Thursday, 21 December 2017

Martial Art

Tai Chi Chuan is first and foremost a Martial Art.

The Forms and Partner exercises are rich with techniques.

Through the study of Techniques, Partner work and Principles you learn to interpret the energy of the attacker.

Like any Martial Art, Tai Chi Chuan has its own methodology with the neurosensory at its core.

Even though my late teacher John Kells spouted all kinds of spiritual stuff it was all about finishing the attacker off. It was always about that one moment of truth for him but not for many of his students. When one student commented on John talking about Death he asked " What, you mean death of the Ego?" the response was swift"No, Death!!!"

Of course we all practise our Tai Chi for different reasons but we shouldn't lose sight of what it actually is. This recording of John Kells sums it up.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Cook Ding's Kitchen: Wudang Tai Chi Videos

Cook Ding's Kitchen: Wudang Tai Chi Videos: In a nutshell, the Tai Chi Chuan of Cheng Tin Hung was very similar to the Wu family style, but with an entirely different neigong. CTH...


Tai Chi is difficult only because it is easy. Stop getting in your way.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Single and Double Weightedness

You can have your weight equally divided between both feet yet be single weighted.

You can have your weight on one leg yet be double weighted.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Tai Chi Gut-Toss Demo (丹田彈抖功)


Everything lies in the relationship you forge with your teacher. You can attend as many classes and workshops with teachers as you like, but it won't help you when it comes to what is called the "Transmission of Energy".

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

My favourite Books

Chen by Jan Silberstoff is a great book about Chen style Taijiquan and discusses principles, Qi, Philosophy, Health, Martial Arts and more.

To be perfectly honest I just love the over photograph of Chen Xiaowang and the twining.

This book is a great addition to your library.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Exploring our Center

Still on the  theme of the Centre / DanTien, below is a really good article from Mark Cohen's Blog.

Interesting to note that the distinction he points out as a starting point between focusing on the lower Dan Tien in Zhan Zhuang and the Navel and area behind it in Taoist meditation.

Whatever your viewpoint ,the article can be read at the link below.

Exploring our Center

Sunday, 12 November 2017

20th Century Taoists

Came across this on Scribd - excerpted from Thomas cleary's book Vitality, Energy Spirit - A Taoist Sourcebook.

Interesting to note the different strands of thought, especially with reference to focusing on points or openings such as the lower Dan tien.

The short piece by Wu Tseng-Lin is quite interesting, advising that intense focus on a particular point may lead to illness.

The article can be read here

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Where is the Dantien located?

This is the title of a post on the Qialance Blog and it provides a bit of information about what the Dantien is and how to find it.

The article can be read here.

I actually like working with the suggestion by Nakamura Tempu which is to locate the point four fingers width below the navel on the surface of the body. The mind rests there quite naturally.

There are many methods to locate this area in the body. I don't have it to hand but the book on Kyudo by Hans Joachim Stein gives a breathing method for it.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

The Form is your Teacher

Somewhere you might come across the idea that the Form is your teacher.

In my own experience this means that you need to listen to the subtle feedback of your mind/body as you investigate your form. It means being open to the slightest nuances, the "oh that's interesting" moment as you make a discovery.

After having learnt a form, don't just parrot it. Investigate it. Find out what makes it "tick", what is going on, what are the connections etc.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Loosening the Buttocks

Article from Classical Tai Chi Blog

This is a really good article about "drooping the buttocks" and not making the mistake of forcibly tucking the pelvis.

The article can be read here

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Model for learning Martial Arts Forms

This is a great post from Devon Boorman's blog which is just as applicable to Tai Chi. It discusses learning form, energy, intent etc.

Read the post here

Sunday, 29 October 2017

My Favourite Books

Following the previous post, here is the book by Herman Kauz on non-competitive pushing hands.

It's an interesting read and there are some good push hands exercises to do with a partner.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Interview with Herman Kauz

This is a short interview with Herman Kauz. I've got his book on pushing hands and I personally fully subscribe to the non competitive ethos.

