Regarding the Tai Chi Union of Great Britain


I first became aware of the existence of the Tai Chi Union of Great Britain in 1991 and applied for membership in that year. However, due to an unfortunate series of personnel changes and administrative errors, although my membership cheque was cashed in April 1993 I did not actually become a member (No. 84) until August 1994.

Shortly thereafter I wrote an article, published in the Autumn 1995 TCUGB magazine Issue No 5, about my experiences at a Tai Chi workshop with my then Teacher, the late Dr Shen Hongxun. The published article elicited a response of (supposedly) comedic abuse and defamation in the letters page of the magazine, particularly from senior members of the TCUGB executive. I then wrote another letter, also published, in which I explained that my original article was a factual account of events I had witnessed and experienced and invited the critical parties to attend a similar subsequent workshop on the basis that if they were unsatisfied or felt that my article have been untruthful or misleading I would refund their fees.

This, sadly, was mis-interpreted as a challenge by people who were (in my opinion) more interested in fighting that in the possibilities of Tai Chi. It was also the precursor of an assault, led by the chief executive of the TCUGB, on my teacher while he was lecturing at a workshop in Shropshire the following year. Entering the room without warning and supported by a number of his students equipped with weapons and video equipment, their leader shouted some kind of challenge in Cantonese at my teacher, (who spoke Shanghainese and thought they were the immigration police), whilst waving a bag of money and then proceeded to pour a bottle of water over his head. Dr. Shen was furious and was barely prevented from attacking his assailant by his then translator, who grabbed him from behind. The entire party then rapidly left in the confusion. 

Despite this extraordinary behaviour, no comment, response, or motion of censure was ever applied by the TCUGB board to any of those involved. I later heard from someone involved that the chief executive used a proceedural device to prevent such a motion. There was some lively debate on the letters page of the magazine and then history moved on, sadly with the chief antagonist still in an executive position on the TCUGB Board today.

Despite this event, I continued to remain (albeit at arm’s length) a member of the TCUGB, enjoying the convenience , (I was later responsible for introducing a discount to the insurance scheme and reducing the price for everyone) , and hoping that in the future a more unifying approach might be demonstrated. Some 20+ years later, there is still no evidence of any meaningful progress, largely the same group of people remain in charge and whilst other health-promoting systems are widely known and popularised in the UK, Tai Chi and QiGong have as yet failed to achieved the status with the general (and more importantly) medical population that they rightly deserve.

Moving to the present-day

We now have a situation in which the TCUGB Executive has dismally failed to address the extremely important issue of Tary and Faye Yip, leaders of the BHQA, a chinese sponsored Tai Chi and Qigong organisation, from successfully registering trademarks on commonly used descriptive words, "Health Qigong, Chi Gong for Health,” etc. This action could have a severe negative impact on the everyday activities of almost all Tai Chi and Qigong practitioners in the UK. It is even more shocking, and in my view entirely unethical, that whilst these events were taking place both Tary and Faye Yip were serving Board Members of the TCUGB and kept their actions secret from the rest of the Board. Furthermore, outrageously, members of the TCUGB have since been subject to the threat of legal proceedings for using these terms.

Whilst a female TCUGB member was being targeted and threatened with legal action by the Trademark Registrants over using the words ‘Health Qigong’, the TCUGB executive board, consisting, (with the exception of Faye Yip), entirely of male martial artists, buried their heads in the sand. Some members actually gave up teaching because of their fear of being sued, whilst others requested help or action from the TCUGB. The issue was controversial and attracted considerable attention on social media, but not only was no help, advice or action forthcoming, the TCUGB actually shut down their FaceBook page to stifle legitimate debate.

In the absence of any leadership or meaningful action from the Executive Board, a female member stepped up and independently organised a legal challenge against the trademark registration. This is a legally complex, difficult and expensive process, as I understand it currently ongoing and being crowd funded. I urge you to investigate and contribute, further details here:

The member says she asked the TCUGB for help in mounting the legal challenge to get these generic terms released back to our industry, but they refused get involved. There is clearly an issue regarding a conflict of interest between the board members since two of them actually registered the Trademark while in post. I understand that one of them has now resigned, but given that such a conflict clearly does exist, why has the other one been allowed to remain a Board Member?

Conflict of Interest

The Tai Chi Union of Great Britain is now a Community Interest Company and in its Articles of Association states, amongst other things, that the objects of the company are:-

To carry on activities which benefit the community and in particular to unite Tai Chi practitioners in Great Britain in the development of the art of Tai Chi Chuan.

To improve the health and quality of life of members of the community particularly the old and sick by advancing Tai Chi as a therapeutic exercise.

To set and improve standards in the teaching practice of T'ai Chi Chuan.

To promote T'ai Chi Chuan in all its aspects including those of health, aesthetic, meditation, ritual, philosophy, self defence competition and sports.

To promote public awareness in Great Britain of the benefits of T'ai Chi Chuan through the mass media.

SO, how has the TCUGB, controlled by the Executive Board responded to this situation?

I have recently received a copy of the latest edition of their magazine, which is probably the main medium of contact for all members, yet it contains no mention whatsoever of any of this. Investigation of their Facebook page, the other main artery of communication of the TCUGB,  reveals that the page has strangely and completely disappeared.

Moving to the website, we find no mention of why or how any of this has happened. There is a statement (posted on 12 July 2019) which can be found here:

It basically says that the trademarking issue is not a matter for their consideration unless there is clear conflict with the aims and objectives as set out in the articles of association of the company. It also specifically proclaims that members will be kept advised via the Website, Magazine and Facebook. However, as already stated, no trace of any such communication of information to the membership exists.

Legitimate Questions

How can the Trademarking of Generic Terms that affect almost all members NOT be part of the stated remit of the TCUGB Board?

What action could be more likely to REDUCE benefit to the community and promote DISHARMONY amongst Practitioners?

Why are the persons responsible allowed to remain on the Board?

What reason the board has for completely failing to keep the membership informed?

Who has made the deliberate decision to keep them in the dark?

No doubt when you read this more questions will come to mind. I certainly have more. I urge you to direct them toward Board Members and to share them widely so that the membership can be properly informed. Everything I have recorded here is based on readily available Public Domain information, but I would be particularly open to and interested in hearing from any of those parties directly involved who would like to offer clarifications or corrections?

Please, lets have a public debate, the more the merrier. The crowd funding site already has over a thousand shares and a large number of contributors from around the world, so the evidence suggests that a lot of people think this is much too important a matter for the debate to be arbitrarily silenced by the Executive Board legally responsible under the CIC Charter for informing, representing and protecting the interests of all members.

To Be Continued........