tim’studio


As this is for you, this is for us all

tim’studio is the home of Tim Spratt’s teaching in the traditional Chinese internal movement and martial Arts; it is also a platform for his writing, and of more informal thoughts from his notebook. Wherever Tim teaches, his studio exists: whether in private rooms in London’s Borough Market, hidden in the woodland of a Welsh valley, or on the hills of Le Marche in Italy. The aim of tim’studio is to provide a thorough grounding – primarily in Tai Chi & Chi Kung – so that students may progress, practice together, and grow towards a vital understanding of their own.

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The teaching


Down-to-earth practical skills, then a gateway to mysticism

To learn any Art is to enter upon a path where skill develops, understanding comes, through gradual progression; perhaps this is especially true where it is your body and your mind that are being trained. tim’studio offers the individual – and the group – a place to learn by example: to follow, then to practice. With practice the doors begin to open, the experience becomes self-transforming…


Self-defending with self-healing, and a natural philosophy

Within the patterns of this physical practice the hidden martial and healing arts lie bonded together, each bringing a balance to the other. These are the ways of Nature that tim’studio seeks to disclose. It then becomes our task to act, to respond intuitively where we can, in the light of this learning.


Cultivate your life, and tap into some serious joy

To advance in these Arts, to make them lively in your life, requires a certain clear-mindedness or sincerity; it does not require too much in the way of daunting ritual or overbearing discipline. Yet, a nod to tradition is encouraged here, for these systems have not come down to us by accident or mistake, but rather through years – centuries even – of personal cultivation by those who have gone before us. Respect for their teaching and hard-won truths reflects in us, and it is this that produces the progress, the joy along the way, the solid ground of our training… It reveals the Heart.

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Group classes

Small group classes run throughout the year. The content of the classes will vary but will almost always include a period of Chi Kung, together with exercises to underpin whatever Form (Tai Chi etc) students are currently learning. There will often be some relevant principle or philosophical point detailed in meditation, and Tim will teach and correct each student in their Form; in this he may be assisted by a senior student, themselves thereby gaining teaching experience – which is in the tradition. There will often be partner-work.
Groups take a mid-class break with delicious, and sometimes rare, Chinese tea provided.
From January 2014 teaching may also be given by newly made Associate, Alec McCrindle, following his many years of training with Tim both privately and in groups.

Further information in CLASSES

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Private classes

Private classes are one-to-one with Tim; they are available to any individual, by mutual consent. These are intensive tutorials that can be extremely effective and beneficial, and provide a ‘single-leap’ method of learning.

If you are already in group classes, a private class may offer the opportunity for catching up where you have missed, or to deepen your understanding in certain areas that interest you. Again, these classes can be extremely beneficial, with students often wondering at the change that comes into their practice afterwards.

Sometimes a couple or pair of friends may wish to study as just two together. This also is possible and often very agreeable to the participants, with the understanding that such tuition can only be undertaken where both parties attend all classes.

Further information in CLASSES

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Serious Joy

To feel more yourself, to be more yourself: balanced, well, comfortable in you own skin… Quiet, when still… With energy when active. These are our natural attributes, our birth-right wherever life has placed us…

These exclusive one-to-ones with Tim are not Tai Chi classes in the conventional sense. Nor are they exactly treatment or therapy sessions, but rather a therapeutic being together – in a meditative context.

‘This is the fruit of my study and experience offered to you… At the beginning we will just sit for a while… quietly share a mind-clearing tea cha. Then I may ask you to stand in a certain way, to breathe a little differently… to follow me as I move, or guide you with a hand on your back. There’s really almost nothing else, except the way you may begin to feel: tranquil, at warm peace, truly calm, quiet yet with the natural activity of vital energy in your body and mind… The thing about joy – and this is what I intend you to have after our hour or so together, joy in your heart – is not that it is inconsequential or fleeting, butterfly-light or intoxicating, but that it sustains by being deeply-felt, by being serious. This is Serious Joy.’

Further information in CLASSES

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Tim Spratt

Tim has been teaching Tai Chi in the UK for a little over twenty years.

