Chief Instructor, Joanna Zorya, has been studying Chinese Martial Arts since 1996. She has been a student of Taiji, Bagua, Xingyi, Praying Mantis Kung Fu and the South-East Asian styles of Silat and Escrima. Although she adheres strictly to Tai Chi movement principles, this combination of arts has lent something of a SE Asian / Kuntao flavour to her work. (Read Joanna's article on Lineage.) While she often takes an unorthodox approach to training and teaching, the material she teaches is true classical wushu / kung fu technique in every way, adhering diligently and in precise detail to the Chinese systems' methods of power generation and applied martial strategy.
"Joanna Zorya's "Martial Rotation - Twisting and Spiraling Skills" is an excellent training video. The teacher in me really appreciates this solid teaching tool. ... Watch it with an eye to grasping essential underlying principles of movement, and believe me, you will find real value in this DVD."
- Bob Orlando, Je Du-Too School of Martial Arts
Joanna has been interested in martial arts and military strategy for much of her life and as a teenager used to practice informal full contact sparring with replica Medieval European weapons and armour. She has also had quite a lot of experience of real life violence, both unarmed and armed, and has had to deal with a number of serious assaults to herself, and to friends and family.
Before setting up the Martial Tai Chi™ Association in 2006 with fellow instructor Julie Hinder, Joanna was an A-Grade Instructor with the T'ai Chi Union for Great Britain for 5 years where she was also briefly a member of the executive committee. Ultimately, however, she felt herself to be too at odds with the "Tai Chi for Health and Spirituality" mainstream.
Joanna's approach places martial purpose above all else, stressing logic and practicality. Movements are understood and taught solely in terms of martial tactics and body mechanics.
Visit Joanna's website for more information about her training and her teaching approach.
Please note that until further notice, Joanna is not currently taking on any new students (as of Feb 2011)
Instructor Julie Hinder began her martial training at the same time as Joanna, but their martial paths separated for a time as Joanna chiefly pursued Chinese arts while Julie focussed on Escrima weapon arts and Filipino Kickboxing.
Julie has studied exclusively with Joanna since 2002, feeling that Joanna's practical systemisation and rationalisation of Taijiquan, Baguazhang and Xingyiquan offers her the greatest possible benefits to power, speed and effective martial strategy.
Julie is also a nationally qualified Youth and Community Worker (BA Hons 1:1 & DIP HE) and has helped Joanna devise several self-defense courses for vulnerable or targeted community groups.
In 2006 Joanna and Julie set up the Martial Tai Chi™ Association after Joanna resigned from the TCUGB executive committee. In 2008, in recognition of the fact that many other arts were going down the same road as Tai Chi - towards non-martial practice and esoteric gibberish - they changed the name and scope of the organisation to the Martial Training Asociation (MTA). The MTA is a regulatory body for general, no-nonsense martial practice.
Charlie T. Dog
Looking for Charlie's page? Click here!
Our own teaching completely rejects the concept of qi, also known as chi, ch'i or ki. Other instructors coming to the MTA should also reject the idea completely. However, on this website there are several articles which specifically deal with the concept as it is so prevalent in mainstream Tai Chi practice. Qi is also dealt with briefly on our "Taiji Concepts" DVD. We have found it necessary to address the issue of qi, because most people in the Tai Chi mainstream are utterly obsessed with it, and we wanted to make our position on it absolutely clear. The concept is at best obsolete and at worst dangerous. Significantly, the notion of qi is simply not true.
We Are Not "Internal"
People who practice the martial arts that many term "the internal styles" (Tai Chi / Taiji, Xingyi, Bagua etc.) often claim to have access to special, secret, superior training methods that grant their exponents superhuman (or even magical) skills that other martial artists lack. This is not true - individual martial artists are special, not specific training methods. Great fighters emerge from all kinds of different martial traditions, so we consider such "internal arts" snobbery to be absurd. More often than not, martial artists who allow themselves to become absorbed in such egotistical fantasies develop sub-standard skills rather than superior ones.
We'll promise you no such special abilities. We love the arts we practice and the training methods we use. The fighting techniques we teach are tried and tested and we consider them to be the most effective martial methods we have come across. We are confident that if you practice them hard, our techniques can help you to develop superb fighting skills. But whether you use our training methods or someone else's, you'll only get out what you put in.
Crucially, your training methods must be literal to the skills you wish to develop. If you want to be able to move fast, you must practice moving fast. If you want to be able to hit hard, you must practice hitting hard. Basic strikes and deflections must be learned first to provide a foundation for subtler techniques that come later on.
Some of our training methods are slow and deliberate to help you refine your movement and timing in detail, but you must train your body to move hard and fast as well. However good your body mechanics, reflexes and muscles must be developed. This process cannot be subverted by use of special meditation methods or breathing exercises. There are no short cuts and no ways to bypass this reality.
We do not subscribe to any part of the "internal arts" mythology or methodology - no talk of energies, no "internal principles," no special powers, no meditation, no visualisation, nothing. We believe that there is such a thing as optimal force which must engage the whole body, but we think that any martial artist from any culture should aim for that and we don't need methods of self-deception to attain it.
Read our article It's Internal Jim, But Not As We Know It
Something we've noticed in recent times is a number of teachers adding modern Western or mystically-inspired psychoanalytical models to their arsenal of combat training avoidance techniques. Obviously this all goes down well with the kind of martial artist who likes to believe he can meditate his way out of trouble. Personally, we're not interested in NLP, hypnosis, new-age philosophies, or any other kind of psychobabble. You can't bluff confidence - if you don't have the skill, you shouldn't have the confidence - it would only be false confidence. History's greatest fighters had confidence because they knew they were the best from training hard and beating many opponents. As far as we're concerned, if you train your martial arts properly and seriously, just as soldiers and martial artists have been doing for thousands of years, you don't need to add to it with mental gymnastics from any age or place. In our opinion, that stuff all belongs in the same bracket as the diversionary nonsense Yang Banhou taught to the Manchurian ruling elite. It is said "He put them in a passive mode and compelled the royal families to get absorbed in mysticism so they would endlessly pursue a mental achievement." Some things never change.
Charlie T. Dog
Looking for Charlie's page? Click here!
What Others Are Saying
"It is obvious that you have invested a lot of time and effort in your Tai Chi and that you are not only knowledgeable but able to communicate what you know to others. The Tai Chi community is lucky to have you. I can't say enough good things about your DVD's. In my humble opinion I think you have done an outstanding job... I will recommend your DVD's to everyone I know and come in contact with."
Glenn Hairston (maker of Internal Damage DVD)
"You're a natural teacher, a good presenter, and a very good writer. ...I can't imagine how many books it would have taken me to gain the knowledge contained in your dvds. You cut through the "clouds of code" and explain things so eloquently."