Sunday, 27 December 2015

Chungliang Al Huang, Five Moving Forces

My last post for 2015. I occasionally practise this exercise but am inspired to do it more often after watching this.


Sunday, 6 December 2015

My Favourite Books

This is a great little book with a number of energy exercises taken from Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Kung, PolarityTherapy/Energy Medicine.

It was published in 2000 by Duncan Baird Publishers, ISBN 1-900131088-9

Love the Egyptian Figure of Eight exercise although I won't be making a video of my attempts.

Drunk on Taiji 太极醉 - Music Video Mandala Studio - Hsia-Jung Chang, Hsi-L...

Sunday, 22 November 2015

My Favourite Books

I love this one. Wu style Taijiquan by Wang Peisheng & Zeng Weiqi.

As you can see it is somewhat battered and it is a book I keep going back to. The information in it is brilliant and the line drawings are superb. I love the way the applications are so clearly drawn and explained.

Another interesting feature is the way the postures are given a self feeling ,i.e.., " right foot firmly rooted in ground. There is wriggling in right palm and sole."

The pushing hands routines are clearly descried and illustrated and the section by Master Yang Yuting is priceless. The ISBN is 962-238-015-8  It was published in 1983 so I'm not sure if it is still in print.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Re-vitalise Chen taiji retreat

If you're interested in finding out about Chen style taijiquan whilst having a weekend break, then look no further.

Re-vitalise Chen taijiquan retreat - December

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Don't Wait

Some 16 or 17 years ago I used to work privately with John Kells in his Islington basement flat.

Twice a week I would grope my way trying to understand his energy centric, spiral, figure 8 heartwork. It was in many ways a shock departure from my previous tai chi comfort zone.

The job of a real teacher is to cut through all the garbage you put up in your mind as resistance and break you down to the point of realisation. It is uncomfortable and many give up. There were frequent admonitions and exasperated cries of "can't you even do that " and so on.

Perseverance eventually brought a number of realisations. One of them is " don't wait".

We would practise connecting to an incoming punch followed by uprooting, then downrooting. The mnemonic was JEARL - Join, Enter, Assist, Raise and Lower.  John had a way of making you feel trapped and your response always lagged behind.

If you are working with energy as opposed to just physicality, then you will develop a sensitivity to others. When you feel the spark of connection you must go forwards to meet the other person. If you wait then the incoming energy (of the punch) will strike you, This going forwards to connect and interact is beyond conventional thinking about time. As  a result I was then able to uproot and downroot John.

There is no going backwards in this type of work. To go backwards is to invite the energy of the other person to land on you. This work became even more interesting when my tai chi friends Steven and Charles joined in the sessions and made them livelier and enriching.

Monday, 2 November 2015

In my Salad Days

Some photos from my younger days!

Did Ch'eng Man Ch'ing ( Zheng Manqing) study with Yang Chengfu?

The title of this post is a question that seems to be perpetuated in various forums.The implication being that he didn't.  My favourite one is that Ch'eng Man Ch'ing didn't appear in the "training diary" of Yang Chengfu, who was , I believe, illiterate. Work that one out!

However, in Louis Swaims translation of Yang Chengfu's  " The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan" he has a passage on page xi which is  a quote from Yang Zhenji, 2nd son of Yang Chengfu, which states "Taijiquan tiyong quanshu was written by my father's disciple, Zheng Manqing, according to my father's performance narratives and requirements. This is factual."

Good enough for me. No comments required.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

My Favourite Books

This is quite simply one of the best books I have ever read about Tai Chi. Intelligent and comprehensible, devoid of mystifying jargon.

Very practical and accessible.

Amazon link

Product Details

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Waist Stuff

Interesting bit from " Running with the Mind of Meditation" by Sakyong Mipham

"The Psoas muscle behind the sternum and inner thigh initiates lifting the leg. Visualize the legs starting directly below the sternum in the upper part of the torso and back, for that is where these hip flexor muscles that initiate leg movement begin"

It gives a different flavour to your tai chi. The Waist is the commander!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Scott Meredith: Some Taijiquan Training Methods

Interesting article by Scott Meredith, author of Juice and other books on tai chi.

