Sinclair Martial Arts

Healing Exercise and Martial Arts
• Tai chi • Qigong • Kungfu • Practical Self defence

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Why do people come from around the world to learn tai chi in Orillia?

- from an article by Shen Guoxiang
  •  Tai chi students from Canada and Europe at Couchiching Park in Orillia

    Tai chi students from Canada and Europe at Couchiching Park in Orillia


Why would people, who could go anywhere in the world to learn from the most famous masters, come to Canadian "cottage country" to study this ancient Chinese art?

It's because of Ian Sinclair, a local tai chi expert who has spent 4 decades devoted to the study, teaching, and development of this ancient art. He has been quietly making a name for himself, and has accumulated an international following.

Sinclair knows that students could learn from more famous masters in China, and he insists that he is no great master. But over the past 40 years he has developed a reputation for his unique understanding and a special way of teaching. His approach seems to be more scientific than many others. He tries to stay away from the esoteric terminology that is commonly used in tai chi classes. He has an open mindedness that enables him to go where others fear to tread. He is also willing to transcend the boundaries of standardized styles and family lineages. He talks about "Making the pedagogy serve the student and not just the teacher."

His students include absolute beginners (some referred by their doctors) and teachers and experts of other martial arts. They also include professional athletes, musicians, and health care professionals. Police and military personnel also come for their own personal and professional development. War veterans and survivors of other trauma come for health and relaxation.

He does not have any regular children's classes. But he does sometimes accept children for private lessons when there is a particular need, such as in cases of bullying or other issues.

This is not your typical tai chi school, or a typical martial arts school.

Sinclair is an avid proponent of tai chi as a healing exercise. But he is also one of the few teachers who is thoroughly committed to the martial aspect. This may come as a surprise to people who share the common misconception about tai chi as a martial art, and about martial arts in general.

"People think tai chi is either a martial art or a healing exercise. But the two are not contradictory. I think people somehow assume that martial artists are training to be violent. But that is the exact opposite of what a martial art is about. Violence is what happens when you DO NOT practise a martial art.

"To quote Leo Rosten, 'I learned that it is the weak who are cruel, and that gentleness is to be expected only from the strong.'” 

"To assume martial artists are training to become violent, is like assuming that doctors are training to become sick. A martial art is, at its essence, the perpetual search for peace, balance, health, empowerment, and understanding.

"The arts I teach are, first and foremost, about cultivating self-awareness and compassion."

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Ian Sinclair, seen here in his
younger days, above Vancouver.

Sinclair explains an issue which he says often affects the business model of traditional martial arts.

"Not every student is right for every school, and not every teacher is right for every student. We often get applications from people who, through no fault of their own, just aren't a good fit for this school. Chinese teachers will sometimes refer to what you in China call yuan. [ yuán (ed) ], that kind of synchronicity, destiny, or karma. It is different from more superficial kinds of rapport. In the West we sometimes talk about getting a 'vibe' from someone. But it is not as simple as that. My teacher would meet a potential student, recognize their innate talent and likability, and even though he might feel comfortable with them, and suspect that they would be a very good student, he would decide that this student is not right for his school. He would apologize, and refer the potential student to other teachers he liked. 'Maybe you will have yuán with one of them,' he would say, adding, 'It's too bad, because they might be nice people, and sometimes they offer a lot of money.' But he would never let money compromise his integrity."

Sinclair teaches online lessons to individuals in Europe, North and South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. He sometimes gets invited to travel there, or they come to Orillia. He has been known to drive to Toronto to teach a busy travelling client in their hotel between meetings or performances, or to cottages in Muskoka.

Sinclair's reputation has been growing over the past several years, mostly by word of mouth. There have been celebrity clients visiting his school. But he quickly changes the subject when I ask about them. All he would say is, "I have learned to adopt a very strict policy of confidentiality. This applies to all of my students."

