24 November 2015

Aberdeenshire bokkens

I'll be ordering some bokkens for the Aberdeenshire students who are starting studying sabre. If you'd like me to get one for you so we can share the postage costs please let me know what type you'd like. If there's enough interest in the white oak 102cm I'll order packs of 4.

Note there are shorter ones available (e.g. 92cm) rather than the standard 102cm for those of us that aren't so tall...
Standard - 102cm. Click for more details
"Junior" - 92cm. Click for more details

Please note prices on the ninecircles website exclude VAT and postage so each bokken will be around the £20 mark.

22 November 2015

Sir John Cass faculty

I have just received this from my long-term Hackney student Aleks, who teaches at the Metropolitan University. Please read and support this urgent request for help.

Dear friends, colleagues, students, dear all,

This is not some random email that I'm forwarding casually.

This is about saving our school of art, architecture and design, in which many of you studied or worked, from a move that will undermine it to the point of destruction.

Please take 5 minutes to sign the petition if you agree.


You can read what this is about here, published in today's Observer and signed by many distuinguished professionals who agree that this is a plan which is about to come to realisation and which will have disastrous consequences, for staff, students and everyone involved, as well as the community that surrounds it.


Your support is needed.

Many thanks,

20 November 2015

For fan fans

Spotted in Greenwich, but I didn't have time to visit

19 November 2015

Open and close

The Monymusk playgroup are also working on open and close...

16 November 2015

Thanks to Paolo for showing me Duckduckgo.com. Now I can do my internet searches and not get tracked by who knows who.

Life and death

I had my delightful youngest nieces to stay over the weekend. They wanted to see my swords and were asking about T'ai Chi. When Bella (8) saw the sew-on bagua-with-trigrams patch on my folding sword bag she said: 'Oh, that means peace doesn't it?' Then before I could say anything more than 'umm' she added:
'Not exactly peace, maybe balance or harmony. You know - life and death, black and white.'

So maybe she can teach the next beginner's course and I'll stay home feeding the swans.

When not doing T'ai Chi

...for instance when on the train, I have mostly been making this scarf, the last month or two. Now it's finished, and it's suddenly too mild to wear something this chunky.


Now that I almost have all the dates for 2016 I plan to order calendars featuring those dates and some lovely pictures from the year's T'ai Chi. If you have any photos you haven't shared with me yet, please do. Also I will be taking orders for either the small desk sized calendars, or the bigger wall mounted ones. I will get prices shortly, but as a guide they are usually about £5 and £9 respectively.

2016 study dates for The T'ai Chi Centre and Great River T'ai Chi.

We have finalised all the dates but one for next year, so here they are. All Aberdeenshire dates are subject to us getting confirmatuon from Fetternear hall. I will also add the last Sunday Sabre workshop date when it is confirmed. I will also do print outs of this for class, so you can put it on your notice board, or fridge door, or where ever... Any tweaks or changes Mark wants will be announced here and at class.

Terms - both schools, dates inclusive:
Spring: 5th January - 17th March
Summer: 5th April - 21st July
Autumn: 6th September - 15th December

Sunday workshops: all £20.
'St M' = 2-5pm St Mary Magdalene Church hall.
'HC' = 2-5pm venue near Hampton Court train station, ask at class for details.
Sword - St M, 20th March
Sword - St M, 12th June
Sabre - St M, spring date TBC
Sabre - St M, 25th September
Staff - HC, 10th April, autumn date will be arranged if enough interest.
Heart Work - HC, 8th May, autumn date will be arranged if enough interest.
Power training is now by arrangement with Mark, please talk with me if interested in making a small group.

11th Annual Summer Intensive 23-29th July
Partnerwork optional 22nd 7-10pm.
Leander Sea Scout Hut, Kingston Upon Thames (same as 2015). Camping indoors at venue possible, free of charge. Workshops £42 per day or £21 per half day session, concessions available.

11th Annual Aberdeenshire 3 Day Workshop 22-24th October
Partnerwork optional 21st 7-10pm.
Fetternear Hall, same as last year. Accommodation with students nearby available for £5 per night.
Workshops £42 per day or £21 per half day session, concessions available. We plan to hold a ceilidh with music and Scottish country dancing 8-10pm on the Saturday evening, in remembrance of Neil Dey, one year after his death. Please come and join us for this weekend if you can, all students of GR and TCC are welcome, at whatever level of experience of T'ai Chi (or Scottish country dancing, as we will have a caller walk us through the steps). There will be time for changing into kilts...

Weekend workshops with Caro in Aberdeenshire:
Following the same 5 session structure as previous years: Weapons, Short Form, Partnerwork, Long Form, Dance and advanced studies. There is usually space for a 121 session on each of the weekend mornings. All GR and TCC students are welcome, get in touch for eligibility for sessions.
February 12-14th
March 11-13th
April 22-24th
May 20-22nd
June 17-19th
September 9-11th
November 18-20th
December 16-18th

Bloke on the Path

I really recommend that if you study T'ai Chi, you read or subscribe to Christian Birch's blog Bloke on the Path. He was a student of John Kells and writes lively, helpful, concise posts. Sadly, despite having many friends and colleagues in common, we have not yet met in person. Mostly I recommend you spend as little time at a screen as is possible, but if you must look at one, then find a moment to read this. I was just going to start doing little pieces on all the great T'ai Chi books I had read over the years, but then saw that Christian had just started doing that, and that I totally agreed with all his thoughts on them. So, just go and read his, you don't need my opinions too! If I notice a book missing that I really want to add, I will.

