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Newsletter - March 2003

Peter and Lavinia would like to wish everyone a Prosperous and Healthy Chinese New Year. The Year of the Sheep offers a year to relax and make peace with oneself and others – let us hope that this proves to be the case!

European Championships: by Ed Gomersall

In October 2002 the 9th European Wushu Championships were held at the large covered stadium in Povoa de Varzim, near Oporto,Portugal. The event attracted 24 teams from all over Europe, competing in both compulsory routines (Taolu) and full contact bouts (Sanda).

We took a flight to Lisbon at 6.a.m., arriving a little after 8.a.m. However, since Lisbon is in the south of the country and Oporto is in the north, we discovered that our journey had only just begun! We had to walk a mile with our suitcases across town to locate the Station so that we could find a train to take us to Oporto. After 12 hours travelling we finally sat down in our hotel at 6.p.m feeling like very seasoned travellers!

There was an excellent atmosphere at the competition, and I was fortunate to meet and see Europe’s best Wushu athletes perform. The Russian team in particular stands out in my memory – I had never before seen a non-Chinese team train and perform to such a high standard. The British team bonded well – there were 12 of us in all.

My own first event was Taijijian, starting at 10am on the first day. I was very conscious of competing for the first time at European level and my nervousness affected my performance. Andrew Austin and I were performing in parallel but I somehow ended up doing the routine more slowly than is usual for me. In fact we both rather lost our sense of timing, and this cost us the possibility of attaining 1st and 3rd places. As a result, Andrew came 3rd and I finished 6th.

The administrative organization at the event could have been better, and our second event (Taijiquan) didn’t start until after 10.p.m. on the next day. A long day’s wait!! The Gold Medal went to Italy, with Andrew winning the Silver. I came joint 6th and I was generally fairly satisfied with my standard of performance.

In total the British Team collected 1 Gold (Stewart Beckett), 2 Silver (Stewart, Andrew and Clare Griffiths) and 3 Bronze medals.

I made some good friends while in Portugal and we have continued to keep in contact. We had some good fun together, especially during the last days when we explored the bars and clubs!.

Chinese New Year – the Year of the Sheep: by someone who was there

On Sunday 2 February we once more greeted the Chinese New Year at Voongs Restaurant in Bletchley. Peter and Lavinia hosted a group of 35 students past and present, together with friends and relations – 35 in all. As always, it was an occasion to catch up with people we had not seen for a while, and to meet fellow students in a social environment, wearing their glad rags rather than training gear – some of us were almost unrecognisable!

The meal was excellent, offering a good choice of hors d’oevres (including soft shell crabs, which I personally find a challenge to eat – all those legs!) and very sticky whole prawns which needed their heads and tails removed. The finger bowls (or gin and tonic, not sure which) came in real handy!

After we had demolished the crispy duck and pancakes we gave our stomachs a bit of a rest while we listened to the two young men on keyboard and guitar playing mainly Elton John standards, although I personally preferred Hey, Jude. Community singing was of variable quality – at our end of the table, anyway.

We had just got started on the third course of mixed dishes when the Lion Dance team arrived. We missed the firecrackers this year, but I don’t think we were really surprised that they were not in evidence. The Lion Dance was great fun and several of us were “eaten” as we handed over our little red envelopes - I emerged in an undignified manner having had my hair deliberately ruffled – the Lion obviously homed in on my insecurities immediately!

Peter seemed to enjoy himself, judging from the number of large brandies making their way up the room from the owner behind the bar. Vast quantities of beer were ferried to and fro to our tables and the evening got noisier as it progressed, as all good parties should. Monday morning was fun too!

Teacher Training Programme – 2003: by Lesley Good

The TTP has got off to a good start this year. We have six new students starting their training in the Assistant Coach category – two of them come up from Devon Tai Chi each month, and we all admire their endurance! The Coach Year 2 programme has 4 students, and Senior Coach Year 1 has 3. Pete Smart has completed his Senior Coach training and we are pleased that he is now Peter’s Assistant Instructor for the TTP.

Each year has its own Programme laid out in an easy to follow format, giving the worksheet for each month’s study day and lots of other information. The syllabus for each year is pre-determined, with a half yearly assessment taking place in May, and the end of year assessment in November. TTP days (Sundays, 10 – 5, once each month) consist of discussions arising from various topics, perhaps a short lecture, and studying aspects of how to teach the various forms - learning how to stand up in front of a class and describe clearly what you are doing is a major challenge when you first start the course. We are all encouraged to give constructive feed back to each other. The afternoon training session is spent learning more about the forms we are studying, and Peter also aims to teach the basic Push Hands techniques.

The full TTP training syllabus covers everything from the 8 posture Beginners Form right through to the advanced forms of the traditional Yang and Chen style, Li Style and Wudang Taijijan. Quite a range of knowledge to be gained!

It is the responsibility of each student to undertake the extra training they need to keep up with the requirements of the syllabus – most of us find that we do need to put in quite a lot of time studying the various forms, but of course we enjoy and value this training. We would not be doing Tai Chi at all, let alone the TTP, if we didn’t! Peter runs an Open Training session each month which offers a good opportunity to practise whichever form we are studying at the time – we also, of course, take advantage of the other focused training seminars during the year.

Peter encourages those starting the TTP to gain some experience of teaching as soon as they can. Some students start by taking the warm-up sessions at Morningside and move on from there. My own experience was gained in assisting at the Shenley Adult Education evening class, taking the warm up session for both classes, and assisting Jill in demonstration. In the Intermediate Class I took those who were starting to learn the 16 posture form, while Jill taught those students who were more advanced. This meant that I was able to form a teaching relationship with a small group of students, which was most valuable.

When Peter invited me to join the TTP 3 years ago I never imagined how much it would benefit me in a personal way. I had mistakenly thought that I was “too old” to embark on such a programme, but now, at 60, I have progressed to the Senior Coach course, retired from the “day job”, and teach three classes of my own each week in Buckingham and Brackley, in addition to training with Peter twice a week and attending all relevant seminars. My retirement has become something to be enjoyed and valued and the feedback I get from my classes indicates that others are also benefiting from their Tai Chi Chuan experience. My teaching income pays for my training, which in turn will make me a better teacher – a real circle of energy.


Matthew Rochford’s new book “Total Tai Chi” will be available from 27 March. It is laid out in an excellent format with very clear photographs of the postures and features the 8 and 16 hand forms, as well as Dao Yin and Chi Kung exercises. Copies will be available from Peter at Morningside. The cost is very reasonable at £14.99. Matthew runs Devon Tai Chi and is a graduate of the Teacher Training Programme.