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trainingchina2004

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For numerous years, Gordon Faulkner, Maria Faulkner, and Bob Lowey have been travelling to China combining their energy with that of their students from both of their Schools who accompanied them as entourage

Gordon is Principal Instructor of the Chanquanshu School of Taoist Arts and President of the Scottish Daoyin Yangsheng Gong Association (DYYSGA). Bob Is Principal Tutor of the 7 Stars School of Taijiquan, Vice President of the Scottish Daoyin Yangsheng Gong Association, Executive Member of the TCUGB and Technical Panel Member of the TCUGB.

Their Principal Teachers in China are Professor Zhang Guangde in Beijing, and Master You Xuande of Wudang Shan, Hubei Province

All trips to China are organised by Maria Faulkner through her own Company M.A.P.S. with liaisons between her and our Chinese friend, interpreter and “Oracle,” Madam Zhoujin Kan.

Originally from Shanghai, Zhoujin has travelled extensively throughout Europe and the Far East. Having lived in Hong Kong where she studied, she moved to Germany and eventually settled in Beijing where she worked in the Sports University’s Library from 1983 – 88. This complimented her interests of Literature, Music and Philosophy. With a command of Mandarin, Cantonese, German, French and English languages, Zhoujin studied Daoyin Yangsheng Gong with Professor Zhang Guangde which led to further travels to France and Austria where she acted as interpreter.

As Associate Professor trained in T.C.M. and Daoyin Yangsheng Gong, Zhoujin has succeeded in her post as International Programme Coordinator for Beijing University of Sports Education, interpreter to the Professor and a very dear friend of ours.

Every year when we travel in Beijing, noticeable transformations to the City’s skyline and buildings stimulate our conversations. This year was no different as we travelled along the smooth new motorway toward the outskirts of the Capital. Beijing is no doubt becoming a very beautiful and advanced Metropolis that would put many of our WesternCity’s to shame.

With greetings of “ Zaoshang Hao” and “ Ni Hao Zuggerland Pengyou”, we were welcomed to our chalets of the Beijing University of Physical Education Hotel by the staff and our friends that we had not seen for one year. Professor Zhang was teaching in America and we would be instructed by the Associate Professor of the Wu Shu Department – Hu Xiao Fei for the forthcoming week.

Master Hu was in great spirits during our time spent with him. We trained every morning learning the 1st of the 3 Taiji Zhang’s (Palm Forms) having learned the other 2 Forms previously. These Forms are not only beautiful to practice, but as with all Daoyin Forms, subtly nourishes every organism in your body as well as concealing martial intent.

The postures are aimed at working the musculo skeletal system while triggering precise acupuncture points that relate to specific organs or to stimulate the flow of Qi. Daoyin (Guiding and Conducting) Yangsheng (Nourishing the Vital Principle) Gong (Skill / Exercise) is a comprehensive system of gentle exercises that combines breath control, self – massage, modern medical theory and ancient movements.

Like many of the Daoyin Forms, this, Taiji Zhang series involved spiralling the body and some uncomfortable (to the Western body) postures – and we paid for this!

The group was in general agreement, even those who were experiencing Taiji Zhang for the first time, that Master Hu was highly proficient and instructed in an easily understanding manner.

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Switzerland 2005

It was a Thursday morning, about 11ish, we were in Gatwick, and this was our third breakfast. Such is the way when you have to travel via London to get anywhere outside Scotland. We were on our way to Switzerland for this years Tai Ji rhénan in La Chaux-de-Fonds and, had it been next year, we could have flown straight to Geneva from Glasgow. But it wasn’t, so there we sat with a nearly 5 hour hang-around between connecting flights. Waiting around in airports, especially one as sparse as Gatwick, is a tedious affair and it often means that the only way to pass the time is to have a bite to eat, regardless of how many times you have already done so. Besides we were gong to be subjected to a diet of extreme vegetarianism over the weekend so we needed to pile on the greasy dead animal products before we left the UK.

Bob, Ronnie Robertson and yours truly finished off our coffees and headed over to the check in where we met up with Dan (Docherty) who was also attending this year’s event. After a leisurely wonder through duty free – to waste more time – and a long walk for Bob and Ronnie, to find the smoking area, we were on the plane and off to Geneva where we were to be picked up by Cornelia, the events organiser, and taken on to La Chaux-de-Fonds about a 2 hour drive away.

