Colin David Stevens
Founder and Senior Instructor (Sifu)
Like most people of my generation, my introduction to martial arts came through the television series Kung Fu,starring David Carradine. I was always interested in martial arts, but it wasn't until I suffered a rather severe back injury that I started my first lesson. A Chinese friend, who I met through my building business, suggested I take up Tai Chi Chuan as it would improve my lower back injury.
I met my first Tai Chi teacher, John Fowler. Like all students of martial arts, I owe a debt of gratitude to my teacher for pointing me in the right direction. That was in the days before Wuji was born. Through John we met and started to train with Nigel Sutton, Chief Instructor and founder of Zhong Ding. I trained under him and John for a number of years, eventually being graded as a Junior Instructor. Through Nigel's wife, Feng,we were introduced to Master Tan Ching Ngee, everybody flourished under his guidance,as most of us had never trained with a Chinese Master before.
When Nigel and Feng moved to Batu Pahat in Malaysia, other Masters became known to us, notably Master Lau Kim Hong and Master Koh-Ah-Tee - true exponents of the Cheng Man Ching 37 Posture Form.
During my training with these Masters, I found a different kind of strength was required to perform and execute the moves correctly. This required a different way of training and study. The Cheng Man Ching form comes from the inside. This was something I had to research and find out for myself by actually feeling the form rather than doing it mechanically. This is now my study. After all, Cheng Man Ching said, after a lifetime of training he only understood everything up to first cross hands.
Eventually, after further study and training, I achieved full Instructor level, starting my own classes three times a week. In 1998 I was part of the 10th Anniversary Team that toured Malaysia under the leadership of Chief Instructor, Nigel Sutton. There were times when we had to perform and demonstrate Cheng Man Ching, Dao, Sanshou and Tui Shou in front of our Masters and their students. I hope we didn't let anyone down!
Tai Chi comes from the inside to the out. Total relaxation is required, energy / chi moves the body. The mind is the messenger, where the mind goes the chi will follow. This I believe is mind and body in harmony.
My goal is to see my students perform this way. Even our Masters are human. If they have obtained the knowledge, so can we. Train hard, study hard, above all else be open to others, they may know more than you.
I started training in Karate in 1986 and trained in Derbyshire and Yorkshire and even on the Isle of Wight in a number of styles, where I managed to gain a Black Belt, but not without a few injuries along the way!
In 1992 I moved down to live in Brixham and started training at Paignton where in one session we where doing free style sparring and I recieved a round house kick to the ribs which put me out of action for a number of weeks. The funniest thing was the person who kicked me told me about Tai Chi and introduced me to Colin Steven's class at the Y.M.C.A in Paignton. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and I could see how effective Tai Chi could be.
After training for a couple of months in Tai Chi I went back to Karate and I could see that it had improved my reaction time far more than Karate ever had, I was more relaxed therefore faster in blocking and striking. But my Karate Instructor pointed out that my arms and legs were not correctly locked. I realised I was becoming more influenced by the way of Tai Chi than my Karate training, so I knew it was time to choose between the Martial Arts, and I knew after a few months of training in Tai Chi that it was the one for me. So from that day on I stopped Karate and concentrated on Tai Chi, and now I have gained a knowledge of Cheng Man-Ching 37 posture form. My training program consists of San-shou, Da-lu, Broad sword, Staff and Spear forms, and along the way I have trained with many people such as Master Lau Kim Hong, Master Lee and Master Tan Ching Ngee.
In 1996 I took my Black Belt Grading under Master Nigel Sutton, his wife Feng and John Fowler, in which I passed and then became an Instructor and from that day I have instructed under the Guidance of my Senior Instructor Colin Stevens.
Not the most obvious choice at the age of 10 for an afterschool activity. It was then I was first introduced to Tai Chi and Chinese Martial Arts and my Sifu Colin Stevens, Chief Instructor of this academy. While at a young age the complexities and deeper understanding of the internal art of Tai Chi inevitably eluded me, there was one aspect that intrigued me.
This was the idea that physical strength in this art was not needed. A concept later developed through further lessons and research, resounding in abstruse phrases from the Tai Chi Classics such as ‘softness and weakness, overcoming hardness and strength’ and ‘repelling a thousand pounds with four ounces’. I was hooked and have been ever since. I have continued to train, developing my skills and knowledge in this art. I owe a great deal to my teacher Colin, reaping the benefits of his knowledge and expertise that he has gained through his own training and travelling.
While enjoyable to me I will honestly say this art is not easy, but it is definitely worth it. Developing an inner confidence and discipline, it has benefited me outside the class as well as in. I qualified as a junior instructor in 2007, and while it marked a significant step in my training, at the same time I began to realise that in a sense my learning had only just begun. However, far from discouraging me, it has only fuelled my enthusiasm and interest!
I am continually striving to improve my skill and understanding of this art as far as I can. My advice? Well that would be echoing words passed onto me by Sifu Colin: have an open mind and learn to yield, to give up oneself in body (tension) and mind (pre-conceptions, ego) – perhaps the hardest but most valuable lesson of all.