The interview can be read here

Friday, 13 October 2017

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Pelvis and Hips

Interesting discussion of the anterior and posterior tilt.

I bought a couple of DVDs on this approach to Tai chi several years ago. Very interesting in the use of the torso, quite different from what I had previously been taught.


Friday, 29 September 2017

My Favourite Books

I bought Master Lam's Walking Chi Kung when it came out in 2006. It is a great book, packed with different walking exercises. There is even one where you walk on the spot - The Stationery Walking of the Medics.

The first sections of the book focus on breathing, the Tan Tiens, alignment and movement before the walking exercise are presented.

I especially like the moving San Ti posture from Xing Yi and the Walking on Ice exercise.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Cook Ding's Kitchen: Training Rust in Martial Arts

This is a great article Read !!

Cook Ding's Kitchen: Training Rust in Martial Arts: Below is an excerpt from a post at Paul Bowman's Martial Arts Studies . The topic is rust , but it's not what you think. The full ...

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Issuing Energy

If you want to issue energy in your applications, the entire body has to be sunk and totally relaxed.

Otherwise the energy can get trapped where you are tense and could be harmful to you.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Cook Ding's Kitchen: Cheng Man Ching Short Tai Chi Chuan and Yang Long ...

Here is the post which contained the link to the form in my previous post. Enjoy the read!

Cook Ding's Kitchen: Cheng Man Ching Short Tai Chi Chuan and Yang Long ...: Robert Chuckow , a student of Cheng Man Ching (Zheng Manqing), wrote this comparison of the two forms in 2011. I found it to be interestin...

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Franklin Kwong Performing the Yang Tai Chi Form

I came across a link to the Yang long form via Cook Dings blog.

I liked this so much I was inspired to practice the long form taught to me by John Kells.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Deflect, Trap,Strike

This is a great little exercise for coordination and stepping which I learned from a friend.

I practised this a lot (slowly) after an operation for prostate cancer. I didn't appreciate how hard it was just to take a short walk down the road to the shops. I had never felt so tired just taking a few steps.

The advice from the doctors was that walking was the best exercise. And they were right. I did this exercise and others that involved simple stepping patterns and standing on the spot. Gradually I was able to build up my stamina and tackle longer walks.

After four months I returned to doing my form practise.

Monday, 28 August 2017

My Favourite Books

Not a Tai Chi book but I like to read widely and this one caught my interest.

Ki and the Way of the Martial Arts by Kenji Tokitsu is about cultivating inner strength.

The book looks at the importance of developing Ki ( Qi or Chi), capturing the opponents mind and understanding the spatial relationship in combat. Whilst written from a Japanese Budo perspective there is a lot of useful information for the Tai Chi practitioner.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Never Be a Teacher

This is a good quote from " The Art of Life and Death"

"Never be a teacher. When you are a teacher, your budo dies. Always be a student and never think you are good."

I always try to keep this in mind.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Spiritual Progress

I remember talking to John Kells, my late teacher, about spiritual progress. This must have been around 1983 and we were sitting in the basement room in the Tai Chi centre in Upper Wimpole Street.

He told me that whilst many talk about spiritual progress and comparing it to going up a mountain, in fact, we are all already at the top of the mountain.

To make spiritual progress, we just need to take a step off the top of the mountain peak.

Can you?

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Open Close

A little bit about Open /Close or Kai / He from traditional Sun style Taijiquan.  You find this 13 times in the form. It feels as if it gives you a moment to gather your energy amidst the form. All errors are mine!

Monday, 24 July 2017

My Favourite Books

One of my early purchases was Breathing Underwater- the Inner Life of T'ai Chi Ch'uan by Margaret Emerson.

It's the kind of book I like the most; talking about her own experiences, thoughts and feelings, discussing Silence, the Tan Tien, Gurus, Teaching, Circles and much more.

She describes a lovely exercise - the Light Exercise - in which a continuous stream of white light enters through one arm, fills the entire body and exits through the other arm. This reminds me of an early Christian meditation described by John O'Donohue of white light descending from above and permeating the body, going into the ground.

