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 in 1995, when I was a PhD student in Montpellier in the south of France. Dragging me out of my beloved library one day, well-meaning neighbours managed to take me to the taichi academy of Chau Wei-son, a direct student of Cheng Tin-hung based in Montpellier. I must confess I went there grudgingly, half expecting to see a crazy sect of new-age hippies led by some exotic guru. Of course what I came across was a million miles away from that kind of scenario, and the no frills approach of the instructor to the practical side of the art got me hooked immediately. I stayed at that club for five wonderful years, practicing three to four evenings every week. Moving to Paris and a permanent job in 2000, I looked for the same style and the same sense of discipline, and was lucky to come across elder brother Phil Brown who had been the first to introduce Wudang classes in Paris a decade before. Through him and his former students, I met Dan Docherty who generously accepted me as an inside-the-door student in 2001. Et voilà!
2. Why Practical Tai Chi Chuan?
First love, true love. Not expecting anything grand when first attending a taichi class, I had the pleasant surprise of finding a system that is so complete while making itself realistically available to the majority, as long as you practice regularly and sensibly. I liked the holistic approach that right away linked health and philosophical aspects to martial ones, with applications and partner work offered to every beginner in a no-nonsense way. I found the more gymnastic weapon forms a welcome addition, balancing the slower and gentler hand form. But above all, what I preferred and still treasure as the greatest asset of this style is our excellent nei-gong system of internal exercises. I was lucky to be taught the full 24 exercises relatively early into my practice by my first teacher, and those were the first things Dan corrected and completed for me in 2001, for which I am of course most beholden to him.
3. What is your favourite technique - and why? (in 50 words)
Hard to pick just one, but let’s say Repulse Monkey. A facetious name for a versatile technique training coordination and balance to put the whole body behind the move. When done properly, it is both effective and elegant, as taichi should by essence be.
4. One piece of advice or knowledge you would like to give to fellow practitioners.
Don’t underdo it, don’t overdo it. If in doubt, re-read your baishi rules and sober up!
5. How do you train now?
Giving priority to nei-gong on a daily basis, teaching a weekly class in Paris, organising or attending camps and workshops with Dan or the elders of the school as much as a busy academic’s schedule allows me. Taking over the Wudang France group when Phil left for the Far East more than a decade ago was a big responsibility, but it has helped me stay focused and regular in my practice. Over the years, the group has benefited from yearly visits by elder brothers Godfrey Dornelly and Steve Davies and a number of occasional workshops, most notably by Albert St Catherine, and all have been so wonderfully supportive. But the greatest pride and joy I have had for the group over the years was getting Dan himself to come to our club and teach directly the full nei-gong system.
Professor Ladan Niayesh has been practising Wudang tai chi chuan since 1995 and training with Dan Docherty since 2001. Starting her teaching experience by assisting Phil Brown, who had introduced the style in Paris a decade earlier, Ladan opened her own class in 2005. She took over the Wudang France association from Phil when he left for the Far East in 2007. She has a few medals in taichi group and solo forms at various French and British events: gold in group form (French FTCCG national competition, 2002), bronze in hand form (British open, 2007), gold in sword form (London open, 2009). She holds a weekly taichi class, and regularly organises seminars with the style’s elders coming to Paris.
Wudang France website: http://www.wudangfrance.com/wp/accueil/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1674549816204800/
Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/WUDANGFRANCE