One man’s odyssey to bring ancient Chinese martial art lessons to Welwyn Garden City

PUBLISHED: 16:00 24 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:08 12 January 2018

Dan spent two years studying under two tai chi grandmasters. Picture: Hong Zhen

Dan spent two years studying under two tai chi grandmasters. Picture: Hong Zhen

Hong Zhen

A Welwyn Garden City man is launching tai chi lessons - after travelling 5,000 miles to study in the birthplace of the martial art.

Dan being instructed in the martial art. Picture: Hong ZhenDan being instructed in the martial art. Picture: Hong Zhen

Dan Nichols spent two years in Chen Village, Henan province in China studying tai chi under the tutelage of 19th generation tai chi Grandmaster Chen Xiao Xing and his son, 20th generation Grandmaster Chen Zi Jun.

The remote Chen Village is where tai chi was first formulated centuries ago and remains an important centre of learning.

Now Dan, 32, has returned to Welwyn Garden City where he was born and bred and will share his expertise with others in classes at the Woodhall Community Centre between 7-8pm on Tuesday evenings.

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art which is also practiced for its health benefits.

Dan practicing tai chi outside the museum in Chen Village. Picture: Hong ZhenDan practicing tai chi outside the museum in Chen Village. Picture: Hong Zhen

While the most popular form of tai chi taught in the west is Yang style, Dan will be teaching Chen style, which is a much older form originating in Chen Village.

He said: “There’s merits to all styles of tai chi.

“There are more explosive movements in Chen style.

“Although it’s appropriate for any age group, there’s more attacking elements to it.”

The entrance to the school where Dan trained in Chen Village. Picture: supplied by Dan NicholsThe entrance to the school where Dan trained in Chen Village. Picture: supplied by Dan Nichols

The classes are suitable for ages 8 and upwards, and Dan will adapt his teaching to different ages and physical strength.

Dan, who speaks Mandarin, spent several years in Taiwan learning kung fu before moving to the tiny village in China.

The village is modernising fast thanks to government investment, but Dan said it still had many of its traditions.

He said: “I thought I was well adapted to living without luxuries but when I got there it really hit home what sort of stuff I take for granted.

Dan practicing tai chi. Picture: Hong ZhenDan practicing tai chi. Picture: Hong Zhen

“It was a very traditional area in the centre of China, a very poor village.

“Sometimes there’d be no water for about four or five days.

“In winter, I missed good heating and a good cup of English tea with milk!”

But, Dan said, people were happy because they were contented with what they had and looked after their health well into old age with regular tai chi practice every day.

Dan practicing tai chi. Picture: Hong ZhenDan practicing tai chi. Picture: Hong Zhen

Dan said: “The main benefits of tai chi are stillness and calmness from the meditation exercises, as well as increased strength, flexibility and coordination.”

He is offering an initial introductory class for free, after which classes are £8 an hour.

Classes booked in a block of six are discounted to £7 an hour.

To find out more, email danielnicholstjq@gmail.com.

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