放松 … Just relax …

Usually translated as “relax”, fàng sōng 放松 (sometimes just “sōng”) are probably two of the words that Tai Chi instructors the world over utter most frequently while teaching. That is because we cannot do Tai Chi without fàng sōng; and the more our ability to fàng sōng develops, the more our Tai Chi improves.

Unfortunately, in the West ‘relaxing’ often has connotations of slouching, vegging out in front of the telly, or just doin’ nothin’ – things with which the “sōng” we aim for in Tai Chi has nothing to do.

So when we try to relax when we practise, we might be better off thinking in terms of “loosening up” or, better still, “letting go”.

This letting go – a kind of relaxed awareness – is to take place on three different levels: the body, the heart (not the organ, but rather what we mean when we say that someone has ‘a big heart’ or that we did something ‘with all our heart’), and the mind.

The physical plane itself has different levels: the big surface muscles, then the smaller muscles deeper inside, and then also the connective tissues (the fasciae), tendons, etc. The loosening up exercises that we usually do at the start of a Tai Chi class can help us to relax physically … if they are done mindfully. Indeed, nothing that is done mechanically has significance. When doing those exercises, we listen to our body; we are aware of the feelings, the sensations, and of any tension that we may experience. Likewise, between two exercises, we take the time to pause and again listen to our body.

On the heart level, we learn to let go of our emotions. This certainly does not mean that we need to turn into stone – again, it is essentially a question of awareness. Before I start to practise, if I am aware that I am angry, excited or sad about something, then I can choose to do something about it. For example, I could simply decide that this is probably not a good time to practise – nothing wrong with that. Alternatively, I might choose some other preliminary exercises to help me calm down. In my experience, spending some time in one of the “Zhan zhuang” postures, or in the “Wuji” position can be very effective in this respect.

Finally, on the level of the mind, we learn to ’empty our mind’ by letting go of our thoughts. This, of course, is easier said than done. Here too, if we start from awareness, we can recognise that our mind is indeed a “monkey mind’, ceaselessly jumping from one thought to another, endlessly chattering. Simply recognising this is in itself a big step forward. The worst thing we can do is probably to allow ourselves to get upset because of our monkey mind. Then, different meditative techniques will help different people. Many people find it helpful to “follow their breath”: whenever a distracting thought occurs, just go back to your breath. Inhale, exhale; inhale, exhale. Be one with your breath; if you are in the middle of a Tai Chi movement, be one with the movement, focus on feeling your push, or your pull, or your stretch.

Remember that your mind is that deep blue sky in its perfect stillness; and your thoughts are like clouds drifting past; don’t cling to them. When you are aware of one of those clouds, just accept it, and let it drift away …

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Tai Chi in The Netherlands



A very enjoyable and intensive Tai Chi workshop with Mr Liang De Hua focusing on a series of energizing loosening exercises as well as on pair practice, the aim of which was to give participants the opportunity to develop their understanding of ”non-force”.
As the workshop progressed, we were changing partners more and more frequently, which made it strikingly clear that there are as many ways to “touch” and “be touched” as there are people.
Thank you Deniz Kara for organising this event.




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China Taiji Trip 2018

In January 2018, my wife and I spent three weeks in South China in the company of my Taiji Brothers and Sisters. We flew from Podgorica to Guangzhou, whence we travelled around the Pearl River Delta with stopovers in Zhongshan, Guzhen, Zhuhai, Shenzhen, and finally Hong Kong. The initial motivation for this trip was to attend the grand opening ceremony of the Zhongshan Taiji Association, which was followed by a four-day seminar led by Mr Zhao Youbin and Zhao Liang.

A couple of facts I didn’t know before travelling:
Guangzhou is actually the second most populated city in China (25 million), after Shanghai (34 million);
Shenzhen is the fourth most populated city (23.3 million), after Beijing (24.9 million);
Zhongshan is named after Sun Yat-sen (known in Mandarin as Sun Zhongshan), “the father of modern China”;
Guzhen is known as “the Lighting Capital of China”.

Mr Zhao’s seminar had two main strands: to provide an in-depth analysis of the 85 form, including applications, and to teach the “ba fa”, – a form designed to practise the eight key energies of Taiji and to enable participants to feel and remember them in their body. About 80 disciples and instructors took part in the seminar.


… And the final group photo!

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The Way of Non-Force

On 20 and 21 October, Frederick Behar & Lucy Gardner held a Taiji and tui shou workshop in Podgorica (Montenegro).
The workshop covered techniques for pushing hands with the minimum force necessary. Working in pairs, we explored various exercises from which we learnt key skills such as:

  • adapting to,  and following a partner
  • pushing with a force of less than 2kg
  • finding the most effective direction for pushing and pulling
  • using “Dong Jing”, the energy of understanding a partner’s 

Part of the workshop was devoted to flexibility and mobility training. These aspects are important for both Taiji and push hands, and regular practice will ultimately enhance one’s skills in partner-work as well as one’s solo Taiji form.

