Nin hao, my fine, fellow, Taiji warriors!
Thanks for last issues feedback, it's had a cool response. I've also had lot's of great articles sent in, and unfortunately I haven't been able to print them all (for one reason or another), but fear not, they shall grace the pages of our fine publication very soon. Zhong Ding's not going anywhere! Speaking of pages, the newsletter will be returning to the A4 format due to popular demand next issue. The current method does make reproduction a bit of a chore.
I'd also like to apologise for the lateness of this issue. It was due out in mid-August, but due to a few last minute alterations and then a truck full of trouble from the printers (which is an axe I won't grind here!) it took some getting out.
Playwell Martial Arts have kindly placed an advert in this issue, you may notice, and I'd like to point out that this is not a profiteering stunt on my part, but more to help cover the costs of printing and distribution. Kirsty saw them on the internet and we ordered a couple of the mixed kung fu suits and some weapons. We received some first class products and a swift service, and so I thought this advert was information that would be valuable to the Zhong Ding public as much as anything else. If you buy something, be sure to tell them where you saw the ad.
Well, Nigel's back in town and you may have already had his pleasure, so next issue, I'd like to try and get at least one article in from (ideally) each Zhong Ding province on the subject of Nigel's tour. This newsletter is received by quite a lot of non-Zhong Dingers, so lets let them know about our good fortune! Well, space is a luxury I no longer have here, so on with the
best of the rest! Be good, and if you can't be good, don't forget to pay your Zhong Ding membership!


Zhong Ding Chairman
Vincent Jones L.L.B.
Appletree Cottage
64 Port Lion,
SA62 4JT

Zhong Ding Technical Panel
John Fowler
John Gardiner
John Higginson
Vincent Jones
David Spencer

Zhong Ding Founder
Nigel Sutton
Author of Roots and Branches, Applied Tai Chi Chuan, Form and Function and more.

Northern News Editor and Merchandiser
John Higginson--Zhong Dao
74 Greatstone Road,
M16 0HD
0161 8604111
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Spanner (editor)
Home No. 01484 325612
Mobile 0370 617189
4 Moor Crest Road,
Crosland Moor,
Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




A Different View

Many of my relatives have the Celtic gift of being warrior/poets. At the very least they are superb raconteurs or 9th Duan Masters of Wit and Sparkling Repartee. Mostly, however, I nowadays only meet them at funerals and, frankly, despite the joy of hearing their stories I have been seeing rather too much of them lately.
If I meet any of my relatives nowadays I am reluctant to ask about the health of them or their families. Most of the men, having been keen rugby players have ruined knees and hips and no front teeth. I more or less take this for granted. It is an act of supreme self sacrifice to fall on a loose ball in Welsh rugby. In Richard Burton's last game in Wales the last thing he heard before loosing consciousness was a second row forward saying "never mind the bloody ball, where's the bloody actor!"
Even more worrying, however, are the fatalities. I think it was Somerset Maughan who during a conversation with a friend about the number of deaths among their circle of acquaintances confided that he was quite relieved if his friends managed to make it through luncheon.
This morbid entrée has been prompted by a conversation with one of my relatives I met at my mothers funeral. His brother, a fine rugby player has just died of a heart attack. Peter himself had just had a hip replacement operation and his wife, Yvonne, has just been told that she has motor neurone disease. Being a district nurse she appreciates that she has less than a year to live.
With nowhere else to turn Peter asked about Taiji and if it could help. My first thought was "no, hardly at all". We say that health is one of the benefits of Taiji so how do we justify that claim.
Well firstly, Taiji does quieten the mind and teach the body the art of relaxation. It is proven medical fact people who meditate have on average a physiological age that is five years younger than their chronological age.
Secondly Taiji is a good exercise but does not put a strain on the cardio-vascular system.
Thirdly, the gentle movements of the joints contributes to the breaking down of crystals so it helps prevent rheumatism and arthritis.
Fourthly, as you know, the Chinese theory of medicine is based on the premise that illness is the result of blockages in the chi. Acupuncture and Shiatsu etc. free such blockages. Taiji reduces the chance of such blockages occurring by moving chi around the body, so it is preventative medicine.
Fifthly, martial arts appear to strengthen the immune system. I read a confirmation of this in a book Nigel Sutton recommended to me a couple of years ago called "Path Notes of an American Ninja Master" by Glenn Morris. Despite the silly title and the sillier photograph of the author on the front cover this is well worth reading.
Does Taiji produce longevity? It would appear not, Cheng Man Ching was only 75 years old when he died. What it certainly does do is improve quality of life in the meantime. It is also nice to think that you can be better at something at the age of 65 than you were at the age of thirty and that is certainly possible for diligent Taiji practitioners.
To get back back to Yvonne, however, the purpose of this article is to say that as a result of my conversation with Peter and on the recommendation of my wife Diana I contacted Linda Chase Broda who, as many of you probably know, has taught Taiji in Manchester for many years.
In the past she has sometimes given me the impression that she does not entirely approve of Zhong Ding although being the courteous lady that she is, she has never directly said so.
Her interest in recent years has taken her more and more into the area of Taiji for health and, perhaps, for healing. So she definitely comes from a different direction to us and has perhaps been less than impressed by swashbuckling young (and not so young) heroes.
I knew she had developed a form of wheelchair Taiji and I have to admit that this rather offended my purist ideals and were it not for Yvonne, I would not have looked into it.
I got in touch with Linda, however, and with her usual efficiency I got a tape from her wheelchair Taiji the next day. I watched it before passing it on to Yvonne and I have to admit it wiped me out. I have not cried like that since the first time I saw E.T..
The cheerfulness and bravery of these crippled and dying students as they practiced and interacted/pushed hands etc was immensely moving. Their attitude was an abject lesson to me. I lead such an incredibly privileged life and yet spend such a ridiculous amount of time being discontent; pushing always to acquire more prestige, possessions or superior skills to those I already have. And here are these crippled people cheerfully showing not only a better attitude to life than I have but even a better attitude to Taiji. Because they are doing Taiji just for the sheer fun of doing it and it seems an awfully long time since I did that. Master Tan Ching Ngee often finishes a form that appears exquisite to the observer and then says something to the effect of "That was rubbish". I too suffer from that 'critic on the shoulder' who is always saying "could do better" and "sometimes the pursuit of excellence can be an awful burden".
I think I have a lot to learn from Linda's video. Occasionally ego should be given a holiday. Sometimes, perhaps, I should just do my form and enjoy it, however bad I think it is, do it just for fun, just to cheer me up.
Most of the people in her video were never ever athletes. They had never experienced that team spirit so well expressed by Newbolt:-
"And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat
or the selfish hope of a seasons fame
But his Captains hand on his shoulder smote
Play up! Play up! and play the game!"
Yet here they are at the lowest points of their lives deserving and doing just that.
I do not for a minute suggest that wheelchair Taiji has any place in Zhong Ding. We are one of the best organisations in the UK giving "whole cloth" training in the pursuance of excellence in Taiji as a martial art. That is an important role and we fulfil it well. Personally I lack both the patience and the compassion to go down Linda's road. However, I recognise her genius and understand where she is coming from in a way that I had not previously done. It has been both an enlightening experience and an abject lesson in humility for me and I feel that such insights are worth communicating.





