New Beginners Class

Posted October 29th, 2023 in Uncategorized by Phil Vickery

The school is starting a new beginners class on 8th January 2024 at the Centre for Whole Health in Bedminster.

We will be starting with the Short Form as taught by Master Alan Peck from the lineage of Dr Chi Chiang-tao and Professor Cheng Man-ching.

The Short Form classes will go through all the postures in order, linking them up into a sequence that eventually takes about 12-15 minutes to perform. The emphasis will be on health, both physically and mentally, but we will also investigate partner work exercises in the syllabus to develop both body and mind sensitivity.

Throughout the course we will have the opportunity to learn and understand specific qigong exercises for health. These can be stand-alone exercises but all interact with the syllabus of the form taught.

Start date: Monday 8th January 2024

Time: 8:15pm – 9:45pm

Class Cost: £10 per class or £80 for a 10 week term block

Dress Code: Casual clothing that can allow you to stretch the body and limbs and no outdoor footwear is permitted on the carpet in the Hall. Slippers or bare feet are acceptable.

Location: The Centre for Whole Health, 12 Victoria Place, Bedminster, Bristol, BS3 3BP

Contact Details: You can ring the Centre for Whole Health on: 0117 9231138, or myself Phil Vickery direct on: 07780 445300

Dr Chi Chiang-tao Short form in London

Posted April 21st, 2023 in Uncategorized by Phil Vickery

Due to some other clips vanishing from the web here’s a slightly older bit of footage from his visit to London doing the short form:

(33) dr Chi Chiang Tao practising 47 form in the garden – YouTube

That sinking feeling arises (the Macrocosmic Orbit)

Posted June 8th, 2022 in Reference Material by Phil Vickery

The Macrocosmic Orbit )MO) seems like a terrifically new age term for a traditional concept so vital to Internal martial arts.

The concept is so key to moving from external to internal development in Tai Chi, and  is intrinsic to utilizing the power generated to perform the martial side, and help galvanise health too. The idea is that the front and the back of the body have a directional flow which with practice creates the whole body movement we do to perform forms and partner work.

In simple terms we follow the downward movement from the head down to the feet with a sinking feeling inside the body for yielding postures, and upward rising feeling on the back of the body ( from the feet back to the head) for discharging and attacking movements.

As explained in previous articles this wave like movement is referred to as the circulation of qi through the body. Again, the definition of qi is wildly debated in and outside martial arts systems and in medicine too, but if we consider qi to be the finite potential energy to mobilise, regenerate and heal the body’s level of health thn maybe it has some credence. In Chinese Medicine bodily qi circulates through the 12 main meridians which have a specific function to enliven and maintain good health to all the main organs in the body. As a qigong the circulation though the MO is good for health both whilst static and when mobilised too.

From an internal martial perspective it does more than this though. The long sinking and rising motions on the body are the circling dynamic which mobilises the body though the form and push hands. We can even forget the concept of qi and consider that these long descending and ascending waves are merely sequential relaxation of muscles and firing of neurons to create the balanced state exemplified in Yang Cheng-fu’s 10 Essential points of tai Chi “Stillness within movement, and movement within stillness”. With this idea we can consider the release of muscular tension as Yin and the firing of neurons as Yang.

So with this idea, and the route covering head to toe on the front and back of the body, we can start to understand from a qi gong point of view that we are subtly creating polar opposites all over the body in a long continuous repetition.

In making our Tai Chi correct we persevere by ironing out key areas of the body to open them and release blockages. These can be from poor body habits in posture, past injuries and also in trying to reduce the effects of congenital obstacles.

After a period of time of consistent practice the upward and downward waves of subtle flow become more obvious and significant, like any other product of habit. Even we have freed the muscular body of tension and blockages the MO can consistently present itself day and night. We can also train the flow through the pathway by using Yi (mind intent). Whichever method is used i.e. breath work, mind work (meditation) or posture work (posture correction) the end result is the same, a clear unending circulation that like a conveyor belt sinks down the front and naturally ascends up the back.

Breath work – by even and natural breathing and expanding the lungs and diaphragm and upward and downward motion can be felt clearly on the trunk of the body and back to synchronise the polar directions.

