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 came across taichi as an activity through the evening classes at one of the local colleges in the London Borough of Sutton, where I lived at the time. This was the early 90s and I was looking for something to palliate what was beginning to develop as a chronic low-back pain (something quite common among artists; always leaning over a piece of work and often working on the floor from a squatting position).
My initiation was in a different style (which I won’t mention to avoid undue harm, since I not sure if what I felt was lacking was due to the instructor or to the system; probably a bit of both); I stuck with it for three years and yet I didn’t get to complete their form (or rather it wasn’t taught to me, but not just me I realized) despite the fact that we did little more or little else regarding other aspects of the art. By the end of that period I had been reading a bit particularly as a result of feeling that something was missing not knowing exactly what though. Through further looking I found another class of taichi, this was run by Peter Warwick, one of Dan’s students , who had also designed and produced Dan’s 1995 Instant Tao, Volume1. From day one, after Peter’s introduction, I instantly knew this was the style for me, I had found a complete system. A few years later I met Dan attending his workshops in London and ended up being a regular of his London Bridge Wednesday classes as well as carrying on with my local ones. A couple of years or so before leaving for Spain, I took over one of Peter’s classes. It was a valuable experience for setting up, from scratch, a new group in Aranjuez (Madrid) when I moved to the area in 2001; and where we have been running Dan’s seminars regularly for several years now.
2. Why Practical Tai Chi Chuan?
Well, this has been said many times before, I know, but the fact is that PTCC provides you with the essence of the art without all the flowery (often nonsense) that you often find in other schools. And it works, I eventually got rid of my back pain that I had been dragging for years (and for which the hospital had given not easy solution) and found myself years on doing things I couldn’t do before like the dreaded rolls with which Dan used to invite us to get in the right set of mind and body -for minutes on end- at the start of a good training session.
3. What is your favourite technique –and why? (in 50 words)
I find a number of them attractive for different reasons, but for the sake of the exercise I’d say Slap the Face, for its simplicity and smoothness in the transition from diversion to counterattack, gaining the opponent’s side in the side stepping , all happening in an almost simultaneous action.
4. One piece of advice or knowledge you would like to give to fellow practitioners:
Moving in the business of the art world, as I do, one realises that every art has an important element of the self-taught, and in my view TCC is not different. You have to become your own teacher to make real progress in this. You get guidance, information, basic knowledge from an instructor (useful to have a decent one) but for real progress you have to rely on yourself, on your research and your training; there is not short cuts. Then you have the grand-masters, of course, those close to the source –a clear reference point which is always helpful to have-, and in our style we are fortunate enough to have one such.
5. How do you train now?
For many years now it has become part of my (mostly) daily routine, usually in the mornings; I’m lucky enough to have the privacy of a space to do it without moving from home –indoors or outdoors- but I do wish I was able to attend more of Dan’s workshops and seminars, where you always come away with some new piece of knowledge. It is one the prices you have to pay for living in a relatively remote place, I suppose.