22 September 2018


Yesterday was Mabon, or Autumn Equinox. We went to Shakespeare's Globe and saw Othello, with Mark Rylance as Iago. Remind me never to wear mascara, or contact lenses, when going to the theatre to watch a tragedy. It was superb. Go and be a groundling, cheap tickets are always available for that, and it's what we usually do. It's good standing practice, your T'ai Chi will stand you in good stead amongst the wilting tourists, and the play will keep your attention off your sore feet. You can bring your own food and drink too, which is so much more egalitarian. The days of throwing rotten vegetables at the players are over, however.

Photo by Simon Annand, whatsonstage.com

20 September 2018

Heartwork this Sunday

2-5pm, details a few posts back, come along.

18 September 2018

The rocks are not what they seem

Writing from the East Coast train home from Aberdeenshire, the smooth, crescent-shaped rocks in the bay before Inverkeithing turned out to be seals, curled like quaichs on the foreshore. The slightly dreich misty weather is a joy for bird-spotting on this journey, as many creatures are sitting on the shore, or on old bridge pilings across the Tay, perhaps awaiting clearer skies or a turn of the tide, before heading out to sea.
Thanks to all who came to the workshops and 121s this weekend, it was a lovely start to the school year, and has inspired me to offer some new classes down south too, finally. We covered great postures in Sword and Sabre, as well as power and sensitivity in the forms and partner work. The questions regarding applications led to some good work by all. Thanks to Marie for bringing the 'Softness is compression' quote from Christian's blog so that we could look at that in detail through practice: pushing, receiving, rooting and returning via uprooting from our hips. Dance details were good too, slowing down and really noticing where we get ahead of our partner. Please share all the goodies with the few folks who were away for family celebrations and DIY... Next month it's Mark's October workshop. I look forward to seeing you all there. OK, back to gazing out the window...

12 September 2018

Barefoot shoes workshop

I have just been on a workshop making a wonderful duffel bag from leather in the woods in Wiltshire, with Joe my regular bushcraft teacher. In the past I have also made some great moccasins and shoes with natural materials on his courses, and later at home. Joe is half way through making a few great pairs of stealth shoes, in the barefoot style, so that the feet are protected but not at all constricted. He is planning a workshop making these next spring, over two days. Myself, Jon and a couple of pals are already up for this, so I am inviting you too. Lots of us wear shop-bought 'barefoot' style shoes for T'ai Chi, and they are a great improvement for me over traditional cotton shoes as my feet are free to wriggle and move, standing on one leg postures feel much more settled and stable. I plan to design and make a nice pair of leather shoes for T'ai Chi, possibly based on my 'Tudor' shaped buckskin shoes. Anyway, here are a few pictures to tempt you along. There would be one night camping in the woods, a wonderful atmosphere around the fire, beautiful trees all around, and plentiful tea. As soon as I know prices and dates I will post them here, but do let me know if you are interested. The principles are simple, the shoes will be made to fit your feet perfectly, and walking silently through the woods in these, or indeed doing the Form, really feels like you have magic feet.
This year's course is here.

Beginning the duffel bag.

Some of the awls and needles we used.

The finished bag, ready to be waterproofed for the Hunter Gatherer Challenge, using a creme I made with beeswax and almond oil.

I had time to add a leather strap to my rawhide sketchbook satchel.

Joe's new mocs.

Joe's camouflage feet! These are made from very soft leather and have a thicker leather insert in the sole, making them more comfortable and still flexible. I expect my T'ai Chi shoe experiment to be a bit like this, though possible not in camo print leather...

I have worn both of these at class, warmer boot style shoes with a needle felted wool insert, and the Tudor style slippers which are very lightweight.

The classroom.

Annapurna Pilgrimage

Below is a message from my great friend Kajedo, my first meditation teacher, and second T'ai Chi Teacher (he studied with the Kobayashis who were students of Dr Chi). He has been guiding groups walking in Nepal Himalaya for almost 30 years. I was booked to go with him in 2000, but a back injury prevented this, yet led to me finding The T'ai Chi Centre, which is another story... If you have ever wanted to trek in these high mountains and spend time with people who are also 'on the path', then get in touch and I will pass your email on to Kajedo. He doesn't have a website, and works outdoors managing the hinterland at Findhorn community, which means he manages trees, protects wildlife and land, learns about the hundreds of rare lichens there, takes people out into nature, built a wild camping site to protect other at-risk sites from damage, teaches meditation and T'ai Chi...