Mind work – through unbroken concentration the mind can traverse the route and help excite activity along the areas through the muscles and even influence blood circulation through them too.

Posture work – by working on correct posture and alignment we can automatically create the right internal and external environment to maximise relaxation and minimise positions that create tension.

One can practice just one of these methods to assist the MO in releasing blockages and tensions that uphold, or even, retard the opening of the body from head to toe. Eventually, through consistent and repetitive practice, you will find the other two methods will align and conflate with the others to create a holistic combination. Taoist refer to this as the “true breath”, where natural breathing, circulation and the Yi all combine together and unify. Then the waves of movement quite easily circulate up and down from head to toe along with the breath and the mind in unison.

In conclusion, the MO is a target to reach in of Tai Chi experience as it draws together the culmination of mind, breath and posture to the point where they are a habit. We practice the method, it amplifies to a tangible level and then we merely observe it in its natural function to continue.

Once the MO feels clear and active in our practice we will have already to register our Tai Chi has advanced to higher levels of proficiency, and increased benefits.

The 7 chambers of Tai Chi.

Posted October 24th, 2021 in 2021, Reference Material, Uncategorized by Phil Vickery

When I first started out an interest in martial arts as a kid, myself and friends were wowed by the status of a black belt. It didn’t matter in what martial art as we, and many others, viewed this as mastery. It took me several years into Tai Chi to first hear about some schools employing a belt system. I could not comprehend it and still do not as Tai Chi has no discernible grades. However it does has levels of comprehension.

From within many accepted views from within Yang style, and definitely within the lineage from Dr Chi Chiang-tao to Alan Peck, there are 7 accepted levels of comprehension/competence. Let’s call them the chambers!!

1 – Force against Force

This is the stage where Tai Chi principles are not understood or employed and all action is purely physical and with exertion and the tensed use of  the muscles. It is usually dislocated in that the trunk of the body, the waist and the four limbs act independently of each other, and force is manifested through isolated muscle groups tensing up divorced from other muscle groups. This level deploys all action through Li or muscular contracted force and is 100% external.

2 – Correct Technique

This was the name Dr Chi Chiang-tao gave this level and implied that the antidote to the previous level was to make all movement unified and co-ordinated. The classic statement of the “body moves as one unit” exemplifies this. At this level the correct teaching is given to allow the beginnings of internal Tai Chi to naturally develop. A co-ordinated, open and relaxed state is developed (called Song) and maintained throughout all Tai Chi movement. This in many ways is still external as we are working on the outside of bodily movements to emulate, or facilitate the natural internal process to arise and develop.

3 – Qi

This level develops for as long as we practice correct technique. With the relaxed and open state referred to as Song, all the creases and crimps of our body, inside and outside, relax deeply and let go of enough to allow an accumulation of an empty yet full sensation throughout the body. It is considered that the body now has the opportunity for Qi to develop. The whole body connected feeling becomes more tangible filling up the empty spaces like a pool of water allowing natural waves of movement to be created internally. This is in turn is what is used to mobilise the body externally. The mysterious “Qi” relates to breath and the subtle end of spectrum of energy with its opposite between Li, brute strength.

This state also deepens concentration levels of the mind causing awareness to amplify and become sensitive to the subtler end of the spectrum too.

4 – Jin

Here is a continuation and development from the previous level. Here the internal accumulation of qi or whole body movement from the inside of the body, mobilises within each posture of the form and clearly highlights the shape, form and function of each posture, both for health and martial art applications. Jin, translated as internal force, is a level where the genuine martial art side of Tai Chi is realised and develops into what makes Tai Chi a formidable defence and/attack system. In the Yang style there are many different Jin’s or qualities/functions of moving the body from the inside and not the outside.

5 – Mind

This level closely overlaps with Jin level in that the mind directs and initiates all internal movement and commands the bodily movements in yielding and attacking.  Here in the internal movement is controlled by the mind. The mind or Yi has an idea of action and the command automatically creates the internal waves of movement to issue the Jin at any given time. AGain this will usually be actioned through a posture in the form, although at higher levels it can be refined where releatively little physical movement is required.

