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The Tai Chi Notebook

The Tai Chi Notebook

By Graham
Reflections on Tai Chi, Xing Yi, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and martial arts studies
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Ep 16: Tim Cartmell on keeping it real in martial arts

The Tai Chi Notebook

Ep 17: Paul Bowman on Martial Arts Studies, BJJ and The Sublime
Today’s episode is an interview with my old friend Professor Paul Bowman of Cardiff University who is something of a mover and shaker in the academic field of martial arts studies. Paul has written several academic books on martial arts including Martial Arts Mythologies, The Invention of Martial Arts and Theorising Bruce Lee. He also co-edits the Martial Arts Studies Journal for the Martial Arts Studies Research Network. Years ago I taught Paul attended my Tai Chi class- and now we both train Brazilian jiujitsu in the same organisation so this is quite an informal chat. We talk about what Paul’s been up to since he last appeared on my podcast (that was back in episode 3 if you want to check it out), his upcoming book on self defence and the sublime, plus his unhealthy obsession with the Internet personality Master Wong.  Links: Join my Patreon! Head over to Martial Arts Studies Network:
September 12, 2022
Ep 16: Tim Cartmell on keeping it real in martial arts
My guest in this episode will need no introduction to anybody who trains in the Chinese styles of Xing Yi and Baguazhang, especially in the United States. Tim Cartmell is a lifelong martial artist who spent many years living in Asia learning the internal arts, before heading back to the US where he took up BJJ, becoming a black belt. Tim is now the head jiujitsu coach at Ace Jiujitsu Academy in Fountain Valley, California where he teaches classes and trains professional MMA fighters.  In this podcast I ask Tim about his training tips, especially for older martial artists, where he thinks martial arts is going in the future and his approach to combining all the arts he knows into a single principle-based, reality-driven approach. You can find out more about Tim at his website and don’t forget to check out the Shen Wu Martial Arts group on Facebook.  I hadn’t talked to Tim before this interview, but many of the people I’ve had as guests on my podcast have rated him highly, and now I know why - for somebody with so much experience of martial arts Tim is a very humble and genuine guy, as I hope you’ll discover over the next hour or so.  You can support The Tai Chi Notebook Podcast by becoming a patron. Head over to and become a patron today! You'll get a version of the podcast you can download, exclusive video clips and articles.
August 22, 2022
Ep 15: Centre the Dragon: Tai Chi Talk with Ken Gullette and Graham Barlow
In this episode I’m teaming up with Ken Gullette, to answer the kind of questions that Tai Chi teachers get asked all the time. Ken is an all-round good guy and owner of the Internal Fighting Arts website where he teaches the arts of Xing Yi, Bagua and Tai Chi at a very reasonable monthly cost. Check him out at Ken is a Chen style guy, and I’m a Yang style guy so it’s no surprise we have slightly different views on a lot of different topics, but that’s part of the fun of it all. And if you’d like to help out my podcast then you can now become a friend of the Tai Chi Notebook on Patreon. Head over to and you’ll be able to get a downloadable version of the podcast as well as support my work and get exclusive articles. If you’ve got any comments on what we say then send them in - we’d love to hear from you!
