Tai Chi for Life - News, Updates and Events

Sun 73 and Chen 36 workshops with Roberto Crea, June 2017 - see "other workshops" page

Dr Paul Lam's UK workshops, September 2017, Surrey

1st September:  Depth of Yang 24
2nd & 3rd September:  Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis

Please register on the Tai Chi for Health Institute website and or download the brochure (2 pages)
  • Improve your knowledge and skill with Dr Lam himself
  • Discover more depth and history of the 24 forms and Sun style
  • Feel the flow and beauty of tai chi
  • Learn how to use tai ch to improve health and wellness
  • Enjoy exploring the inner meaning and insights of tai chi
  • Meet other tai chi enthusiasts
  • Update your TCA and other Tai chi for Health instructor certificates
  • At the TCA workshop, experience the near magical power of of the programme, and learn to cultivate qi more effectively and how to use the delivery of jing to general more qi.
  • Attendees must have reasonable competence in both sequences.
  • These Depth workshops for for deepening skills and understanding of the forms an tai chi, so will not qualify participants for instuctor certifications, although existing TCH instructors may update their certification in TCH programmes.
  • Please indicate when you register if you want to update.   There is an assignment and payment of an administration fee for each programme

Be inspired:  Dr Lam's Tai Chi Journey


Mark Peters has written an article about Tai Chi and the NHS in the 50th Edition of the Tai Chi Union Magazine.

A copy of this article can be downloaded via this link: https://www.networks.nhs.uk/nhs-networks/tai-chi-chi-kung-for-rehabilitation/documents

This response has been sent to Mark Peters, referring to the importance of Dr Lam's Tai Chi for Arthritis for Fall Prevention programme by the Cochrane Review 2012, the Journal of the American and British Geriatric Societies and the America Centres for Disease Control


Tai chi as a way of improving and maintaining good health finds its way into articles in learned medical journals, popular magazines and free newspapers, alike. In contrast to a couple of decades ago, there can be few people in the UK now who have not heard of tai chi, with an increasing number becoming aware of some of the multiple health benefits and wanting to give it a try, or being recommended by their health professionals to do so.

From about 2010 onwards there has been an additional buzz in the medical world, with the 2011 Cochrane Review (updated in 2012* ). This was a meta study of nearly 80,000 participants in 159 randomised controlled trials of “Interventions for preventing falls in older people living in the community”, exercise being one of the interventions.

The findings were notable in that tai chi was singled out, along with “group and home-based exercise programmes”, as the only two types of exercise interventions that were effective in reducing falls and fractures – for example, walking and swimming were not.

These findings were also endorsed by the British and American Geriatrics Societies, the latter having previously published the results of the world’s largest fall prevention study in Sydney in 2007, led by Alexander Voukelatos* , of 702 participants.

Of the 159 trials studied by Cochrane, only six were of tai chi with a total of 1,625 participants, including the Voukelatos’ study. However, these were of sufficient significance to conclude that tai chi is effective for fall prevention. In the Voukelatos trial, of the participants who did tai chi 83% followed Dr Paul Lam’s Tai Chi for Arthritis (for Fall Prevention) [TCA] – and the control group were also offered a 16 week course in tai chi after the study ended!

The results showed a considerable decrease in the risk of falling, accompanied by an increase in confidence and general health benefits.

If instructors have noticed growing interest in tai chi from the 60+ age group who want to keep active, or enquiries by people who have been referred by their GPs, this may be a contributory factor. The potential enormous savings in not having to treat fractures from falls must have a great appeal to health organisations all over the globe, and can not have gone unnoticed.

As an exercise promoting fall prevention, tai chi offers the very specific benefits of improved muscle strength, balance and gait training, as well as improving flexibility, mobility and general fitness – in spite of appearing to be “gentle exercise”, it is the equivalent to a brisk walk. But as all tai chi practitioners know, it offers a great deal more as well, including profound mental health benefits and the strengthening and improvement of the flow of internal energy. It also has many practical advantages, including not needing any special equipment or clothing, and by incorporating principles such as a supple upright posture, conscious weight transfer, and multi-focus awareness, which make it immediately applicable to everyday life.

In February 2013, the Centres for Disease Control in the United States recommended tai chi as effective for fall prevention, specifically Dr Lam’s TCA programme. Their reasons for endorsing this programme, included not only the Voukelatos study, but also the consistency of instructor training and high standard of support materials for the programme.