‘…Since 1994,’ as he says, ‘I’ve taught continuously… virtually every week in every year!’

Yet his journey toward becoming a teacher began much earlier. Here is a brief conversational overview:

‘…Really my curiosity for the East, for the Oriental, goes way back into my childhood. I think I must have been about seven when I first saw footage of the Chinese New Year lion dances in Hong Kong… old Cine film taken by the father of a friend in the early 1960s… and something must have gone into me very deeply, or perhaps have been roused… And there were other small incidents in my early life: a copy of the Tao Te Ching that someone brought to our study room at school, and which fascinated and bewildered me… An unexplained dusty brass figure in my grandfather’s house, that I now know to be of Lao Tzu and which today sits beside my bed… One doesn’t realise the significance at the time, of course…’

Later:

‘… Friends I made at school were from Thailand, and the year after leaving – when I was nineteen – I was able to travel and visit them there… This was 1977… It was a formative trip. My young man’s curiosity for eastern philosophy became a proper study. At first my interest, unsurprisingly, was in the Buddhism I found around me, or at least in the romance of it… During a short stay in a forest monastery I received instruction in vipassana – insight meditation, and the principles of non-attachment. This stood me in very good stead for later learning Tai Chi, I think. I seemed to have an inclination, or disposition towards it, in that it felt natural rather than alien…’

Back in the UK, in the early 1980s and following a three years training in Acting, Tim began his practice of Tai Chi under the tuition of New Zealander, Murray Douglas. Following this: several years of close training with Keith Robertson at the start of what was to become his Mountain River school; then – and for the longest period – he studied with Bob Coleman, and with his senior student for part of that time, Carla Drayton:

‘Tai Chi and me were a fit! I knew it from the beginning… And each of these very different men were real teachers to me, in the sense that their influence worked profoundly in me. Their response to my ready enthusiasm was to show me ever a little bit more… And each of them had for some period of the 1980s been senior students of Master Chu King Hung, a fifth generation master of the Yang family then teaching in London, so I felt that I was picking up the fruit fairly near the tree… By 1998 when I had been attending Bob Coleman’s classes for about five years – and already teaching classes myself during this period – I made a conscious decision to take things to a different level. I began going to classes three times a week – really at every opportunity. I immersed myself… with patience and modesty, I hope… Put myself close to Bob, and watched, practised, and learned. It was an investment in every sense: in time, in money, in body and mind… And for his part… Well, the teaching just kept coming, and with it a straightforward quiet kindness… Bob allowed me use of his studio when he was absent, even to stay over in his apartment during his summer month off… This hardly-spoken-of relationship went on for a further ten years: classes, teaching, intensive retreats… Tai Chi, Hsing I, Pa kua… And many times I thought it had run its course… especially as other senior students – so supportive and becoming close friends, eventually left on the paths of their own lives…’

‘It was a very clear day in the Spring of 2008… clear of sky and clear of mind… when I made my decision: to go on without a teacher, to continue my journey into these Arts on my own… And so it came about, though not before a rare last six month period as Bob’s student… We would meet each week to practise together before the regular class, often hardly talking. We worked on an advanced Hsing I Form of his devising; he encouraging my input and ideas… All I can say is that something very true passed between us…’

‘And now: I am a teacher to myself, and to those who come to me. Emphasis in my own practice is changing. The Forms and martial skills still have a dominant part, but… and this is the beauty that these Arts allow… my way is leading me, and guiding others, in a different direction… toward the peaceful unity in martial, healing, and spiritual training.’

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What’s written

The tim’studio Writings pages are an opportunity to present articles and ideas that supplement the teaching. They are intended as guidance or indicators in the direction of further study. In some instances they may appear abstract or to have little connection with the subject Arts, as such; the properly curious will find that this is not so. Readers should bear in mind these few points:

