While studying photography at art college at the end of the 1960s, I developed an interest in Eastern thought, particularly Zen and Taoism. Those ideas were very much around at that time and my interest was initially sparked through reading Alan Watts. Moving to London in 1980 I found a job working with the homeless. I had read about tai chi as a Taoist art, and at the invitation of a friend I began studying Cheng Man-ching’s tai chi in 1982 with the London School of Tai Chi-chuan. This school was set up by Patrick Watson, one of Cheng Man-ching’s American students. It was one of only a handful of tai chi schools in London at that time. This began 36 years of continuous study of Cheng Man-ching’s tai chi.
I went on to study with other teachers in the Cheng Man-ching tradition in London, including John Eastman, Nigel Sutton, Ben Clarke (student of Nigel Sutton), and William Aarvo Tucker. Nigel Sutton has a lineage through Professor Cheng’s students in Malaysia, who emphasise the martial use of tai chi. Aarvo Tucker was for 15 years a student of Liu Hsi-heng in Taiwan. Liu Hsi-heng took over Cheng Man-ching’s Shr Jung school in Taiwan when Professor Cheng moved to New York. Aarvo now lives in Canada and teaches tai chi, qi gong and bagua.
In 2005 I moved to Gloucestershire and trained in tai chi partnerwork with Alan Peck until his death in 2010. Alan Peck had trained in the Cheng Man-ching tradition with Dr Chi Chiang-tao, and John Kells. I also practice mindfulness meditation.
I have attended Wolfe Lowenthal’s Summer tai chi intensives in Europe and USA for the last 11 years and consider Wolfe to be my teacher. For many years my approach to tai chi had been greatly influenced by Wolfe’s books - on tai chi and his studies with Cheng Man-ching. On discovering in 2007 that Wolfe was teaching a workshop in Scotland, I managed to secure a place. Inspired by the depth of Wolfe’s teaching, I have attended every one of Wolfe’s Summer workshops since.
In addition, over the years, I have attended workshops by senior students of Wolfe: Patrick Cavanaugh, Gordon Ewing and Manolo Yubero, and classes taught by Jimmy Ilson. I travel when I can to Toulouse to study with Dorian Shaw, student of Wolfe Lowenthal and founder and head teacher of the Toulouse branch of Long River Tai Chi Circle.
I have attended workshops by leading tai chi teachers outside the Long River lineage. But perhaps I can borrow the perspective of Carlos Castaneda, when he quotes the Yaqi Indian sorcerer, Don Juan:
'For me there is only travelling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length - and there I travel looking, looking breathlessly' [The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge].
Cheng Man-ching's teaching, as transmitted by Wolfe Lowenthal, is my 'path with heart'. I have a way to go yet!
I am a senior level instructor with the Tai Chi Union of Great Britain.