Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Is Tai Chi Now a Martial Art or Something More?

    What is the point of tai chi
  • Do you practice full contact sparring for self defense or as part of a calorie controlled diet?
  • Do you wear steel capped Dr Martins for aesthetics or for devastating rib attacks?
  • And are exponents of health tai chi perverting the fundamentals of the style or are they riding the waves of a new historical tide?

Listen to the full podcast here, or download it to your device of choice.

The reason I ask, is the old conversation again is cropping up, and it goes something like this:

  • "Hey, teapot, are you teaching Tai Chi as a martial art?" 
  • I groan and sigh and then say: " Listen, with the group I have this year, no way!" 
  • "I suppose", they continue, "that's why you play so much with flow and change and talk about students teaching, or giving beginners a sword to learn with...because (and here comes the crunch).. You aren't teaching the art "seriously"you teach just for exercise or fun.

It's at this point I take a fork out of my back pocket and wedge it up the nose of the speaker until the handle can no longer be seen.

I'll tell you why for 3 reasons...
  1. Because I'm tired. I'm tired of this reductionist approach to tai chi. An approach that has afflicted the arts since time immemorial. It is an attitude that stifles and silences, it is an attitude that constructs a hierarchical practice -  placing death blows at the cloudy sifu-satiny top, and balance or breathing exercises down in the cobwebby basement.
  2. It demeans and undermines the complexity and depth of the art and its wide applications, relevance and practical use for millions of practitioners. 
  3. It reinforces the idea that only though the serious study of how to inflict harm upon others can the art be understood.

Back to tradition Again

Obviously anyone arguing this has a personal agenda - an agenda that feels threatened by any shift away from traditional practices. Yet, all traditional practices come with power structures attached to them. It's just we don't generally look closely at them because they serve the established schools too well. But traditions are just old ideas, ideas that only have value if they remain relevant.

So ask yourself if what you are practicing is relevant? Does it relate to the times in which we live, resonating with principles of unity and fairness. If not, then any tradition - sorry to say - ought to be discarded, as one would discard an overgrown toenail 

Looking Beyond the Confines of Definitons

Attempts to demean a class by defining its purpose as "fun" or "exercise" says a lot about the sorts of classes where both "fun and exercise" are most likely prohibited. Probably, it says something about the sort of life lived outside the class too.

Tai Chi in nature with the teapomonkClasses that do not prioritise health, classes that do not address regaining lost confidence, classes that do not know how to restore purpose or hope, but instead choose to focus on how to expel 'qi' through ones nose during a multiple ninja assault, frankly...says little about their teachers contact with reality. 

Words, Words and More Confusing Words

Unlike almost all other martial arts that have maintained their fighting principles over time, many schools of Tai Chi have shifted consciously away from the martial towards an exclusively health, meditative or philosophical curriculum. Now this new direction, this new evolution of the art, still calls itself Tai Chi and hence the conundrum.

In theory the whole title: Tai Chi Chuan means the martial practice (chuan meaning FIST.) The use of just the phrase Tai Chi (without Chuan) denotes the more health orientated aspects of the art. But this is all just a neat theory, as it is ignored by everyone other than the pedantic stylists with an agenda.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Tai Chi isn't a martial art. Of course it is. But please, don't restrain it, confine it, define it and enclose it to live within just one temple. 

The Components of Tai Chi

What distinguishes Tai Chi as a martial art is the same thing that distinguishes Tai Chi as any art... And that is:

  • An emphasis on the principles of relaxation under duress.
  • An emphasis on breathing techniques for remaining soft rather than hard, and for remaining alert, focused and in balance. 
  • A focus on developing the internal 'Ch'i' (choose your pick of definitions) 
  • A healthy cocktail of physical balance, open and active listening, sticking, rooting and yielding  skills

This collection of life skills not only makes Tai Chi a useful addition to any martial artists curriculum, but also makes Tai Chi a  formidable art for coping with the rigors of 21st century living.

For the whole argument: 

Friday, 26 December 2014

I Only Have Eyes For You: The Absence of Change in Tai Chi

Tai Chi: The Need for a Soft Revolution

"Every generation deserves a new revolution", said Thomas Jefferson and although some of you may point a finger to the heavens and squeak (from behind a sofa)... "ehm, excuse me, but what about that Russell Brand fellow or that PODEMOS group in Spain or SYRIZA in Greece"... 

