16 October 2017

No Turriff class tonight

There's no class tonight. Term restarts 6:30pm Monday 30th October.

15 October 2017

No Turriff class 16th & 23rd October

There will be no Turriff classes during the school holidays i.e. 16th and 23rd October. The term will restart on Monday 30th October 6:30pm at the Gateway Centre.  It's still possible for new students / total beginners to join the class then.

12 October 2017

beyond words

Been almost impossible to write this week since returning from the beautiful country Romania. But I can manage a few lines and pictures before I head north to delve into T'ai Chi with you all at Mark's annual Aberdeenshire workshop.

ah home now.
Captions when language returns if it ever does.

I did 4 hours T'ai Chi with a spruce tree. I also did the warm ups to warm up, see final picture and you'll know why.

07 October 2017

Aberdeenshire Autumn Intensive 14-16 October

It's almost time for this year's Autumn Intensive in Aberdeenshire with Master Mark Raudva. 

Sessions are 2-5pm and 6:30-9:30pm Saturday 14th to Monday 16th October at Fetternear Hall.
Come from the Saturday afternoon and stay for as many sessions as you can. The price is £44 per day or £22 per half day session, concession prices are £24 / £12 for those who feel they cannot afford this. We all bring a little food to share in the break.

We'll be warming up the hall with a Weapons session 7-10pm on Friday 13th.  Please bring any spare weapons as we may also have the opportunity to practise in the breaks over the weekend.
Great River and T'ai Centre students will be very welcome - a wonderful opportunity to share great teaching in the company of fellow students in a beautiful rural location. 
For visitors there may still be accomodation available with local students from £5 per night and there are also good B&Bs and hotels in the area. Please get in touch with me if you need more information, somewhere to stay or any other help with travel, things to do & see in the area, ...

29 September 2017

The Secret Books

I am heading out to a bookshop today to buy my classmate Marcel Theroux's new book 'The Secret Books'. Here's a great short interview with him about it, available for the next 6 days.

His last two books 'Strange Bodies' and the superb 'Far North' are two of my favourite novels of the millennium so far. Christmas gifts sorted: buy all three and get them signed at class...

Marcel's most recent 'Unreported World' aired this week on Channel 4 and is available on catch up.

121s with Mark in Aberdeenshire

There are 2 121 slots available between 17-19 October in Aberdeenshire, when Mark is up there on his annual teaching trip. Please get in touch if you would like one.

28 September 2017

Late night on National Poetry Day

Just back from a long day working, wondering which poems to put here. There are so many possible choices since I put aside my childish aversion to poetry ( I always favoured prose, or lyrics serving music). Now, some of my best friends are poets :) I arrived late to the poetry party, and Rumi, (in translated versions by Coleman Barks) was a gateway drug. So here's a couple of favourites,

We don't need wine to get drunk,
or instruments and singing to feel ecstatic.
No poets, no leaders, no songs,
yet we jump around totally wild.

No better love than love with no object,
no more satisfying work than work with no purpose.
If you could give up tricks and cleverness,
that would be the cleverest trick!

Roger McGough's 'First Day At School' was probably the first poem I ever memorised, and 'The Lesson' by Michael Rosen probably the second, when I was about 8 years old. We learned many psalms at Sunday School, (and goodness knows how many hundreds of Victorian hymn lyrics still clutter my skull, along with descant parts for most carols.) More recently, I have come across much excellent poetry in the Dark Mountain books, and have discovered some wonderful writers, but I am still a novice. So if you have a particular favourite, please share it with me.

She's got gall

Yeah I have, actually,
Last week I found these on a young oak tree near here, two kinds of oak gall, perfect for making oak gall ink. I will go back and harvest more this weekend, as once the larvae have hatched no animal is hurt to gather them, and it doesn't damage the tree either. If you see any on your travels, please do pick them for me. 

Next week I'll be in  the wilds of Romania teaching some ancient art techniques and an introduction to the alchemical colours of black, white and red, here. That means I won't be at class to help with weapons next week, so please help out if need be, and bear with Mark if the register suffers... I also have to work the following week, 10th October, when new term fees are due, so feel free to wait until we are all back on 24th October. Thanks for your understanding. Wish me luck with the wolves and the bears.