From ZD
DJ Andy Hague!

You may think that you used to enjoy Taiji, and perhaps you even thought you were pretty good at it. You've collected a wealth of forms and weapons, teachers and students, friends and enemies. You've got what it takes. Well, you were wrong. Until now!


"Your training will not be complete until you can take this tape from my hand, Grasshopper."


YES! Taiji has finally been digitally re-mastered, duplicated and made available for you by ZD top maestro, DJ Andy Hague.


Featuring such classics as:
Tape : 2 of Master Tan's pieces of demonstration music for both hand and sword forms.


Tapes are £4 for ZD Members, £6 for non-members.

This compilation is not available in the shops!

Place your orders through John Higginson on--0161 8604111


After the journey, the relative shade and freedom of movement of the back garden were a welcome relief. Seven hours hurling along Wales' finest trunk roads from Huddersfield to Port Lion at the start of the 1999 heat wave had left me weary. Following some much needed refreshment, those of us who were camping pitched our ethnic 'nomad-style' accommodation (£39.99 from Millets) at the top of the garden before getting down to some t'ai chi.
Being a recent addition to the Zhong Ding community, I had only been taught by Craig Jackson at his Wednesday evening classes in Huddersfield. My first experience of Vinnie Jones as an instructor was instructive. I found that the differences in teaching style made me more aware of the areas for improvement in my form. Unfortunately, the humidity was unbearable, and in keeping with the Taoist principle of yielding, we gave up. The evening was frittered away with food, Guinness and conversation on the expansive
veranda, and the surrender to sleep was easy.
Saturday morning began with those frequent camping companions Mr Hangover and Mr Sunlight-through-the-canvas. (Mental note to self to kerb drinking!) After breakfast an excursion was undertaken to a local thicket to harvest staves for the staff form we would learn later in the day. I will long cherish the memories of two grown men hanging from a silver birch branch with a junior hacksaw, trying to persuade the branch and it's tree to part company. The staff now stands proudly in my shed.
Back to the garden. The first exercise was Iron Shirt Chi Kung. For 30 minutes, a small group of t'ai chi practitioners sat in a circle on the ground and held their breath, compressed their internal organs, stretched and breathed their way through a series of positions. The effect was a relaxation and mental preparation that proved vital in the hot hours to follow.
I was keen to try my new staff and was soon stumbling through the White Crane Single Ended Staff form. Whilst simple, with only 36 movements, the form is sufficiently dynamic to appear impressive, including sweeps, strikes and a drop of the weapon. Given that this was my first auxiliary form, I was pleased to have taken to the staff so quickly and to have learned a form in a weekend. I found myself easily able to control the amount of effort that I put into the practise. Initially I was throwing the thing around, putting
serious jing into the strikes, sweeps and blocks. I then started practising in a much more restrained manner, placing the staff in the various positions. Both approaches shed new light on my technique and suggested
Saturday and Sunday morning over, a quick trip to the beach and dip in the sea (for me only) preceded the slog back up north to the Mountain Kingdom of Huddersfield. I went with a tent and came back with a staff form. Thanks are due to Vinnie, Diana and their helpers who made it the first big weekend of the summer. See you next year!
Giles Dring!


For the first time in the history of the Huddersfield Zhong Ding camping trip to Wales it did not rain. After grey skies throughout the seven hour journey , we arrived to glorious sunshine and an evening of lounging outside drinking beer. An excellent start to an excellent weekend.
Saturday was a full training day, Vinnie is a great believer in sending people away from his weekends having learned a new form, so we were all very busy. There was a huge turn out from Vinnie's class in Haverford West , and it was great to meet up with some old friends and lots of new ones. The training started with a warm up followed by the Iron shirt qigong exercises and then moved straight on to the White Crane single ended staff form, which was new to some, revision for others. After a well deserved lunch break and the application of plenty of sun block , the group split into two, one half practising the staff, the other learning San Shou B, which was pretty hard going due to the incredible heat and lack of shade in the garden, but two hours later six or seven of us were very proud to have the moves to another form under our belts.
By this time people were beginning to flag so we bowed off for the day. Spanner very gallantly offered to cook the barbecue and was expertly assisted by Giles. After eating , Vinnie had planned a discipleship for some of his students, which we were honoured to attend , and will always be remembered as probably the only ceremony in Zhong Ding history where the incense sticks were lit with a blow torch (which Spanner just happened to be carrying around with him???). After a quick wash and change, we welcomed John, one of our new brothers, into the family by taking him for a night out in the local pub. The pub is about two miles walk, so we were ready for a drink when we arrived (in Yorkshire there is a pub on every corner). As ever the Landlord was pleased to see us , its his busiest night of the year when the Yorkshire folk arrive!!
Sunday was spent learning yet another staff form, and recapping what we had learnt the day before. Training didn't last long as it was already scorching by 10.30am. After taking down tents and packing bags we spent our last couple of hours eating ice lollies on the beach.
Many thanks go to Vinnie for his teaching, Diana who, as always did a superb job of looking after and putting up with us all, and to her Grandson Matthew , who gave up his weekend to help out.
By Kirsty Spencer





"One, with God, is always a majority, but many a martyr has been burned
at the stake while the votes were being counted." Thomas B. Reed

"Nobody goes there's too crowded."
Yogi Berra


Thanks to Andy Hague for sending me a goodly amount of wisdom, and I hope all the rest of you aspire to better Andy's efforts next issue! Just listen to your hearts, then write down what they tell you and send it to me. Respect!


Spanner's Big Tip
Fear can sometimes be a useful emotion. For instance, let's say you're an astronaut on the moon and you 'fear' that your partner has been turned into Dracula. The next time he goes out for some moon pieces, wham!, you just slam the door behind him and blast off. He might call you on the radio and say he's not Dracula, but you can just say, "Who's the one with the oxygen, bat man!"


"Half of the people in the world are below average. But just try and get a single one of them to admit it." Anon.

"I lent a guy ten grand to get plastic surgery, and now I don't know what he looks like." Stephen Wright.

"That low-down scoundrel deserves to be kicked to death by a jackass, and I'm just the one to do it." A congressional candidate in Texas

"Inside every short man is a tall man doubled over in pain" Anon

"If you allow yourself to have the Monday blues, you are condemning yourself to being miserable for one-seventh of your life" Anon

"Most laws seem reasonable until misguided police officers try to enforce them against nice people like us." Anon






"A drink precedes a story." Irish Proverb
"A hard beginning maketh a good ending." From "The Proverbs of John Heywood" (1546)
"A house without a dog or a cat is the house of a scoundrel." Portuguese Proverb
"A lie travels round the world while truth is still putting her boots on." French Proverb
"A man is not honest simply because he never had a chance to steal." Yiddish Proverb
"A new broom sweeps clean, but the old brush knows all the corners." Irish Proverb
"A rumour goes in one ear and out many mouths." Chinese proverb


There are two types of people in this world, good and bad. The good sleep better, but the bad seem to enjoy the waking hours much more.


-- Woody Allen

"De Ja Kung Fu - The feeling that somewhere, somehow you've been kicked in the head like this before."

"Taiji is just like standing still - only faster."
"Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out!" Marine motto
"Mercenaries never die. They just go to Hell to regroup."

