Interviews with Taiji Practitioners

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How do you advise on the practice of Chen Style in our busy world

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Steven Burton, aged 33, professional martial arts instructor based in Accrington, Lancashire
Q : Background?
I started martial arts when I was eight years old and I settled with Shaolin Kung Fu, the Southern Kung Fu style Lau Gar. I'm currently a guardian of that style making sure that standards are maintained. I have been studying that for 20 years. I also hold a black belt grade in kick boxing and an Okinawan art called Torite Jutsu.
Q : Taiji?
I'd had some exposure of Yang Style Taiji through my Lau Gar Kung Fu master. And once I' d studied the Yang Style I wanted to find a Taiji master and I came across Liming. I started Chen Style around 1998 studying with Liming. I started with one of his intensive courses, then started classes and branched into having private lessons with Liming. More recently I've also studied with Grandmaster Gou and I've gone over to China, studying with Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei. Click here to read Trauma of Nose in TCM.
Q : So given that you' re a professional martial arts instructor, what attracted you to Chen Style?
Taiji attracted me for the philosophical side and the health aspect. I was fortunate in coming across Liming as once I'd trained with him, and having experience of training with other highly skilled Chinese masters in other Chinese arts, I was aware that he really knew what he was talking about and his level of skill was just fantastic. Liming had some background in Shaolin Kung Fu, so we were both talking the same language as it were. I just really liked Liming's approach to teaching, the way he portrayed the knowledge and his attention to detail.
I was also aware of the health aspects to Taiji. So more recently I've studied specific aspects of Qigong with Liming as well. He just seemed to have the whole package: the quality of teaching and the level of knowledge and understanding of the art, also having the direct recognition, the credibility of the lineage in which he's trained. Liming has a very credible lineage because his teachers have been Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei and Grandmaster Kongjie Gou. Click here to read Nasal Vestibular Eczema in TCM.

Q: Have you enjoyed good health?
My good level of health has been relatively consistent. Through my understanding of Chinese concepts through Liming, and my other teachers, I actually lecture on Chinese medical concepts regarding to Taiji at the University of Central Lancashire, the honours degree course in Complementary Medicine. But, my understanding has been developed a lot more since training with Liming.

Q : So as an instructor of Chen Style, what are the health benefits you' ve observed in others?
I have some 200 plus students in Taiji around East Lancashire, varying in age from teenagers to recently having a lady who was 107. I do modified versions in a seated form. And I work quite closely with the Health and Fitness Development Department of Blackburn Borough Council improving balance, flexibility, coordination and mobility. People find that through practicing it also helps boost the immune system-through some of the Qigong breathing exercises. It's a general sense of well being. People who suffer depression and various things like that tend to find that it gives them lift. Some of the exercises, on the medical implication side of things, cause the body to produce certain hormones such as seratonin and dopamines, the things which basically make you happy. Certain Qigong exercises can cause that "happy" effect in people. So, I find that people who suffer depression have had great benefit from practicing the exercises. I could go on and on with the number of people I've trained. People who suffer arthritis have had tremendous gain. Particularly, in my experience, people with osteoarthritis seem to gain quicker results. Although everybody with arthritis can gain some results, people with rheumatoid arthritis gain benefits but it just takes a little bit longer. Click here to read Chronic Rhinitis in TCM.

Q : How do you advise on the practice of Chen Style in our busy world?
I would definitely say to practice as little and often as is available. Even if it is five or 10 minutes a day, it'll certainly contribute towards people's health. I mean-I like to look at medical principles and that perspective but, generally, a sense of well being is what people find from practicing. The sense of feeling calm and collected. Certainly, the Qigong and Taiji tend to give you that calming type of feeling so that you learn to step back in a difficult situation, take a few breaths, and then look at it objectively. Like clearing your head before you go and solve problems. Personally, I'm so hectic with the school that I have and I dash round the country teaching, I tend to find that it keeps my head clear and it keeps me from getting stressed. One of the phrases I always use is that "Taiji is keeping your body young as you get older."

Q: Could you expand on that?
It just keeps you young. It keeps everything mobile. For me, I genuinely want to live in excess of100, but I want my health to go with it and I personally believe that Taiji will do that.

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