I have learned through painful experience that partner work and physical corrections make up a potentially very sensitive subject – martial arts people will probably wonder why I am bothering to write about this at all – whereas beginners or people with no experience of interpersonal physical activity may well recoil that I even dream of writing about it – let alone speak of it as normal, when they may well find the prospect completely frightening, foreign, unnecessary, invasive and more – especially if it involves touch across the gender line. If that is you please bear with me and understand that this is one of those deeply personal subjects that spans very divergent extremes.

You may be someone who emotionally or for religious reasons avoids interpersonal contact completely – or you may be a martial artist or sports person into wrestling, dancing or similar, to whom close/intimate contact with strangers is normal, necessary and an important learning tool. So this piece is intended to address those people more toward the avoiding end of the spectrum with the hope that you may be somewhat reassured and perhaps even encouraged.

Humans are a social species with close personal contact ingrained in our psyche from ancient ancestral grooming and physical closeness in communal living. This is something our modern society has led us to draw away from in recent generations. It is also something associated with our vulnerability and our sexuality – so today many of us do not comfortably interact with close touch especially with strangers in public even in a relatively controlled group environment. Nonetheless when we see a child or adult crying (especially close family or friend) our first, and natural response is usually to make some sort of physical contact – maybe to hug, kiss or massage it better.

We need to remember our ancestral roots and the physical communication that is such a fundamental part of our species existence. Interestingly once people cross that intellectual fear barrier they generally become quite comfortable with partner work and physical correction – as they come to understand it’s benefits and how physical interaction forms an essential part of the healing and learning processes – especially with an internal art such as Tai Chi.

Personally I was brought up in a family both distant and smothering derived from post Victorian parenting – which led to a very conflicted view of this subject, but now with the perspective of martial arts training since 1971 it is really not a problem, except in judging and dealing with the extent to which students – especially female beginners – are comfortable with this vitally important aspect of Tai Chi. Issues of pain, responsibility, respect, appropriateness and intimidation are replaced by the benefits of enhanced awareness, clearer understanding, easier trust on many levels, the use of pain signals in learning and healing as well as an appreciation of how physical communication can enhance relationships by grounding and bonding the partners

Not only is touch an extremely quick way to communicate, it is also a very reliable way that can communicate many things words are completely incapable of conveying – we should remember that words after all only make up 30% of communication – visually physical and tonal voice cues generally make up the remaining 70% – until we factor in touch which often overrides all the rest – try closing your eyes and moving around a bit. It is difficult to lie with touch or physical expression, whereas words and intellectual models are not only inaccurate but make lying easy and common.

Clearly this is a much bigger subject than a few martial artists training together – if you do not include partner work in your training you will be missing out on the very core of Tai Chi and risk being blinded by lack of understanding that goes with the un-knowingness of simply not having the experience. Fears are involved here so I would strongly urge Tai Chi practitioners – actually probably everybody – to look at what is stopping them from dealing with them. If you choose not to that is fine – it is your choice, but in my view a severley limiting one.



I came across this recently – it seems quite a credible piece so I thought I’d share it:

In a study recently published by the Journal of Alzheimer s Disease, it shows that in a clinical trial, Tai Chi/Taiji was proven that it actually helped seniors to grow their brain size. Improvements also were observed in several neuropsychological measures, which are indicative that the onset of the Alzheimer s disease may be delayed with Tai Chi practice.


One of my students has a long standing lower back condition which flared up recently to the point that his doctor thought he had slipped a disc – after a couple of weeks rest he came with a few others of the group to my teacher Karel Koskuba for a 3 hour seminar. Before we got started a couple of other students mentioned their own back problems – so we spent at least the first hour working on a very slow exercise for the back.

The other day I asked how his back problem was doing and this was the reply:

“The back is doing very well thank you.

The Karel visit really did the trick, and motivated me to get back to my training, because I was very nervous about putting any strain on my back.

The chat we had with Karel on standing triggered some thinking, as did the small slow movement over time.

As a result I was standing on Tuesday morning, and about 15 minutes in I noticed a small horizontal muscle group in my lower back was tense, I relaxed it, no idea how, and immediately the hips dropped forward. The back straitened, sciatica disappeared completely, and the tension in my right knee went.

I did 30 minutes standing and felt I could have carried on for another 30 minutes – totally relaxed.

What I’ve noticed now is that my chest is tense, not relaxed and not connected to the rest of me and feels like it’s limiting my breathing – something else to work on next.

– I haven’t had many breakthroughs as big as this and it was a bit of a shocker at the time 🙂 “

The Letchworth Centre for Healthy Living hosts Tai Chi for GolfMy friends and colleagues at The Letchworth Centre for Healthy Living have put together an excellent review of medical reports on the statistically significant effects reported in medical studies attributed to the practice of Tai Chi.

These include:

“Better physical and mental health statuses, lower blood pressure, less mood disturbance, more positive mood states”,

“Breast Cancer survivors: significant improvements in health-related quality of life and self-esteem”

“statistically significant improvement in self-assessed health of women aged 72 to 96”

and many many more – including bone density, cardiorespiratory function, lipid profile, sleep quality, Fibromyalgia symptoms, balance and blood presure – read the whole document here.

Into Mountains, Over Streams – Journal of Internal Arts and Culture

8 November 2013

My thanks to the publication – “Into Mountains, Over Streams – Journal of Internal Arts and Culture” for republishing one of my articles “Body Mapping Chi, & Muscle Power” – more than my article itself the journal is well worth a look as it covers a wealth of material on healing, internal practices, meditation etc. Share the […]

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Tai Chi Papers from The American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

3 July 2013

I recently came across a whole range of papers about Tai Chi for health in The American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation – all positive stuff and worth a read. Subjects include : Tai Chi for Stroke Rehabilitation Tai Chi Treatment for Depression in Chinese Americans Evaluating the Safety and Potential Use of A […]

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Mindfulness and bad backs!

7 March 2012

There is quite a resurgance of interest at the moment about Mindfulness – something at the heart of Tai Chi – so I have put a few thoughts together in a short article – click here to download. In much the same way I keep coming across issues of bad backs – so a few simple thoughts […]

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Magic bullet Tai Chi

7 November 2011

Tai Chi is becoming very popular these days and it seems to me that there is something of the “magic bullet” about the way Tai Chi is regarded – a bit like going to the doctor – “take this course of Tai Chi and everything will be better” – indeed 16 weeks or whatever of […]

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