July 22, 2022
Ep 14 The power of Buk Sing Choy Li Fut with Phil Duffy
In this episode my guest is Phil Duffy, a senior student of Sifu Wan Kei-Ho from Hong Kong, who carries on a lineage of Northern Shaolin and Buk Sing Choy Li Fut from the famous masters Ku Yu Chang and Tam Sam. Buk Sing is a much rarer sub style of Choy Li Fut that involves less long forms and more conditioning and drills, and it’s the same style of Choy Li Fut that I learned in the UK, so when I met Phil back in the 2000s we had a lot to talk about. We’ve kept in touch over the years so it was good to catch up again for a chat. Here we get into the differences between the various Choy Li Fut styles, how it’s different training martial arts in Asia compared to the west, and we talk about the key to it all, the ging (or jin)  -  that special type of soft power, that some people call Internal power - that the Chinese martial arts are famous for, and how it’s used in Choy Li Fut. We also talk about the famed Wing Chun / Choy Li Fut rivalry and how Choy Li Fut relates to other styles from the same area of China, like the older Hung Kuen style. Support The Tai Chi Notebook for only £3/$4.50 on Patreon: Links Sifu Wan Kei-Ho webpage: The Tai Chi Notebook blog
June 14, 2022
Ep 13: Seymour Yang (Meerkatsu) on the Art of Brazilian Jiujitsu
In this episode my guest is Seymour Yang, a long time acquaintance of mine who is also something of a legend in the BJJ world, where he goes by the name Meerkatsu and is famous for his BJJ artworks, which get turned into beautiful t-shirts, rash guards and gis.  Seymour is also a black belt in Brazilian jiujitsu and teaches at the Roger Gracie academy in South Hertfordshire. So, it’s no surprise that this episode is highly focused on the art of Brazilian jiujitsu. We’re talking right after we both attended the same jiujitsu seminar up in Stafford with Priit Mihkelson (my guest in episode 5 of this podcast) so that’s where we start our conversation. I hope you enjoy it! Links: Meerkatsu Original Artworks: Seymour's Instagram: Roger Gracie South Hertfordshire Priit Mihkelson Graham's text adventure game from 1986:
May 24, 2022
Ep 12: Michael Babin on teaching Tai Chi in the 90s
My guest in this episode is Michael Babin a Tai Chi practitioner from Ottawa, Canada who has been teaching Tai Chi since the 1980s. He’s primarily a Yang style practitioner, but also does a bit of Sun style Tai Chi on the side. Michael is now officially retired from running his own school, but still keeps his hand in training 3 or 4 times a week with his old students. In our discussion we talk a lot about the problems associated with teaching Tai Chi and what the Tai Chi scene was like in Canada in the 90s and how things have changed compared to today. We also chat about the various Tai Chi teachers Michael has trained under over the years including Tim Cartmell, Erle Montaigue and Sam Masich. Michael has recently started a YouTube channel where you can see him teaching and performing Tai Chi, which you can find at: 
April 25, 2022
Ep 11: Arlene Faulk on Tai Chi for Multiple Sclerosis
Arlene Faulk is the author of Walking on Pins and Needles, her memoir of living with multiple sclerosis without a diagnosis for many years, spending two years not getting up from the couch and how she eventually found Tai Chi and how it helped her combat the disease and regain her health, eventually becoming a Tai Chi teacher herself. Make sure you listen right to the end as we have some tips from Arlene on how you can use Tai Chi principles to feel better right now as you listen to the podcast. Walking on Pins and Needles by Arlene Faulk: Faulk Tai Chi: Find out more about The Tai Chi Notebook podcast at:
March 11, 2022
Ep 10: David Rogers on Tai Chi, Hap Gar and MMA
Welcome to the first Tai Chi Notebook Podcast of 2022. Happy new year of the tiger and I hope you are in good health.  In this episode my guest is David Rogers of the Rising Crane Chinese Marital Arts school in the UK.  David has an extensive background in Chinese martial arts and has been training since 1984 and teaching for over 25 years, mainly in Tai Chi  and Hap Gar, but he’s also trained people for MMA fights and been quite involved in the competition scene, so he’s got lots of great insights into the practicality of Chinese martial arts. He is a disciple of Master Deng Jan Gong, one of the most famous Kung Fu masters in Southern China. In this hour long talk we address many of the questions that we both have about Chinese martial arts in the current times, and we hear his thoughts on training Chinese arts for a mixed martial arts environment, the origins of forms and much more. Find out more about David at
February 15, 2022
Ep 9: Stephan Kesting on the martial arts life.
