"Hi, my name is Andy Steele, Chief Instructor of Lancaster Grapplers Academy (Total Combat Jui-Jitsu). I have practiced martial arts for 43 years and have lots of experience. I have trained with Paul on and off for about 15 years and I still visit his class taking with me all the new and up to date techniques from the MMA circuits for the ground fighting. 
    I find that Paul's passion for Tai Chi, Karate and all martial arts, makes him not just an instructor but a willing instructor. The difference between Paul and most other instructors is the word willing. He is willing to share, willing to listen, willing to take time when required to get across the instruction - a rare instructor. 
    I am involved with Lancaster and Morecambe MMA and a corner man for them, and this club is second to none in the cage fighting world. As I am proud to be associated with them and also with Paul, who's teaching, attitude and honesty to martial arts is the highest it could be and I am proud to write this."
                                                                                                                              
 - Andy Steele

   
 "I have trained in Tai Chi with Paul Florkowski for the past three years having attended his Martial Arts: Principles and Applications class over the last twelve years. 
    I feel very committed to Paul as a teacher as he absolutely embodies what he teaches. He is a highly disciplined and focussed person. As a teacher he demands high standards in terms of commitment and practice. In return he is 100% there for his students, supportive and encouraging, fully knowing the benefits that this practice brings. 
    Paul has a deep understanding of Tai Chi as a martial art. The movements of the form are learnt and understood as forms of attack and defence. The essence of Paul's teaching however is to come to know the power that resides in softness, presence, focus and inner stillness. Watching Paul's mastery of the Tai Chi form is to witness this power in action. 
     Paul's classes are not for the faint hearted - they can be physically demanding and may involve a certain amount of pain! But to anyone committed to a path of self development and healing I would whole heartedly recommend them."

 Helen Fry

  "I have trained at Paul's Martial Arts - Principles & Applications class for 8 years.  I can honestly say that it has been an influential and life changing experience.  I had previously had some experience in Shukokai Karate and I joined Paul's group in order to understand more about how to apply the techniques that I had learnt, to become more confident and to improve my level of fitness.  After 8 years of training with Paul I have gained everything that I set out to achieve and more!

   I now feel so much more confident in myself, both physically and mentally.  I am far more grounded, calm, believing in my own abilities.  I have realised that size isn't everything, being a petite female; I had previously felt weak and incapable of defending myself.  Now I realise that being small can have its advantages and that you should never underestimate anyone's abilities regardless of their sex, size and stature.
 
   My physical fitness has improved greatly.  At first I struggled to do one regular press up.  After years of doing them as part of the warm up I can do many of them, on my fingers, knuckles, with claps in the middle!  I never would have expected that I would have been capable!  I am so much more flexible, I feel fitter in every way.

   Paul's classes have become a part of me.  I am sometimes surprised at how naturally I can perform techniques and movements as if they were a reflex action.  They have been built into me and I hope that will be the case for many more years to come.

   Most of all, I have made a really good friend in Paul.  He is open and giving.  Willing to help you whatever the situation, not just as an instructor but as a loyal friend.  Paul has high expectations of his students but in return you get so much back.

   I will look back on my time training with Paul with fondness and nostalgia; it has been a huge part of my life and a massive influence in making me the person I am.  Thank you Paul!"

 - Carrie Vale



Why do I train?


  To explain this I need to go back a little way. Some years ago I went searching for an Aikido dojo to live in where I could train more intensely than I was at my own club in the UK. I traveled abroad and what I found way way beyond my expectations. I suppose in a round about way, what I found in deep intense Martial Art practice was myself or my 'self'. 

  This way shocking and surprising to me. I had understood the activity of 'finding oneself' to be a cliche reserved for fresh faced young Brits on voyages of discovery in India or the Far East. I had not understood the spiritual aspect of martial arts and only glimpsed it in films and media in which this spiritualism appeared mystical and esoteric.  

  After some time of confusion and some strong realizations about who I thought I was I found that I didn't really know myself very well. I think my life had become 'normal'. I was unconscious, a product of the society I identified with so closely, and now I felt out of touch with my emotions and empty. This sounds pretty bad but it was in fact great because as I soon came to realize, martial arts can be a big meal. I started to discover why we train. 

   As we enter the dojo/club, we bow to show respect to our teachers and our fellow students, we leave the outside world behind. Now we become present, in this moment, we can really experience the 'now', not considering what is for dinner later or the dispute with our landlord or boss last week, now it is time to train.   
    With the help of good teachers we can approach training with a present mind. Now it is no longer about learning to be hard, learning techniques, getting a black belt, getting fit or socializing; these may be bi-products but as a focus they limit the mind and body's ability to grow and evolve. Through focused training one can transcend the necessity to compete. Training now becomes about honesty, not external honesty but real honesty with yourself. Now it's time to let go, to not get upset when we lose or when we are not 'the best'. To perfect our technique for ourselves not for someone else.  
   I find peace in training, like a meditation, I can resolve conflict within my own head and heart. Now training facilitates my growth and evolution as a human being and this goes with me everywhere. I think of victory, not over other people but over myself and all the negativity presented to me in the daily routines of our busy lives. Training is a holistic practice which wakes us up and enables us to live awake. 
   This is the tip of the iceberg, this is a path with no end, this is why I train and this is why I train here.       


