Sifu Terence Nicholson is a 20-year practitioner of Chinese Martial Arts and a 19th Generation Disciple of the Wudang Longmen (Dragon's Gate) lineage. We asked Terence to share his thoughts on all things martial arts, from misconceptions to pet peeves, plus a few fun facts that might surprise you. Read on!
DC area tenure?
Most of my life. It’s easier to say that I have not been in DC for 2 years.
How did you first get into martial arts?
Well, I was traveling abroad with a jazz group and the leader of the band was a Kung Fu movie buff, and he would play all of these Kung Fu movies on the tour bus. After a few weeks, I said, “you know, when we get back to DC, I’m going to go to Chinatown and learn Kung Fu.” And that’s how I got into it. I didn’t expect it to stick, but I ended up really falling in love with it.
What do you look for in a Sifu (teacher)?
I’ve only had two. When the time came for me to look for another teacher, it just happened that that Grandmaster Xiaoling Liu was teaching. I sat there and watched him teach all of his classes for two days. Mainly what I was looking for was a teacher with an understanding of applications of the movement and someone who wasn’t too far removed from the lineage. So when I was watching Xiaoling Liu, I knew that what I was looking at was something special.
What's a common misconception about martial arts?
Well, one of the biggest misconceptions is that people call it all Karate, which is disrespectful towards Karate as well as the other martial arts. The principles of each kind of intersect, but there’s very different characteristics and flavors to them all. One misconception people have about Kung Fu specifically is that it’s all about beating somebody up, myself included when I first started. My reasons are different now. Actual physical combat is the lowest form of martial arts, and a good martial artist knows how to avoid that at all costs.
What do you wish people knew about your classes?
It just makes your body feel so much better on the inside. I’m really convinced it adds years to your life. That’s what excites me about it and why I wish more people would explore it.
Do you have any Tai Chi etiquette pet peeves?
Loosen up. Don’t be so tight. My other thought is that, sometimes for people who have previous martial arts training, it can be a challenge for them because in what we’re doing, so much emphasis is on softness. You don’t train hard, you train soft.
What would you say to students who think they aren’t "doing Tai Chi right?"
I would say, “don’t worry about it.” It’s a continuum and no matter what, it’s always just practice anyway.
What would your last meal be?
Oh boy! Honestly, I’d have to say tiramisu.
What was your first concert?
What’s your favorite part of fall?
My favorite part of fall is when I’m walking down the street and - hopefully no one’s looking - when leaves fall, I like to try to snatch them out of the air before they hit the ground. I like to be in Rock Creek Park and just catch the leaves.
What is something that might surprise people to learn about you?
I’m always having to work on my confidence. I do things to throw myself in front of groups of people as a means to come out of that. When performing with the band (Thaylobleu), if there’s hundreds of people, I’m way more comfortable than if there’s 30 people.
What's your patronus?
See that varies from day to day, but not a lot of different ones. Sometimes I feel like a lion, and other times I kinda feel like…well, maybe it’s mostly a lion. There’s an animal that I love that people don’t know a lot called a fossa. In Madagascar, it’s a mid-sized animal that has a dog-like face, a long tail like a monkey, and paws like a jaguar, and they’re the fiercest predator because of their versatility. Nobody can get away from them. I really love those, and tigers.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Stay teachable. There is entirely too much to learn to ever even pretend that you know so much. It’s always served me well, to the extent that I can practice it, to try to stay in a student position.
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