This episode I’m talking to the man, the legend, that is Stephan Kesting, Stephan has taught thousands of people martial arts through his famous website which, back in the day, was one of the first sites to put out quality Brazilian jiujitsu instructional material and is still putting out top notch instructional material today Stephan is a fireman, he has competed in marital arts, he has trekked across the Canadian wilds with a canoe and recently he’s undergone a full hip replacement and documented his recovery - and he’s about to return to training again, so he’s one tough old dude. Stephan also hosts his own podcast, the Strenuous Life Podcast, which I’d recommend you listen to - because it’s always super interesting, especially his episodes debunking conspiracy theories. Links: To find out more about this podcast visit
December 15, 2021
Ep 8: From Tai Chi to Systema with Rob Poyton
My guest this episode is Rob Poyton a veteran of the UK Tai Chi and martial arts scene. These days Rob is a teacher of the Russian martial art of Systema, which he has been teaching in the UK since the early 2000s and has run workshops and seminars all over Europe.  Rob is also a prolific author of Systema books and videos which you can get via his website Cutting Edge Systema which is found at In this wide-ranging discussion we talk about what the UK Tai Chi scene was like back in the 80s and 90s, and the similarities and differences between Tai Chi and Systema. We even get into a bit of politics, and talk about Rob’s experiences as a professional musician and his sideline as a horror fiction writer. So, sit back and enjoy as we get under the skin of Tai Chi and Systema.
December 01, 2021
BONUS EPISODE 7! Brad and Joe from The Fight Bible on Brad's upcoming fight with D.K.Yoo Dec. 4th
Hello and welcome to a special bonus edition of the Tai Chi Notebook. This time I’m interviewing Joe and Brad from The Fight Bible, a popular YouTube martial arts channel. I used to train jiujitsu with Brad back in the day, before he went on to become a UFC fighter, so I’ve known him for years. Brad is retired from the UFC now, but he recently accepted a fight offer from the famous D.K. Yoo, who teaches martial arts seminars all over the world. The fight is scheduled to happen on December 4th on pay-per-view here: Brad and Joe are flying off to South Korea in just a few days for a boxing match that looks set to make a huge impression on the martial arts scene.  So, let’s find out how it all happened, how Brad's training is going and what the boys think is going to happen on December 4th. Links: -------- The Fight Bible: Music by lesfm from Pixabay To find out more about this podcast visit
November 22, 2021
Ep 6: Internal Body Mechanics with Ken Gullette
In this episode  Tai Chi Notebook podcast my guest is Ken Gullette, a native of Illinois, USA, where he trains in all three of the main internal arts - Tai Chi, Bagua and Xing Yi. Ken also runs a website called where he trains students from around the world in the three internal arts using a combination of recorded and live classes.  Ken is quite famous for his focus on body mechanics, internal power and getting to the root of these arts in a non-mystical and no-nonsense way.  In fact, he’s written an excellent book that’s available on Amazon - it’s called ‘Internal body mechanics for Tai Chi, Bagua and Xing Yi’, and I’d recommend you get a copy. In this episode we discuss the internal body mechanics of Tai Chi, training with disciples in the Chen family linage and there’s also a few stories of the times Ken has had to use his arts in real situations. Visit Ken’s website at: Facebook page: Blog: Music by lesfm from Pixabay To find out more about this podcast visit
November 06, 2021
Ep 5: Priit Mihkelson - Meet the BJJ Turtle Master
My guest in this episode is my first from the world of Brazilian Jiujitsu. He’s Estonian Jiujitsu coach Priit Mihkelson.  For over 15 years now Priit has been pioneering an innovative, logical and defensive style of jiujitsu that has been taking the BJJ world by storm.  He’s just back from running a training camp held in a castle in Italy and his seminars are sold out until mid June next year, so it was great to grab some of his precious time and catch up with him before he jetted off for his next training camp.  In this podcast we talk about defensive BJJ, training methods and technical innovations.  Show Notes: ------------------- Priit’s talk at BJJ Globetrotters Iceland Camp in 2020 “Want to get better at Jiu Jitsu?” Priit’s online coaching website: Music by lesfm from Pixabay To find out more about this podcast visit
