Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Arms

Think of the arms as wings, connected through the torso.

The arms work together in unison, not seperately.

Easier said than done.

Monday, 17 December 2012

One Thing

If there is one thing I have learned over the years it is that it is vital to be spirited in facing life and its challenges.

Bringing this vitality to our practise of Tai Chi or other arts spills over into daily life. This has nothing to do with clever words or intellectual abstractions.

This comes from deep within. Having recently been diagnosed with cancer ( not immediately life threatening ) has only made this all the more important.

Thursday, 13 December 2012


............................the relationship there is nothing.

About Application

The linear thinking mind is terrific for learning and breaking down postures and techniques.

You can work on hardwiring them into yourself.

But when it comes to expressing your energy, this approach is too cumbersome and slow.

You need to be able to"throw" your energy in application. This is not a physical tensing and releasing.

Instead you express with your mind/intent, from your very innermost core.

It is almost primal.

Friday, 7 December 2012

The Subuteo Gambit

What is required is a change in perception.

Here is one way of looking at the Root. Imagine you are conected to a hemisphere underneath your feet in the ground.

A line descends down deep into the earth from middle of the lower part of the hemisphere to connect
to the energy.

It makes me think of the Subuteo football player. I've found that this way of perceiving the root adds

Play around with this and see what you feel.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Sun Style Taiji Photo - Right Palm through the Back

New Class

I will be starting a new class in at Walkern Sports & Social Club, Walkern, Hertfordshire  on November 27th.

There are 2 seperate sessions.

7-9pm - Tao Gong preparation exercises as taught to me by John Kells and Six Methods Shaolin Qi Gong as taught to me by Wang Su Yin.

8-9pm - Traditional Sun style Taiji as taught to me by David Martin, indoor student of the late Sun Jian Yun, daughter of Sun Lu Tang.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

By Contrast

By contrast here is one of Dr. Chi's teachers, Ch'eng Man Ch'ing.

Wonderful softness ,clarity and ward off energy.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Stepping Secret

When stepping in the Form, take small steps so you can easily lift either foot without lurching.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Friday, 28 September 2012

Martial Tai Chi

There is a lot of discussion as to whether people can use their Tai Chi as a Martial Art.

When John Kells was teaching a class at the Centre in London, a student remarked that the posture " Deflect downwards, intercept and punch " was the first martial movement they had seen.

What this student, and many others, missed is right at the start, when we need to relax. If you can't relax then you will not be able do much other than exhibit fear and tension.

So " Relax " is the first martial principle.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Straight Spine

One of the biggest mistakes that can be made is to use force to adjust the lower back, pelvis, pubic bone in order to achieve what we think is a straight back.

This will result in tension in the body and mind, exactly the opposite of what we are looking for.Yang Cheng Fu exhorts us to relax and use mind, not force. Funny how often we ignore this or pay lip service.

What we really want is to allow the spinal cord to hang in a straighter fashion. This can be achieved by visualising and relaxing from a point in the back. I'm not going to reveal it but have fun investigating the idea.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Yiquan Poem 6

Here is Poem 6.

Tranlsated by Professor Chang Shao Quan and Heron Beecham. Reproduced with permission.

The body moves smoothly as though dancing with waves;
With the mind and energy as though walking on water.

A moving dragon plays virtuoso to a white crane;
With a grin on its face like that of a terrifying snake.

Strength and power are stored in the muscles and tendons;
The spirit only appears when the frame is properly formed.

Maybe a moving cloud can swallow the beautiful moon;
Upright chivalry is strong enough to pierce through a rainbow.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

About Uprooting

To uproot does not mean to unbalance.

It means that the feet of the other person leave the ground in such a way that they have no control or certain knowledge of what has just happened. As they come down you can whack them.

John Kells told us that we must attack the root from the outset.

In the picture below you can see the person's feet coming off the ground. We practised lots of uprooting exercises so that the body/mind set required would be hardwired into our approach to the Form.

Sunday, 29 July 2012


This Blog is 1 year old today.