One of the other internal martial arts, Yi Chuan, focuses on developing this level quite early on as it is roughly translated as Mind Boxing. An idea arises in the mind and it is immediately carried out in the body but without the gross level of intellect and cognizance used in the Force against Force level. The mind and internal movement are inseparable and their action is immediate whilst still being open and relaxed.

6 – Shen (spirit)

This level is more advanced and more difficult to grasp. My own experiences are merely glimpses of it and I do not have a full enough experience or understanding of it. My limited understanding is that the command of the internal movement in the body is not grasped onto less by the general conscious mnd, but a more refined level of perception.

This heightened level of perception unifies the inside and outside of the body so we don’t feel like all our work is within the confines of the physical body. In the inside of our body and the external environment are harmonised into one. Our senses and perception operate at an expanded level internally and externally as one and there is no separation between the two.

7 – Natural

This level was obtained by Dr Chi Chiang-tao and Alan Peck and my understanding is that mind is completely let go of and one fully realises that there is no separation between self and other. More so it is not that you understand nature, or even learn to align with it, but you realise that you are nature and there is no duality. You have blended with nature and respond to the changes in all nature because you are nature.

 Dr Chiang-tao said he believed there were two higher levels beyond the mastery level of Natural level.

Alan had said Dr Chi had just entered into the next level which he called Nothing or Emptiness level. He said it was difficult to even begin describing it as it was difficult to articulate with intellect. An example of this level was a student of his once crept up behind him whilst Dr Chi was reading sat in a chair. As the student went to attack Dr Chi within a instant the attack was neutralised and counter attacked. The student said it was a split second experience and before he knew it Dr Chi was sat unruffled reading again in his chair as if he hadn’t moved. The student asked Dr Chi how he moved so quick and what did he actually do, Dr Chi responded that he didn’t know and barely aware of the incident himself. This example would denote almost a letting go of self and a submission not just to nature but what Buddhists would describe as the inherent emptiness of all phenomena.

The next level that Dr Chi mentioned was with even less information and can only be guessed at as complete realisation.

Two important points were also made about these 7 chambers of development and they were:

  1. you can gain entrance into the forthcoming level without fully completing the present level. However you could not go onto the one after that without mastering the previous levels also.
  2. Almost as a re-iteration of above Alan said you can get glimpses of a level or even two ahead of you at times, which is a good sign that your current development is going well.

As esoteric as some of these descriptions may seem, there is a clear thread that goes through them all. That is our Tai Chi development goes from the dense to the subtle in its development. This can be illustrated with the Tai Chi diagram signified by the two fishes where the heads connect to the opposites tail. Our Tai Chi starts off as substantial Yin (gross, tense. heavy, solid and slow) and this diminishes with development to become insubstantial Yin. This is what is seen externally with the body, whereas our internal development starts out as insubstantial Yang and through development becomes substantial Yang ( Soft, light, fluid and swift) internally.

The 7 chambers help us monitor our development over the years of practice, and help us see where we are going with it. On a final note I once asked Alan about these chambers/levels and how long it took to get them and what they felt like etc. He assured me the best mode to take is not to see them as grades to be achieved and won (like a black belt), but moments of realisation to let us know we haven’t fallen off the path.

Yield, for the win.

Posted March 3rd, 2021 in Uncategorized by Phil Vickery

Years before I ever brushed up against the world of Tai Chi, in my youth, I used to study Judo. It was only for about 2 or 3 years and I really enjoyed it even though I was younger, smaller, skinnier a lot more naïve and had no real idea why I was doing it or where I would go with it. My teacher, after the first year, started telling me I ought to get my license because he thought I would do well at competitions and could progress up the belts, but I didn’t and I stayed a lowly white belt until I stopped and gave it up.

I wasn’t very confident about the idea of competitions because I thought in truth I would get hammered by people who weren’t my classmates. The thought of that embarrassed me even though I didn’t turn up to the competitions. However I found certain throws came very naturally to me. I remember a green belt in my class when he watched me spar with someone would always tell my opponents to “watch out for his Uchi Mata”. It is a throw that if you if you get the timing wrong and over commit an opponent will easily monopolise the situation and take you down, and leave you hitting the floor rather ungracefully.