October 13, 2021
Ep 4: Damon Smith on the link between Shamanism and martial arts
What is Shamanism? And how does it relate to martial arts? In this episode I catch up with my old, friend and teacher Damon Smith to answer some of these questions.  Damon is an incredibly experienced martial artist with a background in various Japanese and Chinese arts including Karate, Kempo, Xing Yi, Baji and Choy Lee Fut. And those are just a few of the arts he’s pursued to a very high level. But despite being a great martial artist Damon’s true love has always been Shamanism.  And while he’s no stranger to banging a drum, Damon’s shamanism is not the hippy dippy sort of practice you might associate shamans with, instead it’s a very down to earth and practical art, much like the martial arts he does. In this episode we talk about the link between martial arts and shamanism, and where the crossovers lie. Music by lesfm from Pixabay To find out more visit
September 25, 2021
Ep3: Paul Bowman on Bruce Lee, martial arts studies and martial arts comedy
Paul Bowman is a professor of cultural studies at Cardiff University. He’s the author of multiple books on martial arts, including several about Bruce Lee, and most recently, “The invention of martial arts: popular culture between Asia and America”, which was published by Oxford University press in 2020. Paul also helped establish the academic journal Marital Arts Studies, and organised conferences for the Martial Arts Studies Research Network. In this chat we reminisce about our times training together, talk about paul’s recent discovery of Brazilian jiujutsu and discuss the emergent field of martial arts studies. Show notes: 10.15: The Bruce Lee period Theorizing Bruce Lee: Film-Fantasy-Fighting-Philosophy Beyond Bruce Lee: Chasing the Dragon Through Film, Philosophy, and Popular Culture 1 Mar. 2013 16.00: I am Bruce Lee, the movie 17.30: Marital Arts Studies 22.40: Understanding Identity Through Martial Arts, with Prof Adam Frank 23.53: On How to Talk about Taekwondo, with Professor Paul Bowman 31.05: The invention of martial arts On The Invention of Martial Arts with Prof Paul Bowman The Invention of Martial Arts: Popular Culture Between Asia and America 24 Feb. 2021 44.50: David Carradine - No Limitations Be Anything 55.00: Comedy and honour around martial arts styles Are Filipino Martial Arts Realistic? | Master Ken Sensei Seth: If Every Martial Arts Style Taught Each Other --- Music by lesfm from Pixabay To find out more about this podcast please visit
September 04, 2021
Ep 2: Byron Jacobs on Beijing martial arts
Byron Jacobs is a teacher of Xing Yi and Bagua based in Beijing, China. He’s a student of the famous Shifu Di Guoyong and is heavily involved in the martial arts scene in Beijing. As well as training traditional martial arts he’s also a BJJ practitioner and competitor.  If you’d like to be taught by Byron in the arts of Xing Yi and Bagua, then he has an online learning platform available at - find out what’s available on the platform here: In this wide ranging discussion we talk about training Xing Yi, Bagua and Tai Chi and whether Wu Shu will ever get into in the Olympics. We also find out what it was like to train martial arts in Beijing during the Corona virus pandemic, and what the Chinese BJJ and MMA scene is like. Show notes: (9.45)  Byron’s Hua Jin Online learning platform (15.22) Byron’s Mu Shin Martial Culture YouTube channel (47.05) DQ'd for Kicking TOO HARD? - Doctor Reacts to Olympic Karate Controversy and Knockout Science (1.05.30) Speed passing by Rafa Mendes (1.18.11) Ku Yu Chang (Guruzhang’s) Yang style Taijiquan: A STUDY OF TAIJI BOXING 龍子祥 by Long Zixiang (1.23.00) Stand Still Be Fit by Master Lam Kam Chuen Music by lesfm from Pixabay To find out more visit
August 11, 2021
Ep 1: Daniel Mroz on defining Chinese martial arts
