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A Newbie’s View of Tai Chi Training in London

John newI was strongly invited / ’persuaded’ to attend the Golden Flower Training Workshop at Gillwell Park. Being a lapsed Tai Chi student, but new to the Golden Flower Forms, I approached the event with a degree of trepidation and a “What on earth have I landed myself in now”, state.

The Park proved to be a pleasantly rural place of trees, green fields and wild life, – so far, so good.

The training agenda was presented on arrival and I immediately spotted that there was purported to be an early morning, pre-breakfast start, this was an obvious error, as no self- respecting Englishman is human until after breakfast, however, I was soon disabused of this crass assumption and informed that the start was indeed, before the consumption of a morsel of breakfast. Still reeling from the horror of this revelation, I was introduced, in rapid succession, to a variety of people and suffered memory overload to the extent that names blurred into oblivion, but everyone seemed friendly and welcoming.

So we come to that first early morning training session, what can I say? The dreaded, awkward, Shaking and Breathing warm-up appeared to have morphed into Disco-beat driven tribal dancing, with a variety of inventive interpretations. The throbbing beat of “Fireball”, became a familiar sound resonating through the practice hall as a wake-up track, accompanied by the exuberant dancing of some of the less inhibited members. Bewildered by this display of non-conformist activity, I retired to a dark corner for some surreptitious twitching and breathing. I have to admit, that by the end of the course, the sight of a whirling Bagua circle, to the accompaniment of a pounding beat, appeared almost normal.

The actual training remains something of hazy memory, ranging from unfamiliar forms and frantic following, to the relief of “Hey, I recognise this one” and the occasional flash of enlightenment “So that’s how and why we do this!”

Despite suffering from Octopus syndrome, i.e. too many limbs for the Brain cell to co- ordinate, I survived the trauma of Form and Technique with a smidgeon more understanding and a glimmer of light in the tunnel of mental confusion. Another unfortunate affliction is my Grasshopper mind which has the Focus of a fluff ball, but at no point could anything have been described as boring or monotonous, discussions and demonstrations were carried out with clarity, patience and bursts of humour. So by the end of the course, the Grasshopper was at least taking shorter hops and Focus was less fuzzy.

The outside session, in the unseasonably warm October day of clear blue sky and a light breeze, revealed an interesting degree of competiveness in certain individuals during the simulated combat scenarios, or maybe some people just like rolling around in a human knot. With a backdrop of the London cityscape, the outdoor session invigorated everyone and impromptu downhill gallops plus demonstrations of two person head to tail somersaulting were interspersed with more sessions of the self-defence applications of the form, before rounding off with group photos.

The evening sessions were and interesting mix of discussion, philosophy, training feedback and individual experiences.

Then there was the “Night of the Newbies”, with Question Master Annukka in the interrogation chair, eliciting the opinions of the Newbies on their experience of the course. As remarked by the first victim, sorry, participant –“Rabbit”, “Headlights” and “transfixed terror” – aptly described the initial reaction. The technique of furniture-blending and becoming one with the chair, proved to be futile in avoidance of individual examination. Fortunately, the fear induced disconnect between Brain and Mouth, was a temporary state and being the focus of audience scrutiny did no lasting harm.

Overall the willingness to help, the advice freely given, the Family atmosphere and the amazing energy generated, all combined into an exceptional and empowering experience.

The end of course Leave-taking was another new experience, which involved a lot of hugging. I mean, Good Grief, I’m a shy, taciturn, Northern bloke and likely to implode at such outgoing displays of honest emotion, however, to my surprise, I survived and almost got used to such expression of camaraderie!

In summary:

  • –  Was my attendance worthwhile – Yes, definitely!
  • –  Has it changed me – Yes, mostly for the better!
  • –  Would I do it again – Yes!
  • In conclusion: My heartfelt thanks to everyone for sharing your time, thoughts and experience, the dedication and energy of all attendees was enlightening and pleasurable and has confirmed the re-igniting of my enthusiasm for the journey that is Tai Chi.A final word to all students/trainees if you have the opportunity to attend a Masterclass or Training course with San Gee Tam and Annuka, grab it with both hands, your body may protest, but you will not regret it.                                                                                                                                                               

    ~  David (one of Heike’s Chichester Students)

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Learning by Playing: Tai Chi Training in London by Carla Verhaaf

carla learning

A fantastic view over London, the sun in our faces and all of us together on the top of a major green hill. What a perfect playground for the second part of our Golden Flower International Training in England today. All the energy I have gathered so far in our training sessions flew through my body even more intensely. Being with all these wonderful Golden Flower instructors and students on this perfect spot with the wind in my face made me happy, light, grounded and focused. A spontaneous wrestling-session with colleague and friend John was exactly what I needed to express the feeling of joy and tremendous energy I felt in my body. There is such a desire and need to learn more about Golden Flower’s rich Tai Chi principles which support me and my life everyday.

A lot of exciting, spontaneous playful learning moments followed my morning on the hill. The light atmosphere provided me with the perfect way to practice and integrate the many principles San Gee and Annukka have shared with us so far, such as:  feel your body, stay aligned, keep your body straight and your energy grounded… if you don’t accept that you’ll be “thrown away.” Fall down and stand up again. Try again. Remember that I am in this beautiful place with the supporting people of the Golden Flower Family around me. There are no worries. When I fall I don’t get hurt because I’ve learned to flow and not resist. I just get to my feet again and laugh about it with the people around me. Now I’ve learned to stand up straight.