Fred Behar’s “Way of Non-Force” follows the principles advocated by the Taiji Classics.
We never meet force with force. If a partner resists – we change tactics. In this way, push hands becomes an interesting physical and mental challenge in which men and women of any age can participate with confidence.

The workshop was extremely well received. We were all greatly impressed by Fred and Lucy’s relaxed and friendly, yet highly professional manner, as well as by the clarity of their instructions and demonstrations.
It was a privilege to be taught by people who devote their life to their art and apply its principles moment by moment.
Thank you both.We look forward to learning from you again.
Meanwhile, we’ll keep practising!

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Podgorica Push Hands / Tui Shou

English version: Fred-and-Lucy-programme

Crnogorski: Fred-Lusy prog CG (1)-2

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Radionica Qigong vježbe Ma Wang Dui Daoyin Shu u Podgorici

Tai Chi Chuan klub Zhao Youbin poziva vas na početni stepen Qigong vježbe Ma Wang Dui Daoyin Shu i samomasažu meridijana.

Radionica će se održati u Podgorici, 9. juna od 19 do 21 h (Tuishou i Osnove borilačkih aplikacija, https://goo.gl/muES15 ) i 10. juna od 9 do 12 i od 15 do 18 h (Zdravstveni Qigong, https://goo.gl/AgaA9Q).

Radionicu će voditi majstor Chen Shining, glavni instruktor i predsjednik Zdravstvenog qigong saveza Slovenije, i viša instruktorka Zdravstvenog Qigong saveza Slovenije Tina Hribar.

Radionica je namijenjena kako početnicima tako i polaznicima koji već praktikuju Qigon i Tai Chi.

Cijena: 80,00 € za obje radionice, odnosno 20,00 € za radionicu 9. juna ili 60,00 € za radionicu 10. juna. Uplate se vrše do 3. juna na žiro račun Kluba:

Crnogorska komercijalna banka
Broj računa: 510000000008585122
Naziv imaoca računa: Tai Chi Quan Klub „Zhao You Bin“ Podgorica

Tačno mjesto održavanja biće naknadno objavljeno u zavisnosti od broja prijavljenih učesnika.


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It is with great sadness that I learned about the death of Grandmaster Fu Sheng Yuan on 27th March. With him, the Tai Chi world loses a superlative exponent of Yang Style Tai Chi and one of the last 5th Generation descendants of the Yang family.
Sincere condolences to his family.

Like Grandmaster Zhao Youbin, Grandmaster Fu Sheng Yuan was a 5th Generation descendant of the Yang family. They were cousins, as their fathers, Zhao Bin and Fu Zhong Wen, had married into the Yang family and in addition were both disciples of Yang Cheng Fu.


In October 2013, I was fortunate enough to meet Master Fu Sheng Yuan on the occasion of an international instructor training and certification seminar organised by the Chinese Wushu Federation in Tai’an (Shandong Province). I was struck by his warm-heartedness and his simplicity.


Among members of the certification panel were Master Zhao Youbin (2nd from left), Master Fu Sheng Yuan (4th from left) and his son Fu Qing Quan (James, 1st from right).


At the end of the seminar, masters of all Tai Chi styles demonstrated their art together.


During that performance, Master Fu pushed hands with his son. You can guess the outcome!

Short biography

Fu Sheng Yuan (1931- 2017) was the son of Fu Zhong Wen and Zou Kuei Cheng, who was the great-grand-daughter of Yang Chien Hou.

Fu Sheng Yuan began his training at a very young age and following in his father’s footsteps he began his training at the age of 9.

Yang Cheng Fu’s wish was for Fu Zhong Wen to pass on the family art of Tai Chi to the world, but due to restrictions on travelling out of China at that time, Fu Zhong Wen was unable to fulfill his master’s wish of spreading Tai Chi to the rest of the world.

In 1989 Fu Sheng Yuan and his family emigrated to Australia. When Fu Sheng Yuan and his family arrived in Perth, they were welcomed by the ex-Prime Minister Bob Hawke. Fu Sheng Yuan established the Fu Sheng Yuan Tai Chi Academy in Perth and continued his father’s legacy of spreading the art of Tai Chi to the world. He was also continually invited to teach all over the world.

Master Fu Sheng Yuan was the only person outside China to be awarded by the Chinese Wushu Association with the Grading of 8th Dan (Silver Dragon Badge) and James Fu his son was awarded with a 6th Dan (Gold Tiger Badge). James Fu has since achieved a 7th Dan grading.

Master Fu was also honoured by the Chinese Wushu Association with a lifetime achievement award for his contribution in promoting Tai Chi around the world . The association presented him with a certificate and a Gold Cup acknowledging his hard work in travelling around the world teaching Tai Chi and promoting the Chinese Martial Arts Culture.

[This short biography is based on information found at http://staging.fushengyuan-taichi.com.au/gallery/fu-sheng-yuan%5D

As is well known, Master Fu’s father, Fu Zhong Wen, is the author of Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan, the book whose translation into English by Louis Swaim is regarded as the definitive guide to Yang Style Tai Chi by all practitioners of the art outside China.

You can watch Master Fu pushing hands with his son here:


and here you can watch him doing the 85 form:


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China / Thailand Trip, Feb. – March 2017


Shanghai Pudong airport. Waiting for my flight to Xi’an.


Lunch with Sifu (Mr Zhao Youbin) and his son Zhao Liang. I’m slowly recovering from 22 hours in the air on five different planes!

My knowledge of Chinese being virtually non-existent, I was very lucky that my friend Helen happened to be in Xi’an and kindly acted as an interpreter every day. Helen is originally from Xi’an but moved to Toronto many years ago. Apart from being fully bilingual, she also practises both Yang- and Chen-style taiji quan.


February 21st … Snow! With Helen (on my right) and Che laoshi.


A little snow, a lot of fun.


My favourite breakfast when in China: hu la tang.


Practising the duan wei 1 routine.


Getting some corrections and explanations from Sifu.


In front of Sifu’s block of flats. My first visit to his home.


With Sifu’s mother, who is now in her nineties.

On February 23rd, I went to Gaoling to visit the school where Sifu’s father, Zhao Bin, was once a student. Some of Sifu’s disciples now go there twice a week to whip up young people’s interest in taiji and in wushu more generally.


With some of my Taiji brothers and sisters next to the commemorative plaque to Mr Zhao Bin.


Students getting ready for practice


Che laoshi pepping up a group of  students


Che laoshi is incredibly flexible…


…and it isn’t easy to emulate her!


March 4th. Taking advantage of a sunny spell to have lunch outside with Sifu and some other people



Arrival in Thailand.


With my friend Claire Hu, a long-time taiji practitioner.

From about 6 o’clock in the morning, Lumpini Park in central Bangkok becomes a practice area for countless fitness, taiji, bagua, etc  enthusiasts.
Lucy Gardner (author of The Tai Chi Companion) and Fred Behar (her partner and teacher) live in Thailand about half of the year. They practise and teach in Lumpini every day.
Fred is the founder of the Central Equilibrium School of taiji and also created his own style of tui shou.


With Lucy and Fred and their adopted Lumpini pets.

Time to say goodbye …


With the Yongnian taiji group in Lumpini. All of these people were taught by Mr Zhao Youbin and/or his disciples.

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Our club has a new President

Dear Taiji Friends,

The year before last, at the end of December 2015, I announced my intention to step down as President of our club. I had been in that function since the very beginning, and it was high time someone else took over.

In healthy clubs, just like in healthy democracies, elections should be held on a regular basis.

It is for me a great pleasure to announce that our Executive Committee has unanimously voted for Ms Lida Vukmanović-Tabaš.

In other words, Lida is now the new President of the Zhao Youbin Taiji Quan Club of Montenegro.

I wish to congratulate Lida on her nomination. We all know how committed she is to teaching Taiji and Qigong and to making these wonderful arts more widely available.

Let’s all wish her the best of luck and continue to give her as much support as we can.


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The ‘Donyu’ and ‘Toryu’

As you probably know if you’ve visited this blog before, I first practised Taiji Quan in a group when I was a student at Edinburgh University in the early nineties. The classes I attended where organised by the local branch of the Taoist Tai Chi Society, a world-wide network of instructors and practitioners founded by Master Moy Lin-shin.

It is while practising with the TTCS that I learned the second set of “warm-up exercises” that I now teach in my own Taiji Quan classes.

My favourite exercises from that set were always the don yu and the tor yu. I could feel that they were doing me good, but I knew nothing of their origin. It is only recently that I decided to try to find out more.

If you explore these two very informative and well-researched sites




you will learn that these exercises are products of the Xing Yi Quan (= Hsing-I Chuan) and/or Yiquan tradition.

Xing Yi Quan and Yiquan, together with Baguazhang, Liuhebafa (= Lok Hup Ba Fa) and of course Taiji Quan, constitute the family of the so-called Chinese internal martial arts. Mr Moy Lin-shin learned all these internal martial arts. While in Hong Kong, he studied Yiquan with Master Liang Zi Peng (=Liang Zhi Peng / Leung Tze Pang / 梁子鵬), for whom the don yu and the tor yu, together with zhan zhuang, were “the three treasures of Southern Yiquan”.

There is a great video of Master Liang Zi Peng performing tor yus and don yus at


This was filmed a long time ago, which explains the poor quality, but it is an invaluable historical document.

These exercises were later modified by Mr Moy Lin-shin in the same way as he modified the traditional Yang-style Taiji form.

Conversely, I do not teach the don yu and the tor yu in exactly the same way as I learnt them because I now teach a traditional Yang-style Taiji form – Mr Zhao Youbin’s.

This is the state of my research to date. I do not know if it is Master Liang Zi Peng who “invented” the don yu and tor yu, or if he learnt them from one or more of his own teachers. If I manage to find out more about the history of these great exercises, I’ll update this brief overview.

Meanwhile, let’s keep practising.

liang-zi-peng Master Liang Zi Peng


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