We were to spend the night at Cornelia’s Chalet, a quaint little building with no electricity and a hand pump for the water, set in the picturesque countryside surrounding the town. Not long after our arrival our fellow guests Epi, Lauren and Yacob joined us along with Cornelia and her husband who soon whipped up our dinner of Fondue which was washed down with a bottle or three of wine. Full of cheese,wine and bread (a sign of things to come over the next 10 days or so) we sat around the table bathed in the only light in the room coming from the flames under the fondue bowls and a few candles and fuel lamps. We listened and told stories and jokes until tiredness started to win us over and we set about making preparations to bunk down for the night. Now I’m a light sleeper and Bob, Ronnie, Epi, Yacob and Lauren all had admitted that they were professional snorers. Oh fun, a good nights sleep for me then. But to be fair they only snored one at a time, in a kind of snore tag match throwing the honours from Bob to Epi to Ronnie back to Bob to Lauren…you get the picture. Addionally every time someone went to the toilet there was the sound of furious pumping coming from the small room to get enough water into the cistern to enable it to flush. Ahh well who needs sleep!

Needless to say I was one of the first up the next morning. After a breakfast of bread and cheese we wondered around outside the chalet admiring the views and, as often happens when taiji people get together, we ended up in the field next to the chalet pushing hands. The sun was shining, the air was clean, the location was beautiful and the company good – a great way to start the weekend.

We were supposed to be picked up and taken into the town at some point but someone decided we needed the exercise so we set off to walk there, a journey of about 40 minutes(ish) across fields and farm trails and tracks. Now those wee wheels on your suitcase may be wonderful on the nice shiny, flat floors of airports but they don’t manage so well over rough grass and stone covered, pot holed, cattle tracks. A sight it must have been, if anyone except the cows had seen us. Six guys strolling through the fields carrying rucksacks and suitcases, clambering over or under (which ever was easiest) wire fences, weaving our way through the aforementioned clanking cows. Eventually we got to town and made our way to Cornelia’s house were we dumped our stuff in her studio, showered and washed up, then head out for food not realising that 90% of the places where we could get something to eat would be closed.

The rest of that day was spent meeting up with various people and finding our hotel rooms, or in my case Sylvie, who had offered to put me up for the weekend – and I was sharing a room with a non snorer, bliss!
We all met up again at the main hall for the events introduction and a showing of the film Cornelia and her students had been making over several years. Which was interesting.

You quiet often see the same people at these events and it is always nice to meet them again and catch up, as well, of course, as meeting new people from all over Europe and sometimes further afield.

The event itself went as smoothly as it always does. Cornelia and her team work really hard to make sure everything happens the way it is supposed to. And if there are any problems or mishaps, which at any event of this size there are bound to be, then we the participants aren’t aware of them. Well done to all those concerned in the organising and running of the show.

As ever there was a large selection of workshops covering the whole spectrum of internal arts on both the Saturday and Sunday . Various styles of taiji forms, qigong for health, push-hands, applications, weapons and games were all on offer from some of the most well know and respected teachers around.

The Saturday workshops lasted throughout the day, with an interval for lunch, and then in the evening everyone puts on their glad-rags and sits down for a meal, to watch some demonstrations and then to boogie the night away until the wee small hours. Occasionally a bottle of wine or two is also consumed.

The Sunday workshops are often full of people with a slightly tired look in their eyes and, dare I say, even a tad bit hung-over. However that doesn’t stop anyone participating to the full. At lunch we traipsed off en masse to a local park where Cornelia had arranged for the press and a TV crew to film us all doing our thing. It was raining and a bit on the cold side but that didn’t deter anyone as the park was soon over-run by all these strange people waving their arms and legs around on the soft and squelchy grass and the puddle strewn pathways.
After lunch came the free push-hands. For those who haven’t attended such an event this is an often looked-forward-too part of the weekend. Basically it’s free push-hands with different partners for 10minutes sessions. A bell rings then you change partners for another 10 minutes and so-on. It gives you a great chance to push with people of all sizes and shapes, levels of experience from total beginners to highly advanced teachers. It’s a great leveller as sometimes you can be pushing some-one around like a rag doll and 10 minutes later you are the rag doll getting thrown around nonchantly. It usually lasts for about 3 hours which gives you plenty of time to try and get around to pushing with as many different people as you possibly can, and as always everyone wants to try pushing with the teachers to feel their skills.