"Martial arts are not a matter of altitude!" -- Karen Hashimoto, paraphrased

"The more you bleed in training, the less you sweat in battle!"


"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity,
and I'm not sure about the former." --

Albert Einstein



Please send me your wisdom, so others may dismiss it as nonsense.

Q: "What did the Zen master say to the hot dog vendor?"
A: "Make me one with everything!"




Hold on to ya' droids, cause the band wagon's a-rollin' on into town! Yes, I'm all full of the force! At the Celtic Camp this year it was mentioned when Pedro's son Daniel brought his lightsaber into the midst of a bunch of weapons fanatics; "Well, we call it Chi, but if we're honest, it's the Force." And I don't know about you, but since the advent of the double-ended lightsaber, I have been fully seduced by the Dark Side! So fill out the questionnaire below and find out if your a Darth or an Obi Wan!


1) If you were approached by a Jawa, would you;

A) Buy an R2-D2?
B) Kick him where you expect his knees to be?
C) Ask him to get you Ken Dodd's autograph?

2) You have a legion of Stormtroopers at your command. Do you;

A) Have them clean graffiti off the school walls?
B) Take the throne by force and rule with an iron hand?
C) Have them perform "Star Wars - The Musical" in a church hall every Thursday for some pensioners?

3) You're in Tescos and it's really busy at the till. Do you;

A) Approach in attack formation through tinned veg and condiments?
B) Lightsaber your way through the '10 items or less' cheapskates?
C) Attempt a futile Jedi mind trick on the checkout assistant?

4) During broad sword practice, you lose a hand. Do you replace it with;

A) A well manicured robot hand?
B) A Freddy Kruger glove, only with mini lightsabers instead of knives?
C) A Chewbacca glove puppet?

5) Ewoks make;

A) Underestimated, powerful allies?
B) Sturdy rucksacks?
C) A mess?

6) Toys-R-Us refuse to give you a Jedi Knight discount on your talking Yoda. Do you;

A) Use the Force to aggravate the assistants acne?
B) Secretly install a Rancor pit under the managers office?
C) Stand in the shop and play with all the Yoda's until they all have flat batteries?

7) An anonymous lunatic stops you in the street and says he's your father. Do you;

A) Shout "NOOOOOO!!" and jump off something?
B) Offer to seduce his sister (to turn her to the Dark Side, that is)?
C) Smell his breath and say something funny, like
"Oh, well then this must be 'The Return of the Red-Eye', cider-boy!"?

8) You're in the Mersey Tunnel, and suddenly you decide you may be inside some sort of big monster. Do you;

A) Try a Vulcan mind meld? (Oh wait a minute, that's Star Trek. Ah who cares, you're probably not even reading this).
B) Jump out of the car and start shooting randomly to get a reaction from the alleged monster?
C) Tell the man in the toll booth you're not paying, and if he argues, report him to the RSPCA?

9) The gas man calls, but he may be a bounty hunter wanting to freeze you in carbonite. Do you;

A) Allow yourself to be taken, so you can get closer to the Emperor of the Gas Board, and vanquish him?
B) Release Chewbacca (your Doberman) and shout
"Protect the Princess, Chewbacca!" so the courts knows who's side your on?
C) Say
"Who needs gas! I've got the Force! Ha! How do you like them apples!" Then while he's distracted by your lunacy, shoot him?



See how you did on the Force-ometrix below!

Mostly A's: You're a decent person, and you'll never be turned. But neither will you ever have a cool costume and millions
of psychotic fans.
Mostly B's: Please replace your first name with Darth and feel free to chop off hands and use the Force to your own selfish,
amusing ends.
Mostly C's: I can't decide weather you're a half hearted Han Solo, or the sort of person who listens to Barry Norman.




Phew, What an Annoying Puzzle!


You may have noticed how easy you had it with last issues puzzle. Well, it's time to shape up! Witness now a word search that is so fiendish in it's brilliance that Mephistopheles himself has sent a hand-written letter of gratitude to Kirsty and my sadistic, evil self. As a foot note He also mentioned that He's a keen follower of pushing hands competitions. Any road up, I charge you to read the Chinese clue at the bottom, then locate it's English counterpart within the word search. How do you like them apples! You'll find a completed one somewhere near the back if you flounder. HA HA hahahahaha! See how his smiling face mocks your inadequacies! Smite his wretched confidence with your pencil of justice! Or something! If you cheat, I'll see you in ……...




Critical Condition


Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Video Series - Volume Six Tai Chi Kung
San Chai Tai Chi Academy
Running time: 58 minutes Price: £24.99
This sixth volume on Robert Poyton's yang style video series covers chi kung exercises that are specific to Tai Chi. The tape begins with a brief over-view of the aims and purposes of chi kung (qigong) before introducing the basic method of Standing Post (Zhan Zuang) which is common across many Tai Chi styles. Correct posture is covered, both external and internal, and the importance of correct mental posture is also explained. Different methods of breathing are also described. Following the basic method a six-posture version of the Standing Post is shown, plus how to make the exercise even more challenging (for the masochists amongst you!).
Of course, Tai Chi in itself is a form of qigong and Robert also shows how you can take individual postures from the form and practice them as a qigong exercise. We are then shown a specific meditation using the opening posture of the form - Wu Chi. I liked the point that is stressed throughout this tape - that these exercises are simple, but certainly not easy. That has definitely been my experience - nothing looks simpler than "standing still" for half an hour, but in fact it is very, very difficult.
The last section of the tape takes us through a moving qigong set based on the movements of the large frame Yang form. This set, as well as giving a good stretch and general body workout, emphasises the opening and closing of the main acupuncture points in the hands and feet and gets a real "energy buzz" going.
Overall I found this a very useful tape one that, as it is not working on a specific form or style, will benefit students from any background.

Review by John Cooper


Barefoot Doctors Handbook for Heroes-a spiritual guide to fame and fortune
I may not have acted like a good Taoist when I first saw this book, and I've always done my best to steer clear of clichés which is why the cover brought about a swift and brutal judgment of the contents. What you first see on the bookshelf staring back are a couple of keen attitude students in the obligatory indoor sunglasses, ill fitting Oxfam attire and strategic piercings designed to annoy over rich, uninterested parentage. That's it's bad point, and luckily for me, had I not felt obliged to cast a cursory glance over it having being lent it by a friend at Taiji, I would be less enlightened right now.
Being named Spanner, I'm in no position to be questioning the fact that the author calls himself Barefoot Doctor, but one thing stands, he
is a doctor. In a very Chinese sense of the manner, that is. He's not Chinese (I suspect he's a southerner) but he does openly display a remarkable sense of understanding the Tao. His martial arts background is impressive, being a student and teacher of the three popular Chinese internal martial arts Taiji, Pa Kua and Hsing I and appears to have done extensive research into all three. Of their history, philosophy and effective martial application he is confident and forthcoming, and should someone new to the game of internal martial arts pick up this book, he explains the true nature, benefits and reasons for practising these arts as well, if not better, than any I have read. He clears away the mysticism so the reader can truly appreciate what lies at the centre of the martial arts, and what they can expect with a little dedication.
Although I place little faith in the foundations of Tarot cards and other such divination, his directions to the authentic use such items are well laid out and fair. I won't dismiss them just yet. If I can help it! To someone who this is of interest to, I suspect it is most informative.
Unexpectedly, the chapter that really caught my attention was that of meditation. In my Kung Fu days, meditation accompanied by a good, deep horse stance was always emphasised as a very important lesson in martial arts. I may have got the hang of it, if not for the endless horse stances! But the wonderful Taoist techniques he guides you through are almost immediately effective, and progress is made quickly. I now get up half an hour early to meditate and receive a lot more benefit from Qigong.
To sum up: If you don't like this book, you're wrong. If you do, groovy baby! (See you in Oxfam!)