I can tell that he wants to say more. He remains quiet for several moments. Then he explains. "It is not just that I need to respect the privacy of my students. That kind of publicity could be bad for the school. You might think it would be great to have a famous student, and have them tweet about you to their followers. But it is much better that my students are referred personally, or find me on their own. It would be a very bad thing for me if people started coming to me because they are fans of a particular celebrity student, instead of having a genuine desire to learn from me.
"It is similar to the reason why I don't advertise children's classes. If a parent wants to put their kids in a martial arts program, there are some fine schools around. But if the child does not find me by themselves, then I am probably not the right fit for them. It depends on the reason. If there is a specific need for a particular student, I will consider it. But if it is just a case of the parent wanting their children to learn martial arts for all the generic reasons, there are others who specialize in children's classes for those reasons. I prefer to dedicate myself to the specific needs of each student. So, no two will be taught in the same way. If the parent wants a young child to learn what I teach, then I usually suggest that the parent study with me themselves, and as the parent learns, they can share what they learn with the child. Then they can do an occasional private lesson together, just them and their child.

If a child seeks me out on their own, I will consider it."
Sinclair pauses, tilts his head and rolls his eyes a little to the left before confessing. "There have been exceptions, of course. There usually are."

… the quality of tai chi instruction today

The only celebrity that Sinclair will admit to having in his school is tai chi itself. The art has become quite famous in recent years as a healing exercise. To a lesser degree, it is also known as a martial art. But like most celebrities, the art is often misunderstood. What people see in public is not what it is like in reality. It often seems to find reasons to present itself in a way that is not entirely authentic. And like many celebrities, there are often imitators and cheap knock-offs. When asked if he is concerned about the art becoming diluted or watered down by such imitators or by people who change it or modify it, his response surprised me.

"Of course, the art has been watered down. That is what happens to any popular art. It is what happens when people try too hard to preserve the superficial characteristics of a style and lose the essence.

Sometimes, half of a teacher's knowledge gets lost when they pass away, because their are not enough truly dedicated students to absorb the art. Many teachers are only able to teach about five percent of the art. But there are other reasons why tai chi has been watered down.

Standarization and regulation?

"Tai chi is very accessible and it can be modified to suit just about anyone. It suits beginners of all ages and fitness levels. Anyone who can move, or imagine moving, can do tai chi. You may have heard the expression, 'Anyone who can talk can sing, and anyone who can walk can dance'. Tai chi is like that. You don't have to master the art in order to enjoy it and benefit from it. Since tai chi is very accessible for beginners, it is easy for people to become teachers, and there is little or no regulation of who can be qualified to teach. Some people start teaching other people as soon as they can remember the basic routine. I don't actually mind that. I am okay with people sharing what knowledge they have. Get the people dancing and singing, so-to-speak. But we should not forget that there is more to the art. It is fine for a second grade student to try to teach addition and subtraction to a first grader. But nowadays we expect a professional teacher have twenty more years of education, and to continue to study throughout their career. Tai chi has a lot of teachers with elementary qualifications, and only a few teachers with Master's Degrees or a Doctoral Degrees.

"There has been a movement over the past several decades to standardize the teaching of tai chi. The result has been generally positive. Having a standard curriculum and a standard way of practising has helped to raise the general skill level across the board. Standardization, however, can cut both ways.

"One part of standardization is making sure that students are aware of the existence of a curriculum, and that there are certain requirements of regular practice. Within a particular school, style, or lineage, it is helpful for everyone to be doing the same thing, in the same way, in the same order. It helps the teacher to see where the students are, and it helps the students to stay on track."

But Sinclair points out that there is a another side to standardization, which can be found in many arts and sciences, not just tai chi. He says, "Standardization usually means that student are learning by rote. While this allows students to learn the basic facts and structures, it can be very limiting, and prevents them from developing deeper understanding. It can even give students a completely inaccurate impression of the art.
Standardization can does not have to be by rote. But when bureaucracy gets involved, and it almost always does, then it can be an impediment to meaningful learning.
Sinclair teaches the standard forms, and has developed his own pedagogy, which is standard for his school, and shares elements with traditional schools. But he is devoted, at least in principle, to ensuring that his students experience meaningful learning which, while it may take longer and must be tailored for each student, is more outcome oriented, facilitates deeper understanding, and allows the students to become active learners who can relate the lessons to other training that they have already done.
"I want my students to be able to take the ball and run with it. If they only learn what I teach them, then I will have failed. Most teachers only teach a small percentage of what they know. The students need to be able to grasp the essence of the art and make it work for them in the context of their own lives. If and when they become teachers, only part of what they pass on to their students will be what they have learned from me.