Ep 1: Daniel Mroz on defining Chinese martial arts. What is the relationship between Chinese martial arts and Chinese theatre, religion, mime, serious leisure activities, fighting and military tactics? How do all these factors intermingle and produce the arts we have today? In this wide-ranging discussion between Graham Barlow of The Tai Chi Notebook and Daniel Mroz, Professor of Theatre at the University of Ottawa we tackle all these subjects and more. As well as being a professor of theatre, Daniel is also a Choy Li Fut and Tai Chi Chuan practitioner, and has lectured at the Martial Arts Studies conference.  He writes books and contributes articles to various journals including the Martial Arts Studies journal.  Podcast Notes and links 1) Daniel Mroz quote in full: By ‘Chinese martial arts’, I refer to folkways that began to assume their present forms from the mid 19th to the early 20th centuries, at the end of the Imperial, and the beginning of the Republican periods of Chinese history. These arts train credible fighting abilities through exacting physical conditioning; through partnered, combative drills and games; and through the practice of prearranged movement patterns called tàolù  套路 (Mroz, 2017 & 2020). For millennia, up end of the Imperial period in 1912, China explicitly understood itself as a religious state (Lagerwey 2010). Communities across China not only used their martial arts to defend themselves, they performed them as theatrical acts of religious self-consecration, communal blessing, and entertainment in an annual calendar of sacred festivals (Ward, 1978; Sutton, 2003; Boretz, 2010; Amos, 2021). Modernization, and secularization at the end of the Imperial period removed the original context of these practices. The Chinese martial arts were transformed over the course of the 20th century by both their worldwide spread, and by their ideological appropriation by the Chinese Republic of 1912, and the Communist state that succeeded it in 1949 (Morris, 2004). Their religious heritage forgotten in many social, and cultural contexts within greater China, and internationally, the arts we practice today combine a legacy of pragmatic combat skill, religious enaction, participatory recreation, competitive athleticism, and performed entertainment. 2) THE STRENUOUS LIFE PODCAST WITH STEPHAN KESTING 334 - Ten Guru Warning Signs with Dr Dr Chris Kavanagh 3) Peter Johnsson Peter Johnsson - long video: Peter Johnsson - short video: 4) Cung Le Sao Choy 5) Daniel Mroz Tàolù – The Mastery of Space: Academic page: 6) China: A Religious State, John Lagerwey You can stay in touch and support The Tai Chi Notebook by visiting our website and following our page on Facebook.  Music by lesfm from Pixabay
July 31, 2021
Is Xing Yi a nature-based martial art any longer?
Which came first in Xing Yi, the 5 elements or the 12 animals? This episode is also available as a blog post:
July 05, 2021
Pressure point striking is back!
Dim mak, pressure points, high kicks and nerve strikes! This episode is also available as a blog post:
May 25, 2021
Lineage Queens
Does lineage reallt matter in Chinese marital arts? This episode is also available as a blog post:
May 24, 2021
Suspended from above. Bringing a sense of lightness to your Tai Chi.
One admonition from Yang Cheng Fu’s 10 important points, that has become something of a law in Tai Chi Chuan, is to ‘keep the head suspended, as if from above’. In the Tai Chi Classics it also states “Stand like a perfectly balanced scale and move like a turning wheel”, whilst also saying, “Don’t lean in any direction; suddenly appear, suddenly disappear.” This episode is also available as a blog post:
May 23, 2021
Don’t put power into the form, let it naturally arise from the form
Some advice on how to stop trying so much in Tai Chi and learn to go with the flow. This episode is also available as a blog post:
May 20, 2021
How much water should you drink a day?
Are you hydrated? How do you know? Should you be drinking a certain amount of water a day? Find out in this episode of The Tai Chi Notebook. This episode is also available as a blog post:
May 19, 2021
Tai Chi is still too deadly for the cage
I’m going to have a bit of a rant today about Tai Chi people who still think that their art is too deadly for the ring, so please bear with me. This episode is also available as a blog post:
May 18, 2021
The three timings in Xing Yi and Jeet Kune Do
A look at the concept of timing in martial arts and a way to practice it that comes from Xing Yi. This episode is also available as a blog post:
May 18, 2021
Review: Introduction to Baguazhang by Kent Howard
A review of Introduction to Baguazhang, by Kent Howard. This episode is also available as a blog post:
May 18, 2021