Review by Spanner. Book lent to Spanner by Giles Dring. Book no longer owned by Giles Dring. Spanner owned by overwhelming feeling of self satisfaction due to acquisition of book.


Directed by and starring - Jean Claude Van Damme
Written by - Frank Dux and Jean Claude Van Damme

For all those who are not interested in martial arts films, stop reading now. For those who are, watch "The Quest". It's effectively a remake of "Bloodsport", which launched Van Damme's career. If you don't already know, "Bloodsport" was a film about a no-holds-barred tournament involving the world's best fighters. It was based on the real life exploits of Frank Dux, who, incidentally, co-wrote "The Quest". The only thing about "Bloodsport" which really entertained was the mixture of different martial arts on show. It attempted to depict confrontations between different styles, and to good effect. Does anyone remember how VD managed to beat the Sumo guy? Ouch.
Anyway, "The Quest" is pretty much the same thing, only slicker. This is what I think: -

Plot. Absolutely no surprises. Quite boring really. You can safely leave your brain in neutral when you watch this film.
Directing. The Muscles from Brussels tries his hand at directing, and for the most part does a reasonable job. He's no Tarantino, but he keeps things tootling along nicely, and does very well with the tournament fights. As a bonus, we don't get bogged down with the slushy sentimentality that is often a feature of VD films. I don't know if this is VD's first directorial effort or not. If it is, then I'm quite impressed.
Acting. VD is supposed to have once said, "I'm a movie star, not an actor". Whether he said that or not, it's perfectly true. He's his usual monosyllabic self. However, the film does something quite clever. It doesn't ask its actors to fight, and it doesn't ask its fighters to act. As a result, the fight scenes are excellent and we actually end up caring about the characters. Roger Moore (yes, THE Roger Moore) plays an Aristocratic English con man, and he hams it up like a good 'un. This more than makes up for the tedious VD. There's the usual handsome wench for VD to impress which I could easily have done without. Overall, the acting in "The Quest" is not really that bad.
Jean Claude Van Damme. VD is in the best shape I've seen since his early films. Whoever did the fight choreography for this film somehow got him to make a real effort. He looks great. Ok, so he can't act, but that's not really expected of him. He also manages to spare us his usual tricks, like doing the splits, holding a kick at head height and baring his bum. (Not all at once, obviously). Personally, I think that this is his best work to date.
Fight Scenes. In the first half there are some big set pieces eating lots of budget. Nicely done, but nothing to get excited about. The really good stuff comes later, in the tournament itself. There are many fighting styles on display, and the differences are shown well. The bout between Korea and China captured my attention particularly, and Scotland's fate is pretty funny. And as for the Brazilian and African…!! Grappling arts get a raw deal, but you can't have everything. Western Boxing is shown as completely inadequate, and since this film was co-written by Frank Dux, you have to wonder if that's a deliberate statement. The final fight is a VD trademark: - he takes a real pasting from the big bad guy, then somehow finds some inner strength at the last minute and KICKS BOTTOM! This plot device has been well overused by VD, and I wish he'd pack it in. I think the final is the worst fight of the tournament.
As martial arts films go, "The Quest" is excellent. As normal films go, it's only just average. All in all, it's well worth a look.
Oh, and yes, it
is a lot better than "Bloodsport".

Review by Geoff Taylor







Part 2 - Britain's First Taiji Competition

David had prepared his students well and they smashed into their opponents, most of whom were limp wristedly standing in a single whip posture with a dreamy look on their faces. Most of these lost before they even realised they were in a fight. I had not received any martial arts training from Richard Farmer but had managed to form some connections between the unarmed combat training I had received some twenty years earlier and the forms which I had learnt from Richard and Bob. I managed to win the heavy weight section although I doubt if T'ai Chi was involved much, if at all. When the first iron handed steel worker grabbed my arms and tried to break them I threw him as far as I could and kept on in that vein for the rest of the day.
I have seen quite a lot of photographs of that competition and it is noteworthy that in every single photo I am standing on one of my opponents feet, so my techniques demonstrably owed more to the SAS and rugby field than to T'ai Chi.
Nigel Sutton and Ben Clark were also at the competition. Nigel was not competing but Ben was in another weight category to me (which he won). I did not meet either of them at that time.
Meanwhile I was running several T'ai Chi classes a week in Huddersfield and surrounding villages, teaching initially Yang's Long Form. I am delighted that so many of my students of that time are still my students and friends. In 1990, September I think, one of my students, Anna Logue suggested that I go with her to a seminar being held by Nigel in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. She felt that Nigel and I would like each other regardless of T'ai Chi and she was right. During the course of the day someone I was pushing hands with mentioned that he was hoping to go to Taiwan as part of the British Team in November of that year. Chatting to Nigel later he told me that there was a selection/training meeting in London a couple of weeks later and it was there that I met the rest of the team. I have always felt that it has greatly helped Zhong Ding as an organisation to have a team spirit at the root of the relationship between several of the members of the Technical Panel. During the course of the next few months I met Master Tan Ching Ngee who impressed me enormously.
As I recall we met at Heathrow at an unearthly hour on Tuesday morning and arrived in Taiwan at teatime on Wednesday evening. Master Tan met us at the airport and took us straight to a Karioke bar to drink and sing for eight hours. Whether he had been paid to do this by the American team I do not know but I never recovered from jet lag, compounded by heat and alcohol, for the rest of the trip. The competition was over the weekend. I got to the quarter finals but felt I should have done better. My only excuse is that I did not realise that you were allowed to use locks and throws.
Socially on the tour I spent my time with Dan Docherty who is mellower company than Ben Clark who varied between wanting to fight me or telling me he loved me like a brother.
We left Taiwan with only one injury, one of the team got a compound fracture of the nose in a night club. Dan and I were very smug because we had stayed in the hotel chatting and drinking a bottle of scotch after the beer had run out. I believe it was a novel experience for both of us to be the sensible ones.
From Taiwan we flew to Singapore and the drove up to Malaysia. There I had the great pleasure of meeting Fong's family and experiencing Chinese hospitality at first hand. In Batu Pahat we visited the local brothel where John Fowler and I did nothing more reprehensible than drink tea. I make no mention of the rest of the team.
It was therefore particularly distressing that when the police raided both the tea drinkers and those less innocent were ushered by the owners into the same room. Presumably money changed hands because the police never did find the room where fifty or so male customers crowded together in the dark, without, so far as I could judge, any girls.
Being serious martial artists we did, of course, do some T'ai Chi. Nigel and I went for a quiet drink together when we went to a T'ai Chi class to push hands against the locals. No one told me till afterwards but I was "set up" to push hands against the new Malay world champion. Relaxed as I was it was no problem to help him fall over but without twenty pints inside me it might not have been so easy.
At the time I was doing Yang's Long Form and rather cruelly the rest of the team would ask me to demonstrate whenever they wanted to drift off for two or three pints (you probably know Yang's Long Form takes twenty minutes or so to perform).
I carried on competing for a couple of years after 1990 and I think it is quite helpful. At the very best it does away with fantasy. That is, you find out how good you are. However, long term I think it hinders the learning process in that you concentrate on your strengths and the concept of "investment in loss" goes out of the window. Sooner or later, I think, you get beyond it.
I have hardly, I realise, mentioned Nigel at all in this article. I therefore close by saying that I regard him as a great friend who has had major success in bridging the gap between East and West, Zhong Ding members are greatly privileged in having access to Nigel as a teacher and the masters whom he has unselfishly made available to us. I like to think that he and I have certain characteristics in common.
What is wrong with reading Biggles?




