Friday, 12 December 2014

Four Steps to Connection

See below from John Kells' blog. I really like this.





Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Taiji Manual of Cai Yizhong

Love this on Paul Brennan's translation site. Interesting to note the upright back.

This site has great translations of old texts relating to Tai Chi and other Chinese martial arts.

Friday, 5 December 2014

John Kells-1990 Power Pressing

Here is a clip of John Kells demonstrating and explaining Pressing.

We used to practise this quite a lot. On Fridays we had a Ta Lu class followed by Power.

The pressing postures, front and back foot, were held in a static mode to begin with. This was to develop the posture and was then followed by learning to uproot. The power came from the spine and root, not  from the arms.

Cook Ding's Kitchen: Book Review: Wisdom of the Taiji Masters

See below for a post about Nigel Sutton's latest book. I had the pleasure of learning a Cane form from him which originated in the Nanjing Military Academy in the 1930s.

I think it was around 1989/90 in Hayes. Sadly I no longer remember the form but still practise some of the exercises. I have a few of his books and have always found them interesting.

Cook Ding's Kitchen: Book Review: Wisdom of the Taiji Masters: The publisher, Tambuli Media , was kind enough to send me a copy of Wisdom of the Taiji Masters by Nigel Sutton. In the history of Taiji...

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Look Reasonable

When practising Tai Chi, we should look reasonable, as if someone could come up to and start a conversation.

Oh well,here goes....

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Staying Calm and Loving Yourself

Here is some great advice from Geoff Thompson. I've read quite a few of his books and I have found "Warrior" to be really helpful.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sensitive and Soft

All too often pushing hands degenerates into some kind of wrestling match.

Just watch tournament clips on Youtube.

If you let the other person land their energy on you they can find your centre. The arms are like feelers, receptive, ready to guide.

This picture from John Kells' Heartwork blog embodies that quality.

Spidershed Guitars

On a different note one of my good Tai Chi friends has started up a business making resonator guitars.

If you are interested, checkout:

They are brilliant!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Having Fun

Me and Andy Spragg messing about during a tai chi weekend.


I think I know the way out of this

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The Arms

When issuing energy, the arms are like wet towels.

The energy is issued from the body, not using local strength in the arms..

You work on this in your form. The arms follow the changes in the body and legs. They are like elephants trunks.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Relax into the Feet

Ch'eng Man Ch'ing writes in his Thirteen Chapters that the weight of the Body should rest on just one foot.

Otherwise you are double weighted (Although I think that double weightedness is also a state of mind).

But when practising my form I watch for tension and where it is being held, trying to let it dissolve so my energy can sink down to my feet.

When I first started learning Tai Chi one of the more advanced students also told me to relax the soles of the feet so there was no resistance to the ground.

How do you work on this?

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Yoga of Tai Chi

Here's an interesting article I came across whilst surfing on the interweb.

It's called the Yoga of Tai Chi by Greg Brodsky which looks at the Yogic Five Elements and how they can relate to Tai Chi.

The link is:

Happy Reading.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Keep Ward Off

Keeping ward off in your upper and lower body allows for the development of a dynamic and lively energy.

Too often I see postures which are collapsed and are unable to receive incoming energy or express returning it.

Usually this type of collapse is mistaken for softness but it is weak and will allow incoming energy to crush you.

In the clip below I demonstrate the first few postures maintaining ward off. John Kells told me to keep the structure and learn to relax and soften within it.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Practise Tip

In single pushing hands, don't let the hand not in contact hang limply.

Ward off  energy runs through the body so you are disconnecting if you let the other hand go limp.

Keep a little bit of energy in it so the hand can be brought into play as needed.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

It's the little things

Had a great day visiting my Sun style Instructors today.

It is always good to be open to corrections and suggestions, especially as we can end up lapsing into bad habits and sometimes postures we made up.

I've got a small number of things to work on in my taiji form and also drastic revision to some of my Xingyi.

Whilst it's great to have a lot of spirit and energy the "little" technical aspects can make a fundamental difference to your art.

Never be complacent!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Practise Tip

Practise your T'ai Chi Ch'uan as if you have plenty of money in the Bank.

What this means is that you should drop any anxiety or worries so that you can practise in a calm, unruffled manner.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Monday, 22 September 2014

Qi Sensing

Below is a link to my old Tai Chi friend Richard Coldman's blog.

Apart form being a tai chi practitioner he is also a filmmaker and has now, after 3 years, produced a DVD and MP3 package to support using Qi  awareness in daily life.