After push-hands its tea and cake time as a selection of pastries and sweets are laid out on the tables – they tend not to last too long. Then it is a case of good-byes and see-you-next-times as every one makes preparations to leave.
All in all it was a great time, as it always is, and I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend.

Many thanks to Cornelia and all her gang, all the participants (for without them there would be no event), Sylvie for a bed and breakfast and of course Bob.

Robbie

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Rosslyn Chapel 2006

A beautiful Sunday morning with blue skies overhead and a biting cold wind. What else could a Scotsman ask for 7 days after New Year to clear his head?
This was to be the first of the 7 Stars School Cultural visits of 2006 and I was very honoured that my friend John had consented to be our guide and mentor for our visit to Rosslyn Chapel.
Chev.John Ritchie KGOTpl, who for 18 years was the Media Officer to the Templar Order in Scotland and has travelled the world as a journalist for Reuters, agreed to meet me at the Chapel.

Although I had restricted the numbers of visitors from the School to twenty four, thirty two people in total turned up early at our meeting point and were very eager to get started. While they were wandering around the Chapel grounds I went in search for John. Having known John for many years, he still never ceases to amaze me with his depth of specialist knowledge in Scottish history.
His Knights Templar connection (Militi Templi Scotia, the Scottish Knights Templar) received its lineage from Alexander Deuchar circa 1790. This Order has been recognized since then, and functions in a Jacobite archive and philosophy. John has been a member of MTS for over 20 years, the Grand Herald and press spokesman.

Regarding the Militi Templi Scotia, John states “Our raison d’ etre has always been to protect Scotland’s Heritage and Culture, and to debunk objects like Stones of Scone becoming the Stone of Destiny, or the monks heart in a piece of lead gutter piping becoming the Bruce heart”.
On meeting John, I had arranged to have our group at the rear of the Chapel where I could introduce him and we could start our tour. Not for John. He walked straight to the stairs at the top of the crypt and started his talk. Within two minutes, every visitor walking around the inside of the Chapel had his attention.
With torch in hand, John illuminated structures and sculptures it may have taken years to find. As he said “I come here frequently with my daughter and have done so for many years playing a game of find the animal – I’m still finding new ones!” We saw monkeys, camels, Abyssinian Tigers (!) fish, and many more – each with its own story. Theories of Rosslyn Aliens (they got Roswell mixed up), Holy Grails’ and Dan Baker were debunked.

For over two and a half hours, the Pied Piper led us from the crypt, through the Chapel and around it’s exterior with people hanging on to every bit of information John divulged. It was becoming bitterly cold and some of the group decided to renege by retreating to the little café or back inside the Chapel. We also picked up others for different groups that wanted John to sign books they bought on the subject of Rosslyn.

To round off the day, a pleasant hot meal was served up in the “Glen” (hotel) where we continued talking before returning home.

Everyone agreed it was a wonderful day with an exceptional man and have already requested that it is soon repeated.

My heartfelt thanks go to my friend for his time, knowledge and company.

Bob

Those interested in further information may wish to click on the site below:

http://sinclair.quarterman.org/sinclair/history/med/battleofrosslyn.html

Also look out for:

Rosslyn Revealed

A library in stone – Alan Butler and John Ritchie

Extent: 260pp, Size: 230 x 153mm (6 x 9in)

Paperback, 8 pages colour illustrations, 40 b/w photos, carton qty: 24

This book is not yet published. Estimated date in stock is Friday 27 October 2006.

More information please click here

 

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Tai Chi Rhenan 2004

It’s over 14 years since Taiji Teachers, Song Arun, Tran Lay Duke, Christian Bernapel and Dr. Yang Jwing Ming sat around a table after a training course and discussed the possibilities of uniting Taijiquan Practitioners from the Rhenan Basin (Switzerland , Germany and France ). The end product is a very lively and enjoyable 2 day annual travelling Taiji feast! That is, Tai Chi Rhenan moves from country to country around the Rhenan Basin and this year was held in the picturesque valley of Lapoutrie Eastern France .

