My name is Edward Hines. I started martial arts in London in the late 1970’s as an amateur boxer, fell in love with Taiji in 1983, then followed my dreams to Taiwan in 1991 where I became a student of Luo De-Xiu – a superb master of Bagua and other Chinese arts. I returned to Europe in 1994 and have been teaching and training ever since.
I have cross trained in many martial arts, movement and meditation methods. Mind-body interaction fascinates me in all its diversity. I’ve fought and trained full contact fighters at one end of this spectrum, taught the subtleties of body use for communication to corporate managers at the other end.
My job is to distill this experience for you, make it clear, accessible and fun, whether you want hard body conditioning or deep meditation.
You can read more about me below. On this site you can browse articles to find useful tips for health, fitness and martial arts or go straight to heart of matters and book some training.
Edward Hines has been involved in martial arts for most of his life, starting with boxing with St Pancras boys club in the 1970′s, and starting Taiji in 1983. In 1991 he moved to the Taipei, in Taiwan Republic of China where he became an ‘indoor’ student of internationally renowned teacher Luo De Xiu. He also studied with Tao Ping Xiang, and Liu Hse Heng in Yang (Cheng Man Ching) Taiji.
On returning to the UK from Taiwan in 1994 Edward gained a professional certificate in exercise and fitness from Leeds Metropolitain university applying his martial arts specific knowledge to as fitness instructor, as well as passing on the traditional arts that he learned in Taiwan.
During his time in England Edward entered tournaments, to win national titles in form, push hands and full contact fighting (San Da) while investigating other forms of martial arts and fitness. While Edward has specialised knowledge in the Chinese styles of Baguazhang,Taijiquan, and Xingyiquan he has also spent time training in or exchanging with practitioners of Aikido, Karate, Simbha Sansho, Pencak Silat, Pancrase, Savate, la Cane, Jeet Kune Do, Brasilian Jujutsu, boxing, Thai boxing, Capoeira and Karate. He has also practised a number of approaches to Yoga, is a keen freediver and a Crossfit Instructor.
Edward combines a practical scientific approach (he has a degree in Environmental Biology from York University), with a willingness to enjoy the esthetic poetry of martial arts. He balances a calm presence with an infectious enthusiasm for the skills that he teaches.
You can read an interview with Edward here:
How and when did you start martial arts?
It depends on where you count from. I Boxed as amateur with St Pancras Boys club when I was nine or ten. Then I did some Kungfu when I was twelve, and started Taiji when I was fifteen in 1983.
That’s kind of young to be doing Taiji. Why did you start?
Yes….I was attracted to Taiji because like many awkward adolescents I thought that it would give me special powers. I first saw Taiji in BBC’s the Way of the Warrior series, in which one epsiode set in Taiwan.
The commentary did not do a great job of explaining internal arts in the simplest manner – even if I have seen a lot worse. All the talk of qi was very enticing to a boy who played Dungeons and Dragons! My first teacher did not really teach with any physical rigour, and had a quite mystic/philosophical approach to the art which did nothing to make me more down to earth. Back then there was not a lot of choice, and even though I now recognise that I was not taught clearly I also received plenty of benefits from the practise I had.
What kind of benefits?
The emphasis was very much on softness and sensitivity. That softness helped me with other martial arts later. It is easy to catch the pattern and subtlety of movement when relaxed and sensitive. Combined with mental focus on the body and it was a very powerful natural high, in fact it was the first skill that I ever learned through which I could change my mental emotional state reliably. That felt like magic! On the one hand I felt great, on the other I developed a kind of true believer faith in Taiji.
What I felt seemed to reinforce the hunger for special power that drew me to Taiji in the first place. I did not realise that the special powers were just normal capacities carefully cultivated, and that the mystic states were universal rather than special to Taiji. But it was good to have people around me with whom I could talk about my experiences.
What happened next?
After I finished studying environmental Biology I travelled to Taiwan in July 1991. I studied with three of Cheng Man Ching’s students. My original teacher in London had also studied with several students of Cheng Man Ching. I also met my Bagua Teacher Luo Dexiu there. Luo laoshi had not been teaching for long when I met him (laoshi is Mandarin for teacher). In my first class it was just Luo laoshi, his first student Marcus Brinkman and I.
What was life like in Taiwan for you?
On the one hand it was dirty and polluted, on the other it was filled with great hospitality, delicious food and some funny characters. During a typical day I would have a morning Taiji class that started between 6H and 7H30 depending on the teacher. I would usually train for between 2-3 hours during the day, teach English or work with a small startup English language Newspaper. Three to five evenings a week I would train with Luo laoshi.
What did you learn?
In some ways the most important thing that I learned came from seeing Taiji and Chinese martial arts in their cultural context.What was easily mis-interpreted as mystic and exotic from Europe turned out to be very prosaic and simple.Luo laoshi was very good at bringing me back down to earth as he took pains to explain clearly how the mechanics of martial arts work. His explanations were almost always the simplest, most logical and directly applied of any that I received. It’s formed the basis of how I teach now – as simple, accessible and appropriate as possible
How long did you stay in Taiwan?