Check it out, as they say!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

20 Years

John Kells used to quote his teacher, Dr Chi Chiang Tao, as saying

" 1 year learning to push, 20 years learning to yield".

Don't be in a hurry to push. Without understanding yielding and the transformation of energy we will always resort to brute force.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Creating Neural Pathways

In our Tai Chi training we are told to use the mind, not force.

T.T. Liang wrote that imagination becomes reality.

We focus on points in the body to create linkages/pathways for energy flow.

We don't think,we feel.

We create anew every single time we practise our forms.

This is an interesting link about creating neural pathways.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Suspending the Headtop

I think that the biggest mistake that can be made is to think of Taijiquan as some kind of structural mechanics. If this were the case it ought to be fairly easy to master.

Instead it is about energetics.

Suspending the Headtop is a good example of this. For years I either imagined that I had a book on top of my head or a ponytail tied up to a rafter or beam in the ceiling. The trouble for me is that it resulted in a lot of tension.

I believe that misconceptions of this concept arise due to the difficulties in translating writings that were coded to support a oral/experiental process.

Louis Swaim discusses just this in his translation " Fu Zhongwen - Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan, (North Atlantic Press 1999) about the meaning of "an intangible and lively energy lifts the crown of the head" - p182.

Swaim quotes fromYang Jwing Ming, T.T.Liang, Robert W Smith, Jou Tsung Hwa and others,all offering diverse interpretations pp182-182.

What I find interesting is that we are talking about the wrong focal point, which is not the crown of the head. The crown of the head is commonly referred to as the Ba Hui point. Instead it is the Niwan point,which is not the crown but is located instead deep inside the brain. Scott Meredith discusses this extensively in his book "Juice-Radical Taiji Energetics" pp 76 - 83.

Sam Tam also echoes this point as the place from which to suspend the headtop in Jan Diepersloot's book " The Tao of Yiquan 1999, p215.

Scott Meredith likens the Niwan point to the Ajna in the Yogic tradition and one of my teachers, John Kells also worked with a point deep in the brain which he called the Ankh.

So whatever your take on this,there is plenty to work on.  I'm off to practise!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

External to Internal

This quote from Scott Meredith ( Author of Juice: Radical Taiji Energetics) sums it up nicely and it applies to Tai Chi, Xingyi,Bagua etc.

 "we begin with physical structure and slowly replace it, bit by bit, with energetic substance. We  begin with physical movement and slowly replace it, bit by bit, with energetic dynamics"

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Small Space

Allen Ginsberg writes about practising Tai Chi in his poem " In My Kitchen in New York" 1984.

I love it because it mirrors the many thoughts that come and go in practise. Also because I frequently practise in my kitchen when the weather prevents me from going outside.

When learning the form it is usually best if you have a space large enough so you don't need to make adjustments.

Later on you can practise an entire form in a very small space by understanding single weightedness and making adjustment steps in accordance with that principle. It is possible to practise a series of postures almost on the spot. Might film that at some point and post it.

Here is a kitchen I recently practised the entire Cheng Man Ching form in.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

What about Breathing?

I think it was in one of John Kells' classes that someone asked about breathing.

Good Idea was the answer.

Some people co-ordinate the in and out breath with their postures.

I'm personally not in favour of this approach.

Let the breathing be natural. I feel that you will otherwise create tension in trying to combine it with movements.

Whether you move fast or slow, the breath will follow naturally. I think it is more important to remain relaxed, lively and spirited.

Of course opinions vary :)

Give Up

Give up your strength.

That is to say give up your ordinary strength by letting it go down to the earth.

Release but don't collapse.

As the ground comes back up through your body you then experience a unified strength of the whole body.

The key is to keep this feeling throughout the form, creating new neural pathways.

An equal and opposite reaction.

No need to dress it up with mystical mumbo jumbo.

Sunday, 3 August 2014


As T'ai Chi Ch'uan is a martial art, it is important to understand the techniques embodied in the form.

Examine them and understand the principles on which they are based.

Practise with friendly people who don't "play the game".

This is good feedback for you.

I have some higher Dan grade Karate students and when they punch it is direct and you really have to be on the ball.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Cook Ding's Kitchen: Review of Jonathan Bluestein’s Research of Martial...

This looks like a really interesting book.

Follow the link.

Cook Ding's Kitchen: Review of Jonathan Bluestein’s Research of Martial...:   “The heart of the study of boxing is to have natural instinct resemble the dragon.”  – Wang Xiang Zhai Anyone who has been a regu...

