Saturday, 24 October 2009


It's time to talk about balance fundamentals. One of the reasons why Taijiquan is practiced slowly is so that you have time to feel your balance. To describe balance, Tai Chi teachers use the scale of yin and yang, with the emphasis on yang (substantial).

So with reference to your feet, if you are standing, and your right foot is 0% yang, then no weight is on it. If your left foot is 100% yang, then all your weight is on it. Got it?


When doing the form, beginners and even some intermediate students often have problems stepping. Their feet don't come down gently on the floor. They tend to move too quickly onto their new foot. They often wobble while they are picking up the trailing foot. The reason why this happens is because they are not correctly balanced.

When people walk normally, they are almost permanently off balance. Walking is about falling over, but stopping yourself by stepping forward. Tai Chi aims to improve the balance by reducing the need to overbalance when stepping.

Although correct posture plays a part in balance, the fundamental reason why people don't step comfortably is that they are not distributing the weight between the feet in a correct manner.

The solution is simple. We are going to walk two steps. If you are stepping out with your left foot, make sure that your right foot is 100% yang before you move. You can then place your left foot exactly where it is meant to go. Place the heel down first, then the toe. Once your left foot is appropriately placed, you can slowly shift your weight onto it until the left foot is 100% yang. Here is the important bit. DO NOT RAISE THE RIGHT FOOT UNTIL THE LEFT FOOT IS 100% YANG. If you do, you will most certainly overbalance.

How do you know that the left foot is 100% yang? Because you will not be able to feel any weight on the right foot (0% yang). Now the right foot is raised, pause a little bit to check that your balance is good, then step out with the right foot. Now transfer the weight to the right foot. Remember, don't raise the left foot until you feel that there is no weight left on it.

Repeat a few times until you get the hang of it......

Now do it again without looking at your feet.

If your posture is poor, your balance may also be affected. As well as Tai Chi, you could also try Alexander Technique exercises to supplement your training.

Saturday, 17 October 2009


Challenges happen all the time. Life throws all kinds of obstacles at you. But the kind of challenges that I'm referring to in this article are the martial kind. Someone wants to fight. They want a fight with you. No-one else will do. They make it entirely personal and they won't take no for an answer.

Every serious martial artist must consider that if they achieve a good reputation, they may be challenged. The challenge could happen at any time - in a bar, at your place of work or where you practice. It could come from anyone - even your buddies that you train with.

Being a Tai Chi teacher means that I get very few challenges. The kind of students who go to Tai Chi classes are rarely into fighting. However, I do occasionally get someone turning up and wanting to test me. Let's examine the probable motives for someone wanting to challenge you. (I will refer to them as 'he' - just for speed)

1. He wants to test his own martial skill.
2. He wants to elevate his status at your cost.
3. He wishes to prove that his chosen discipline (usually different than yours) is better.
4. He is another teacher who wants to take your students.
5. He has a severe inferiority complex, and only pummelling you will relieve it.
6. You may have done or said something that offended him.
7. He wants a free lesson.

There may be no single reason, but a combination of the above. Never rule out number 6. By advocating your own techniques, people will become insulted because they believe you are rejecting theirs.

If you choose to accept the challenge there are many risks to consider. If they have no skill you may do them severe damage. If they have different rules of engagement you risk being attacked while you are going through any ritual preparations you may have. An unknown fighter without scruples may not quit when others with more sense would stop. The video below is disturbing, but illustrates what some people will do for the sake of their own egos:

As you can see, if you choose to make or accept challenges, you run the risk of escalating violence to the point of severe repercussions. You tube is full of people getting hurt in fights over which martial art is best. They are all missing a fundamental dichotomy within the martial arts contest.

All official martial arts contests are artificial in nature due to the imposition of rules designed to protect everyone involved. Contrarily, the very nature of martial arts is for defence only. Ergo if two true martial arts masters were to walk into a ring together, they would wait for each other to strike first, hence a stalemate and they would both walk out without striking a blow.

