"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."
"It was the purity of the teaching in the fighting skills that drew me into Paul's class. There is an insistence on accuracy and an uncanny understanding of how an inflection of the punch, a correct positioning of the foot, will optimise the strike.
Paul teaches with a precision and steers the student to the peak of his or her capabilities, constantly keeping us in tune with an authentic Tai Chi Chuan. And within this traditional style of teaching, Paul manages to maintain compassion towards the students limitations, be they physical or emotional, and is able to work with this while still pushing us just further than we thought capable.
I believe that the quality and understanding of Tai Chi as a martial art is what optimises the healing qualities of Tai Chi Chuan. Paul pushes the students to the absolute peak of our capabilities, maximising our potential for robust physical health and emotional well being. He works way beyond the call of duty, spending time visiting students who are low, providing a zen therapy for nothing but the well being of his student.
He is a rare teacher and if I didn't live in Lancaster I would move here just for this class."
"I have been a student of Paul's now for almost 2 years, and I intend on remaining so for many years to come.
Paul is an excellent teacher with a true passion for martial arts, Tai Chi Chuan in particular. He has an in-depth knowledge of Tai Chi and the martial principles and applications that go with it. Even when demonstrating a basic technique you can see Paul's skills as a martial artist shine through, along with the many hours of practice needed to attain that level of skill. The beauty of training with Paul is that he truly cares about his students and their progress as martial artists and also in their personal and spiritual development.
Paul is warm and approachable yet still embodies the discipline and high standards he expects from his students. He has frequently lent me books and DVDs on Tai Chi to further my understanding and development. He is always willing to talk and help or advise you with any questions or problems both in and out of class. I have found Paul to be a true teacher and trusted friend.
Through Paul's classes I have not only learned to fight, punch and kick, I have overcome a chronic illness which I had suffered for 5 years previously. I have become stronger both physically and mentally. I have grown spiritually. I have become much more confident in my own abilities yet humble at the same time. I have found Tai Chi to be a whole new way of life. I am content and happy. No longer restlessly looking for something else to do. I have found myself, or as my wife so truly said "When I see an old photo of you I just see half of you. Now you are the full you." For this I cannot thank Paul enough.
I would fully recommend Paul's Tai Chi classes to anybody with a desire to learn this beautiful art as it was meant to be taught."
"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."
"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!"
"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.
"My name is Tim Swarbrick and i've been at the Lancaster School of Tai Chi Chuan for about a year and a half now. My background is in Black Tiger Claw Kung Fu and Jiu Jitsu in which I still train.
A friend had recommended Paul's club to me as a good place to train in Lancaster and on meeting Paul by chance, I decided to go down and give it a go although i'd no knowledge of Tai Chi.
I realise looking back that for some time due to some changes in my martial arts system, i'd been looking for something else to add to my general training, something deeper. A lot of the way i'd been used to training relied on me going all out. It wasn't necessarily how i'd been trained, my teachers previously had been highly regarded, skilled instructors in their systems, it's just that "crash, bang, wallop" had worked for me and I still think sometimes there's a place for that.
On starting the first class at Paul's I found it was just what i'd been looking for: great warm up, then on to applications of techniques and forms with lots of emphasis on correct balance, footwork, body mechanics and above all, basics. Doing slow, deliberate practice showed up faults i'd probably had for years and helped to address them. I found from week to week something more to work on, particularly in the bouncy, elastic energy Paul referred to as "peng".
It's hard to describe but during martial arts practice, or real life come to that, there's a way of doing a block or strike just right while staying relaxed with no brute strength involved. Suddenly your training partner goes spinning off or crashes to the mat and you seem to have done next to nothing! That's the use of "peng". This is central to the training in Tai Chi at Paul's club.
We all have days when no matter how we try a particular technique it doesn't go right. The harder you try the worse it gets. Then on another lesson you almost seem to disengage your brain, relax and... "pow" it works! "Peng" again.
Training at Paul's isn't easy but it's very rewarding. Practicing Tai Chi forms without training in the full on application would be hollow practice. You get the full deal at this club. The attention to detail he shows his students is second to none. As a result your improved balance and well rooted stances help you achieve, or get closer to, the correct use of peng energy. This i'm sure is a lifetime journey and you find the practice at Tai Chi seeps into your everyday life.
Finally I would recommend anyone from any school of martial arts to train with Paul. I'm sure you would find it improves the practice of your own style and your quality of life."
