Wild Colonial Boy Preview
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£5 for 'Wild Colonial Boy - Dan Docherty - Tai Chi Odyssey #2
1. How (and when) did you start?
In 1990 I decided I had to do something more than work, eat, ferry 4 children to innumerable activities and sleep. The kid’s judo coach, wanted me to take up the sport again but I declined – it may be the way of softness, but that was not how I remembered it! I tried the gym but hated it so looked at what was available locally and, in early September, wandered in to the King Alfred Leisure Centre to observe Aikido and Tai Chi. The next week I started my tai chi journey under Steve Wilkins. I baishi’d with Dan in January1993 and started to go to some of his workshops when they were in Sussex. Steve moved on so Peter Ballam and William Thorne became my regular teachers until I took over their class in Hove about 10 years ago.
2. Why Practical Tai Chi Chuan?
I like the mixture of subtlety and directness and the fact there is no requirement to believe in mystical forces unknown to western science. The breadth of the syllabus is such that I have no need or time for anything else.
3. What is your favourite technique - and why? (in 50 words)
There are no techniques only principles as Dan says(!) but if I must choose it has to be Slap Face – evade and divert, inside or outside, followed by a direct counter.
4. One piece of advice or knowledge you would like to give to fellow practitioners:
Practice every day and NOT just forms.
5. How do you train now?
My routine for the last year or so has been:
Monday morning: 3 x 2 mins Running Thunder Hands up and down shingle beach followed by Short Form
Monday evening: 1hr Tai Chi in the Park class in summer. Mandarin at evening class in winter
Tuesday morning: ‘Not Tiger Stretching’ with 4lb weights, the 5 exercises for max 10 minutes
Tuesday evening: 1st 6 Yin or Yang Neigong (1 month of each starting with Yin in January)
Wednesday morning: RTH on the beach followed by Advanced Short Form
Wednesday evening: 2nd 6 Yin or Yang Neigong
Thursday morning: ‘Not Tiger Stretching’
Thursday evening class: 1st hr Hand Forms and Push Hands, 2nd hr Weapons, applications and freestyle plus any other routines I feel like for a change, 3rd hr The Connaught Inn
Friday: … your joking, it was a late night!
Saturday morning: RTH followed by each of the Weapons Forms & Long Form with a couple of senior students
Sunday: No PTCC – I go dinghy racing.
Not sure I fit in to such illustrious company as the previous featured instructors as I’m very much a part timer. I just describe myself as an enthusiast although I have been training a long time. I’ve won no medals, in fact, the only proper martial arts competition I have ever been in was as a yellow belt at the British Judo Council Nationals in 1970 where I got dumped out, wazari-awazati-ipon, in the first round.
I was born in August 1946 and had a relatively affluent childhood as the son of two GPs but I hated grammar school and ‘ran away to sea’ at the tender age of 16. Four years later I had travelled all over the world on oil tankers and was a 3rd Officer but bored out of my skull. I ‘swallowed the anchor’, bummed around the UK, Europe and North Africa for the next four years trying to figure out the meaning of life. Strangely I didn’t find it and got fed up with being broke so decided I must get a career. The next 4 years I spent in Brighton Fire Brigade, fell in love, got married, bought a house, started dinghy racing and got my 1st Kyu at judo. In the summer of ‘75 I was training hard for my dan grade when I hit a wall and frustratingly could make no progress seeming to get worse and worse the harder I trained. The following year our first beautiful child was born and a couple of months after that they finally worked out what was wrong and I went into hospital to be stabilised on insulin with type 1 diabetes. In those days Type1s could not remain on active service and I found the Fire Control Room extremely tedious.
The university degree I had scorned beckoned but we had a big mortgage and no A levels so my wife and I worked when we could and I followed an intensive ‘Polymaths’ course in the evenings and got a place to read Mathematics at Sussex. There I set myself three targets – a ‘good’ degree, a 1st Dan in judo and a dinghy National Championships. I got a 2i, a PGCE and 3 more beautiful children but failed to hit the other two targets. I gave up judo in my final year when I had got back to a decent brown belt standard. I started teaching maths at Varndean High School but soon switched to ICT which was much more fun and I stayed there for the rest of my working life taking up taijiquan in 1990 to stay sane.
By 2003 I had got out of teaching children by managing the school networks during the day and teaching adults ‘ICT for The terrified’ a couple of evenings a week when the love of my life had a devastating stroke and I took slightly early retirement to help her lead a full and active life.
I never liked working so retirement suited me, I just wish it hadn’t come early in the way it did. We enjoy the arts and have holidayed all over the Mediterranean including three trips to Morocco which is entertaining with a wheelchair! The kids visit often and also give me respite for a couple of weeks in the summer each year when I either go sailing or taichiing. I have been to Rencontre Jasnieres 3 times and, though some of them are lovely, I remain unconvinced by the non-Wudangers. However I do love freestyle push hands despite, or perhaps because of, its limitations. In 2015 I took a trip to China visiting, among other places, the National Wushu Museum in Shanghai, Chenjiago, Northern Shaolin and Wudsangshan with my eldest son – an accountant and accomplished White Crane practitioner I’m sorry, but also very proud, to say! The other children have all eschewed martial arts since their teens but have forged successful careers as doctor, social worker and film lighting engineer. We have two grand children with twins on the way.
As you can see Tai Chi is not my whole life but it has been an important part of it for nearly 30 years so thanks, Dan and fellow Tudi.
My website/blog is wishwudangtaichi.org.uk
Tim Jones January 2019