'Walking on the roof of the world...
A pilgrimage....
     From Mid February to mid March 2019 I will be walking amongst the highest mountains of the world again- in the Annapurna range of the Nepalese Himalayas... Yes, I have done this so many times before - but it is calling me back again. One of the most beautiful mountain walks on our planet - the constantly changing landscapes - we'll fly from subtropical Pokhara into the mountains - lower Mustang, close to the Tibetan border... and we'll walk through that mountain desert country to Muktinath - a sacred town for Buddhist and Hindus - at over 3000m altitude - a day of stunning close-up views on the white tops of the mountains... We'll descend through pine forests and rice paddies, climb up again through Rhododendron forest - which, with any luck should be flowering by then... Annapurna Sanctuary at over 4000m altitude will be the highest point of our journey.
     Our ups and downs of our trek are the ups and downs of our life... It is as much an inner journey as an outer one... We practice non-attachment as we keep moving from place to place... mindfulness of our body and breath comes naturally when walking those trails for hours... And we allow the mountains to teach us about serenity, and the people of Nepal about what might be important in life.... A journey to get perspective on our lives... I'm putting this out now to see if anybody feels the call to join me. If you are interested, have questions or feel the call be part of this sacred journey - Let me know...'

Annapurna image from mountainkingdoms.com

Next Gothenburg workshop

The next Gothenburg T'ai Chi workshops will take place 3-4th November. This is primarily for the study group in Sweden who have been working with me (and Mark at the Summer Intensive) for many years now. However, if you have experience for Long Form Yang Style T'ai Chi and pushing hands, and wish to come along, get in touch regarding suitability.

I am looking forward to seeing the group and doing some more great work together. I will also get my first chance to visit friends in Sweden and hopefully teach a taster class while I am there. More details soon.

London Weapons study dates 2018

The remaining dates for Sabre and Sword at class are:
October 2nd
November 6th
December 4th


Thanks to all those who have sent or who are sending me links about T'ai Chi and health. I will be able to collate everything in the second week of October, when my workload lightens somewhat. Thanks again.

Thursday classes

Thursday class resumes this week at the studio near Hampton Court 6.30-10.15pm. Partnerwork, Long Form, Talu, Dance and much more are covered. All students who have completed Long Form are welcome to attend. Cost £15 (concs available).

Heartwork workshop

There will be a workshop open to all students from 2-5pm, Sunday 23rd September at the studio near Hampton Court, cost £20. Salutations, One Posture, Heartwork interactions and much more will be covered.

11 September 2018

London Classes with Mark resume tonight

Tooting class begins at 6.30pm tonight. Weapons study and Short Form will be covered.

10 September 2018

September workshops in Aberdeenshire

Aberdeenshire workshops with Caroline are this weekend, 14-16th September.
The Weapons session is at Fetternear Hall (note we're back to starting at 6:30pm), all other workshops are at Balvack. Great River students of any level are particularly welcome to the Saturday sessions.

Friday 6:30-9:30pm: Weapons
Saturday 1-4pm: Short Form, and related study
Saturday 5:30-8:30pm: Partnerwork
Sunday 1-4pm: Long Form
Sunday 5.30-8.30pm: Advanced Studies and Dance

The price is £18 (concessions £12) per 3 hr session. Please bring food to share on Saturday and Sunday. Get in touch with your instructor if you need travel directions or feel free to contact me with any other questions.

05 September 2018

Turriff class restarts 10th September

The Turriff class will restart on Monday 10th September at our new venue, the Baden Powell Centre (click on the link to see a map). Classes will continue until 10th December with a break on 15th and 22nd October.

The Short Form class is suitable for total beginners and will run from  6:45 - 8:15pm. The price is £50 each 6 weeks. Concession and weekly prices are available - please ask. Returners as well as any former students will be very welcome.

