Meet the Teacher
1) How many years have you being practicing T’ai Chi?
I began my study of T’ai Chi in the mid 1980's, working with Keith Graham and then John Kells at the British Tai Chi Chuan Association in Upper Wimpole street, London. During my time with John I became aware of Alan Peck, a gifted senior student and teacher who had move to Bristol to start a school some years before. In 1988 I had the opportunity to move to Bristol and I sought out Alan; so began my studies with him at the Natural Way School of T’ai Chi at Lam Rim Bedminster, Bristol. Alan remained my principal teacher of T’ai Chi for over twenty years until his passing in March 2010.
2) What stimulated your interest?
I have early memories of John uprooting people effortlessly, and that created a lasting impression. However, I remember one early event particularly clearly; it was very much one of those "pivotal points" in my T’ai Chi life and it occurred the first time I was invited to push hands with Alan. He stood directly in front of me, a substantial fellow with an affable smile and I was invited to push towards his chest. What happened after that was quite extraordinary. I simply felt nothing. However I tried to push into his chest I simply felt nothing. It was a profound experience, as if a ghost was in front of me. The experience was a gift to me, the knowledge that such extraordinary levels of achievement are possible in T’ai Chi.
3) What does T’ai Chi mean for you?
For me, T’ai Chi is a path to releasing the unhelpful peripheral, physical and emotional patterns which shape the way we perceive and act within the world. It is a way of returning to our centre, of living more sincerely with a peaceful heart. T’a Chi is a practice which enriches us by bringing awarness and freshness to each moment, and it can do much to enrich this world.
4) What is the most important aspect?
Beyond the goals of health and well-being, self-cultivation is the most important aspect of T’ai Chi for me; specifically transforming the deepest centre to refine the Chi and develop Shen.
5) Do you have any personal goals?
In addition to my own personal study, my motivation is to empower people to find their own path to health and happiness by sharing the internal understanding and beauty of Natural Way T’ai Chi. Over the decades I have made many notes and of Alan’s teaching and my goal now is to work with colleagues within the Natural Way School of T’ai Chi to make that material more widely available.
6) Who or what inspired you?
I have already mentioned my early experiences of uprooting and pushing hands with Alan. These were greatly inspirational. Wider inspiration has come from a number of sources, including my Chi Gong practice with Zhixing Wang, my practice with Shen Hongxun over a number of years.
7) What do you make of T’ai Chi’s current popularity?
When I first started T’ai Chi almost nobody I talked to had heard of it and, after explanation, I received many quizzical looks. Now most people have tried it or at least seen videos of the form, which I think is wonderful. I echo many people’s concern however that the internal aspects of this art can be easily watered down or lost and however Tai Chi evolves in its many different forms, the internal teaching remains the precious gem which must be preserved.
8) As a teacher, how do you feel about the martial aspects of T’ai Chi?
Mind intent leads Chi and a clear understanding of the martial aspects is essential, not only to preserve the clarity of the form, but to transform the quality of the body by moving Chi.
However in true inscrutable Taoist fashion, a focus on the martial arts has the opposite effect, certainly for many years at least. This is because a focus on ‘doing’ and ‘winning’ can fix us in a reliance on our familiar peripheral patterns and thus inhibit the deeper body and mental transformation that is possible. For that reason, the martial aspects of T’ai Chi are not my primary focus.
9) What are your views on competition?
Competition can be a good opportunity to watch our body and mind state and examine how closely we are able to adhere to the core principles of T’ai Chi. If we are not able to be in that state, it is ultimately pointless and inhibits our progress in T’ai Chi.
10) What direction would you like T’ai Chi to be taken in the future?
I would like the T’ai Chi community to embrace and rejoice in the diversity of its forms without judgement, learning from each other in the process. I would like to see an increased emphasis on sharing the internal aspect of this art in a spirit of co-operation and learning. Internal cultivation after all is the true gift of T’ai Chi.