  • That what’s written here is particular: a memoir of Tim’s experience; of his practising,  studying and teaching. Where other peoples’ words are used, in brief quotation, they are done so with respect, credited, and with no wish to infringe their rights etc.,
  • By and large (and imperfectly) the Wade-Giles Romanization of Mandarin is used throughout, though without that system’s heavy reliance on apostrophes and hyphens to indicate where the sound is aspirated in the spoken language. Linguists will howl at this, no doubt; but there is no intention to cause offence and there is a genuine attempt to be consistent. In the end it is a choice of aesthetics, and familiarity: so here you will find Tao rather than Dao, Chi Kung rather than Qigong, Pa Kua rather than Bagua.
  • Where commonly used words of Mandarin (and sometimes Japanese) appear in the body of the text they may be capitalised, for example: ‘I Ching’, or not, for example: ‘yin yang’. Where more rarely known words occur, either immediately before or after their English usage, they will be set in boldface orange.
  • Though this site is not at this time as interactive as some might like, you are very welcome to make comments on the Writings, Thoughts etc., through the Contacts page.


… and what’s shown

Of the gallery photography in the Subject pages: again, some visitors might prefer to see moving images of the Forms as a means of learning from them; this is understandable. However, look carefully, and look again: you will see more than you might expect. In using these Stills, taken in natural light by a photographer (Angus Hudson) with several years’ experience in Tai Chi himself, tim’studio is referencing the inspiring photography of an earlier age. Here is a nod to the great tradition; the hope is that they may inspire you now.

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What others say

Testimonials…

  • “I have been privileged to have had lessons in Chi Kung and Tai Chi with Tim Spratt for approximately 10 years. It has been an enriching experience and one that continues to deepen as the subtleties of the practice beguile, entice and beckon ever deeper. Tim’s teaching is imbued with patience, integrity and grace and is rooted in a profound study of the Tai Chi. We learn from his example the art of internal balance, mind with body, yin with yang.”
    D.H. (Craniosacral Therapist – London)
  • “Over the fifteen years that I have been studying the Taoist ‘internal energy’ arts with Tim I have become increasingly convinced that he embodies the spirit of the mysterious way…”
    R.N. (CEO – London)
  • “I have found the classes uplifting and life changing! I am so grateful to you for all your teaching, Tim. I really appreciate how intuitive and warm and loving you can be, through your strength, your persistence, your humour, and your commitment… ”
    N.L. (Creative artist & illustrator – London)
  • “Your meticulous teaching and guidance has enhanced and inspired the path I tread. I truly feel more grounded and my spiritual thirst fed, as I am more connected with my physical body and the breath. Big thanks Tim.”
    F.W. (London)
  • “Learning Tai Chi is making a real difference to the way my body feels. My posture has started to gradually improve, and I am increasingly comfortable in my own skin. The Form is challenging mentally and physically, and Tim breaks it down into manageable chunks, ensuring we deepen our understanding of the postures step by step. The background information on Taoist philosophy that Tim provides is always thought-provoking and insightful. Tim’s classes are fun and relaxing, and I find him to be a highly knowledgeable teacher, who shows great sensitivity to his students’ needs.”
    S.W. (Group Sustainability – City of  London)
  • “I derive real benefit both from the classes and from the approach to life that Tai Chi, especially espoused by yourself, brings. So, many thanks Tim, for all your instruction, dedication, and the discipline you bring to new practitioners of Tai Chi. Your approach, and approachful–ness, are wonderful.”
    C.D. (City of London)
  • “Tim, thank you. Your studio has been a growth space for me.”
    C.R. (Chippenham)
  • “All I can say is that this is teaching of a very high order…”
    F.C (London)
  • “Thanks Tim for providing a brilliant blend of practical Tai Chi and Chi Kung with fascinating insights into the philosophies and methodologies that underpin them. I’m grateful for your patience and understanding and ability to make the classes engaging and fun  – I felt I learned something truly valuable that I will be able to take with me for a lifetime.”
    S.L (Freelance Life Coach – London & EU)
  • Our favourite Tai Chi/Chi Kung master in London… (Their honorific, not mine: goodness me!) … Tim is a seriously good teacher, and a seriously good man.
    John & Gaia (Creators of The F**K It  Life – Italy)
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Recommendations

‘Over the years I have often been asked to make recommendations as to good books on Tai Chi. My response has usually been the same: read around the subject; look at the culture and traditions from which it emerges. For beginners, in particular, it is hard to gain much from books that attempt to illustrate Form or make over-complicated analyses.

