23 July 2016


Thanks to all who attended for a lovely, lively day. The heat has finally lifted and a cooler night lies ahead, so sleep well. Also thanks to all for delicious food: tomorrow is a day for folks born in even numbered years to bring a dish. 
Back-Heart Salutations

On the balcony overlooking the river. 

Stepping partnerwork

Thanks to all who came last night to warm up the venue. Well done to the new knockers... Also re relative positions of power - 'this truly is not easy'.
See you all later! 

We've had lovely best wishes for the workshop from Scott in Aberdeenshire and Anna in Sweden, who also sent this stunning picture from where she is:
We miss you both!

22 July 2016

Facilities and entry

Entry to workshop venue is not from river side but from Albany Mews.

Kitchen has ovens, hobs, a microwave and a fridge, but no freezer. Only two pans here so if cooking something, bring cookware. 

Parking- free except 11am-2pm

I am at the venue and there is space for up to 5 cars parking here after all - first come first served. Also, to deter commuters, parking fees only apply 11am-2pm, so don't interfere with the workshop, as you can also buy an hour or two parking in the local spaces if you come early. All is well, the local swan even has a tiny late cygnet. I am looking forward to greeting all.

Anyone bringing a car- please take a bag of rubbish and recycling home each day as there is no collection here. Thanks!


Our local swans have been a bit quiet and subdued the last few days. One of the cygnets now sports a shiny new leg ring.  I think they've been upped. Have a look at this link for great pictures from this week's official swan-upping here on The Thames, accimplished by Her Majesty's Royal Swan Marker and members of two ancient guilds of the City of London.
Each year I mean to get in touch to volunteer and help, but then I remember how hard the rowing is, and how hissy the swans are when surrounded by the skiffs. Think I'll stick to feeding our local brood, pictured below. 

October workshop

If you enjoy the week-long event then come along to...

The 11th Annual Aberdeenshire 3 Day Workshop 15th-17th October 2016

Weapons study optional Friday 14th 7-10pm.

Held at the lovely Fetternear Hall, same as last year. Accommodation is available with students available for £5 per night, and there are also hotels and b&bs nearby. It is also an area renowned for natural beauty, stone circles, carved standing stones and whisky distilleries.

Workshops £44 per day or £22 per half day session, concessions available.

Mark will be teaching in this beautiful rural setting, we bring food to share and timings and themes are similar to the Summer workshop, but with 90% more countryside and also 10% more cake. Please see Caro for more details, and the blog will have info from September.
Staff work at Fetternear Hall, lots of room to swing a sabre.

Fear of Music

Apropos of nothing, I have been listening to music again for the first time in a year or so... Just wanted to recommend Bjork's 'Vulnicura', a wonderfully moving album, I much prefer it to the previous LP 'Biophilia'. I am currently listening to Radiohead's 'A Moon Shaped Pool', also very good: channelling Can, Alice Coltrane's 'Journey in Satchidananda', Nick Drake and Debussy, so pretty much right up my street. I have been a fan of Radiohead since uni and Bjork since I was 16. One of the few 12"s I ran out to buy was the Sugarcubes' 'Birthday', (the others were David Sylvian's 'Taking the Veil', and Cocteau Twins' 'Echoes in a Shallow Bay'). A large proportion of our T'ai Chi folk are musicians or huge music lovers, we could form a great scratch band, I'm sure. Great River - T'ai Chi Centre Alt-Orchestra anyone?

Must stop typing and putting off jobs that need doing...
See you later!

Last bits and pieces

I am just getting the last things together for the workshops and thought of a few things to mention. I'll be meeting the Sea Scout Captain at 4.30pm today, and we should be finished sorting things by 5pm. So if you'd like to pop along to the venue any time after that, it's fine with me, for instance if you are going to be staying there during the week, and want to set up your 'room'. I have no idea yet how much cleaning or clearing I will have to do to  get things ready for T'ai Chi, perhaps none... perhaps 2 hours... If there's little to do I will drink Yorkshire Tea and hang out with whoever arrives.

If you decide any time during the week that you'd like to stay over night after all, that's totally fine, just bring a sleeping bag and roll mat, no charge. There are also showers so bring a towel.

If we are working outside for any of the sessions I will lock the door and put post it notes up to say where we are, either by the river on the wooden pontoon right in front of the venue by the river, or in Canbury Park, 1.5mins  walk upstream. I will have the key with me, so you can get in if needed. Part of our rental agreement is that if the venue is empty it must be locked up.

I am bringing a first aid kit, suncream, teas and a cafetiere, so we should be fine!

We'll be clearing and cleaning the venue after the workshop on Saturday 30th 10am-12 noon, so if you can help please do.