"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!"
"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 learned 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!"
"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
"Tai Chi is a living art of the mind and body. It is remarkable for its health benefits but also as a means of self protection. That is not to say it's a tool that is used but rather it is an all-encompassing way of thinking, moving and doing.
I came to Tai Chi already with a martial background and am constantly impressed with how effective, practical, powerful, efficient and logical it is. I discovered that previous experience of any other style is not required as it is unique and - although certainly potentially devastating - it emphasises calm, clarity and a gentleness designed to maintain focus and wellbeing.
This is not an "angry" offensive style nor is it a fanciful one of flying leaps and jumping spinning roundhouse kicks etc. It teaches you to breathe properly, to walk correctly, to listen attentively, to expand awareness, to be calm and to be kind to those you encounter.
It aids with co-ordination and confidence, perspective and posture, stress and stamina and is an intrinsic reward which is difficult to express unless experienced. It can be viewed simply as a form of exercise or as a means of meditation or as a style of self-defence but it is so much more and I found it to be all and more than I was expecting.
I've been privileged to train with a myriad of highly competent martial artists through the years and count myself very lucky to be in Paul's class under his tutelage and proud to call him an exceptional teacher and friend.
There is no generic syllabus or colourful grading system and each class is tailored differently. Paul recognises the potential in all of his students and commits a huge amount of himself and time to bring out the best in all those willing to practice and learn. This is not a disposable skill, it is a way of thinking, doing and being (I find the breathing especially useful when stuck in traffic, for example!)
Paul has a deep knowledge and understanding of the history and philosophy of that which he perpetually practices and a true respect of the tradition and benefits of the art. He has an approachable manner and not only can he demonstrate what should be done but can articulate the "how" and "why" in a clear and concise fashion.
I fully recommend his classes no matter what size, shape, age you may be as you'll always come away having improved a little."
"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 whose 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.
"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 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 occured 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."
"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."
"I've been training under the tutelage of Paul Florkowski for approaching a year now; he is the first teacher of martial art who has been able to inspire my faith and trust as a student. I come from a sporting background of amateur boxing as a teen and later, a full time racing cyclist until stopping due to injury.
After being recommended Paul by a friend I initially began Tai Chi hoping it may aid my rehabilitation. Immediately I realised that this class was different and certainly not what one would expect considering Tai Chi's image in the general public. Paul's teachings emphasise fluidity and are all very intuitive, the type of things our bodies naturally would do if only we were to let them. As a result there is no forcing the body, no holding of tension and an absence of the rigidity that is all too present in some other Martial Arts.
What I find particularly refreshing about Paul is the lack of arrogance frequently associated with Martial Arts instructors instead he encourages questions and welcomes suggestions, accepting that there may be more effective alternatives. Paul's Tai Chi has not let go of the fact that ultimately it is a Martial Art and the application of learned techniques is critical to the understanding of the forms.
For me Tai Chi has gone from a tool to reach an objective to an important part of my life in its own right and I wholeheartedly recommend it and particularly Paul."
"Paul offers something that I have found to be rare, a Tai Chi class that manages to be both grounded
and practical. I have been training with Paul for almost three years, and have found his class to be
an enormous support in my life during this time. Paul and his class, which includes the fabulous
group of people who attend it, have helped me to become more grounded in my life, improved my
health and helped me to gain greater confidence to deal with life's challenges. I feel that the style in
which Paul teaches Tai Chi enables his students to develop practical and effective self defence skills
in a timely manner, which is something I have found less prevailing in the other Tai Chi classes I have attended.
His class incorporates meditative elements, including practice of breathing and
Qi Gong, but delivers it in a grounded and non airy fairy manner. Paul also teaches an applications
class for those who wish to train at a higher intensity, which includes practice of both hard (Karate
style) and soft (Tai Chi) applications.
People that have a genuine interest in the study of martial
arts will be hard pressed not to benefit from time spent training with Paul; his deep commitment to
his martial practice and to his students learning makes him a rare treasure to those seeking tuition
in Tai Chi.
Since moving away from Lancaster, I continue to travel to his class due to the value I
feel it contributes to my life. I have witnessed a wide range of personality types, including people
new to learning martial arts to those that have committed many years of their life to its study
benefit from attending Paul's class and am grateful for the rich culture this brings to the class. I
am also appreciative of the benefits I have reaped from having Paul as a teacher and the continued
opportunities this offers me in my life."