Tim Ratcliffe - Lancaster Aikido club, Lancaster Tai Chi Chuan, Red Rose Jujitsu. 


 

 
"I have been practicing Tai Chi for about fifteen years. The first form that I learned was the Yang Cheng-fu long form which kept me poised on a tight rope somewhere between elation and frustration during my steep 'learning curve'. I am still learning!  Since the early days I have added the Chen Man Ching form and am currently teaching the short 24 step Yang Style from to an enthusiastic group at my local over 55s club in my home town of Morecambe. About two years ago I felt I wanted to refresh my knowledge of the long form and joined Paul as the Lancaster School of Tai Chi Chuan at that time. I was a little apprehensive at first, being a pensioner amongst a group of younger and fitter class members. However, I was made to feel very welcome and Paul reassured me that I could progress at my own pace. 
      As I teach and practice Tai Chi principally for the health benefits I don't possess an extensive knowledge of pushing hands and the martial application. It was a bit daunting at first but everyone was very encouraging and supportive. There was plenty of one-to-one coaching and Paul was always approachable, patiently reinforcing and explaining the various elements.
     I feel that I gained a greater understanding of the importance of 'intent' during the practice. The opportunities for partner work enhanced my 'listening skills', reinforcing anticipation and appropriate response. Form practice produced new challenges as Paul introduced subtle nuances and corrections and certainly helped me to achieve an enhanced level of focus and concentration.
     From beginner to advanced practitioner, whether your interest is in the internal or external form of martial arts you will find an appropriate standard of teaching to match your requirements in a safe and friendly environment. I thoroughly recommend it for improved balance, greater flexibility and stress reduction."

- Gill Steven


    "I enjoyed training with Paul from 2003 to 2008 several times each week, both privately and in classes, before relocating elsewhere in the UK. When I started, I already had some experience in a variety of martial art styles and other body-mind disciplines, but have always been impressed by the generous and precise instruction I received from Paul. 
    At the heart of his teaching approach are a careful attention to detail and a concern with every student's personal progress, whether or not they are interested in taichichuan for relaxation, health & fitness, martial and/or other reasons. The mixture of qigong, form training and partner work during classes works well and I particularly enjoyed the push-hands drills and martial applications. These feed back increasingly new perspectives into one's form practice, and the gradual realisation of how important - and enjoyable - a relaxed mental, physical and emotional awareness is, both during class and in other areas of one's life. 
    I also had the opportunity to train with Spencer on numerous occasions, testing and refining our skills in push-hand drills and principle-based application work, from which I always gained some refreshing insights. So if you are interested in tachichuan and want to find out more, or merely want to deepen your other health & martial practices, then this is definitely a great place to help you on your way!"

 - Ron Peek
                                                                                                                                            


       "As I had no prior martial art experience when I started my Tai Chi study three years ago, I had no particular expectation. I envisaged a little exercise and stress reduction, only to find that and so much more - a total voyage of discovery. I have leant so much about myself, faced personal challenges and have certainly grown as a person. My Tai Chi practice has become central to my life and I thoroughly enjoy the the class training environment. I find the teaching style has integrity, quality and depth, providing the student with a detailed knowledge of the forms, martial applications and the history of the art. 

I cannot recommend it highly enough - try it out for yourself and see where your Tai Chi takes you!"

 - Carol Henery

   

"I blame my astrologer. 
 
  Each time I see him it's the same prescription: 'You need to do Tai Chi.' But I can't picture it. When I think of Tai Chi all I see are faerie leaf folk, dancing gently from silent tree. 'Now pretend you're a cloud etc etc.'
    Not that I don't like faerie leaf people. I really love them. It's just that ballet dancing doesn't get me out of bed on a Tuesday. But this particular day my astrologer had a serious stranglehold on me and so I was dragged kicking and screaming 'No! No! No!' to his patient responses of 'Try it just once.'
    He introduces me to Mr. Scary the Tai Chi master. Neither Scary nor I have any great conviction that we'll be seeing each other again and pleasantries are kept to a perfunctory minimal. 
    After thirty or forty minutes of warm-up exercise I hear the warning 'I've got to throw you in at the deep end here' - a threat I've heard several times before but it never meant anything before. 
    So I'm thrown into the deep end and as the chlorine hits my lungs I gag for air and generally flap about like a seal with learning difficulties. The other kids in the pool see me drowning and guide me over to the paddling area where I'm more comfortable. Mr. Scary however is having none of it and whenever he sees me paddling about in the ankle deep zone he comes and throws me back into the deep end. 
    After what feels like and hour of this clueless swirling around I feel like a carrot in a blender and I'm praying for the faerie leaf people to come and rescue me. Eventually they do and here I am actually relieved to be swaying my arms up and down like a gay bird. Tinkerbell you were late, but please stick around now. 