Although Paul Lam’s Tai Chi for Health programmes may not have a high profile in the UK, they have been providing the opportunity to improve the health and quality of life for practitioners for a number of years. Since 2002, there have been trained instructors providing safe, accessible tai chi programmes around the country. In fact, the Tai Chi Union magazine reported on one example in the 2009 summer edition: “Tai Chi Chuan and Post Trauma Symptoms: A study by The Police Rehabilitation and Retraining Trust (PRRT) in Northern Ireland”, written by Dr Alastair Black. The instructors who taught the tai chi mentioned in the article continue to provide classes in Dr Lam’s Tai Chi for Health programmes today.

Dr Lam developed arthritis in his teens, resulting from severe malnutrition during the Great Famine in China, then escaped to Australia to train as a medical doctor. He self diagnosed his condition and started practicing tai chi as a young man, to control the condition and maintain his health. Paul Lam developed a passion and commitment to tai chi that led him to compete at a high level, including gaining a gold medal in the 42 Competition Form in Beijing in 1992. However, although as a doctor he could appreciate the health benefits of tai chi, as a person with arthritis – and a doctor – he could also see that the rigour and training necessary to reach that level of proficiency might be inappropriate and much too high risk for many people with bone and join conditions. On a flight in 1996, he had an epiphany which “resulted in the beginning of the journey to what would eventually be called Tai Chi for Health [TCH] that transformed my life and those of many others”* . Paul Lam decided to unite his work as a doctor and passion for tai chi, and share the profound benefits of combining the two.

Mark Peters writes in his article “the traditional structure of tai chi, held high by us all, isn’t the best model for tai chi in the NHS” – or for many of the growing number of potential tai chi practitioners who have heard of its health benefits later in life or in recovery from ill health, some prompted by their health professionals to find a tai chi class. Nor do the majority of health professionals have much idea about tai chi, when they recommend it to their patients.

For those who have no experience of tai chi, it appears as an exotic, low risk exercise practice, where the movements are done slowly, with little effort – and, as so many old people do it in China, it must be easy to learn!

Being a medical insider, Paul Lam holds to the physician’s ethic to “Do no harm” – or at least not to further endanger or put at risk participants of his programme, who may already be in pain, have impaired mobility, or in rehabilitation. Therefore safety is a priority in all his Tai Chi for Health programmes. This has led to a careful choice of styles, selection of movements and approach to teaching tai chi, in order to avoid injury and reduce the potential to exacerbate symptoms. In turn, there is little focus on martial applications, but instead an emphasis on the incorporation of tai chi principles, to maximise the health benefits and minimise the risk.

Adherence is enhanced by Paul Lam’s teaching method that makes the subtleties of tai chi movements more accessible, and promoting confidence in performance and self-evaluation from the beginning. As part of a non-competitive attitude, participants are encouraged to take responsibility for themselves by “staying in their comfort zone” and using pain-free modifications to movements, while visualising them “full-out”. The participant-centred approach of the TCH programmes includes working within the guidelines provided by participants’ health professionals, along with “not playing doctor” when teaching tai chi (even when the instructor happens to be the participant’s physiotherapist as well) – one of his three golden rules.

Vitally, as a GP and for credibility within the medical profession, Dr Lam has ensured that his programmes have been designed in consultation with health professionals such as physiotherapists and rheumatologists, as well as tai chi experts, and that their efficacy is tested in controlled trials* .

In the UK, a high percentage of TCH instructors are health professionals, including physiotherapists, several of whom are also (APPI) Pilates instructors, working in the Health service and private practice. Others have many years of experience of tai chi in a wide range of traditional and competition forms, some of whom are also members of the Tai Chi Union.

As interest grows, there is an increasing demand for regular tai chi classes in the community, both from the new demographic of tai chi enthusiasts looking to take up tai chi later in life, and from those who have received a course of tai chi as part of their health treatment to maintain control over an illness or recover from injury. An opportunity waiting to be taken up.

For more information about Dr Lam’s Tai Chi for Health programmes and becoming an instructor, please see: www.taichiforhealthinstitute.orgDr Lam will be giving a series of workshops in Manchester in September: http://taichiforhealthinstitute.org/workshops/?country_id=77&fn=Go

Veronica Ashcroft

Master Trainer Tai Chi for Health Institute

Senior Instructor TCUGB

Instructor member of the Longfei Taijiquan Association of Great Britain and BCCMA

11th June 2016



Interventions for preventing falls in older people living in the community, Gillespie LD, Robertson M, Gillespie WJ, Sherrington C, Gates S, Clemson LM, Lamb SE: http://www.cochrane.org/CD007146/MUSKINJ_interventions-for-preventing-falls-in-older-people-living-in-the-community. “Tai Chi did significantly reduce risk of falling (RR 0.71, 95% CI 0.57 to 0.87; 6 trials; 1625 participants).”