Sinclair says that some rote learning can be essential for beginners. "In the beginning, there is quite a lot of memorization. We take it slowly so that we are teaching context and principles as we go, and so that students don't get bored or overwhelmed with a lot of choreography. But in the end, the external form is just the framework upon which we build the art. In the end it doesn't matter what the student's form looks like, as long as they understand the principles."
But all too often, he says, standardization becomes about control. "There used to be more variations in the different styles. Each master of the art would teach his or her own variations to their students. But nowadays, there is a trend to homogenize the choreography of the different routines, and some of the variations are becoming extinct. I understand the need for higher standards. But I hope that it does not inhibit meaningful creativity.

"There is a parable about a teacher who, on his deathbed, realizes that all of his students are doing tai chi exactly the way he showed them. He suddenly sees this as proof that he has failed as a teacher.

"So, is not just the imitators who are threatening the art. It is also the people who cling blindly to tradition. There have been many attempts to control the art by standardizing it. This has caused many things to be lost. It's like saying there is only one way to sing a folk-song, only one way to paint a flower, or only one way to read a soliloquy. Teachers, businesses, and recently governments, have made efforts to define the traditional tai chi styles and to reinforce those standards as if they were a breed of dog. But if you are familiar with dog breeding, you know that pure-breds are often prone to medical problems which are now considered endemic to the breed. Over the past one or two centuries, the need to preserve standard breeds has created a situation where the best in show might be the worst in health. It is as if people have forgotten why the species existed in the first place. We forget that the four thousand years of selective breeding has involved a lot of creativity and experimentation, and some natural selection. Selective breeding over recent centuries has eliminated natural selection from the process. So breed that would not survive in the wild, thrive in captivity.
Sinclair says that standardization has, in some ways, liberated the art and allowed it to grow in ways that it couldn't otherwise grow. But in some ways, it has the potential to be a kind of domestication, preventing the spontaneous development of the art, and protecting tai chi from the processes of natural selection.

"Natural evolution combined with lack of standardization can lead to some strange things. Some of them work and some of them don't. But only in allowing them to happen and testing them honestly can we learn what is valuable and what is not.

"I have seen some really weird-looking tai chi. Some of it was actually pretty bad. But some of those weirdos have really known what they were doing. My inability to see it was my flaw, not theirs. Imagine 19th century music teacher listening to John Coltrane, or think of the early reactions to the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh.

"When styles are overly homogenized, the process of natural selection and creative development stops. Then the art just becomes a two-dimensional picture of the past, with none of the things that actually made it famous in the first place. This happens in business, too, as well as in art, scholarship, science, and any kind of innovation. You see it now in places like the aircraft industry, where the people running the company know nothing about flying. They buy a company and replace the board members who built the company literally from the ground up. Now we have passenger aircraft construction being overseen by people who have never flown or built a plane. Today there are martial art teachers who have never been in a fight, not even in a ring, and they truly think they know all about the martial side of tai chi. There are also people teaching tai chi as a healing exercise with no interest in learning the science of how the body works, or how thought, emotion and posture are interrelated."
So, I asked, what do you think of the state of tai chi in the world today?
"In some ways, it is becoming more standard. The official torchbearers of the major styles are promoting higher standards for their particular styles.
"It is going in all directions. If you study with the lineage holders of the major styles, or with any of their students, you will be learning from centuries of accumulated knowledge and wisdom. You will learn from the highest standard, and have access to an international community of people who are working to develop themselves and their art. But there are also the so-called outliers, who are taking the art in new directions, teaching with unique goals, and applying the art in ways that the old masters might never have thought of. In some cases, perhaps it shouldn't be called tai chi. There are good teachers and bad teachers. But it is up to the student to find the teacher who is appropriate for them."
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Medical benefits of Tai chi