I think the book is still available and her website is here.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Strength and Conditioning for Martial Arts Training

John Kells used to say that if you wanted to fight using Tai Chi, then you needed to train like a fighter.

This is an interesting article discussing a number of training methods at the Martial Way blog.

The article can be read here

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Kinaesthetic Learning

This is an excellent post on Devon Boorman's blog about kinaesthetic learning.

Very useful, especially the bit about practicing all the wrongs around the right.

The post can be read here

Saturday, 8 July 2017

It's in the Stories

Today I visited my Sun style Taiji teacher Dave Martin. Now retired, he studied with the late Sun Jian Yun and had the honour to become a formal disciple. Dave was introduced to her by Cui Rui Bin, the Yiquan Master.

It's always enjoyable to hear the stories regarding his training in China, an oral history that brings names on a page to life. Today there was one about when Sun Jian Yun was teaching him Taiji Sword. The weather was bad so they were in her tiny one room apartment. The room was too small to practise in with a proper sword so she lifted up her mattress and pulled out one of the wooden slats and proceeded to use that instead as it was shorter.

Just priceless!

I've been studying traditional Sun style Taiji since early 2004 with Dave Martin and his wife Su Ying who is herself incredibly knowledgeable and skilled.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Tea Cup Exercise

This is a Ba Gua Zhang exercise. There are lot's of  different ones - just look on YouTube.

I'm a bit lazy here, doing it fairly high up. Once you get used to the movement and as your flexibility increases, lower the height of your stance in a horse riding posture. Do this carefully and watch the back bend so you don't hurt yourself.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Hai Le Taoist Internal Arts

My good friend Heron Beecham has returned to the UK after living and studying Internal Martial Arts and Taoism in Taiwan for the last 17 years. He is now based in London.

His website is Hai Le Taoist Internal Arts

Please visit the website to find out more about Heron, the Arts he has studied and his Teachers. 

Contact him via the website for details about classes and private tuition.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

My Favourite Books

My Stroke of Insight by Dr Jill Bolte Taylor is her personal story of how she suffered a stroke and her subsequent recovery.

Whilst this is not a Tai Chi book it is a worthwhile and fascinating read. There is the usual stuff about the Brain and how it works, but for me what is really interesting is how she describes what is happening to her as her mind deteriorates in the course of a few hours. As the left side of her brain shuts down she compares her state to being in Nirvana.

The last chapter is called Finding Your Deep Inner Peace and she posits that we can use the skills of our motor output systems to transform our perspective to the present for example, this could be Tai Chi, Yoga, Walking etc.

This book is well worth reading.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Letting Go

I first met Linda Chase Broda in London Chinatown in a restaurant at a meeting to set up the Tai Chi Union of Great Britain in the early 1990s, in which she became very active.

I then had the good fortune to stay with her in Manchester through a connection with a tai chi student. She had allowed a film to be shot in her garden with a then student of Erle Montague. She had a fantastic tai chi studio at the back of her house which is where I saw some of her tai chi poetry. It was great.

As is so often the case we move on in life and I lost contact. She and her poetry came into my mind last week so I looked her up on Google to discover that she had sadly passed away in 2011.

Her website is and you can read an article about "letting go" here.

Her tai chi inspired poetry can be found in The Wedding Spy.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Clean Energy /Dirty Energy

I like this little post form Robert Twigger's blog.

I have felt this with one of my teachers who went from having this heavy feel to one of incredible lightness.

Read it here

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Taijiquan & Qi Gong Dictionary

Angelika Fritz , Taijiquan practitioner and Blogger at qialance has compiled a Taijiquan & Qi Gong Dictionary.

It is the result of a lot of research into terminology and meaning. It is, as she says, by no means a definitive work. Rather it is a work in progress. And isn't that just true of our own Tai Chi practise?

There are lots of terms I wasn't familiar with but I was delighted to find He Gu (Hu Kou) included. My late teacher John Kells taught that this was linked to the Root and was important in pushing hands.