No London classes during Aberdeenshire workshop week

There will be no Tuesday or Thursday class in London on 17th and 19th October. Classes will resume as normal the following week.

27 September 2017


Here are all the links and suppliers for the updated website, now on the blog too for ease of access.
Good Bokken and tsuba (guard) supplier Nine Circles.
Very fine authentic bokkens from Japan, formerly called Bokken Shop.
Good wooden Swords from Nine Circles
Fine swords like Marli, David and Damien's are available from The Knight Shop.

Cloth, rubber or plastic soled traditional T'ai Chi slippers are best bought from various stores in China Town, London, now that Shaolin Way has closed down. Many of the small shops sell them cheaply and you can try them on first, as sizes can vary.

Feiyue shoes, collapsible swords and other great T'ai Chi supplies can be found at http://www.taichifinder.co.uk/products

I wear and recommend Vivo Barefoot shoes for T'ai Chi as they have thin waterproof soles, allow your feet to spread and last really well. Several other students also wear them and we all find them really comfortable and stable. They are not cheap, but as they sorted out my previously sore feet, I am inclined towards spending money on a good product.

We recently found these rubber soled T'ai Chi shoes on amazon, which are sturdier than normal and nicely broad at the toes.

We do not currently have a regular or reliable supplier of rattan or wooden staffs, metal or wooden swords or metal sabres. Please let me know if you find good suppliers so we can list them here. I can make cloth bags for all weapons and bespoke Sword tassels are available from several of the more crafty T'ai Chi students in Aberdeenshire, get in touch for details. Playwell.co.uk and blitzsport.com both supply staffs, swords and other equipment, and although both companies are fast and friendly, the staffs have been rather lightweight the last few years. Both have showrooms, so perhaps a visit would allow you to chose a staff that suits by hand from a big selection.

Our fine jasmine teas as served at class are all from Macbeans in Aberdeen, who do swift mail order too.

26 September 2017

Why study T'ai Chi?

Why we start T'ai Chi often has little in common with why we continue.
Here's a few reasons that I have heard from real folks over the years, as to why they started T'ai Chi:
Their doctor suggested it as good for arthritis / heart conditions / blood pressure.
It was trendy at the time.
They saw it in 'Calendar Girls'.
They saw it whilst visiting the parks in Hong Kong.
They want to be an invincible boxer.
They were trying to impress a boy. (yup, that's my one folks)
They had read about the Tao.
They used to do Karate / Kick Boxing / Tae Kwan Do and now their joints won't take it any more.
They were bored and free on that evening.
They needed something to help feel less stressed.
They were passing by and saw the poster.

Why we continue- again, a few reasons from actual people:
They are not sure but it feels right.
It's the only thing they never got to the bottom of.
It's relaxing.
It's a habit, easier to continue than stop.
They feel so much better when they do it.
They like the people who come along.
They are learning something really challenging.
They can't imagine life without it.
They fancy someone else who goes along.
It's time out of busy life.
It helps them stay sane / fit / calm.
They still want to become a peerless boxer.

John Kells' instructions for T'ai Chi were simply these:
1: Start T'ai Chi
2: Continue T'ai Chi.

Everyone bangs on about intention these days, as if meaning well were an end in itself. Attention to intention is useful, but 'the road to hell is paved...' etc. I am more interested in principles and in actions in the world. Much 'good' has been the inadvertent result of some terrible deeds. Much disaster has been caused by well-meaning intentions. All actions have unintended consequences, that's the nature of the complex web of life on this planet. Wu wei, or 'uncontrived action' can help lessen the unintended effects, and our art is a rich embodiment of this. Feel free to start T'ai Chi to polish your ego or get better than everyone else at something. If it's good T'ai Chi you get involved in, one thing's for sure, that won't be the end result of your studies. You may even inadvertently learn to yield to your own conditioning. Hell, you may even 'become one with the Tao'. You'll certainly be more stable on your feet, more nimble, relaxed, and have better posture, they are our famous side effects.

24 September 2017

Panta rhei

'everything flows'

23 September 2017

Plaistow Class

Thanks to all who came last night, next class is on 20th October.
Quite a contrast coming home on the tube with many entitled, intrusive drunken city workers... Seems my crochet and straight face ruse didn't work this once.