For those wondering why we are discussing the Internal Arts with Alex Kozma on a Magical website then let me explain. Many of the practitioners I have met over the years are involved in multiple disciplines (often long-term martial artists), essentially covering the areas of Warrior, Healer and Meditator. We use development of the Will in our practices, but it is so easy to fool ourselves when the physical being is not brought into the practice. This is why I personally love the Martial Arts as any claims of freeing ourselves of attachment to fear or similar ideas of our own achievement are soon put to bed when being choked out on the mat. It is humbling but taken with the right attitude massively helpful for our growth to see who we truly are under pressure. Not only that but understanding how to train the tendons, fascia and deep tissue of the body is very significant for our energetic practices as well as longevity.
So with that said, today I would like to introduce someone who has I suspect inspired thousands of people to leave the comfort of their home and jump on a flight to Asia to follow their dreams. This is certainly the case for me, after reading some of his books I sought him out and began to train in Bagua, classes were small groups, in lovely Holland Park and also in a little courtyard in front of his then house which felt very traditional and even some classes over at the Manor in Hertfordshire a beautiful structure and the home of Hare Krishna temple in Watford. So, I have fond memories and am very excited to have Alex here to answer questions specifically related to Martial practice and how it relates to cultivation and development of spiritual practice. We will also look at the relationship between physical practices, medical practices and spiritual practice.
Be sure to visit Alex’s site after going through the interview: www.lineofintent.com
Introduction and Early Training
Alex: I began training forty-three years ago, aged twelve, with a Burmese teacher named Pat Meacher. Ostensibly he taught Kyokushinkai Karate, but he was a family friend and during his regular visits he began teaching me small bits of Chinese Gong Fu. Looking back, the reason was quite amusing – the highlight of my week was the old Monkey Magic series and Kwai Chang Caine’s Kung Fu series, they were my escape from the trauma of daily, physically brutal bullying by the gangs in my area. On one of his first visits, he observed me leaping around with a long stick trying to imitate Monkey, and he laughingly told me that my technique was incorrect. So, a couple of times a week he would show me one or two things which he had picked up in his career as a merchant seaman and commercial pilot, in Hong Kong and Taiwan. I loved it, much more than the Karate which I just instinctively felt was not right for me.
He also told me that I needed to go to China if I wanted to find the roots of real Gong Fu, and with those few words the whole direction of my life changed – I became obsessed with the dream of visiting China to learn martial arts and Buddhism. Since I had no money, and was still a young boy, it was going to be quite a challenge!
At the age of thirteen I met my Shaolin teacher in London, he and his brothers were the senior students under a Malaysian teacher who had been a southeast Asian full contact champion back when it was more or less a no holds barred event. These brothers were amongst the greatest real fighters I have ever met – they had countless matches, real fights bare hands and weapons, and I ended up staying with their family and then going to Hong Kong and Taiwan with my teacher aged sixteen. That was a whole adventure in itself, and we learned the basics of Baguaquan which was to become the art I loved.
They were very low key, working as bodyguards to Arab royal families, teaching the special forces here, and also teaching many of the famous martial art figures who had heard of their reputation. They kept out of the limelight, and during my teenage years I learned Chu Ka Kuen and their Malaysian family Shaolin Luohan system, and was deeply influenced by their attitude to life, their Zen meditation practice, and their unrelenting daily training and testing.
PAA: When did you become aware of the spiritual side of things?
Alex: When I was seven years old, my parent’s friend died. It suddenly struck me that this was something that happened to everyone, a kind of shock, and I began asking them and my school teachers about death, life, heaven, you know all these questions you have as a child. At the same time I was a quite solitary child, and loved sitting quietly under trees or reading books rather than sports, but one day I had an experience which even now I can recall. In one of those silent sittings I felt myself become smaller than a dot, extremely dense and powerful, and then expanding to a huge size. It was not scary as you might think, but felt awesome. I was about eight years old, living in Africa, and of course I had no idea at that time of meditation or spiritual cultivation and so on, to me it was just an amazing event that was impossible to explain.
