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The Missing Years

Jesus Christ, one of the great figures of world history, went missing for 18 years. From the age of 12 through to 30, nobody knows what Jesus was doing, where, or with whom. Nobody. John Prine wrote a great song about it; 'Jesus the Missing Years.'

My sifu's main master was a man called Qi Minxuan. He came from and returned to a land-owning [rich and a Communist party target] family from obscure North China. Details are in 'Instant Tao'. His 'missing years came before, during and after his 3 year Hong Kong sojourn.

He didn't win any competitions, didn't write any books, we have no film or photos of him. As far as I know, no-one who ever knew him is left alive and no-one heard anything of him since 1949 when he left Hong Kong for his rural homeland entrusting his art to a 19 year old peasant practitioner of Southern Boxing and Wu Family Tai Chi, named Cheng Ngar-man [he later changed his name to the more auspicious 'Cheng Tin-hung'] from the Guangdong village of Sanxiang. The kid was self educated and smart. He beat the 3 times middleweight Leitai champion in Taiwan. He wrote books. He left plenty of photos and films behind. 

He had his missing years too, but the Taiwan tournament changed it all.


Some 26 years after Qi left, a 21 year old kid law graduate from Glasgow University and Shodan from the Glasgow Karate Academy turned up at the Royal Hong Kong Police Training School on June 14, 1975 .The kid made friends with a good man called George Button, an Aikido master, Chief Physical Training Instructor, who had trained in Sanshou and Tuishou with the kid from Sanxiang. When he learned from the Glaswegian former karate kid turned Recruit Police Inspector that he'd come to Hong Kong to learn Tai Chi, he gave an introduction. It opened all the doors.

The kid has had his missing years too. He became well known in Hong Kong but left Glasgow in obscurity and came to London to start teaching Tai Chi from ground zero. What did the kid do during the missing years. He drank whisky; he drank cognac. He met some nice ladies; some not so nice. Mostly he practiced, he read books. He kept the faith. He had no money and few friends to speak of during the missing years. He had something more important. Something that he was good at; something he liked; something whereby he could earn an honest living; something that was beneficial to society.

If you have any missing years, past, present or future, then treasure them.

Man and the Animals


At the recent health forum  held in Telford to mark the 25th anniversary of the TCUGB,and organized by Faye Yip of the British Health Qigong Association, I met and interviewed Professor Yu Ding Hai 虞定海 from Shanghai Sports University. He is a man with extensive martial art training, teaching and research experience, He is also the creator of Health Qigong Wu Qin Xi and had agreed to visit  the UK for the first time to support the British Health Qigong Association’s Instructor Course in May 2015. 


Infirmity  in old age, Professor Yu told us, was one of the major problems  faced by society and Qigong was a very good way of dealing with it. He then went elegantly through the moves of the  5 Animal Frolic. The physician Hua Tuo (c.140-208 AD) is said to be the creator of  the  original 5 Animal Frolic . The animals are the   deer, tiger, ape, bear and bird.


The exercises show the characteristics of each animal; the fierceness of the tiger, the peacefulness of the deer, the calmness of the bear, the agility of the ape, and   the lightness of the bird. The professor showed good humour and  struck a rapport with the audience as they frolicked.


I had a chat with Professor Yu afterwards. He told me that in his opinion the term Qigong referred to the training/ exercise being done while the term Neigong was used when the adept had internalised the method and was thus doing it at a higher level with spirit and intent.


Empty Force also came up during the discussion. Professor Yu said he had never seen convincing demonstration of ‘empty force, except in the movies and when  masters used it on compliant students.


Professor Yu said he had not gone through Bai Shi initiation nor did he take on disciples in this way. In the old society it was a restraint of trade  whereby masters protected their livelihood. Though he conceded it had made a comeback in recent years. 


 We also discussed the subject of ‘Zou huo ru mo’ [Walk fire enter demon] which refers to incorrect or dangerous Qigong practise leading to nasty side-effects (enter demon). Professor Yu said that this normally happened when people tried to go too far too soon  and there was a specially trained group of experts who tried to cure adepts afflicted with this problems, though some are beyond help.


I hope, with Faye’s assistance, to bring this excellent person to the UK again and introduce him to a wider audience.