It would be interesting if in a future edition there were also illustrations. All in all this is a nice little reference volume and I enjoyed reading through it.

It's available in the UK on Amazon - click here

Saturday, 13 May 2017

John's Walking Meditation

John Kells spent a lot of time doing, for want of a better word, meditation whilst walking. He repeated a number of phrases or "blessings" as he called them.

This is one that he and I did. Although he changed it later I have found this one beneficial for me in terms of energy. You visualise the area for each phrase.

Walk in a circle. You move from the Sacrum. The hands are held with some life in them, not limp.

1/ Ancestors merge with destiny  ( Here the energy is visualised entering at the ming men point and connecting to the area of the temples.

2/ Thymus   ( attention on the Thymus chakra)

3/ Soul     ( the lingtai point between the shoulder blades )

4/ Sacred Bowl  ( the Throat chakra )

5/ Spleen   (awareness to the spleen )

6/ Liver (awareness to the Liver )

7/ Kidneys  (awareness tot he Kidneys )

8/ Heel (awareness to the heel )

9/ Aum or Om Say x 3 -three steps for this ( this is the Xiphoid process at the lower part of the sternum)

This will seem odd at first but after a while it becomes very energising.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Its Not Magic, its True”: Cheng Man Ching And His Method

This is a very interesting article by Don Ethan Miller about Cheng Man Ching's Tai Chi.

The article can be read here

Thursday, 4 May 2017


Micromastery and learning the correct way is a pertinent post from the author Robert Twigger's blog. I've mentioned him before as the author of Angry White Pyjamas as part of my favourite books.

It is about learning your way as opposed to what he terms the "Official Way" by remaining relaxed, open and experimental.

The full post can be read here and his book on Micromastery should be out this month.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Back to Basics PT.2.

This is a great clip with some good training exercises by my friend Bob Fermor, a real martial artist with whom I've enjoyed some great pushing hands sessions.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Cook Ding's Kitchen: Muscles for Martial Arts

I like this post......

Cook Ding's Kitchen: Muscles for Martial Arts: There was a post at Expert Boxing on the importance of various muscles in fighting. Below is an excerpt. The full post may be read he...

Sunday, 23 April 2017

My Favourite Books

Form to Function by Nigel Sutton is a great little book on pushing hands, mainly in the Ch'eng Man Ch'ing tradition but there are also some additional exercises provided to help you with developing necessary skills.

The book looks at single, double, fixed step and moving push hands, ta lu and fa jing exercises with a staff /pole. There is also a discussion about pushing hands for competition.

I really like the staff/pole exercises but I have a wing chun pole rather than a rattan one. I did have the pleasure of meeting Nigel Sutton many years ago when he lived in Hayes and I learnt a walking stick form from him.  Sadly I can't remember the form but I do still practise the warm up exercises with the walking stick.

Friday, 14 April 2017

The Cook and his Cleaver

Check out this post by Caroline Ross on her Great River Tai Chi Blog.

I fully agree that Tai Chi is experiential. Words and Videos can only touch, for the most part, the surface. I love the line that says " Corrections are made by smiles and nods as the connection between one's hand and another person changes ". How you approach Tai Chi is a reflection of your psyche and hard work born of inspiration and passion.

Read the post here.

After that, go to her Drawing website

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Martial Arts Madness

Martial Arts Madness is a book written by the late Glenn Morris. I enjoy reading his books for the way he writes, if nothing else.

I like his insights too.

My favourite section in this particular book is on the Archetypes that can be found in martial arts training. There is the Ultimate Martial Art syndrome, the Keeper of the Masters Secrets syndrome (love that one - know a few of those), Martial Master as Sex Stud ( I keep trying ), the Dangers of Following (come on, I need more followers on this blog) and Faithfulness to Teachers.

With regard to the last one, I think this sentence is especially apt " if you are going to have someone tell you how to live, be certain that they know more about living than you do. Most martial artists don't have what I would call a life. When entering the Master / Student religion - oops - relationship - one should look carefully at who is dependent on whom".