I recall though that I never did it with force. All these years later I feel I had always been successful with it because I sensed a yielding moment that I was able to exploit in a partner. Doing the throw never felt arduous as it always felt light and swift to me.

I recognise the strong possibility that I had subconsciously discovered yielding before I knew what yielding was. Judo, like Tai Chi, is effective if your opponents root is disturbed and then (in Judo) a throw is employed not by force but allowing your opponents inferior attack to meet with your superior yield.

Force against force, in any combat regime, can only ever finish in the obvious result of the stronger person winning, or a dead heat because the opponents are equal. Yielding never initially felt like winning to me when I first started push hands in Tai Chi because my concept of winning was wrong. I still tried to beat an opponent with force. If they used force too we both felt unbalanced and at times when Alan our teacher spotted us, would come over looking at us smiling but bewildered by what we doing and gently comment on what we were doing with “Where’s the Tai Chi”; “Too much force” and “No yielding?”.

Years have passed by and things change, and my push hands did too to the point where my yielding improved. It got to a developed point where I understood how powerful it was even sometimes against opponents when they tried to throw sneaky forceful attacks. I wasn’t always successful but a lot more using yielding than force.

Alan will always be remembered for saying “Make your Tai Chi part of your life and your life part of your Tai Chi”. This can sound simple and even throwaway, however it took me years to understand that it is in fact one of the most powerful lessons I gained from him. Yielding is the best weapon in Tai Chi to use against an opponent, and later on as it improved in my Tai Chi I recognised how it seeped into my non-Tai Chi life too. Conflicts with family and friends’ or disagreements in work. Yielding requires no force just the awareness to allow an opponents attack become inferior because your yield to it is superior. However to avoid falling to the floor ungracefully like my poorly executed Uchi Mata’s in Judo, you must comprehend the force that intends to attack you. It seems like a natural reaction to tense up and meet it with force, but the habit of yielding transforms your concepts of winning a fight, an argument or any obstacle in life that opposes you.

Every time we are meet with something that seems like it is in our way we can get angry or upset about how it opposes us and stops us from whatever kind of success we were aiming for. Success over an opponent, situation or obstacle in life shouldn’t feel like you’ve smashed it to the ground like a Gladiator. This is a very Yang form success and is both tiring and depleting and can be costly too.

Success from yielding feels like untying a knot. Success is found in undoing and releasing of the situation, not adding to it. It feels likes it provides a route to completion that is both effortless and equalising. This is success by Yin.

 Naturally Yin and Yang have a constant relationship with each other, and their opposing qualities are what actually keeps them existing.

So even though we remain within the COVID-19 pandemic with signs and better focus of its decline ahead of us, the toll of pressures in life can present themselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually too as opposing forces. Trust your experiences of yielding and moments when it worked for you in Push Hands and Tai Chi and apply them your opponent in life however they may present themselves. Think as if you were doing push hands: 1) use your awareness and unfiltered sensitivity to reach out and become aware of what comes at you; 2) meet it without resistance but keeping check on its velocity and impact of force; 3) do not resist it but relax (not give up!) and allow it’s force to miss its target as you yield and 4) in this act your Yin increases as the Yang of the attack depletes naturally.

For the win, it’s the yield.

Happy Christmas and New Year students…

Posted December 24th, 2020 in Uncategorized by Phil Vickery

I’m hoping the best of everything for you all and that we can safely and healithy recommence classes in the new year sometime when all is safe to do so.

From then to that point though, you have all my love and most sincere wishes in enjoying time with your family and loved ones as the end of one year, through Christmas/Yule time meets the start of a new one.

Love Phil

Ups and Downs…and Ups.

Posted August 6th, 2020 in Uncategorized by Phil Vickery

Tai Chi is an internal art and when one makes advancements in it brand new worlds open up. We could say with the closing down of incorrect practice and old habits, the truth opens up in our practice. It is important, now more than ever, to regularly consult the Tai Chi classics in your personal practice to keep in check that your Tai Chi is correct.

Words and books and even videos are helpful in our practice but they can never be a substitute for actual practice, which cumulatively, will reveal the secrets of the internal. A teacher is necessary to get you through the door of the internal but after that, you too must become your own teacher as well. Experience of your practice will directly help you understand what internal is and how it can be utilised for health, martial art and spiritual endeavours too.