Many of Sinclair's students come to him because of specific health concerns. He has many testimonials attesting to improvements health conditions. He even offers specific private programs for hypertension, heart disease, Parkinson's disease, back pain, joint pain, kidney stones, arthritis, and more. But he makes no promises and insists that his students keep seeking medical attention, even if they seem to be improving. "Anecdotal evidence from my students is encouraging and reassuring. It is not convincing scientific proof, although it does encourage me to keep teaching and to continue researching. But I am not a doctor. I have great respect for the medical profession, and for the challenges of scientific research."

Sinclair is a bit skeptical about many of the studies. I point out that Tai chi is the subject of increasing medical research in recent years, with new studies frequently being published. The healing aspect of tai chi is the main reason for its popularity, especially with older people. He is aware of the research, and even knows people who been involved in some of the studies, both as participants and as researchers.

"You have to take all of these studies with a grain of salt. There have been some very good studies with reasonable sample sizes and methodology. But I think that too many are poorly done. There are small clinical trials that get too much publicity. Tai chi proponents tend to get excited when they hear about a study that shows certain results for cancer, arthritis, osteoarthritis, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, COPD, heart failure, hypertension, or something else. But clinical trials must be viewed with caution. Many studies use few test subjects, poor methodology, and suspicious analysis. Some of them are blatantly polemical either for or against tai chi. Add to all that the fact that scientific literacy among the general public is very low, and many people don't understand the difference. Too many people don't even care that there is a difference. They are just happy to accept whatever support they can get to reinforce their own paradigm.

"Even if the study is done well, I would still care about who the teacher is, who the students were, what the school was, what pedagogy was used, etc. etc. If there are benefits shown in one study, and not in another, then I want to know what the difference was. Were the two studies done with the same school? If not, then they might not even be studying the same thing. There is one particular school with branches all over Canada and around the world. What they teach is a shallow imitation of the art. It appears that the founder of the style took all of the mistakes that beginners make, and made them part of the style. Yet that school is so widespread, and they act so authoritative, that they are sometimes chosen for scientific research. It would be better to use them as a control group, or and example of choreographed yawning. I wouldn't recommend them to my friends. But even so, if a study shows that their style has some unique benefit not found in other styles, then even if they also wreck their students' backs and knees, I want to know about it."

"Our desire to be helpful is so strong that we will often try to offer whatever tools we have as a remedy. In my case, the main tools are tai chi and qigong. But there are times when the most appropriate tool is the map to the hospital, or a phone for calling 911. I have had to take people to the hospital when they tell me that they they would rather just go home and sleep it off. They think they can just do more tai chi to feel better. You don't usually sleep off acute appendicitis or a heart attack.

In the past year, two of my students have survived LAD coronary events. One had a heart attack, while the other needed open hearth surgery. While tai chi may have contributed to their survival, so did aspirin and morphine. The main factor was emergency surgery. On the other hand, I have students who have had surgery cancelled by their doctors after training with me. Hernia surgery, and shoulder surgeries have been cancelled. One student was scheduled to have a specialist remove a large stone from a kidney. I taught him some exercises which he did several times per day. The doctor cancelled the operation when ultrasound showed no sign of any stone. It had simply disappeared in that time. Of course, it could be a total coincidence, and I must point out that the recommendation was made by the doctor.

"Recently, a student with severe cellulitis in both legs has astounded this doctors with his rapid recovery. His doctor is contemplating writing a paper about him. My student credits tai chi with helping to restore his circulation and grow his skin back. But still, all we can say with conviction is that it may warrant further study.

"I must say it again. Anecdotal evidence, even first-hand, is not scientific proof.

