Tag Archives: taiji

Macaw image courtesy of www.wallpaperwala.com

what is macaw?

macaw is a dream, a new lifestyle and venture for us.  macaw may even be a charity.  a place where you could stay in a yurt, an army tent, your own tent, or even a hut made from recycled pallets.  double beds and wood-burning stoves.  fresh food, harvested from the gardens.  chickens roaming amongst the solar panels.   a wind turbine beheading bats, like a mechanical Ozzy Osbourne.  macaw will nestle in a field, in Cornwall, near the coast, near a town…

…macaw is the martial and creative arts workshop.

grow younger through learning

having worked as a software developer since 1997, I have grown old, fat, grey and slow, sitting at my desk, telling myself that the work I do is valuable, worthwhile.  i’ve been kidding myself, mainly.  the incidentals are the worthwhile part, the work itself has been of dubious moral value, ranging from the project management of oil rig maintenance to insurance sales.

so what are these worthwhile incidentals?  learning, teaching, invention and creation, delivery, the lovely people I have met, friendships.

its time for a change, to engage with fresh passion, like I did at the start of my software development career.  I don’t need to grow rich, I own everything that I want right now, I want to be happy, healthy and fit, and to indulge myself in the things I love: learning, teaching, eating, growing, martial arts, music, being outdoors.  for the last couple of years, my earlier passion has made the final death-knell transition to becoming work.  i want to die at play, not at work.  as a midlife crisis goes, macaw definitely beats a shiny red sports car.

wot’s uh, the deal?

  • dedicated martial arts camps, for individuals, groups, corporate – single discipline, multi-discipline, guest instructors
  • dojang facilities for local clubs – there are at least 4 in Bude
  • dojang and camp facilities for other organisations, for rent, host your own!
  • a peaceful place for individuals to train
  • fitness bootcamps
  • music lessons – guitar, drums, bass
  • guided student jam-along.  there are many young music students in Bude, but often they are isolated and have never played with other musicians
  • rehearsal facilities
  • demo quality recording and production
  • home studio and production course
  • painting
  • precious metal clay
  • beading
  • earrings, necklaces, bracelets
  • pyrography
  • driftwood crafts
  • artist retreat
  • first aid training
  • website studio
  • software development training

All of the above could be offered to individuals, private groups, corporate groups, and other teachers requiring a venue.  macaw will be a beautiful retreat offering a range of activities.  we have given ourselves a target of May 2016 to implement this fledgling business, and change our lives completely.  in the next article, I will list the expertise and help we require to get ourselves off the ground. please help us by offering suggestions, advice and help – be a teacher, be an instructor, be a customer, be a friend.  Join in.

Jase & Adele
November 2013

Celebrating the Martial Arts – MASC 2013

genesis of MASC

ORIGINALLY inspired by a wonderful week spent training with Master Mark Worsfold at Loch Rannoch, Martial Arts Summer Camp 2013 marks the fourth annual consecutive camp.   our first camp, back in 2010 was at a site within walking distance from Corfe Castle.   back in the day, we based the training program on Mark’s successful routine of morning taiji followed by taekwondo, then non-martial pastimes.  twelve students from Surrey and Halwill Junction, Devon, attended.  2011 saw camp relocate to Upper Lynstone, Bude, where it has been ever since.  student attendance has grown steadily each year, as the good word spreads around the club network.  2013 peeked at nearly forty attendees.   what makes camp so successful?  dedicated, hungry students.   an attitude of openness – all styles are welcome, all levels are welcome, and total beginners are greatly encouraged.  generous and talented instructors.

THE MAINSTAY of our instructor base is undoubtedly Masters Niall and Liam Grange, a father-son team with 60 years of martial experience between them.   unpaid but definitely not unloved, Niall and Liam bring taekwondo, hapkido, taiji, kungfu, silat and more, and give freely to those who seek.  adding further to the instructor mix, Masters Mark Worsfold, Matthew Hobbs, Bob Rowley, John Rodgers, Tony Butcher, Con Halpin and Jitsu-Jamie have all contributed further: taekwondo, bokken, jo-staff, aikido, jujitsu, pressure point fighting, patterns.

