Are you breathing?  Is your heart beating? That’s all you need to start training.

We teach the Classical Chinese Martial Arts of White Crane Kung Fu and Suang Yang Tai Chi.

They come to you in the hands of modern-day teachers, scholars, leaders, mentors – we call them instructors.

Come and find us.  We’ll be here – still training, still breathing, our hearts beating.

It feels like your chest will burst as a jet of joy shoots up through your body – you did it! And then the gremlin sneers “Pride comes before a fall”.  But if we do not take pride in our achievements how are we to know where to go next on the stepping stones of our life? This is a dichotomy at the heart of progress. If we do not feel any pride how do we know if we have made any progress? If we do feel pride in something that was not really a step forward then are we fooling ourselves? It’s a psychological minefield – whilst it’s not the same as losing a limb to a real landmine, it’s a real blockage to our self-realisation.

And so we come to poppies. Chief Instructor, Dennis Ngo, takes up the discussion. Read More

Ahh, the Olympics – the tears, the agony, the falling down, and that’s just the winners. But what does it feel like to put in the training? We think we know as we put in a fair bit. But let’s try something new. Instructor for London South, Richard Wagstaff decided to test his aptitude at the triathlon. Would his Kung Fu training help him?  And with the Brownlee brothers in his sights, at the back of his mind simmered an ancient emotion – sibling rivalry.

I love the three disciplines of the Triathlon.

Followed cycling since watching Greg LeMond battle with the legendary Bernard Hinault in the Tour de France in the mid 1980s. Been a regular swimmer –  ever since my Father’s promise of £10 for swimming my first width of a pool.
Even went through a period in my younger days of getting up before 6am to make it down to the pool before work to put in some serious lengths. Running is something I have learnt to enjoy more recently. First started going for gentle jogs in preparation for the infamous FWC Crete training camp early morning run and hill sprints (after which breakfast never tasted so good). Since then I have used running as a great warm down and mental release following a hard training session on Sundays with the Chief Instructor, Dennis Ngo. Read More

Instructor’s phone shows: New text message – The class was great, but I don’t think I can commit to the training right now.  Cue Instructor wondering why an enthusiastic beginner has given up before they’ve really started. But we know. It’s an open secret. Many, many people drop a new training regime because of muscle pain. Not injury, but the pain known as DOMS – acronym for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. They will rarely say so, overwhelmed by a world of Shame/Blame/Pain after finding out that they are not fit as they thought, not as strong, not as tough – what were they thinking of when they tried a Kung Fu class? never mind Tai Chi..(how can that possibly hurt??).

And it’s not only the Beginners. Committed students who have been training for a couple of years can suddenly find it hard going if they are sleep deprived (new baby?), under stress (new job?), or have a change of routine (new house?). And this is where if it works for you, chocolate milk as a recovery drink can get you over this hump.

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“I’m shaking under the bright lights.  Sweat is pouring off me.  My clumsy fingers fumble with the cellophane, tugging at the packaging, trying not to drop it but get it out and stab the box. In it goes and I take a long pull through the straw. Blessed relief as the sweet chocolate milk begins its journey through my exhausted body.  It’s the end of two hours of intense training. You know what it feels like – squats, patterns, combinations, leg lifts, press-ups, patterns, two-person combinations, stance work watching the mirror to make sure your head isn’t higher than the person in front (why are the front row so short?). And at the end of it all (well, just before weapons and sparring get underway) I allow myself a carton of chocolate milk.” Instructor Sharon Ngo is here to tell you all about the latest in fitness addictions. Read More

“If I had wanted to be a performance artist I would not have started training in Traditional Chinese Martial Arts”. Well that all sounds reasonable until you look into the history of Chinese Martial Arts. And then you realise that there were many occasions on which performance was required, and this was not only on the battlefield. We have said it many times in class – humans are primates and as such we are primed to respond to body language, and by extension “performance” of movement. Maybe scientists have only recently discovered that gorillas sing to each other, but we have long known that performance is a form of communication. And so Instructor Dave Courtney Jones asked his students to be involved with the Big Dance project, co-operating with the Counterpoint Dance Company.  Dave takes up the story of how they got on with their biggest performance so far…

Dancing in the dark

“It’s pitch black. I am sat in the Lilian Baylis Theatre at Sadler’s Wells looking down at the vague silhouettes of my students as they stand motionless in horse stance, positioned across the darkened stage. Read More

We all came home safely from Crete, no injuries, plenty of learning. We learned so much both from the training and the general discussions over breakfast, lunch and dinner, that it’s hard to keep hold of it all. So we have set out a handy reminder list to cut out and keep. We also made major strides in the new sport of Donkey Diving – we got as far as freestylling, to the disgust of the classicists. It might take some time before it makes it to the Olympics, but no doubt by then we will have completely evolved system of marking. We would like to reassure  that no donkeys were harmed in the development of this game. Looking forward to the “real” Olympics next month. Read More

“Are you still coming after Brexit?” read the text message from our Cretan hosts. Somehow we seem to hit geopolitical turmoil when we travel for training. Last year it was Grexit, with banking controls, empty ATMs and fairly empty beaches. But it takes more than political upheaval and financial crises to stop us training. Read More

There seems to be a symbiotic relationship between cycling and Kung Fu. Several of our students have written about how their Kung Fu training benefits their cycling. But here we meet endurance cyclist Pete Kelsey, who takes it even further. Hundreds of kilometres further. Several times a year. In all weathers. With no back-up. Now that’s endurance.

How did I get here?

“It’s 4am as I wheel my bike out in the pre-dawn gloom and set off in the direction I’ve just come from, I’m 380km into a 630km ‘Audax’ event, a long distance cycling challenge and not for the first time I wonder how exactly I ended up here. Read More

“Could you write something about the health benefits of Tai Chi?” the Editor of Calibre Quarterly magazine asked Instructor Richard Wagstaff. “No problem”. And here it is: Fighting Spirit. Yes we all agree that 65-year old Chief Instructor Dennis Ngo looks “impressive” (in the words of the Calibre Editor). Whilst preparing the article, discussions turned to people’s perceptions of Tai Chi as for those who were not “up to” the hard style of Kung Fu. Why don’t I just come out with it and say “mature” or “older” or “middle-aged”? Because, leaving aside considerations of acceptable language and the implied stereotypes, these are labels that don’t provide any useful information. I like the word “grown-ups” – you are a grown-up when you think you are and remain so as long as you wish.

One of our Grown-Up Students, Jill Steen, did not start training with us until she had been a grown-up for quite some time. She is really making up for any lost time (if you call having a successful and interesting life “lost time”). Jill trains several times a week and has travelled with us to China, Egypt, and Crete. During training camps she gets up in the morning and goes on the dawn pre-breakfast runs. Jill has twice competed in China at International Martial Arts competitions (as in the photo above). In China competitors are grouped by age and there is no lack of competition in the older age categories.

Jill takes up her story here – and it all started with a leaflet coming through her front door…. Read More