I’d have to point out, that we are in fact talking about a martial art on this blog post, and not an economic order (alas). For, as we end 2014, I don’t think (and this is just my own humble opinion) we can honestly slap ourselves on our backs (not physically possible) nor congratulate ourselves on how far we have collectively edged the Tai Chi movement into mainstream consciousness. 

Tai Chi still occupies the slow lane of the martial arts; it still drags its feet when in the ring with Yoga; it is still too often confused with something you might add to your stir fry. 

Perhaps it’s time we had a someone come along and fuse together a new style of Tai Chi?  

The Origins of Styles ("I only have eyes for you"... and your satin suit, master) 

Styles revolt. It's in their nature to do so, unless artificially held back. Look at a brief history of Tai Chi: 

Revolutionary Change Number 1: Chang San Feng the immortal founder and his companion the Orangutan.
Let's face it, if Chang San Feng did in fact exist, according to legend, he only re-arranged a series of static postures, copied a few animals he saw wandering the bamboo forests and merely stuck them together with a bit of glue. Hardly the most revolutionary or creative act in the history of the martial arts. But hey, who am I to argue with an immortal or his ape?

Revolutionary Change Number 2: The Chens
The ghostly wisps of the newly created form, as maintained and taught by the simian sole survivor, finally settled in THE VILLAGE (Who is number 1?) of the Chens. Then, for the next umpteen centuries it stayed behind closed walls as a fossilised and stagnant system - not unlike the royal families of Europe today. 

Revolutionary Change Number 3: Yang Lu Chan and his Stolen Style.
Then along came the brash outsider, Yang Lu Chan, who spied on the village of the Chens and eventually nicked their moves and claimed them for his own. 
Today he would have had his pants sued off him, but back then it was ok to copy and paste - and maybe - it meant that things could still evolve at a healthier pace. 

Revolutionary Change Number 4: Cheng Man Ching drags the art into the second half of the 20th century
Finally, after a series of scuffles about whether the art could, or could not, deflect speeding bullets or leap tall buildings in a single bound, Tai Chi eventually got fed up with the whole argument and went west. But for all his troubles, poor old Cheng still got harassed for shortening the Tai Chi Form to a western audience (even though he did it first in Taiwan). Despite his success at introducing a new art, our western collective deference to eastern mysticism and the martial arts since the 1960’s, meant it has never again stepped outside the confines of 19th century China. 

I mean, just look at all those satin suits will ‘yer?

2015 and maybe, just maybe a New Year after-all.

So come on boys and girls, step off the golden path and go learn a different style this year. Pix and Mix. Open up the creaky doors of tradition and sweep away the dusty cobwebs of lineage to fuse a new style of tai chi - relevant  to the 21st century 

I give you: “I Only Have Eyes For you”. 

Enjoy the video. Peace and good wishes for 2015 

Want more on the origins of the martial arts?
Watch the OLT video here or read more about the Untold History of the Martial Arts Here

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Eight Immortal Xmas Gifts for little Sifus

Xmas Customers queuing in the Teapot Dept. Store

It's Xmas time and our thoughts turn naturally to the health and joy of our loved ones. What better way to express this deep connection with our fellow human beings than to spend, spend and spend again. After all, if heaven is to be found on earth, it's to be found in the shopping mall.

And in the valley of the blind, the consumer is King, so the Teapotmonk is opening up his Teapot Xmas Store offering the 8 Immortal Xmas Gifts for the little Sifus in your family.

The Teapotmonk Discount Store: EIGHT IMMORTAL GIFTS!


NEW JUST IN! The Touch ID Satin Suit
Now iron-free with touch ID buttons

Yes, you heard it right. Just arrived from the Far East today!  This new "self-ironing" Satin Suit is the perfect gift for all creased and worn out Sifus everywhere. Wear the SUIT as many times as you wish: Wear it to the cinema, the supermarket or as many do, just to bed. Wake up, and hey presto its still got its important creases in the all right places.

Made of genuine sustainable, organically grown bamboo leaves from the misty banks of the Wu Dan mountains - these special pajamas (Satin suits) now come with Touch ID buttons so no-one else will slip them on without you knowing.


NEW! Wifi Powered Solar Incense Sticks

now wifi enabled 

They never go out! Place a couple respectively under the framed image of your Sifu (maybe beneath the lineage chart - see below) Make sure they are in range of your router, and Switch on!  Immediately you will rejoice at that realistic red Rudolph glow and just watch as a smile appears on Sifu's faded portrait. Now, you can safely go on holiday, close up the Dojo for months at a time and know that your respects will be forever paid. (And, when that martial spirit begins to fade from afar, you can skype in to Sifu directly through the Wifi Powered Solar Incense Sticks!)