As an example, sinking the qi down the front channel of the body to the Dan Tien (the centre of gravity in your body, detailed by internalists as about 3 finger widths beneath the navel and 3 finger widths inside the body), and then down to the feet causing it effortlessly to the rise up the back channels of the body out to the hands, may seem like an idea at first and nothing much more. However when you can experience the whole body act of this happening with the Yi (intention) guiding the wave of movement around the body, it becomes suddenly real and very tangible. It feels very pleasant and on achieving this major internal goal in our Tai Chi practice it teaches us exactly how can be used for health and martial art just because it exists. This is example is the description of the mind mobilising the internal force used within all martial applications and push hands. If used in a standing posture it becomes very pleasant and opens the body up making it lighter and pliable. It heightens the sensitivity so vital for listening and sticking methods in push hands.

Again these are merely words describing a level in Tai Chi that can be achieved. To actually experience it in your Tai Chi form and partner practice suddenly gives a whole new dynamic to your practice and sets the minds curiosity on an even higher level of adventure and development. However, with all realisations and movements from one level of Tai Chi to another it is common to feel (usually just before it) that our Tai Chi isn’t going anywhere and has become unsatisfactory. Here is where regular practice and consulting the classics can help us overcome any negative thinking that may impede progress to higher levels.

As is explicit with the Tai Chi diagram itself of the Yin and Yang, there cannot be progress without falling down first. Or, to be more motivational, practice can seem hard and of little benefit at times. We can go in and out of highs and lows in our personal development in Tai Chi until we come over the horizon and make big leaps in shifting evermore from outside to inside, external to internal. Remember it has always been viewed like peeling the layers of an onion in Tai Chi development until you reach the fresher and more original juice of the onion. So it is the same in our practice from external muscular strength, to softer yielding strength, to energetic modes (Jin, Qi and Yi). to mental levels and spirit level. Finally our Tai Chi becomes as natural as the seasons turning and night and day switching around.

SO never be disheartened when you take a low in your practice. Consult the classics, when the teacher is unavailable, and allow the words to be absorbed. The actual literal translation of the words into your experience will be useful on one level, but allow and expect their truth to reveal their deeper meaning in your regular practice. A down will always eventually provide an up, so stay true to that natural oncoming reward, and an up will always provide us with a down, which should always be an opportunity to learn more and release unnecessary obstacles.

Being at home…with the Tao

Posted June 5th, 2020 in Uncategorized by Phil Vickery

I wanted this third lockdown article to be more advisory as several months have passed since we’ve all been together in a class. I thought it might be best to remind us all of basic, and advanced, principles of practice. Whilst the local and international world around us has gone through a lot of change, our practice of the principles should remain even if we are spending most of days in our home.

If we forget a posture or even many of them in a form this is ok, because it is the principles of practice which are the core of our development, and even if we have one form or a hundred forms, principles are what develops whatever we have.

The Lower body: –

1) The feet and legs are like the base of a pyramid with the peak being the Dan Tien (centre of gravity just below the navel and above the hips). The feet and legs constantly flux between the Yin and Yang of Full and Empty, this is what makes the body travel and transport itself. The internal force we generate always comes from pushing off a full foot/leg, and like water through a garden hose transport our effort into the upper body.

2) Remember the waist is like a ball on water, frictionless and set in motion with the slightest of movement, so always keep it loose and pliable. It is the waist that gives us direction when it smoothly turns allowing the force generated below to enter the upper body and exit through the arms and hands.

The Upper body: –

1) The abdomen is full and relaxed allowing the force to transport its unbroken momentum up through the larger and lower vertebrae of the spine upwards.

2) The shoulders hang down through the joints open on the upper back, yet with the sternum and heart area soft and unobstructed. The armpits are open so the arms are distanced from the upper ribs, relaxed but not tightly held.

3) The arms are lengthened but not held tense so they feel lengthened and open at the joints. The internal force that travels up the spine, needs to pass through the ball and sockets of the shoulder joints to sink down the upper arm, and continue their journey filling out the arms as an application’s force exits at the wrist and hands.