"My own view, is that tai chi can be helpful for a wide variety of health conditions. This is based on my own logic, my limited knowledge, anecdotal evidence, and some of the better meta-analyses that have been published in recent years. But it is not enough for us to simply believe that it works. We need to understand why it works, and why it sometimes doesn't work. When I describe the mechanisms and processes of tai chi, as I teach it, my students and I can see how the practice affects mind and body. The postural alignment, efficiency of movement, muscle, fascia, lymph, the relationship between the physical tension and the cerebral cortex, the entire nervous system, breathing, etc. are all involved. I am fortunate in that I teach medical professionals, engineers, designers, dancers etc., all of whom give me feedback. Many of them are quite happy to tell me if I am making sense…or if I am out of my mind. We need to do more than prove whether tai chi works or not. We need to find ways to make it work better, and to improve the art so it can benefit more people.

"I said earlier that no teacher is right for every student. Likewise, no exercise or remedy is perfect for everyone.

"Fortunately, tai chi is all about adaptability and change."
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Ian Sinclair interviewed
after a victory.

About different styles of tai chi

There are many different styles of tai chi, each with its own characteristics. Mr. Sinclair has studied many different styles and has won gold medals in International competition. I asked him if there one style that he prefers. Does he think some styles are in better than others?

"It depends less on the style than it does on the teacher. Even more important is the student. But first, if we are to talk about styles, I need to explain that I think there is a distinction between a style and an art."

"I explain to people that I practise an art form called tai chi, of which I have learned several styles. Tai chi is a category of martial art, and also a healing exercise. I also study many other martial arts which help me in my tai chi practice. A style is just a particular way of teaching the art.

"But when I teach, I don't teach an art form. I teach individual people. If my art doesn't suit my student, I will change the art to suit them. I look at each student as a unique person on a unique path. I don't tie myself to a particular pedagogy. I have a standard pedagogy, which serves as my foundation. But if the current method is not working, then I look for a new way…or different old way. I think that what people tend to forget is that whatever the benefits of the art may be, they came about as a result of Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED). Whatever attachments people might have to tradition, we must first recognize that all tradition was originally SR&ED. So, I like to fancy myself as an SR&ED man."

"Don't misunderstand me. I'm not denigrating tradition. I'm just saying that we need to realize that tradition includes a history of research and innovation. If we abandon research and innovation then we are, in fact, abandoning the tradition.

"I am also not an advocate of any particular style of tai chi…and not even of tai chi itself as a style of martial art or a style of exercise. I have learned eight different versions of Yang style, five different versions of Chen style, plus Wu style, Sun style, Hao style, and other internal martial arts like xingyiquan, baguazhang, etc. I've also tried to learn from many different martial arts around the world. What we call a style is really just a name for a kind of pedagogy. It is the way the art is taught. But good teachers are always researching and learning. So even the best student will never learn all that the teacher has to teach. If the student is attached to a style, then the art will fade out. One of my own teachers said years ago that he has never taught half of what he knows. Think of that. He has taught tens of thousands of students, including world champions, masters, and grandmasters, and all of them combined have not learned half of what he knows. This is because he is always learning, and his learning accelerates over time. The students will never catch up to him. If we are attached to a style or a pedagogy, then the art will die. This is something you see happening with many art forms. People learn what they can from the teacher, which is never exactly what the teacher intended to teach, and the student doesn't learn anymore.

I know people who studied for twenty years under a particularly famous master during the 1970s and 1980s. Then they went to start their own schools, and spent the rest of their time just teaching what they learned. That same master has other students who have only studied with him for a few years in this century. But many of these younger students are more skilled than some of the old students who learned for two decades. This may be partly because their teacher has spent the intervening years improving and developing his art and teaching methods, whereas the older students did not.