I came back to England in July 1994. I wanted to be closer to my family and return to the culture I was born in. I’ve been back a few times since, and I usually see my teacher Luo Dexiu two or three times a year.
Did you practise any other martial arts?
When I came back to England I cross trained with a variety of people. I lived with two members of the KUGB national team in the house of Sean Roberts. Sean was very open and eager to discover new approaches to movement and we shared a lot. He’s in Hawaii now. I did little pieces of Aikido and then when I moved down to London again I met Tony Felix.
Tony Felix is one of the best martial artists you may have never heard of… now remember his name! Tony trained me for Sanda (full contact kickboxing with throws) and we mixed it up with people from different backgrounds. Everyone was welcome. Tony had a fighting background, and extensive experience in several Chinese systems. Tony introduced me to grappling, BJJ, African martial arts, and reintroduced me to boxing. Tony now uses Pencak Silat as his martial base and continues to be an inspiration to me, he never stops training or researching. If you are in London look him up if you are serious about training.
What do you like least about martial arts?
I dislike the way that people make religions out of them. Many martial artists worship their styles in some desire that the style will save them from whatever it is they fear – often death or defeat.What annoys me more is when teachers encourage this, either for commercial reasons or because they have not outgrown this phase themselves.
What do you like least about Chinese martial arts?
Apart from the pajamas? It can get tiresome to explain that Kungfu just means a skill developed through hardwork, and that there are many, many styles of Chinese martial arts with very different approaches to each other.
Also issues of ‘face’ mean that many Chinese martial artists dance around and don’t give each other honest feedback as to the efficacy of techniques.
The last part is politically sensitive, martial arts can be vehicles for the kind of nationalism that borders on racism. Sadly this can happen in Chinese martial arts. While I have only had a few scrapes with this my friend and teacher Tony Felix was shamefully treated a number of times.
OK what do you like most about Chinese martial arts?
I enjoy their diversity. It is fascinating to see how they have developed, branched into different styles, then re-influenced each other. Within the internal styles I like the flexible but rich simplicity that you see.
What do you mean rich simplicity?
Well when you understand martial arts they are really very simple. There are a few core principles that get expressed in thousands of ways. The principles themselves can be applied on different levels philosophically, emotionally, socially as well as for combat. Bagua, Xingyi and Taiji all have ways to express these principles with a minimal number of movements.
Most people get lost in the large numbers of movements that the arts contain and lose sight of the logic that creates an underlying unity. That logic is really very elegant, it is beautiful on an intellectual level just as the movements are on a physical one.
What do you like about martial arts in general?
Apart from what I have said already about Chinese martial arts I see all movement arts as being a vehicle to develop greater presence, awareness and vitality. Non sexual physical contact is also something that many people can benefit from and enjoy. Finally I like that martial arts can make us look at, accept and transcend our own tendencies towards violence which are often based in fear.
What advice do you have to anyone starting in martial arts?
Find an art that you like, and keep your brain switched on. Know what you want, fitness, fighting, calm, culture or a mix of these. Avoid macho teachers who glorify violence, who tell you that they do the ‘ultimate system’ whether or not they created it or learned it from some guru figure, and avoid the ones who will not answer straight questions.
If a teacher tells lots of amazing stories about the martial arts or the people they have studied with check the stories carefully. If a teacher gets defensive or aggressive if you ask questions about this, or you cannot find any verification elsewhere you may have found one of the many martial fantasist out there. They may have some physical skill, but honesty is important to me and I would move on before I could get mired in their bullshit.
Remember a teacher may have limited class time for each student so they may not have time for extended conversation.
Remember that however good your teacher may be, they are still a human being. That means they do not need worshipping but they do need respect, as do any skills that they have . If you find you cannot respect them do not train with them. If what they demand goes beyond the bounds of respect, leave.
Do not be impressed by ethnicity. I have seen very mediocre Chinese teachers do better than skilled western teachers only because many students do not look beyond skin colour. There are amazing Chinese teachers out there it is just no guarantee of skill, and skill is of no guarantee of teaching ability or willingness to share information.
Once you find something that suits you and is well taught keep that art as a base to develop skill in but do not be afraid to look around. Most arts have something to offer, depending on how they are taught. It can be confusing to mix too many arts to begin with, but once you have a base it gets easier to integrate different methods. This is provided you can recognise that there are similarities that acclerate the integration and differences that need to be included to be useful.
Remember, martial arts are not articles of consumption. You develop through the practise of martial arts, not from buying classes, DVDs t-shirts, or talking, though these can help.
Train regularly, and not just in class. Real skill comes from repetition. If the fundamentals of the simple exercises are taught they will make sense and can be fascinating.
The correct translation of Kung-fu is skill that comes through work over time. But what is it that allows a martial artist to keep going and develop skill? Well the best teachers I have met love their arts, really love them. If you want to work hard over time I think it will be a lot easier, a lot more fun and a lot more successful if you find a way to maintain enthusiasm over time. As a teacher that’s what I want to help uncover.
Want to train with Edward? Ask him