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.