Cook Ding's Kitchen: Some Taijiquan Training Methods: The following is an excerpt from an article written by Scott Meredith on some training methods of Taijiquan at Budo Japan . The full artic...

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Lower Back is first to command

This is interesting. It is from Paul Brennan's site where there are a lot of really interesting translations of tai chi, xingyi etc books.

"The lower back is first to command, the throat second to command, solar plexus third to command. The elixir field is first to obey, palms second to obey, the soles of the feet third to obey."

The full text can be read here

Careful reading is required and there are many gems that can be discovered.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Favourite Books

I bought an earlier version of this book in Basel, Switzerland in 1994. It has a section on Dr Chi's 10 important points for advanced practise and a 64 question and answer chapter. There is a description of double push hands with line drawings and an exercise to open the hips.

It's a very good book for anyone practising Cheng Man Ching style. I recently found an English version in my local library. There is also a Sword book by the same authors.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Knees Forward

Be careful you do not let the knee go beyond the toes as it is structurally weak and places undue stress on the joint.

As an example, brush knee and push. It is better to think of the back of the knee of the front leg compressing downwards and in this way you will have a better root and energetically connect opposite foot to hand.

The knee going too far forwards will not connect energetically and is usually a sign of tight hips.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Cook Ding's Kitchen: Training with Sifu Yee

This is great!

Cook Ding's Kitchen: Training with Sifu Yee: Below is an excerpt from an 11 part memoir of a student of a kung fu master and proprietor of a Chinese resturant. I found it fascinating ...

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Spiritual Aspect

John wrote that the spiritual aspect of his work can be summed up in the following two sentences:

The soft inheritance of love admits no hate since truth can find no self nor other to take sides.

Oneness is the pure umbilical to essence before thought.


Here is a short piece from 2010 that John Kells wrote about the Thymus and connection.

Earth inscribes the bubbling wells to wake the thymus power.  So many years that think the belly frees the heart but this new depth is older than the rest, connections truth that burns to understand.  Into that gasp of almost breath stirs purest root, serene as eaglet waiting for the eagle from beyond infinities, meanings energy to start as life, a stage of innocence before the sweat of thought, the swear of need anatomy of where we start, deep and whole, full sight that bars the pillars of the intellect, the dimness that has made the world as is, portraying wisdom that does not have fount.  Myriad are the thymus touches that connect, the place of majesty where we can circulate the energy between us two, us one, us.  Our structures so inspired to character the life that sparks, feedback higher than a joy, oneness penetrating essence before thought., nothing left undone.  Forward is the nature of events, soft is how the elements unfreeze, yielding listens and the focus clears.  Time no longer has a chance as destiny commits as ancestors un-rival what you are.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

My Favourite Books

Here is the first ever book that I bought which had applications to the postures.

It is " The Practical Use of Tai Chi Chuan"and is by Yeung Sau Chung, son of Yang Cheng Fu.

It contained applications and follow up applications of Yeung Sau Chung with his daughters and students.

John Kells sold this little book which he had obtained from Chu Gin Soon, with whom he had studied.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Rooting and Yielding Exercise

John Kells introduced this exercise during one of our classes. I think we only did it once but it is such a killer on the weighted leg. I've done it fairly quickly in this clip so you need to slow it down a bit.

Keep the weight on the rear leg for a while, then slowly shift forwards and backward, finally keep weight on the rear leg and go up and down, imagining you are yielding to being pushed on your arms without collapsing them. This is a real killer. Repeat on the other leg

The Heels

Pay attention to the opening and closing of the heels.

So as you are sinking into your brush knee and twist posture, feel what is going on in the heels. Then again pay attention to them as you transition into the next posture.

