Northern Soul: Keepin’ The Faith

Northern Soul: The Film & Keepin’ The Faith.

Northern-Dancer 1

At long last, today – October 17th, Elaine Constantine’s much anticipated film Northern Soul hits the big screen at 120+ cinemas around the country and the buzz just keeps on keeping on. There’s been a spate of pieces in The Guardian over the past 12 months (including an interview with Elaine and a piece “How to dance to northern soul” by Tim Jonze) and with the film’s imminent arrival features have inevitably appeared in other national dailies. The Beeb’s Culture Show featured journalist Paul Mason documentary Keeping The Faith – a reflection on his youth at Wigan Casino and “a music scene that has refused to die”. Last weekend Gilles Peterson dropped a Northern Soul special on BBC6 and interviewed both Elaine and her partner Marco Santucci while over on Mi Soul my good friend Ross Allen was diggin’ into the double cd on Harmless that’s been compiled to go with the film.

NS film poter 2 My younger brother has had the film on pre-order at Amazon for months and I’ve been busy trying to lock down an ace spinner from the Northern scene to help him hone his spin skills to the level of a kid with glasses that he spotted in one the Northern Soul trailers or a “making of..” shorts. He’s a refined northern soul dancer – having honed his skills over four decades but that tight multiple northern spin can be bloody elusive.

As it goes, it was my brother who turned me onto the music that was being played at the Twisted Wheel. I was 18 and doing foundation at Rochdale College of Art. My friends were bikers, hippies – regulars at the Magic Village who drank in The Crown – the only pub in Manchester that served people with long hair and had a superbly stocked Juke box (whoah, just had little memory flash of Albert King’s ‘Cold Feet’). I collected records but it was Captain Beefheart, Love, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Mothers of Invention, Velvet Underground, Howling Wolf, Roland Kirk.

Richard Searling

Richard Searling

We were both at school with Richard Searling – who is today one of the most celebrated Northern DJs. He was the first kid I’d seen with cropped hair and matching wrangler jacket and jeans. My brother, along with a close mate who’d become a Wheel regular and was probably robbing chemist shops, was fixated on being a mod. That said, we lived in mill town outside of Manchester and there was no money in our house for Levis or Ben Shermans or a made to measure blazer. You had to have left school and be earning to even think about style.

I finished at Rochdale in the summer of 1970 and after doing a couple of months of shift work in a local paper mill spent a portion of my money on a new look that I was to take with me to art school in leafy, conservative Cheltenham. A leather coat, a pair of plain Royals, tonic mohair trousers, 501s, DMs,a Harrington, couple of button downs and a bottle of Brut! I also carried a little record box of sevens – Earl Van Dyke, Fascinations, Al Wilson, Archie Bell, The Dells, The Contours, Jackie Wilson, Gladys Knight,The Elgins… which accompanied the rest of my record collection.

Twisted Wheel Wheel - 1970

Twisted Wheel Wheel – 1970

The Twisted Wheel closed in early 1971 leaving the Wheel regulars to roam the nation in search and next all nighter. Cheltenham, had a long-time rep as a mod town, and I quickly discovered a pub that was frequented by a posse of Wheel regulars. Being dressed appropriately as well as having a solid command of the dance moves I was welcomed into the firm. It allowed me to dip out of the art school world and reconnect with a dressed and pressed, soul music loving crew of working class geezers who thought nothing of driving up to the Catacombs in Wolverhampton and then when it closed around 1am heading off through misty countryside to find an all nighter in a church hall in Market Harborough. Good times.

NS 3Northern Soul dancers at Wigan Casino mid 1970s

Meanwhile, back in Manchester my brother was checkin’ out the Torch in Stoke, which opened in ’71 following the demise of the Wheel, and also the very excellent and progressive Highland Room in Blackpool Mecca which was deejayed by Ian Levine and Colin Curtis. He has good memories of Wigan but by the time it opened its doors in September in 1973 I wasn’t really down with what it had to offer. In 1974 I moved to east London. I’d become heavily involved in politics and the combination of the music and the message was paramount. The Northern scene originally resonated with the rise of the Black Power movement. The leather driving gloves and clenched fist salute was pure Tommy Smith at the Olympics. However, by ’74 you’d had radical offerings from Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Gil Scott Heron, Parliament and jazz-men like Archie Shepp.  The Godfather – James Brown – had ushered in the Funk while Black America was ragin’. There was a musical renaissance taking place in Black America and it was largely being ignored by the Northern scene.

