Tim Spratt

Tim has been teaching Tai Chi in the UK for almost twenty five 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 in its principles: ‘mindfulness’ and ‘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, Carla too, were real teachers to me, in the sense that their influence worked profoundly in me. 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. Put myself close to the training, and watched, and practised, and learned. In every sense it was an investment: time, money, body and mind… For a further ten years: classes, teaching, intensive retreats… Tai Chi, Chi Kung, Hsing I, Pa Kua… A decade of transformation.’

Then:

‘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, sometimes hardly talking; 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 testing still play their part, but – and this is the beauty that these Arts allow – my way is leading me, and guiding others, in a different direction… toward a peaceful unity: physical skills, healing, meditation and spiritual training.’