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Daoist tradition attributes the Ba Duan Jin qigong to Chong Li Quan, one of the Eight Immortals of Chinese folk lore. I used The Way of Qigong by Kenneth S. Cohen as a reference for this article, with my own diagrams. This book comes highly recommended. I chose this qigong as Chong Li Quan is portrayed in Chinese artwork as a bald-headed, pot-bellied man with a long white beard, so if he were around today he would immediately fill most of the criteria for being a major player in the Zhong Ding ranks. The figures show the position in which each stage begins. The arrows denote how to proceed from the position shown. Please let me know if you find it easy or hard to follow.


1) Two Hands Reach Skyward to Balance the Triple Burner - This exercise gently stretches the body and balances the metabolism of the upper, middle and lower body.



1 - 1



    Feet shoulder width apart.
    Interlock fingers at the dantien.
    Circle your arms overhead.
    Stretch upward with your palms facing
    Rise up onto your toes as you stretch.


1 - 2



    Drop your hands to rest on the crown of your head.
    Feet rest flat on the ground.
    Pause for a moment.


1 - 3



    Stretch upward with your palms facing
    Rise up onto your toes as you stretch.


1 - 4



    As you drop your hands, turn them over so your palms face
    Rest your hands on the crown of your head.
    Feet rest flat on the ground.

    Pause for a moment.
    Repeat with palms alternating in direction.

2) Open the Bow as Though Shooting the Buzzard- This exercise opens the chest as the arms extend and closes it as they return, stimulating and strengthening the lungs.



2 - 1



    Begin in horse stance. Sink as low as is possible without straining the knees, letting them collapse inward or injuring them.
    Make fists with both hands and hold them at chest height with the backs of your hands touching.
    Begin inhaling.


2 - 2



    Rotate the left elbow up so the arm is parallel to the ground and the left fist is near the shoulder.
    At the same time extend the right arm out to your right and make the Buddha's hand (see diagram below) so the right palm is facing outward.
    As you extend your arm, the eyes and head follow the extended hand.
    Cease inhaling (not permanently).
    As you exhale, return to the first position.
    Repeat to the other side.





    The Buddah's Hand. Flex the wrist upward and bend the last three fingers in toward the palm leaving only the index finger and thumb extended.



3) Raise Each Arm to Regulate the Spleen- This exercise stretches the arms and opens and closes the ribs. It also massages the stomach and spleen, increasing their functionality.



3 - 1



    Feet parallel, shoulder width apart.
    Right hand is resting on the top of the head, palm
    Left hand is at the bottom of the rib cage, palm
    It is your choice whether you breath in or out with each move, but ensure to co-ordinate the breathing with the arm stretching.


3 - 2



    Push the palms away from each other, extending the arms in the direction the palm is facing.
    With the arms still extended, circle them at the sides of the body to switch their places.


3 - 3



    The hands have now switched places and you back at the first position.
    Repeat from side to side.

4) Looking Behind to Cure Fatigue and Distress - This exercise is good for working and loosening the neck muscles, improving posture (particularly the spine), stimulates cerebral blood circulation and improves vision.



4 - 1



    Arms hanging naturally at the side of the body.
    Slightly flex the wrists.
    Begin turning the head slowly from side to side.


4 - 2



    The eyes can either look in the same direction as the head, or continue in the direction the head is turning to look over the shoulder.


4 - 3



    Co-ordinate the breathing however feels natural.

5) Bending Over, Wagging the Tail to Calm Heart-Fire - This exercise aids in depleting excess "fire" cause by stress and over-work (I'm so over-worked I have to do this exercise for half my waking hours to notice any benefit). It also helps restore balance to the heart and nervous system.



5 - 1



    Begin from the horse stance with the hands on the hips/thighs with the thumbs pointing backwards.
    Inhale and turn the waist toward one thigh.
    Bend down toward that thigh and begin exhaling.


5 - 2



    Swing slowly toward the other thigh whilst still bent over.
    The body motion should be like a pendulum.


5 - 3



    When the body is over the other thigh, begin to slowly straighten the back.
    As you rise up begin inhaling.
    Continue inhaling as you return to centre, and the starting position.
    Repeat to the other side.



6) Reaching Down to Dissipate Disease - This exercise aids in depleting excess "fire" cause by stress and over-work (I'm so over-worked I have to do this exercise for half my waking hours to notice any benefit). It also helps restore balance to the heart and nervous system.



6 - 1



    Palms resting on the buttocks.
    Begin to bend down. When bending, begin with the head, then the shoulders, then chest and soon. So your back bends in a rolling motion and doesn't place any strain on itself.


6 - 2



    Let the hands slide down the backs of the legs as you bend.
    Bend down as far as is comfortable.


6 - 1



    Begin to stand upright, using the same rolling movement with the spine.
    Once upright, rise up onto the toes.
    Briefly hold your breath and imagine your body is full of Qi.

7) Punching with Angry Gaze to Increase Qi and Strength - Chinese medicine states that the eyes and a feeling of anger stimulate the liver. This helps it purify toxins and spread healing Qi more efficiently. If you aren't up to being angry, substitute it for an intense, focused gaze.



7 - 1



    Both hands in fists, palm upward on the hips.
    Elbows are pulled back behind the body.
    Eyes are looking intensely forward.
    Punch slowly with the left hand, rotating the fist so it is palm down at the end of the punch.
    Do not lock the joints when you punch.


7 - 2



    Leave a bit of a bend in the elbow.
    Pull the arm back to the starting position.
    Punch with the other arm.


7 - 3



    Repeat, punching with one arm, then the other.
    Co-ordinate the breathing with the movements however feels natural.



8) Tow Touching to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist - Though similar to ordinary toe touching, this exercise is using external movement to increase internal health. In addition to stretching the spine it works the kidneys, adrenals and lungs.



8 - 1



    Slowly bend toward the toes in the same manner as explained in Brocade No. 6.
    Move slowly so you are able to consciously relax the entire spine as you bend.
    If you are able, grasp your toes and pull your upper body closer to your legs.


8 - 2



    Once here, pause for a few seconds and breath naturally.
    Feel the compression in the front of the body and the opening of the back.
    Breath to the kidneys, as you would to the dantien.
    After exhaling, return to a standing position, inhaling as you slowly arise.



8 - 3



    Continue to inhale as you lean backwards into a 'bowed back' posture.
    Pause again, and breath naturally.
    Notice the compression in the back and the opening of the front.
    As you exhale begin bending toward your toes again, exhaling as you do.

