Could we begin with you telling us a little bit about yourself and your background and how and when you started in Tai Chi.
Frank Pring @ Chen Tai Chi Bristol: How far do you want to go back?
Natasha @ Enso Martial Arts Shop: As far as you can remember.
Frank Pring @ Chen Tai Chi Bristol: It all began many years ago when I joined the merchant navy and I went to Japan. I fell in love with the Japanese way of life. When I came back home a few years later I took up karate, Shotokan Karate. I did that for about three or four years and then I decided I wanted to do Tai Chi; and there was very little Tai Chi around it was hidden. Anyway I found a Tai Chi teacher and I took up Tai Chi and have been doing it ever since. So that’s over 25 years plus.
Natasha @ Enso Martial Arts Shop: That’s a long time. Have you studied any other martial arts?
Frank Pring @ Chen Tai Chi Bristol: In between Shotokan Karate and Tai Chi I’ve experienced some Ba Gua but my staple training is Tai Chi.
Natasha @ Enso Martial Arts Shop: Did you find a lot of the skills you learnt in Shotokan transferable or did you have to learn new techniques?
Frank Pring @ Chen Tai Chi Bristol: It’s about letting go, I had to let go really, I mean I really enjoyed Shotokan Karate, it’s quite deep stances, very disciplined and super fit; and at that time in my life it was very good, I enjoyed it but I was beginning to sustain injuries and so decided to look for something a bit different, to be healthy and fit but still stay in the martial world.
Natasha @ Enso Martial Arts Shop: Do you find that Tai Chi is more suited to a certain type of person or do you think it has something for everyone?
Frank Pring @ Chen Tai Chi Bristol: I think Tai Chi is good for everyone….. including you.
Natasha @ Enso Martial Arts Shop: Hahaha
Frank Pring @ Chen Tai Chi Bristol: I’ve taught from nine year olds and I’ve got a current student, she is 92; and in my experience no matter your age or ability you get something out of Tai Chi. If you are a full on martial artist and your into the applications there is an awful lot in Tai Chi for you. If it’s just for health and well being there is a lot there as well.
Natasha @ Enso Martial Arts Shop: I know lineage is quite important in Chinese martial arts, can you tell us a little bit about the lineage of Chen Style Tai Chi in Bristol?
Frank Pring @ Chen Tai Chi Bristol: My club yeah. I began many years ago with Ben Milton who teaches in Bristol. I then at some stage decided to go my own way and my new teacher was Karel Koskuba who was teaching in Reading and I have been with him ever since. I’ve been with him probably about 20 years now I think. I do Chen style Tai Chi and Chen Xiao Wang is the head of the Chen family, 19th generation; and Karel Koskuba is one of his disciples. So I train with Karel Koskuba and his wife Heather and I see Chen Xiao Weng when he comes across here to England, I also train with Chen’s son, Chen Ying Jun when he’s over here and I’ve been lucky enough to meet Cheng Bing. I teach Chen style Tai Chi so they are all part of the Chen family linage.
Natasha @ Enso Martial Arts Shop: What are your biggest accomplishments and the highs and maybe some of the lows if you have had any?
Frank Pring @ Chen Tai Chi Bristol: I don’t know, it’s all been good. You know initially learning a form was pretty amazing, thinking I’ve learnt the form but that’s just the beginning. It’s a bit like getting a black belt in karate, people think you get a black belt, you have made it but that’s just the beginning really. So lots of senses of achievement over the years.
Natasha @ Enso Martial Arts Shop: What would you say is the biggest positive influence Tai Chi has had upon you?
Frank Pring @ Chen Tai Chi Bristol: I would say knowing myself, not that I know myself, it’s working progress you know. For me martial arts, I regard Tai Chi as my staple diet, but martial arts is about working on yourself. So over the years to take that time out to be present, when your practicing any martial art you have to be present and that’s the best place to be.
Natasha @ Enso Martial Arts Shop: If you could give one piece of advice to somebody that is beginning their martial arts journey now, what would it be?
Frank Pring @ Chen Tai Chi Bristol: Good question, I would say keep an open mind and walk your own path. Look to people to learn from but don’t become a follower of somebody else, take their knowledge and there skill and apply it to yourself.
Natasha @ Enso Martial Arts Shop: Can you tell us about your teaching career?
Frank Pring @ Chen Tai Chi Bristol: Well my teaching career, that’s interesting. I think it’s interesting, because for probably 15/20 years I actually taught in my job as a consultant, management consultant and learning development, team development, coaching but at the same time parallel to that I was learning and teaching Tai Chi; and the two paths run along side each other and luckily enough about nine years ago now, I managed to retire from my daytime job and focus on Tai Chi and I’ve been doing that ever since; and I still see my teachers to learn from so it’s ongoing.
Natasha @ Enso Martial Arts Shop: What are your aims and goals in and outside of training?
Frank Pring @ Chen Tai Chi Bristol: I have very few goals nowadays, I’m more interested in well being, being happy, continuously improving my art you know but in a relaxed manner, so I’m not really striving for anything apart from happiness and well being
Natasha @ Enso Martial Arts Shop: It’s kind of the main goal for everyone.
Frank Pring @ Chen Tai Chi Bristol: I think so.
Natasha @ Enso Martial Arts Shop: To finish off, could you tell us about your classes for those interested in starting Tai Chi.
Frank Pring @ Chen Tai Chi Bristol: Ok, well to begin with and to be fair there is a lot of Tai Chi in Bristol and there is some good teachers in Bristol as well, so let’s have that anyway. I have several day classes and I also work in association with a company called Link Age, there for the over 55’s, so most of my day classes are designed around the more mature person, and it’s amazing what they get out of it.
I really enjoy those classes. My evening classes, and I have a couple of evening classes, are probably more focused, bit more rigorous but I would say come along, look me up on the website www.chentaichibristol.co.uk or as I say, there are plenty of other teachers in Bristol that I regard as good.
Natasha @ Enso Martial Arts Shop: Which area do you teach in?
Frank Pring @ Chen Tai Chi Bristol: I teach all over Bristol. My evening classes are in Redland, my day classes include St George, Henbury, Shirehampton, Withywood. I can’t think of the rest of them now, there are a few others I think but basically all over Bristol I have classes in the daytime.
Natasha @ Enso Martial Arts Shop: Frank thank you so much for your time and talking to Enso Martial Arts.