There is also Long Form study for more experienced students from 8:15 - 8:45pm for a small additional charge. If you are interested in learning or revisiting Long Form please get in touch to discuss suitability.
© Baden Powell Centre

Annual Fungi Foray in Aberdeenshire

We'll be heading out to the woods for a few hours on Monday 17th September. Last ear was the greatest chanterelle harvest I have ever known. This year's weather has been entirely different, so who knows what will be fruiting when we walk out into the trees. All GR students welcome.
A mixed basket from a foray in 2011

T'ai Chi outdoors

In about a month's time I will be ready to start new ventures and this is a little head's up for one of them. Most T'ai Chi classes I have attended have been in rooms, halls, gyms, etc. Most of my personal T'ai Chi practice is done outside, usually amongst trees, by the river, or by the sea. The Taoist Classics refer constantly to the natural world as the greatest teacher, as do the T'ai Chi Classics. The qualities we are encouraged to embody are always natural ones and pertain to rivers, mountains, trees, pouncing cats, swooping eagles, the stillness of herons, leaping fish - the list is endless. I am lucky enough (or bloody-minded enough, not sure which yet) to have found my niche in a part of Britain relatively full of wildlife, and with a river running through it. My main medicines are T'ai Chi, walking, crafting, meditation, being out in nature (woodlands particularly). Without these, and the time put aside to make my art and live quietly, I might possibly be, as my friend so brilliantly puts it: loopy fruit loops.

So, as conviviality is the one item I had not yet listed... I propose occasional T'ai Chi afternoons, where we head out along the Thames Path, up or downstream, as it passes through several tremendous parks and green lands as it hugs the river bank. Beginning with some warm-ups and a Form, then walking, and stopping 2 or three times to do some more form, perhaps some gentle partnerwork, we'll see. I think about 3 hours would be good, maybe longer day long jaunts in the Spring next year.

Details can be sorted nearer the time, we can meet at Hampton Court train station, all you'll need is a bottle of water and a light waterproof jacket in case rain returns to this region one day. Walking shoes or trainers are just fine for doing T'ai Chi, so we won't need any kit. Get in touch if you are up for it, I shall be doing it anyway... Here are my first free dates, 22nd-31st October. Weekdays or weekends are fine, but Sunday 28th might be best for others, let me know. That would be a good Samhain-tide event.
A favourite spot for practice.

04 September 2018

Mark's London classes start next week

Tuesday class resumes in Totting at 6.30pm as usual with Weapons study, and Short Form group.

Dance Sunday workshop will take place Sunday 23rd 2-5pm at the studio near Hampton Court. All Dance students welcome.

All Great River and The T'ai Chi Centre students of any level are welcome to attend the annual 3 day workshop in Aberdeenshire this October, see Davina's earlier posts for details.

See you soon!
My friend Sam Masich is doing this gig in Berlin, he's a great musician, as several T'ai Chi masters seem to be... If you have pals in Berlin, send them a link.

02 September 2018

121s in Aberdeenshire

I have spaces for 121s at the times in a fortnight:
11-12 Saturday
11-12 Sunday
10-12 Monday
Let me know if you would like one.

24 August 2018

T'ai Chi and health benefits

If anyone reading this, including students or instructors in the schools, have come across good scientific studies, articles or publications about the proven benefits of T'ai Chi to health, please send me links or drop me a line. I had begun to collate things years ago, but it fell by the wayside as the practice took up my interest, and I avoided online research, not needing any extra justifications for my study, as the benefits in my own life and in those of my colleagues and students were plain to see. The Chinese have put particular time into evidence-based studies on the preventative effect of regular T'ai Chi on falls in older people. There is also strong evidence for the improvement of mental clarity, mood and memory, improved balance, prevention of loss of bone density and the lowering of high blood pressure. Any of these or other topics are of interest to me, so please feel free to get in touch via my website, or by email. In the near future I hope to bring some of our T'ai Chi to a much under-resourced area. More of this when I have more to tell.

Thanks to those who have already emailed, I will put great links here next week.