Now you too can prove the authenticity of your SINGLE WHIP with the Teapot Lineage Chart!

Worried when your students ask about Lao Tzu and your Lineage? Anxious that your master never made it into the Martial Arts hall of fame? Fear not new Sifus

With the new Teapotmonk Martial Art Lineage Chart (Add your own name at the bottom) the cloudy dawn of Tai Ch history will become crystal clear with this unique washable - (made from recycled incense sticks) lineage chart to hang at the entrance to your training hall.



The Entire Long-Form Fridge Magnets Set

Never Forget the Long Form again with this superbly crafted Yang Lu Chan Fridge magnet set. Every posture depicted in order for you to memorise as you take out the milk each morning or put away butter before the dog gets it.
Find out how to purchase this hand-crafted beautiful set made from the discarded feathers of organically raised pigeons. 

Read more about this and other animal rights in the martial arts here. 


4G - Wifi Uni-Body Aluminium Nunchaku
Wifi enabled nunchaku from the book One Last thing

At Xmas time its time to give back: Resolve territorial conflicts, depose politically corrupt regimes and bring an end to world recession (Whilst picking up your email) with just a swing or two of the i-Nunchaku.

Find out all the juicy specifications of these new 4G Aluminium Wifi enabled Nunchaku - made in the temple - (Designed in California) 

Find out more and order your set here. 


Collect The Entire Tao

Yes thats right folks, gather the Tao around you with these 6 Tai Chi Books in either PDF or Epub format: 3 insightful books on Tai Chi wisdom from the mOnk himself AND 3 gorgeous Photo books for a thorough introduction to Tai Chi
Relax over Xmas with this special mOnkish offer! Ideal Stocking filler!  In either PDF or ePub formats - all for the price of one paperback!

Tai CHi Books by paul Read

PDF: Download it now from here or just find out more here.

ePub: Download it now, or find out more here. 


Ways of Learning Audio book by Paul Read

Give your eyes a rest over Xmas and listen to the Ways of Learning Audio Book: Informative, educational and hilarious. Tai Chi and the Martial arts have never been the same since. 

Plug in your headphones, wash up the dishes, take out the dog or try doing both at the same time! Everything is possible with the audio version of Ways of Learning.

Narrated by the mOnk himslef, you can listen to a sample here. Or download the file from here.


  • How about a new wallpaper for your phone or tablet? 
  • How about a new poster for your Dojo wall?
  • How about something that not only looks great, but make you think too! And its free!

Grab these PLUS MORE Free Posters to send anonymously to your competitors today. Browse the collection here and download all you want! 

Feliz Navidad as we say here in spain. Here's hoping somewhere within, you fnd the resources you need to make 2015 all you wish for. Whether it be practising out of doors , deepening your training or generally just laughing more and worrying less. 

Teapot Tidings to All. 

Friday, 12 December 2014


Listen above, download to your fave device or subscribe for free in iTunes

Sometimes, when walking the dog or shopping for artichokes, strangers come up to me and ask: "Hey Teapot, where is the best place to practice my Tai Chi: "On top of the Wudan mountain, deep inside the Chen village or at my local Shaolin temple?"

I always say: "Oh any of those, and while you're over there, buy yourself a nicely ironed yellow satin suit and maybe a jade tassel to hang from your mobile phone case. Because you're not Talking Tai Chi, you're talking Tai Chi fluff."

It's all well and good developing your tai chi to an enlightened level in the confines and safety of a classroom, but if you can't perform on the street, what value has this walled garden approach to life?

And when I say "perform on the street", I'm not talking about street Shuriken skills. I'm talking about, exposing your wobbly Golden Rooster to the wider world.

Festive Shares

What better way of finishing the year with a festive post about sharing your Tai Chi? You can share it by spreading the word, you can share it by downloading and distributing the poster below, the podcast above, the free Tai Chi Photobook listed at the bottom of this page. You can share it by supporting the Bean Curd Boxer and grab a book below as a presie for a friend - or by Taking Your Tai Chi Out onto the Street. 

Three Reasons to take your Tai Chi Out onto the Street

First Reason: Turn a Hobby into a Way of Life

Firstly, unless you learn how to employ techniques into your daily life, Tai Chi will remain a simple past-time. A bit like collecting bottle tops. In order for Tai Chi to become something more than than a bottle-top collection, you must practice at home, at work and even out on the street. Practicing in parks and public spaces helps to build confidence and to shift your place of attention.