In Britain in 1974, we were being subjected to an IRA bombing campaign, the National Front and racism was on the rise  and the nation was on a three day week in response to a miners strike. The streets of London were piled high with garbage. Tough times were ahead for the working class youth in the soon to decimated north of England and appropriately 1974 – that first ecstatic year at Wigan Casino – provides the setting for Elaine Constantine’s Northern Soul. It seems like age has passed since I came across an initial interview with Elaine about the film she was making and I loved the inspirational  story of being at a school or youth club dance in Bury and suddenly, on the arrival of a certain tune, she witnessed a posse of awkward teenage lads become transformed as they slid out of the shadows and onto the dancefloor.

I have yet to see the film… it’s got to be this week..  and am looking forward to it. However, along with the film I can also heartily recommend the hard-back book – Northern Soul: An Illustrated History – that Elaine and writer Gareth Sweeny have put together. Whether you are from the scene or not I suggest you seek it out. The combination of oics from the 70’s mixed with images from the film can be a touch confusing but it effectively prevents it all from slipping into a retro cul de sac. That said, the essential content of this book is a no holds barred people’s history, from the Twisted Wheel to Wigan casino and Blackpool Mecca to the new Millenniunm, built around a collection of personal testimonies from those who were there. The music, the drugs, the rivalries – the life.

The Book

The Book!

Diggin' in the crates - Wigan Casino Record Bar 1980

Diggin’ in the crates – Wigan Casino Record Bar 1980

NS 7While the Northern scene, like the soul and funk weekenders, continued to thrive despite its ageing following, this film has already provided the springboard for a new generation of dancers – a core group of whom came to the music and the dancing though their acting roles in the film. Basically, they got hooked and once hooked there’s no going back. It’s going to be most interesting to see what kind of impact the film has in the near future. The Northern Soul compilation album (and the package of 7″ singles) available through Harmless record romped into the album charts at number 6 and it appears that a whole new generation of kids might just get tempted by those soulful vocals, that beatin’ rhythm and the trancendental, euphoric potential of those fleet-footed, acrobatic dance moves. All you need is a little faith.

INFO: http://www.northernsoulthefilm.com/

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LIVE: Collocutor, The Grip, Steve Williamson….

London town regularly delivers an overwhelming array of LIVE music and the late summer has been exceptional with enlightening and stirring  sessions from  Collocutor, The Grip and Steve Willamson.

Last Monday night I caught the launch of the the Collocutor album at the Forge in Camden Town. I was introduced to the music of Collocutor by On The Corner records boss Pete Buckenham and album producer Nick Woodmansey of Emanative. Both maintained, ” You have to check them live.” and on the night I was not disappointed.

Tamar Collocutor

Tamar Collocutor

Led by saxophonist (baritone + soprano)/flautist, Tamar Osborn, who you may know from the Fontanelles and numerous other projects, this ensemble is built around two distinctively different percussionists –  Maurizio Ravalico and Magnus Mehta – and bassist Suman Joshi. This rhythmic triumvirate provide a unique foundation for Tamar,  Simon Finch (trumpet/flugel horn), Josephine Davies (tenor) and guitarist Marco Piccioni to step off from.

On their very first tune Marco Piccioni’s blistering solo on Stratocaster, which propelled him around the back of the stage on his tip toes in moonwalk fashion, gave us a indication that we were in a few surprises.  Maurizio Ravalico’s unique approach to percussion which included a surdo drum, a hi-hat made from washing machine parts, a violin bow and a selection of Tibetan bowls was the perfect foil the horn players who switched between crisp ensemble parts and free flowing, muscular solos.