The feeling did not return so strongly again until I was twelve, and had been training with Sensei Meacher for a few months. One night, curled up in bed and trying to fight off the demons of fear that were the result of being beaten up everyday by the local youths, the experience of becoming tiny, dense and extremely powerful happened again. However, it was not followed by expansion. I tried to hold on to the feeling, which totally dispelled all my fear, but after an hour or so it vanished and I was back in my fearful state.
And in case you are wondering, at the time I never told anyone about being bullied, not wanting to worry my Mother. It took years to become confident enough to protect myself, and decades to dissolve the childhood trauma.
Anyway, along with Sensei teaching me, I had found in the library books on Buddhism, including Lama Govinda’s Way of the White Clouds, Encyclopedia of Buddhism and the life story of Lord Buddha, plus a few of those old martial arts books which all mentioned the Buddhist and Daoist roots of the arts and the need for meditation. I read these repeatedly – there were few books back then but they were like treasures to me.
When I was thirteen I went to the Thai Buddhist Temple in Wimbledon, and it just happened to be on a day when a meditation course was being taught. An old Thai monk taught me Samatha and Vipassana meditation, and the importance of morality and reading the Suttas. It was soon after this that my Shaolin teacher introduced me to Zen meditation, and for me these practices were like giving oxygen to a drowning child, I was astonished and grateful that there were people in this world that not only cared about such questions but also had attained liberation from suffering. My life felt like one huge pit of suffering at that age, both my own trauma and watching my mother struggle alone raising four children. Suddenly many of my questions were answered – about Karma, rebirth, suffering, the end of suffering….
Ever since then I have maintained a daily meditation and regular retreat practice, and sought out accomplished masters in the Buddhist tradition. All of my martial arts teachers had a cultivation practice, and of course the relationship between the fighting arts, morality, healing and spirituality became an important theme in my life. All of it now feels very ordinary and natural, it is just what I love to do with my time.
Alex: Through my Shaolin teacher, and through reading books, I became aware in my early teens that Qi Gong or Nei Gong was somehow an important part of martial arts. This is such an enormous subject that it is challenging to know where to begin!
Let me start with what I now understand about this subject, and then if you have any specific questions about technical methods, we can discuss those later.
First, everything in our universe is an exchange of energy, a process of change, both on the macro scale of worlds and mountains and the micro scale of our body, breath and attention exchanging with other beings and food and so on.
Second, there are methods by which we can manage, transform and most efficiently utilize these processes in order to attain martial power, longevity and spiritual wisdom.
Third, this management begins by treating our Jing, Qi, Shen – sexual force, energy and spirit – as treasures on which our life depends, which it does!
Fourth, because the methods to accomplish this are very subtle, and involve the whole of our very complex being, we really need the guidance of an accomplished teacher. This is the difficult part, because it is generally not the famous names, the people with big organisations, the famous writers who have the deepest skill or can avoid the pitfalls of the ego. A lot of energetic and spiritual teaching ends up being a cult of personality, which benefits no one – look at what is happening in Tibetan Buddhism or Yoga, for example, it is a total mess!
So we need to find a truly accomplished, honest teacher and enter into a relationship where transmission can occur over a period of time.
The three most accomplished teachers I know in the UK are almost totally unknown.
Fifth, we need a map of the journey in order to understand where we are now and where we want to go to. This path is not vague, it needs to be understood clearly and precisely. These maps may be Sutras, Mandalas, Classics and other things, and they contain the theoretical essence of the path. All the practices must be verifiable, we need a way to test them. Nothing should be vague or just think it will all become clear in time, we need a clear standard for what it is we are doing and the result.
And six, but most importantly, we need to have a strong moral base and compass. The moral code espoused by the Buddha has a clearly understandable energetic and physical implication. Being grounded in morality gives us a safety net so that we can jump upwards or walk the tightrope with confidence. On every level – physical, mental health, spiritual outcome – it is the most sane basis for cultivation.
