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 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.


Shifu Liu Quan Jun

8 Essential Exercises From Water Boxing -

Chen Zhonghua -

Bruce Franzis

Chinese Health Qigong Association:

Plum Publications: DVDs + Books + discussions about traditional Chinese Martial Arts and Qigong –



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Charles Lloyd – Arrows Into Infinity

Saxophonist Charles Lloyd is the focus of an award-winning new documentary film, Arrows Into Infinity, a collaborative work between Lloyd’s wife, painter and filmmaker, Dorothy Darr; and editor / filmmaker, Jeffery Morse. .


Charles-Lloyd-Love-INIf there’s one 60s horn player that I continue to vibe on it’s Charles Lloyd. His quartet of Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette and Cecil McBee was the first jazz group to play the Fillmore but in the 70’s he dropped out, burnt out, to pursue an inner journey in seclusion and retreated to Big Sur.

He briefly returned to playing in 1981 in order to introduce the world to the talents of pianist Michel Petrucciani. Following a near fatal illlness in ’86 he re-dedicated himself to the music and thankfully, since 1989, Lloyd has been releasing his deeply resonant and spiritual music via Manfred Eicher’s ECM records.

Of his live performances Swiss critic Yvan Ischer declares: “To see and hear Charles Lloyd in concert is always an event, not only because this saxophonist has been at quite a few crossroads, but also because he seems to hold an impalpable truth which makes him a thoroughly original musician…This is what we call grace.”

Winner of the 2013 Kansas City Film Fest Cinema Jazz Award, CHARLES LLOYD: Arrows Into Infinity has just been released on DVD and Blu ray but PLEASE… can someone organise a proper screening! Thanx!

EFG LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL November 2014: Charles Lloyd: Wild Man Suite @ The Barbican. It’s a new project that combines traditional Greek and Hungarian instruments with his own quartet.

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Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man

Only the other day I was talking to friends about the protests in the States against police brutality and the militarisation of the police force and wondering why we’d heard so little from the hip hop community which, in 2014, wields hugely influential cultural and financial power.  Well, thanks to OK player I was introduced to Democracy Now! and as a result I’m a little more informed. Below are two stories they focused on.

First up is an interview done by As the protests continued in Ferguson, Missouri, over the shooting of Michael Brown, they hook up with two well-known voices who have come to Ferguson to show their support – Talib Kweli and Rosa Clemente. As on half of Black Star alongside Mos Def, Talib Kweli helped define the underground, conscious hip-hop movement that re-emerged in the late 1990s and since then he has remained true his chosen path while using his global status to champion political causes, including police brutality and the prison-industrial complex. Talib traveled to Ferguson with Rosa Clemente, a longtime activist, journalist, scholar, and former director of the Hip-Hop Caucus. Alongside poet Jessica Care Moore they experienced first hand the potentially deadly response of the police to what was essentially a peaceful demonstration by men, women and children.

Secondly, in the wake of Michael Brown‘s tragic death at the hands of Ferguson, MO police Lauren Hill posted ‘Black Rage’ on Soundcloud – “An old sketch of Black Rage, done in my living room. Strange, the course of things. Peace for MO.”

It’s based on the Sound Of Music’s ‘My Favorite Things’ (also a John Coltrane‘s standard!)… it’s lyrically powerful, the beats are raw, the kids are in the background… it’s an anthem dedicated to the victims of police brutality the world over.


Mo’ News:  In New York City, thousands attended rally on Staten Island for justice in the case of Eric Garner, the African-American man who died in a police chokehold last month. Here’s a report:


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Late Summer readzzz Pt. 2 The Lacuna + We Need New Names,

lacuna_orange_winner_jpg_280x450_q85I first read a review of this book when it came out in paperback and as I scanned the array of players involved in the story – Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Leon Trotsky and Natalia Sedova – I immediately thought I must read this. However, upon discovering that half of the book was set in the political and artistic mayhem of Mexico in the late 1930’s while the other half was set in a sleepy American backwater I just couldn’t imagine how the author, Barbara Kingsolver, could successfully maintain such a transition.  I therefore put it on the back burner which was pretty stupid considering it notched up the Orange prize and a stack of glowing reviews.

