Category Archives: issue-26

Stichting Taijiquan Nederland Taiji Festival


a review by Dan Docherty

Saturday, November 3rd, year of Our Lord 2007 and yours truly with editor Ron and ex-TCUGB Chairman, Bob Lowey and wife are largein’ it as guests of our Dutch uncles at the Stichting Taijiquan Nederland (STN) Taiji Festival in Old Amsterdam.The Stichting has been running the event for 15 years and this year was also their 25th anniversary.

Loraine Sonnemans Fan Form

Essentially the event has been run by pretty much the same crew for all that time and old colleague, Epi van de Pol was both President and Master of Ceremonies for the Festival. The competition side of things was controlled by the very capable Joppe. & Petra Douwes; Joppe is a three time winner of the Dutch Chevy Chase look-alike competition.

We had some very good entertaining demos. Mr. Lowey did his Farmer Bob cane form to great acclaim. I greatly liked the nifty Qinna shown by Mike Mar- tello from Belgium; Mike trains in Taiwan with the same master as my good friend Albert Yefimov and I hope he will be able to demonstrate and give a workshop at the Tai Chi Festival I am organising on behalf of the TCUGB in Oxford in early April. Capable old hands such as Henk Jansen, Luis Molera and Julian Webber also showed what they could do.

Yu Shaoyi demonstrating Shuai Jiao.

An unexpected blast from the past, who used to feature in Combat magazine in the 80s and early 90s, was Sifu Mark Houghton who has been training with US based master Doc Fai Wong for quite some years in both Choi Li Fat and Tai Chi. He demonstrated some hard Qigong including roundhouse kicks with bare leg on a solid iron bar and bending a hefty looking sabre with fist and palm strikes. He also I hope to see at the Oxford event as his pushing hands people are always amongst the medals in Holland.

As for the competition, the pushing hands went smoothly under the guidance of the brothers Rob and Eric Volke though the rules were quite limiting in terms of permitted techniques. The quality in the forms event was mixed with some excellent stuff and some over which I prefer to draw a veil. On the British side, Albert St. Catherine from London who comes to this event regularly, was the male Victor Ludorum.

Mark Horton

After the event we sat down to a meal of school canteen pasta and veg washed down at least at our table, with Ardmore Whisky to which I treated the Dutch and it encouraged them to ask us to come back next year with more people. My only regret was not finding someone to go Dutch with me for the taxi ride back to the hotel. All kidding aside thanks to the members of the STN team for all their hospitality.

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 Faradina Affifi

How many years have you been practicing Tai Chi?
8 years in total so far, although I started learning martial arts in 1987 or possibly ’86, I think.

What stimulated your interest?
My interest was while at Leeds University in 1995, I was already training in Aikido and a Bujutsu weapons style, I had heard about a martial art called T’ai Chi Chuan. Ed Hines was teaching Tai Chi and also Ba Gua. In my first class with him, I was not too impressed, it seemed to involve a lot of standing about, moving excruciatingly slowly and no applications. Ed very kindly showed me how it can be used effectively to hit or throw people, so I continued in both his classes, fully reassured that I was learning something useful. What re-stimulated my interest was not being able to train in martial arts at all as I had damaged my joints through overtraining, but had to do something that involved movement. I looked around for a teacher near where I was living (Cambridge) and ended up training with Mike Tabrett learning 24 step and Chen style.

What does Tai Chi Chuan mean to you?
Practising T’ai Chi Chuan means that I can feel healthy, relaxed and hit people.

What is the most important aspect for you?
The meditational aspect of Tai Chi Chuan is very important for me. In my day job, I work with people who have challenging behaviour and/or mental health issues, being centred, or able re-find your centre, is a useful skill to have. I also used my Tai Chi Chuan in a recent self defence situation, keeping calm and centred was very important while I diffused some aggressive behaviour from somebody. The quiet and still aspects of this martial art are fascinating to explore.

Do you have any personal goals in Tai Chi?
My personal goals are to keep practising regularly and improve.

Who or what inspired you?
I am being inspired now, by all my teachers and students. My ideas of what Tai Chi Chuan is about are constantly being challenged attending Tai Chi and Chi Kung Forum for Health (TCCKF) seminars, with whom I did my teacher training. Because of the Forum, I will teach anyone with a pulse who wants to learn Tai Chi Chuan from me.

What do you make of Tai Chi Chuans current popularity?
I think it is very good, for a start it means I am being paid to teach it! Another good thing about the current popularity, is that it is now much easier to find high level tuition in this country without having to travel thousands of miles, which is what teachers of much more experience than me have had to do.

As a Teacher, how do you feel about the Martial Aspect of Tai Chi?
Tai Chi Chuan is a martial art, and without the martial side, it is empty. Knowing the applications or possible applications of a movement help with understanding the form and the internal energy. Applications practise also help with understanding push hands. However, the martial aspect of the art is not just about how to thump somebody or stop somebody thumping you. A martial situation can be any circumstance in which you feel uncomfortable, someone being verbally or physically aggressive, teaching a group of young adults with dementia, driving in a big town. Tai Chi Chuan is an excellent way of practising how to deal with adversity. Through Tai Chi, you can potentially deal with all sorts of awkward situations, you can adapt, you can “let go”, or you can throw a few strikes, whatever is appropriate for the situation.

What are Your Views on Competition?
Once I get round to trying out, or at least attending, a Tai Chi competition, I will be able to say what my views on competition are. I would however like facilities made available for people with disabilities who might wish to enter Tai Chi competitions.

What Direction Would You Like To See Tai Chi Chuan Going in the Future?
I am involved with the TCCKF, so from a personal perspective I would like Tai Chi Chuan made available to anyone who wants to learn it, regardless of health condition or disability. I would also like more people with disabilities teaching Tai Chi Chuan. You don’t just have to be able to stand and move around on two legs to be able to produce good quality Tai Chi Chuan.