Gilles Petitdemange and Song Arunhanks for undertaking the organising, arranging and co-ordinating of all the events, people and venues throughout the village for the event deserve special thanks.

Attended by approximately 200 participants, everyone enjoyed Tai Chi and Qigong tuition in temperatures that ranged between 24 and 27 degrees during the 23rd and 24th October 2004!

Attending Teachers were: A.BROUILLAUD, ARMEL MALFILATRE & VALERIE THION, BOB LOWEY, CORNELIA GRUBER, D.MILLECAMPS, DANY SARGIS, F.PLEWNIAK, FRANCOIS SCHOSSELER, FRANCOIS CHENG, HASENORHL H, JESSE RAYNAL, LAC LE MY, M.KONARKOWSKI, MICHEL BOSSERT, S.CHAMBON, SONG ARUN THIERRY ALIBERT and TRAN LAY DUKE.

Next year, the “Feast” moves to La Choix de Font in Switzerland and will be hosted by Cornelia Gruber.

Watch this space for venues and dates – http://taichi1.free.fr

Bob Lowey

 

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Mullhouse 2006

Hosted by our wonderful friend and colleague in Taijiquan, Elizabeth Seatia, we were warmly welcomed at Basel Airport (after getting lost in the Swiss side), and whisked away to Mullhouse, Alsace. This is a wonderful cosmopolitan township that sits in the corner of France, Switzerland and Germany where people are friendly and food is good!

Elizabeth has a beautiful studio that oversees one of the busy squares in the town and where she teaches almost constantly. The weekend workshop was well attended with some new and some familiar faces there to learn a Form that they had never seen or experienced before. Even so over the course of 2 days they managed it. Well done

The weekend was syncopated with lunches and dinners here and there and by that, I mean here and there. Chinese food in a restaurant in Mullhouse, Buffets in the Studio and Greek food in a restaurant in Germany served by Italian waiters!

Once again it was a great time and sorry if your students legs are a bit sore after long hours and low stances!

Thanks Elizabeth.

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Loch Lomond 2005

In September 1985, a new and “unusual” (for the time) Martial Art Class started with evening classes in the Community Hall of Kirktonholme, East Kilbride. Advertised in the local paper, it drew a small number of curious individuals at first that steadily grew as news of this Art was spread by word and mouth.

Karate, Aikido and Judo exponents came in the guise of Martial Art novices to infiltrate and expose the charlatan. However, the “charlatan” was well versed in application, and teaching “gut breaking classes” was easy as he came from the “old School” of learning. Consequently, many of the experienced visiting Martial Artists became good friends that resulted in an amalgamation of Martial Art disciplines under one roof.

Over the period of one year, the School became established under the banner of 7 Stars School of Taijiquan and on the weekend of the 24th September 2005, the School celebrated 20 years of teaching and promoting Taijiquan.

The event was held in Loch Lomond Youth Hostel in Arden which is a beautiful Castle built on the foundations of Robert The Bruce’s Hunting Lodge. People started arriving on the Friday evening for the buffet that turned out to be a very tasty meal. Many of the 58 people attending from all over Scotland, England, Holland and Belgium knew each other through workshops given by Bob although pomp and ceremony always dictate some type of formal introduction before the event.

This was provided in the form of an Introduction of the Teachers for the weekend that comprised of Chinese Culture rather than specifically Taijiquan tuition.

Over the weekend we enjoyed:

Doufen Zhou who provided Chinese Cuisine – cooking Jaozi (dumplings) that was absolutely delicious, Doufen also gave an Introduction to Peking Opera and surprised everyone in the class when this beautiful voice resonated throughout the room.

Cindy Yang provided wonderful workshops in Chinese calligraphy where you could here a pin drop due to the concentration.

Kim Ho, a maestro and endless resource of Classical Chinese Music provided a history of various classical instruments and gave a delightful display of his prowess on the Yangqin.

Gelong Karma Jiga took the participants for walking meditation through the grounds of the Castle that obviously had a soothing effect on them!

Epi van de Pol delighted participants with his “sinking and relaxing” workshops.