This move completes the Ba Duan Jin. I understand that there are many variations on this theme, and that my diagrams and explanations may not be accurate to the finest detail, but I ask you to approach it in a forgiving manner. Let me know if you found the format easy or difficult to follow, as I may include a similar article in each issue if it's a success. Next issue I thought about doing the Taiji ruler. If you like the idea, or if you'd rather see something else just let me know. I'll just reiterate that most of the work for this was done by Kenneth H. Cohen in The Way of Qigong, an excellent book. If you want a copy, just ask John (Darth) Higginson.



And now……..the weather - News from the World of Internal Martial Arts

As always John Higginson has several exciting activities planned for October. On the 1st he is teaching the 13 sword secrets , a workshop designed to give students the opportunity to become familiar with handling the Jian or to build on existing skills. The course runs from 1pm - 5pm and costs £35.
To follow on from that, on the 16th and 17th he is teaching the 54 posture Jian (straight sword) form, a form handed down by the yang family to Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching. Cost is £50 for the weekend .There is a £10 discount for anyone booking both these courses together.
Samye Ling Tibetan centre is again the venue for the Tai Chi Autumn Retreat from the 22nd - 24th. Accommodation is full board. The pace of the weekend will be steady and relaxed, covering intensive practise of the tai chi form especially sensitivity and awareness. Prices start at £68/£78 for 2 days (members/non-members)
For information on any of the above contact John on 0161 860 4111


Rob Poyton is running a Healing day on the 12th of September- a one day workshop practising Chinese healing. The SCTCA is also playing host to Master Vincent Chu in September. Training will include work on the Yang Cheng Fu large frame form, pushing hands and the Pan Gu Qigong system.
Details are available from Rob Poyton on 01733 270072


The 6th annual Eurowirral Chinese martial arts tournament is being held on 12th September 1999.
Events include male full contact, pushing hands, empty hand and weapons forms. Entry is £6 per category. Further details are available from Sifu George Ho on 0151 652 3042


On the 24th October Geoff Taylor is to run a course teaching Five Ancestors stuff here in sunny Huddersfield. £15 for the day, and anyone interested can contact us here at the newsletter . Pub lunch is planned, and Geoff is a good laugh, so try and get along. If you're coming, try and let us know by the 17th Oct.


The Zhong Ding Year 2000 Grand Championships have been formalised for Sunday 20th Feb 2000 in Birmingham (same venue as last year). Keep an eye on the Zhong Ding web page ( for more info and updates. Get training!


Coming soon!! An excellent tai chi training music tape containing pieces used by Master Tan, digitally re-mastered by Zhong Ding's own Andy Hague. Prices are £4 members £6 non-members and copies can be ordered in advance from John Higginson. Sounds good!!



The Art of Talking Energy

We all hear a lot about 'Ting Jing', listening energy, but I became aware recently with the advent of my branching into teaching, that I (and many others) have also developed a large amount of 'Shuo Jing'. Talking energy. Before this gets offensive, I'll point out that I believe this is a natural development of good martial arts and a willingness to pass on one's knowledge. How this first manifests itself, however, seems to be in the form of some rather peculiar 'visualisations'. For instance, I've heard such things as "Imagine you're in a car crash, the feeling you want is the same as the motion of going through the wind screen.", "Imagine there are two car jacks inside your pelvis pushing in opposite directions", "Sink here, and then …….BA!" Ba? Visualisations are kind of like cyber-pets. When they do work, they die very quickly, until all you do is try and kill them deliberately (if you've never had one, substitute 'cyber-pet' for 'plumber'). This probably isn't entirely fair, but they do work on a statistical basis, or the concept:
"If you throw enough shit at a wall, some of it is going to stick." By this, I mean that there are so many, that eventually you
will hear one that works for you, and you'll invariably go "WOW!" and your Taiji advances dramatically. I think this is why they are so popular and also, so valuable.
I've only just branched into teaching. Nothing dramatic, just working with beginners on their form, or filling in when Craig's off working in a strip club (that's a half truth), and lo-and-behold, what's the first thing I say to them? "Imagine……" Imagine what? 'Imagine you're really, really good at Taiji and then do the form just like the Masters.' Very helpful, I'm sure. So how better to begin? There are two options, I suppose;
1) Set them off on the right path, and get them to repeat your every move and twitch so they learn the form in your own image. This way they don't develop too many bad habits.
2) Roughly guide them through each move without filling their heads with details. They'll get going faster, and will already be making it their own form.
When Ian Gillespie taught me the form, he operated with the latter system. I now think this is a preferable method, but at the time, I wanted someone to say "Yes, you're doing that correctly" or "No, do it like this." I realise now, there is no definite right or wrong, which is why Ian never pressured anyone to do the form
his way.
I recently watched an Erle Montaigue video, in which he was teaching how to internalise forms. His approach was very effective for me. He did each move very exaggerated, and explained that the large movements were done
internally and this external over- emphasis was the feeling one should gain. He then shows what the form looks like done 'correctly' (that's in inverted comma's as we've already established about right and wrong), and he practically stood still for fifteen minutes between explosions!
"Begin doing the large movements and gradually internalise them until you find your not moving very much on the outside." When I read this, it seems a very obvious statement and is probably what most people would do anyway. But it's unusual to hear in such plain terms, and I suspect that Erle was tempted to try and explain what was going on inside him and fall into visualisation territory, but it would only really make sense to someone who had
also experienced it, and they would have their own way of explaining it themselves. It made the video a highly condensed, intensive education, and Erle explained himself better with less words.
Of course, shuo jing is not just in use by instructors with their visualisations, but, for instance, this newsletter would never have come into being without a lot of shuo jing, and neither would have the Tao Te Ching, Roots and Branches or The Cat in the Hat. All philosophy is a form of carefully condensed shuo jing. The little snippets of peoples lives and thoughts that shows profound wisdom is in the unlikeliest of places. Children, drunks, asylums (yes, I've worked in more than I care to!) or prisons are all vast libraries of wisdom and advice if one is open to it. I wish I could print one of the captions an inmate had written next to his cell door in Armley Prison, but he did say something else that made me smile. By the way, I was in there fitting TV sockets in the cells, no other reason.
"The lights are low voltage, the sheets tear, I haven't got any shoe laces and even the paint's lead free so you can't lick the walls to death!" Wonderful that someone can keep such a focused mind and a sense of jovial wisdom in the face of such a morbid existence. I don't sympathise too much with the criminal, I believe if you commit the crime, don't complain when you get caught, but I do admire that man. His crime may have been horrific for all I know, but it's not for me to condemn him. My sister believes in corporal punishment, and so would I, but for meeting this man, and I also recall a golden nugget of shuo jing in the Lord of the Rings. Frodo tells Gandalf how he wishes he'd killed Smeagol last time he saw him. Gandalf replied:
"Do you indeed! Tell me, do you have the power to
give him life?"
"Then you shouldn't be so quick to take it!"
I collect these one-liners of philosophy, such that our computer monitor now looks more like a fat, fluffy chicken it's got so many post-it notes stuck to it! It's from these that I gleam
my philosophies, and the reason that my philosophies change so much! I also find myself quoting them at people all the time. I think I do this because the ones I remember are the ones that make sense to me, my 'philosophical visualisations'. This form of shuo jing is no different in it's capacity to bewilder and confuse whoever is receiving it, yet on hearing one that helps explains one of life's quirks, it sticks with you and alters your psyche that bit more. So where do these inspired guides to living come from? I suspect it isn't from the enlightened mind that it appears to be when it's nicely laid out in the Doing the Tao pages. It's my firm belief that Socrates was laid out drunk in the streets when a copper asked him who he was and where he lived.
"My only knowledge is of how little I know, Oshiffer."
The police man returns to the station with a soused toga-bloke under his arm, writes that little snippet of shuo jing on a post-it note and sticks on his computer monitor. Thousands of years later, Socrates is the father of modern philosophy and we never hear about his drinking problem! I bet Plato was just the bartender!
Fortunately, I have witnessed shuo jing taken to a very internal level and become a most powerful tool. One such person to have internalised their shuo jing is Master Liang. He came to Huddersfield and taught us that 'happy and relaxed straight walking stick form' in two hours, after three pints and all without speaking English! It just seemed as though he didn't need to!
Another time was when I've spoken to a deaf and dumb bloke. It wasn't so much as
I was able to get my point across, but more a case of how he was used to dealing with people who can hear. He couldn't speak and I couldn't sign, but he told me how he was a teacher at a local college and I told him how to operate the door entry system I was there to install. He even started telling me jokes!
So I guess that although we hear a lot of shuo jing and a lot of it doesn't make sense at the time, we need to develop our
ting jing to a point where we are able to follow it. From there, we may be able to develop our own shuo jing and know when it's required.
Alas, my pages run out, like so many ferrets up a trouser leg, and I grasp for some way to conclude.
I think all I can say is that shuo jing is much harder to master than ting jing because we try to develop it by finding more, rather than getting the best from what we already have!
P.S. Please ignore the irony of rabitting on for ages about not talking so much



