I commenced my training in Tai Chi - (also known as "Tai Chi Chuan", particularly if it is practiced as a martial art) - more than 20 years ago (1994), following a severely botched manipulation of my cervical spine. I had hoped that osteopathic treatment might alleviate chronic discomfort arising from a neck injury I had sustained many years previously, after landing heavily on concrete during a two-day, static line, university skydiving course (that used the old round military-style parachutes!)
The manipulation of my neck had been performed by an utterly incompetent Osteopath, because I found out later that he was a retired pharmacist who had stumbled across a three month course in Osteopathy, which - at the time - legally enabled him to set up in business!
In spite of my consuming on a daily basis, the maximum permitted dose of 4000mg of Paracetomol per each 24 hours, the osteopathic damage I had sustained, left me sleepless, and in constant and excruciating pain for over six weeks, to the point where I felt that I could no longer tolerate my existence!
Eventually, in desperation, I commenced private daily Tai Chi instruction in London, with an American instructor John Eastman, who had learned his art from a direct student of the renowned master Cheng-Man Ch'ing. From the start, I developed an intense practice after each class, and to my huge astonishment, in less than one week, the pain I had been experiencing became tolerable without painkillers. A month later, the six weeks of intense pain, as well as the chronic discomfort that I had endured for so many years, had entirely disappeared! And soon I was able to tolerate physio-therapeutic weight training that allowed me to strengthen my neck muscles, back, and stomach muscles, to such an extent, that I was able to begin hanggliding a couple of years later in 1996 and have been flying ever since!
Surprised at my exceptionally fast progress, and my unusual enthusiasm and devotion to practice, John Eastman encouraged me to continue with my training in Tai Chi with the aim of reaching instructor level status, so I could share this wonderful practice with others; but he strongly advised me, on account of the significant structural damage to my neck, to focus my efforts toward mastering and teaching only the Form, and not its martial applications, and I have always chosen to follow his advice.
Eventually, I was awarded Instructor Level Certification (in 2014) in Tai Chi, in the USA, but around a month after this, I crashed during a hanggliding take-off at "Col de Forclaz", above Lake Annecy in France (luckily at low altitude, or I would not be writing this!) and once again the pain in the cervical section of my spine returned - this time with a vengeance! And I discovered, to my dismay, that my Tai Chi form was no longer able to eliminate the intense pain I was now experiencing, and it was this fact, which now inspired me to embark on an intense study of the Chinese Internal Art, known as Qigong, that is also significantly less complex to teach than its "sibling" Tai Chi, which is only really suitable for teaching on a private basis.
And after investigating and learning various different forms of Qigong, I became particularly intrigued by one specific version, Shibashi, which is known for its great efficacy and simplicity.
Shibashi, also sometimes called ‘Tai Chi Qigong’, is based upon the philosophy and principles of Tai Chi, since it is in fact a ‘hybrid’ of Qigong and Tai Chi movements that has been choreographed into a smooth, continuously flowing sequence of 18 movements. What is truly wonderful about this form is that it confers upon its practitioners, the health and relaxation benefits of Tai Chi and yet it is extremely enjoyable, and incredibly easy for anyone to learn!
Indeed, Shibashi is such an incredibly powerful form of Qigong, that it enabled me to avoid an operation on my neck that was due in October 2016 and which had been arranged following an MRI scan I underwent at the beginning of 2016 to assess the damage caused by my hanggliding accident in 2014. The surgeon intended removing the disc between C4 & C5, as well as a "bony spur" that was compressing my spinal cord, and I was told that the two vertebrae would then be "caged" until they fused together, which would take around three months. Many months before this appointment I decided I no longer needed this procedure because any discomfort I occasionally felt was so minor, that I did not even need painkillers, so with great relief, I was able to cancel this unpleasant rendezvous!
Although I have received training, and instructor level certification (Shibashi 4 & 8) from Professor Lin Housheng, the eminent Qigong practitioner and creator of Shibashi, my main teacher has been Sifu Wing Cheung (Canadian Tai Chi Chuan Division Champion in 2005), founder of the Tai Chi, Qigong & Feng Shui Institute, and an exceptionally popular and highly respected teacher in both Europe, Canada and the USA. Professor Lin Housheng however, is the principal Instructor for Shibashi in China, Malaysia, Singapore and in other areas of the Far East.
Although I also teach other forms of Qigong, my teacher, Sifu Wing Cheung, teaches only Shibashi for the reason he quotes on his website:
“I have learned more than 30 different styles of Qigong. Tai Chi Qigong Shibashi is one of the most effective and easiest to learn. Most of my students are able to master it in just a few lessons. And many of them can feel the presence of ‘Qi’ travelling in their bodies after practising for just three months.” (Sifu Wing Cheung)