Chris Thomas presented an introduction to Tui Shou that lead to application.

Visiting Guests, Carine de Berum form Belgium and Hugh Reed enchanted us just with their presence.

The evening consisted of cabaret, Rock and Roll and Disco that was interspersed with surprises of exquisite gifts from the School members to Bob and his wife, and prizes of Taiji Swords and liquor to the members via competitions and ran into the early hours of Sunday morning.

Sunday morning began with an early rise, bleary eyes and not much of a will to live for most people! After the morning workshops and lunch, we said our goodbyes and wishes for the School’s success for the next 20 years.

Again this was another very memorable weekend from the 7 Stars School.

My best wishes to Bob and all the 7 Stars Instructors, visiting guests for excellent tuition, belly loads of laughs and fantastic company……………long may it continue!

 

R. C.

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Lalita 2003

Situated some 350 kilometres north of Madrid in Spain, secluded in the mountains above the little picturesque and sleepy village of Acebo is Lalita. It is a centre for peace, meditation and inward studies. Seven years ago saw the first International Taiji gathering at Lalita and marked the occasion as an annual event. Now it has become established as an International Taijiquan Festival offering workshops in Taijiquan and Qigong for beginners and teachers alike. The organisers of Lalita are Enrique Alario and Simon Carey Morgan, both longstanding practitioners and Teachers of Taijiquan and Qigong.

Having known both of these reprobates for a good number of years, and accustomed to their laid back attitude, I was honoured to be invited to Lalita for the 2003 International Festival. My invitation was at the request of another friend Bertrand Hamel, and to my surprise and pleasure, my long time “little sister” in Tai Chi, Linda Chase Broda, was also invited. This adventure was reminiscent of Linda and me teaching in Italy some 8 years ago!

Leaving Madrid airport, a 3.5 hour journey confronted me to Lalita. Thankfully I’m really bored with travel and slept most of the way. My first impression of Lalita was one of bewilderment. It was beautiful, but never having been to Spain, I was ignorant of the language and customs. However, as days passed and I settled, Lalita lived up to the expectations entrenched in my mind from stories by pervious visiting Instructors. It is a beautiful Centre that commands a very calming ambience, which is reflected in the peoples attitudes and behaviour throughout the week. In addition to this was the camaraderie of the Teachers:

Liang Puwan (España)
Born in Peking 1956. Liang began his studies in Martial Arts with Shaolin at 13 years old and at 17 in Taijiquan with Lei Muni, disciple of Chen Fake. He teaches in the Círculo del Retiro de Taijiquan – Chen style (Madrid).
Jay Shelfer (U.S.A.)
Jay is a well known Cheng Man Ching practitioner of many years experience and is now based in California. Jay taught spiralling energetic movements, techniques of breathing, and methods of visualisation.
Linda Chase Broda (U.K.)
Linda Chase Broda has some thirty years experience of Taijiquan. She established The Village Hall Taijiquan School in Manchester in 1980 and has been working with students who have special needs. She is a founder member of the Taijiquan Union for Great Britain and the founding chairperson of the Taijiquan and Qigong Forum for Health and Special Needs.
Ignacio Moriyon (U.K.)
With fifteen years of experience teaching classes and workshops, Nacho first began his Taijiquan (Yang Style – Cheng Man Ching) and Qigong studies with Master Tung Kuan Yen (Taiwan) along with the Qigong Styles: ‘Tao Yin’ and ‘The Five Elements’.
Daniel Grolle Moscovici (Germany)
Daniel has some 20 years of practice and 10 years teaching Yang style in the Cheng Man Ching tradition, competitor and veteran of many Push Hand contests.
Mario Napoli (USA)
What can anyone say about Mario? He’s loved wherever he goes, but a demon in Tui Shou! Mario has some 16 years experience at this sort of thing having studied under Stanley Israel, Senior Student of Cheng Man Ching.
Lauren Smith (USA)
Lauren is a long time favourite of many European Taiji Festivals with a 15 year history of Taijiquan – yet another superb practitioner of Tui Shou.

It was a fantastic event providing me with my 7th visit abroad this year, meeting with new found friends and old alike.