Well, I finally got round to reading The Lacuna  – which translates as a gap, as something missing… like an extended silence in  a piece of music-  and I’m sure that this story will resonate with me for a long time to come. It starts with a young boy Harrison William Shepherd – Shepherd – on the Isla Pixol, off the east coast of Mexico. It’s a tropical island, far from anywhere and is home to his mother’s lover, a Mexican industrialist. He follows his mother on her journey from lover to lover in search of the life she believes she deserves and left  to his own devices Shepherd retreats into his own world which he religiously documents in his journal.

Frida Kahlo

Frida Karhlo

Frida & Diego Rivera

Frida & Diego Rivera

In Mexico City he encounters now legendary artist Frida Kahlo and Shepherd enters a different world of revolutionary politics, artistic quests, fierce rivalries,  intrigue and danger. As Diego Rivera’s assistant he is at the heart of struggle. Shepherd travels with the famed radical muralist to the USA where ironically Rivera is commissioned to do a mural in the Rockefeller Centre. He lives in the same household as Rivera and Kahlo who readily accepts their home being fortified in order to play host to exiled Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky and his wife Natalia Sedova, who are being ruthlessly hunted by Stalin’s agents.

Natalia Sedova, Frida Kahlo, LeonTrotsky

Natalia Sedova, Frida Kahlo, LeonTrotsky

It’s an intense and compelling era in Mexican political and cultural history and Shepherd resides in its epicentre, right up to Trotsky’s  assassination. It’s that cataclysmic event that propels Shepherd, who gets a job escorting precious artworks, back across the border to the US. He retreats into small town America where he quietly pens a series of best selling Aztec novels. However, the dark shadow of McCarthy-ism and anti-communist paranoia reached into every corner of America and but despite Shepherd being an observer, as opposed to an activist, his past is destined to catch up to him.

The Lacuna unfolds slowly over 688 pages and Barbara Kingsolver’s deftly crafted tale draws the reader deep into this man’s story. There’s a lot of history in this book but the humanity is what shines through. Vivid and memorable.

Lauren &

Lauren Bacall (1924-2014) and Humphrey Bogart lead a march to the Capitol in Washington, DC to protest against Senator McCarthy’s witch hunt of communists and alleged communists, 1947

NO VIOLET BULAWAYO’S BOOKER NOMINATED ‘WE NEED NEW NAMES’ is another phenomenal  book that divides itself between two continents. Initially we are dropped into ‘Paradise’, a fictional shanty town in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe where Darling and her friends are “rushing… running… running and laughing and laughing,  and laughing…” and then we are then transported Detroit Michigan in the States where Darling is sent to live with her Aunt Fostalina and her Ghanaian Uncle Kojo aka “Vasco da Gama”.


‘We Need New names’ is a fierce but magical book and this Caine prize winning young author initiates the reader into the fearless world of a group of children who, armed their own scathing sense of humour and bold imaginations, create their own world within an adult world that is battered and disillusioned after the failure of Mugabe and Zanu PF to deliver “Change”. We encounter characters like Mother of Bones and Prophet Revelations Bitchington Mborro, join the hunt for guavas in “Budapest” learn the rules of games like “Country” and “Find Bin Laden”.

However, the feisty young Darling escapes the harsh realities of Zimbabwe and spends her teenage years in “DestroyedMichygen” where she grapples with teen life, celebrity and hip hop culture, with American excess and the ever present psychological stress that plagues the displaced. Her experiences are laugh out loud funny but it’s a life laced with tragedy, desperation and longing.

Like Alain Mabanckou’s excellent ‘Tomorrow I’ll Be Twenty’, which is set in the Congo-Brazaville and seen through the eyes of an ingenuous 10 year old kid ‘We Need New Names’ dishes up a raw, dogma-free, brutally comic, no holds barred vision that’s both energising and unique.

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Journey To The One with Nina Miranda & Adriano Adewale at The House Of St Barnabas

Journey To The One with Nina Miranda & Adriano Adewale took place at the House Of St Barnabas last week and they filled the Chapel with the multi-dimensional sounds of Brasil.

Nina Miranda  Pic: Richard Kaby

Nina Miranda Pic: Richard Kaby

The final session of the House Of St Barnabas’ summer jazz series was planned to promote a musical sensibility that spanned Brasil, Africa and London town. The first set on the night came from Nina Miranda and her Allstarbanda which featurd Ibibio Sound Machine percussionist Anselmo Netto and Ghanaian, former Osibisa guitarist, Alfred Kari Banaman alongside acoustic guitarist Mario Bakuna, bassist CH Straatmann and drummer Helder Pack.