So far I have had 4331 pageviews ( I have switched off tracking my own views). Most of them are from the UK but there are sizeable numbers from the United States, Russia, Germany, Israel, Ukraine, France, and the Netherlands.

I thought I might get a few hundred views at best. It would be great to find out who reads this blog and why. I can be emailed at or leave a comment.

Any feedback will remain confidential.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

In It

Be alive in your Tai Chi.

Don't just "perform" the form.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Early 90's

Seperate Left Foot from the Long Form, taken in the early 90's in  Stevenage.

One with the Tao

Speaking to John Kells the other day, he reminded me of the key message he gave during my early days at the Centre, to be one " One with the Tao".

I'm prettty sure this went over the heads of most of us as we struggled to get to grips with our deadly, slow movements, wondering which arm and leg went where and when.

What did it mean? The beauty of T'ai Chi is that it was a physical and mental manifestation of Taoist philosophy. The key was to be natural and not get in the way of things. This is best demonstrated through pushing hands. When the other person pushes, neither resist nor collapse. Simply accept and follow the direction of the push leading to a transformation which allows a return of energy.

Of course what happens is that we may accept and follow for a little bit, then fear strikes that we may get pushed so we tense and try to use force to pull the other person's hand aside. As we work with different partners we learn to accept/follow differing forces. We start out as a rough block of stone which is gradually transformed through the practise.

There is more that could be said and probably there are better explanations. But I think single push hands is a great way to work on this. It's no use just having an intellectual, clever comprehension.

Gradually we give up our preconceptions and tension to become more natural, with no seperation from our partner with whom we are working.

We become one with the Tao.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Yiquan Poem 5

Here is number 5 in the series.

Translated by Professor Chang Shao Quan and Heron Beecham. Reproduced with permission.


The principles of martial study are truly profound;
The application of skill is stored in movements and forms.

Our intent motivates the revolving of the mind;
Yin and Yang change according to our adjustments.

Make the movements as skilful as a wolf;
Explode as powerfully as a thunderclap.

Neither neglect our development nor aid it too much;
And in time our achievement will reach the highest state.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

John Kells Website

John Kells has a new website.


Click on the Studies section for John's insights into Destiny, Warriorship etc.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Foot Points

John taught that there were three points on the feet we should feel in contact with the Ground:

1: The Big Toe

2: The Little Toe

3: The Heel

Friday, 6 July 2012

Yiquan Poem 4

Here is number 4 in the series.

Translated by Professor Chang Shao Quan and Heron Beecham. Reproduced here with permission.


Use intention so that a trace is left at the wrist from the deep pool of the eyes;
Stretch your strength horizontally when you are going to attack straight ahead.

All movements easy or adverse, unusual or complex must be harmonised;
The 'spirit beam' of the entire self needs strong intensity to radiate further.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Hung Up on Speed

How fast should we do our Form? How long should it take?

This can in part,depend on the style of Tai Chi and the length of the form. The short form and long form I learned from John Kells took me about 8 and 20 minutes respectively. John said our long form should be performed a bit slower, taking up to 30 minutes. My Sun style teacher, Dave Martin, told me that Sun Jian Yun said the Sun form should take about 8 minutes.

The danger is that we get hung up on how long it has taken us to do our form. Instead we should be focusing on the principles. Regardless of whether we are moving quickly or slowly.  Each posture has a beginning and end which, without fudging,smoothly connect to the next posture. Are we relaxed and alert? Did the waist position the steps?

There is an internal flow, an aliveness to our form. It is possible to move too slowly and you end up practising being dull. Equally it can all go out the window in trying to move too fast.

We need to explore how slow/fast we can move and still remain in accordance with principles. Only then will it be correct.

Have fun!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Yiquan Poem 3

Number 3 in the series, translated by Professor Chang Shao Quan and Heron Beecham. Reproduced with permission.


Let principles and techniques be combined and coordinated with the body;
Be in harmony with a million creations and blend with all things under the sun.

A thousand generations after the teaching has been handed down;
Who will be capable of breaking through the original mould?

