Wednesday, 30 November 2011


A lot of people prattle on about their Tai Chi fighting skills, how so and so beat such and such, how this person or that person is the real deal.

They have taken their art to the Street. Would that be Oxford Street perhaps? Plenty of combat to be had on a busy shopping day as hordes of people descend on the space you occupy.

John Kells told me - never underestimate a desperate man with nothing to lose.

Back to my practise !

The First Lesson in Self Defence


The First Lesson in Self Defence


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Rush, Rush, Rush

Sometimes we feel as if there is not enough time to do our tai chi. So we end up rushing through our form.

This is not good for our energy. It is better to practise quality rather than quantity, although I've done my fair share of the latter.

At the beginning of your form,stand quietly, letting everything settle and sink. Let thoughts come and go. You are formless, empty. This is the void. When ready, we move, creating the ten thousand things ( code for lots of things/large numbers ) as we generate postures/shapes. At the end of the form, again stand quietly as before. Don't rush off, thinking that's it, I've done my tai chi.

Sometimes you can just stand in the beginning posture as a standing meditation. It is often overlooked in the rush to do the form. For me, the beginning and the end of the form are really important.

I'll leave you to play with that.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Dancing Inspiration

We can draw inspiration from many sources. It can be from your teacher, friends, films, books, philosophy, biographies, nature and endless other sources.

Many years ago my father bought me a german copy of Chungliang Al Huang's classic book, Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain. This book is more about living and being in accord with principles of Tai Chi than the Martial Art. His books have recently been reissued by the Singing Dragon imprint.

In 1991 I had the opportunity to do a 2 day workshop with him in London. It was a great weekend. The course participants learned some movement patterns and partnerwork to give form to principles. There was also a lot of movement to music. It was a world away from what I had learned about Tai Chi.

There was an important lesson for me. I was stuck in my feet. My Tai chi was nothing more than some dull, clod like movement, lacking in life and spirit. It gave me a new purpose in my own training.

Outwardly there may not be much to see, but inside I am dancing to the energy.

Are you?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Swimming in Air

I believe the phrase " Swimming in Air " to describe T'ai Chi is attrubted to Ch'eng Man Ch'ing.

When I first heard it, I though little of it. I could understand it intellectually but my attention was elsewhere. Probably the exquisite pain in the legs as I tried to remain single weighted and sunk.

But a few years ago I had a different insight. When my eyes are open, I can see where I begin physically as I can see my skin. Close your eyes and that boundary is no longer so clear.

Instead of looking at "me" filling up space and swimming against the imagined resistance of air, it's the other way around. I can be defined by the space around me that creates my shapes and supports/nourishes me.

So when I practise, I focus on the space around me. Suddenly I am "swimming in air". I am released to connect.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Matter of the Toes

When stepping in our t'ai chi we usually place the heel down and then carefully shift the weight/

I've just watched a Yang stylist on Youtube do exactly this. Very clear and very precise. Great stuff!

This was the approach taken when I was learning the short form. When it came to the long form, though, John Kells introduced another element.

As we took a step, we pointed our toes. Not in a deliberate toe/heel manner. Rather it was more like a glide, with the toes pointing and leading, then the heel being placed down.

This meant that you had to endure another second of agony on the supporting leg. It also made it clear where your weight was and that you didn't just dump it into the front foot.

Try it and see what difference it makes.

Friday, 18 November 2011

The Power of Three

Three is a significant number in Tai Chi.

There are the three stages of development, Heaven, Earth and Man. The three outer coordinations and the three inner coordinations, which form the Six Harmonies. In Martial arts we have the Head,Hands and Feet.

In his seminal book, " The Tao of T'ai Chi Ch'uan ", the late Master Jou Tsung Hwa describes an exercise to help with remaining balanced, utilising three phases.

First, let your weight settle down.

Second, put awareness into the lower Dantien in the belly.

Third, put some light energy at the top of the head.

I found it very useful.

The Power of Three

Things seem to be about the number Three.

Three stages of development, Earth, Man, Heaven.

The Three Outer Coordinations.

The Three Inner Coordinations.

Energy, Breath and Spirit.

The Santi posture in Sun style Xingyi - corresponding to heaven, eath and


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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

More Long Form Stuff

The short form takes anywhere between 6 -10 minutes to do. It is great if you are short of time and unable to do the long form. Instead of falling into the trap of rushing, you can give 10 minutes of quality focus to your form.

Once I had learned the long form, this became my main practise. The length and duration of practise generated increased energy, exploring a deeper connection and rythm.

Practise 3 forms - once to enter, twice to delve deeper and the third one for spirit. After my third form I always felt wiped out. I had to sit quietly for a while, letting the new energy wash over me, gradually settling.

Practise the long form to increase your energy and to develop greater focus. Become aware of the deeper connections within and without. Try not to just go through the motions.

Be alive.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


Amidst all the technical jargon, the exposition of principles and other esoterica, we should not forget one simple thing.


There is a magic inherent in T'ai chi that draws us in and nourishes the spirit.

Forget everything and enter the stream of magic in your daily practise.

Friday, 11 November 2011


Giving in T'ai Chi is important. I'm talking about giving energy.

Giving energy is giving whole heartedly. Without this there is no development, no sincerity, no creation.

I once asked a student to push me on my arms held in press posture. He pushed me just with his arms at first, so I could only move him slightly. The next push was with more force but still came from the arms. He was holding back within himself. I was looking for the full committment from him, mind, body, energy. When he did, I was able to uproot him cleanly. Because he gave from himself without holding back.

The interaction and exchange of energy is part of the learning process. It is a transmission. By holding back, nothing can be gained or learned. Except , perhaps, how to be dull. It is the same for all martial arts.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Long Form

The long form delved deeper into the principles of Tai Chi. In terms of the sequence it pretty much followed the classical Yang style.

We began to explore cross energy, applications, where to put the mind in the posture and more. Some postures differed from the short form, such as single whip, in order to explore the emphasis that John gave them.

It would take me anywhere between 18 - 30 minutes to complete the long form depending on factors such as speed and sinking. If I had time I would practise 3 forms, one after the other. Even though I now mostly practise traditional Sun style, I always do 3 sword forms and 3 empty hand forms.

By the time you get to the third form you find a deepening practise of spirit.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Be Tai Chi

We are not "doing" tai chi.

That is for the external, egotistic type of person. For them it's a case of performance as they seek the admiration of others.

Instead, surrender. Practise, investigate. Tai Chi is life.

Be Tai Chi.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Mind Intent

When practising your tai chi the focus is on the Mind Intent.

The aim is not to use a stiff physical force. Instead, the Mind directs the movements so there is an undeniable intention.

In this way we gradually build up a type of power that is not tense or stiff.

As the late T.T. Liang said, " Imagination becomes Reality ".

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Cross Energy

Cross Energy refers to the dynamic connection that exists between opposite foot and hand.

I stress the word " dynamic ".

You are shifting weight from one foot to the other in varying degrees, utilising gravity and expressing the energy through the hands or any part of your body that you desire.

You need a teacher to demonstrate this. It is fundamental to your practise.


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