The caheL

The Chapel

They’d been rehearsing hard and it showed. This was their second public outing and there was bunch of new compositions. It all kicked off with ‘Honey face’ which was dedicated to Anselmo who is clearly a big influence on this, Nina’s first solo project. The Allstarbanda was tight but relaxed and Nina fronted the whole session with a warm, airy confidence born of her experience of working both in the studio on array of projects and live with Da Lata. They dropped a loping reggae-fied version of Smoke City’s ‘Underwater Love’ where Nina deftly switched from Brazilian Portuguese and English – a definite asset that I can see her featuring in this rapidly evolving venture. After getting the audience to stand and shake their arms etc to relax she quickly realised it’s what people had wanted to do all along and basically, it all kicked off. Jorge Ben’s ‘Cavaleiro Do Cavalo Imaculado’ was a funky rhythmic delight and one could definitely say that the vibe in the Chapel was at times euphoric.

Pandeiro Clash! Adriano Adewale & Anselmo Neto Pic: Richard Kaby

Pandeiro Clash! Adriano Adewale & Anselmo Netto

Nina & her Allstarbanda were a hard act to follow but Adriano Adewale rose to challenge mesmerising us all with his skills on pandeiro and the sonic range of the global percussion at his finger tips. A little momentum was lost as mesmerising Senegalese kora player Kadialy Kouyate suffered from some annoying monitor problems but the quartet which also included flautist/saxophonist Marcelo Andrade and Bahian bassist Matteus Nova sprung back with a deep, impressionistic, rhythm driven journey that had my good friend DJ Debra fully immersed and clearly engaged in every moment. Equally fascinating was the duet between Marcelo on fiddle and Adriano on pandeiro, an exchange which had its roots in trip the to Scottish highlands where the fiddle is seen very differently from the classical world. It was a long night and as it drew to a close all agreed it was fitting end (for now!) in our Journey To the One.

For more on the charity / House Of St Barnabas check

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EMORY DOUGLAS: Free Palestine

Emory artwork

Great to see that Emory Douglas is still hard at work in his neighbourhood. Here’s a nice shot of the legendary revolutionary artist, who gave us the Black Panther Party’s most evocative artwork, standing next to his contribution to a new mural about the Palestinian freedom struggle that was recently unveiled in Oakland, California.

Photo by Henry Norr.

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CARNIVAL WEEKEND: JAZZ RE-FEST II kicks off at The Flyover in Ladbroke Grove.

Jazz Re Fest event_image

After the success of the 1st JAZZ RE:FEST last year, the Jazz re:freshed crew have answered the call to do it all again this year and the dynamic duo of Justin ‘TopRock’ McKenzie & Adam ‘Rock’ Moses predict another unmissable night!

Fresh from winning the status of an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation Jazz Re-Freshed plan to build a on decade of hosting the cutting edge of nu-skool live jazz. They have championed both upcoming and well-established homegrown bands as well as  showcasing influential international acts.  As a National Portfolio Organisation they take on responsibilities for developing touring, educational and digital work as part of their funding agreements.

The bar has been lifted and this year, JAZZ RE:FEST is set to be bigger, brighter & bolder with an ambitious and, as ever, innovative line up. Check the vids below!

Above: Moses Boyd’s Exodus – Parallax

Exploring the music of the diaspora and ancient philosophies Moses Boyd aims to bring all these influences in the exodus. Ranging from Coltrane to Cameo, the musical repertoire is vast and open. The band features longtime collaborators Theon Cross on tuba, Artie Zaits on guitar and Binker Golding on saxophones.

Above: United Vibrations- London Bridge ft. Conrad The Scoundral

United Vibrations are a band on a mission. They are a band in demand, a band on the rise and one of the UK’s hottest young talents. The spirit of punk and free jazz is alive and kickin’ in Deptford.

WHEN & WHERE Jazz re:fest takes place on Saturday 23rd August 2014 at The Flyover, Portobello Green (3 – 5 Thorpe Close, W10 5XL).

Doors Open 7:00pm – live music starts 8:00pm SHARP, with a 3am finish.

Grant Windsor’s Broken Big Band ft. OMAR & Special guests, including Vula / Diggs Duke (Brownswood) / Andrew Ashong / United Vibrations / Heidi Vogel (Cinematic Orchestra) /Moses Boyd’s Exodus + Dj’s – Daz I Kue (Bugz in the Attic) / Sarah Love

jazz-refest-2014-mix1THE MUSIC / LISTEN HERE:



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