I am beginning to wonder if the qualifications for teaching subjects like Chi Kung, Tai Chi or any of the other 'in' alternative therapies are actually worth anything - they seem to be handed out like candy in a sweet shop. I have visited some classes where the teacher has only undergone a weekend course or just finished learning a form and become qualified to teach their subject without having any real 'in depth' knowledge of what they are doing - surely this can't be right.
I have met various teachers of Tai Chi who vehemently deny that it has any martial value at all yet at the same time they do not seem to understand the basic principles and concepts behind the art. The same goes for Chi Kung - I have seen some teachers with such bad posture that it is hardly a good advertisement for their craft. I can only speak of Tai Chi and Chi Kung but the same can probably be said of some other disciplines.
I am glad to say that this is more than offset by the amount of really good, outstanding teachers that I know but it doesn't take away from the fact that if you send people out who are not really up to scratch then whatever discipline you are teaching gets watered down almost to the point of being worthless! A good teacher needs to be dedicated and always strive, not only to pass on knowledge to students but also keep expanding his/her own knowledge of their art - there is always more to learn.
Going off the subject a little, when I did the knowledge to become a London Cab Driver many years ago I learned more after I started the job than I did in the two and a half years riding around on my moped but I wasn't allowed out on 'the streets' until I could show a really good knowledge of the place I would be working. This is also true about my Tai Chi and Chi Kung practise but I know when I was told I could teach I had received the very best instruction and was more than ready to share my knowledge while at the same time continuing on my own personal journey.
I know that sounds like a bit of a rant - it isn't really, but I am very passionate and sometimes you have to just say what you feel!!!
If you have looked at my Facebook page you will see that I have just seen a programme on BBC1 called the Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs. It was like listening to myself - he said everything that I say to people!!! This guy took several people who were dependent on pain killers and anti depressants and changed their lives around completely without drugs. One of his great successes was a girl who was in absolute agony - she could hardly walk and the doctors could find no real reason for the pain. He took her along to a Kung Fu class where the format seemed to be much the same as I teach at the studio and I wasn't surprised when after several weeks she was pain free and really mobile. I have seen this sort of thing happen time and again by people who have come to the studio - some say it is mind over matter but I prefer to say it is dedication on behalf of the practitioner. You get out exactly what you put in. I find the people who find no improvement are those that would rather just rely on their drugs to keep the pain at bay and that is all it is doing - it isn't 'curing' anything. I am not saying that we shouldn't use them at all but why not try something a little different, however off the wall it sounds. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I am not a doctor (or a miracle worker for that matter) - I am just a bloke from the East End of London who happens to have learnt a bit along the way so you don't have to just take my word for it but why not give it a try? There are many classes out there - admittedly not all are great but if you look around you will find one that suits you down to the ground.
Yin/Yang and the Balanced Path.
A question I am frequently asked is ‘Why the balanced path
and what is it?’
When looking for the balanced path we are looking for that
perfect place between the softness of Yin and the hardness of Yang – I am being
very general here, trying not to be too complicated. If a person is too soft/yin
they can come across as very wishy washy or ungrounded. A person who is this
way can also appear under confident and weak leaving themselves open to
depression and similar ailments while a person who is too hard/yang can appear
overly aggressive, egotistical and can verge on the edge of paranoia! The whole
idea of the yin/yang principle is to know when to change from one to the other
because if you stay overly yin you can easily go into ‘victim’ mode while
overly yang can appear the exact opposite – uncontrollable violence.
Many who first come to the studio are already yin in their
nature believing that they have to become more soft for them to become
balanced – nothing could be further from the truth they need to get nearer to
that middle line where they can feel comfortable with themselves – you could
say a perfect wuji state which ultimately begins the yin/yang circle. Over the
years I have found that Tai Chi and Chi Kung tends to attract yin people who don’t
even realise that Tai Chi itself is a very powerful martial art and not just a
series of floppy dance like steps. It is felt that to show the yang side of your
nature is very wrong – obviously this cannot be true because if we dwelt in a
yin world all the time nothing would get done – nothing happens unless
On the other hand Tai Chi and Chi Kung does not attract many
Yang people for exactly the opposite reasons – we must be strong – not show
weakness – never cry – much better to get in a pre-emptive strike than to
understand a situation! I have found when overly yang people come to the
studio it is much harder to soften them up than it is to ‘yang’ up a too yin
I am glad to say that I haven’t had many aggressive Yang
people at the studio but it is good to see the yin person grow in
stature and gain confidence as they get nearer to the balanced path.
I am sure there are many out there who would disagree and
all I would say to that is try it and see – you many be pleasantly surprised!!!
