All posts by Howard Gibbon

Feng Shou Kung Fu Parry & Ward Off Explained

What's the Difference between a Parry and a Ward Off?

Great question I explain the basics in this video

Eagle & Bear Stance strengths and weaknesses

Learn about Eagle and Bear stance strengths and weaknesses

How often should I practice my Tai Chi?

How often should I practice my Tai Chi?

Having watched students attending my Tai Chi classes over the last 40+ years these are my observations.

Those who attend class regularly, listen to instruction, and then practise diligently make the most progress. When asked by beginners how often they should practise my answer is:

About 10 to 20 minutes 2 or 3 times a week, preferably every day. My experience is until the new students have been attending for many months I find 20 minutes or so is about right, more than that and concentration is lost and therefore the benefits gained may start to unravel. Of course people who have built up an ability to concentrate for longer through the practise of other disciplines such a Yoga etc., may be comfortable practising for longer. So the individual must decide when their concentration flags and then stop. Another practise session later in the day, time permitting, is okay. But learning not to rush the learning process is a very important lesson. As one learns more moves and becomes more proficient, the more the practise time can be extended. My observations show me that students who practise little and often develop greater stamina over time along with the many other benefits that regular Tai Chi practise brings.

I am sure most of you have heard the story of the ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’.

The hare was once boasting of his speed. "My speed is such I have never yet been beaten," said he, "Is there anyone here who thinks they can challenge me?"

The tortoise said quietly, "I accept your challenge."

"That is very funny," said the hare. "I could dance around you all the way."

"Lets race then and keep your boasting until you've won," answered the tortoise.

So a course was fixed and the race started. The hare darted off at great speed, but soon stopped and, to show his contempt for the tortoise, lay down to have a nap. The tortoise plodded on and plodded on, later when the hare awoke from his nap, he saw the tortoise nearing the finish line, but he could not catch up in time to save the race.

Moral: Consistent unhurried practise of Tai Chi wins every time.

© Copyright 2012 Howard Gibbon – all rights reserved

The Power of a Misdirected Mind

This is a true story but the names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty

David was hoping to enjoy this day off work. His first full day off for ten days and this happens. True to form his brake cylinder had developed a leak the day before. Just typical of his luck! Whenever he got a moments peace something turned up to spoil it, it always happened to him.

So there was David, gathering his tools by the car ready to fix the new brake cylinder, he had had to get up early, on his day off, to go into town for a new cylinder gasket. He checked his tools jacked up the car and placed blocks under it, not worth taking any risks, not with his luck.

As he was placing the blocks under the car his neighbours John and Emma walked by.

They said ‘Good morning David’.

He pushed himself out from under the car thinking to himself ‘ ​just my luck can’t even get on with this bloody job without getting disturbed’.

 "For some it might be, but my brake cylinder is leaking and I now have to spend my first day off work for ten days sorting it out." he said.

"Never mind at least the sun is shinning." Emma said.

"When did that happen David." asked John.

"Yesterday, I noticed it as I was coming home from work, the brakes were a bit spongy and I thought to myself. Just my blooming luck! I might have known the something would go wrong when I have a day off tomorrow and I was right. It always happens to me you know", said David.

"Well, like Emma said, at least the suns out." replied John.

"Yeh! And with my luck it will start to rain soon," moaned David.

John and Emma went indoors going about their business. David looked at the car and thought to himself, well now I have been dragged out from under the car I may as well make myself a cup of tea before I start. So off he went into the house to put the kettle on.

Up in heaven God was looking down on earth admiring all the beauty that was his work. He noticed David, listened to him moaning.

"Great" he said to Gabriel who was sat beside him. "Go get the rain hose Gab so I can give this man what he’s asking for."

So Gabriel went and fetched the hose passing it to God.

"Shall I go and turn it on Your mighty" he said.

"No not yet he’s gone to make a cup of tea, we will wait while he gets under the car and has the thing in bits then we’ll drench him" God chuckled to himself.

He loved giving people what they asked for and it constantly amazed him that most people persistently complained about their bad luck, day after day after day. So instead of helping people to prosper and be happy, he was forced into giving people bad luck because that is what they asked him for all the time.

Well, he wasn’t going to let it get him down, he was God and he was going to be happy in spite of the ungrateful majority he gazed upon.

David came out of the house with his mug of tea, surveyed his tools, looked at his car in total disgust, thinking damn that thing had been nothing but trouble since I bought it, just my luck. Under the car he went tools in hand and would you ‘Adam and Eve it’ five minutes later the heavens opened.

Down it poured as David raced to the front door. Shouting "I knew it! just my luck!!"

Just as he shot through the front door he thought he heard a strange noise from the sky, almost sounded like a chuckling noise.

"Oh, No! Don’t say my ears are playing up." It would be just my luck wouldn’t it."

Be careful what you ask for!

© Copyright 2018 Howard Gibbon – all rights reserved

Tai Chi relaxes the body but dulls the thought processes.

One of the problems experienced by new students to Tai Chi is they often complain they can not remember the moves. Because Tai Chi relaxes the body and dulls the thought processes, the moves are often easily forgotten but the essential benefits of Tai Chi i.e. the meditative experience is remembered. Because it is absorbed into their being.

This is the beauty of Tai Chi. The inner experience outweighs the outer for the newcomer and as this is an unfamiliar experience, the mind fights it because it does not understand and can not define the experience by looking at other experiences. The mind wants to understand to link to a past experience and to commit that experience to memory. Now we have a big problem. The new student feels good after the class but when trying to relate their experience to others, find it difficult to put it into words what that experience was, because essentially it was an experience that was felt not deciphered by the mind.

Tai Chi practice should refresh you; not burden you with more things to remember. True understanding in Tai Chi brings a deep wholeness to your essential being. Not another memory attached to the intellect. There is no need to remember it – it is there…

As you practise let thoughts come and let them pass through. Become the watcher. Be indifferent to the thoughts. When you listen or read words of wisdom, don’t try to remember them or the meaning will be lost. Let them wash over you, cleaning your mind, emptying it. Do not let thoughts whip up your mind like a strong wind ruffling the surface of water causing confusion and doubt, be still like a calm lake. The purpose of meditation is to throw out the mind. Tai Chi empties the mind. Do not burden yourself with more words or thought processes.

See from your deep inner self, let that wisdom go to work to change and empower your essential self, the real inner you. Forget for the moment your outer self, your conscious self that was born of your upbringing, your surroundings and moulded by others’ expectation of you and what you should become.

Tai Chi, given the chance can change your life, if you let it. This is true, I know beyond a shadow of doubt because I am living proof of that.

Being of service to others by passing on the teaching I was so privileged to receive from my Tai Chi Master and spiritual mentor. I am living a life of happiness and satisfaction beyond my wildest dreams. I have found my personal Dao.

Perhaps I was lucky but I really believe I had the sense to see the Master when I met him and intuitively felt that this was what I should be doing. I didn’t understand why, it just felt right and I did not deny that or subdue it with logic. I followed my heart though the good and the bad times and allowed my inner self to flower.

by Howard Gibbon

© Copyright 2017 Howard Gibbon – all rights reserved

Tai Chi Pushing Hands

I Fu Shou (Sticky hand/Adhering hand)

The object of the I Fu Shou exercise i.e. Tai Chi Sticky Hands Practise is to upset your partner’s balance. This is not because it is a competition with a winner and a loser. Although sadly I see that ‘Pushing Hands competitions’ are starting to appear, with some Tai Chi Organisations subsequently advertising that one of their students won this or that section, presumably in the belief that this will attract more students to their organisation.

The types of students that this attracts are the ones who want to win competitions and show off in front of a crowd. I feel this is a retrograde step that moves away from the true spirit of Tai Chi. I do not consider that I Fu Shou should be presented as a form of competition which inevitably breeds a winner and a loser. I consider it to be a voyage of self-discovery. The practice of which will enable the practitioner to develop a heightened state of awareness, firstly of themselves, then others they come into contact with. There is nothing to lose but your ego. And the prize to be won is humility.

Perhaps by looking at the names given to this exercise we can understand the different philosophy behind them. Firstly, to push, this word is defined as meaning: to exert force on a thing, to move away from oneself or from the origin of the force. This in essence seems rather an aggressive attitude.

This type of philosophy leads to ambition, desire, and glorification of the self and the wish to make oneself superior. This inevitably leads to separation from the Tao (way). There is no harmony here; only conflict. ‘Sticky’ is defined as tending or intended to stick or adhere. Adhere is defined as: stick fast to a surface, another substance, etc. Also, to behave according to, follow in detail or give support or allegiance. These words explain the essence of the instruction I received from my Master Chee Soo. He always taught me that once contact has been made it must be maintained, and that this contact should be light, so light in fact, that if a feather where to fall upon your arm it would sink under the weight of the feather. He also taught me that the object of the exercise was to follow the movements of your partner, not to force them to change the direction but to allow them to move their hand and arm in whatever way they wish. Learning to work within this framework whilst maintaining your own balance, giving in to their force which completely negates their strength and allows you to gently guide them in the direction they wish to go. Gently, helping them on their way.

If you offer no resistance, then no matter how much force is used against you, it cannot restrict your freedom. By giving in to that force and offering no resistance your partner sacrifices their balance when they exert force against your arm. By this action they create a weakness within their posture that can be exploited allowing you to maintain your balance whilst upsetting theirs. The object of this is not to gain power over your partner, but to learn to remain in control of your own balance whilst being put under pressure by your partner. This helps us to deal with the problems we encounter in everyday life without losing control and resorting to violence. And by violence I do not necessarily mean physical violence but also mental violence, which is the modern way to bully and make people fear you. Power hungry people weave their webs of mental manipulation, praying on the weak within our society – we are all weak at some time or another as we fall into our yin periods during our journey through life.

There are no laws, that can be enforced effectively, that will eradicate this kind of mental violence that we all have to suffer at some time or other at work, from parents, teachers and countless enthusiastic exponents of officialdom. We just have to learn to deal with it. We have to learn to take responsibility for ourselves. Instead of becoming physically or verbally violent which can only escalate the conflict, we have to learn to absorb the energy thrown our way.

In doing so we strengthen ourselves and weaken the perpetrator, but more importantly we remain entire.

by Howard Gibbon

© Copyright 2012 Howard Gibbon – all rights reserved

Tai Chi – We shrink from change

Marcus Aurelius – Emperor of Rome AD161 – AD180 penned the paragraph below over 1800 years ago. It seems many of us still suffer from the same fear of change today.

“We shrink from change; yet is there anything that can come into being without it? What does nature hold dearer or more proper to herself? Could you have a hot bath unless the firewood underwent some change? Is it possible for any useful thing to be achieved without change? Do you not see then that change in yourself is of the same order, and no less necessary?”

So as I was pondering the above statement I remembered the old question: “Is it better to be a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond?” I always subscribed to the view that being a big fish in a little pond was a good thing.

Goldfish kept in goldfish bowls or very small ponds stay small as they have little room to grow and goldfish in big ponds and lakes grow considerable larger. So there is more to the quote above and it got me thinking.

Considering myself and the way I communicate with the outside world, I would have to admit I have been a bit of a hermit for many years.

I have devoted most of my time over the last 43 years to teaching Tai Chi and the related arts. As of late with more time, to pursue my own interests further I have, encouraged by my lovely gregarious wife, been venturing out and meeting people with views other than my own tightly held picture of life as it should be.

This is a little uncomfortable for me, very uncomfortable, actually. I am quite happy with my own company and thoughts and the company of my good woman, however much she keeps challenging my opinions and convictions. I thought that sort of thing would stop after 20 years or so?

I have reached the conclusion that to grow, and self improvement was my reason for dedicating myself to the art of Tai Chi for so many years, I must embrace views that clash with mine and make me, kicking and screaming, raise my head above the parapet. Risk getting shot at and like the little fish in the big pond, risk getting bullied by the bigger fish, but in the process growing. For is not all in nature in a constant state of growth to remain healthy. Once growth has stopped stagnation sets in. I am not about to embrace that. Growth is my aim regardless of the discomfort I may endure in that process.

For with greater growth come more options. A better educated view of life here on our planet must surely give a potential for greater life experiences and the chance to help others reach their potential too. So then onwards and upwards it is for me; how about yourself?

I wish you all I wish for myself.

© Copyright 2016 Howard Gibbon – all rights reserved

I didn’t do my usual Tai Chi practise

A some time ago I received a lesson in how easy it is to lapse with one’s practise.

Whilst enjoying a holiday visiting some of my wife Gisela’s relations in Berlin. A beautiful city by the way and we will visit again as there was much to see we didn’t have time for.

Whilst there I didn’t do my usual morning Tai Chi practise, instead we were off exploring the city everyday. I was in Berlin in 1965 serving with the British Armed Forces there, but at 18yrs old most of what I saw was bars and training areas in the forest. So this was a new exciting experience. I did manage one practise session, one day out of 10, yes shocking I know.

On my return two day before I was due to take a course up here in Scarborough I was faced with tons of mail and emails by the score. Ah! back to reality as they say. So the first day back home, instead of my usual morning Tai Chi practise, I tackled the work load, it was tedious in the extreme.

The next day it was cold and drizzling with rain. There was till a long way to go to get rid of the pile of work in front of me. But now I was aware that I was becoming complacent and finding it so easy to find excuses for not returning to my daily practise. I forced myself to go outside and practise,

Once outside suitable dressed for the weather. I began my practise and a few moves later thanked God for the blessing of Tai Chi. I felt like a thirsty man being given a glass of sparkling, clear, fresh water. And I eagerly drank it in.

I allowed myself 25 minutes practise and then return to the work. Now my mood was joyful and positive and the work flowed smoothly, unlike the day before when it all seemed so laborious.

The next day I picked up Paul my longest serving student from the station and we spent an hour or so together talking about our experiences from our training and interaction with our students.

Later at the course, I had a fantastic time, teaching and training with some wonderful people. Now back on track I am hoping this message may bring some of you back to your Tai Chi practise. It is so easy to break a good habit, yet so difficult to start one and keep it going. Go on then get out there and enjoy some Tai Chi.

by Howard Gibbon

© Copyright 2014 Howard Gibbon – all rights reserved

Is Tai Chi a hill to climb?

Where effort, struggle and hardships are necessary to reach the pinnacle of Tai Chi attainment? Or is Tai Chi a journey of discovery where every now and then you pause to look and reflect on your achievement?

Like most things in Tai Chi the answer is not straight forward, perhaps a little story from my own experience will be helpful.

Some time ago I went to the Lake District, Keswick actually. Whilst enjoying the view near the lake I turned round and looked at the hill behind me. I pondered on how much better the view would be if I was on top off that hill looking at the view from that vantage point. So enthused did I become that I felt compelled to climb it to see. So off I went and being a hot and windless day I was soon sweating and out of breath. But I had started and was not about to give up.

Eventually I reached the top and turned to see my prize, the view. And I was not disappointed, it was magnificent. Sitting on a rock, I relaxed and gazed at the scenery in total wonderment at the beauty and diversity of our wonderful world.

Sometime passed, how much I will never know, for at such times as the beholder of such splendour I find time somehow becomes obsolete. On days such as these whilst enjoying a little rest and relaxation I like to leave my watch behind so as not to be influenced by. Seeing the sun was getting lower in the sky so aware that perhaps I should be moving on I glanced backwards and was surprised to see another hill bigger than the one I had just climbed. The sight of this had been unavailable to me from my original vantage point down by the lake. I pondered again what the view from this one would look like. Oh! What the heck. Off I went to climb this one too, soon dripping with sweat again and panting heavily.

As I reached the top in the distance I saw yet another hill, again higher than the one I just climbed. As I stared at this sight for a minute or so I was felt irritated, was there no end to this struggle to reach the best position. My wish to arrive at this place to see what others who shunned the effort could not. This effort, my struggle had yielded nothing more than the knowledge that there is more, always more, requiring more movement, more endeavour necessary to reach a higher understanding.

In my disappointment I turned and was again struck, almost violently, with the magnificence of the vision before me. This achievement had rewarded me with a prize unsurpassed by my previous view, the result of that first effort from the foot of the hill near the lake. Had I chosen to stop at there, this standpoint would have been hidden from me.

