Spring 22

After a long winter, we enter a new season of renewal and growth. The winter saw a spike in the covid infections and saw the importance of continuous tai chi practice. Within our group we continued to train indoors with masks and outdoor when we did close partner work. Even though the government has relaxed the rules we continued to take the route of caution.

After Dan Docherty sudden passing away, founder and head of PTCCI. Gatekeeper of our style of tai chi chuan. The last few months have been a time of reflection. Reflecting on the things that Dan had taught for nearly half a century. He is very much in our thoughts and had a massive impact on our group in Stockport, often visiting for many times over the years and taking an interesting in everyone there. We are grateful that he wrote many books that we can refer to. He has left behind many capable Teachers who I’m sure will carry on.

Our teacher in Stockport was awarded a level 9 last year, the highest achievement and is capable of transmitting Dans system in our area. Myself, as a level 5 will do my best to continue to support our group in Stockport. Teaching how to apply the applications in a martial setting. Keeping it real and practical.

We are always encouraged to travel to other experience teachers of our system. Always grateful for them sharing their knowledge and experience. The corrections are always welcomed to. We have recently been travelling to our tai chi older brother Charlie in Birmingham and this has been beneficial for all of us. We made a trip to visit our friends in Glasgow for a workshop with Charlie Gorrie.

Interested in joining us.

We have a class on Monday at Bramhall park lawn tennis club from 7pm for an hour

We have a class on Wednesday at Stockport, St George’s church, church rooms from 6:50 pm for an hour

Trip to Orkney 2021

Recently arrived back from a trip to Orkney.

There is a small group of folks practicing tai chi on the islands. It was a nice opportunity to met them and see the splendid vistas of the islands.

Approaching St Margaret’s bay

Charlie Gorrie the principal instructor for PTCCI in Scotland with giving a workshop on Sunday afternoon in Kirkwall. We met up with the locals, we spent a couple of hours going through aspects of the long form. Afterwards in the evening, we had a nice meal at a local restaurant.

Tai chi group on Orkney

The day before on the Saturday there was a day of site seeing arranged for us and Rhona did a great job explaining the history of the places we visited. We went to the Italian chapel, Skara Brae, Broch of Gurness, Brough of Birsay and The standing stones of Stenness and the ring of Brogna. These were fascinating places and well worth the effort to visit.

I stayed at a place called Kristin Linklater Voice Centre, which have a Brothy to sleep in and a communal kitchen and lounge. Kenny was very hospitable and I’d recommend this place if you are looking for a good place to unwind and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere the area has to offer

Kristin Linklater voice centre

It was a memorable trip which I hope to repeat in the near future

A thank you to Jim Lawson who endure my company. A shout out Anthony Carney from Ireland, Rhona our guide and Bill Strang our driver on Saturday. Kenny at the place I stayed and all the Tai Chi folks.

Pat the horse high and spread the hand

Pat the horse high

This is part of the form. It is near the beginning of the short form, after we have done cloud hands and before the section with the kicks. In long form, pat the horse high is done several times and not always followed with spread the hands.

As an application it has to be set up. You would need to enter with something like spread the hands and then pat the horse high. Pat the horse high is a very effective move. It can be used to trip or throw your opponent.

For health you are stretching or opening up then contracting or closing in. This movement is good for open and closing the chest area. The knees and arms get a good work out too.

Spreading the hands, the focus should be on the striking hand. Opening the chest area. You are coming from being small to being large.

I like these two moves because they are very effective and relatively simple to execute.

Pat the horse high must be an important move because it features often in the long form. Other styles of tai chi also have these moves in their forms.

Tai chi in the park

We have been trialling a session for a Wednesday evening.

It is common place in China to see people practicing Tai chi in the local parks and outdoor areas. Why not here in the uk. Well we don’t have the best weather for outdoor activities, sometimes we can get four seasons just in one day. With the rise of the coronavirus pandemic, people have had to adapt to new circumstances. We often train outside during the summer or if we need a bit more space spill out into the outside during late autumn or early spring. We went right through the winter training outside at one of our regular places that we use to train indoors at.

Many other practitioners have always trained and practice outside for many years. This can have its challenges and in the spirit of tai chi we adapt.

We have added another venue where we practice, if you like to join us drop me a email for more details

Wu wei, Not much going on

Last few weeks have been quiet on the tai chi front. The uk has been in a national lockdown due to high COVID 19 infection rates. We have continued with personal training and hopefully as the roll out of the vaccines takes affect we will be able to get back to some sort of normal.

Wu wei literally means ‘no action’ – http://www.britanica.com

In tai chi there is a bit more to it. The most obvious place Wu wei is, is at the beginning and end of form. We stand there just before you perform the first movement and when you come to rest at the end. The moment you can relax. There is a moment, could be milliseconds or several seconds and then you move into the first movement beginning style.

