Sunday, 8 December 2013

Prostate Cancer, Tai Chi and Me

A year ago I found out I had Prostate Cancer. It felt surreal to walk around as usual, not quite sure what it meant to have a diagnosis of cancer.

I wasn't in any pain and didn't feel any different. Didn't look any different in the mirror either. I just had to visit the W.C. a lot, which is what led to my diagnosis.

Within 2 weeks of visiting my Doctor I had an appointment. 2 weeks later I saw a specialist followed by a biopsy after another 2 weeks. The biopsy confirmed the cancer just in time for Xmas. Within a further 6 weeks I had robotic surgery on Valentines Day ( Ironic) to remove the Prostate. Since then I have had regular follow ups and my PSA level has remained "undetectable" so I now need just a six monthly blood test and appointment with my Consultant. I can only describe my NHS treatment as brilliant.

I knew I had to prepare for the surgery so I increased my tai chi practise as well as the energetic exercises of the Kundalini Awakening Programme as learned from Guru Santiago Dobles. In addition I worked with weights to strengthen myself physically.

After returning home from hospital the advice was to build myself up by walking, which is a good all round exercise. Unfortunately the English weather was not conducive to going outside. Fortunately I could continue with the Kundalini exercises and had my tai chi practise to draw on.

I practised standing in San Ti, Holding the Ball and Wu Ji postures.  As I couldn't do my usual forms I worked on a fixed step version of Roll Back, Wardoff, Press and Push so I could cycle between the 4 energies. For indoor walking I practised circle walking and various 3 step combinations. As soon as I was able to I recommenced with my Sun style tai chi forms and eventually Sun style Xingyi.

The most important aspect was remaining mentally positive and somewhat "bloody minded" in my attitude to cancer and recovery from surgery. I consider myself fortunate to have had some excellent teachers whose teachings have been and remain of real value on my journey.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


When your hands touch the other person, try to avoid the mistake of using local muscular force to issue your energy/technique/application.

Instead there is no separation and at the point of contact we "seep" into the core of the opponent's body and root.

Then your energetic application comes from your root and body as a connected wave. The wave can crash quickly or slowly.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


Sometimes us Tai Chi folk need to take a break from all our spiritual and intellectual stuff.

Pizza and a beer, then dwell on the fundamental interconnectedness of all things.

Ok, I borrowed that concept from Douglas Adams and the Dirk Gently Holistic Detective Agency book but it works for me!

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Hand is not to......

......move by itself. The sending out of tenacious energy in T'ai Chi Ch'uan is to be originated from the waist and legs in co-ordination with the practitioner's thought, chi and spirit. If one pushes with his hand only, one has no way to lift his opponent from the ground into the air. Thus it has been said that T'ai Chi Ch'uan does not have to use hands and that which uses hands is not T'ai Chi Ch'uan. This applies not only to the framework but also to T'ui Shou.

Quoted from an article by Dr Chi Chiang Tao which was published by West & East Monthly, 1965.

Monday, 4 November 2013

John Kells - The Mysteries of Truth Full Version tried to upload the clip from Youtube which is over an hour long but it hasn't worked.

Click on the link below.

Sunday, 20 October 2013


Part of the work in exploring tai chi is to notice things.

Notice connections such as the inside of the shoulder to the inside of the opposite hip.

Notice the connection to the ground as the pubic bone is gently lifted forwards and up.

Notice when you feel connected.

Notice when your upper body feels empty and light.

Notice the heat in the feet.

Notice.......and keep on noticing.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Lively and Spirited

" Being relaxed does not mean being limp, loose or sloppy. Practice your T'ai Chi Ch'uan in a lively and spirited way.

This means being attentive and agile, trying to understand the nature of yin and yang, substantial and insubstantial.

Many people fall on hard or bad times but find that their spirit enables them to live through these times more easily.

As T'ai Chi Ch'uan is practised more and more this feeling of spiritedness will increase, working towards the spirit of vitality."

Excerpt from a sheet of principles put together by an old friend of mine for his Adult Education classes in London during the 1980's.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Affirmation of Life

Here is some inspiration from Chungliang Al Huang, author of "Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain"

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Same Difference 2

Two versions of Single Whip.

One from John Kells' Short Form, the other from Sun style.

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Left Side

After learning the long form on the right side, John Kells then taught the mirror image form.

This is called the left side because we started by sinking in the left leg. Let me dispel straight away all the idiotic suggestions that this will make your Chi run backwards or somehow damage your health.

What was interesting for me was the effect it had in terms of coordination and the mental clarity it evoked. Even now it feels better and more natural to me to  do a left side long form.

Whilst we will always favour one side more than the other, especially in applying the techniques, I do believe it makes sense to work both sides to increase mental agility.

The left side form also included some new postures and variations which we could then incorporate into our right side.

I don't believe it is absolutely essential to do a left side as we should thoroughly master one form and  the principles and techniques. But it does, in my personal opinion, add interest and depth to my practice.

Of course, in the words of the late Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse...opinions vary.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


I find imagery very useful in approaching Tai Chi.

When it comes to Softness I like the image of the bale of straw.

When pressure is applied to the bale of straw, it naturally compresses , not collapsing or resisting.

When the pressure is released the bale of straw regains its shape.

This is Softness.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The First Thing..........

... ....for a beginner to do is to shut up and listen to the energy of the Teacher.

Without this there can be no true communication.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Same Difference

Below are the commencing postures of the classical Sun style taught to me by David Martin and the short form I learned from John Kells.

Both start in the Wuji posture, which is a standing meditation. In both styles the arms rise up to meet an incoming attack, seperate the attacker's arms and repel them.


Sunday, 28 July 2013


It's the moment between postures where we must avoid drifting off and losing our connection to the present moment.

Saturday, 13 July 2013


I had the pleasure of meeting Scott Meredith today.

Scott is the Author of Juice - Radical Taiji Energetics which is an important book in understanding and working on the internal concepts of Tai Chi.

As usual, I was reminded that I am not as relaxed as I thought I was ( no, I didn't really think I was that relaxed ) so am inspired for further exploration and practise.

Scott's website is

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Without Arms

One of the hardest things to do is to not use your arms independently of the body.

Thinks about how you would do your tai chi forms without any arms.

I like this clip which is small frame Chen style because if you look closely you can observe how the arms follow the body/waist/legs.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Getting it Wrong

It is important to get things wrong.

To make mistakes.

Because this is how we learn.

When I first started Tai Chi, people would not practise because they couldn't remember the postures and were afraid to get it wrong. Invariably their progress stalled and they soon dropped out.

Instead we should practise and not be afraid to get it wrong. When we then go over the postures or receive a correction/advice/suggestion from a teacher/instructor it is more meaningful and allows us to progress.

Get it wrong to get it right.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Single Posture

When learning a form, we are usually taught one or two postures on a weekly basis which we then piece together with what we have previously learned.

The danger lies in practising the form without understanding the postures, because we are focusing on the wrong approach.

We must "get" the form, right?


Study each posture individually. Understand the movement and the application. Each posture contains opening, connecting, joining and closing.

Then, when linking postures together, understand the point at which one posture ends and connects to the next without fudging that moment.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Liao Zhen Xiang

Liao Zhen Xiang is an old calligrapher who studied with Cheng Man Ching

Sunday, 12 May 2013

OM Aphorism

Aphorisms can be used as part of a meditative practise.

John Kells has written a number of aphorisms to work on  OM. Here is one that I like.

" OM is voice to timeless Benediction "

Repeat this silently to yourself.


Become aware.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Wisdom on Eastenders

Fantastic advice for difficult times (or any time ) was given on Eastenders, a BBC TV "soap".

Breathe and let go, breathe and let go,

Let me try that - one moment......yes, it works :)

Monday, 6 May 2013

Mid Air Root

You can be rooted even with both feet off the ground, for instance, as you are doing a jump.

So this begs the question - what is root?

What is your connection to?

What is connected to you?

Is Root in the Feet, the Mind, the Heart?

Is Root in the Soul?

I don't have a definitive answer because my experience has thrown up different answers. I leave you to yours.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Forum warriors

Sometimes I do find it interesting to read discussions on forums about tai chi.

Mostly I am left disappointed by the inane mud slinging of the keyboard warriors who bathe in their version of reality to the detriment of others.

Was it Bruce Lee who said " My Reality is not your Reality " ?

So I'm off outdoors to celebrate my own version of reality instead. Practise with sincerity and be open to discovery.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Sometimes...... is great to forget everything, all the principles, the rules, the attitudes and just do your form.

Be light, be spirited.

Let your body sing Tai Chi as there is no separation, no divide.

In this way, connect to nature. Be natural.

Afterwards I usually enjoy a cup of tea (well, I'm British so what do you expect! ) and watch the world go by.

Sometimes I have tea before as well!

Saturday, 20 April 2013


The Tai Chi classics talk about full and empty, but how can you put this into practise?

You can do this in your form.

As an example, when turning to the right from Ward off left in the Cheng Man Ching form, completely empty your right side. It's as if it was full of water which has drained into the left side of the body.

This includes the legs. The right side then feels incredibly light. When I turn I visualise an attack coming to my right side. I have to sink, empty and make space.

A common mistake is to turn but not empty, so your energy is stuck and double weighted. Visualisation plays an important part so it essential to have an understanding of the martial applications.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Yiquan 10

Here is the final poem, reproduced as before with permission from Heron Beecham.



Practise and study hard, and you will enter a place of wonder and fascination;

Where there are innumerable gold bracelets and jade treasures stored within.


When we are full of vital energy the spirit will never be exhausted;

With a feeling of elation, let us drift along at will without a fixed lodging point.


Activities such as walking, standing, sitting or lying are valuable for practice;

This ancient and remarkable skill appears easy to approach.


The body is loosened so that the strength feels like it has been derived from soft mud;

The frame appears to have been suspended by a thread from the top of the head.


Examine the condition of each body cell silently with discerning eyes;

False versus real, round versus square, the two aspects aid one another.


Evil intentions do not arise from the expansive sky or the boundless sea;

Let the heavenly bodies revolve around each other in the appropriate way.


To set an object of pursuit and follow it perseveringly is the only requirement;

A grand achievement will surely be accomplished after many years of study.


Suppose we fail to adopt this approach to study yet practise day and night;

We will never succeed in the Chinese martial arts and only sigh in lamentation.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Yielding Exercise

John Kells introduced a great exercise to help us work on yielding and making a hole for the incoming energy.

We had to stand in a bow and arrow stance with one arm held up in ward off and a pole resting gently on it which was held by another person.

That person would then slowly advance the pole towards your centre. In response we had to yield to the advancing pole and create space without forcing the pole away.

This is easier said than done as the natural inclination is to force the pole aside. This was a great training exercise to work on the attributes of yielding, acceptance,no force and creating a hole.

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Truth

Truth in our Tai Chi can't be comprehended through intellectual efforts or pretensions.

Direct experience in the shape of a fist in your fist is Truth.

Wake up!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

When Yielding..........

lay your energy alongside the incoming force so that you are not in opposition.

This puts you in a position to return the energy.

This principle is clearly demonstrated in Tenkan in Aikido.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Yiquan 9

Here is Poem 9, reproduced as before with permission of Heron Beecham

With the body relaxed, the muscles feel as if they have been suspended from a cloud;

Each and every hair on the body seems to sway at ease in the warmth of the wind.


Wipe your eyes and take a good look silently at your surroundings.

Concentrate the spirit, feel and detect all movements coming from the opponent.


The dragon plays with flying waves as they move up and down in the blue sea;

A violet hare calls to the moon as it emerges from behind the flowing clouds.


Infinite expressions are used to express the mood of boundlessness:
Quite possibly a magic teapot standing on a base comprised of six tortoises

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Tai Chi E Book

My friend Kevin Parker has written his first ebook containing exercises to work on the principles of  Tai Chi.

It's a snip at £6.61 on Amazon.

Buy it!

Tai Chi Internal Exercises for Ta Ji Quan Practioners
So you've learnt your Tai Ji form and you want to get deeper into the mysterious 'Internal'. Inside this book you will find 31 different exercises to help you develop further using your own form as a vehicle for travel into the wilder reaches of T'ai Chi Chuan.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Touch and Pushing Hands

Sensitivity is a key aspect of pushing hands

I remember reading a story in which a member of the Yang family was admonished for letting an opponent touch his sleeve, which was torn.

This illustrates the need to work on the neuro sensory approach, to work with the lightest touch. If we only work on a brute, muscular level we will end up getting stuck and unable to interpret the energy of the other person before it is too late and upon us.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Hatfield-Chinese New Year - go see this!

Preparations are under way for Chinese New Year, Tickets are now for sale £5.00 cheap as chips and they are limited numbers, Thank you.:)

Yiquan 8

As before, reproduced here with permission of Heron Beecham.

Never hold on to your own ideas obstinately in practice;

Ordinary exercise is enough for taking care of health.


The skill of conducting the spirit comes from a place beyond external form.

The subtleness of exerting the mind only exists in a state empty of thought.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

One Energy

The most important "energy" to develop is Ward Off or Peng.

This permeates the entire body and is contained in everything. I am not talking about a specific posture but an internal energetic experience.

To begin with we hold a posture to support the energy and become fixated, to some extent, with body mechanics and alignment. And this is fine because we need to start with something.

But then ,as you develop, this changes to the energy supporting the posture.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Tai Chi Weekends

If you are a beginner interested in Tai Chi and want to experience a taste,then look no further than Andy and Denise Spragg.

Their website is and here is a clip from one of the weekends with Andy and myself. I no longer teach on these weekends but they were great fun with some fantastic people.

We were on the Heaven and Earth show on BBC1 which was an experience in itself,seeing how everything was filmed out of synch!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Underlying Tension

If you think you are relaxed,then most likely you are not.

Relaxation goes much deeper than some kind of external letting go.

We all carry underlying tension and it is important to realise this and work to let go.

The superior tai chi practitioner will feel the other's underlying tension and be able to exploit it in application.

Investigate relaxation. Then investigate it again.