    So this is not a description of Tai Chi but what we get is some kind of a balance between grace and aggression. And the two blend quite majestically. I left that first session feeling fairly shaken and shell shocked but with a very insistent urge to get back into the water - so now I get to as many sessions as I can and I don't leave any of them feeling any less stupid than I did on the first session but I think this is the difference between sketching oneself to get to a further place as opposed to going through the motions just to feel good. 
    For me the point of going to these classes isn't to get good at Tai Chi. I go because I like it. And it does seem to have a knock on effect in other areas of my life. Some achievements I can relate directly to Tai Chi exercises, other achievements I can only suspect came out of these exercises. 
    I'd highly recommend these classes to all - wherever your Mars may be. But don't try it just once. Try it much more than once. You'll soon get used to feeling stupid. 
    Come on in, the water's lovely but watch out for the shark!"
                                                                                                                                     
 - Larry


    "My name is Gulliver Brodbeck. I first went to Paul's Tai Chi class in summer 2007 having had no prior experience or interest in martial arts and primarily seeking help for an acute mental health condition. Paul was very understanding and encouraging. At first I found the sessions rather challenging due to the strenuous warm ups (I was quite unfit at the time) and the partner work which required me to be in close proximity and contact with relative strangers. Being unable to motivate myself to practice the exercises away from the class, after a time I dropped out. I was aware however, that Tai Chi had been doing me good and when I rejoined the class over sixth months later I was able to commit more fully to the practice. 
    Approximately three years on, I can confidently say that Tai Chi and Martial Arts: Principles and Applications have been instrumental in me attain and maintain a more balanced level of mental, physical and emotional health. Whatever worries or concerns I may be carrying as I enter the class, by the end I am calm, focused and centred in the moment (and sometimes a bit tired)!
    Paul is an extremely dedicated and able teacher, undoubtedly committed to Tai Chi and to the development of every pupil whatever their level. He is constantly demanding and constantly encouraging, at once both serious and fun, disciplined and good-natured. I cannot recommend these classes enough.

  - Gulliver Brodbeck
                                                                                                                                          

    "For the past twelve months I have had the privilege of training under the tutelage of Paul Florkowski. During this time Paul has demonstrated himself to be an adept martial artist and a talented teacher/coach.
    He is highly skilled in the hard external art of Shotokan Karate as well as the softer internal arts of Chi-Kung and Tai Chi. I have come to know Paul as a friendly and responsible person with a very approachable teaching style and a professional attitude. I wish him every success in future prospects."

 - Gavin Holden, 3rd Dan W.T.F Taekwondo 
                                                                                                                   

    "I am writing with reference to Paul Florkowski's character and martial arts background. Initially he was a student of Karate and then studied Tai Chi - both of which were designed purely for self defence. 
    I have known Paul for circa three years through my own studies of Tai Chi and when I have attended self defence classes held at the Gregson Centre. He has an impressive knowledge of the history, philosophy and practical applications of both the Japanese and Chinese systems. His classes are always beneficial to those that study with him. 
    I have been learning martial arts for around fifteen years encompassing Ju-jitsu, Tai Chi, various self defence courses and Wing Chun Kung Fu for which I am an assistant instructor. 
    I was pleased by Paul's approach to teaching and his methods. He is a patient teacher and possesses good communication skills; he is completely involved with his students and his enthusiasm is infectious. 
    One of the factors that keeps me at Paul's classes is that the self defence he teaches is practical. I am a retired doorman and his techniques are accurate and realistic. He will focus on adverse scenarios and display how to overcome superior size and strength. This is useful for all, though especially women. 
    Paul is of sound character, a gentle demeanour and has a healthy sense of humour making him approachable as regards to his students. He is driven to increase and improve the knowledge he has and to share his skills with others. He is also highly competent at doing so."

  - Andrew Lewis
                                                                                                            


    " I attend Paul's Karate classes and during the time I have been training with him I have found him to be a knowledgeable and dedicated practitioner of the martial arts who directs his students with a combination of disciplined training, patient and instructive attention to detail, maintaining the traditional essence and spirit of the arts in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. He conveys his message with clear and precise instruction well explained and demonstrated, guiding the class as a whole whilst addressing each individuals level of competence.
    Paul is an articulate and communicative instructor who's enthusiasm, encouragement and support for his students is in evidence both inside and outside the class in equal measure, readily available at any time to offer assistance with ones training development, or just a simple chat, making the experience of knowing and training with Paul a most enjoyable one. I cannot commend him highly enough and count myself fortunate to be able to attend his classes."   

