Interview with Sifu Tony Dove Tai Chi of the Lam Association

  • Post author:
  • Post category:Interviews

Tony Dove Tai ChiHI, I’m Mike, we are here today in one of the Enso Therapy rooms talking to Sifu Tony Dove who is not only a master of Kung Fu but also has various skills around the healing aspect of Martial Arts, So Tony, can you give us some background and an idea of the kind of things you do?

Tony Dove Tai Chi: Yes, sure. I started about 30 years ago with Tai Chi, I originally took it up as a martial art and I was very lucky to find some one who taught it that way…

….Oh, as a combat application, that’s quite rare these days!…

Tony Dove Tai Chi: ….Yes as combat, Master Lam’s background is, he was trained in Hong Kong working for customs and excise which made him use the full applications of his kung fu when he was younger (laughing).

That was my Original intentions with Tai Chi but nowadays most people teach it in terms of health, which is now what I do, I teach mostly for over 50’s doing daytime classes. So although it was started for my own self defence its now more about the health benefits. I run specialist classes for those with Parkinson’s, for quite elderly people helping them to walk, regaining their balance.

Do you have anyone come to you asking you for the combat application?

Well, that’s difficult to say. The hardest thing now about teaching the combat application is that you need to find people that are willing to train hard enough, to get good enough, to be able to train the combat element. So we were training for three to four years before we started to do any of the applications. That is partly due to some of the old Chinese traditions, so that normally you are not teaching anything for at least 2 years so the Master has got to know the student before giving anything efficient to them.

Is the combat version of Tai Chi like other older styles with conditioning (bashing bones and muscles to build strength in them)?

Is a little difficult to say as, now, I do a combination, all from Master Lam, I do Tai Chi, Da Cheng Chuan and Choy Li Fut which is an external Kung Fu, That is fairly well known in China. It is mostly known this days to do with gangsters and Triads…..

I think its mentioned in a few movies and things also….

Yes, The style I do is Bak Sing which is a very condensed form of it which is very practical. However I don’t really teach that publically so if you wanted to come to me privately I could teach you that, as I don’t really teach people I don’t know for that one.

The Da Cheng Chuan is a great achievement, some people call it Yi Chuan, it’s the same thing. The basic training for that is Standing Like A Tree (demonstrates this pose) standing like a post.

Is that like standing in Horse Riding and concentrate on the energy flow (similar to something I have trained before)…..

Well, it gets rather complicated…..its very big ….(both laughing)… Nearly all Chinese Martial Arts have some form of posture training, so most styles do various different posture training. Where as for Da Chuan people we do probably 80% posture training, and so where some styles will do a posture for a few mins, we will do a posture for maybe an hour, so its difficult to get people to want to do that…..

….for an hour, that’s hardcore training!

It has a very profound effect on training…..

…..If anyone does not understand what we are on about I suggest you try and sit in low horse stance for an HOUR its not easy, if you make 5 mins you are doing well!

But in the old school Tai Chi System they would do the same thing, they would have two or three postures they would use extensively a Wu Qi posture its different to Da Cheng Chuan but they would do an hour, if I am teaching for Martial training they would do an hour of posture training for warm up.

So, I am thinking that is Qigong based really, building internal power?

Yeah, that’s all Qigong. You can , well there are so many different ways to look at this, I think the easiest way for westerners to look at it for me is, you are trying to integrate the body into a single unit. So that everything becomes functioning as one. When you are trying to do a complicated set of moves you don’t have time to think, so when you are concentrating on a single movement that is what you are doing with Qigong actually. Everything is ONE MOVEMENT a combination the whole thing is one movement. You are not moving your hand here or your foot there, it is one movement , I think that is a very large part of it, its very simple, its like riding a bike your brain can handle it.

So it is all in muscle memory and natural, we have just learnt about Mind, Body and Breathe actually so a similar concept. That’s a very interesting take on it actually.

So obviously being a therapist did your martial arts lead you into that or have a connection?

Yeah. So actually, as well as being a martial artist, Master Lam is more specialised in healing.

So a very old traditional Master who will work in the healing arts and sort some of the issues of training!?

Master Lam really is one of the last in a generation of old masters, where they were trained in the old traditional way, really tough. For example he has set several dislocations and several breaks in my own body, one break and several other internal issues and problems also.

(jokingly) Did he create those issues too?

(Laughs) No. So he uses his main one which is Dit Da, which means beaten and fallen, which is the old fashioned Martial Arts healing system. Tui Na is similar. It’s massage based. Master Lam does bone setting, I do not do bone setting, I don’t think it will be legal in this country. But for fixing soft tissue injury and bruises and strains, those sort of things….

So I know Dit Da Jow of course is it part of that?

Dit Da means fallen beaten, and Jow means wine. So it is a wine for Dit Da, everyone has heard of it but doesn’t know what it means. Dit Da means the whole system of treatments so its got, different routes into it, some teachers will have an element of Dit Da training, Master Lam is an expert in it he’s run a clinic in Hong Kong for it.

So being one of the older masters, does he use the spirits to do any healing is that a part of it?

That Jup Yao, that’s a different system, it’s the 13th branch, there are two versions of that. Jup Yao I know a little more about, where you use the energy for treatment but you can do that on a deeper level, but that’s a whole other interview!