Sunday, 27 July 2014

John Kells 2007

Here is a clip of John Kells from 2007. I like the softness of his movements and expression of intent and energy.

He is working on the energetic structures of the other person

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Practise Tip

When you sink in the first posture of your form try to stay at that level as much as possible thoughout the form.

There will be natural rising and sinking but try not to bob up and down as the energy stored in your legs will not transfer through the sacral area but instead disperse and represents a loss of power.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Short Cuts

It never ceases to amaze me when I hear about some idiot who will only study with a teacher if they can teach them the "Essence" or the "Real Deal Stuff".

Looking for a short cut? Visit the Barber.

Looking for Essence. Try a cosmetics shop.

The Real Deal - honour your teacher, practise daily with honesty, sincerity and humility.

There are no short cuts.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Settled and Supported

Supported weight is achieved by relaxing the torso so it can be carried by strong legs.

To this end we use different techniques including weights to build powerful thigh muscles.

This is ok as far as it goes.

Much better is to let the energy settle deep into the ground. In this way the body is naturally supported by the earth rising up through a relaxed body.

Relaxed includes the legs, which are the hardest part of the body to let go.

Settling does not require the development of powerful legs. It does require the ability to visualise energy slowly settling down the front of the torso, legs, through the feet and softly into the earth.

No great intellectual process is needed, just feeling and faith.

You will then softly plug into the energy in and around you.

Don't believe a word. Practise.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

StandingPosture 7

Here is the final posture.

The weight is on the back leg and the arms are spiralling out.

Sunday, 22 June 2014


Spirit is everything!

Let's get off our backsides and practise

Be alive, now.

Engage the Heart.

No room for intellect.

No going back, only forwards.


Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Smallest Change

Sometimes just the smallest change can turn out to be the biggest change in your life.

Keep investigating your Tai Chi.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Playing with Spirals

Here is a short clip playing around with the figure 8 in response to a wrist grab.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Leading Hip Sink 2

Here is a clip playing around with the idea of sinking into the leading hip, not just moving backwards and forwards.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Standing Exercise 6

With this posture, the weight is 70% on one side and you then focus on the connection between the opposite foot and hand.

So if the weight is more on the left foot, the connection will be with the right hand and vice versa.

This is an important exercise in building awareness of cross energy.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Seven Stars Tai Chi Club - Vancouver Island

Seven Stars Tai Chi Club in Vancouver Island is run by Osman Phillips, an old tai chi friend from our days studying with John Kells in London during the 1980's.

His website is Cedar Lane Studio

Osman offers training in Yang and Chen style tai chi with regular classes and workshops.

His photography is also amazing and captivating!

Check it out, as they say.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Secret Space - new Tai Chi course

I will be teaching a 6 week Tai Chi course at the Secret Space in Hertford, commencing Monday 16th June, 6.30 - 7.30pm.

The link is

Click on " Book a Course " on the left hand side to book.

The course will comprise some of John Kells' exercises, simple partner work and Sun style Tai Chi.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Leading Hip Sink

I've been watching a number of pushing hands clip and am struck by how most of them involve transitioning backwards and forwards.

The problem with going straight back is that if the other person can follow you will find yourself trapped and the back foot and are sure to lose your balance.

If you sink first in your front foot hip without lurching forwards, you will then be able to make a hole and lead the incoming energy into your center so it can be returned.

You will also find yourself in closer proximity to the other person and be able to engage with them.

I'll try to film this at some point.

Saturday, 17 May 2014


In the moment of sending out force, one has to place the waist and thighs in the correct position.

The force is then sent out from foot to leg and from leg to waist to become a unitary whole.

The energy starts from the heel and is sent out from the spine, controlled by the waist and shown by the fingers.

Such a process should be in perfect coordination without any confusion.

Excerpted from West & East Monthly, 1965.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

A String of Pearls

A String of Pearls is a great little book by Michael Gilman, published by Turning Point Press in 1996.

It contains 108 meditations on Tai Chi Chuan , in line with the 108 movements of traditional Yang style.

Each section focuses on principles or concepts of Tai Chi, looking at the use of the Mind, Physical Structure, Energy, Pushing Hands and Strategies.

The book contains lots of little gems. I really like number 68, which emphasises connecting the Dan Tien, Yung Chuan, Bai Hui and Lao Kung points before starting your form.

I don't know if this particular book is still available but you can buy other books and materials from Michael Gilman's website,

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Standing Exercise 5

This exercise is the same as exercise 4, except the palms are facing upwards to receive the energy
from Heaven.

Relax your torso into your legs. Little by little we learn to dissolve tensions, peeling away layer by layer.

This is not a quick process.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Cook Ding's Kitchen: External and Internal Stretching for Martial Arts

I first came across working on stretching the Fascia over 20 years ago.

The late Rey Nelson and his wife Rose Oliver MBE brought over Michael Philips from Tucson to hold workshops. It was amazing how much difference it made to me. It felt as if I was floating along as I walked.

See the link below from the excellent Cook Ding's Kitchen Blog on this theme.

Cook Ding's Kitchen: External and Internal Stretching for Martial Arts: Today we have another guest post by Jonathan Bluestein. Jonathan's guest posts have a knack of turning up on the all time favorites li...

Friday, 25 April 2014

Private Lessons

I am offering private lessons for anyone who is interested in learning Sun style Tai Chi.

This form is not widely taught in the West and represents an interesting synthesis of Tai Chi, Xingyi and Ba Gua.

I can be contacted via this blog or my website

My teacher is an indoor student of the late Sun Jian Yun, seen in the clip below.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Xingyi Five Elements and Linking Form

Although my main interest is Tai Chi, my Sun style teachers also shared the Xingyi they had learned.

I am in no way proficient in it so this is just me having a go. Neither do I teach any of it as my understanding is very basic and my Instructor Certificate authorises me to teach Sun style Tai Chi only.

All mistakes are mine. I actually find this much harder than Tai Chi even though it appears simpler on the surface. But I like it!


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Knocking Exercise

The knocking exercise gently conditions the inside and outside of the forearms.

It is also useful for learning to move with another person.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Standing Exercise 4

In this posture the weight is 70% on the front leg.

The arms are crossed at the wrists and pay attention to the feeling beneath the palms.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Tai Chi Dance of Yielding Equality

Tai Chi contains a fair number of 2 person training sets.

For example, 2 person fixed step pushing hands, various Ta Lu sets, 2 person weapons forms and

what John Kells called the "Dance".

The Dance is a 2 person fighting set. Perhaps this is a misnomer as it not fighting. What is teaches is timing, footwork, coordination, sticking, yielding, counter to counter and above all else, Spirit.

A frequent criticism is that it is a just a nicely choreographed sequence and sometimes this is not without foundation as people meander through it. However if you practise and investigate thoroughly, for example, how far is an attack welcomed in before you have to move, you can begin to see the value of this training. This type of fighting set also contains many applications from the solo forms.

I don't practise it much nowadays but I thought I would see what I looked like ( Vain but useful for feedback!). Unfortunately the battery on my camera ran out but there is enough footage to give you an idea. This is me doing it solo.


Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Ribs

Pay attention to the opening and closing of the ribs as you do your form.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Awkward Moment

Oh dear, I knew I should have worn my Chuck Norris Action Jeans!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Pushing HandsTip

There are 2 key points to pay attention to in single pushing hands:

1/At the end of your push, enter as if being pulled to present wars off. Don't stop at the end of the push and just present ward off. This is too static and means you have lost connection.

2/At the end of your yield, continue by imagining that it is pulling. In this way you continue to keep connection before returning with a push.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Standing Exercise 3

This is the third standing exercise in the series.

The weight is  mostly on the back leg and the arms are embracing a column.

This is not the same as lifting hands.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Riding on the Back of the Dragon

From Steven Moore's taichiheartwork blog

"If you don't have the feeling that the next stage – infinite in its extent and awful in its implications – is forever looming – beckoning and threatening – then you're stuck. This is what gives the great master his indomitable spirit – each day is a ride on the back of the dragon into the fray."

See for other posts.

This is so true if you are really investigating your T'ai Chi, not just going through some daily motions which are nothing more than superficial performance.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Shadow Power

Scott Meredith, the author of " Juice " writes about the theory of Cheng Man Ching pushing hands

as taught to him by Ben Lo.

The article can be read here:

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Standing Posture 1

Some 14 years ago I went along for a regular one to one session with John Kells.

He taught me a series of standing exercises to work on energy and willpower/

Here's the first one. To be held for 3 minutes each side. 70% weight on the backleg.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

John Kells - Heartwork, What I am Teaching Now Part 3

The steps of discharge 1

" To adhere: Put out your hand and let it adhere to your opponent's hand lightly. Your body and leg should go forward with your hand simultaneously. If you have put out your hand without following your forward stride, you have no way to hit your opponent's hand and may possibly be pulled by him. As the Proverb says: " When ones foot cannot keep in step with his body he will find himself in trouble."

Dr Chi Chiang Tao

Quoted from West & East Monthly,1965.