    - Andy Culkin 

 

"I have been training with Paul for nearly ten years now, both in his Martial Arts: Principles and Applications classes and in his Tai Chi classes. I recognised immediately that Paul's practical martial skills were of a very high quality. He has a great grasp of form and body mechanics but also practical first hand experience of real life combat. I was also impressed by his dedication. He trains hard every day and is always reading, researching and learning more and more when at home. In addition to his own training he teaches five classes a week and various private one-to-ones. I have never known one cancelled in 10 years due to any fault of Paul. 

  For a student however, the best thing is his approachability and his willingness to give. Many times after training we will still sit and talk about techniques or principles. He has loaned me untold books and dvds and training equipment over the years and many times has rung me out of the blue when a thought has occurred to him that might help me grasp a concept we have been working on in class.                                                                                                                           Despite Paul's many caring, giving qualities, do not mistake that for a laissez faire or overly soft attitude. Classes are highly disciplined and strict. Paul demands very regular attendance, effort and dedication. I have known him ask several people to leave over the years for either poor attendance and poor conduct. Paul is committed to keeping the integrity of his classes second to none. 

   I would highly recommend these classes to anyone who wants to train traditional martial arts as they have really helped improve my understanding. These classes have been of the highest importance in my development over the last decade and I continue to train with Paul five times a week."
       
- Spencer Garry


    "Anyone who has trained in karate may recognise this scenario - a syllabus comprising basic techniques, formalised 2 person drills, kata and sparring.  This is basically the route I followed through 2 different karate styles before I became disillusioned and gave it up.  Why?  Well mainly because I came to question my ability to actually defend myself in a situation outside of a karate dojo.  Undoubtedly karate brings great benefits in terms of fast and powerful techniques, fitness and reaction etc, however the basic techniques as they were trained and the pre-arranged attack and defence drills were mostly over formalised and did not reflect the reality of an actual fight often leaving the karateka 'stuck' in a stance after using a punch or using a 'block' that would be too slow to use anywhere outside of a dojo.  At the other extreme, the sparring taught was quick and mobile, but was geared towards scoring points rather than finishing a fight and of course there was always a referee to step in and stop the fight after every point scored.  Kata was learnt mainly for passing gradings and for competitions and so looked good but the techniques they were supposed to encompass were rarely taught and even when they were, some of the explanations seemed less than convincing.  In effect, though I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I progressed through the system I began to feel that I had something that looked and felt good but which was somehow lacking in depth and substance.

    That is where Paul's class Martial Arts - Principles and Applications comes in.  Having initially looked at the website, I did wonder if it was a bit 'hardcore' and whether i would want to commit to such a class.  Yes it can be physically challenging, both in terms of stamina and because we are, after all, learning to fight. from which may come some accidental knocks and bruises.  However, I have found the class to be disciplined and supportive rather than competitive, and inclusive rather than elitist, with students of both sexes and a variety of sizes, levels of skill and previous experience.  This is to Paul's credit.

    Perhaps the most important point to make is that Paul has that naturalised ability and confidence in demonstrating techniques that gives you the confidence that the man knows what he is doing, not because he has read a book about it (although by all accounts he probably has) but because he's put the time in and has the practical experience to know what works and what doesn't in 'real' situations as well as the how and the why.  The sessions are always well planned to train both technical ability (e.g. body movement to improve speed and power) as well as the more practical self defence applications.  The techniques he teaches relate to a variety of situations and what is taught one week will reappear maybe the next week or a couple of weeks later ad then again a little later on, so that a repertoire of techniques can be gradually built up by the student and applied with increasing confidence and ability.  Paul as a teacher has a mix of easy going humour matched with a more formal 'dojo' discipline.  His wide knowledge of the subject as a whole is obvious and he is more than willing and able to impart that knowledge.  All that Paul requires is the commitment to turn up regularly and to put the effort in when you are there, which after all benefits the student much more than it does Paul.

    Anyway to get back to the main point, what does this class give me that I wasn't getting before?  Well basically it is filling in the gaps, giving the depth and substance that was lacking.  Techniques such as low kicks which were rarely touched upon previously, moves that would be against the rules in competition so were never practiced, various locks and escapes that are supposedly 'hidden' in the katas but which were never taught, fighting on and from the ground, again never covered in any karate class I attended.  Although I have been attending only 4/5 months and am far from having mastered the elements that are taught, am I learning and improving?  Yes.  Am I feeling more confident in my ability to defend myself?  Yes.  Is it hard work?  Yes.  Is it worth it?  Yes."

  - Mike Sanders