Looking forward to plenty of hugs and uproots, though preferably not at the same time.
Travel well!

Workshop food rota

20 July 2016

Parking near workshop

I just heard from Paul that the area around the workshop is now 'parking restricted', and there are no spaces at the venue itself except for Mark's. Come by public transport if possible: the 65 bus from Kingston or Richmond goes to just 3 mins walk away. There is paid and unpaid parking available in the area, but you'll need to do some online research. Good luck!

Annual Week-Long Intensive

All the details are here.
I am really looking forward to welcoming everyone to our 11th Annual workshop with Mark. These began as events in my home in Scotland, and have evolved over the years to the shape we now know. From my original desire to share what I love doing - my teacher's excellent T'ai Chi - the weeks have become a very sociable and rich mix of everyone's work, love and energy, as well as a period to study uninterrupted and thereby deepen our practice. I have been reflecting on the wonderful family of T'ai Chi folks I have am lucky enough to be part of. Travel well, where ever you travel from, even if that's just Tooting...

If anyone needs to get hold of me regarding the workshop, please email caroline {at} greatrivertaichi {dot} co {dot} uk

19 July 2016

Last week of term in London

Tonight and this Thursday see the last classes of term before the workshop which starts on Saturday, and Ta Lu etc in Friday night. I am just heading off to class to practice our famous 'melting', and also 'dripping hands', where we attempt to remain upright and not slide off our partner due to the heat.
Stay cool...

Folks travelling to London from anywhere else for the workshop... It really is hot here! Bring shorts and ice-cream money. 

16 July 2016

Taoist Meditation

I just finished this wonderful book, another translation by the esteemed Thomas Cleary. Between this slim volume and Cleary's translation of 'Secret Of The Golden Flower' we have a complete method and guide for Taoist meditation, which fully integrates with and is complementary to our T'ai Chi. I cannot recommend them more highly. However they are not necessarily useful to the beginner without a working knowledge of the Taoist Classics. My plan over the Late Summer is to compile a brief primer to the foundation practices in these wonderful books, so that those of us who might like to practice together can have a common start point, leading to a sitting group in the future, (or more cake and sitting solo for me if no one turns up!). No problem either way...

If you do a web search for Taoist meditation, London, Taoism groups, etc., you get a whole bunch of Mantak Chia based Chinese energy and Taoist hygeine folks, no offence to them and their genuinely health-enhancing practices, but I am with Liu I Ming on this issue (look it up), so these groups are not for me. This morning I went along to a friendly Zen sitting group in Wimbledon, which was great. Many of the teachings of the Northern School of Complete Reality Taoisim (yes, wonderful name lsn't it?) are shared between Ch'an (later in Japan called Zen, in Korea it's called Son), so sitting zazen is a good place to sit with like-minded folks. Often the practices between Ch'an, Zen and Taoism are exactly the same and just have different terminology. Cleary's translation of The Secret Of The Golden Flower is particularly good on this. When I sat a Son retreat with Stephen and Martine Batchelor a couple of years ago, Stephen called Zen 'Taoist Buddhism'. The roots are certainly intertwined and the enlightened mind to which all refer, is the same: also the emptiness of all phenomena, conditioned arising, and so on. 

Mindful that the Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao... I shall stop writing now and get an early night. 

14 July 2016

Fungi Foray this Autumn

It's been a few years since our last one, so I will be leading a fungi foray in Aberdeenshire on September 12th, the day after our September workshops. All GR students and their families / partners / friends are welcome. It will all be weather dependent, but we'll see what we can find. No experience necessary, good footwear, waterproofs and baskets are a good idea.

13 July 2016

T'ai Chi Ch'uan - Petra & Toyo Kobayashi

Subtitle: Becoming One With The Tao. What a lovely book - get this if you are new to T'ai Chi or for reference if you study Cheng Man-Ch'ing style. This book covers the standard version of the form rather than the Dr Chi version we do, but the extra postures can be written in to the book at class. We even photographed these postures many years ago but the booklet has not yet materialised. This is the other book that I recommend for all beginners in our schools. 

The Dao of Taijiquan - Jou, Tsung Hwa

A great book from an amazing man who was still sprightly and inspiring at 81 when he wrote this book. Sadly he was killed in a traffic accident but Sam Masich met him years ago and attested to his qualities. The book is very interesting, not for beginners. Ask if you'd like to have a look, and I will bring it to class. 

Classical T'ai Chi Sword - Petra and Toyo Kobayashi

Buy this wonderful book if you are studying T'ai Chi Sword. Toyo Kobayashi sadly passed away recently and Petra' and Toyo's two books are both wonderfully clear, compassionate, insightful and full of good photos and diagrams. 