Collocutor

Collocutor

Apart from Joe Henderson’s ‘Fire’ and the encore of Miles’ ‘On The Corner’  all compositions were Tamar’s and took in influences from Yusef Lateeef’s book of scales, memories of an island in the Mediterranean – the divine ‘Archaic Morning’ – and an elephant pendant (which somehow led Tamar to explore in sound & music what it would be like for an elephant to be stranded in a room to small for it!).

The LP

The LP

The session at The Forge was Collocutor’s first live performance and it received a rapturous response from the musician heavy crowd in attendance. Their organic,  rhythmically innovative blend of modal and spiritual jazz is definitely attuned to this moment in time and Tamar’s compositions clearly initiate a conversation between those onstage and those in the audience. I definitely want to hear more.

The Grip - Oren, Finn, Tom Pic: E. Heatherwick

The Grip – Oren, Finn, Tom Pic by E. Heatherwick

Cut from the same roll of musical cloth and equally reflective of the times is The Grip –  a stellar trio featuring saxophonist Finn Peters, tuba-master Oren Marshall and drummer Tom Skinner. Inspired by Black Arthur Blythe album – ‘The Grip’ – and the musical combinations he explored at that time, the threesome took to the stage in the Vortex armed with a bunch of fresh compositions inspired by stories fictional and true, all of which appear a brand new LP on Slowfoot entitled ‘Celebrate’.

gripThe spirit of pioneers like Steve Reid, Bob Stewart, Yusef Lateef and Blythe himself filled the Vortex but The Grip combine legacy with their own unique compositional skills, focused energy and intuitive 21st century funk. Oren is a monster, a force of nature,  whose relentless spirit and creativity surges through his tuba to deliver warm , rhythmic waves of sound that allow Tom Skinner and Finn to breach the boundaries. Memorable moments included a tune dedicated to ‘Saladin’ and a mesmerising meditative Lateef-like composition that stemmed from the tale of a man whose job was to slaughter animals. All in all it was a wild night that made me want to dig into the album and ensure that I check their next gig.

Steve Williamson - Pic by Carl Hyde

Steve Williamson – Pic by Carl Hyde

The appearance of the Steve Williamson Quintet at the Pizza Express in Soho was also a joy to behold. This was the first time the saxophonist had played his own compositions, with his own hand-picked band, in well over a decade. The choice of musicians in the quintet was inspired. Polar Bear’s Seb Rochford played drums while the furiously innovative Robert Mitchell took on piano duties. Their rapport was crucial in pushing Williamson’s horn solos into the stratosphere. The fedora sporting, electric bassist, Michael Mondesir sat smiling throughout as he applied himself to the complex rhythms that graced the sheets of music in front of him.

For me, the set was vintage Steve Williamson. The music he’d resurrected for this performance sounded as fresh and as radical as when I first heard it. ‘Waltz For Grace’ with Filomena Campus on vocals was heart rending and showcased an ensemble in free flight. It was only on the final number that we were to get an insight into music that Steve has been writing in recent times. He is, without doubt, desperate to present this music as he hears it and as expected it’s rhythmically complex and demanding – for both the listeners and the players. Personally, I’m up for the challenge and more than keen to hear the results of his plan to include string instruments and extend the range of voices within it. Maybe we’ll get to hear that when he does a promised recording for Jez Nelson’s Jazz On 3 later this month. Can’t wait.

Steve & Michael

Steve & Michael Photography by Carl Hyde

CHECK OUT…. http://onthecornerrecords.bandcamp.com/album/instead

http://slowfoot.bandcamp.com/album/celebrate

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ACTIVISM! LONG LIVE SOUTHBANK SECURES FUTURE OF UNDERCROFT FOR SKATEBOARDING….

FOLLOWING A DETERMINED 17 MONTH LONG CAMPAIGN THAT GENERATED 150,000 SIGNATURES AND CONSISTENT MEDIA COVERAGE LONG LIVE SOUTHBANK HAVE SECURED THE FUTURE OF UNDERCROFT FOR SKATEBOARDING, BMX-ing & STREEET ART.