The list set out here is purely a subjective (and incomplete) one, detailing texts and authors that I have collected and that make up a part of my small library.’

 

ON TAO

  • Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu – trans Gia Fu Feng & Jane English

My first introduction to Taoism and though
I have read many, many other versions since
it is still my favourite. Some editions of this imprint contain
a fine accompanying essay by Jacob Needleman.

  • Basic Writings of Chuang  Tzu – trans Burton Watson

The indispensable pair to Lao Tzu, above.

  • Taoism: The Road To Immortality – John Blofeld
  • Tao: The Watercourse Way – Alan Watts
  • Taoism and Creativity – Chang Chung-yuan
  • The Jade Emperor’s Mind Seal Classic – Stuart Alve Olsen

Excellent, but probably for those with some
years of  experience.

  • The Mountain Poems of Hsieh Ling-yun – trans David Hinton

 

 

ON TAI CHI & OTHER INTERNAL MARTIAL ARTS

  • Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods – Robert W. Smith
  • Hsing –I: Chinese Mind-Body Boxing – Robert W. Smith
  • Pa-Kua: Chinese Boxing for Fitness & Self-Defence – Robert W. Smith

These three volumes are testament to
a lifetimes’ perceptive investigation into the
practice and history of these Arts.

  •  Tai Chi Chuan for Health and Self-Defense – Master T.T. Liang

Master Liang was for many years
teacher to Stuart Olsen,
an author/practitioner listed here.

  • The Essence of Tai Chi Chuan: The literary Tradition – Lo/Inn/Amacker/Foe
  • Bagua (Pa Kua) Linked Palms of Wang Shujin – trans Kent Howard and Chen Hsiao-Yen

Listed chiefly for the stills photography
of this memorable Master: a personal favourite.

  • The Tao of Tai Chi Chuan – Jou, Tsung-Hwa
  • The Art of Peace – Morihei Ueshiba (Japan) trans John Stevens

This revelatory text from the founder
of Akido is brilliantly brought
to life by this exceptional translation.

  • A Book of Five Rings – Miyamoto Musashi (Japan)

Again, multiple versions are available. Mine, translated
by Victor Harris, contains the beautiful calligraphy and
ink paintings of Musashi himself. The C16th text
repays patient penetration.

  • Tai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions – Douglas Wile
  • Qigong (Chi Kung) Teachings of  a Taoist Immortal – Stuart Alve Olsen

Seated postures: well-presented and with
excellent background material.

 

 

ON TAOIST & BUDDHIST ENQUIRY

‘You may wonder why texts suggested here, on a site mainly concerned with the traditionally Chinese, so often include the word ZEN in the title? I think this is largely because Western publishers feel it will appeal to their readers, for whom the word has come to hold a mystique or power.

It should be noted that Zen (the Japanese word) derives from Ch’an (Chinese), itself deriving from Dhyana (Sanskrit). Ch’an/Zen are largely interchangeable in my selection, therefore; both are flavoured, influenced and underpinned by Tao and the overriding principle that the Way is the practice.

Books by Watts, Blofeld, and Govinda are listed here several times. In truth I could include all their work as their importance in my practice and teaching has been profound; I consider them masters. Interestingly, these journeyers in Eastern thought of the mid C20th, met and knew each other, though I do not think all three were ever together at the same time. What I admire so much in their writing – apart from the scholarship, and the fact that they lived the life – is the absolute clarity of mind, in example and explication. This is as a result of regular meditation, without doubt, and surely also the outcome of an education in the European Classics, of studying Greek and Latin as schoolboys, as they would have done.’

 

  • The I Ching, or Book of Changes – trans Richard Wilhelm/Cary Baynes
  • The I Ching: Points of Balance and Cycles of Change – Peggy Jones

Wilhelm’s translation is simply
irreplaceable, influencing all who followed.
To balance his with a more modern version,
I find the Jones appealing and accurate of sense.

