AL DORAN - MARTIAL ARTS COMMANDO
I last played rugby when I was 16. I quit because in a game with fellow students, I ended up at...
1. How (and when) did you start?
I started martial arts in Capetown South Africa in 1983 with a former Rhodesian Army Combat Trainer. Along with military techniques he taught Wing Chun, Shaolin system and Yang style tai chi strictly for health. I insisted that I wanted to learn
tai chi as a martial art, so every Friday night I went to free sparring at the school and got properly tuned up while I tried to figure out how the 'form' could be put into practice. I've always been something of a global wonderer so I bump into
interesting people here and there who give me a small slice of something practical to incorporate into my practice, be that martial or meditation.
2. Why Practical Tai Chi Chuan?
In 1991 I moved to the UK and a few months later competed in the British Open. The first time I met Dan Docherty was when he handed me a trophy and shook my hand. I had interviewed a number of UK teachers looking for a mentor, but Dan was the first one I met who gave me the straight goods and unabashedly pointed out my strengths and weakness with no BS or attitude attached. I was instantly drawn to his no nonsense, effective approach. He had the full package. I have a self preservation vs a fighters personality, but having lived in many dangerous parts of the world often working with hard core at risk youth, former child soldiers and gang members it's been helpful to be able to defend myself and keep others safe, that's why PTCC has remained my 'go to'.
3. What is your favourite technique - and why? (in 50 words)
Since I train solo much of the time, I focus more on preparedness and principal rather than on specific techniques. I also practice using tai chi on the ground and using a machete. In my last full on confrontation, (working as a bar manager) at age 59 I found that 'grasping birds tail' exactly as it is in the form makes a beautiful front standing guillotine. I'd never trained it or taught it as such, it just flowed from principle to practical. I'll have to post a demo of that at some point.
4. One piece of advice or knowledge you would like to give to fellow practitioners:
Tai Chi has sometimes been called the long game. That for me is a clue. Over the years and decades, experience, perceptions, and physicality change. Keep training, but don't hesitate to change things up, more philosophy, more partner training, more nei kung, more mediation. Getting stuck in a routine that's not working for you is a recipe of killing enthusiasm and therefore regularity. Keep it fresh, read more, do research, write poetry, punch a heavy bag. Do what it takes to keep yourself inspired.
5. How do you train now?
In part due to the remoteness of where I live, I teach mostly private students and run a free open class at a warehouse with local carpenters and office staff once a week. For my personal work I focus on nei kung, sabre using a machete, and I
recently created a 64 step medium form that would fit in my training room but use all the postures of the long form. I study my fellow practitioners on YouTube and try to improve my art, and study Dan's writings. There's never enough time!
Born in Canada 1953, year of the snake:
Wise, charming, teacher/philosopher.
My primary work focus for 40 yrs was that of wilderness educator/guide. That gave me the means to travel extensively and live in many different countries and cultures.
In doing so I rubbed shoulders with a wide variety of disciplines. In the UK, between expeditions, I worked with fellow PTCC practitioner Bill Bird making hand crafted boots and started Jadestone Tai Chi School in the Cotswolds now run by the
talented Danny Blyth. In South Africa I worked with ghetto (township) youth and guided the Kalahari Desert. In Guatemala I ran one on one tai chi and mediation retreats along with running my farm. In Alaska I was a guide for the U.S. National
Science Foundation and in the midnight sun taught 'tai chi on the tundra' to scientists and post grad students. I've now returned to Canada after a 33 year absents and swing a hammer as a working carpenter.
I'm currently learning to readjust my training due to a work related injury causing arthritic type like pain in my wrists. This makes pushing hands, punching a bag even twirling a sabre quite painful. Like all of life, it's modify, invent, create.
I am endlessly grateful to Dan and my PTCC brothers and sister. Practicing nei Kung at 12,000 plus ft regularly as I did for many years while guiding, along with carrying monster packs has kept me in shape for my senior years. Though my lifestyle is slowing down a bit lately, my heart is still fully in the long game. Thanks to you all.