Also, it's important to say, you don't need to read a single book or blog to do great T'ai Chi. You don't need any equipment, and you definitely don't need any opinions. I prefer John Kells' simple instructions for once you have found a good teacher:

1. Start T'ai Chi.
2. Continue T'ai Chi.

Loch Ossian

12 November 2015

Next year's Summer Intensive

Great news! We have just had it confirmed that we can go back to this year's venue, Leander Sea scouts, Kingston, for our week-long workshop. The dates will be 23rd-30th July, with the usual warm-up session on Friday 22nd. I am very happy to be heading back there again.

Back online again

After lots of travel, I am finally back home and have my broadband up and running again after some issues. Here are some pictures from the last few weeks. It's been an emotional time, since the funeral, but full of love and fellowship. The after effects of Carrying The Fire, in the heart of the moors in the Highlands, have also been profound. Last night's Hackney class was excellent, great questions by all the senior students especially. Thanks for all your time, effort and energy. It is fun to teach an experienced group... Finally, I am occasionally not able to get to Mark's classes at the moment but I hope to see everybody on Tuesday next week, and have the staff bags made by then too. People have been asking where to get the traditional cotton taichi shoes now that Shaolin Way has shut. You can get them at Playwell. If anyone knows of a shop where you can walk in and buy them, let me know.
Autumn leaves at Woodbrooke Quaker Centre.

Samhain table at Carrying the Fire.

Loch Ossian
Welcome to the new sabreurs at fetternear.

Punch Under Elbow applications at Balvack.
The full contingent of senior students at Hackney, caught by Davina, who was visiting - thank you!

In case you can't get to the Biddle Bros. gig on 14 November, here's a reminder about the next one. It's at the Birds Nest, 32 Deptford Church Street, London SE8 4RZ on Thursday 19 November (free entry).

The same line-up as last time:
Chris Ramsing (lead vocals, guitar, composer/songwriter and generally Main Man)
Chris Sansom (bass, some backing vocals)
Jonas Golland (drums, some backing vocals)

For a taste (with various predecessors playing bass, and added horns and whatnot):

11 November 2015

Hackney tonight

We are in the nursery rooms tonight, entered by the office front door on lower ground level as usual. Ring nursery buzzer. My phone will also be on.

09 November 2015


I have just got home from a great weekend of T'ai Chi in Aberdeenshire: thanks to all who came along. I have barely been home for the last two weeks so it will take me a few days to get sorted with answering emails, uploading 2016 term dates, sending videos to students, making staff bags and generally sorting stuff out.

It is so lovely to be home, and to be greeted by the local swans, who were floating like giant meringues in the slipway before they got ready for their close-up. 

06 November 2015

A beautiful day at Finzean

Dear T'ai Chi friends, just a quick post before I travel back up to Aberdeenshire to teach today, to let you know that Monday saw Neil Dey's funeral and celebration at Finzean, where he had lived most of his life. I can truly say it was the most beautiful and fitting ceremony or celebration I have ever been to, weddings and birthdays included. What wonderful family, friend and sangha Neil has, and it was an honour to have been there. The following day I had slightly sunburned cheeks from Heartwork and Short Form in the hot sun (17 deg C on a November day - incredible) and sore arms from being whirled around in Strip the Willow and the other Scottish country dances we threw ourselves into. This was not an ordinary funeral, if there is such a thing, it was a joyous reflection of a remarkable man.

I will write a little more next week, including a little about Ossian the bard, but I must pack and leave for the airport very soon.


From Hackney student Chris Sansom...
You may or may not have gathered that I recently, in a fit of late-mid-life crisis (or something), took up playing my trusty old fretless bass guitar after far too many years of neglect. This has reached the point where I'm happy to say I am now a proud member of the excellent Psychoyogi, led by the remarkable Chris Ramsing (similar name, different guy!).

My debut with this outfit is coming up very soon: Saturday 14 November at Biddle Bros., 88 Lower Clapton Road, London E5 0QR - flyer above - and I'd be delighted to see you there... but no pressure! (And if you can't make it, we're at the Birds Nest in Deptford five days later.)

Psychoyogi, in this particular incarnation, is:
Chris Ramsing (lead vocals, guitar, composer/songwriter and generally Main Man)
Chris Sansom (bass, some backing vocals)
Jonas Golland (drums, some backing vocals)
(Jonas also plays with the Tiger Lillies, if you're familiar with them... and even if you're not.)

For a taste (with various predecessors playing bass, and added horns and whatnot):

05 November 2015

Change of venue for tonight

Monymusk Hall is being used as a polling station today and none of our usual alternate venues are available. Anyone that fancies some tea & cake (and a little T’ai Chi!) is welcome to come to Balvack from 7pm.