A Randomized, Controlled Trial of tai chi for the Prevention of Falls: The Central Sydney tai chi Trial; Alexander Voukelatos, MA (Psychol), Robert G. Cumming, PhD, Stephen R. Lord, DSc, and Chris Rissel, PhD: https://www.stayonyourfeet.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Voukelatos-RCT-of-Tai-Chi-2007.pdf. Also publi shed in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society on 7 June 2007. For a summary: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1532-5415.2007.01244.x/abstract

Dr Paul Lam with Julie Bowden-Davies, Born Strong: From Surviving the Great Famine to Teaching Tai Chi to Millions, Tai Chi Productions

See the Tai Chi for Health Institute website for all published trials of TCH programmes: http://taichiforhealthinstitute.org/published-medical-studies-of-dr-lams-tai-chi-for-health-programs/


Be Inspired! Dr Lam's Tai Chi Journey



Inaugural Master Trainer and Senior Trainer Training Workshop in Oberdorf, Switzerland, May 2015

Front row:  Hazel Thompson, Amatullah Bhaziq, Roberto Crea, Veronica Ashcroft;  Middle Row:  Ulrike Gob, Paul Lam, Nuala Perrin, Amanda Gyllensten;  Back row:  Anne Crichton, Ellen Reitsma, Be Ballinckx, Janice Green and Kent Skogland.










Extract from a letter by Colin Hughes (TCH Senior Trainer) to the Tai Chi Union of Great Britain

"I have great enthusiasm about the future of internal arts. Access is widening and more people are having the opportunity to 'dip in' to an activity that is gaining wider acceptance as a useful contribution to health oriented lifestyle. In my view you don't need to have toiled for years under a linage master to have the skill and knowledge to teach simple safe and effective tai chi based exercise for health. I'm not talking about teaching tai chi chuan as a profound and effective martial art and/or pathway towards spiritual development, both of which require a very high level of instructional expertise that demands many years of study under high-level supervison. Neither would I seek to undermine the rich cultural heritage and the breadth and depth of knowledge preserved, and continuing to be developed, in the traditional schools. Although I do think that those who insist on strict compliance with the cultural trappings and vocabulary of traditional Chinese martial and medical paradigms do little to help demystify what is essentially an excellent gift to humanity.

"My position is that of wishing to promote tai chi and chi kung as accessible, safe and effective approaches to exercise for health. At such a level teachers should be competent to instruct a safe and effective class that meets the needs of participants. These needs are often simply to enjoy a pleasing and gentle workout for the mind and body, much in the way that thousands of people have attended yoga classes for decades without aspiring to become enlightened yogis, ascetics or sages. I've never visited China, but I suspect that most of the millions of people who practice tai chi in the Orient do so simply as part of a health promoting and health preserving lifestyle; essential in a country where most people cannot afford medical services whether Traditional Chinese or Western Medicine. I'd be surprised if all those millions have access to lineage masters, or are particular devotees of the martial and/or spiritual traditions. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I suspect most tai chi in China is probably taught at a relatively superficial level 'for health' rather than in the context of striving to achieve martial excellence and/or spiritual enlightenment. Nevertheless, this 'shallow' tai chi can be very safe and effective physical and mental exercise, offering considerable health benefits. Indeed, the clinical evidence for tai chi practice improving balance and co-ordination and preventing falls in the elderly are now widely recognised, as are the wider health benefits comparable with other approaches to exercise for health.

"Of course there will be a significant minority of people who, after dipping a toe in the shallows, will want to wade into the deeper more challenging and infinite pool of knowledge and experience that awaits those with the capacity and commitment to aspire towards higher level learning. Most however, will be happy to continue 'paddling' in the shallows. I think this growing and largely silent majority of 'low level' tai chi practitioners have the potential to make a major contribution to helping stabilise this nation's economic position.

"As the population continues to age, the demands on, and hence cost to, the National Health Service will increase exponentially. Aging people who adopt healthy lifestyles are likely to remain independent for longer, and particularly those who incorporate tai chi into their daily routine will be less likely to fall and suffer the kind of injury that can spiral downward into resource expensive dependence on medical and social services. Unfortunately, while the medical professions are gearing up for 'exercise on prescription' and can refer to a growing national register of NVQ qualified 'quality assured' exercise professionals covering a very broad spectrum of health related exercise, no such register exists for tai chi instructors. As a consequence GPs will find it difficult to recommend tai chi with the kind of confidence they will be able to refer people for conventional strength, flexibility or cardiovascular exercise. In my view the UK Tai Chi Community shares the problems of many martial arts and alternative therapies, including: organisational fragmentation fuelled by an insularity, 'empire building' and the competitive marketplace, plus a lack of resource (time, energy, enthusiasm and hard cash) to establish an effective National Governing Body. "

Colin Hughes