Interview with Christian Birch: Bloke on the Path

One of my goals with Qialance is to connect with other Taijiquan and Qi Gong enthusiasts around the world. And I like blogging. Obviously I had to create a list of the Top 14 Tai Chi Blogs!

But do you also wonder: who are those bloggers? I hope you are just as curious as I am because I interview them. And this is the interview with Christian Birch from Bloke on the Path:

Picture of Christian Birch from Tai Chi Blog Bloke on a Path (interview of a Top 15 Tai Chi blog)

Could you please tell a bit more about yourself?

I started learning Tai Chi Chuan in 1981, with Danny Connor in Manchester. It was the 24 step Government form. I had tried Wing Chun, Aikido and a Korean form of Karate but none of them appealed to me.

The minute I started Tai Chi Chuan I knew I had come home. I returned to London in 1982 and found John Kells at the British Tai Chi Chuan Association. He taught a non traditional approach but had trained in both classical Yang style and Cheng Man Ching Tai Chi, as well as Judo, Chin Na, Xingyi and Ba Gua. His teachers included T.T .Liang, Dr. Chi Chiang Tao,  Wang Yen Nien , Chu Gin Soon and a month with Yang Sau Chung in Hong Kong.

In 2005 I had the opportunity to learn traditional Sun style from Dave Martin, who had studied with Sun Jian Yun, daughter of Sun Lutang. Dave Martin had also studied Cheng Man Ching Tai Chi,  Yiquan, Jiu Jitsu and Aikido.

So which style are you into and why?

I mostly practise Sun style Tai Chi Chuan. I like the smaller movements and the energy generated through the form. The movements are simple and functional as a martial art and there are no low postures! To a lesser extent I also practise the modified Cheng Man Ching form and two person forms taught to me by John Kells as well as the Heartwork he had developed.

What is the biggest benefit you get from your practice?

The biggest benefit from my practise is stillness, energy and connecting from the heart.

Tai Chi has been an important focus in my life for 35 years and also helped me with recovery from prostate cancer. There isn’t a day when I don’t want to do my practise and my interest is in understanding the principles of Tai Chi. I have found that it takes a number of years for changes to happen mentally and physically as the body/mind rewires itself. My own teaching approach is eclectic as it draws on the diverse influences from my teachers.

Wow, 35 years! I have to admit that I am always impressed when someone is into Taijiquan for so long. I mean, back in 1981 I was just in kindergarten (it actually was a Chinese kindergarten in Singapore, but I forgot everything I learned there)!

Which piece of advice would you give a beginner in Taijiquan?

Find a teacher you feel you can learn from. This is not necessarily the best Tai Chi master. Have faith in your teacher and then learn all they have to teach you. Don’t mix and match by going to workshops with other teachers until you have a good grounding from your teacher. It can be too confusing at an early stage.

I agree, that a teacher doesn’t have to be the best Tai Chi master, but rather someone to learn from. Not only things about Taijiquan, but for everyday life, too.

Who are or were your most important teachers?

My most important teachers are John Kells and Dave Martin. John Kells for his uncompromising spirit and investigation of Tai Chi. I have never seen another teacher with such an interest in pushing hands and energy.

Dave Martin is important for his utter generosity and complete lack of ego. He is an indoor student of the late Sun Jian Yun and I could not have wished for a better human being as a teacher.

Is there any teacher or master you would like to learn from in the near future?

There is no one else I would like to study with in the formal sense. There are many teachers arising from daily life such as the car driver who is too close behind me and I start to get angry when I should not waste my energy in that way. Another formal teacher may appear but not because I am looking for one but because I need it so I trust in the Tao.

Is there a Taijiquan book or blog you recommend? One you often like to pick up and refer to?

Well, obviously I am following Qialance!

Oh, thanks for that! I think it is really enriching to have blogs about Taijiquan and I surely enjoy reading Bloke on the Path, too!

If I had to recommend one book to take with me on a desert island it would be Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain by Chungliang Al Huang*. There is so much useful information in it that I keep returning to it again and again.

I’ve heard about that book from various people already, so I will put it on my reading list!

Thank you, Christian, for the interview and sharing your story.

If you want to read more from Christian, visit his blog Bloke on the Path!

Happy Qi!




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