"Teachers need to be willing to move beyond what they have learned, and students need to accept their responsibility for research and analysis. Critical thinking is not cynicism, and accepting that you have the capacity to understand something is not the same as assuming that you already understand it completely. You are not insulting your teacher when you admit that you need to do your own research. In fact, what you are really doing in such a case is admitting that you cannot learn all that the teacher knows. So, you have to learn how to learn by yourself.
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The challenge of ancient wisdom

"Consider this. Tai chi has a list of old books which are referred to as the classics. They are a sort of unofficial canon. I spoke to one famous teacher who said that when he first read them, he was a 20-year-old student of one of the most famous tai chi masters of his time. He was also University-educated and had trained in martial arts for more than 40 hours per week for the previous fifteen years in other martial arts and was heir to more than one esoteric martial art. His credentials were already extraordinary. He said that when he read the classics the first time, he felt that he understood them. With his excellent background, we might expect him to.

But when he read them again at the age of 30, he lamented the arrogance of his 20-year-old self. Then he read them again when he turned 40 years of age, and was surprised to think how shallow his understanding was at the age of thirty. But then, when he turned 50, he returned to the classics and was amused to see how different his view of their meaning had become.

This happens to everyone who is serious about learning. Our point of view, our experience, our understanding, will change over time. Sometimes our understanding will be opposite of what it had been ten years earlier."

Sinclair pauses and shakes his head. He down at his hands, and then turns his sardonic expression to the sky. "I used to find this story depressing. I thought that if someone of his calibre, with his level of experience, education and expertise can be so challenged by these old texts. What hope can a person like me have. I don't read Chinese, and he could read both modern and ancient Chinese. I don't really even speak the language, but he was fluent in multiple dialects. I don't understand the culture, but he grew up in it. I didn't have a grandmaster teaching me 6 hours per day from childhood like he did."

Sinclair straightens up, closes his eyes, and takes a slow deep breath that seems to fill his legs, and pour into the ground beneath him, taking his mind with it. Then he opens his eyes and smiles peacefully.

"But now I accept this as a admonition to leave all doors and windows open to new perspectives, and look to the cracks in my ego and my ignorance for the sands of truth to swirl around and find their way in… over time. If my understanding of the art…or anything…has not changed in the past ten years, I should assume that I have been far too lazy. If my view of the Universe is not regularly overturned, then my inertia should be proof enough of my ignorance."

He pauses and then adds,

"… and of my cowardice."

"How can I hope to enlighten my students if I cannot regularly let go of my own stupidity. How can I hold the necessary compassion and awareness if I am incapacitated by the kind of fear that perpetuates ignorance."
If my view of the Universe is not regularly overturned, then that inertia alone should be proof enough of my ignorance."
Ian Sinclair
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Love is Essential to Martial Arts

This reminded me of something that Mr. Sinclair said to me earlier. I think that it shows me what kind of person he is, and why I like him as a teacher. We had been discussing the relationship between healing arts, martial arts, spiritual practices, and politics. He had said that "The true spirit of a successful practitioner of any of these is love."

When I reminded him of this earlier comment, he referred to the Sunzi Bingfa ("The Art of War") saying, "The Chinese general, Sunzi, paraphrased an ancient military maxim that reminds us of the importance of understanding ourselves and our enemies. He wrote, 'It is often said that if you know your enemy and know yourself, then you will not be defeated, even if you face one hundred battles.' This is a principle that has been advocated by military leaders throughout the centuries. It may be the most famous quote from the Art of War.

"What most people fail to point out, however, is that you can never understand anyone by hating them. Failure to recognize this is one of the greatest failures of martial artists. Actually, it's part of society's general pathology. Students think they can harness their fear and anger to develop high level skill. But that only entrenches them in predictable behaviour. Fear and hatred are self-perpetuating, and when we become attached to them we become self-destructive.

"Martial skill is a process for seeking peace in an inherently violent world. Skilled martial artists don't seek violence any more than skilled doctors try to make their patients sick. Finding peace is dependent on love. It depends on love for oneself and for other people. The awareness that results from love and compassion is a powerful weapon against violence. Even in the heat of combat, when all else has failed, the person who has the best relationship with themselves, and functional love of the enemy, will have the best chance of avoiding defeat. This is not mere philosophical idealism. It is a stark reality. Love is key to preventing violence. But it is also crucial to succeeding in a fight.