By playing around and enjoying everything that comes my way the child in me is awakened. I am able to relax even more and experience the internal, energy power that is flowing through my entire body. Amazing things are happening. I felt great empowerment. I had no problem in throwing and get thrown away. I felt great and inexhaustible. I have reached a new level in my development by experiencing what I can do and apply just by feeling, focusing and then allowing and relaxing.

I have learned to play with what I’m learning! And I really felt that I created it myself. I woke up and I really wanted to go outside, in the sun to enjoy this gorgeous place. It’s a joy to play with the beautiful people of this Golden Flower School around me. And the amazing thing is that it just happened. Although in the beginning I felt a little bit uncomfortable rolling in the grass on this big hill. But then I tried just jumping in to it, relaxing and enjoying every moment. In this way I created beneficial, happy and very playful learning moments.

My take away from this morning’s training was to create it, allow it, play with it, allow myself to fall a bit, stand up straight again and try again. I feel strong, energized and happy because of these amazing playful learning moments. I am allowing and eager for what is coming next. I am so happy to continue on learning more about this rich practice of beautiful Golden Flower Tai Chi and I am grateful for all the people who have joined this wonderful school and become part of my life.

With gratitude and joy,

Carla Verhaaf

Carla Verhaaf

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Instructor Training Begins! Thoughts from Tom


The International Instructors Training got off to a very clear, calm, and focused start today. It is great to have 4 days dedicated to deepening our Golden Flower Long Form practice.  We learned a new level of detail in the sequencing of the moves. It is amazing to feel how each movement is distinct and yet we internalize the separation so it is unified.

We repeated the first part of the form so many times that our focus kept building. Master San Gee Tam explained that our physical body is within our energy body and that we need to develop inner strength to ground and express our energy fully. Without all the details our Tai Chi is stuck at a beginner  level.  Later, we all joined Richard’s class in the lodge. This class spontaneously developed into a healing energy space as we practiced slow movement with ever expanding consciousness. It was a fantastic end to the first day.

Tom Gold-Blyth


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Reflections on European Instructor Training in the Netherlands, October 2013

GFIT-Mon.-G.4 (16)It has been quite a year for me. Last year I completed a 30-year “stint” in Corporate America. This year I began a new phase of my life and with the incredible freedom that I now have also came the challenges of beginning a self-directed life. With the structure taken away it was
now time to create the life I have always wanted. This has proved to be more difficult than I envisioned.

I had planned on laying low for the fall and gathering my energy. At first

Damien Reynolds, Golden Flower Instructor
Damien Reynolds, Golden Flower Instructor

when Master San Gee Tam asked me to come to Europe for the International Instructor Training I declined. After our third conversation on the subject, which began with Master San Gee Tam saying, half jokingly, “lets discuss what is about to be the biggest mistake of your life so far” my intuition told me that I had spent enough time gathering and it was now time for expansion. That afternoon I booked my flight to the Netherlands and I was off to the European Instructor Training. And what an incredible experience it was. Focus, community, teamwork, fun, high energy, inspiring, creative are some of the words that I would use to describe the Training. When I arrived what struck me was how everyone was so helpful and thoughtful to make sure I was taken care of and comfortable and…. that the Golden Flower Instructors and Instructor Trainees were “all charged up” to do some intensive training.

Master San Gee Tam had given us indications that the expanded curriculum was going to be introduced.  We immediately began working on that front. Ba Gua and Hsing I are now officially part of the curriculum due to their powerful impact on health. We worked on the Ba Gua conditioning exercises, Lion Style changes and strikes, Hsing I warm-up exercises and Five-Element practice. Hsing I Animal Practice was touched on and Master San Gee Tam gave us some basic leg practices to work on to condition the legs as the animal Hsing I requires very flexible and strong legs to be done properly. Master San Gee Tam also showed us medicine ball and rope work that will help build our strength and endurance but using Tai Chi principles and mechanics. Tai Chi Staff was also part of the training with Tai Chi Staff Form and Tai Chi 13 Spear practiced each day. Oh yes I almost forgot – we worked several hours a day on the Golden Flower Long Form reviewing principles and form correction.

It was a huge amount of material to cover but everyone was so focused and eager to learn that it was no problem to get through it.


Sheri Clawson
Sheri Clawson

Our evening sessions focused on creating and communicating. Sheri Clawson, our web site designer and a Golden Flower Student from Winston-Salem, NC attended the training. It was inspiring that she made a special trip to the Netherlands to participate, introduce the new web site, and work with the participants on the European section of the site.

Master San Gee Tam covered many personal development, communication and self-inquiry topics and really stressed our innate creative powers and some of the steps we can take right now to start to unlock these abilities.

If I had to sum up the training in one sentence it would be “MAN we covered a lot of material”. The training got me back in touch with how much I love the practice of Tai Chi and what a wonderful supportive community that I am part of!!! Thanks to everyone for making it such a great training and especially to Master San Gee Tam and Annukka for their tireless and focused effort.   Happy Chi – Damien