The Save Our Southbank  petition table is packed up for the last time

The Save Our Southbank petition table is packed up for the last time

Such good news. After a hard fought ‘Save Our Southbank’ campaign, this well deserved and somewhat remarkable victory proves activism pays. Coinciding with the publication of their chunky hard backed book Long Live Southbank, and following on from talks which have taken place over the last three months, the Long Live Southbank campaign and the Southbank Centre issued a historic joint statement outlining an agreement that secures the Queen Elizabeth Hall undercroft as the long-term home of British skateboarding and the other urban activities for which it is internationally famous.

The Undercroft  Pic: Sam Ashley

The Undercroft Pic: Sam Ashley

It seems that an intervention by Mayor Of London, Boris Johnson, might just have tiped the scales.  The agreement has been formalised in a binding Section 106 planning agreement with Lambeth Council. On the basis of the protections secured by the 106 both parties have withdrawn their respective legal actions in relation to the undercroft. These include Southbank Centre’s challenge to the registration of the undercroft as an asset of community value, Long Live Southbank’s application for village green status for the undercroft, and a judicial review of Lambeth Council’s decision to reject the village green application.

All  this legal bizniz costs lots of money and while the campaign would like to thank all their supporters  there remains a portion of funds to recoup. To give a helping hand you can check the shop and purchase a copy of the book or the new ‘Roots & Culture’ tees etc. Also, it’s still possible to whack in a bid for one of those funky one-off boards, designed by the likes of the Chapman Brothers, James Jarvis et al.

Skateboards: The Auction

Skateboards: The Auction

Finally, during the last month of the campaign, while talks were taking place, Long Live Southbank finished writing their Cultural and Heritage Assessment on the Undercroft. This 120 page document was delivered, with the help of dozens of local skaters, to over 100 relevant politicians, the Southbank Centre and their partners, architectural organisations and heritage bodies. It will soon be available to read on their website.

OK… I’m out… push, kick….

MORE INFO CHECK: http://www.llsb.com/

The Book: Lovin' the concrete vibe of the cover!

The Book: Lovin’ the concrete vibe of the cover!

SOSB book

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KEEP ON KEEPING ON: The Film

KEEP ON KEEPING ON is a poignant trans-generational story that was filmed over a four year period and explores the connection between ageing legendary trumpet player Clark Terry and young blind pianist Justin Kauflin.

Keep_on_Keepin_On-285739429-large

Produced by Quincy Jones and Paula Dupré Pesmen this debut documentary by Mike Hicks is a must see. It tells the highly absorbing story of the relationship between Clark Terry – one of the founders of Jazz education – and his most recent protégé Justin Kauflin. As a young man ‘CT’ played alongside the giants of the big band / swing era – Duke Ellington and Count Basie. He mentored Miles Davis and Quincy Jones; and he draws on this experience to help 23-year-old Justin to overcome the performance anxiety and nerves holding his phenomenal talent back. What Hick’s captures in this film is the flowering of a friendship between the two men that transcends their mentor/student relationship. As Clark Terry’s health declines and Justin, who is completely blind, struggles to make his way in New York, their sessions together are mutually beneficial and incredibly poignant. Life affirming.

keep-on-keepin-on-001SCREENINGS:

Oct 8, 2014 8:45 PM – BFI Southbank, NFT1

Oct 9, 2014 3:30 PM – BFI Southbank, NFT2

Oct 10, 2014 6:30 PM – Rich Mix Cinema, Screen 1

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Climate Change: A World Action – Thanx to Avaaz

A few months ago, the Avaaz community decided on a crazy goalthe largest mobilisation on climate change in history – and on Sunday, around the world, it actually happened.

NYC - 300,000 people... 80 blocks of the city!

NYC – 300,000 people… 80 blocks of the city!

This radical event opens a new chapter in global mobilisation. Via both the internet and on-the-ground organisation Avaaz succeeded in uniting and co-ordinating action that involved organisations from around the world and right across the political spectrum. It was a bold venture and what came to fruition was way beyond what was expected.

