Alex Swainson

In many ways, my Tai Chi training began in 1998 when I started to meditate, became inspired by Bruce Lee and started to explore different philosophies. I became increasingly drawn to eastern approaches because the philosophy was more practical and offered a more accurate description of my spiritual experiences, which started to happen spontaneously aged 21. I took up Tai Chi in 2004, but did not glimpse the potential of the art until 2006, when I met Master John Ding.

My first encournter with John Ding marked the start of a

fascinating journey into the possibilities of the human body and mind.  He was the man who opened my eyes to the great possibilities for human development and I am still inspired by his approach.

The way I was taught this ancient martial art was quite scientific and methodical. Our postures and movements were tested by getting colleagues to apply force to our bodies in different ways, so that we could evaluate how well we applied Tai Chi principles.  The purpose of testing was to assess how much force/physicality we used to deal with a pushing or pulling force applied by our partner.  We were checking for the use of minimal force whilst maintaining physical/mental composure and control.  Minimal force applied means least energy expended; optimal efficiency.   

When testing, I realised that if I relaxed properly in response to a force, I could absorb and manipulate it with very little effort as long as my response was controlled by my centre of gravity.  Seeing that I could achieve such power with so little effort was a revelation and gradually I started to explore its potential.

The insights I gained were via deep, dedicated study and close association with a man of insight who is very much in touch with the source of his art and lineage. It is important that I make clear that I went through a lengthy and arduous process of thoroughly assimilating and evaluating my former teacher’s transmissions.  It must also be said that I had great help in this process from a number of John Ding’s senior students, many of whom were very generous in sharing their knowledge with me. Foremost among these was Mike Rigby, whose influence and faith in my ability was particularly helpful early on.  

Only when this process of assimilation and evaluation was complete (after 6 years and 1500 hours training under his supervision) did I then go through the equally arduous and daunting process of ‘emptying my cup’ by dismantling what I had learnt and putting it all back together in a way that I felt was closer to the truth of my experience and insights into how to train in the most efficient and effective way possible.  It is not a process I have taken lightly and I have been very careful not to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’.

The result of over 8 years (around 15,000 hours) of intensive exploration and training into how to work with gravity is a new approach to Tai Chi, Qigong and mind-body training, therapeutic work and martial arts that uses energy efficiency as the guiding principle. Although it is inspired by my experiences in teaching, training and research in Tai Chi it is also informed by my explorations into Taoist Yoga, Meditation, Eastern philosophy, Myofascial Release (John Barnes approach) and the research and methods of Dr John Upledger (Craniosacral Therapy), Thomas Myers (Anatomy Trains), Adjo Zorn ('Swingwalkers' of Zambia), Denis Vaughan (Conductor/vocal trainer), Serge Gracovetsky (the Spinal Engine), Buckmister Fuller (Synergetics), Viktor Schauberger (energy dynamics) and most importantly the monumental and unprecedented wisdom and knowledge of ‘Billy’ Eduard Albert Meier.


In developing my approach, I have also been very careful to preserve the more subtle, esoteric aspects, such as meditation and cultivating/nurturing the intangible feeling that allows the practitioner to develop the art of expressing the human body. A truer, more honest physical expression of our bodies provides a gateway towards a deeper understanding of the mind, emotions and the energy that sustains us all.  After all, as a wise Yogi once said, “How can we understand the metaphysical existence of the body if we do not understand the physical one?”


In summary, through many hours of practice and experimentation, I have developed a set of principles and practices that can complement a wide variety of disciplines, especially those with physical or mind-body training.  I have made the ideas behind ancient arts such as Tai Chi and Yoga more accessible by representing them in ways that are more scientifically acceptable, efficient, practical and with a logic that is easier to follow, especially by the analytical Western mind.  

My main aim as a teacher is to play a small part in helping and guiding people to become self-responsible, gain understanding about how to follow nature and in doing so realise their own.  This is done by creating a environment for students to explore and gain insight into Tai Chi principles, which are derived from our ancestors’ keen observations and reflect the natural order of things.  Once a certain level is reached, insight is gained that enables the student to apply these principles in their everyday lives, including healing (both oneself and others), personal / professional development and self-defence.  As an essential part of learning, I frequently demonstrate applied postures, movements, principles and self-defence applications via exchange of hands (Gau Sau) with his students.  

Students also test each other in a non-competitive and supportive way.  This gives both student and teacher confidence that principles are being applied correctly and therefore optimum benefit can be drawn from the practice; that is, with sufficient care and dedication, of course!  It is all too easy to waste time practising Tai Chi incorrectly and with a lack of authenticity; through this approach I aim to minimise wasted effort and help people to realise the benefits much quicker and more intensely than via traditional methods

To continually challenge myself and test my skills, in addition to teaching and training with a many teachers/advanced practitioners of different styles of Tai Chi Chuan, I have taught and worked with a number of practitioners and instructors of various disciplines including Jitsu, Aikido, Karate, I-aido and various Shaolin & Wudang arts.

Gu Dang Tai Chi Chuan

London & SE England

t:  07812 469133