It occurs to me that the learning which takes place in a class is very different to that which we experience practicing alone – both are important but we tend to prioritise the class or one to one tutorial because we see that as a “proper learning” environment – after all if we are being taught then that means we must be learning – right?

Not necessarily – practising alone for long periods – that is the “in the wilderness” part – is vital to allow our subconscious body/mind to sort out the pieces and to develop new patterns in a kind of meditation – making sense of what we already know without the confusion of taking in new material all the time. It allows us to consolidate everything we have learned to date and understand the truth of that old saying that ” the whole is greater than the sum of  its parts”

This lockdown has enforced a period in the wilderness for all of us – and I for one have found it beneficial – so please embrace the alone time and be at ease with the wilderness.

Hysteria vs reality – our current viral pandemic reminds me somewhat of those online viruses where the message itself is the virus and we all get panicked thinking that there is a danger we cannot see. The same is true of Tai Chi where our own worst enemy is our fight, flight, freeze reaction which can achieve comparable levels of hysteria in the individual to those we see writ large around the globe in whole populations, fueled by lack of attention to understanding reality.

This came up in conversation recently with my teacher Karel Koskuba in discussing how one progresses in Tai Chi – this constant process of practicing and noticing – paying attention to small things and following them – until suddenly there is a realisation of significant change and that something previously impossible is now relaxed, natural – almost easy.

A process which seemingly continues in successive cycles……………….until it doesn’t.



When I practice alone I have the freedom to work without a teacher – that is to say without anybody actively correcting me – I have the freedom to make mistakes and to try “the wrong ” way of doing and sometimes this really pays off. Because I paid attention at the time all my teachers and lessons are memorised  inside me and by going “off piste” I am not questioning them but rather I am questioning my original interpretation of what I thought they were saying or doing – it is amazing how often I got it wrong all those years ago and now suddenly realise what it was they were really trying to teach.

What can I say I am a slow learner!

I find it a bit like being lost without realising it because everything is so familiar, so habitual, in such a comfortable rut – I need to look around and try a new direction in order to find the right path again. We all get delusional sometimes and just doing the same old thing yields the same results – which generally can be a good thing but we can easily veer off in without realising it so it can be worth shaking yourself up and trying some different things. Remember the lesson and try to look for different possibilities than the one you have been focusing on.

The snowglobe of life needs shaking up occasionally so it can settle into a new pattern.

Paying attention

19 March 2020

Paying attention is probably the single most important aspect of learning Tai Chi at any level. Paying attention on a forensic level is vital but extremely difficult and something few in present society are comfortable with – it is a skill in it’s own right, from observing the teacher to observing ourselves and then to […]

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Tai Chi – globalisation and the effect of cultural niches in the social multiverse

4 March 2020
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Seen world-wide it is observable that special interest groups have their own mores, practices, language (jargon) and social norms which are often quite foreign to outsiders who occasionally enter them, either out of need or curiosity. We see this in our interactions with the professions of medicine, teaching, law and so forth – when visited […]

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Martial arts and caring for people the Tai Chi way

22 February 2020
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Tai Chi has much to teach us about life and caring for others, for example: Intention – in caring for others we seek to support them when they are about to fall, to help them get up and to heal. In conflict we become destructive and seek to unbalance the other with a view to […]

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Areas of learning in Martial Arts

19 March 2017

Every now and again ( 10 years or so) I ask myself “why am I practicing martial arts?” and usually I get a fairly simple answer – this time I am grateful to a student who prompted me to ask it once again and this time to come up with a very much more complicated […]

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Healthy Movement From Tai Chi & Alexander Technique

30 January 2017
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The following article was recently published by Kindred Spirit magazine: Over my many years of studying and teaching Tai Chi I have recognised that much of individual movement stems from habit – we learn to walk at around 1 year old and then pay it little attention to it until some 60 or so years later when, […]

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Tai Chi and Alexander Technique at Letchworth

6 January 2017
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Once again in 2017 I am partnering with my friend and colleague Judy Hammond to present a series of seminars at the Letchworth Centre for Healthy Living.  See here for details. Share the post “Tai Chi and Alexander Technique at Letchworth” FacebookTwitterLinkedInE-mail

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