last but not least I could not join a class once a session had started. A week later I tried my luck at Jubilee Sports Hall in Covent Garden where I met Dan.Wudang practical tai chi chuan has since then been a beautiful journey. Thank you Dan for your teachings.
Eventually, in Edinburgh 2019, I shook Dan Docherty’s hand and told him it was great to meet him. He was sitting down and the first thing I noticed was his hands. They looked like they could truly demolish and then his smile which was bigger than the room. He stood up and said let’s get started. Retreat to go forward was the first application he demonstrated. Later in February 2020 four of us from Scotland drove down and visited Dan at home in London. He said come in there is plenty of Partridge soup in the pot but to watch out for shot and not to break your teeth. The soup was excellent and we stayed for the weekend and went through the form and applications. Those two days were just brilliant.We worked all day and went out at night. Then lockdown came and we never got the chance again.
Rest in peace Dan. See you in the morning.
Hans Finne from Norway
Imet Dan in Sweden in 1998. He was willing to teach me the 24 Wudang neigong and we became friends after a while. One of the reasons was that we were both police officers.
Even though I was a student from the Cheng Man Ching tradition he was very generous and taught me his way of pushing hands. After competing in the first European Championship ever (bronze medal)he proposed me as a judge and, after a while, member of the board.
When it comes to tai chi he was number one. He brought back some of the essence of tai chi into Europe. What I really liked with him was his sense of humour. I know he would not appreciate that I feel sorry for the loss of him.He always said we have to carry on. But still I have to admit I feel sorry to have lost him.
My thoughts go to his family.
The TCFE establishment during his first Forum 1997 in Hungary later based in Holland, had Dan’s special involvement. An organization with representatives from several European countries for purely traditional tai chi chuan and qigong definitely had his heart and he indeed gave a lot of time, money and energy to it.
Dan approached every situation as a top strategist, considered the TCFE more a las as his organization with himself at the helm. It was his constant concern that traditional tai chi be preserved within the TCFE, free from wushu influences and interference from China, of which he was very knowledgeable.
Dan had a lot of prestige and respect in the tai chi community, people were apprehensive about him because he controlled his emotions in a measured way.
With strong memory, he was a master in confusing the exclusive committee. Holding on to his own ideas and with his strong demanding will he made that within the Executive Committee there was almost room for adjustments and renewal.
At the end most of the board members gave up and nowadays the competitions and forums are not organized anymore.
This outcome was never Dan’s intention, he who considered the TCFE’s goal, to bring together, trainen, share and connect and sustain the TCC community worldwide, he loved this competition immensely. May be its possible to revive TCFE organization, the structure, regulations and active tcc practitioners are available. And who knows he might then fly, then in spirit like Peng over the event.
Ceciel Kroes , TCFE-EC Netherlands
Dan Docherty – Scholar-Practitioner
Many tributes to Dan will honour his unusual skill in taijiquan, seen in the global community of practitioners he trained so comprehensively. He was an exemplar of how to unify the martial, medical and meditative dimensions of our art. Like so many, I benefited hugely from his wise, forthright and authentic training – he was simply one of the best teachers I’ve known, in any field.
But I would like to pay tribute to another aspect – his scholarship and this aspect of his legacy. I started a PhD on the British taijiquan movement in the late 90s. I reviewed all the available books and was stuck for making sense of the history until I found Dan’s work. He was clearly a controversial character but from his writing it was obvious he was extremely witty and highly intelligent – with an impulse for truth-seeking and for cutting through delusions and ignorance, for the sake of protecting quality. All key attributes for any scholar – particularly in the contested world of martial arts history.
I asked my good friend Linda Broda, another mover and shaker in the development of the art in the UK, her opinion of him – and on her recommendation, I went to interview him. I didn’t know what to expect from this feared fighter – but Dan invited me to his home, cooked me supper and made me welcome. He challenged me to get his stories out of him – we talked for hours and became friends.
As well as his involvements in the TCUGB and TCFE, and the development of his own school, Dan dedicated himself to writing several unique books. This continued through the last decade or so of his life, despite illness compromising his ability to work and to type. I was privileged to help him with these productions, notably the trilogy of the ‘Tai Chi Bible’, the ‘Complete Tai Chi Tutor’ and ‘Tai Chi Chuan: Decoding the Classics for the Modern Martial Artist’. I told him I reckoned these were in turn his undergraduate textbook, masters dissertation, and his doctoral thesis – ‘Decoding’ in particular needed a careful synthesis of tricky, complex material that only a brave intellect would wrestle with. He cared deeply about making these books as good as he could, so the wider community of current and future practitioners could learn from them, no matter what style they practiced.
I’ve spent many years in the ‘groves of academe’ (as he called it) – and it is still a rare phenomenon to find someone with depth of expertise in a practical art, who also pursues a serious inquiry into that practice. Dan was often impatient with the habits and traditions of academia – but he valued it and understood its importance – and loved finding scholars to work with. His contributions will stand the test of time, for bringing such insight to a field that was little studied and poorly understood.
I treasure the conversations we had about various scholars of martial arts, Chinese philosophers and related topics – he truly enlarged my perspective about the Asian martial arts and their place in our world. And I’ll miss his brilliant sense of mischief, which brought such fun into all our collaborations.
Thank you Dan, you were the scholar-practitioner par excellence. May you live among the immortals enjoying the fine wine. Your contribution has been immense and we are all beneficiaries of it.
Dr Alex Ryan
Keeping the Tradition by Charles Glasser
A bow to Zu Shi, A bow to Si Fu, And so lives on the tradition. Culture & language, Philosophy & strategy, History & research, Insight & experience. Generously all were shared appropriate to the particular. To Witness such a brilliant mind was a privilege. Returning to the root, To tranquility, To the cycle of fate, To the constant, What remains is a practice for life & a path to maintain & explore. Zhen Chuan indeed. Suaimhneas Síoraí Air
It is such sad news to hear about Dan.
I started studying with him in the mid 90’s at Jubilee Hall with Ray, Steve and some of the other more experienced students /teachers then AKA: The old lot ; )
He was such a character and had such a dry sense of humour, the two stories below highlight this.
When I had been studying with Dan for a while and it was my turn to move onto weapons he told me I was not going to start with the usual sabre but that I was too chatty and said I would focus better with the spear. From then he would give me that long (was it 7ft?) spear to train with. I think he thought it was funny aswell as toughen me up.
The other memory I have was that now and again I would be on the same tube as Dan after class and one particular night I was standing and trying to knit at the same time whilst we were talking and the tube jolted, Dan deflected my knitting needles and told me to put the weapons away.
He was such a great teacher and will be sadly missed.
To see so many people coming together to express their sadness and loss but also sharing their happy memories and anecdotes demonstrates the phenomenon that was Dan.
Plenty of people will be talking about Dan’s remarkable achievements- setting up an International Tai Chi School, teaching with dedication and passion and continuing despite a severe neurological illness, but I would just like to raise a glass to a man I was proud to call my teacher and friend.
Dan was my most influential teacher. I first met him when I joined the TCUGB committee in the early 1990s. I was teaching Cheng Man Ching form and Qigong at the time but then learned Wudang hand form and sword from Dan in his workshops, mainly in Manchester and London. He supported me when I decided to expand my teaching area, and he was wise and a great teacher. I was saddened when I learned he had Parkinson’s but I was able to understand the challenge for him because I also have a neurological condition – MS. I think it took great personal strength for him to continue teaching, which he did until his death. He will be greatly missed by the whole Tai Chi community.
header Image: Ronnie Robinson