Those are some broad points which are important to consider for practice of any energetic work.
PAA: You have some films called Buddhist Cultivation…..
Alex: Those films introduce the nexus of Buddhist cultivation, healing and martial arts practice. What is the meeting point, the center, of these three aspects. We often hear that martial arts are a spiritual practice, or that meditation work can heal incurable illness and so on. What does this really mean, and how do these aspects converge?
On the technical side, what I teach under the name Buddhist Nei Gong, is the energetic core which can be put into martial cultivation, meditative work and healing. It is drawn from the exercises and maps transmitted to me by Master Chen Yuensan and Shun Yuen, and other Buddhist monks.
PAA: Now one of my favorite memories was hearing about your training with Master Chen. This seemed like the perfect balance having experience from both the Taoist and the Buddhist side as well as vast knowledge of Qigong, Martial Arts and Medical systems. Can you share some of that experience with us? How significant a time was this in your training?
Alex: Yes, Master Chen had a profound influence on my life and practice. I met him in Taiwan in 1996, and lived with his family for several years. Our relationship is really like a father and son, and it was not always easy! He is certainly one of the greatest martial artists and healers I have met, and he has done a lot of meditative cultivation with highly accomplished monks. But he often states that he is not enlightened, and this is why he would take me to visit many of his monk teachers over the years.
Master Chen’s background is very interesting. He began martial practice aged four under his family members, who like many in the south and center of Taiwan were experts in the fighting arts from southern China. His grandfather was a famous traditional doctor, so a lot of his knowledge of medicine and healing is from him. Then a little later in his childhood he was taken in as a student of the Daoist Master Lio Peizhong, the geomancer for Chiang Kaishek and his government.
Master Lio was an important figure in the history of modern day China. He had lived in the Geomancy School in the Qing Dynasty Imperial Palace from age nine, and trained under the Daoist wizards there as well as the masters of Taijiquan and Baguaquan. When the dynasty started to collapse he took a sword and went to Kun Lun Mountain, where he studied for some years with three immortals. He then went with the retreating Nationalist government to Taiwan, where he established two temples under the banner of the Kun Lun Pai.
So this was Master Chen’s primary Taijiquan teacher, and although it is mainly Buddhist in theory and practice, I have included the core Nei Gong of Master Liu as taught to Master Chen, in my Buddhist Nei Gong teaching course, simply because it is so great! As you know, in China the Buddhist, Daoist and Confucian ideas and methods are often taught side by side in the same school.
But for sure Buddhist and Daoist core theory is different, the view is different, meaning that the path goes a different way. This is why Master Chen later became a Buddhist – although he still practiced and taught the Daoist Nei Gong for body transformation and longevity, his view and meditation work is entirely Buddhist. I take the same approach.
One thing all my students felt when meeting Chen Yuensan was his serious martial intent. He had been in the Taiwanese intelligence service when the country was still basically under a dictatorship, and during that period he had to do many bad things which he later deeply regretted. He worked as an undercover agent on the mainland and other things which I cannot discuss. During these years he continued to practice the Taijiquan from Master Liu, which he said was the best Taijiquan he ever learned, but he also studied closely with other famous masters such as Chen Panling and Wang Shujin. When the Tibetans started fleeing to Taiwan to escape the communists, he took in several Rinpoche and studied deeply with them.
This maybe all sounds very great, but the imprint such work left on him went very deep. He is really old school in terms of martial arts and Taijiquan, it is a killing art, extremely brutal, and to be his disciple meant fighting with him almost everyday and accepting the inevitable injuries. He is a scary person when he turns on his fighting skill, but when I met him I was young and enjoyed that aspect of training with him. Luckily he is skilled at trauma medicine, because a couple of times I almost died from his strikes. His medicine is very good. Many people think he enjoys hurting people, but it is just that he thinks and teaches in the way he learned, and when people express an interest in the fighting aspects he shows the real fighting skills!