In everyday life we can use Wu wei, before doing a task at work or home. We may have to wait to pay for shopping and standing there we can Wu wei. In modern life we tend to cram so much into our day and be busy tapping on our phones, looking on social media or news items. This can stress us out, I have found Wu wei a useful tool to trying to keep my head in a crazy world. Having a sit down for 5 minutes and doing nothing may seem unproductive but it can help with stress level and also give you time to reflect.

Wu wei even though it may seem you are doing nothing is sometimes better than doing something.

Not just unique to tai chi, other martial arts have exercises and theories that incorporate Wu wei.

Enjoy doing nothing and see you next time.

Banana milkshake isn’t the secret to winning

I’ve always enjoyed competing and it really focuses my training.

One particular competition in London, I’d spent a few months training. We’d regularly practice pushing hands few times a week, neigong (internal training) and conditioning exercises every day. I’d say I was pretty well prepared.

As with large competition events there is a lot of waiting around till you get your time to perform, you get time to watch other participants and have a catch up with friends you haven’t seen for a while.

At this venue they do excellent milkshakes and thought I’d have plenty of time to try one and have some lunch. Sitting in the cafe relaxing I can see my fellow competitors getting ready for the next round. At this point it suddenly dawns on me that they are calling my name to the floor.

Oh man. I rushed down and made myself known. I thought I’ve got this. Took my position. Pushing hands at these competitions are short 30 second rounds, each hand. Start left hand then right hand or is it the other way round. Anyway as one takes points from a stumble or touching the floor with a hand or pushed out the ring they stop the clock. A round in reality lasts 5 minutes or an eternity.

After a couple of minutes I can feel the milkshake mixing around in my dantian, na it was in my tummy and I thought I’m going to be sick. I managed to keep my it together and finish the rounds.

Got a couple of medals that day, but my biggest lesson was don’t lose focus, drink banana milkshake and don’t drink banana milkshake.

Introduction to Qigong

Qigong and tai chi have a connection, both are heavily influenced by Daoism. The practice of qigong can be traced back to ancient China, some say its origins go back five thousand years but more likely 2 or 3 thousand years.

Qigong exercises can be moving and fixed. The moving exercises are where parts of body such as the arms or waist is moving. Fixed is holding a position or posture.

Qigong when learnt correctly can be very beneficial for health. If incorrectly taught can cause physical and mental health problems. Always seek a trained and experienced practitioner. If you have problems, STOP.

There are many resources for qigong exercises the internet and books to buy showing qigong. This is no substitute for a teacher as they can spot things that aren’t correct such as incorrect posture or breathing.

I practice a qigong set called Baduanjin (Eight brocades of the immortal family) as taught by my Teacher and their teacher before them. The exercises are based on those taught by General Yue Fei. Legend states he taught these exercises to his troops to keep them fit and healthy. Ready for battle.

There are many versions of baduanjin and is a subject in itself.

Qigong can be practiced sitting or lying in bed. This makes it practical for those who are recovering from illness, have difficulty standing and elderly people.

Many of the qigong exercises have many benefits such as improving balance and breathing.

You can find more information on the NHS website and TCUGB in the UK.

First tai chi workshop since Covid-19 lockdown

Small group of PTCCI students of Dan met up near Northampton at the weekend for some socially distance instruction from Dan Docherty.

There around 12 of us in attendance. It was a bit awkward at first, remembering to keep our distance and wearing masks when necessary.

Arranged by Caroline, everything was in place to make it as safe as possible and limit the possibility of the spread of COVID-19.

Dan went through the first section of the long form and explained some of the applications. We opened with exercises such as pillar support the sky, tiger embrace head, cloud hands and retrieve the moon from the bottom of the sea. These exercises are really good for the spine.

Later he went through the Spear form, giving us much needed corrections and more in depth explanation of what we are doing in respect to applications.

I think everyone benefited greatly on Sunday from Dan Docherty instruction.

It was nice to see some old friends, some who have recently recovered from the COVID-19 and others who have been in many months of self isolation.

Hopefully another workshop will be around corner.

Spear form

Tai chi has three main weapon forms. Sword, sabre and spear.

Spear is the shortest form, takes about a minute to perform. Easiest to learn the hardest to perfect.

I am using a composite bamboo pole.

This is from my private practice on Monday evening

PTTCI Spear form

Chris Henney taught me the sequence that Dan Docherty had received from Cheng tin-hung.

Bare feet or shoes

Training in bare feet is so much better. This depends on the circumstances and environment that you are practicing in.

On the grass, Sandy beach or in the comfort of your home, bare feet is practical and very beneficial for building up strength in the feet. Feeling more connected to the ground, the feel of grass or sand between the toes is a nice experience.

On concrete or rough floor I prefer to train in wide fitting pumps, I avoid narrow fitting trainers and running shoes with a spongy sole. Flat soles are proven to relieve back pressure and improve posture over time.

Kung fu style shoes

Shoes for tai chi are inexpensive, I think I brought these off Amazon for about fifteen pounds. You can get pumps from the supermarket or local shoe shop.

The important thing is to feel comfortable and enjoy your tai chi