It’s amazing that an estimated 300,000 thousands people marched in New York while tens of thousands people in over 2000 other communities around the world took to the streets to make there voices heard. I roped in on the London protest which stretched from the Houses Of Parliament back to Temple and had an estimated 27,000 people of all ages who care about passionately about the future of this planet and they don’t like a Government that sanctions dubious and devious practices like Fracking!

London!

London!

It was a beautiful expression of our love for all that climate change threatens, and that love was reproduced in major cities like Paris, Berlin, Sydney, Bogata, Delhi, Melbourne alongside scores of smaller more localised protests. The vision that we can save this world and build a society powered by 100% clean energy is realistic but like one NYC broker who declared the protest to be “Bullshit” we have an army of politicians who back the multi-national corporations and simply don’t have the will to invest in change. Basically, we’ll have to wait and see what comes out this summit… but I’m not holding my breath.

On the one hand I would love to have solar panels on our roof but there’s no financial support… why not? There’s a whole industry that could be created to do that. C’mon… you can buy solar panels in IKEA  now…so,  if the Swedes have got them, they must work. However, while planning for our solar panels it falls upon us to organise campaigns that boycott and cause financial stress to those businesses who profit from fossil fuels. And then of course there’s the two nations not at the UN climate summit, the breadbaskets of modern industry – India and China, the latter of which promotes qi gong and taijiquan for good health while smothering their cities with deadly smog. Like my good friend Swifty, I think I’ll have any future books printed here in the UK. Fuck the 50% saving.(See Bad News footnote!)

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

I say, big thanks and respect to the Avaaz crew. You can check them out along with lots of other heart warming pics + newspaper headlines from the day at:  https://secure.avaaz.org/en/climate_march_reportback/?bnyyXfb&v=46379

Final reflections: As I watched the BBC news on Sunday evening I waited and waited for the Climate Change protests to come up. Instead the headline was a dry report from a Labour Party conference that’s trying hard to sell Milliband as a radics who’s got bold plans for this troubled nation…. well, having chatted to the people on that march neither he’s nor his Party are on their radar…. like the rest they are simply ‘Fiddling while Rome burns!’

BAD NEWS: I just googled the printers were planning to contact re. future books and found Butler Tanner & Dennis in Frome has gone into administration with a loss of 100 jobs. That’s a lot for a town the size of Frome + no more apprenticeships etc. From the Printweek forum it seems that they are latest in a succession of UK book printers to go under. This is England!

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REFLECTIONS ON THE PRACTICE OF QI GONG

REFLECTIONS ON THE PRACTICE OF QI GONG.

qigong bookOver the past period Singing Dragon, along with other indie publishers and self published practitioners,  have unleashed an avalanche of material on qi gong practices – basic and complex –  in both book and DVD formats. As I’m always reflecting on my own practice I thought it would be good to introduce some of the material that is now available.

Back in the early Eighties, when I first took up Yang family taijiquan, we were not taught any supplementary qi gong exercises.  I was first introduced to qi gong on a visit to Compendium books in Camden town in 1985 when I  bought Yang Jwing-Ming’s Chi Kung – Health & Martial Arts. That book introduced me to the history of Qi /Nei Gong and  exercises like the Shaolin Temple’s Da Mo Wei Dan and Marshal Yueh Fei’s Ba Duan Jin / Eight Pieces Of Brocade which had evolved from various esoteric practices over hundreds of years. It connected the exercises with the Chinese medicine and the acupuncture meridians and explained basic things like why, when we practice taijiquan or qi gong, we place the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth.

Since those times I have had the opportunity to learn from several internal martial arts teachers and through them encountered different methods of qi development and circulation. As my own health is not great, due to smoking cigarettes from a young age, I have consistently experimented with different sets of exercises that profess to be both beneficial to ones health and also to the system of martial arts being practiced.

Wang Shujin

Wang Shujin

nei gongAt a certain point I abandoned Yang taiji and sought out lessons in xing yi quan and bagua zhang. Through Marnix Wells I discovered Wang Shujin’s nei gong set which was handed down from Yi Quan/Dacheng Quan master Wang Xiangzhai and began to understand the vital importance of standing!