On the other side, he does a lot of healing work with patients with cancer and many other ailments, with great success. I learned a lot from being around him in his office and clinic and our visits to the hospital. Of course with these people there was no fighting, the emphasis was on Nei Gong or in the worst cases preparing for death using the teachings of Buddhism. All of these aspects I have included in the Buddhist Nei Gong book and video course.
On a technical note, one thing I should mention is that although he is an expert in acupuncture, Master Chen rarely uses needles and much prefers to use acupressure, energy healing and herbs to help people recover from illness. This was great for me to see, because although I learned acupuncture I just do not like putting needles in people. I was always curious if we can accomplish equally good results with just our hands, using acupressure. Well, with Master Chen it was clearly every bit as effective, and then later with Shihan Tanaka I was able to learn a Japanese perspective on healing without long needles.
PAA: Please tell us more about Shihan Tanaka??
Alex: Shihan Tanaka is one of those hidden treasures that appear out of nowhere as if by magic! It was around 2008, I had just returned from Asia and was living in a town called Bury St Edmunds. If you know this place then you will understand that it is…….well, a kind of backwater place, certainly not an international hub of anything, so it was odd to meet such a great master there. I had sustained a martial arts injury which was giving me some lingering problems after a year or so. One of my students used to drive me home after training each day, and we used to drive past this house which had a huge Japanese Kanji painted on the garage door, the character for Harmony, Wa in Japanese. I recall thinking, ah it must be one of these new age Reiki people….oh but it looks good…I wonder who painted it….
I think my student mentioned there was some kind of therapist there, but he didn’t know who it was. Eventually after a couple of weeks my curiosity and intuition got too much to suppress, and I asked my friend to stop at the house. I knocked at the entrance and this middle aged Japanese man answered the door. “Yes, how can I help you?” his voice was like a booming drum, very deep and resonant, and I told him about my injury. He invited me in and that was the beginning of another very long adventure!
To start with he began treating me several times a week, and his method was unlike anything I had seen or experienced before. His whole method was aimed at balancing the meridian line system, which is basically twelve rivers of energy which flow in the same channels on both sides of the body, as well as some extra-ordinary channels. He spent up to an hour finding a single point to treat, the diagnostic stage, and the treatment part was a combination of inserting usually a single tiny pin, and then massage on the opposite side of the body. His diagnosis was so precise that one mm change in position would totally change the outcome of the treatment. It was like being in the hands of a wizard who could see and altar the Qi or Ki in your body. The effect after that first and subsequent sessions was astonishing.
Now of course, it was not long before I was wanting to learn this method! After a couple of weeks I asked him to teach me, but he refused, saying that he had never taught it and that it was very difficult to explain. We used to talk a lot during the sessions, and I discovered that he had studied the healing and martial arts from a monk Deguchi in Shittenoji Temple in Osaka, Japan. On the clinic wall was a diploma for an old school of Jujutsu, a branch of the ancient Hakko Ryu system, and it said something like, ‘This student has accomplished all the profound secrets of our school and attained the rank of Shihan’. Mostly in Japanese characters but that was in English.
Now James, I think you can imagine if it was you, getting up from the first healing and seeing this on the wall! You would be more than curious right? Anyway, since he was very humble but also straightforward, over the next few weeks I managed to discover that he had actually taught the martial system for the past twenty years to a small group near his home. Although I did not formally join his Jujutsu class, I organised several seminars with my students for us to learn from him, and of course in the healing classes we often ended up on martial topics and techniques…but let me explain how that came to be…
After a couple of months as his patient, one day out of the blue I received a phone call from Shihan. He said that his senior Jujutsu student wanted to learn the healing, so he would try to teach us. We began with weekly lessons, then after about five years some new people joined and it eventually went to monthly. Aside from this I often took friends there for treatments, and was able to observe many astonishing healings in his clinic. He is an extremely kind man, with an earthy Zen wisdom, powerful yet sensitive hands, not the slightest hint of dishonesty or guile about him. His martial skills, especially his joint locking and point striking, are superlative, with the ‘steel wrapped in cotton’ quality which many Taijiquan people seek. His grip is like one would imagine an eagle’s claw to feel like, penetrating to the bone.