(Both Laughing)

Yeah, it’s just something I have seen of one of the mantis masters so it came to mind….

So normally the Chinese talk about the three levels the Jing, Qi and Shen. So Jing is the physical one so anyone doing external training is on the Jing level. Physiotherapy is on the Jing level, putting an arm in a cast is working on the Jing level. Working on the Qi level is working, so the internal arts work on the Qi level because its half way between the two, so the Qi is more about the energetic and life and living part of it. When you are working on the Qi level, when your body is injured it forgets where it is suppose to be . So when you work on the Qi level you are trying to put it back trying to remind your body where it wants to be. So you are working on a different level. The Shen level is working on the spiritual or conscious level, sometimes people get an injury or problem because of an issue in the spirit or conscious level, a perfect example is Depression (shows a slumped rounded shoulders and depressed pose) so then you get neck or stomach problems because you are depressed. So the Shen can affect the Jing, the Jing can affect the Shen and so on.

Using the therapies I use, if there is a physical problem I try to work on the physical level, if there is an energetic problem, then acupuncture can work on an energetic level, and a Shen problem can mostly be done using the Qi directly, or in discussion with the patient you can give them exercises and things to do. I try to work on all 3 levels to get a quicker result and a longer lasting result if I can. I mean there is never a guarantee for anything.

So a lot of it is all hand in hand then really.

Yes it all goes hand in hand, so there is nearly always three so Jing, Qi, Shen and in Tai Qi there is the martial Application, although I try not to teach that openly and there is the health side of it that everyone knows and there is the spiritual or meditative side also.



So you train your Tai Chi Classes in Clevedon I believe?

I do teach in Clevedon, I’ve got 4 classes, two are seated classes for over 50’s. for People who have some mobility problems….

Do you mind me asking what, if sitting down, can someone expect to get from it, obviously the benefits are still there….

Ok, so, if you come to one of my seated classes you will still be sweating its ¾ sitting down but its still hard work. Basically what I teach is from the syllabus and you can train right up to your last breath if you wish. I have trained with a number of people at the end of their life. But, for me the main point of the classes are the social aspect of course, its really important that people enjoy the class and get some pleasure out of it.

But there are also the benefits you do get from the training….

Oh, yes of course. The second side of it is the benefits of movement, the internal arts and different from the external arts because when you train you are relaxed, there is no stress no strain. You are not trying to get a result you are just trying to do it and enjoy it, you won’t get out of breath.

But do you still get a sweat on?

Yeah, yeah you can do. It depends on how hard you work, I mean people who are 80 or 90, this week I taught someone who is 96! The oldest person I have trained was 104 born in 1896.

There is hope for me yet!

Yeah, (laughing) yeah you work to the level you can cope with of course and what is safe for you, there is no point in training hard and killing yourself of course. They still work really hard for their level. Then other people I teach I’ll teach to stand on one leg for ten mins and everything in between. The youngest person I have taught this week was 6 years old. I go into a special school and teach there, two groups of Parkinson’s…..

Do you teach private lessons?

Yes I do private sessions, I’ve been teaching one woman how to walk again as she had a fall and we are getting her confidence back, and then I do things at the other end teaching Qigong teachers and acupuncturists one to one.

So really quite varied….Obviously you don’t have to have therapy if training with you but is that something you incorporate?

Obviously if I can I try to give the whole package where possible, but they don’t have to do that. I am quite traditional in that aspect I offer what I’ve got and then it is up to you what to take from that. It is the same for my classes, I do advertise but not massively, if you want to come I am there. I know what I’ve got and can offer and I am still learning. Its really up to you what you want to take advantage of. So learning from someone like Master Lam is quite difficult because there are not many people at his level and he is at the end of a tradition, I don’t think people in China even train like that anymore.

I think quite a lot of westerners are not willing to train like that either, in my experience.

Yeah, and because I am a westerner I can’t make westerners do what was done to me or the same way, I don’t have the culture to do what Master Lam did to us, or the skill for that matter. So in evidently it will come up again it will come around again, all these things go around in phases.

So do you think you can take the mantle on …..? Sorry that is a very difficult question or position to put you in….

Oh, well, I do the best I can but compared to Master Lam I am not that brilliant. For Tai Chi I am fairly good for Tai Chi I am quite happy with that. The Da Cheng Chuan I think there is only two people in Bristol with direct lineage, I don’t have any direct contact but we have met, but since books have been written etc lots of people teach but you can’t guarantee what the quality is.

It’s like everything you can learn from YouTube its there but its nothing like training it from a master….

So, I try and keep the integrity and the honesty within what I teach, I don’t have big classes.

It’s not just all about the money.

Obviously I have to charge but its not all about the money. I’d rather have less Good students than lots and lots of people just trying to beat each other up. Which is why I don’t teach the Choy Li Fut, I could and have lots of people flying around all over the place (laughing).

Thanks Tony that has been very interesting and an absolute pleasure to learn about…..Thanks for coming in….

…..KEEP TRAINING….. (smiles)

….Always J


If you want to contact Tony about classes or have some more details, follow this link to his website: