Tai Chi and The Power of Practise

Russell Poldrack, a neuroscientist at the University of California at Los Angeles, has conducted a number of brain-imaging experiments to trace the transition from explicit to implicit monitoring that occurs over many hours’ practice. He has discovered that the prefrontal cortex is activated when a novice is learning a skill, but that control of the stroke switches over time to areas such as the basal ganglia, which is partly responsible for touch and feel. This migration from the explicit to the implicit system of the brain has two crucial advantages. First, it enables the expert player to integrate the various parts of a complex skill into one fluent whole something that would be impossible at a conscious level because there are too many interconnecting variables for the conscious mind to handle. And second, it frees up attention to focus on higher-level aspects of the skill such as tactics and strategy. This transition between brain systems can be most easily understood by thinking about what happens when you learn to drive a car. When you start out, you have to focus intently in order to move the gear stick while keeping the steering wheel in the right place, pushing on the clutch, and keeping an eye on the road. At the beginning these tasks are so difficult to execute simultaneously that the instructor usually starts you off in a car park and slowly helps you to integrate the various elements. Only after some hours practise can these various skills be performed effortlessly, without any conscious control, so that you are now able to arrive at your destination without even being aware of how you got there, your mind having been on other things. Your skills have moved from the explicit to the implicit, from the conscious to the unconscious, and your ability has graduated. These are the skills that allow the Tai Chi practitioner to perform their routine with such flow and precision. Initially the Tai Chi students focus is on perfecting the various hand, arm and leg movements. After many hours of practise these are integrated into the unconscious. Now attention moves to the flow i.e. blending the movements into one harmonious structure.

As a teacher I have been privileged to witness this marvel on many occasions; watching a group of experienced Tai Chi enthusiasts practising, seeing them harmonising their Tai Chi together as one flowing majestic movement. Confirming to the beholder, that with concentration and a willing heart all people can work together to lift the spirit so we can live together peacefully.

There are other aspects of Tai Chi practise that deepen the understanding on a personal and group level but these are best learnt through attending a class conducted by an experienced teacher. Many of these attributes unfold themselves gradually over the years.

The dedicated hours of practise are also an absolute requirement to gain a high level of skill in the art of I Fu Shou (Sticky Hands), too.

Check out Howard’s Article: Tai Chi/Pushing Hands

Recommended Reading: Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice HarperCollins Publishers. Available on Amazon Books


Tai Chi Summer Course 2018

Tai Chi Awards

Tai Chi Practise

Kai Men

Scarborough Tai Chi Group Summer Course 2018

What a privilege it was to teach such dedicated students from England, Scotland, Ireland, Malta and Switzerland

Our Tai Chi family out for a meal out together

Mark Kirby - Scarborough receiving Tai Chi Regional  Coach Award

Tai Chi Sword

Kai Men - Instructor Susan Bird

Susan Bird - Sunderland receiving Feng Shou Area Coach Award

Tai Chi Sword

Kai Men - Instructor Susan Bird

Melvin Samuel - Manchester receiving Tai Chi Area Coach Award

Tai Chi Form

Kai Men - Instructor Pat Gay

Chris Heczkol - Rotherham receiving Tai Chi Area Coach Award

Tai Chi Form

Kai Men - Instructor Pat Gay

Jim Gillespie - Glasgow receiving Tai Chi District Coach Award

Tai Chi Form Practise

Kai Men - Instructor Dave Walker

Kathline Moore - Edinburgh receiving Tai Chi District Coach Award

Tai Chi Form Practise

Kai Men - Instructor Pat Gay

Geraldine Jones - Edinburgh receiving Tai Chi District Coach Award

Tai Chi Sword Practise

Kai Men - Instructor Pat Gay

Leslie Wearing - Barrow-in-Furness receiving Tai Chi District Black Jackets Award

Tai Chi Form Practise

Kai Men - Instructor Pat Gay

Carl Wilson - Scarborough receiving Tai Chi Award

Tai Chi Form Practise

Kai Men Exercise Dragon Stance

Kai Men Instructor - Chris Heczko

Bernard Noel - Zurich, Switzerland receiving Tai Chi  Award

Tai Chi Form Practise

Kai Men - Instructor Susan Bird

Christine Duffield - Malta receiving Tai Chi Award

Tai Chi Dance Practise

Kai Men Instructor - Chris Heczko

Peter Aloone - Belfast, Ireland receiving Tai Chi Award

Tai Chi Dance Practise

Kai Men Instructor - Chris Heczko

Five Lotus Blossoms Cut Off

Kai Men Instructor - Chris Heczko

Flow Flow Paterns

Defence Against Kick

Hi Howard, This years  Summer Course was something special. Thank you passing on your wealth of experience and knowledge to us all I  feel my T'ai Chi and Feng Shou is about to take a leap forward once I assimilate the enhancements you highlighted. That means  I will have to practice the things you shared of course. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who came for creating a great atmosphere. I sensed a lot of genuine kindness and mutual support and feel blessed to have been part of such a great experience. I always look forward to training on the monthly courses but do you think it would be an idea to have a winter course as well because, 12 months is a long time to wait for the opportunity to immerse yourself in the arts for 5 whole days. I enjoyed meeting and training with new people who came from abroad. I hope to see them again next year.   Best Wishes, Susan Bird - Sunderland

Hi, Howard, Just got back to Malta from holidaying in the UK, so I’m sorry not to have been able to send in my feedback for the summer school sooner. “ A fantastic opportunity to meet and be a part of this wonderful, Tai Chi family where goodwill, help, support and a goodly dose of humour was the order of every enjoyable day. I learned so much; not only about the aspects of Tai Chi but also about myself.” Thank you, Howard, for your dedication and continued support. I’ll definitely be back! Christine Duffield - Malta

Dear Howard, I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed the summer course this year. It was perfectly pitched for everyone including those who were relatively new to tai chi as well as the more advanced students. We all gained so much knowledge and insight thanks to your calm and patient instruction and guidance. It was truly a master class in every sense. Practicing for so many days surrounded by such wonderful generous people was an honour. It is a great testament to you that you have created such a family feeling of support and encouragement amongst your students. Attending the summer course buoys me up for all the practice times when I am alone at home albeit with your excellent on-line training course. I was greatly honoured to achieve the second Tengchi grading but I know that it is only thanks to your dedication and that of my teacher in Edinburgh, Angela. Thank you so much. Thanks for everything as ever - I am looking forward to next year's course already. All the best, Geraldine Jones - Edinburgh

Dear Howard, Thank You for this beautiful week. I received more than expected, I will Look at the platinum Silver level you sent me closely. Best Wishes to You and Gisela - Bernard Noel - Zurich, Switzerland

Hi Howard, Thank you for a really enjoyable summer course. The content, people, atmosphere were all good. I learnt a lot and hope I remember some of it!   Regards, Pat - Ossett

Hi Howard, Just wanted to say thanks again for a great Feng Shou day on Friday, sorry once again not to attend both days as planned. It is really great to take part in a proper Feng Shou class. I can't wait until Thomas is old enough so I can start going to Mark's class again, but that is a while off. I think I would be a lot further on if I attended a weekly class but I suppose I am learning to be patient, there is no rush. Anyway, great to see you and Gisela, take care and see you again soon.   Best Wishes, Kate - Dewsbury

Hello Howard, Just wish to say a massive thank you for another amazing Tai Chi / Feng Shou summer course. Once again, due to your vast wealth of knowledge, experience and generosity you delivered a course jam packed full of valuable information and insight, together with priceless 'hands on' practice. I particularly enjoyed what was essentially a masterclass in the Lee style short form, moves 1 to 50. I am sure everyone will have gained significant benefit from this and a better understanding of some of the finer details that will help us to improve and refine our practice. In addition, I also enjoyed working with the other experienced students, as everyone always tries to help each other wherever they can and helping the several new students who showed great focus and enthusiasm throughout the week. Indeed, congratulations to all those who achieved gradings in either Tai Chi and or Feng Shou. Of course it would have been nice to do more, more, more but as the old saying goes "you cannot get a quart in a pint pot".
Looking forwards to the next training day already.   Very best wishes to you, Chris Heczko - Rotherham

Hi Howard, I really enjoyed the Summer Course last week. It was good to catch up with you and lots of old friends. There really is a supportive almost family feel to the course. People are really helpful to each other and happy to share their knowledge. At the same time new people also feel welcomed. It was good to refine my Tai Chi, practice dance and sword and do some more Feng Sau. As always it is good to benefit from your deep knowledge of the Lee Arts and to have the chance to practice with you and other advanced instructors. The Tuesday to Saturday timetable worked well for me. I have booked to come to Scarborough for the courses in October, November and December, and when you fix the summer course dates for next year they will be straight into my diary.   Thanks again, Kind Regards, Carl Pearson - Coventry

Hi Howard, Just getting in touch to firstly tell you how much I enjoyed this years Summer Course. Met a great bunch Students and Teachers and once again learnt much more about our Lee Style from the course. I would just say the ‘wonderful atmosphere’ on any course always starts with your good-self. It’s always a real pleasure to come and train with you. Hopefully, I will have one on my Duddingston class coming down with me to the Summer Course next year, so I would be obliged if you could let me know as soon as you have finalised the dates for next year. Thanks again for sharing your formidable skills and knowledge. I look forward to learning even more when we see you up here in Edinburgh in November. Thank you again for sharing your extensive knowledge of our art and for your excellent practical guidance.   Best Regards, Jim Anderson - Edinburgh

Hi Master Howard you asked for some feedback at first l was over whelmed by all the black shirts and the energy in the room, my teacher Margaret charmed me down and made me realise that they were part of a family and we all help each other. I must thank her for giving her time up instead of getting helped herself as she was only there for the day (I get it Margaret I do). I have a better understanding of our unique Tai Chi style with all the help I received I improved my quality enough to gain two grades. I feel fortunate and privileged to be able to train along side you Master and my thanks to all who helped me over the five days of training which put a lot of strain on my knees but I enjoyed it. My father said remember three moments in a journey realising I was part of a family seeing Chris getting his well deserved blue belt and the sunrise in the morning tops it off. My best wishes to all the family around the world and at home.  Victor Denton - Sheffield

June Course Feedback

Hi Howard, I just wanted to say thank you for the training yesterday, I really enjoyed it, especially the daoyin exercises. I have learnt a lot and come away with a lot to practise, such as making sure my knee is not turned in on my dragon stances. At first I wasn't sure how to correct it but Mark told me to think of it like the riding horse stance, where you push your knees out rather than bending forwards, and now I get it and can feel (and see) the difference. I just need to remind myself of it every time now until it becomes automatic. Thank you for all the refinements on the dance as well. It is such a great day at Scarborough as the people are all really friendly and everybody is happy to show you something you don't know. I suppose that's because the majority of people who attend (or at least attended yesterday) are running a class, so more than happy to teach others.

Anyway, take care for now and hopefully we will see you for one or two days on the Summer course.

All the Best Kate - Wakefield

Tai Chi Form No Hands Feet Only

Improve your balance in the Tai Chi Form with this exercise

No Hands Feet Only

Tai Chi Breathing

As a beginner how should I breathe when my practising Tai Chi form?

Easter Tai Chi Course

James Anderson from Edinburgh. Receiving his District Coach Award at the Easter Tai Chi course in Scarborough.

Eva Everitt from Sleights, North Yorkshire. Receiving her District Coach Award at the Easter Tai Chi course in Scarborough.

Dear Howard, Thank you very much for the two enthralling days. Varied , interesting and very useful. It was really good to finally meet Gisela. Best Wishes, Robin. Horbury, West Yorkshire

Hi Howard, Enjoyed Saturdays course, learnt a lot as usual, it’s amazing how much I don’t know. But as they say the pleasure is in the journey not the destination. Regards Les - Barrow in Furness

Dear Howard, I'd like to thank you for Saturdays training day, it is great to be amongst so many wonderful practitioners of the arts. Gary - Hull

Hi Howard, Thank you for a great Easter Course. It was wonderful to be back and always so much to learn. You always have some gems of information and instruction that change how something feels. I fully expected to be exhausted after a busy week at work, drive to Scarborough then two full days. Instead I came away invigorated and with that hunger to learn more that comes with immersing myself in Tai Chi and Feng Shou days and being able to forget the stresses and busyness of every day life. It was great to see everyone again too.
It's so important particularly as a teacher to get to the courses and be a student again, to challenge ourselves and be inspired. It is not always easy to make the drive as by the time Friday comes I've done a 52 hour week between work and classes. I was in the loft at 10pm on Thursday night getting an overnight case and packing and sorting out food to take. Then I drove on Friday after teaching two sessions. The rewards of being on the course always far outweigh the journey to get there and back. When I was driving back it struck me that over the many years and trips to Scarborough I've also been blessed with the most awe inspiring skies on my journey home. There is something very magical and liberating about being in the car on your own, singing along to great music and driving into an expansive dusky horizon of ever changing cloud patterns. Last night I saw the sky change through shades of colour which we don't have words to describe. I wished I'd had a dash cam to record it but I knew filming it would never truly capture that beauty. What a wonderful gift. Thanks again for a great course. Angela - Edinburgh

Chee Soo’s class demonstrating Chi Shu art

Master Chee Soo on TV showing his London class demonstrating Chi Shu. 

Chee Soo was hired as fight choreographer for original series of the Avengers.

Chee Soo, Diana Rigg and Film Stunt arranger Ray Austin worked together on "The Avengers" cult TV series

Chee Soo had over 2000 students studying Wu Shu in Britain as part of the British Wu Shu Association, and was one of only three men outside of Beijing qualified to teach Wu Shu.