IT TAKES a special kind of student, and teacher, to stand in a field, in all kinds of weather – training hard, barefooted, without rank, in plain clothes and plain view.   those students and their teachers are kin, family.   practitioners rarely realise, but when training, you give and expect the ultimate trust from your partners, teachers and students: your lives are in each other’s hands.  this generosity of spirit, trust, love and giving at camp can be a life-changing event for children and adults alike.   strong bonds are forged, and examples are set for us all to follow.   a time to inspire, and to be inspired.

NEW FEATURES this year: good strong sunshine, our very own field, debilitating injury, Wolverine, a purple belt for a hero, MASC tee-shirts and hoodies, poomsae DVDs, camp romance, new shower and toilet block, new friends and guest instructors, water balloons, videos on facebook, the establishment of camp traditions: homous and halloumi kebabs as a last night ritual, trig point photography, shooting stars

SADLY MISSED: Mark Worsfold, Tony Butcher, Nicola Avery, Matthew Hobbs, Nina and Ben, Jamie, Seth and Charlie, Chaney, Luca, Marie, Natasha Brewer, Alex and Emma, Beard Brothers Jamie and Craig , and anyone else from our wider training family.   please come next year

this year’s diary

Picture of The Fast Show's Jessie's Diets

…eating kungfu


Arrival at camp for most people.  If anyone can remember today’s training, please get in touch.


that’s the badger. when training, be sure to keep your fluids up


  • Liam – taiji: introduction to the five animals/elements
    • basic qigong
    • monkey/wood
    • tiger/fire
    • bear/earth
    • stag/metal
    • bird/animal
    • the secret sixth animal, the phoenix.
  • Jase – taekwondo footwork combinations, all grades
    • front kick, turning kick, back kick, concentrating on foot placement and stances between kicks
    • turning kick, back kick, knife hand strike
    • straight line footwork combination – back stance to pushing kick landing in horse riding stance, sliding side kick, back kick, reverse punch, elbow strike
  • Niall – hapkido, basic release from grab
mincing instructor examines back kicks

mincing instructor examines back kicks


today, there were approximately 30 students training. great turn out.

  • Liam – taiji: recap of the five animals/elements, application of taiji principles to poomse
  • Jase – beginners’ taekwondo, 5 absolute beginners
    • ready stance, front/long stance, back stance
    • front kick, turning kick
    • low block, punch
    • Old Man Kelly’s front kick recap, including excellent miniature session on leading with the shoulder
  • Niall – progression from yesterday’s session, hosinsul / hapkido, release from grabs:
    • mirror wrist grabs
    • cross wrist grabs
    • both wrists
    • lapels
  • Jase & Niall – patterns and pads for first kups
  • Liam – session on the beach – applications of the 5 animals
students practicing taiji

great turn out for Cheng Man Ching


approximately 40 students training, including campers from around the site. new camp record for attendance

  • Liam – taiji
    • Master Liang’s Yang Style Qigong and massage set
    • kwai taiji: Master Liang’s fast form
    • Cheng Man Ching’s five Animals
  • Bob the Blackbelt & Old Man Kelly – beginners’ taekwondo continued. By the end of this session, the beginners are looking great, strong kicks, fluid combinations
    • revision of yesterday’s basics
    • back kick
    • jab and cross punch
    • push away followed by back side kick
    • combinations of the above
  • Niall – more releases from grabs, now including takedowns
  • Niall & Jase – destruction
  • Liam – taiji appliations of the five animals, defence against zombie attack!
  • Jase & Liam – sword forms to music
  • Everyone – pizza and other takeaway
"whatever you do, put some bloody sun cream on"

“whatever you do, put some bloody sun cream on”