Respect for the diversity across the different martial arts will go a long way to reducing the friction between disciplines. Manners and respect for all go a long way to reducing friction between individuals. While you cannot always dissuade challenges completely, walking away from them will not injure anyone in the long run.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Tom Campbell - A new perspective on consciousness

Tom Campbell was one of the original explorers to work with the late consciousness pioneer - Robert Monroe. He was one of the original scientists to use binaural technology to explore altered states of consciousness. His work with Robert Monroe turned from exploratory to educational, with the foundation of the Monroe Institute.

A Physicist by trade, Tom has now moved forward with an expansive 3 volumes of work, mapping out his Big Theory of Everything. The trilogy is called "My Big TOE", and is available on amazon:

On October 10 & 11th, Tom was in London to give two lectures on his theories. It was with a little trepidation that I attended. Very often people who set themselves up as gurus get caught up in their own self-importance, leave yawning gaps in their logic and surround their methods in pointless ritual. I was prepared for a let-down.

As Tom went through his theories it was evident by his anecdotes, he had done a lot of personal exploration. Many of his stories deeply resonated with my own experiences. For two whole days, he clearly and precisely took us all through philosophy, advanced quantum physics, metaphysics, consciousness, existence, healing, remote viewing, clairvoyance and out-of-body experiences. He explained the rationale behind the fundamentals of existence and shot down one or two long-held myths.

And what about his "Theory of Everything". Is it true? Only time will tell. I personally think that we as individuals will discover the truth way before mankind ever turns the scrutinising eye of science in that direction. Tom's wish is that people don't follow his theories blindly, and that the only way to be sure is for everyone to discover for themselves and make their own "T.O.E.".... or as Chinese Taoism put it:

"Do not follow the great masters..... seek what they sought."

The energy in the room was outstanding. From my personal perspective, the workshop rekindled my desire to explore the greater consciousness and continue to learn more about myself and how I fit into this universe. Not bad for a weekend in Camden.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Spiritual Crisis

It has become increasingly evident that many people are experiencing episodes of extra ordinary states of consciousness. These episodes are usually accompanied by emotional stress, anxiety or hyper - aroused states of being.

Spiritual or transpersonal crises, can occur spontaneously. They can be triggered by emotional stress, physical exertion and disease, accidents, intense sexual experiences, childbirth, or exposure to psychedelic drugs. However, in many instances the catalysing factor is meditative practices, which are specifically designed to activate spiritual energies. As spiritual disciplines are gaining in popularity in the West, an increasing number of people are experiencing transpersonal crises that can be traced to their practice of Yoga, Zen, Taoism, Tai Chi, Qigong, Pranayama, Kundalini Awakenings, Tibetan Buddhist psycho-energetic exercises, and other forms of intense and focused self-exploration.

Never was this more apparent than at a funeral I attended this week. It was a friend who succumbed to cancer at a very young age. When advised of her imminent death, she was forced into spiritual crisis. Following advice, meditation and prayer with her chosen faith, she was able to transcend her fear and pain and rose to a higher state of being. At her death many friends testified to her state of grace. During her funeral, it was also evident that many people were also in spiritual crisis as a result of their anxiety and loss. Their beliefs were being severely challenged and they (understandably) were functioning with some difficulty.

Traditional psychiatry would recognise many people's spiritual behaviours as being 'psychotic'. This is because it does not distinguish between mystical and psychotic experience. As a result, it labels spiritual crises as 'wrong' and seeks to suppress them with chemical therapies - and also does not accept the transformational and beneficial effects.

However, not all unusual states of consciousness can be categorised as spiritual. It takes input from doctors and clinical psychologists to ensure that there are no underlying malfunctions of the body and brain. Not everyone is neurologically typical (NT), and there are many psychiatric disorders that can produce similar experiences. The difference with these non-NT cases is that they are not transformative, and severely inhibit normal social activity.

On a broader scale, modern tension and anxiety within society can catalyse into mass spiritual crises. Recent events like Princess Diana's death, the World Trade Centre and the Boxing Day Tsunami place many thousands of people into states of altered consciousness as they seek for meaning to tragic news. The majority of these experiences are shared amongst the neurologically typical with no long-lasting effects, and in many cases, people learn and grow and become higher functioning people as a result.