This is not about the feet physically moving out and in. You can feel the heels wanting to move out and close in. Play around with this.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

My favourite Books

This one was the first book I bought on the T'ai Chi classics,writings about theories and principles of T'ai Chi. I think this might have been one of the first books in English on the classics  but I could be wrong.

Written by the late T.T.Liang, with whom John Kells studied, it was a great introduction with good commentary.

I believe it is back in print but as you can see mine is fairly battered.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

About Stepping

How do you step with the lead foot, say, in Brush Knee and Push?

It is fairly common to place the heel first and then smoothly roll onto the foot.

John Kells taught us to step as if the toes were going to touch first, then place the heel. This is done as  a smooth movement, like a swallow swooping. It is not a point toe, then place heel movement.

This has the added benefit of having to remain and sink on the rear foot a nano second longer. Step like a cat. You should also be able to take the front foot back off the floor if you don't want to commit your weight without lurching back.

I have also come across this stepping idea in my Sun style Xingyi within Piquan. Here the emphasis is slightly different, as the front foot acts a brake and causes a recoil so the energy comes into the front hand. In Sun style Piquan the rear foot does not follow up.

Monday, 1 June 2015


3 spirals take place.

In the leg

In the torso

In the arm

All 3 take place at the same time.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Power Delivery

Power should be delivered from foot to hand without a lot of movement or momentum.

The key is to discover the natural spiralling taking place in the body and explore it in the movements of your form.

This sounds easier than it is.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

My favourite books

I came across Cheng Hsin: the principles of effortless power  by Peter Ralston in 1990. This is my first copy and is a bit battered now.

It is full of useful stuff about posture, alignment etc but what is most interesting and resonated strongly with me is the discussion about relationships.

All partner work in Tai chi is a study in relationships and is a life long pursuit!

If you haven't read it, get it!

Lovely Card

Thanks to Sarah for her lovely card done with silk screen printing

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Lei Shi Tai

Here is a clip of Mr Lei Shi Tai performing his version of the 97 step Sun taiji form.

I had the pleasure of spending a few hours pushing hands with him a few years ago and he was kind enough to sign my teaching certificate.

The clip is here

Friday, 3 April 2015

Sun Style Taiji by Sun Jian Yun 1957

Here is a link to a wonderful translation from Brennan Translation on Sun style Taiji, which is the style I currently practise and teach.

My teacher David Martin studied with Sun Jian Yun from 1993 - 2003 and became a formal disciple.

Enjoy this translation of a book from 1957.Click on the link here

Monday, 23 March 2015

Standing Qigong

I recently bought a book called Standing Qigong by Noel Plaugher.

It's a non jargon friendly guide to Zhan Zhuang for health and martial arts. It provides good instruction and I was especially heartened to read that his Xing Yi teacher also told him to think of nothing when standing San Ti posture.

The book is published by Singing Dragon and you can find out more here

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Short Arms

In Tai Chi, we are told that we should use the whole body and not exert force purely from the arms.

You can start to work on this by imagining your arms end at your elbows

This should stop you from overextending in postures, for example, push.

Once you have got the idea then you can work on the arm ending at the shoulder, so there are no arms.

Think about it..

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Keep Things Simple

I used to over intellectualise matters concerning tai chi.

Now I don't.

It doesn't help. It's a façade.

As an example, part of my training in Sun style is to stand in San Ti posture. When I was first introduced to it, I rushed to my books and researched it, looking at the various visualisations and what I could be focusing on. And there is a lot!

I discussed this with my teacher, a disciple of the late Sun Jian Yun.

" Just stand, don't think about anything" was the advice.

So I did. I moved away from my previous practises which involved focusing on different points and connecting them.

Over time I have found a clarity in the Sun style tai chi that I hadn't experienced before. When I practise the simple movements there is a wonderful directness about them. I am energised like never before.

