7.a.-history-of-my-study-practice Section

A Brief History of Nick Gudge's Taijiquan Training

Almost all my taijiquan skill (95%) has come from my training with Wang Hai Jun. When I began training with him in 2002 I had not yet reached Level 1 after more than 15 years training. According to him, I entered Level 2 in 2007 after almost 5 years training with him. In 2012 he placed my skill in the upper half of Level 2. I consider this a product primarily of his patience and superb teaching and training. My eventual contributions were perseverance and a willingness to do what he suggested, (not what I thought was best,) coupled with consistent and prolonged training.

I have met many other taijiquan teacher and those claiming to be taijiquan teachers, most of them briefly and without any consequence to my taijiquan training or understanding. Included here are those who influenced me or with whom I spent a significant period of time training 

I began training taijiquan in Jan 1986 as an effort to reduce the pain in my knees from two sporting injuries in 1984. My first taijiquan teacher was John Kells. He was of poor character and his taijiquan skills had a narrow base from the short time he spent in Taiwan. In this I made a poor beginning. This experience was a help in my understanding how so many people can train for so many years and have little taijiquan skill and yet still believe that they are skilled. Beyond this, despite training for more than 10 years with him and becoming one of his main students and teachers I gained almost no taijiquan skill or understanding. I moved to Ireland in 1994 and was fortunate that John Kells, who did not want me to move to Ireland, decided I was no longer suitable material for his teachings.

The first person I met with some putative taiji skill was the Canadian based Wu Kwong Yu (Eddie Wu) when I attended a weekend seminar with him around 1991.

I then studied for three summers with Dong Zhen Chen and once with his son Alex Dong who visited London each year. He gave me the first clues to the existence of peng jing.

I then trained for almost four years with John Ding in London and Ireland. I parted ways with him at his instigation when I was unwilling to make all the students in my school pay him for the privilege of me studying with him.

The first taijiquan master I met was Chen Xiao Wang. I first studied Chen Style Taijiquan with him in London in 1997. I continued to study with him until around 2002. While I am truly in awe of his gong fu, and I found him personally to both friendly and quite open, I was unable to comprehend his teaching method and he was of small benefit to me.

I met Mike Sigman later in 1997 when I invited him, (at the request of a student who was on the neijia list,) to provide a seminar in Limerick on Internal Strength. Over the next few years I attended 7 or 8 of his seminar weekends. I was impressed by his understanding and his body mechanics if not by his manner or manners. I remain indebted to him for waking me up to some basic taijiquan realities and the central importance of peng jing.

The next person I connected with was Zhang Xue Xin, through the instigation of Mike Sigman (who recommended his Silk Reeling DVD,) and the help of Ben Milton, a Chen style teacher in Bristol. Beginning in 1998 Zhang came to Limerick three times for a weekend seminars and I also visited him in San Francisco for ten days on two occasions. I was very impressed by his gong fu and his manner. Unfortunately the grounding of flights after 9/11/2001 and our geographical distance made it very difficult to continue studying with him. I remain indebted to him for waking me up to some basic silk reeling principles, exercises and the intensity of study required.

From 1999 to 2001 I studied baquazhang occasionally with Aarvo Tucker while he lived in Liphook.

Aarvo introduced me to Li Tai Liang (who lived in New York) at a xingyi weekend Aarvo organised. I was most impressed by his skill and his professionalism.

I attended a 10 day series of seminars with Zu Tian Cai in early 2002, organised by David Gaffney and Davidine Sim in Manchester, We studied silk reeling at one weekend,  sword (jian) during the day, xinjia yilu in the evenings and push hands the following weekend. I was very impressed both with his character and his skills. This was the third set of silk reeling execises I was exposed to.

At this seminar I took a then student of mine, Niall Flynn (now Niall O’Floinn) with me. Instead of driving with me to visit Aarvo when Friday evening was free, Niall decided to attend a class with David Gaffney and Davidine Simms teacher, Wang Hai Jun in Manchester. Aarvo recommended Wang Hai Jun strongly to me (who he knew of but had not met.) Wang Hai Jun was due to visit the West of Ireland with David Gaffney in Nov 2002. Niall had arranged an evening seminar in Galway for him when he was visiting on the Friday evening. I took this opportunity to arrange through David Gaffney a full-day seminar the following day in Limerick. After this seminar I arranged for him to visit Limerick each month to continue to teach the laojia yilu to myself and 20 or so of my students (Niall included). From this time I have studied continuously with Wang Hai Jun and only with him.

Over the past 17 years I have spent an average of 22 days each year with my teacher. I have studied more than 27 times through the laojia yilu with him from start to finish, as well as six times through the Cannon Fist, four times through the straight sword (jian,) four times through the sabre (dao), three through the halberd (guandao) and once throught the spear (qiang). I also studied twice through the 56 step form with him. As well as studying the five levels of Push Hands many times with him I have spent a significant amount if time in Push Hands with him.

Although I thought I was training intensively when I began training with Wang Hai Jun, I realised in retrospect that this was not so. The intensity of my training took several years to develop and from 2005 I was training a minimum of 5 laojia yilu each day. By 2009 this had built up to spending almost all of each year practicing 10 forms a day, peaking in the summer of 2011 at 30 forms (6 hours training) per day.

Typically I train twice per day and teach in addition to this. (As an aside I thought teaching would benefit my practice but in retrospect in some respects it has acted as a limiter to my practice. Teaching cannot count as practice.)

I have more recently had opportunities to train for a few days with Chen Zheng Lei and Chen Bing. These opportunities were about satisfying my curiosity and an interest in teaching styles.

In more recent years my personal practice has diminished due to recovery from surgery (knee arthoscopy arising from a tennis accident in my right knee and a cycling accident in my left knee both in 1984!) I continue to maintain a minimum practice of five laojia yilu each day with occasional increases when my health allows it!

Nick Gudge is a student of Wang Hai Jun and teaches predominantly chen style taijiquan (tai chi) in Limerick.