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Cheng Hsin: Peter Ralston

Not long after I started learning Tai Chi with John Kells, I came across Peter Ralston's book " Cheng Hsin - Principles of Effortless Power".

It contained lots of useful insights and investigation of principles. My first copy is so battered I've had to buy another one. The clip below is superb.


It is essential, in my view, to develop a daily stretching routine.

It doesn't have to be complicated or involve the range of movement seen in Yoga for it to have benefits.

There are a lot of useful books available. My favourite is Structural Fitness by John Stirk. I'm not sure if it still in print.

Another good one is Xingyi Neigong by Tim Cartmell and Dan Miller. Their translation is priceless.

People often overlook ancillary exercises, not realising just how important they can be. Energy likes to flow through a relaxed body, which stretching can significantly contribute to.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Yiquan Poem 2

Here is the next Yiquan Poem

Copyright as before by Professor Chang Shao Quan and Heron Beecham, reproduced with permission.


The summit is far and high in Chinese martial study;
The achievement depends upon the practice of a lifetime.

Deft movement appears beyond normal shape;
Good applications are performed without specific intent.

May practitioners study and seek a profound level of Kung-fu;
Be continuously careful, making use of false and empty.

Mind one's own actions cautiously as a cat watches over a rat;
But deal with enemies fiercely as a tiger captures a sheep.

Both spirit and energy spring up from the dan tian;
The strength is better drawn through smoothly and deeply.

Do not draw too near the enemy, nor separate from him too much;
One will achieve success in the pursuit of skill after being forged over many years.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Resistance is Futile

John Kells taught Pushing Hands right from the beginning. Sometimes you will not do that until you have learnt the Form.

Having experienced different approaches to Pushing Hands with practitioners of other styles, I value John's approach even more today.

Most seem to involve resistance at some point, then trying to force your push to one side. That is the point at which they become exposed. It becomes a game all about "winning" that can rapidly degenerate into a show of strength and little more than a wrestling match.

Pushing Hands is a training method. What are we training to do?


This does not mean weakness. Acceptance means not to resist, especially in the Mind. In the beginning our training focused on taking in the other person's push as far as possible to empty it, making a "hole" and then turning. It is interesting to see how far each person will accept and at what point this all goes out of the window and stiff force is used. I include myself, using feedback from pushing with others.

At the point at which it becomes uncomfortable and we are going to lose our balance, we should still accept.

This is not about winning or losing, because that is missing the point.

It is a training method to work on a principle.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Yiquan Poem 1

Yiquan was developed by Wang Xiangzhai ( 1885 - 1963 ).

One of the main aspects is holding static postures. This is termed " Pile Standing ". I will be posting a series of " Poems " which have a Yiquan flavour over the next few months and which will be of interest to serious students.

These Poems were translated by Professor Chang Shao Quan and Heron Beecham who hold the copyright and are reproduced here with permission.

Poems use imagery and capture an essence with a unique flavour, to be returned to time and time again as our practise develops and deepens.

Poem 1.

The spirit takes on the manner of a panther gazing into the mist;
The energy so sensitive that dust can hardly land upon the body.

 The profound essentials can only be found in the places where skill resides;
The strength is created in the tendons and muscles, but the spirit is kept in the bones.

When the frame is quiet, it is like a hawk watching over the tops of the trees;
When in motion, it is like a dragon moving swiftly through the rolling waves in a flood

Through respiration the source of our internal energy can be joined with heaven;
The roaring of the breath is so powerful, it will move wind and rain a great distance.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Traditional Tai Chi ?

So I'm walking down the corridor with John Kells at the Tai Chi centre, past the toilet that served as a changing room and down the stairs that needed refurbishing. Actually, most of the house did but I think that was part of the attraction. Maybe not for everyone!

I had mentioned tradtional tai chi when  he said " of course, we're not practising traditional tai chi ". I was a bit taken aback but I had never actually thought about it. What is traditional? A system as handed down by yout teacher? A system that is inflexible and withought development or additions? Isn't what some perceive as traditional tai chi representative of a break from what had gone before? Otherwise we would all be practising whatever was taught to the Chen family. What is tradtional was radical in it's day.

What John taught was a blend of his input from the Ch'eng Man Ching and Yang style Tai Chi he had learned, plus other influences. So his approach and form changed as a result. The form was a vehicle for exploring principles of tai chi and energy.

And isn't this really the crux of the matter? Investigation, not Dogma.

No doubt opinions vary.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


It's a good idea to free up the Pelvis and Sacral area.

This is important so you can connect to the legs and access the intrinsic, elastic energy that is present. The pelvis free floats like a Buoy in water.

Any pressure on the arms, like in ward off for example, is instantly taken down to the legs and feet through the pelvis and then discharged.

There are lots of books with good exercise. I'm currently working my way through "Meet your Body" by Noah Karrasch, published by Singing Dragon Press. Feldenkreis is also an interesting investigation.

Research and see how your Practise is informed.

Sunday, 6 May 2012


I'm thinking of running some workshops for people interested in learning the tradtional Sun style Tai Chi 97 form.

These would be held in Hertford, Hertfordshire on Saturdays.

If you are interested let me know. Below is a clip of the form.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Body as One Unit

John Kells would often say that moving the Body as one unit was a key principle.

If nothing else, remember to move the body as one unit, he would say.

So what do you do? This is probably where it all gets complicated and it ends up like the old joke of how many tai chi instructors does it take to change a lightbulb. The answer, of course, is 9. 1 to actually change the lightbulb and the other 8 to comment " hmm, that's nice but my style does it correctly".

There are some simple things to focus on that might help.

You can visualise the nose and navel moving together.

You can think of your lower belly as a camera lens, pointing in the direction you want to go.

John at one point visualised a pole coming up from his belly  in front of his chest and used that to turn around.

There must be many other images that one could use. Try one of the above to see if it is useful.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Sun Style Xingyi

For the past few years I have also been studying Sun style Xingyi.

It is powerful and direct. The movements appear less complex than Tai Chi but I find it more difficult. It is actually very subtle with lots of spirals.

Standing in San Ti posture is fundamental and the basis of all else that follows. Pi Quan ( Splitting Fist ) starts and ends with San Ti.

See the clip below.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Bagua Taiji

Fascinating and rare form  combining Bagua and Taiji. I met with Heron Beecham today whom I have known for a number of years and who has translated and published a book on Bagua Taiji.

It is excellent and I find it fascinating as I currently study Sun style Taiji which also incorporates elements of Bagua.

Heron has been living and training in Taiwan for the last 14 years. Check out his site on Bagua Taiji

There are excerpts from the book and if you are interested  buy the book at

Here is a clip of the form.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Where there is Left there is Right

Tai chi is full of opposites.

We talk about hard and soft, ful and empty, up and down and so forth.

Here is an example of left and right in the waist., using Brush Kneee and Push posture. As our weight shifts from the right back foot to the left front foot, the waist turns to the left. As we arrive on the front foot our waist should also be pulling back to the right. This produces a torque in the waist and has the effect of strongly rooting in the legs and feet.

The waist then unwinds as you transition into the next posture. The waist is constantly winding up and unwinding. Full and Empty, Hard and Soft.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Cinderella Time

Cinderella time (midnight) or later is a good time to practise.

This is because the world around you is quiet and if you are in any way sensitive to energy you will note the difference.

John Kells used to practise in the middle of the night for this reason. Of course it helps if you don't have a 9 - 5 job.

The phrase " Cinderalla Time" is courtesy of the Kinky Friedman detective novels.

Pushing from the Feet

Don't push from the feet. This is external, too slow and can result in sticking out the backside.

Instead, the relaxed torso " loads " the legs and the waist controls the storing and release of energy like a spring being compressed and released.

Pay attention to the waist and the different ways in which it can move.

Saturday, 7 April 2012


A new window opened for me when John Kells spoke about dedicating his T'ai Chi practise to another person, for instance, who might be ill.

Doing your form is like a Prayer. The energy gathered can be sent to another person or purpose for healing, as an example.

At the time this concept had never entered my head. I was more concerned with getting the postures right, still caught up in my ego centred image. I had the uniform, the slippers, the books (still attached to my books!) , DVDs and magazines. I let myself be defined by them. Hey, I was a Tai Chi dude, right? ( Cue ridiculous laugher and sickening sounds).

This is fairly common, no matter what the discipline. Some never get past it. What matters most is access to some good teaching and practising / investigating it.

Drop the trappings of your delusion. Image does not mean substance.

Sincerely investigate Form as Prayer.

What have you got to lose?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012


I've noticed T'ai Chi people like to talk about structure.

Sadly, in my view, everything is reduced to a form of mechanics. And yes, T'ai Chi does have rules and guidelines about alignment.

But a human being is an energetic entity, not just a system of pulleys and levers. So I view my T'ai Chi as a structure for energy. The energy gives rise to the structure.

This is one of the investigative purposes of my practise.

Sunday, 1 April 2012


After the learning the left side form we moved on to Power training.

This consisted in the main of Pressing. This was in two postures, a forward bow and arrow stance with a lean forwards and the hands pressing. Your partner would do the same. As you both leaned forwards the pressing hands would connect. The  idea was to maintain the shape and absorb the force of the other person by sinking into the front leg. At no time should any actual force be used in the arms. The strength came from maintaining ward off energy and sinking, maintaing a positive structure.

The second stance was upright, sinking into the back leg, connecting the pressing hands with those of your partner. The mental intent was strongly forwards at all times.

These exercises developed rooting, ward off energy and a strong back. You would hold the position for a few minutes and then switch to the other leg, reversing the pressing hands. It is extremely importnat to relax and not hold the breath.

Once this had been grasped we would progress to "firing" the other person. The incoming force is absorbed and returned from your spine and legs, bouncing the other person off. An important point is to keep the mind focused forwards as the other person is bounced away.

The lotus root may be broken, but the mind intent is not.

More on this training in a later post.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Flowing Form

Upon seeing Tai Chi, I was attracted to the flowing nature of the movements. And there is a flow.

But how do we flow? A tradtional method of learning would be to learn one posture at a time and understand the movement, energy and application. Then move on to the next posture and so forth. This could take several years. There would be no emphasis on the linking and flow between postures until much later.

I don't think I could teach like that as most students just want to be able to do the Form.Like me, they were attracted by the flow and the softness.

John Kells taught that each posture has a beginning and end. We must not rush or fudge these stages in order to "flow", which produces an empty mishmash. Neither should we linger in our movements.

The mind connects the postures into a form. We need to pay attention to the beginning and end of a posture so there there is no hesitation or stagnation, yet the posture has been fully completed. One method is to visualise the next movement slightly ahead of the physical follow through. It's like having a film running in your mind, with the body following.

This is really hard work but if you are sincere in your investigation of tai chi principles it is well worth it.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


When there is no time for Fear, there is no Fear.

Enter without hesitation.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Going Low

John Kells was teaching in the basement "mirror room" (had lots of mirrors).

Suddenly he went really low in the posture "Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain".  I mean really low!

Most of the time we were in a much higher stance. He explained to me that in order to develop my tai chi I needed to sink lower.

This should not be forced, however. I had one student who thought he was being more martial by taking a lower stance but his problem is that he was using force and remained stiff.

In order to sink lower we must first relax. As the hips and sacral area open/release and the legs strengthen the body can gradually go lower. This process takes time and cannot be forced.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Being Double Weighted

Being double weighted is supposed to be a cardinal sin in T'ai Chi.

Don't have the weight equally divided over both feet, we are told.

You can read amazing debates on internet forums about this topic, where people quote chinese words, theory and phrases from books. I rarely see anything from a personal standpoint.

I think it's pretty simple. Don't get caught flat footed. You can have your weight equally distributed on both feet but the mind / intent needs to be single focused. Furthermore the mind must not be rigidly fixed becuase ultimately it is a double weighted mind that gets caught.

Read Takuans' "Unfettered Mind" for a better explanation.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Heart Work

" Work of sight is done

  now do Heart Work

on the pictures within you "

Rainer Maria Rilke

Ta Lu

John Kells taught a number of small, moving sets called Ta Lu. I think there were 6 or 7 of them.

I learned 2 of them and in later years there was mostly a focus on the first one. Ta Lu means Large Rollback or Great Pulling. The first Ta Lu encompassed roll back, slap, press, shoulder and elbow. It's on my earlier post on Push Hands and Stuff.

Ta Lu involves stepping, being mobile. It teaches you not to be stuck in your feet, to listen, stick and follow. It is a prelude to learning the two person fighting set, which was called the Dance by John.

The first Ta Lu is fairly easy to learn and also a great way to practise being lively with a partner.

Friday, 24 February 2012


It is always useful to remind ourselves of basic aspects of our t'ai chi.

Actually they are not so basic.

Here is some advice from John Kells.

"Yielding requires correct posture."

"Different cultures have different approaches."

"When standing to attention, the belly is drawn down and up. this brings the lower spine in, straightening and expanding it."

"The spine between the shoulder blades is straightened when the heart are pulls down, up and out."

"The neck is straightened when the eyes pull down, up and out."

None of the above  is achieved by straining or using force.

Sunday, 19 February 2012


Shugyo can be considered as the path of austere training. It is the path taken to overcome barriers. It is the crossroads we encounter at a certain point in our development. To continue with our journey on the "Way", we need to go past it.

What does this mean for me as a student of T'ai Chi? Simple - TRAIN. Feeling worn out - TRAIN. Fed up with it all - TRAIN. It's a bit grey and cold outside - TRAIN.

It's all to easy to think that we have developed to a reasonable standard and rest upon our laurels. John Kells told me that my t'ai chi was only as good as my last practise.

When the good student reaches the crossroad and then passes it, they have entered into a world where inner development is of the essence in daily practise.

Shu = to strike with delicate precision  Gyo = Crossroad.

The good student strikes with deliberate precision at the target of the self. There is simply no choice in the matter.


Source: Sword and Brush  by Dave Lowry, Shambhala, 1995.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Thought for Tonight

Reflecting on teaching my class tonight. We worked a lot on using figure 8 spirals to escape from locks and simultaneously reverse lock our training partner, who would do the same.

Working in this way requires trust and the giving of energy.

In turn this joyful interaction generates positive energy.

Working together in this way is a blessing.

Then I got home just in time to dry the dishes. if only I can work out a figure 8 spiral to get out of it!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Wonderful Connection

I love this clip for the softness, intent and connection of the practitioners.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Finer Point of Ward Off

Just as we relax the hips and let the thighs wrap inwards, so we must pay similar attention to the point where the chest and shoulder muscle meet.

The shoulder well must be relaxed and hollow. To do this we have to soften and relax the chest so it is not pushing forwards ,up and out. As a result the shoulder blades open and the upper back is rounded. This should all be natural and not forced. It is not a deliberate, contrived hunching.

When we can do this our arms are integrated into the torso and will have ward off energy.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

That Sinking Feeling

We were in the basement room of the T'ai chi Centre. John Kells told us to get a chair and form a circle.

The instructions on how to sit were simple. Sit with your perineum towards the front edge of the chair. Sit upright, with your ankles aligned with your knees, feet flat on the floor. Hands were palm down on top of the knees. Keep the head up, with the chin slightly down. Tongue up against the gum behind the front two teeth. The mouth is gently closed, breathing is natural, in and out through the nose.

We closed our eyes and imagined a flow of warm water down the front of our bodies, going straight down, deep into the earth. The key was to keep letting go down the front of the body.  It is easier to get this when sitting down. You are sinking your energy to take root in the earth.

We then take this feeling and keep to it as we practise our forms. The upper body becomes lighter and you feel firmly rooted, yet not stuck heavily to the floor.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


Every month John Kells would hold a Saturday Intensive Workshop.

Weather permitting, we would venture into Regents Park and go through our forms. We would then head back to the basement room in the Tai Chi Centre for chinese tea and bread with jam or peanut butter.

After tea we worked on feeling the energy "skins". These started some distance from the body. The stronger the energy of the person, the further out the first skin would be. There were four skins before reaching the body, then the flesh, sinews and bones, the blood and Ch'i and finally the Spirit. We took it in turns to work with each other to feel how different we all were.

If you work with energy you will understand that we all have a particular "feel" by which we can be identified. This work further developed sensitivity which was applied in pushing hands.

Building on this sensitivity allows communication to begin much earlier, before the physical contact. It is a fascinating area of study.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Serial Abuse of Mindfulness

I'm always mindful ( couldn't wait to get that word in, mindfully of course ) of fundamental principles.

Has anyone written a book on Mindful Tai Chi? The Mindfulness of Qi gong? The Mindful Practise of Mindful Tai Chi?

Sorry, can't help thinking that I must use the word Mindful just like all those idiots in the late 1980s/early 1990s used their fingers to mimic inverted commas as if it was some bleeding edge, state of the art communication tool.

Seems like Mindfulness has been hijacked as the latest buzzword to appear in a thousand book titles. Has anyone written Death by Mindfulness? The Mindful Politician?  Couldn't see them on the bookshelves in London yesterday.

Thursday, 19 January 2012


The arms are a conduit for energy.

To be stiff, rigid, tense in the arms is to close the pathway for the energy to be expressed.

The energy is issued from the back, channelled up from the ground.

Essentially it's my core to your core. When you watch someone do their Tai Chi and they are moving their arms in isolation from their body it becomes apparent that only partial, stiff force can be used.

When stiff force is used the hardness can be felt by the receiver. When energy is issued correctly the receiver feels nothing but is uprooted cleanly.

Sunday, 15 January 2012


Tai chi emphasises sensitivity to a high degree.

So when you touch someone, you should be feeling their root, the connection to the ground. When they touch you, they should not be able to feel you.

Not everyone chooses to delve into this aspect. A lot pay lip service to the concept. Because frankly it is hard. It's painful. The Chess player Capablanca said you had to lose a thousand games before you could start winning. Cheng Man Ching talks about investing in loss. Few are prepared to undertake this journey because they want to win straight away.

Sensitivity needs to be balanced with order to be able to take it. For me standing in San Ti posture works on developing both aspects.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Ground Up

The thing is to be able to relax down to the feet so the ground comes up through you.

Monday, 9 January 2012

No Break

As we go through the movements of T'ai Chi, or should that be the other way around, there is no break or discontinuity.

Cheng Man Ch'ing describes this as movement and swing, swing and movement. We turn the waist and the hands follow. When the waist stops moving, so do the hands. However, the energy produced by the initial waist turn after it stops produces the next movement as there is a "swing" derived from it. And so it continues, on and on.

This key principle is what distinguishes the dross from the sublime. Otherwise we end up moving like a brick, a stiff.

Source: Cheng Man Ch'ing's Advanced Form Instructions by Douglas Wile, Sweet Ch'i Press, 1985. ISBN 0-912059-03-6

Friday, 6 January 2012

Peripheral Vision

From time to time I across discussions and articles on how to improve your peripheral vision or Eagle vision.

The advice given to me was to soften the gaze, not to focus directly on anything with the eyes as if trying to grab it.

Then to imagine the eyes as traffic cones, with the tip at the back of the skull.

This allows better peripheral vision and works for me.

Give it a try?

Monday, 2 January 2012

Weakness is a Strength

We were gathered in the basement mirror room, listening to John Kells talk more about yielding and pushing hands.

When someone is pushing you, your first reaction might be to resist and use strength. Of coure, the strongest will prevail. This may well be true. But what happens when you are faced with someone stronger? You lose. It is not possible to guarantee that you will always be stronger than the other person.

However, you can guarantee to be weaker. Always. So you listen, accept, stick and follow the incoming push, introducing a subtle turn. The other person suddenly finds themselves in a disadvantageous position.This won't work if the other person is not committed to pushing you.

What appears to be weakness leads to a position of strength. Weakness is an act of transformation. This principle is not unique to T'ai Chi and can, for instance,  be found in Judo or Aikido.