This is of course just my personal experience. But I have found that overthinking doesn't help. Just keep it simple and experience directly. Try it.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Xing Yi Ai Shen Pao

I like this. Nice 2 person form and application. You can learn a lot about timing and footwork when performing 2 person sets. Look beyond the choreography!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Cult of the Good Student.

You can come across Tai Chi instructors who will single you out as a Good Student. Or a Good Chap / Girl. Or you have Good Energy.

Sounds good, doesn't it? We all like a bit of praise.

But it is flattery. The " Good " label only lasts as long as you go along/agree  with or help the Instructor.
It is a form of manipulation. If you no longer "jump" or respond as expected you are quickly relegated to the " Bad " student category. This can cause you to become disheartened and possibly give up your Tai Chi. If you are still there the Instructor will get round to you again to give you the chance to become a "Good " student. And so the cycle continues.  It  has a taste of Pavlovian conditioning about it. I also believe it stems from some form of insecurity on the part of the Instructor.

As an Instructor one should strive to avoid labelling. All students are on their personal journey. They may continue to study with you or not. This is the natural way. You do your utmost to teach everyone what you understand to the best of your ability. Learn from all students. It's a two way process.

For further reading, I suggest Martial Arts Madness by Glenn Morris, Chapter 4 - The Gurus of Death Archetypes.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Step Back to Repulse the Monkey

A quick look at Step Back to Repulse the Monkey.

The waist has to turn both ways fairly tightly, like wringing a wet cloth. It is this action that causes the front foot to turn straight.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Monday, 2 February 2015

Same Difference

Here is a short clip contrasting Punch under Elbow and Waving Hands in the Clouds from the Sun style and the Short Form John Kells taught me.

Anyone else do two different tai chi styles?

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Tai Chi and Weight Training

For as long as I can remember there has been a debate about the pros and cons of training with weights if you are a Tai Chi practitioner.

Some say it impacts negatively on your Tai Chi, others that it helps. When I first began Tai Chi at John Kells' place in London, I used to train regularly on a multi gym. I stopped  for a while when a senior student told me it would not be good for my " Chi ". I resumed because I enjoy the positive energy gained by lifting weights.

My then Teacher, John Kells, had a number of weight training machines in a basement room. He used to practise with a focus on cross energy. He was building a dynamic connection between opposite foot and hand.

Examples of this were bench pressing and lat pulldowns. For the bench press machine he would have his feet on the bench and push one foot down whilst focusing on the opposite hand as he pushed the bar up.

When performing the lat pulldown he would pull with one hand, the body moving diagonally down towards the opposite foot. The other hand was on the bar as an assist only.

To begin with the movements were small and short, gradually getting bigger over time. I asked him why he trained with weights. He said that he started to develop power by using a heavy iron bar to do his sword form and then the penny dropped!

He also had a Tunturi exercise bike. If you want to fight with Tai Chi, then you need to train like a fighter. He said you had to be able to take a blow. It was no good being weak.

It was interesting, then, to come across the following article by David Gaffney on his Chen style blog about strength training in Taijiquan - which supports the need for a good physical condition and strength in order to develop.

For myself I now use mostly dumbbells and very light weighted gloves by Golds Gym. As I age stretching has also become more important. I would welcome any comments positively addressing weight training with regards to internal martial arts and methods used.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Tai Chi course at the Secret Space-Hertford

A taste of Tai Chi...
Christian our Tai Chi teacher is starting another 6-week course on 2nd February 2015, at 18.15 - 19.15.
The sessions will cover tai chi exercises and postures, Qigong and partner work. It is an ideal introduction for anyone wanting to explore and gain an understanding of Tai Chi.
Book online
or call 01992 50314101992 503141.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Practise Tip - Brush Knee and Push

As you shift weight forwards for the Brush Knee and Push posture, pay attention to the following connections:

1) The inside of the shoulder well connects diagonally to the opposite hip.

2) The elbow connects to the opposite knee.

3) The wrist connects to the opposite ankle.

4) The hand connects to the opposite foot.