Longfei Taijiquan Association of Great Britain,
Member of the Tai Chi Union of Great Britain.
Holds coaching certificate with
British Council for Chinese Martial Arts.
Also Member of Takemusu Iwama Aikido Europe and
Instructor member of Ability Martial Arts Association
About the instructor (as featured in Tai Chi Union Journal)
How long have you been practicing Tai Chi?
On and off I have looked at Tai Chi since about 1980, seeing several different teachers whose names I mostly cannot remember but whose skills I still admire.
I started to practice regularly, what I then thought was Tai Chi, about 1996. In truth I think only now am I beginning to practice what I currently believe is real Tai Chi. So to answer the question, I could say, over twenty years – for image and ego, but better to say it’s only a few months that I’ve practiced what I see now as ‘real’ Tai Chi.
Who or what stimulated your interest?
Firstly, the TV series ‘Kung Fu’ in the 1970s, after which I sought a class and found Aikido, a Japanese Martial Art, reputedly of the ‘soft’ kind. A growing interest in the martial arts led me to look further and notably in Tai Chi I found an experience and pleasure that interested me.
What does Tai Chi mean to you?
It means an inherent part of my life now; it means discovery, excitement, friendship, peace; it means travel to China, culture; one foot in history the other in the future – sort of yin and yang. It leaves me in wonderment at the seemingly ‘magic’ power that senior practitioners can exhibit – a power hidden to all but the receiver. Tai Chi means association with great masters whose skills demand world recognition yet in their humility they ask for nothing. Tai Chi puts you in touch with yourself, it puts you in touch with kindness, gentleness, devastating power and an energy powered peace. Tai Chi is a journey, a journey for life, in life, and a journey to enjoy.
What is the most important aspect for you?
Discovery, body awareness, the chance to share – there is no one important aspect really – one thing is all things, all things are one.
Who or what inspired you?
Wow, what a question to try and answer. We gain inspiration from so many places, people and events. I remain grateful to all my teachers, be they Master or student.
When I was in my 20s I met a lady called Iris in Cambridge, she was in her 60s and had arthritis, but her Tai Chi was graceful, balanced and seemingly pain free, she used such wonderful expressions like, ‘carry tiger to the mountain’ … now that was inspiring. Other inspiring people, my Aikido teacher, Tony Sargeant who travelled to China to further his martial arts studies in a never ending search for what lies beyond, Simon Watson for his skills and oh so excellent teaching, and his father, Richard Watson whose congenial, generous nature conceals years of extensive effort in search of perfection in the martial arts. .Master Wang Yanji, Professor Li DeYin, both world class masters, Alan Smith, Kung Fu man that taught me lots of Tai Chi form, Jamie Smith, an efficient, disciplined and good humoured teacher that introduced me to Longfei, and whose dog chewed up my first newsletter, Mick of Exmoor for his kindness and generous teaching of skills he has worked ceaselessly to aquire, Tary Yip of the Deyin Institute for his calm fortitude in the face of any disaster, and a Beijing waitress for the prettiest smile in the world. Trees growing on mountains, elderly students that skip in to class with a smile, the list is endless, if you live how can you fail to be inspired?
Do you have any personal goals in Tai Chi?
To keep going and keep learning, to free the body and mind from tensions and find that beautiful power the masters have – and when I have I’d like to share it with others.
What do you make of Tai chi’s current popularity?
I wish it was more popular than it is; it has so many benefits to offer so many people. Many ‘popular’ exercise systems have crowded classes, yet they do not in my opinion touch the essence as Tai Chi does. If I advertised a new class where people could learn the latest fad, ‘Pilats-Chi-med’ , a rich combination of Pilates, Tai Chi and Aborigine dream time meditation, all done to new age Swaziland Bongo drums, then a million people with handfuls of money would queue for a place. Tell them it’s an ancient well proven exercise system, virtually guaranteed to improve your life and health called Tai Chi and you’ll struggle to pay the hall fees.
I’m now expecting enquiries about Pilats chi med classes !!!
Sad really, there is no quick fix.
As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art?
How can it possibly be ignored? How can it possibly be Tai Chi if we don’t recognise where it came from and why it existed? It would be like starting a new knitting craze, without wool. ….. ‘Oh, we don’t use wool any more, we just move the needles for health and meditation’.
The martial aspect, even at a cursory level aids the focus of energy, creates a semblance of confidence, gives a sense of power, and creates interaction with others – real or imaginary. All have their place, surely?
What are your views on competition?
I know little about it, but have admiration for those who seek to test their skills after dedicated practice. No doubt competition makes for a more rounded Tai Chi student as they come closer to what there was in the origins of the art.
‘To master others is partial victory,
To master self is total victory’
The competitor can perhaps do both..
What direction would you like to see Tai Chi go in future?
It needs a national boost in awareness, there are things going on but in a fragmented way. TCUGB do a good job and we should support them. What a shame the Chinese couldn’t persuade the Olympic committee to give Tai Chi more prominence.
Tai Chi is good, it has no enemies … what it could do with is a few more friends. Sadly our material world has pushed the spiritual to the edges. I hope my little web site will make a difference, just like you could. – there is always one tiny snowflake that adds to the others to break the branch.
Some student's thoughts on Tai Chi.
‘Tai Chi has improved concentration, balance, control of breathing, exercised joints. Also taught positive thinking and confidence’
‘It seems to me that Tai Chi can be likened to a book. To merely do the form is to look at the cover of the book. But to do the form with meaning is to open the book and read, and find the story is about yourself!’
‘I find Tai Chi helps to keep my joints supple and is very relaxing’
‘Tai Chi has changed not only my life, but the way I look at it (life!)’.
‘Tai Chi has made me more aware of my posture, helped me start to improve it, and so benefited shoulder and knee problems.
A walk back through the snow from training. Russia ~1998
Starting Aikido with Aubrey Smith in Northants about 1974, and inspired like so many people of the time by the TV series Kung Fu, I began a long slow journey into this fascinating japanese martial art. Moving to Cambridgeshire I eventually found a class with someone who turned out to be one of the most profficient martial artists and an exceedingly generous teacher, Sensei Tony Sargeant. Despite all this advantage, learning was painfully slow for me and I wondered if the coveted black belt would ever be mine to hang in the wardrobe. It wasn't until 1996, and then I think my Uke helped me a lot! In 1999 at the Orwell Dojo I received 2nd Dan, it was a difficult time in my life and once again I was honoured but always wondered if it was because I'd mowed Sensei's lawns! At a big reunion seminar at cambridge on 29th April 2007 I was awarded 3rd Dan in TAKEMUSU IWAMA AIKIDO GREAT BRITAIN. Having moved to Devon it made it difficult to start teaching again due to lack of facilities and help, but the seeds of Aikido were always growing and my Tai Chi studies would often trigger off wonderment as to how this or that technique related to my new body learning. So on August 13th 2008 I start teaching Aiki Jo, the short staff from which the founder of Aikido drew some if not much inspiration.
To read more about Aiki Jo please use the link http://www.aikijo.weebly.com