Lo! Felicitations good Sir Surf-a-lot! Yay, let us gather round the virtual camp fire and tell sad stories of computers long crashed, and spit vitriol twix the knave and charlatan Bill Gates and his ignoble bank account! Verily, he is rich, and vast is our resentment!




The internet's had a good stomping this month from the Taiji community. First off, the official Zhong Ding web site has been moved to it's own domain name of Don't miss out the hyphen or you'll find yourself looking at a Chinese engineering company. Brian Woodruff has orchestrated the changeover, and he was so kind, he sorted it so I can now be contacted on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Taiji guru Rob Poyton has done likewise, and the San Chai Tai Chi Academy can now be found at It's revamped, updated and now includes a secure on-line ordering service! Don't know how these blokes find the time!


Why Yawning Is Contagious: You yawn to equalise the pressure on your eardrums. This pressure change outside your eardrums unbalances other people's ear pressures, so they must yawn to even it out.


Relax and Win


Local Tai Chi practitioners Tony Ulatowski, Nick Poaros and Dean Dalrymple won a hat full of meddles at this year's British Council for Chinese Martial Arts National Championship. Early on Saturday 3rd July competitors from all over the country converged upon a hot and humid Warwick University to challenge for prizes in various categories including form work, weapons and two persons events. Whitton based hair stylist Tony (40), and chief instructor at the Teddington and Hampton Wick Zhong Ding schools of Tai Chi, won a silver in the push hands competition. Nick (31), a self-employed computer software engineer, and Dean (35), a physiotherapy assistant at Kingston Hospital, secured a silver and bronze apiece in their respective weight categories.
Later in the day, Tony gained a well deserved bronze in the stiffly challenged Traditional Short Weapons event, while Dean came away with another bronze for the Tai Chi Sword. A jubilant Tony summed up the team's performance by saying, "We've done really well here and congratulations to everyone, but what's more important is that our relaxed approach to the art of Tai Chi has paid off."



Exposed to the Elements

Taking Muppet-voiced Bob Dylan at his word when he sings,
"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,"
I decided recently to step out and let the elements ( Chinese style) do what ever they may.
I would trust to the simplicity of intuition and not get caught up in convoluted spiral logic or methods of relating times of day to acupuncture points to internal organs to colours to sounds to.... death strikes! So armed with very little knowledge I set out to the local park one summer's day to explore Earth, Wind, Fire and Water.
I must emphasise the following comments are observations and interpretations of my own experiences.
My starting point was a simple observation: 'Different weapon forms have their own distinctive feel.'
The staff form immediately focused me on Earth. The physical weight of the staff heightened my awareness of my root.
The straight sword, I found, has a light, loose and delicate character, which immediately made me think of air or wind. I found myself focusing on the joints in my body, expanding them, metaphorically speaking, with the wind.
The stick or cane form I do in a more energetic, even athletic manner, than the other two weapons. There's a definite Fire element to it. The fire is moving in all directions and its focus is in the dantien and waste movements.
At this point I ran out of weapons. But what about Water! I decided to run through the open hand form once for each element, including Water.
Earth ~ focus on root and being 'song' (relaxed).
Wind ~ focus on air and space in the joints.
Fire ~ focus on the dantien.
Water ~ focus on co-ordinating all the movements. Let it flow. Dong Dang (? Swing and Return).

Well there you have it. No great insights really when you see it written down. The
experience of the elements is of course, like other visualisation techniques, another matter.
Since my experiment in the park I've dabbled in sitting meditation with the elements on the train to work and walking meditation but I shan't bore you further.
I'm aware that other elements such as Wood, Metal and even Void (wherein all the elements of Elements come together) are lurking out there somewhere but they'll have to wait for a rainy day.
As I indicated earlier, my point of contact with the Elements is one of practical application with Tai Chi movement and experience. To this end the Elements provides a very neat pocket sized reference to experiencing the body. What next? If anybody out there has any comments observations or book/article references then please let me or (The) Spanner know.


By Dean Dalrymple



What Weapon and Why?


In June, when the moon was still young, I sent out a census to all the Zhong Ding big guys asking them about weapons in Taiji. I won't bang on about it too much, just give you what they gave me. Let's rock!


1) What's your favourite weapon?


BOB WESLEY: "Straight sword."


VINCENT JONES: "Rather unkindly, my fencing master at school one day said: "Mr Jones, the epée is for gentlemen. I think you should concentrate on the sabre." Nevertheless, the weapon that makes me feel most in touch with Taiji, is the Jian. Overall, though, I come down strongly in favour of the staff. "


VICKY HOLDEN: "I haven't got a favourite - I like 'em all!"


CRAIG JACKSON: "Walking stick."


JOHN FOWLER: "Probably staff/spear. I also like the broadsword, in fact all weapons!"


2) Why is that your favourite?


BOB WESLEY: "Very calming."


VINCENT JONES: "The moves you make with the staff have a tremendous correlation with the applications contained in the form and San Shou, but you are doing them with a weight."


VICKY HOLDEN: "N/A - each has a different characteristic that appeals to me."


CRAIG JACKSON: "Accessible, inconspicuous, lightweight, cheap. Nice fashion accessory for


JOHN FOWLER: "I particularly like the staff/spear forms, they teach you a different distance to work with."


3) Do you practice fighting with it a lot, or do you prefer to spend time perfecting it's form?


BOB WESLEY: "Perfecting."


VINCENT JONES: See following entries.


