Category Archives: issue-24

TCUGB – Festival of Chinese Internal Arts – Wolverhampton – Sunday 25th March

Tai Chi 097 Tai Chi 168 Tai Chi 129

On Sunday the 25th March 2007 the TCUGB hosted a Festival of Chinese Internal Arts in Wolverhampton, West Midlands.
The aim of the event was to allow TCUGB Members and others an opportunity to develop and learn new skills and thereby increase their level of experience.

The event was hosted and orgainised by Faye Yip Li of Deyin Taijiquan Institute GB and Ronnie Robinson of, Promotions Manager TCUGB.

A number of highly experienced TCUGB Instructors were present and each gave a workshop of 45 minutes on various aspects of Tai Chi and other Chinese Internal Arts.

The event played host to a special delegation from eminent tai chi bodies in China including:

  • Ms.Liu Dong : Director, Zhengzhou Sports Bureau. Chairman, Zhengzhou Wushu Association.
  • Mr.Li Wei: Secretary-General, Zhengzhou Wushu Association.
  • Ms.Fan Xifeng : Division Chief, Zhengzhou Sports Bureau.
  • Ms.Li Fei: Deputy Secretary-General, Zhengzhou Wushu Association.
  • Mr.Liu Yiming: Director, Zhengzhou Chang’s Wushu Skills and Techniques Research Institue. The 8th Generation Heir to Chang’s Wushu Skills and Techniques.
  • Ms.Song Xiaoping : Vice-President, Shaolinshi Tagou Martial Art School.
  • Ms.Guo Meihong : Vice-President, Shaolinshi Tagou Martial Art School.

This was the first time a delegation from the Wushu associations of China had supported a TCUGB event in Great Britain. They were very warm and friendly people and their skills were fantastic.

Mr. Liu Yiming, Director of Zhengzhou Chang’s Wushu Skills and Techniques Research Institute and also the 8th Generation Heir to Chang’s Wushu Skills and Techniques, gave a workshop on one of the three major styles of martial arts in the Henan Province of China, Chang Style Wushu. His poise, skill, strength and swiftness of movement was an inspiration to us all and he soon had us sweating and straining to come up to his excellent standard. He expected a high quality of commitment and study from his students and we tried our best to match his precise movements. Despite his best efforts to correct and encourage us we were no match for his skills, though, hopefully, our enthusiasm to throw ourselves into something new and exciting entertained him.

Ms. Li Fei, Deputy Secretary-General, Zhengzhou Wushu Association and coach of the Zhengzhou Wushu team, gave an equally inspiring workshop on the internal art of Bajiquan. She was an amazing artist to watch and again expected very high standards from us. She pushed us hard and fast to try to teach us an entire Wushu routine in 45 minutes. We all tried our best and even enjoyed a little application practice at the same time but I’m not convinced any of the participants remembered the entire sequence. It was a wonderful 45 minutes full of concentrated effort and I’m sure she appreciated that we all tried our best to keep up with her.

TCUGB instructors made up the other visiting workshop leaders these included:

  • Peter Warr whose workshop on Hsing Yi was very well attended.
  • Simon and Richard Watson, from Longfei organisation, taught a very entertaining workshop on applications.
  • Mark Peters, from Kai Ming Group in Birmingham, taught Push Hands.
  • Richard Farmer, from Rising Dragon school, shared his thoughts and experiences on the philosophy of Tai Chi.
  • Ronnie Robinson also taught a workshop on Push Hands.

In addition to the workshops there were a number of high-quality demonstrations featuring both TCUGB instructors and our visitors from China. Mr. Liu Yiming and Ms. Li Fei both gave powerful performances of both hand and weapon forms and showed the precision and grace indicative of Chinese Wushu practitioners.

TCUGB instructors also gave very good demonstrations including 42-Step Competition hand form, San Shou 2-man form, Sun Style hand form and Spear.

The students of Deyin Taijiquan Institute GB, based in Wolverhampton, gave a demonstration of the Taiji Kung Fu Fan form choreographed by Professor Li Deyin, our chairman and Faye Yip Li’s father. This was quite a daunting task for all of us, especially as we had gone through the day blissfully unaware that we were to be called upon to make any such demonstration! After watching all of the instructors and delegates perform, we were all feeling more than a little nervous but we managed to get through it without dropping any fans.