The Mind: –

1) Yi/Intention is crisp and clear in initiating all movement from the feet but also in following the internal movement along the pathways above until discharged and the wrist and hands.

2) Shen/Spirit is the quality of mind and consciousness at all times which feels expansive yet still, calm yet ready, rooted internally yet perceiving externally. Shen is the quality of aliveness. The very act of consciously knowing just how alive you are indicates your Shen is healthy.

3) Qi and Jin are the form and function of the internal movement required to move the body internally. Qi is the substantial feeling of internal movement, the vehicle of internal force, and Jin is the mode or shape in how it manifests when moving. Qi can be likened to just internal movement, we could analogise it as a car. With that, Jin would then represent what make of car it is and how fast or slow it is going and in what direction. Jin is also the end product of where and why you wanted to take the car out for a drive in the first place. From a martial art point of view, because of their shape, all postures emit their own Jin in accordance to their shape. Qi is the wave of internal force moving in the body but it’s shape, function and discharge is the Jin.

Remember the body moves as one unit, not like in a rusted and semi-seized up robotic fashion but fluid like a cup of water. If one molecule of water changes its position in the cup, every other molecule must respond appropriately. If one part moves every part should move and if one part stops every part should stop.

Always remember that at all times the body is relaxed. However for Tai Chi we actually go a step further than that and we try to cultivate what is called Sung. This is a little more than just giving up of strength, yet at the same time it can only be achieved if you do anyway. A good way to describe it is everything in the body accords to gravity, and it feels like the muscles and organs almost hang downwards inside the body. Again this is not with force but actually through releasing tension. This allows us to have no obstructions for the upwards force of Qi and Jin when doing applications. Sung usually needs to be revisited often as tension can come back again in seconds after we feel we’ve released it. With practice we can maintain the feeling of Sung all day long, and internally our body will remain unobstructed from tension. This is the way we can do Tai Chi all day everyday and make our normal bodily movements our spontaneous Tai Chi forms. This is what Master Alan Peck referred to when he said make your every day life your Tai Chi; and your Tai Chi your everyday life. There should be no on and off switch between them, you should find they are the same way of living.

I will write more articles whilst we are away from each other, and the class room, and please remember you can ring or text me anytime to chat Tai Chi and non- Tai Chi, but remember, in truth they are the same 🙂


Posted May 16th, 2020 in Uncategorized by Phil Vickery

I hope you are all ok and that you are mainting good health practices both for yourselves and loved ones during thse unique times?

I thought I’d just say a few words about persistence to help encourage us all, as well as myself too as the duration of lock-down expands. Whenever it drops off, and in the full knowledge of it being safe to return to classes, we should rejoice that we have come through this pandemic and remind ourselves of living our lives no matter under what circumstances prevail.

Our Tai Chi practice is always about persistence and accumulative gain and insight. The gain I speak of is the benefits from regular practice which is a little hypocritical because I use the word gain, where I really mean we carve away and reduce all habits and practice which are not useful to us. What is left behind in our practice is pure and natural and it is that which we really benefit from even more. That which is correct and natural is the essence of the correct teachings, and without regular classes I do not wish you to feel that you will stray off into incorrect Tai Chi and miss the benefits. It took me many years to realise what I had from Master Alan Peck and to what further revealed itself in my personal practice after his passing.

The persistence in practice is the golden key to developing Tai Chi and unlocking it’s teachings to yourself. If in doubt go back to the basic principles, plus you can always chat with me too.

Over the years, myself and Chris, have relayed a lot of information on the website which has come from our study and realisation in Tai Chi. It has also been directly transmitted from Alan too through our time with him, so the website is a very good reference for your practice as well. Persistence is the foundation for forming habits. This extended time away from the class is also a good experience to solidify and build upon new expanded habits of practising not just more hours of Tai Chi a week, but deeper quality of practice for the time you do practice it.

I will be adding to the website more regularly from here onwards whilst we are parted from class gatherings to try and instil further information and references to how we can persist, be patient and keep developing our understanding of Tai Chi, whilst receiving more benefits from it.

Remember you can always give me a ring if you want to chat direct to me, or text me whenever.

Love to you all and I’ll be back on this site with more information for you to mull over very soon.