My thanks to Enrique, Simon and Bertrand for my invite and experience, to Linda Griffiths for the photographs (she has a beautiful web site), Linda Broda for her company and solace, Santi and Angi, Glenda, Adolfo & Tatayana, David and my Sufi friends. It was a great time.

http://www.taichifestival.com/english/index.htm

http://www.lindagriffiths.com/index.html

http://www.taichiandspecialneeds.co.uk/index.html

 

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Rencontres Jasnières 2006

Once again it was a successful and packed Rencontres Jasnieres 2006. Members of the 7 Stars School graced France and in particular Marcon with their usual imitable presence, that is, no one was arrested as far as we know.
All 14 behaved in their accustomed and demure manner and practiced their French with the locals – “huv yi any beer mon cher?”.

Needless to say the weather was, well, good! At one point Scotland was warmer particularly during the thunderstorm! Luckily the 7 Stars team were doing what they are best doing, eating and drinking in the hotel and watching the storm from a warm hostelry. Unfortunately for others – namely the “Wudang Clan”, the meeting tent (where we tend to gather after midnight for a quiet discourse over milk and sausages), was blown over and soaked. Our thoughts were with Dominique, Armelle, Sylvie and Valerie!

We had time for our own practice sessions within the Schools curriculum and members were introduced to my colleague in Chinese Martial Arts and Culture, Jiali Fan who provided a taster session of Yin Yang Ba Gua Lian Huan Zhang, which is composed of 38 postures

Workshops were well attended for all Instructors and our French cousins – the Bobettes – Monique, Lisa, Elizabeth, Katrine, Isobel, Annie and Danielle, provided 7 Stars Moulin Rouge Qigong for our evening entertainment.

Next year senior and honorary Bobists and Bobettes (Lauren Smith, Simon Carey Morgan Spiced (at times), Enrique Almara, Anne Marie, Cornelia Gruber and Carine de Beurme will be in attendance governed by the wizened and yet skilful Principal Bobists, Epius vandes Polus and Sergius Dryus)

For all Bobists, Bobettes and Bo Bo’s heading East to Jasnieres (now known as Bobylon), we will be Celebrating 20 Years of Rencontres Jasnieres in Marcon. Please wear your Boberry as uniform. The weekend will be extended to 4 days instead of 3 and there will be a parade from the camp to Francois Frenauise cave and back to the town for celebration.

Those of you not associated with the School and reading this will have no idea what it’s about. Don’t worry. It’s all a bit of fun that you can experience with us next year if you wish to join us!

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Holy Island 2005

This, the 10th Taiji on the Holy Island was exceptional. Why? Because we had beautiful weather this time!

As usual, the meeting of smiling faces on the mainland prior the event and the ferry crossings did much to thrill those new to this occasion where as “us veterans” could only enjoy trip across with anticipation on what we were going to learn and experience.

Friday evening provided the opportunity to meet new friends and wander along the beach at the front of the house until “Soup” was ready. The caretakers of the house and residents of the community were charming and helpful.

Saturday started with early morning Qigong at 6:30! But it was beautiful and very oddly warm! The exercises were cut short however due to the “mighty midge” (West of Scotland’s answer to the mosquito – only these have body armour, aqualungs and damn big harpoons).

After breakfast, we were introduced to the exquisite “Daoyin Poem” of Professor Zhang Guande from Bob but inside the conference centre away from the midges (!) and continued after lunch on the shore as by then, it was too warm for the midge in body armour.

Later in the day, and breaking from tradition, that is, normally Bob would take everyone to St Molaises’ Cave and tell stories of the Celtic peoples and Saints in Scotland of that period, he took us for a walk in the opposite direction!

We roamed the hills and were stunned by the beauty of the island, but that didn’t prepare us for where Bob was taking us. Over a few more hills and through small valleys, we were led up the side of a knoll to witness around eleven wild ponies feeding and wandering through the vegetation. They watched us, we watched them, it was a magical moment.

On the way back Bob gave anatomy lessons from bones of animals strewn around the top of the mountain and we tried to guess which animals they were.

In the evening we were all extremely tired but also content and very happy. On Sunday, we continued our learning of the “Poem” in the morning interspersed with breaks and walks as temperatures rose to around 26 – 28 degrees. Like “Mad dogs and Englishmen”, a number of the group started playing football on the shore – front and before long everyone was chasing the ball! To complete the weekend, Bob had us relaxing in what he termed a “laughter train” that was really quite mad but also hysterical.