Each year, as May approaches, I haul one local class of mine outside the studio and onto the street. We invade a park, a square or large public space and begin to do a form, sword drills or chi gung.

Initially, every student dreads it, they fear they may be seen by someone they know, Youtube'd without their consent or just ridiculed by passing teenagers. But, learning to let go of these fears is partly what it is all about. 

Practicing outside also marks the beginning of the essential process of internalising your Tai Chi. 

Most of us, don't have a handy Taoist temple on the corner of our street to go and meditate in when we feel a bit stressed out. Most of us live in urban environments that are often noisy, dirty and densely populated. We must learn to work within this environment, rather than hide from it.

So as you do the Form in public, don't worry about how you are being seen and what others are thinking of you. (Though this is quite normal at the start.) No one likes to do things badly or incorrectly, least of all in public, in as it does little to boost your self-confidence. 

But one way of overcoming this self-consciousness is to practice regularly outside. The first time is difficult, the second less so, and the third much easier. Over time, as you get used to people stopping, watching and then moving on, your practice shifts inside again and although you never close down the awareness of what is happening around you, there is an important change in where to place your focus and where to concentrate your energy. 

This is a lesson you cannot learn in the confines of the classroom where the environment is excessively controlled, manipulated and secured from interruptions. Under these conditions it's easy to imagine you are at one with the Tao. 

Now, some of you may be saying, yeah, but what happens when people start pointing, or jeering or throwing asparagus at you as you crouch down into squatting single whip. Well, take it as a compliment that you are not being completely ignored, and that seeing someone perform tai chi in a public space is still considered something quite special.

This brings me onto the second reason to practice outside 

Second Reason: Sharing What You Do


Many people actually love watching the slow movements. It makes them feel relaxed too! All that internal and external vibration is going out into the great universe around you, and here in front of your very eyes people are responding to that energy. All those electrons are changing as you perform, observed they change shape and connect to others. This is the hidden soft power of practising outside.

But not just humans. How do the birds respond? Do cats come out to watch or sleek away in fear? Do dogs bark incessantly or follow you around as you slide from one fair lady to another? 

I remember once doing the  Form in the middle of a field in Southern England, and gradually all the cows at the other end started to drift toward me. By the time I had finished, I was completely encircled by a group of grass munching herbivores. All with their eyes fixed on me, all munching away with, what I assumed to be, great interest.

Of course you may be one of those that don't notice these things and close your eyes when doing in the form and travel off to other dimensionswhich brings me to reason number 3.

Third Reason: Adaptation

There are some people that practice martial arts and at the same time live in other galaxies. They hover their way into the class, lighting incense as they enter, wearing their shiny ironed satin suits, their dry cleaned Chinese slippers, quoting Lao Tzu, and tossing their yarrow sticks onto the ground to help them decide which direction to face before signing the register.

If this rings a bell, then you need to Practie outside, because you can't indulge in this nonsense. You can't control your environment. You must adapt to it, you must test the flexibility of your teachings.

Where to Practice Tai Chi

So where should you go? That's down to you and the place you live in, but bear in mind that playing Tai Chi in the middle of a roundabout at a busy motorway junction may not conducive to good practice, air quality or safe and distraction free driving.

Try going out in the rain, or after it has stopped raining, during a mist or after a recent snowfall. Each condition has its own qualities and can only be discovered once you leave the confines of your centrally heated or air conditioned  bedroom.

4 XMAS GOODIES -  Four Ideal Stocking fillers for the festive season.

Looking for something to get that budding Ninja in the family for Xmas? Look no more...

1: Free Tai Chi Art Book 

A beautiful FREE photo book on exploring Tai Chi as an art form. Get it Free in iBooks searching for Art in Tai Chi or as a PDF here

2: The Manual of Bean Curd Boxing

Discover techniques for taking your tai chi out into the street in the chapters on Standing like a flamingo, Driving like a tortoise, Walking like a cat, or yodelling like Tarzan. Grab the ebook or paperback here. 

3: Ways of Learning Paperback

It's been a while coming, but the paperback book is now available on Amazon or here in paperback. Sabotage a Martial Artist today and order him/her a copy.

4: Poster Grab the "Contented Man" Poster featured in this weeks post from the link below or from my Pinterest Tai Chi Board

Yup, the Contented Man Poster is downloadable to your mobile device as the perfect Yuletide gift. Get it, and many other posters for free here.

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