Tai Chi Instructors
Colin David Stevens
Founder and Senior Instructor (Sifu)
Like most people of my generation, my introduction to martial arts came through the television series Kung Fu,starring David Carradine. I was always interested in martial arts, but it wasn’t until I suffered a rather severe back injury that I started my first lesson. A Chinese friend, who I met through my building business, suggested I take up Tai Chi Chuan as it would improve my lower back injury.
I met my first Tai Chi teacher, John Fowler. Like all students of martial arts, I owe a debt of gratitude to my teacher for pointing me in the right direction. That was in the days before Wuji was born. Through John we met and started to train with Nigel Sutton, Chief Instructor and founder of Zhong Ding. I trained under him and John for a number of years, eventually being graded as a Junior Instructor. Through Nigel’s wife, Feng,we were introduced to Master Tan Ching Ngee, everybody flourished under his guidance,as most of us had never trained with a Chinese Master before.
When Nigel and Feng moved to Batu Pahat in Malaysia, other Masters became known to us, notably Master Lau Kim Hong and Master Koh-Ah-Tee – true exponents of the Cheng Man Ching 37 Posture Form.
During my training with these Masters, I found a different kind of strength was required to perform and execute the moves correctly. This required a different way of training and study. The Cheng Man Ching form comes from the inside. This was something I had to research and find out for myself by actually feeling the form rather than doing it mechanically. This is now my study. After all, Cheng Man Ching said, after a lifetime of training he only understood everything up to first cross hands.
Eventually, after further study and training, I achieved full Instructor level, starting my own classes three times a week. In 1998 I was part of the 10th Anniversary Team that toured Malaysia under the leadership of Chief Instructor, Nigel Sutton. There were times when we had to perform and demonstrate Cheng Man Ching, Dao, Sanshou and Tui Shou in front of our Masters and their students. I hope we didn’t let anyone down!
Tai Chi comes from the inside to the out. Total relaxation is required, energy / chi moves the body. The mind is the messenger, where the mind goes the chi will follow. This I believe is mind and body in harmony.
My goal is to see my students perform this way. Even our Masters are human. If they have obtained the knowledge, so can we. Train hard, study hard, above all else be open to others, they may know more than you.
Not the most obvious choice at the age of 10 for an afterschool activity. It was then I was first introduced to Tai Chi and Chinese Martial Arts and my Sifu Colin Stevens, Chief Instructor of this academy. While at a young age the complexities and deeper understanding of the internal art of Tai Chi inevitably eluded me, there was one aspect that intrigued me.
This was the idea that physical strength in this art was not needed. A concept later developed through further lessons and research, resounding in abstruse phrases from the Tai Chi Classics such as ‘softness and weakness, overcoming hardness and strength’ and ‘repelling a thousand pounds with four ounces’. I was hooked and have been ever since. I have continued to train, developing my skills and knowledge in this art. I owe a great deal to my teacher Colin, reaping the benefits of his knowledge and expertise that he has gained through his own training and travelling.
While enjoyable to me I will honestly say this art is not easy, but it is definitely worth it. Developing an inner confidence and discipline, it has benefited me outside the class as well as in. I qualified as a junior instructor in 2007, and while it marked a significant step in my training, at the same time I began to realise that in a sense my learning had only just begun. However, far from discouraging me, it has only fuelled my enthusiasm and interest!
I am continually striving to improve my skill and understanding of this art as far as I can. My advice? Well that would be echoing words passed onto me by Sifu Colin: have an open mind and learn to yield, to give up oneself in body (tension) and mind (pre-conceptions, ego) – perhaps the hardest but most valuable lesson of all.