When I first met him he was treating his wife for six hours a day, she had been diagnosed with Parkinsons. After a few years her condition stabilised and she was able to live a normal life, and each time I saw her she looked better and better. The doctors in the local hospital were astonished but didn’t want to know how he had done it! Of course this is totally not the normal course of progression for such a case, and another example of his skill and devotion to both his wife and his craft. He told us many time that we must treat from the heart, feel the patients pain or stress, feel our own Hara, always move from the center, never treat just for money or else it would be useless.
The classes with him were always brilliant, combining theory – often he would bring out his large acupuncture dummy to show lines or points – with techniques of diagnosis and treatment, and more times than not veering off into politics, the latest medical discoveries, case studies both of his and ours, questions on meditation and martial arts and life…….actually he said that this was the format of how he had learned in the temple. The last years there were about eight people in the group, an extremely diverse range of people who would regularly get into arguments over varying political views and so on, whilst Shihan would sit back observing with a smile on his face, now and again interjecting with a comment or idea. This format always provided food for thought, stirred up people’s egos, and led inevitably back to a teaching by Shihan which might not settle the questions but certainly gave it context.
Looking back these years left a profound imprint on me that was not a formal ‘Buddhist study’ but was totally infused with the spirit of Zen. His example as a human being – funny, down to earth, kind, sometimes gruff, wise – was very meaningful in my life.
After many years of study I began treating patients in Cambridge, and confirmed that his method, and those from my other teachers, is highly efficacious.
PAA: You also mentioned Shun Yuen, your Sun style Bagua teacher, what can you tell us about your time with him?
I met him in a temple when I was twenty, my Shaolin teacher had recently moved away and I was quite lost. I had kept practicing the Bagua I learned in Hong Kong, as well as the Shaolin arts, but needed a teacher. Shun Yuen had learned Sun style Baguaquan from He Shenting in Taiwan, and lived with the adepts of the Tian Long Wei or Heavenly Dragon school of Esoteric Buddhism in China, a very small order which was founded around a thousand years ago in Yunnan Province.
I lived with him for several years, and training was intense – three hours physical work in the morning and the same in the evening. The first year was mainly Wu Xing Gong Nei Gong, the eight basic exercises of Baguaquan, and also a lot of Piquan from Sun’s Xingyi. The next years focused on Sun’s circle walking form with ten changes, in the fixed step and then living step formats. The living step is what some styles call Swimming Dragon.
Sun Lutang was one of the most famous teachers of the 1900s, partly because he wrote several detailed books on Bagua, Xingyi and Taiji, and also because he taught a lot of people across China including thousands of soldiers. He created an externally minimalist style of Bagua, with a very rich, detailed interior, infusing it with Buddhist and Daoist Neigong and esoteric content. The third stage, the Bian Bu or changing step, is where one calls the dragon into one’s practice, it brings the previous two stages to life and every day it produces different movement – but of course all based on the previous two stages foundation.
My teacher’s form was beautiful, his body motion extremely fast like lightning appearing and then vanishing. I have always loved this aspect of the Bagua, the spiralling and circular nature which has unlimited potential for change. We worked on the fighting applications, sword, and he transmitted the Sutra’s and practices from Bodhidharma which were kept alive in our Buddhist tradition. Tian Long Wei contains also the esoteric practices with Mantra, Mudra, Mandala and breathwork, these being used to condense all of our human energy into the center so that it can be focused onto a single point of practice, be that work with mind, healing or martial useage.
