COVER GUY DD FEBRUARY 2002 COMBAT MAGAZINE
Combat Magazine Wudang Spear Form
1. How (and when) did you start?
I started in 1985 in Brighton, UK with one of Dan’s early students, Ian McMillan, who had previously trained in Ian Cameron’s school and was a masseur with the Royal Scottish Ballet - these are some details that I think I remember. He was also learning Traditional Chinese Medicine, and in that as with his Tai Chi his enthusiasm was perhaps greater than his competency. Still, I was initiated and bitten by the Kung Fu bug, if that’s what it was. I’d been looking for something Chinese, traditional and holistic (I was a hippy, I’ll admit) and it was exactly what I was looking for. I moved to London in 1989 and started the real training with Dan Docherty, and never looked back.
2. Why Practical Tai Chi Chuan?
Because it’s complete, it has something for everyone. It’s static and dynamic, slow and fast, hard and soft. There’s a worldwide community of practitioners, a plethora of approaches but only one source, and it’s proven in combat – I’ve never come across another school of internal Chinese martial arts, let alone Tai Chi Chuan, where full contact training is a normal part of the program.
3. What is your favourite technique - and why? (in 50 words)
I’ll say Repulse Monkey because you can use it everywhere as a handy add-on to your favourite technique that works in the moment. But I don’t really have a favourite: I practice Running Thunder Hand almost every day, but in my dreams I escape and return with Slap Face.
4. One piece of advice or knowledge you would like to give to fellow practitioners:
Don’t confuse softness with relaxation - cultivate mindfulness and focus in every technique which will help you tell the difference.
5. How do you train now?
I try to ensure at least minimal maintenance of all aspects of the art, varying in emphasis according to what I may teaching at the time - so on average an hour a day. I make sure I stay in shape, as much as possible as I get older, and don’t try to peak for anything because I don’t know when I might need it. With my advanced students I’m working on combination drills which is fun - just empty hands so far.
I’m a British citizen but haven’t lived all that much in the UK - in a HM forces family, we moved around a lot when I was a kid and the longest I’ve lived anywhere was France, where I am proud to have set up Practical Tai Chi Chuan schools. I also set up a monthly push hands meet called ‘Push club’ which I’m still doing on a different continent. After a couple of years in Singapore I moved to Australia and set up a club which is now fairly well-established with a solid core of hard-working students. I’m working with some friends now to organise an open Push hands competition, slotted for February 2019. Otherwise I work in IT, and am more of a businessman than a hero. I’m a practicing Buddhist, happily married and I have a grown-up daughter who lives in France. My website is www.changeskill.com