  • The Way of Zen – Alan Watts
  • The Tao of Meditation – Jou, Tsung-Hwa
  • The Zen Teaching of Huang Po – trans John Blofeld
  • The Zen Teaching of Hui Hai – trans John Blofeld
  • Still the Mind – Alan Watts
  • Buddhist Refelections – Anagarika Govinda
  • The Way of the White Clouds – Anagarika Govinda
  • Cultivating Stillness – trans Eva Wong
  • Secrets of Chinese Meditation – Lu K’uan  Yu

This material is dense. History,
scholarship, and wisdom:
redoubtably translated.

  • Zen and the Ways – Trevor Leggett
  • The Tiger’s Cave – Trevor Leggett

Leggett achieves rare clarity
in these texts, reflecting his own
long practice and discipline.

 

ON BACKGROUND

  • Science and Civilization in China (vol II) – Joseph Needham
  • City of Lingering Splendour – John Blofeld
  • The Wheel of Life – John Blofeld

These two volumes of Blofeld describe
his life and travels in China during the 1930s,
giving a last whiff of the old ways before the
communist era.

ON TEA

  • The Chinese Art of Tea – John Blofeld
  • The Book of Tea – Okakura Kakuzo
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Links

Favourite sites and people. More soon:

  • My good friend and Tai Chi confrère Richard Napper teaches privately at or near his home in Suffolk. Richard has deep knowledge and great skill in the internal schools of martial arts: he is, for example, a truly peerless push-handsman. If you are in his part of the world and think you might like to train with him, please contact me and I will out you in touch with him.
  • Several years ago I started teaching Sarah Henderson in the Yang family Long Form: she stayed in the classes for about three years. Now, more than half a decade later, she is widely travelled in Asia and China, and has decided to train in Chen style: the oldest of the Tai Chi family Forms. Just now she is back in Chen Jia Gou, Henan province China, for a fourth extended period of training. As she says: it’s all my fault. So naturally I feel very proud of her!
    Chen Zhao Sen is her teacher. Here is her journal: www.chentaiji.me
  • Ping Amaranand is amongst my oldest friends. Though we see each other seldom these days it was through him and his family that I first came into contact with the East. Ping is a photographer. You can see some of his work, so reflective of his character, here.
  • Ben Janssens’ Gallery. Beautiful objects, beautifully photographed. A bowl seen here inspired the colours of this website. Go to www.benjanssens.com
  • Here is a link to the website of my colleague, Daska Hatton. Daska attends my classes regularly, finding the study complementary to her own work. There is indeed much to be explored in the commonality of the Chinese healing/martial arts and the therapies and techniques of the West.
  • Victoria Threlfall is another of my oldest friends. I love to guide people towards her work. Victoria paints with such modesty; the result being that her subject comes seemingly effortlessly to the surface. See some of her work here.
  • Taking tea together is an integral part of tim’studio classes. For lovers and explorers in the Way of Tea Kung Fu Cha Tao, there is no better place to visit in London than Postcard Teas, just off  Bond Street. Here you will find not only exquisite teas but exceptional tea wares, and the happy expertise of proprietor Tim d’Offay and colleagues. Not to be missed.
  • For something a little more robust, visit Fernandez & Wells in West Soho, not far away. Co-proprietor Jorge Fernandez is a friend (and martial arts colleague in former days). An excellent team prepare delicious savoury and confectionery counter-foods for their knowledgeable local customers… It’s the kind of place you know you will want to go back to, and go back to!
  • Natacha Ledwidge was among the first of my students and is still, many years on now, committed to her study of Tai Chi and Taoism. Her own work is as an artist. I would particularly like to bring attention to her Visual Medicine programme: there is so much to find, explore and follow here.
  • Needing a new bed I began to search for something superior to the high-street chain ‘futon’ mattress I had been sleeping on for too many years. Futon World, a family enterprise based in Plymouth UK, provided me with exactly what I was looking for: a superb ‘Futo-latex’ mattress hand-made in Devon and a very handsome ‘tatami’ (the smell is wonderful!) low-to-the-ground base. Personal service from director Peter Farrow was quite simply exemplary.
  • Two useful resource and directory sites – Tai Chi Finder & the Tao Directory: tim’studio is listed on both.
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