After several years he left the country. A few years later I went to Taiwan, and was able to find Master He Shenting, a wonderful old gentleman with robust health, sparkling eyes and deep skill. I had already moved in with Master Chen’s family by this point, so although I did not become his formal student I visited him often over the years for guidance and advice on my Bagua practice. He was always completely open and happy to share, often with a taste of his power to explain applications – being sent flying by a smiling, eighty year old man’s palm strike was always a good learning experience! He was healthy until passing away peacefully aged over a hundred years.
PAA: What further research did you do in Bagua and other arts?
Alex: From 1999 onwards I have studied with He Jinghan from Taiwan, a man whose body has been transformed through the Nei Gong of Baguaquan. This lineage is from Yin Fu, the top student of the founder of the art whose name was Dong Haichuan. Few people realise but Bagua is deeply infused with the Tendon Changing Classic method of Bodhidharma as well as other Buddhist methods from Luohan Shaolin, so it was a perfect match for me as I had learned the Luohan as a child.
With the Chu Ka Kuen I learned from my Shaolin teacher, I was able to live in south east Asia and train with Sifu Cheong Cheng Leong who was the teacher of my Shaolin teacher. I went to Penang in Malaysia many times, studying with Sifu Cheong, and after he retired with his inheritor Choe Wei Siong. It is really a hardcore fighting system created by Qing era anti government revolutionaries, and the hand and weapons methods are very direct and effective, geared towards developing close range shock power and attacking the vital points of the body. I teach the art only to a couple of people, it is dying out in Malaysia so my senior Stephen Choe and I hope to pass it on to the next generation.
Back in Europe over the years I also studied with teachers including Paul Whitrod, Serge Augier, Paul Rogers, Steve Benitez doing a lot of fighting practices with them, all of whom I have written about extensively elsewhere. Also longer periods with a monk who lead a community of practitioners in his monastery, a very meaningful relationship but he and his order are reclusive so they didn’t appear in my writings. I am also fortunate that Ajahn Jayasaro, a senior disciple of Ajahn Chah, visits Cambridge to teach my students and I each year, he is a shining example of what can be accomplished through the Theravadan Buddhist practice.
PAA: Could you talk more about your training in Song family Xingyiquan and its internal training?
Alex: As you know, Xingyiquan and Baguaquan are often taught by the same teachers, practiced one after the other in many schools originating from Beijing and Tianjin. The reason is that around the 1900s dozens of teachers from each style were friends with each other and exchanged arts, they formed bodyguard companies and big schools and so these two styles became somewhat intertwined. They share many similar principles, although each has clear characteristics of their own.
I learned this Tianjin style Xingyiquan from Shun Yuen, and then from a great teacher in Taiwan. Also Master Chen taught me his version, which also came from Tianjin. Xingyiquan is a very simple in form but deep in content system, comprised basically of five lines of force and focusing on developing explosive power to finish an enemy in one or two motions.
After my injury in 2007 it happened that a person I had been teaching Hebei Xingyi to, Gordon Tso, had moved back to Hong Kong and subsequently visited Shanxi Province in China. There he was able to study directly with Grandmaster Song Guanghua, the third generation of the famous Song family who created their own style of Xingyiquan. After his first few visits there he called me up, excitedly explaining how great the method was. Of course I asked him to teach me, so on his regular trips back to Britain he started teaching me. For the first five years we did only the two basic motions, Piquan and Beng Quan, but packed with detail. One of the basic principles of the art is that we should feel comfortable when practicing, and I found the practice to be very good in healing my old injury and being a truly effective method of cultivating internal power, and vibrant energy for health and meditation.
The two brothers who founded the style, Song Shirong and Song Shide, had been raised in a classical family, learning martial arts, Buddhism, Daoism, medicine and the old classics. Their father opened a store making and repairing watches and clocks, which was a kind of cutting-edge technology at the late 1800s onwards. The two brothers learned old style Xingyiquan with Li Luoneng for ten years, and then slowly created their own method by infusing all the learning and basing it on a book called the Nei Gong Si Jing, or Four Classics of Inner Power. The book was found under quite mysterious circumstances, but what is important is that when you read it then it is clear that the ancient writer was a cultivator and warrior of what we could call the ‘spiritual level’.
