Apr 27

World Tai Chi Day

Feel that energy? Well, drink it in because today is World Tai Chi Day.

But before I get into that, do check out my interview with fellow writer, Rebeccah Giltrow. If you’re intrigued about the writing process from an early-days perspective, you might even find some insight:


On to World Tai Chi Day. Like other martial arts, there  are countless branches of tai chi, each subtly different in its methods. It can improve relaxation, flexibility and balance through a series of stretches and exercises with a focus on breathing. This makes it accessible for people of all ages who would like to improve their overall health. To the onlooker, tai chi appears slow and graceful, even calming.The trained eye will see techniques that are easily transferred into higher impact martial arts.

In honour of this day, I joined a few friends for a training session out in the hills. This was our spot for the morning:

Tai Chi

Apart from the inevitable showers and cold hands of the British springtime we had a great session, working on posture, fluid motion and soaking up fresh energy (chi). If you’re an experienced practitioner, it’s worth getting out of the gym once in a while and taking your art to the outdoors. You might be surprised at the difference. If you’ve never tried it, check out your local club and have a chat with the instructor to see what benefits it has for you. A quick search on Google should give you plenty of results to work with.

Today’s training consisted of a form called Shuang Yang Pei Ho Rou Rouan (sun frost white crane soft and gentle art). Here’s an excellent video showing the form, performed and narrated by Iain Armstrong:



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Apr 06

Nasty Fantasy

Mind out of the gutter, I’m talking about the genre, although I should perhaps call it “gritty” since that’s the word thrown around of late. I recently finished Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself which sparked this post. I hope he doesn’t mind me lumping it in the same category as Game of Thrones and suchlike. What do I mean? I’m talking about novels where the characters aren’t so much paladins with freshly ironed underwear as scum you wouldn’t urinate on if they were being toasted by dragon fire.

I’m certainly behind the times in seeing (well, commenting on) this shift of popularity toward gritty novels but you can blame that on my favourite authors who keep churning out great stories. We’ve seen a thousand farmboy heroes, blacksmiths turned warriors and rebellious nobles but now we are seeing torturers, woman-beaters and cold-blooded murderers. Talk about relating to the characters! In many ways, it’s a fresh look at a long-established genre and with it comes a different approach to language. The likes of Joe Abercrombie and George Martin certainly have a flair for the colourful when it comes to language. There are scenes in The Blade Itself which made me blink and had me thinking: “Did he just say that?” I don’t mind the odd f-bomb, provided it is relevant to the situation and character but gratuitous expletives will make me abandon a book and never read from that author again (it’s happened). These gritty novels walk that fine line.

I would read another from Joe Abercrombie–The Blade Itself really is very good–but I stopped reading Game of Thrones after the first book. Maybe I’m too much of a goodie-goodie and get too attached to characters. That said, I’ll happily watch the TV series, but then, novel formal always gets you closer to the characters. I’d be interested for someone to prove me wrong on that. For me, there’s more to a novel than the immediate story. Characters are role models, particularly if the readership is growing up, and a generation inspired by Sam Gamgee or Rand al Thor is a more comforting prospect than one inspired by a Lannister!


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