  • Liam – taiji
    • qigong
    • kwai taiji – fast
    • silk reeling
  • Liam – five ancestor double dagger
  • Everyone – Atlantic Diner. Hot food on a plate, with cutlery!
students enjoying a meal

warm, dry, plates, cutlery


special guests from Tintagel today – hooray! Sadly, Norman and Wendy’s instruction commitments meant we didn’t see as much of them and their team as we would have liked, and every participant really enjoyed the stick work

  • Liam – taiji
    • qigong
    • kwai taiji – fast
    • five animals
  • Liam – Xingyi – five element boxing and linking form
  • Norman, Wendy and students from Tintagel’s Jeet Kune Do club – Kali (stick work)
    • Angles 1 – 5
    • stick defence 1 & 2
    • basic amarra (strike patterns)
  • Niall – padwork
  • Most – Dinner at The Port William, Trebarwith Strand. Mediocre food after a long wait, but in a beautiful location
students training with sticks



particularly inspiring training routintes from Con today. more about these in a seperate article

  • Liam – taiji
  • Con Halpin – taekwondo combinations
    • hand work – jab and cross, reverse ridge hand, back fist and roundhouse punch. Put all these together into a sequence
    • whack-a-mole hand techniques (four pad holders, one attacker utilising earlier hand techniques)
    • kick combination – right leg crescent kick followed by on the spot left leg turning kick
    • explosive kicking padwork – 4 kickers in a line (not a queue), one pad holder putting the pad in at random
  • Aiki John – aikido
  • Niall – patterns and one-step for grading
  • Jase and Con – patterns for grading students
  • Everyone – the now-traditional houmous and halloumi kebab night
students performing basic moves

…in the beginning…


end of camp, always emotional. The last remaining students put in some effort, but eventually tiredness, rain and departure take their toll

A picture of slate with flavours of tai chi written on it

Liam’s menu

Aside from this great variety of group training, there was plenty of individual support outside of larger sessions, including guitar lessons, one step sparring, poomsae, the walking stick form, mantis form, Cheng Man Ching goodness, and an intensive tutorial by Liam for Joe ‘Baby Blackbelt’, Richard ‘Handstand’ and Young Man Kelly on the double dagger form.   these excellent young men soaked it up like sponges

some of the usual suspects

which one is Keyser Soze?

which one is Keyser Soze?

skills development

CAMP ATTENDANCE this year was brilliant.  students and teachers traveled from as far as Middlesbrough (Hey Bert!), Eastbourne and within the M25 to be with us.   some students were absolute beginners, some just two months in to their training, some were total strangers staying onsite.   all students worked hard, battling the elements, self-consciousness, and their own fears of failure.   there was no failure.   every year we see progression in the students, both between and during camps, and that is one of hidden joys of regular attendance.   a day after camp ended, numerous students progressed up the ranks, but particular mention goes to new poom grade (junior black belt) students Ellis, Alice and Tia, dan grade students Hannah and Tom.

WE ARE ALL of us students.   those of us who instruct, assist or partner up with someone for training can pick up instructional skills, techniques and training routines, to help us develop ourselves and our students

enormous thanks

to everyone that attended and contributed in any way, pastoral care, cooking, photography, washing up, de-trashing the site, including, nurturing, welcoming, giving, hugging, kissing, fighting, dancing, loving – may Ra and Selene warm your souls forever

MASC 2013 is dead. Long live MASC2014, 9th August 2014, Upper Lynstone

Wolverine and Superman

Wolverine and Superman

prophylactic therapy for depression through devotion

“Why use a ten dollar word, when a five cent word will do?”

I will write about devotion again, no doubt, but this time around, I want to reflect on how devotion to lifestyle helps my mental health.  When learning or practising anything, I am devoted in the long term, and mindful in the moment.  If that moment lasts for a significant period, say, more than an hour, several benefits will manifest, each of which can contribute to alleviating depression.

checklist of benefits for physical and mental exertion

    • martial arts
      • my skills improve
      • my fitness improves
      • training with and appreciating others
      • mindfulness
    • playing an instrument
      • skills improvement
      • potential for socialisation
      • creativity
      • mindfulness
    • gardening
      • improving your environment
      • longer term results
      • fitness
      • exposure to daylight and mindfulness of environment

Hand in hand with honest, reflective behaviour, each list item in someway tackles the symptoms of my depression.  Improving my skills helps improve my self-esteem, one of the most insidious symptoms of depression – a personal marker for me, I always try to watch out for it.  When skills improvement is teamed with goal-based learning, such as learning another pattern or a tune, then that helps too.  Tangible achievements.

Increased fitness boosts my self-esteem, and it’s pretty well documented elsewhere that exercise changes your brain chemistry, and makes you feel better.  A damn good training session can leave me feeling great for as much as six hours!  Imagine how good it is having six hours respite from feeling rubbish.  Last time that happened to me, I felt like I was seventeen years old again.  

Socialisation and physical contact, whether shaking hands, demonstrating techniques, making eye contact or watching some else perform, all help to overcome the urge to withdraw.  Other people may also inspire you.  Martial arts training is a massive trust exercise, and promotes bonding.  Musicians and martial artists are my extended family, and we care about each other, a lot.  

Finally, the mindfulness that is devotion to training, practise or performing is also a relief from introspection and self-absorption. If I can spend two hours being mindful of something other than the horrors, and add on six hours of positive brain chemistry, that is quite literally time off for good behaviour.  Eight hours respite.  I realise I ride depression like a wave, rather than a pit, and this has chiseled away at prolonged dread and despair.

I don’t wish to be smug, or make it sound easy.  I have failed to appreciate the weather, been immune to beauty, I have withdrawn from people, I have lain weeping on the kitchen floor, and I have felt absolutely worthless, and worse.  I have made my partner cry.  I do know what it can be like.  Fortunately, this year has been the best year for quite some time, and long term devotion to my partner, training, music, teaching, and now writing – and the catharsis it brings – seem to be helping.

“Because everyone loves a big spender.”


Top photo: martial arts summer camp 2011, training in the sun with masters and beginners alike. Bottom photo: dressed as chough whilst the rest of the band dress as Jason King, sort of.

White Crane and Chen

I have now had two training sessions in my home with Sifu Rob.  Rob has decided to teach me primarily Chen taiji to start with, interspersed with some White Crane, then when that is all going nicely, we will probably progress to some weapons.  I made poor progress in session one, managing a poor pass at one quarter of what Rob wanted to teach me.  Still, I learned some new footwork warm ups, silk reeling and a tiny chunk of the Chen form.  I practised this during the week and the in the next session, Rob reckoned I was looking a lot better at the end of the second session than I was at the first.  This was because, like all good teachers, he was able to communicate where I was going wrong, and what to improve.  My learning for the second session is…

  • Keep moving, however slowly.  Rob was amused because of my taekwondo history and clunky brain meant that i was performing elements of the form like a poomsae, with start and end points for each movement – for example, a front snap kick and a double punch is a pretty clearly defined sequence, and the end of the double punch defines the end of the combination.    If I slow my form right down, it gives my poor noggin time to do its thing and for me to attempt to flow like treacle in to the correct shapes
  • As always, movement of the arms is driven by movement of the hips.  For some parts of the sequence, there is no arm movement, its a rotation of the hips that repositions your torso and the arms just follow
  • Breathing is paramount – this is not a new lesson to me, of course, but when I spotted a section that was expansive, the expansion and correct movement comes from inflating, and it felt much more authentic
  • In general, take a shorter-than-taekwondo-front-stance, and watch your knees aren’t projecting beyond your toes

This is all good stuff, and ties in exactly with what Liam, Mark and Tony have taught me in the past. Lets hope I can do all of my teachers proud at this year’s summer camp.  I’ll post more about taiji as and when I learn something I can communicate.