Meet Ian Kendall
Published Tai Chi Chuan Magazine (Meet The Teacher Series)
How many years have you been practicing Tai Chi?
About 15 years, i started learning TC in 1992 when i was 20 years old while working in Nottingham.
What stimulated your interest?
Having previously spent 10 years practicing Shotokan karate and a few years of western boxing and Wing Chun, i was looking for a MA with less bowing, expensive gradings and head/joint injuries. I remembered reading an old magazine article about TC that was written by Dan Docherty for ’Fighting Arts International’ when I was doing karate. I found the article very interesting, so the seeds where there but they didn’t start to grow until i started at a Wudang TC class in Nottingham.
What does TC mean to you?
Good friends, great fun and hard work. Over the years TC has kept me sane in dealing with the daily challenges life throws at you, whatever was happening i always went to class or trained on my own. Now as a full time teacher I find the physical, intellectual and emotional benefits just keep increasing the more I practice and teach. I feel very lucky to make money from something i love doing and still pay the mortgage.
What is the most important aspect for you?
Its all important, to really understand the art all aspects have to be practiced on a daily basis. Too may people spend a large amount of time and money trying to ’cherry pick’ so called secret techniques or methods from many different styles and masters of TC. Pick one style, do it for the rest of your life, study the classics and the secrets will be revealed along the way.
Do you have personal goals in TC?
Become an immortal and learn to speak, read and write Chinese. One is easier than the other.
Who or what inspired you?
In the beginning when studying MA it was many teachers, then it was some teachers but now its one teacher and my students. Every day they teach me something new.
What do you make of TC current popularity?
The general public and certain organizations that give support to the elderly and physically/ mentally disabled are now much more aware of the health benefits of TC than ever before due to positive mass media and NHS health information . This can only be of benefit to the TC community in general.
But as teachers we must be careful of not dumbing down TC or deluding people with pseudo- scientific claims to make it more palatable to this new audience. TC can be taught and practiced in many different ways but it is still a fighting art and should be promoted as such equally. Good TC is hard work and takes time and effort to realize the benefits whatever way we choose to teach it and should remain challenging for both students and teachers alike.
As a teacher how do you feel about the martial aspects of TC?
The martial side is not more or less important than the health aspects, its just part of the whole art. Students should practice as much of the art as they can based on their level of interest and their physical,emotional,mental and intellectual capabilities.
What are your views on competition?
I think competing is an important phase that all students must go through. Its a great way to test your skills safely against others in a pressure environment. And to improve your technical knowledge and rid yourself of self doubts regarding your own ability or style. But there is a danger of becoming hooked on just competing or winning, to the detriment of the higher benefits TC/martial arts have to offer. To be successful in competitions requires only doing techniques or performing forms in a way that will win the gold medals, long term this makes you very close minded and fixed, preventing you or your art to progress and evolve.
Forms become more about what you are wearing and fighting techniques become competition only techniques. This results in a watered down version of the original art trading on its past glory that is now only a sport played to rules.
What direction would you like to see TC take in the future?
I would like TC to avoid the politicalization by any one style to promote their way as the only way to teach and practice TC. The many various styles and methods is what makes TC so accessible and appealing to such a large number of people throughout the world. Modern consumer marketing strategies are best left to Coca- Cola for world domination.