So I sat there basking in that glorious spectacle. The sun shinning down on me from the beautiful blue sky above, as I enjoyed my prized view, I suddenly realised the commonality of this experience to my training in Tai Chi. At the outset of my training in Tai Chi I had no idea of the multitude of benefits I would receive. My health and general wellbeing had improved in leaps and bounds.

Remembering a conversation with a fellow Tai Chi practitioner, who had many more years to his credit than I, during my very first advanced training day in Dunstable near London way back in 1976. I had been practising Tai Chi for three years and this was my first day training at the special class held by my Master Chee Soo for his personally invited students, a real honour. He recognised my enthusiasm and gave me some advice. He told me that this was a special art and it would take me around 15 years before I would be proficient. On my way home back to Yorkshire at the end of the training day I was rather depressed. 15 years before I would be any good, a lifetime or so it seemed at that time. Fortunately for me I continued with my studies and I have been rewarded beyond my expectations.

Before setting out on my journey I could have never known what benefits laid ahead, nothing from my previous experience could have hinted at the brilliance it would add to my life. Like no one could have described the revelation I now gazed upon, the direct experience had no comparison. Feeling a part of nature, feeling being in tune with the world, feeling I was in the right place, following my personal path.

Was its effort worth it, oh, yes! Was I pleased I had made that effort, oh, yes. Did its majesty enthral me, OH! YES!! Am I talking about the view from the hill or the benefits of Tai Chi? Both!

I do my best to enthusiastically encourage others to make the effort to experience this beauty I have found in my life. But only they can make the journey. They need to want to know more. To make the effort to arrive at this place, this panoramic view that is laid bare before me, my reward. Its splendour can only be discussed with others who have made this or similarly journeys themselves. Tai Chi is not a goal to be attained but a never ending journey to be experienced, and that experience will enhance the lives of all those who practice it.

I wish you all I wish for myself.


© Copyright 2012 Howard Gibbon – all rights reserved

Tai Chi – Resistance Is Futile

As a student and teacher of Tai Chi for the past 42 years one of the greatest benefits to my general health and well being has been to learn that resistance is futile in the sense of trying to overcome a force greater than yourself, physically or mentally, because it inevitable leads to injury, physically and or mentally.

When something or somebody resists you, the wise yield, others resist/fight.

The resistance you are encountering is not for you, it is a condition suffered by the other person or thing blocking your present path. The fact that you are in its path is just a coincidence. It is just something passing through, a temporary situation or state. Do not take it personally. See it as it is, something outside of you.

Don’t let it in, if you do it will infiltrate and destroy, eat away at your inner being, consume your mind. Keep it where it belongs outside, separate.

See it as you would see the rainy day when you wished to go walking or play tennis or some other outdoor activity.

Distinguish it as merely an irritation that can be dealt with by taking control of your mind and then finding another exciting indoor activity to do instead.

You have this power within you. You are the controller of your destiny, but only if you believe it, and only if you use it

Henry Ford who brought the motor car to the working man and women, and who amongst us is not grateful for that, once said,

“Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right”.

Life is often like a storm arriving, an unfathomable natural condition of forces beyond your control. Let it pass. If you resist it will build in power and cause much damage, if you can let it pass through the disturbance will be minimal. And when harmony returns you will be unscathed and able to move on towards your dreams and goals.

The story of King Canute is usually misrepresented as an example of the King’s arrogance. The truth is King Canute set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes. The King wanted to show his people that even though he was a King, he was powerless before nature and God.

The King continued to command the tide to halt. However, the tide continued to rise and washed over his feet and legs without respect to his royalty.

Then the king moved backwards, turning to the watching crowd and said: “Let all men know, empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.” He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again “to the honour of God the almighty King”, the ruler of all nature. It is a shame that his actions have been distorted for the true story imparts much wisdom.

If you fight the storm when it enters your life you will probably sustain mid to severe damage or worse as a result. And when the disturbance passes, waste much time returning your life to its position before the calamity hit.

Day to day minor and occasionally major aggravations infiltrate our lives at work, within our families and through our own beliefs systems.

How we react to those disturbances affects the quality of life we experience.

by Howard Gibbon

© Copyright 2012 Howard Gibbon – all rights reserved