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Put the Mind In

I was talking to John Kells a few years ago about the Dantien when I said it never felt right to me to put my mind in the Dantien.

Surprisingly, he said he felt exactly the same. He slept in a special position and for years had put his mind in the Dantien and the Bubbling Well points in the feet. It never felt right and then he switched his focus to putting the mind in the Thymus and the Bubbling Well points, which made a significant change to his energy.

After my Prostate Cancer and recovery from surgery I took (finally) his advice and did the same. It has made a profound difference to my energy and there is something about the Thymus/Feet connection that adds a liveliness and directness to my Tai Chi both in form and application. Mind in the Dantien was, for me, always too slow and had a dullard feeling.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Solitary Path of Mastery

This article by Mark Mikita pretty much mirrors my own feelings about being a companion on the path with my students and a way of being. I think this what any good teacher does, not just in Tai Chi or martial arts in general.

Read the full article here

Sunday, 2 April 2017

My Favourite Books

T'ai Chi Ch'uan and Meditation by Da Liu is a great little book delving into Chinese Physiology, Meditation,  Breathing, Points for Concentration and T'ai Chi postures.

Reading the Tao of Health and Longevity by Da Liu is what first got me interested in T'ai Chi Ch'uan and I really found this book very useful in my own practise.

It should be in every T'ai Chi practitioner's library!

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Random Circles

This is an interesting article on the KaiMen blog about training random circles and the importance of the hips. It reminds me in some ways of the figure 8 training that John Kells developed in the sense that this basic principle gave rise to flowing and numerous techniques.

At the end of the article there is a link to some clips on YouTube.

The article can be read here

Monday, 27 March 2017

Tai Chi - Tel Aviv

This is a lovely video clip showcasing Assi Ben Porat  who studied with John Kells and students.

He teaches in Tel Aviv,Israel

Saturday, 25 March 2017

San Ti

Having a go at explaining SanTi posture and moving into PiQuan in Sun style Xingyi

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Cook Ding's Kitchen: The Four Points of Ki Aikido

This is a great clip of Koichi Tohei and the four principles of Ki Aikido. Just as pertinent for Tai Chi.

If you are interested you might also want to read about Nakamura Tempu and his influence. There are several books available on Amazon.

Cook Ding's Kitchen: The Four Points of Ki Aikido: Koichi Tohei was somewhat of a controversial figure in the development of aikido. Watching old videos of him, I just can't help but b...

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Mesothelioma and Tai Chi / Qi Gong

I received a request to link to a site for Mesothelioma, which is a cancer caused by exposure to Asbestos, and the benefits that Qi Gong and Tai Chi may have for those who are suffering from it.

I tend not to link to many sites but think this deserves a post which I hope others can share as appropriate.

It's an American website which also has articles on complementary therapies such as Reiki, Aromatherapy and Massage.

The website article on the benefits of Tai Chi and Qi Gong is here

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Sun style Taiji

I really like this tutorial video of the traditional Sun style Taijiquan form. You have to get past the introduction which seems to go on forever but then you get to Sun Jianyun. Look out for the nimble footwork!

The form is demonstrated by Mr Zhang. Note the complete absence of flourishes and embellishments so common to modern forms of Taiji developed for competition. When stepping there is no bouncing up and down which denotes a lack of power. Look closely at any traditional form of Taiji and you will see there are no flourishes to make it look pretty or satisfy stylistic performance. The real beauty is in the expression of the principles from within.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Tai Chi in Cyprus

Check out the excellent website of my old Tai Chi friend Master Vasilious.

We both studied with John Kells and if you're in Cyprus get in touch with him to attend classes.

The website is Cyprus Tai Chi

Sun style class

I'm starting a Sun style Tai Chi for Beginner's class in Hertford, Hertfordshire on the 15th March.

Get in touch via the contact page on if you're interested.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Monday, 20 February 2017

Training Sword

I've been looking for a training sword for Tai Chi and found this polypropylene version from

It cost me just under £46 including delivery. It is quite chunky and heavy (0.48kg). I especially wanted something heavier than the wooden versions available as it will help to build power and endurance.