"I sometimes joke that, if you want to be able to effectively conquer someone (or some thing), you need to start by loving them unconditionally."

Ian Sinclair teaches in Orillia, Ontario, Canada, and accepts invitations to teach around the world.

Shen Guoxiang is a long-time tai chi player, currently living in Canada and Europe. (English translation by Xin Yan)

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'We heard about him years ago. But we said, "He is in Orillia. How good can he be?"
- Brian Irving Orillia, Ontario

"Ian has got the good stuff and has taken it in new directions. Its a privilege to study with progressive, forward thinking instructors, solidly rooted in the traditional fundamentals. Ian's hard work in both directions makes him a great teacher and guide."
- Sam Masich (International martial arts champion, teacher, and film-maker) Berlin, Germany

"Tai Chi and Qigong, as predicted and promoted, have given a whole new meaning to relaxation, meditation, and proper breathing, as well as a whole new way to understand, manage, and use my energy for improved health and well-being, for myself and others. Among the numerous changes and improvement over a period of 12 months was the disappearance of a rotator cuff problem. Where I had limited range of motion with pain and the prospect of continuing limitations without surgery, I now have full range of motion with no pain...a very grateful 68 year old. Thanks Ian!!" - Gord (Educator, Newmarket, Ontario)

It is very easy for me to say good things about my instructor, Ian Sinclair. Previous to my two years of Tai chi training, I suffered with joint pain and lack of energy. At 48 years of age I felt like 68. After a few months the stiffness in my joints was gone, my balance improved as well as my outlook on life. I wish I had more time to practise, but even a half hour per day makes me feel good. Ian knows his stuff and is a dedicated teacher with the proper philosophy.
- John Lebarr (Singer songwriter, carpenter) Washago, Canada

We've studied with Ian on and off for the past decade. Due to our own time constraints and travel restrictions, we're not able to take advantage of Ian's considerable skill as an instructor as often as we'd like. Having met and worked with many martial arts instructors over the years, I can say without hesitation that Ian Sinclair is one of the best we've encountered. The reason for this, I feel, is his ability to communicate clearly and thoroughly the wealth of knowledge he's accumulated over the years to a wide array of people. He's able to cater instruction to each individual in the class without taking away from the collective experience of the group. He lives his art, and his calm presence and sharp wit make for an enjoyable learning experience. We look forward to working with Ian in the future both for our own study and to consult with our actors on future film projects. He offers amazing value, is a trustworthy resource and an excellent human being.
- Roben Goodfellow (Writer, researcher, film maker)Toronto

Ian was the Sifu that appeared when this student was ready. He has always been a patient and supportive instructor with a compassionate, relaxed disposition and a willingness to go the extra distance for people who demonstrate their commitment to Wushu. May the universe bring you great success and joy.
- Jay Fletcher (Practitioner of Tai-Chi Chuan since 2002)

Ian Sinclair is amazing. In my opinion he is one of the few modern tai chi stylists who understands and researches the martial side of tai chi. His push hands skills is amazing and he can extend this ability to applications . Great job Ian!!!
- Adam Chan (Martial artist since 1986. Author of Climbing Mountains and Eating Punches. Chief instructor of Pragmatic Martial Arts, Vancouver, BC, Canada)

I was first introduced to Master Ian Sinclair several years ago, and immediately I was impressed with his knowledge and skill of the Chinese Martial Arts. In my experience there are only a small handfull of individuals in Canada who can teach Tai Chi at the level of Master Sinclair. Even fewer can teach Tai Chi with the same level of humility that he represents. If you were to pick the top 5 instructors of Tai Chi in Canada, your list would have to include Master Ian Sinclair.
- Jason Ward (Martial Arts Instructor: International Chinese Martial Arts Research Society, International Genkidokai

I wish I could find another tai chi instructor like him here.
- F. Hamaguchi ( Software Developer - Vancouver )

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