Another highlight of the day was the arrival of food! Lunch was as interesting and entertaining as the workshops themselves. Lots of practitioners sitting down, chatting, sharing experiences, making new friends and enjoying the delicious chinese buffet.

There was also a very well stocked shop, supplied by Tai Chi Link, where one could purchase anything from videos and training manuals to shoes and performance suits.

The attendance at this event was very good and everyone enjoyed themselves. The people of the Midlands were called to a festival and they came with vigour and gusto. They laughed, played and learned lots of new and exciting things together and the overall opinion was that the day had been a positively resounding success which we all hope will become an annual event.

Congratulations to TCUGB and particularly to Faye Yip Li and Ronnie Robinson for a most inspiring and successfulday. We will all look forward to next year’s event!

Nicola Drew-Smith
Deyin Taijiquan Institute, GB

T’ai Chi Chuan; fighting system or healing art?

Mike Tabtrett

Mt 3 One of the long running debates in T’ai Chi Chuan circles is over its’ function as either martial or healing art. Whilst undoubtedly a martial art historically it is probably true to say that the majority of people (especially in the West) see it as a healing and therapeutic practise. This has led some players to suggest distinguishing between the two – perhaps by having ‘T’ai Chi’ on the one hand and ‘T’ai Chi Chuan’ on the other. Whilst this might be convenient in promoting our classes – ensuring that people attending are there appropriately – my own experience suggests that it would be to the long term detriment of the art in all of its aspects. As a professional teacher I work, as do many others, increasingly in health related fields; yet at the same time I look to develop my own practise in the martial arts through both T’ai Chi and other styles. Increasingly I find that there is no clear boundary between them; on the contrary progress in the one enhances and deepens my development in the other. Moreover, exploring the connection between these two apparently opposing aspects, and the results of bringing about a balance between them seem to point me at one of the deep truths of T’ai Chi.

Mt 2 Howard Reid, in his book ‘The Way of the Warrior’ referred to what he considered to be the ‘paradox of the martial arts’ – the growing awareness that as he visited martial masters in various places he was also encountering healing masters in the same person. He suggests, in a response that is typically pragmatic in such arts, that this came about because of the need to be able to repair damage done in training and fighting. This connection is not restricted to other nations; I have met many practising martial artists who have delved in to various healing arts – and not always in the interests of repairing their own or others damage. Reid also comments that it was an accessible way for a martial artist to make a living, implying that there is an inherent compatibility between the two sides and that there are some transferable skills.

Mt 1 My own experience certainly confirms this compatibility; I frequently find that awareness and physical skills gained in practising martial arts give me insights that improve my ability to teach those with specialist health needs, including those who are frail and elderly and who may be obliged to spend most of a class practising from a chair. It is not that I try to teach them to practise as a martial art, but rather that aspects of T’ai Chi that are trained, tested and developed in a martial context are often the most useful tools to get across to people with health needs. For instance, the value of T’ai Chi in helping people with balance problems is undoubtedly directly related to the amount of time we spend trying to push each other over and learning not to fall. I believe it is this martial aspect of T’ai Chi that makes it unique as a healing art.

I feel however that there is more than a simple transfer of skills and awareness going on. As a fighting art T’ai Chi has to have a degree of flexibility built in to its’ mindset. Anybody who has trained in a martial art will understand this; whatever methods of training you use there will always be an unknown element involved in fighting applications. No two people will respond in exactly the same way so at some point it is necessary to break out of the box of traditional movements and applications in a way that is perhaps best defined as ‘intuitional’. That is; an application of principle according to the situation in that moment.

This focus on the moment without being blinkered and tunnel visioned invokes a third aspect of the art – that of meditation or development of the Mind as it requires us to act from somewhere other than our intellect or a simple knowledge base. We are told by some of the classic writings of our tradition that the idea of ‘Mind’ is paramount. It is arguable that the growth and shaping of a calm awareness, especially as it is done under potentially stressful and frightening conditions in the martial, is the major health benefit of the art. From this point of view it is hardly surprising that T’ai Chi can help with situations and conditions that develop under stress and pressure (and that is most of them) and that it is an art which can adapt itself to many different circumstances and situations – not always pleasant ones. We are trained to remain alert, sensitive and centred regardless of the exterior environment and this gives us a strength and ability unique in the healing arts. We are enabled to recognise and respond to people and conditions that are beyond our normal experience by the skills and strength cultivated in the practise of the marital art.

This aspect – the development of Mind or awareness – may be the crucial link between the healing and martial aspects of the art. Of course almost anything can develop awareness but some tried and tested methods are without doubt more useful; in many traditions where there is an emphasis on this sort of development both martial and healing arts are found amongst the methods employed. I feel that the awareness working developed in martial applications and push hands has been crucial in cultivating the healing aspect of T’ai Chi both for myself and in what I have to offer to others; to the degree that I do not think I would be able to work with the people that I do without it. I am equally sure that working with the healing aspect, where I am also required to think ‘out of the box’, has contributed to the martial side in exactly the same way by encouraging me to question the essence of my own practise in a very positive way.

Being put in circumstances beyond your experience is one way in which we develop. Looking to understand how basic principles can be developed in different circumstances increases our ability to use them in all contexts. Understanding how these principles work in a chair or adapting them to the horizontal environment of grappling are two examples. Both can feed our ‘mainstream’ practise.


Mind (or intent) we are told can direct the Chi; and the body will follow the Chi. You do not have to accept the existence of a metaphysical energy to appreciate awareness can affect our physical state and vice versa; in pushing hands for instance I am most likely to be pushed when my mind has wandered off ; ‘Chi’ could just as easily refer to subtle aspects of posture and breathing. Anything that trains this intent is worthy of notice. ‘Balance’ or ‘Equilibrium’ are also essential terms in the T’ai Chi lexicon; and it is demonstrably important to reflect these in our own practise. We have all met people who might sway either to being too hard and begin to damage their bodies or to soft and loose essential clarity and strength. Acknowledging the importance and relevance of this balanced in our approach can highlight the connections between the apparently opposing aspects of the art in a very practical and physical way.

I wonder whether the use of T’ai Chi in healing contexts has not fed in to the development of awareness in the tradition historically Though I would have trouble proving this . Certainly I do not believe that those of us who are teaching and involved in both aspects are not unique in history and so there must have been many teachers – and masters – who have owed at least some of their own personal development to the healing side. I am not sure how we would quantify this, or even if we would need to; perhaps it is enough that elements of the healing and martial sides have been present in the practise of T’ai Chi for a significant proportion of its’ history

Of course we all choose our priorities in our practise and I am not trying to say that everybody should engage with all aspects of T’ai Chi to exactly the same degree; this would be detrimental to the art as a whole as there are clearly people who excel in one aspect or another because they have focussed so much of their energy in a particular direction. However for the art as a whole to continue to grow there must surely be a broad as well as a deep aspect to allow our collective understanding of Mind and Intent to develop. Unfortunately there seem to be an increasing number of people trying to say that the art is either one thing or another. I see no need to divide them as the practise teaching of one does not denigrate the other if it is done with an acceptance of the importance of the other. Perhaps it is only when the proponents of one side or the other lay claim to some sort of ultimate truth that the art, in all of its’ aspects, will begin to suffer.



“Bonkers” is the epithet which the legendary man on the Clapham omnibus would use to describe Mr. Li Hong-zhi, founder of Falungong (Law/Principle Wheel Cultivation Energy) — also known as Falundafa (Law/Principle Wheel Great Law). Li’s work “Zhuan Falun” (Turning Law/Principle Wheel — ISBN 962-8143-04-02) is almost 400 pages long, in parts descending into unreadable gibberish and yet…

I have seen Falungong practitioners exercising in London, New York State (at the North American Qigong Association Annual Conference) and Hong Kong. I have discussed the exercises with the well-respected Dr. Roger Jahnke of the NQA and Dr. Alan Peatfield of University College Dublin. Both agree that the Qigong aspect that is practiced in public is basic and reasonably efficacious. Neither flinched or demurred when I described Falungong as a classic heterodox, millenarian, syncretic cult. However, much of the stated philosophy of Falungong is Buddhist in nature and quite admirable. Li emphasises losing attachments and increasing De (virtue) by accepting tribulations such as illness, and standing up to an unsympathetic spouse by continuing to practice. The three main Fa (Laws/Principles) of Falungong are Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance. You will have already noticed some similarities in belief with the White Lotus.

Let’s look at some of the criticisms of Li and Falungong from the Chinese Communist Party (Chicoms) as made in “Li Hongzhi & His Falun Gong (Deceiving the Public and Ruining Lives) (New Star Publishers ISBN 7-80148-238-7). The book sets out Li’s background stating that he was born in 1952 in Jilin, but later falsified his birthdate to make it appear he was a reincarnation of Sakyamuni. He went from being a trumpeter in a police band to police guesthouse attendant to working in a factory security section. However, they say he gave himself a false background as a child prodigy student of mysterious Buddhist and Taoist masters — pretty standard stuff for someone with Messianic tendencies. Tony Blair similarly lied about attending football matches in his youth to appear to be a man of the people.

A first accusation is “Hawking the theory of “doomsday” by declaring that mankind has come to the brink of destruction” and “Claiming that only he himself and his “Falun Dafa” can save mankind.” Mao said (Little Red Book, P. 2), “Without the efforts of the Chinese Communist Party, … China can never achieve independence and liberation…” While in the short 1969 Constitution of the Communist Party of China, there are seven references to “Marxism-Leninism Mao Tse-tung thought” and three references to Mao himself. Hmm, messianic tendencies seem to be a common theme.

Second is, “Cursing the human race and regarding the earth as a rubbish heap (for bad people).” Whole sections of Chinese society, landlords, intellectuals, the bourgeoisie and even the peasants were sent by Mao and the Chicoms to their deaths during the “Hundred Flowers Campaign”, “The Great Leap Forward” and “The Cultural Revolution.”

Third is “Distorting and belittling religion and claiming that “Falun Dafa” is the orthodox law”. Article 88 of the 1954 Constitution of the People’s Republic of China states, “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.” If you were to quote this to the Taoists, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and Tibetan Lamas interned in the Laogai camps over the years they might look somewhat askance. Mao said (Little Red Book, P. 52), “The only way to settle questions of an ideological nature or controversial issues among the people is by the democratic method, the method of discussion, of criticism, of persuasion and education and not by the methods of coercion and repression.” Try telling that to the relatives of the late Wang Pei-sheng and Wu Gong-zao, both sent to the Laogai by the Chicoms just for being what they were, teachers of Tai Chi Chuan.

A fourth accusation is “Using “Falun Gong” to amass dirty money, …tax evasion and money-laundering.” This from a party whose local cadres are selling off peasant land without prior consultation or subsequent compensation, many of whose high-ranking police and military officers are responsible for large-scale software pirating and gangsterism. Li says that practitioners should not charge fees as he does as he has expenses such as travel, bed and board, producing teaching material etc. He certainly seems less grasping that the average American TV evangelist.

It is alleged that 1.404 people have died as a result of Falungong practice. To Western ears that sounds like a lot, but is nothing compared to the tens of millions killed by the Chicoms.

But Li is “bonkers”. He talks about installing a “Falun” (his sect’s logo is the reverse of the Nazi Swastika — itself also taken from Buddhism) in the abdomen which rotates clockwise to absorb energy and anti-clockwise to emit energy and benefit others. One wonders if this is more ridiculous than the Taoist concept of Dantian (Cinnabar Fields) or the good and bad angels which the Franciscan nuns told me I had on respective shoulders, though I was never sure which was which. Li also talks about the Third Eye between the eyebrows which connects to the Pineal Body at a high level; we can use it to see through our dimension into other time spaces and at a lower level through walls or human bodies. Some of us can read with hands, ears feet or even stomachs. Other skills developed by Falungong cultivation include clairvoyance and the ability to tell the future.

Li is criticised by the Chicom government for saying that illness is a matter of karma (Li interprets this as a kind of psychic baggage) and that practitioners gain karma and lose De (virtue) if they try to heal others. Conversely it can be regarded as a tribulation to increase De. Li deals with the vexed question of Qigong related psychoses by saying that there is no “cultivation insanity” and that problems and strange behaviour are the result of immoral minds and a show off mentality.