Through reading Tim Cartmell and Dan Miller’s Xing Yi Nei Gong I discovered and enjoyed Wang Jiwu’s health maintenance and internal development exercises. In turn,  I discovered Wang Jiwu’s fascinating xing yi quan brother Hu Yaozhen, who studied Daoist cultivation and taught neigong to the late Hunyuan Chen taijiquan master Feng Zhiqiang. For an insight into Feng Ziqiang’s system seek out footage of him on YouTube. Also worth checking is hard working Canada based Chen Zhongua who teaches Chen taijiquan – a combination of Practical Method & Hunyuan – and maintains a consistently interesting YouTube presence.

Chi GungInevitably, that process of exchange between  masters continues and one set of exercises may mirror or echo the principles and movements of another. Eagle Claw / Chen taijiquan practitioner Shifu Julian Dale’s recently released a clearly presented DVD featuring the 8 primordial or essential exercises of LiuHeBaFa /Water Boxing.  It teaches the viewer how to develop  Rising, Sinking, Contracting, Expanding, Pushing, Pulling, Pressing and Spiralling – essential principles that reside within all Chinese Martial Arts be they Internal or External. Alex Kozma is another accomplished teacher I have been fortunate to work with in the past and commenting on the DVD via  http://rumsoakedfist.org/ he confirms: “The methods shown are very sound and useful exercises for all martial artists, each one developing a different quality or line of force. Although I know little about LHBF as a style a lot of this was very familiar from Xingyiquan and Bagauquan neigong training. Julian’s structure is very good, it is clear how many years of work he has put into the foundation exercises and stance work. “

Shifu Liu Quanjun

Shifu Liu Quanjun

As I get older I’m less and less interested in accumulating forms. I feel drawn back to working on on and exploring the basics – the foundation. My current Chen taijiquan teacher, Shifu Liu Quanjun, is a 6th Duan Wei level instructor and a disciple of Grandmaster Master Chen Xiaowang. While the Chen family system – as its taught in Chen Jia Gou village in Henan – seems to limit qi gong to basic standing practice (zhan zhuang) through Shifu Liu I have been introduced to the Six Healing Sounds (based on Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hum) and the first half of Da Bei Qi Gong which contains both active and meditative forms previously unknown in the UK. He also teaches Ying Qi Gong / Hard Qi Gong –  an internal/external steel jacket training programme originating from Tibet- but as it apparently requires one to cease using medications for 100 days and  is costly to learn I have devoted my energies elsewhere.

So, while it’s generally agreed that one needs a teacher to practice Qi Gong as certain esoteric practices  practices can be hazardous to ones health it also the case that there are many forms which are easy to learn and simply require one to practice on a daily basis.

To get a historical overview of Chinese Qigong which goes back some 2000 years I heartily recommend An Illustrated Handbook Of Chinese Qigong Forms From the Ancient Texts by Li Jingwei and Zhu Jianping. This is  a nicely presented and thorough piece of research which proceeds to illuminate the evolution of Chinese Qi Gong in chronological order. The compilers visit the source from which the exercises are derived. They provide a description of the ancient form, its health and other benefits, uses, and how to do it. Each form is accompanied  by drawings based the original illustrations where these exist, or line drawings of the movements described where the original text was not illustrated.

Though the book provides a direct link to authentic ancient forms and maintains they are easy to learn, and easy to do, I feel this could prove a little frustrating. It’s basically a resource and in these times it would be far more productive to explore the inexpensive series of combined Book + DVD + audio CD that have been lovingly produced by the Chinese Health Qigong Association.

For example,  Mawangdui Daoyin Shu presents a series of qigong forms based on those shown on the famous silk paintings excavated from the Mawangdui tombs of Changsha, Hunan Province. Discovered in the 1970s alongside a wealth of classical texts, they are among the oldest and best preserved silk works in China, and provide a fascinating insight into the early history of qigong. So, if you want to check out a set of Daoyin exercises that go back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220AD) which focus on the essential nature of breath and the movement of animals or birds this could be for you.

qi gong

Daoyin are body strengthening exercises that combine body movement, breath control, concentration of the mind and local massage and like Mawangdui Daoyin Shu the set of Da Wu health exercises fall into the same category. They are are based on a health “dance” that hails from the Song Dynasty -1139 to 1189 – and focus on flexing and  rotation of the joints at the hips, knees, toes , shoulders, elbows, wrists, palms and fingers. Da Wu employs pulling,  stretching, rotating, shaking and rubbing to relieve the joints and stimulate the blood and the qi.