On Sunday we went off to Walton-on-Naze for an open day for Essex Wildlife Trust and a 'fun dog show' After a short walk along the beach the temptation was too much and I wished I had brought my swimming trunks along so......it was roll up the trousers and take up a water chi kung pose. The water was warmer than I have ever known but can't help feeling that I should have a knotted handkerchief on my head. Like I said 'a bit of silliness'!!!! On a serious note there is a Chi Kung workshop at the studio on Saturday 8th October if you are interested and this picture hasn't left you feeling like I am a complete nutcase!!!
What Can I Hope To Achieve From My Chi Kung Practice?
Chi Kung works on many different levels – at the very basic
level by coordinating breathe and movement along with standing postures you
will feel great body awareness which in turn leads to better posture and
balance. The body will feel much more open and relaxed; breathing will become
deeper bringing about a general feeling of calm and wellness.
The above benefits are there for everyone to enjoy and with
regular practice this ‘feel good’ factor is easily maintained. You do
need to practise though!!!!
As you practise more and more you find other, more hidden
benefits – you become very aware of your internal energy and how it flows
through the body. Some practitioners find that they become more attuned to the
flow of life in general and also become very intuitive and creative in their
fields – I know several writers and artists and musicians who have found their
greatest inspirations while in a Chi Kung session.
Some people ask what is the difference between Tai Chi and
Chi Kung – I have practised both for many years and I always advise beginners
to start with Chi Kung – there are no long forms to remember and therefore it
is much easier to relax and not worry about what movement comes next! Also you
mustn’t forget that Tai Chi is a martial
art and this is a road that many people do not want to go down but for me (and
this is just my opinion) you need to take Tai Chi as a complete system
otherwise it becomes a meaningless dance where all the principles and concepts ‘go
out of the window’ – So in short, Chi Kung first – become aware of your body
and build up your energy and then Tai Chi.
How Do I Find a Good Teacher?
Of course, in these days of the internet you only have to
search Tai Chi or Chi Kung and you will be spoilt for choice – but how do you
know that you are choosing the right teacher for you?
First of all always ask the basic questions – how long has
this teacher been practising and who did they train under – any teacher worth
his sort would be happy to tell you how he/she started and the lineage from
which they come from. I am very proud of all my teachers and I like nothing
better than to talk about my time with them.
Secondly, and this may seem strange, but I believe your
teacher should be able to ‘walk the walk’ as well as ‘talk the talk’ – you need
a teacher who is dedicated to his/her art – who will show and not just tell!!!!
Does he/she look a good advert for the art they are going to teach you? Do they
look as though they have reaped the benefits of the art they teach?
Last but not least – you need someone that you like and get
along with – you don’t have to be bosom buddies but a mutual respect is
essential – you want your training to be enjoyable as well as practical – some
people may not agree with this but I have always found that if I have a good
rapport with a student they usually make rapid progress.
I must emphasise here that these are my guidelines and some
may not agree, which is fine but I don’t think you will go far wrong if you
keep them in mind while looking for a class.
So Where Do I Start!!!
Well, lets begin in 1988 – I was
a Licensed London Cab Driver and due to years of ‘full on’ sports – especially football
in my teens and early twenties – I had a really bad knee problem, aggravated
further by accompanying my eldest son to a martial art class. The knee problem
was becoming so severe that if I bent the knee for any period of time it would
lock and make the most sickening noise when I straightened it out. I went along to the
hospital where I was told that it would need an operation and the waiting list
was around two years – wonderful! I was also told that because of the operation
I would be prone to rheumatism and arthritis in the joint in later years –
I was still interested in
martial arts and had been from around the age of 13 and while reading the Taxi
Driver magazine I came across an article about Tai Chi which up to that moment,
from what I had seen, had been a bit of a ‘wishy washy’ affair and something
that I was just not interested in. It transpired that Master Chu King Hung was
starting a beginner class at his studio in Notting Hill and I thought I would
go along to check the class out – It was great – a real revelation. I watched
as the more advanced students went through the Yang 108 step form and the sword
form and also push hands while some of the really advanced were being shown
martial application of the moves. This was simply nothing like I had seen
before and signed up immediately.
Fifteen people started on the
first week and by the second week we were down to 12 – third week 7 and after
around six months and completing the form only 3 of us remained!!! Along with the
form we were taught Zhan Zhuang Chi Kung, which basically involves standing
still but through regular practice my knee became stronger and stronger and by
the time my hospital appointment came through no operation was necessary – no one
was more amazed than me.
So, that is just a little bit
of how I started my Tai Chi journey and I would like to thank all my teachers
so far for their work and dedication.
On the next blog I will ask –
How do I find a teacher that is right for me?
As you can see quite a bit different from other locations. Really looking forward to starting new classes in both Elemental Chi Kung and Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan.
I would just like to thank all of you who have showed so much patience with me over the last few months - what with trying to get things ready at the new place and probably leaving the old place a month too early things got a little hectic.
Look out for new classes that will be starting soon.