However, he talks about demonic interference which can manifest it in ambient noise every time one tries to practice or in sexual fantasies; these are tribulations so there is no need for treatment. Li says that only one in a hundred Falungong practitioners get it — if some of their claims to the size of their organisation are correct this could involve anything from 300,000 to 700,000 people. He goes on “All of our practitioners should be sure never to behave abnormally among ordinary people.” Referring to sex and pornography, “There were no such things in our ancient Chinese traditional arts.” My book of erotic Ming prints is available for his perusal.

On the plus side, if one has genuine energy one can give it to others unintentionally. Furthermore Li quotes Sakyamuni who mentioned, “Precept (Morality) and abandoning all desires and hobbies until nothing was left so that one could attain the state of Samadhi” (trance meditation).

If we followed ancient Chinese science and the TV wasn’t invented people would have one in their foreheads and “they can watch anything they want to see.” “Without trains and planes people will be able to levitate in the air.” “The flying saucers of the extraterrestrial can… become large or small.”

Unlike the case of Tai Chi Nei Kung and certain other systems of Qi/Neigong, there is no Bai Shi (ceremony of ritual initiation) in Falungong, however there is the idea of filling the headtop with energy, somewhat analogous to the Tai Chi concept of suspended headtop. Indeed Li’s writings use a lot of terms from Taoist Internal Alchemy such as “Mysterious Gate One Aperture”, which Li accuses false Qigong masters of using to refer to the penis (or presumably the vagina), or the “Primary Infant”. He goes on to criticise the concept of three Dantian, saying that “Dan” is everywhere.

Li pour scorn on “fine arts Qigong” such as music Qigong, Calligraphy Qigong etc and says it is plundering Qigong for money. He is not wrong. He differentiates martial arts Qigong from “internal body cultivation”, saying that the former requires practice in motion so one cannot achieve a state of tranquillity or send Qi to the Dantian. I sense he would not win the sympathy vote with Tai Chi Chuan practitioners.

Li talks of shoe imprints on trilobite (fossils) more than 260 million years old, of the oceans swallowing tall and ancient architecture from civilisation that were tens of millions of years old. “Some people do not eat or drink for … over ten years, but they live very well.” “Not only trees are lives, they also have very advanced thinking activities. “Historically the record for the longest sitting time is over 90 years.” “If I cannot save you, nobody else can do it.”

Li makes valid points about the dangers of “dual cultivation between a man and a woman” though he is naïve in claiming that the practice originated outside of China. He is also correct in stating that the Taoist School is more concerned with developing the body through Internal Alchemy whereas Buddhist meditation is more concerned with the mind, though some Buddhist schools such as Li’s do both. Typically, however, Li brings in other dimensions and the idea that through his cultivation practice human cells are replaced by high energy matter. He talks of a Ming dynasty practitioner who was possessed by a snake which transformed his body into that of a snake to make trouble for Li who caught the snake and used “Dissolving Gong” to dissolve his (its?) lower body and turn it into water while the upper body ran home. The name Jesus comes to mind.

Li correctly states that both gradual and sudden enlightenment are acceptable as the result is the same and that “after the lectures you will also be able to become a good person.” After reading them I felt terrific.

As well as these two books from the two protagonists there is a rather good if overly academic analysis of the story in “FALUN GONG The End of Days” by Maria Hsia Chang (Yale University Press; £16.99; ISBN 0-300-10227-5).

The Chicoms first took action in 1996 when they became aware that Li’s “Zhuan Falun” (Turning Law/Principle Wheel) had sold more than 1 million copies. They banned it and 4 other Qigong publications. By that time official estimates of Falungong membership were around 30million. The cult claimed double that; many of them government servants. By April 25th, 1999, as a result of Chicom oppression, cult members held a silent demonstrated outside Communist Party HQ, the Forbidden City, Beijing. After the student rebellion of 1989 and the massacre that followed, the response was predictable. Li emigrated to the USA in early 1998; in July 1999 the Chicoms banned Falungong and all Falungong material; active members were sent to prison and labour camps and psychiatric hospitals almost all without trial. In the past several years there have been protests at the Chicom torture, murder and organ-harvesting of Falungong detainees. Li himself has been accused of being a CIA agent; sect members were accused of treason.

All for non-violent protest, practicing Qigong and believing two or three impossible things before breakfast. All the while Li encouraged martyrdom and criticised the Chicoms from the relative safety of exile.