A contemporary health preservation set worth visiting is the 12-step Daoyin Yangsheng Yong Shi Er Fa qigong form which is taken from over 50 forms developed by Professor Zhang Guangde, one of the world’s leading qigong teachers. This set of meridian exercises, rooted in Chinese medicine, combine mind, breath and body movement and can be practiced both standing or sitting.  Another sitting set Shi Er Duan Jin is also available from the Chinese Health Qigong Assoc and is another modern set compiled from research based on Zhong Li Ba Duan Jin Fa and Shi Er Duan Jin. Thiugh the latter first appeared in the 18th century this is a set tailored to modern needs and due to its combination of stillness in motion it is often practiced as a warm up or closing exercise.

Finally, even though I seem to have a growing collection of sticks and staffs that have been collected and whittled into shape on the odd trip out of the metropolis,  I have yet to practice a new set of stick exercises based on daoyin called Taiji Yangsheng Zhang.  The stick is not wielded like a weapon as our first priority is mental tranquility – “When wielding the stick, we should ease our minds,  let thoughts govern breathing, and harmonize body and spirit.”

The Chinese Health Qigong Association is an organization that popularizes and researches Health Qigong, and is a group member of the All-China Sports Federation. Its aim is to inherit and carry forward the Chinese traditional culture of health promotion and facilitate the communication between Western and Eastern Cultures. Basically, it’s the real deal. The great thing about their publications is the thoroughness of the teaching. It is detailed, they talk you through each posture and you even get to see the teacher do corrections on those demonstrating the form. If you want to begin practicing qigong these DVDs are a good place to start. There are 4 other DVDs in the series including Wu Qin Xi: Five-Animal Qigong Exercises and the famous Ba Duan Jin.

Oviously, with Qi / Nei Gong one is investing in practices that go back a couple of thousand years and it’s a question of seeking out what suits you and at some point finding a teacher who can guide you through your practice. One can go from excellent but simple sets to a complex and, at times confusing, higher levels of practice. You can get insights into that higher level through the writings of numerous practitioners. For example, Bruce Franzis, who has written several qigong books seems to have taken his teaching of Dragon & Tiger qi gong, xing yi quan, Wu taiji quan and bagua zhang onto a whole new level with his on-line teaching programmes – but he still actively teaches face to face.

Meanwhile, two practitioners/authors who feature large via the Singing Dragon publishing house are Master Xongxian Wu and Damo Mitchell. Both are busy traveling the world, teaching and lecturing, and accumulating a devoted following. I’m definitely interested in Master Xhongxian Wu’s study of Dai family Xin Yi WuDao and I’m still reading Damo’s most recent book on The Four Dragons -Clearing The Meridians & Awakening The Spine in Nei Gong, so that stuff is going have wait for another time.

In winding up, if you know little or nothing about qigong I’ve provided a few tips and a way in to practice. Basically, I suggest doing a little bit of cross referencing and dive in. Once in, persistence furthers and as the journey evolves you may want to seek out someone who has studied at the source and devoted themselves to their practice. But right now, after writing this, I need to maintain my daily routine and spend the rest of the afternoon practicing while paying special attention to the neck and shoulders.

Books/DVDshttp://www.singingdragon.com/

Shifu Liu Quan Junhttp://www.taijicircle.com/

8 Essential Exercises From Water Boxing - http://www.buddhasbasement.co.uk/product.sc?productId=1

Chen Zhonghua - http://practicalmethod.com/

Bruce Franzishttp://www.energyarts.com/

Chinese Health Qigong Association: http://healthqigong.org.uk/http://jsqg.sport.org.cn/en/

Plum Publications: DVDs + Books + discussions about traditional Chinese Martial Arts and Qigong – http://www.plumpub.com

 

 

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