Here are some photos:

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The First Lesson

The first lesson is the most important.

The teacher will convey the most important concepts and you had better pay attention, lest you miss all that heavenly glory.

Difficult, I know, when you are trying to work out which hand goes where.

For me, the most important concept was standing and letting the energy sink down the front of my body, into the ground, letting go.

You can also do this sitting down on a chair. Sit upright on a chair,perineum right on the edge, feet flat on the floor. Rest the hands palm down on the knees. Then let the energy sink down the front of the body, continuing between the legs, down into the ground.

Once you get the feeling for this try to carry it into your form.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Cook Ding's Kitchen: A Tai Chi Chuan Resource

Cook Ding's Kitchen: A Tai Chi Chuan Resource: Find Your Tai Chi is a very nice resource. If you pay a visit, you'll find something like 150 (and growing) links to video clips, arti...

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Use the Waist to Step

The waist doesn't just move the arms, it also moves the legs.

Generally this means shorter steps. If you want to take long steps then you need to sink lower in the supporting leg. Whenever the foot touches the floor, you need to be able to pick it up without lurching off balance or rising up.

Step like a cat.

Monday, 30 January 2017

My Favourite Books

The Fencer and the Zen Body by Quincy Day Rabot.

This is an interesting book in which the author tries to blend internal arts principles to fencing. He draws quite a lot on the works of Peter Ralston, with concepts such as Hand Up,You Down and moving under the earth. There are some good exercises in the book and Appendix A contains some simple exercises for the joints.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

John Kells - donation request

Following on from my post about the death of John Kells, his family have asked that he can be remembered by making a donation to the Lam Rim Buddhist centre in Usk, Wales. Donations can be made here:
Donations and Legacies page

Friday, 6 January 2017

John Kells - 1940 - 2017 R.I.P.

It is with sadness that I write that John Kells died today, 6th January 2017.

John Kells was a pioneering T’ai Chi Ch’uan teacher in the UK. Born in 1940, he started T’ai Chi in 1967 and opened the British T’ai Chi Ch’uan Association in London in 1970, teaching in the basement of his father’s house in Upper Wimpole Street. In1977 he started teaching full time with classes every day and it is thought that 10,000 students were taught by him between then and 1993.

John Kells was passionate about T’ai Chi, training day and night to investigate and understand the principles passed on by his teachers, who included Liang Tung Tsai, Chi Chiang Tao, Chu Gin Soon and Yang Shou-Chung (with whom he studied for one month in Hong Kong and gleaned much about spirit).

John Kells inspired many to go on and teach T’ai Chi Ch’uan themselves and make it an integral part of their lives. His unrelenting drive eventually led him to go beyond the forms of T’ai Chi Ch’uan and explore deeper connections from 1991 to the present day which he came to call Heartwork, focusing on the Thymus centre as an indirect approach to the Heart. This came about through the fusion of T’ai Chi Ch’uan and the internal instruction he received from an ancient European lineage.

John Kells cared little for the politics and posturing of the T’ai Chi Ch’uan community, just wanting to get on with his own work. He was once challenged to a pushing hands contest by another teacher and his response was magnificent “No thanks, I’ve got enough problems with my own Ego”.

He will be deeply missed by his family , friends and students.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

John Kells - Mysteries of Reality

Mysteries of reality number twenty-five

Self describes everything. A personal statement to what you are and what you might be. Working with self has often been called forgetting self. What is meant is forgetting to keep reminding what you are, about what you are. All human beings have an instinct to be busy. So many retire, stop their regular business, and simply die. To use the self to connect with other selves somehow produces a selfless direction—sacred cord connecting with the bottom sacrum, so the pelvis and its echo in the upper body take this whole mess not into beyond, but well past beyond, into a humour they can take no thing, but leave all the things to get on with their fascination with each other and bite into the echo of reality which is about all we can muster.