With Ian's passing, however there was a feeling that
the period of growth might be over. This has proven to be far
from the case and the reasons for the continued strength of this
region lies in the very diversity and spirit of independent
enquiry which is at the heart of the Zhong Ding Association.
The Association was originally founded to research, promote and
disseminate the skills of Zhengzi (Cheng Man Ching) taijiquan.
As the years passed, however, the range of skills being
researched and taught expanded to include xingyiquan,
baguazhang, wuzuquan, hongquan, Master Liang's traditional
wushu, and other styles of taijiquan. Then several styles of
silat and Filipino Eskrima were added. Along the way,
Association instructors also shared their experience of Wing
Chun, Karate, Aikido, Western fencing and other arts. Some also
might remember the joyous foray into the world of Combat Sombo,
enjoyed by some of the senior instructors.
In short Association members have never been discouraged from
exploring or practising other arts - the only warning being that
they should be of a high enough level in their base art so that
supplementary studies do not interfere with their progress.
Not all members, however, have been running off willy nilly to
explore all the martial path's highways and byways. There are
some who have discovered in Zhengzi taijiquan, exactly what they
were looking for and have devoted themselves to this study. Such
single-minded dedication in every case has paid dividends. And
it is just this combination and blend of those dedicated to
exploring the infinite depths of the Zhengzi taijiquan way, with
those who explore other ways while still continuing with the
study of taijiquan as their primary path that serves to keep the
organisation, fresh, dynamic and alive.
In the East Midlands region this yin and yang of central focus
and diverse exploration may clearly be seen. As the senior
master Instructor of the area Darren Roberts has a firm hand on
the helm. Over the years he has committed himself to walking the
Zhengzi path and has made continued and continual progress. He
stands as a fine example of what "investment in loss" can lead
to and does so with a quiet humility which I know made his
brother Ian proud and which does the same for me.
Don Harradine, or Doc Don as we like to call him (I'm still
waiting for the website Doc Don Dot Com!) has studied a wide
range of arts, immersing himself in them to such an extent that
he has earned the ranks of Regional Coach in fencing, Senior
Instructor in Lian Padukan, Guru in Silat Tua, Silat Embo, Ilmu
Gerak Diri, and Silat Harimau Java, as well as Master Instructor
rank in taijiquan and Senior Instructor grade in Beijing Gaoshi
Baguazhang. The results of all this in-depth study he has
brought to bear on his further research into and teaching of
Ken "Junior" Mead has walked the path to the point that his
full-time efforts are devoted to researching the art and
teaching it to people of all ages and abilities. In addition he
is furthering his own teaching career with university study.
Junior's open mind, tremendous physical ability and open-hearted
approach to all of humanity has led him to explore and excel at
a wide range of arts.
These three exemplary teachers, however, are only the tip of the
iceberg. Instructors such as Steve Johnson, Dave Porter, Spencer
Rabey, Steve White, Jan Hodgson and Carol Harradine all share an attitude of
openness to all sources of knowledge and a willingness to
explore and research so as to make the art truly their own, and,
in turn, give their students the motivation and example to
continue studying and researching.
The East Midlands influence, however, has not stopped on the
edge of Sutton-in-Ashfield or the outskirts of Blidworth, but
now continues in Portland, Oregon where Instructor Mike Roberts
carries the Zhong Ding flame in the USA.
What all of these advanced exponents share is the recognition
that one cannot slavishly follow a teacher, one has to make the
art their own. This means accepting that the teacher provides
only the questions and maybe a finger pointing in the general
direction of the answers; the rest is up to the student. We all
walk the same path, at different paces, with differing degrees
of enthusiasm and expertise but walk on we must. In so doing we
also come to learn that there are more questions, many which our
own teachers might not have posed and so we have more answers to
find and more questions to pose to those who walk the road after
In the East Midlands the trail being blazed is a deep one, and I
hope that all of you appreciate those trailblazers going before
you, and realise that the greatest gratitude you can show to
them is by continuing their work, continuing their research and,
above all, keeping on walking!