Tag Archives: Darren Reynolds

Tai Chi Chuan: Feel The Chi

Since their introduction into the UK, martial arts such as karate, judo and jujitsu have steadily grown in popularity. However Tai Chi has been overlooked, although there are a number of schools across the UK and a loyal legion of practising students; as a martial arts form it has been misunderstood. A lot of people seem to think that it is just a slow moving dance for old people to enjoy. Steven Flavell attended one of the new classes on offer at Colchester Wado Ryu Karate club to see if this was the case, or if there was a little bit more to his hidden art form then meets the eye.

A year and a half ago I wanted to do something that would allow me to regularly exercise but was a little more interesting than simply lifting weights down the gym, so I signed up to do Wado Ryu karate classes and haven’t looked back since, but I have a confession to make… those guys I was talking about just now, the ones who think Tai Chi is for old people, I was one of them. So when Darren invited me down to the dojo to try out one of their new Tai Chi classes I was intrigued. When he told me that they are taught by Master Ch’ng Lay Seng; an instructor who can trace his masters back to Cheng Man Ching, who is credited with bringing Tai Chi to the West in the 1970s, I was not only intrigued, but excited.

Master Ch'ng performing a Lotus Sweep

I arrived at the dojo and Darren introduced me to the other students and Master Ch’ng. I was instantly glad that I came he seemed like the real deal. We moved into the Dojo and began the lesson.

We began by practising our stances and posture; it’s all about maintaining a relaxed stance while concentrating. Master Ch’ng demonstrated a couple of basic exercises before we moved into a routine consisting of a number of steps and postures with obscure names such as white crane spreads its wings.

Our movements were slow and I had to concentrate quite hard on following the rest of the students. I soon realised that although I was relaxed, my legs were getting an incredible workout. Each movement that I thought looked simple turned out in practice to require balance, strength and concentration. If this was a martial art for old people, I wanted what they were having!

Pushing Hands

After about an hour or so we moved on to the famous pushing hands exercises. This was the bit that I had been looking forward to, it’s where students can learn the self defence applications to the delicate movements of Tai Chi that most of us take for granted.

The pushing hands exercises on the surface involve you and another partner rotating your hands in a circle together, but it’s actually all about relaxing, and sensing the movements of your opponent. If they push towards you, you go with their movement and turn it back on them. It was pretty cool, and really different to what I was used to in my karate classes.

After the class I spoke to Master Ch’ng and told him how much I enjoyed his class, but I wanted to understand a little more about what the classes meant. He said “It is mainly about training how to let go and relax. So it helps physically, as well as spiritually and mentally.

Once you let go the muscles relax, once the muscles relax energy can flow, once energy flows blood follows through and allows proper nourishment to go to all the cells, which means they become healthier as well as the person.

Also when the energy can flow you have the ability to sense and read opponents better, but this needs training to build up that ability.”

I was really impressed. After the class I thanked Darren for inviting me along to the class and asked him why he decided to offer Tai Chi classes at his dojo. He said “Because it’s a martial art. A lot of people don’t realise that it is a martial art. We wanted to offer something different because although a lot of schools offer Karate, MMA and Jujitsu they don’t do Tai Chi.

Although there are specialist schools around, the element of this particular style that we offer that I like is the pushing hands and applications of the moves, which you don’t normally find in most Tai Chi schools.

Because Tai Chi is form based a lot of schools will only teach the form and you won’t learn the self defence applications. Whereas the Tai Chi classes we provide are quite unique in this area because they do. We provide a two hour class on a Wednesday from 7-9. The first hour and 15 minutes cover form and posture. After that we move onto the applications of the movements and practice them in relation to self defence.”

As I left the dojo my aching legs reminded me of something, Tai Chi is definitely not just for old people!

You can find out more about the Tai Chi classes on offer at the Colchester Wado Ryu Karate Club on their website by clicking here, and even visit Master Ch’ng’s website here.

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Cage Fitness: A New Way To Get Fighting Fit

For most people who want to get fit and shed a few pounds, their first thought is to sign up for an expensive and long term gym membership. Most people certainly wouldn’t consider going to a cage fitness session. However this new concept is slowly becoming more popular. Steven Flavell endured an intense thirty minute workout at Colchester Wado Ryu Karate club and he did it in the name of journalism! The fool…

One thing we can all agree on is the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle in terms of diet and regular exercise.

Cage Fitness uses a punch bag rather than a partner to avoid the risk of injuries

However it’s one thing being aware of it and another actually doing it. It seems that for every person that joins a gym, there is another person who quickly grows bored of the whole experience. One problem can be the expensive subscription for a gym membership, or even the intimidating narcissism that accompanies the many mirrors for people to watch themselves while they pump weights. So what can people do to get fit and keep exercising? Believe it or not, one possibility is cage fitness.

The Colchester Wado Ryu Karate club have introduced cage fitness sessions for people to get fit and hopefully have a little fun in the process. According to Darren Reynolds, the sensei and owner “it offers an opportunity for people of all fitness levels to exercise effectively. Each person can put in what they want to get out of it. It’s not important whether someone works harder than another person; it’s about improving your own fitness levels and enjoying the experience.”

I attended one of the sessions last week and can say that it’s definitely a more interesting experience than going to the gym. It is however very hard work! It’s a thirty minute workout, which revolves around the same training regime that mixed martial artists use such as the fighters that appear in cage fights. The workout is based on a championship bout of five five-minute rounds. Each round works a different part of your body.

Some people reading this may be worried that it may be too physical. I put this to Darren who dispelled this myth; “It’s not like karate in the respect that you don’t have a partner to do the exercises with. You use a kick bag instead so there is no risk of injury to yourself or another person. It’s a very safe activity.”

Darren Reynolds is the sensei and owner of Colchester Wado Ryu Karate club

Darren also believes that “cage fitness can offer varied forms of exercise every single session. Although you are not working with a partner there are other people in the room performing the same exercises, so it can become a mini-competition if you are watching someone else and trying to keep up with them; so it is easy to stay motivated during each session.

“The feedback that I’ve had from people is that it’s not as boring. For a lot of people who go down the gym it can become a bit of a novelty. They may stick with it for three to four months but eventually they get bored of it because it can become a repetition of the same exercises and experiences, whereas cage fitness can progress and change. We already offer a variation of different exercises and drills, but we hope to introduce maybe 10-15 more variations of this to keep the experience interesting and varied for those who participate.”

Although The Colchester Wado Ryu Karate club primarily offers Martial Arts classes, Darren Reynolds explained why they decided to introduce cage fitness sessions.
“It was something I thought would be a good idea to introduce into the Dojo as an extra non-martial arts related exercise where people can come and join in who have no karate experience; meanwhile existing karate students can participate and improve their fitness levels alongside their training.”

If you are interested in giving cage fitness sessions a go or even trying a karate class, click on the Colchester Wado Ryu Karate website. The first class is completely free.

This article was originally posted by me for the Colchester Circle.

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