As always, Taiji on the Holy Island was finished and it was time to go home. Having been to most of these events, this one was by far the best. New “Forms”, new adventures, new faces, beautiful weather all on a fantastic Island with a great Teacher. My thanks also go to Carol for her constant and successful organisational skills.

Looking forward to next year already! ………………………………A.S.

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Holy Island 2004

I picked up my book, ‘The Secret of Shambhala’ by James Redfield, and placed it on top of the rucksack. There. Now I had everything. We were bound to get some time to read over the weekend in between tai chi workshops, relaxation sessions and, of course, meals.

I didn’t expect so many people, thirty-six in all. The little coffee kiosk at Ardrossan Ferry terminal must have wondered what hit it as we all waited for the 3:15 to Brodick. From there, a hired coach whisked us off to Lamlash Bay to catch the Holy Island Ferry. Most people were Seven Stars students but some were beginners on the tai chi journey so this was a new experience for them. Being on the Holy Island was also a new experience for many participants. Those who had been to the island before ‘oooo’-ed and ‘aaahhh’-ed as they noticed changes that had taken place since the last time. Those who had never been before just ‘oooo’-ed and ‘aaahhh’-ed.

The rooms were bright and comfortable and, after settling in, we had time for a good look around before a very welcome bowl of warming soup and fresh lemon cake, just out of the oven. After our meal, Bob gave a detailed introduction to the Holy Island; St Molaise, the recluse that lived in a cave there;’ a potted history on the roots of Tai Chi and Qigong; and he also showed some of his training snaps of China this year as well. By that time cloud had come down and the rain had come on heavy, giving the bay and the land beyond an eerie, mystical look. Although Arran , and the rest of Scotland , was just across the bay, it seemed like a different world. We were separate somehow, isolated in our little world. No telephones ringing, no TV, no traffic, no streetlights – the ‘Shambhala’ of the West coast, our own little Eden . It was like living in a hug.

Over the weekend people seemed to really relax. They seemed tranquil and rested despite their hard work during the workshops. Walking round the garden helped. It was inspiring to see fruit, vegetables and flowers growing together like little families. Much of the food we ate was grown on the island using natural methods. The result was food that was full of flavour and seemed to have an ‘energy’ to it. The garden had really taken shape since last I’d seen it. There were huge cabbages, beautiful flowers of every colour, bird feeders, painted stones, plaques with inspirational verses on them, a quiet meditation corner and, of course, fairies.

We took a walk along the shoreline on Saturday afternoon. Bob enlightened everyone about the painted rocks, St Molaise’s cave, and the fresh spring water said to have healing properties. We also had a chance to see the goats that live on the island; birds such as sea gulls and oystercatchers; and a range of flora and fauna that lined our path. Some people even saw the blue butterflies that danced between us as we walked along.

The weekend centred on the 2 nd of “Teachings from China ”, the 3 rd being taught at Samye Ling in September. Bob covered many aspects including Daoyin Qigong, Taiji Form, Acupoints and relaxation techniques.

But the highlight of the weekend had to be the party for Bob Lowey, Principal Tutor and Founder of Seven Stars School of Taijiquan. One of the organisers (who shall remain nameless) had become aware that it was Bob’s birthday and had managed, unnoticed, to bring a birthday cake with a picture of Bob in a Taiji stance, candles that wouldn’t blow out, balloons that said ‘100′ on them, etc, across to the island. While Bob was chatting to one of his students, everyone made their way to the little boat house, which is now a shop and tea-room, for a surprise party. It was a lovely way to show our love, respect and gratitude for his tuition and support over the years.

It was a memorable weekend. Some people bought gifts from the shop, prayer flags, incense, CDs, etc. Everyone came away with something: an increased knowledge of tai chi and qigong; a sense of serenity; email addresses of new friends.

And me? I had all those and more. I came away with a red balloon with ‘100′ written on it. Oh yeah, and I finished my book.

This year’s Tai Chi residential course on the Holy Island attracted thirty-seven people, raising over £3,700 for the Holy Island project.

E Rolland

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