Sand lizard basking on imprint of ancient ancestor... On the Jurassic Coast this weekend. 
One week to go until the workshop, classes continue up to and including next Thursday 21st. Anything I can do to help you come along, let me know. 

08 July 2016


Two more weeks of term in London then straight in to the Summer workshop. I am away all weekend but will be available for questions and admin in the fortnight leading up to the intensive. I will post more T'ai Chi book reviews here and will also have news of a new Taoist meditation group that will meet once a month for (Son-style) sitting-and-walking sessions, hopefully start in September. Recommended reading and practice advice soon, let me know if you might like to come along. It'll be pretty informal and won't cost anything, unless we ever hire a hall. Have a good weekend.

Inverurie and Turriff classes

Monday 11th July is the last week of term for the Inverurie and Turriff classes.  Both will restart on Monday 22nd August at the usual times and places  and will be open to new beginners as well as returners. I'll put more details on the blog nearer the time.

02 July 2016

Lost T'ai Chi Classics From The Late Ch'ing Dynasty - Douglas Wile

This book wins two competitions: worst cover of a great book ever and worst title! However, get past that and you have some of the most helpful and clear advice on T'ai Chi that you could ever hope for. Everything is here regarding posture, sparring, the civil and the martial, silk-reeling...

The Taijiquan Classics - trans. Barbara Davis

This is a superb book, essential for further study of T'ai Chi. It's a more in-depth and analytical translation of the Classics and includes a superb commentary by Chen Weiming. It's a real work of scholarship by a genuine teacher of T'ai Chi. 

Yang Family Secret Transmissions - trans. Douglas Wile

Here's my highly annotated and page-marked copy of an excellent book. If you're serious about studying Yang Style T'ai Chi then this book is essential. Douglas Wile has collated and translated key Chinese texts that directly pertain to our art. So much of the book is of immediate benefit, all of it sheds light on our practice. 

The Essence of T'ai Chi Ch'uan - Lo, Inn, Amacker, Foe

A simple and beautiful translation of the T'ai Chi Classics suitable for everyone. Lovely calligraphy too. If you only have one T'ai Chi book, get this one. 

121s in London over the Summer

The summer workshop will soon take place and afterwards Mark will take a well-earned break until September 13th. However, if you would like a 121 to revise something, catch up or refine what you are practising then I will be available for 121s during the summer: from now until 21st July, 6-10 August, 6-8 September, and then 19th September onwards. Sessions are held here near Hampton Court and cost £25 p/h. Get in touch if you would like one.

01 July 2016

Every T'ai Chi book I ever read

I have enjoyed enforced rereading and looking through all my T'ai Chi books, so over the next week I will continue blogging all the books I have kept, as well as all the T'ai Chi and related books I ever read! I have a small note book, which we were issued with on our first day at senior school, in which we were asked to write every book we read, so the English teacher could check it each term. It became such an enjoyable habit, that even after I left school I kept it up. Now this little book is almost full, and I shall be using another within a year or two (I just bought one for this purpose in the sale at Paperchase...) Looking back through at years when I read little, I remember it was because I was so busy doing music, or moving home, perhaps. Other years show when interests started to arrive, such as Zen or T'ai Chi or when I started collecting fungi: all apparent by what I was reading, a more evocative aide-memoire than many photos. What it also shows is every T'ai Chi book that I have laid hands on. I will go through the notebook and try to find pictures of the books online, as many books were borrowed or passed on, several to my friend Sam Masich's famously encyclopedic library in Berlin. I hope this little foray into my bibliographical history will be of interest to you on your continuing T'ai Chi journey.

Of course you don't need a single book to do great T'ai Chi, just like you don't need any special clothes, shoes or kit. The Classics say diligent study, a good teacher, and sincerity are all you need. So if you're not the reading-for-pleasure kind, no worries.

T'ai Chi Ch'uan - Master T T Liang

An excellent all-round book for not-quite beginners and improvers alike, Liang's attitude, joie de vivre and practice were all of the highest order and he lived to 101 years. He believed T'ai Chi to be of great benefit to all for health, but never neglected the practical applications of his art and recommended doing solo form training with an 'imaginary opponent', something that I always teach, and practice regularly. Unlike Prof Cheng, who was largely a Confucian, Liang compares T'ai Chi and Lao Tze's Tao Te Ching in this book, and his overview of the art's martial and civil aspects and philosphy is highly refined. This book is a good mirror of his approach and insights, perhaps not ideal for a complete novice. I highly recommend it, but now I have looked it through, my copy is not for sale! 

Ta Lu class on Thursdays

Well done to all who came along last night, it was a good class. Senior Tuesday students who want to get their ledt side Ta Lu up to scratch and those who wish to start fresh are still welcome to join in any time this July.