VICKY HOLDEN: "Both are necessary, and I enjoy doing both. It's no use practicing the empty shapes of a form if you don't study its practical use as well."


CRAIG JACKSON: "I enjoy practising applications and try to as much as I can, but at the moment I'm working on the forms"


JOHN FOWLER: "I practice both forms and two person training a lot, from sticking to applications."


4) What has been it's effect on the rest of your Taiji?


BOB WESLEY:"A sense of connection between the waist and the wrists and an extension of awareness."


VINCENT JONES: "The moves you make with the staff have a tremendous correlation with the applications contained in the form and San Shou, but you are doing them with a weight. The importance of weapons forms are that they build up your strength and increase agility. This goes double for the staff. I take the view that staff (and all weapons training) strengthens not so much the muscles as the ligaments ie. steel in cotton wool."


VICKY HOLDEN:"Enormous! Longer stances, faster footwork, greater accuracy, better use of the waist, more focus - the list is endless!"


CRAIG JACKSON: "From a form point of view, it's nice to practice because it gives you a nice aerobic exercise and I feel that also helps with footwork. Also because it's a blunt weapon, when I'm using it I have more confidence whilst practicing applications and can relax more than wielding a metal or sharp weapon."


JOHN FOWLER: "As mentioned earlier, I feel each weapon teaches different distance and timing awareness. It always amazes me how much power can be generated using the waist correctly with the staff."


5) How would you recommend people proceed with weapons training?


BOB WESLEY: "Try to get the basic shape of the form."


VINCENT JONES:"As well as doing forms I recommend two practices. I spend a lot of time hitting a car tire hanging from on of my apple trees. This not only strengthens the wrists, arms and body but also cheers me up quite quickly after a bad day at work.
The second thing I recommend is picking three or four of your favourite staff moves (e.g. thrusting, sweeping and "hay-pitching") and doing each of them, say, two hundred times on one side and then two hundred times the other way around. Then build up the repetitions by one hundred a day. Before the World Championships in 1990 I made it a practice to do three thousand repetitions a day because, as I said above, it is most helpful training for pushing hands.
When practising it is important to get energy to the striking end of the staff on every move and it is more helpful to do fifty strikes in which you do this than one hundred in which you do not. Therefore do not turn your practice into a cardiovascular test in which you are rushing to get finished."


VICKY HOLDEN:"Broadsword is probably a good place to start, as it is the easiest to learn. But resist the temptation to simply learn form after form - spend some time taking the lessons you learn from each weapon back to your hand form, and vice versa."


CRAIG JACKSON:"Most Zhong Ding instructors know at least one stick form. So I would say first find an instructor. He/she will know how to get their hands on walking sticks/canes. But even if they don't know a stick form I find that the application of the stick is similar to the jian so they could learn how to use a straight sword and then apply the principles to a stick."


JOHN FOWLER:"I think practising applications and training is very important, to get the feel of how the weapon works. Also the two blocks and thrust combination of the spear should be practiced regularly for fa jing training."




6) Are weapons necessary to Taiji?


BOB WESLEY: "Each weapon highlights a certain aspect or function in the form, be it foot work or waist movement. If the weapon is not balanced or comfortable something is probably


VINCENT JONES: "From a Taiji point of view, I think it is important to remember that you are the weapon. In almost every weapon form, one of the earliest moves is a punch or a strike. The forms usually contain kicks (or at least moves that would facilitate a kick) the empty hand is often in a position to help your opponent loose his balance or to grasp him or his weapon prior to the strike with your own. We are not fencers or boxers relying only on our weapon or a small area of our hands. We are training to fight using (possibly) a weapon but our technique is equally valid and quite unchanging whether we are using a knife, a Guinness bottle, s sword or a ridgehand. Having disturbed your opponents balance you can turn your dantien left or right and strike with a weapon or a part of your body, the technique remains the same. The legal consequences, of course, might vary."


VICKY HOLDEN: "Yes! You can't kid yourself (or anyone else!) about the quality of what you are doing with a weapon in your hand. If your empty hand placement is an inch or two out, it will be at least a foot out at the other end of a seven-foot spear! When practicing, you might argue whether or not an opponent's hand technique would actually have done any damage to your arm, whereas an accurately-placed blade would have removed your arm!


CRAIG JACKSON: "When I was a beginner, I couldn't wait to get my hands on any sword or stick/staff but once I did I thought that they were to Taiji what cakes are to diets. But after a few years I have found that most of my empty hand form corrections have come from weapons training. I now think that weapons are very necessary. They teach various skills such as timing, focus, distance, confidence and also build up 'gung fu'. If someone can do five hundred broadsword coils and then five hundred spear exercises without complaining, then their mental training is getting somewhere."


JOHN FOWLER:I think there are very important. Each weapon and improve with the aspects of your Taiji. For instance the broadsword emphasizes the waist, which helps students understand what their waist should be doing in the solo form.


7) Additional information you think may be interesting or important?


BOB WESLEY: "Sex is very important in life." (No Bob, I said important. Not
impotent! -


VINCENT JONES: "I make only two recommendations in the matter of staffs. Firstly, use the heaviest staff you can cope with. Secondly, keep a separate, tatty old staff for hitting your tire with because you will get black rubber marks all over it. I rarely train with someone else using a staff. Something not entirely safe for others comes over me when I face someone with a staff in my hands and it just doesn't seem like a good idea. This does not happen with any other form of training or weapon. I suspect it is some kind of reincarnation throwback."


VICKY HOLDEN:"Longquan broadswords and straight swords are better than the chrome-plated or aluminum varieties, and come in different blade lengths (26"/28"/30"/32" etc), however the shorter lengths can be difficult to get hold of. Good martial arts shops often stock these, but you may have to wait for some time as deliveries from the Far East can be patchy. Staffs (& spears) - white wax wood is generally the most resilient type."


JOHN FOWLER: "There has been a lot of talk recently about whether students should stick to a couple forms, or 'collect' many over the years and maybe forget some. I am one of the lucky ones who once I know a form I tend to remember it. (My memory for everything else in life is terrible, it's must be full of Taiji forms!!).
I think it's very important to learn a form thoroughly before moving on, and to practice it often, but those who say stick to that, I feel are missing the point. Each form is a tool to help you understand how to use that weapon. Ask anyone who has forgotten parts of a broadsword form for instance, and I'll bet they remember the moves that were different from the other broadsword forms they know. Also, learning something new is what it's all about. Having Fun!"


8) Thanks.


VICKY HOLDEN: "Your welcome!"


Wow! Now we're informed! Thanks very much to the guys that helped me out with this one. The reaction was very positive, so I think I'll include a census each issue. If you have an idea for one, please write out your questions and send them to me (Spanner), and I'll formulate it and send it out. Let me know how helpful/informative you found this to be, and please give some thought to the next one. Even if you don't write out a load of questions, just let me have the idea. Thanks again to Bob Wesley, Vincent Jones, Vicky Holden, Craig Jackson and John Fowler. Yeah Baby!




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Thanks to everyone who contributed, you are a beacon to all else! Please send in some more stuff, you're doing a great job of making this a quality mag. Well, I'm off back to my mansion for some champagne and caviar, while you go and fill in the Evil Word Search with the solution below! Cheers and zaijian!


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