The two brothers had such superlative fighting skill, based on their new developments, that top level masters from as far away as Beijing and Tianjin started to visit them to learn. But it was not just for fighting. You know that watch making requires a very steady hand, totally calm nervous system – and the old Xingyi boxers knew that their method did not emphasise this. How could these brothers make watches and yet have awesome fighting skill?
So this was why Song style became famous, its emphasis on developing soft, springy and yet explosive power through stillness, meditation, and the forms which they developed. I wrote a book titled Nei Gong for Martial Power which translates much of the Nei Gong Si Jing and presents its meaning and practical use for martial arts practitioners.
I still love Tianjin Xingyiquan, because I did it since quite young and I enjoy its way of releasing a bomb-like force from total stillness, but I can practice it now with a deeper understanding because of learning Song style.
PAA: You have a series called Martial Cultivation on your site. Could you tell us more about this, who is involved and how specific does the info get?
Alex: I got very bored with martial arts magazines in my thirties, after loving them as a child. Like so many other media by the later 1990’s they had become trivial and shallow. I have published and written books for half of my life, but I still had huge amounts of material yet to be released or books which are out of print – in fact most of my books! So I decided to create an ebook format journal called Martial Cultivation, which would release some of the unprinted material, translations and other very specific and technical pieces for people serious about martial cultivation in all its aspects – not just interviews with the famous teachers or movie stars but deep, useful teachings in a monthly format covering internal alchemy, pugilism, teaching tales of the old masters, translations of old classics and much more.
Many of the masters I interview in the Journal have never revealed their methods openly before, so I feel very grateful for all their hard work.
I am slowly working through editing and uploading all the back issues from the last couple of years, which include arts from Japan, China and southeast Asia. So far, the response has been great, people appreciate that the content is exactly geared towards people who actually cultivate the traditional arts. I am sending out a regular newsletter for those who want to be informed as to past and future content.
PAA: What memories stand out to you now after so many adventures?
Alex: Yes, studying and travelling in the sacred mountains, meeting the hermits and monks, these are all unforgettable memories. The countless training days in the parks, temples, in the houses of masters, training alone at sunrise, teaching my students, each one has helped develop my ability and understanding.
Looking back, it is always the love and generosity of my family, teachers, friends and students which stands out. The dark pushes the light, and the light dispels the dark….just having the rare chance to be in a human birth with access to these profound teachings has made every day of the journey great.
PAA: What is your own focus in practice and teaching? And what books or films are you working on at the moment which our readers may be interested in?
Alex: Since the age of 16 my core daily practice has been Baguaquan and Buddhist cultivation. The other arts which I teach – Xingyiquan, Taijiquan and Chu Ka Kuen – I had periods of several years each of serious study, and once a week I go through the essential exercises and weapons as they are a treasure that I want to keep alive for the next generation. When teaching I keep each art distinct and don’t mix arts, students should focus on one system for five to ten years before taking up a ‘minor’ system.
When not training or teaching I am writing or making videos and have documented a lot of exercises and concepts in the Chinese Internal Fighting Arts series and my other videos. I also film a live private lesson in Song Family Xingyiquan every week and this is offered as a distant learning course for those interested in the art.
For a couple of years I have been working and studying with Master Li Baohua, a Baguaquan lineage holder who has a profound understanding of how the Yijingjing aspects of the art can transform the mind and body. We are releasing a series of free videos on my YouTube channel explaining many aspects of his teaching. I am also releasing a series of novels set in old Japan and China, which have been years in the writing!
PAA: Alex it has been an absolute pleasure to have you on the blog.
If you are in the UK and serious about learning in a traditional manner then seek out Alex, or if you are overseas check out his site as you can learn a lot of material online via his courses.
Visit his site here.
See his Martial Cultivation Series.