Yet in 1992 according to Li’s followers, Jiang Ze-min, President of China and head of the Communist Party had private Falungong treatment for arthritis and neck pains, indeed at the time Qigong was seen as an ideal solution to the health care crisis; an ideal way to improve public health and to save money. Li’s sect was also a member of the Chicom controlled Qigong Research Association of China, though they resigned when the persecution started.

When I visited Wudangshan with editor Ron in 1999, we chatted to some of the locals; to a man they told us that the Falungongers were bad people and the Chicoms were right to repress them. It was evident that despite being banned, some groups were still active. In 2006 when we chatted to some of the senior Hubei province Tai Chi teachers, they told us that there was no Falungong around anymore. In fact the green ribbons we saw park Tai Chi and Qigong instructors wearing indicated that their teaching was state approved and licenced. Unlicenced teachers are banned from the parks and only a few Qigong systems — all without ritual or religious overtones, are allowed. Falungong is not one of them.

It is clear that Falungong was a danger to the state. It had millions of true believers, a millenarian religion/philosophy, a charismatic leader and worst of all it gave people hope that it could bring about the end of decades of oppression and corruption by the Chicom regime with which it was favourably compared. It was for them a reprise of the Taiping and other rebellions. There cannot be two tigers on one mountain.

The last book I wish to mention in this series on sects and cults is “Original Tao — Inward Training and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism” by Professor Harold D. Roth (Columbia University Press, 1999; ISBN 0-231-11564-4), of Brown University. I consider this to be is one of the finest works on classical Chinese mysticism and meditation ever written. The background, the translation (with Chinese text presented alongside) and the explanatory notes are all clear and first-rate.

Professor Roth’s book is a translation of Nei Yeh (Inward Training), a collection of poetic verses on the Tao, which he dates from the mid-4th century BC during the chaotic Warring States period and he uses the title “Original Tao” as “…it represents the earliest extant presentation of a mystical practice that appears in all the earliest sources of Taoist thought.” The text was buried in a work called “Guan Zi” attributed to the famous minister, Guan Zhong, of the 7th century BC.

Roth points out that philosophers were not the only influence at court, often practitioners of Fang Shu” — technical and esoteric arts such as medicine, breath cultivation, divination, demonology etc., held greater sway. Much of what was passed down was by oral transmission and the mnemonic nature of Nei Ye suggests this is how it, like the Tai Chi Classics, was originally transmitted.

The terminology found in Nei Ye also has resonances with the Tai Chi Classics. The character Zheng crops up again and again — it is often translated by Tai Chi exponents (especially those of the Cheng Man-ching tradition) as “erect” but as Roth points out in the present work Zheng means correctly aligned and I would argue this is how it should be translated in the Tai Chi Chuan Classics.

Other TCC Classics terms and concepts used include: Wu Chi (No Ultimate/Limit), Zhong (Centrality) Ding (Fixed/Stable), Qi Jing Shen (the Three Treasures of Internal Alchemy) Xin (Heart/Mind), Yi (Intent), Hua (transform), Bian (Change), “Zheng Xin Zai Zhong” (Align the mind in the Centre)”, “(Qi) flows through the nine apertures”, longevity, “Vitality comes from peace of mind and meditation reduces sense desires.”

Roth believes that early (non-religious) Taoism consisted “of a number of closely related master-disciple lineages all of which followed a common cultivation practice first enunciated in “Inward Training”.” These individual lineages would have mainly been small independent groups and could not be said to be a cult like Falungong or even an organised sect like the Complete Reality School. The links between early Taoists and what Roth calls the “cult of immortality” to which practitioners of physical and macrobiotic hygiene belonged need further examination as does the influence of both on Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong. However, then as now such activities were unpopular with the political elite, because to take them seriously meant devoting your life to them and failing in your duty to produce descendants and serve the state.

I hope through this extended review of books on and approaches to meditation and the way it was and is done ranging from master-disciple to guru and groupies, to show readers that the once a week class in the local hall or sports centre is far removed from the various Chinese points of origin.

One further point, the Chicoms are not only banning all except a few internal art practices, but have also introduced a grading system of nine levels for Qigong such as has already been done with Chinese martial arts. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes ?