Faisal Ahmed Mian: Wu Shi Taiji Quan & Qi Gong Association senior instructor

10 Sep

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  An early love of punk – but a tendency to end up in trouble at the hands of racist gig goers – led Islington-born Faisal Ahmed Mian to improve his self-defence skills. But when he found Wu Shi Taiji Quan and Qi Gong he was hooked – learning not just a martial art but also a Taoist philosophy for life. Here he talks about Seven Heavens clinic in Finsbury Park. Interview by Nicola Baird

Faisal Ahmed Mian: “Growing up in central London we’d had midlife crises by the time we were 16. I remember when there were no mobile phones and we all had library cards. With the microchip – the world of our childhood was gone.”

Faisal Ahmed Mian: “Growing up in central London we’d had midlife crises by the time we were 16. I remember when there were no mobile phones and we all had library cards. With the microchip – the world of our childhood was gone.” Photo: Ben Porter

Faisal was born in Plimsoll Road “in the bedroom where my mum and dad still sleep,” he says pointing towards the house, which is just a few streets away. Now 40 he’s a specialist martial arts instructor and co-founder, with his brother Awais, of the Seven Heavens Clinic on nearby Blackstock Road. Here Faisal gives treatments and also teaches an ancient form of tai chi.
Faisal Ahmed Mian in action. Faisal holding a light sabre ‘We teach children how to hold light sabres with grace”.

Faisal Ahmed Mian demonstrates light sword (jian): ‘We teach adults and children how to hold light sabres with grace”. Photo by Jonas Rejman.

Tai chi and Qi Gong are tough disciplines – slow and beautiful to watch, but astonishingly rigorous. To learn a movement properly it’s suggested you practice every day for 100 days. “A lot of people disappear because they want short cuts,” explains Faisal sitting cross-legged on the huge mats in his studio, chatting between training sessions. “I tell them the short cut is take a long path.”

Faisal not only works at Seven Heavens seven days a week, he also lives above the clinic with his wife, Saira, and their young sons.

Seven Heavens Clinic and Wu Shi Taiji Quan & Qi Gong Association on Blackstock Road near Finsbury Park.

Seven Heavens Clinic and Wu Shi Taiji Quan & Qi Gong Association on Blackstock Road near Finsbury Park.

Not so long ago it was Faisal’s mum and dad spending long days at the same building. His dad was a travel agent working from the front of 20 Blackstock Road. “My dad grew up on a farm on the border of Pakistan and India and both he and my mum were born before Pakistan was created. I guess that makes them Indian by birth, and raised in Pakistan, but then they have both lived in Britain for more than half their lives,” explains Faisal amused by the difficulty of labelling his family’s nationality.

“Mum has an MBE for services to the community,” he says. “She’d been a teacher before she arrived in London and could see the people arriving in London needed a place to come and talk to each other, so she created the Pakistan Women’s Welfare Association which became a hub for people from south east Asia.”

Over the years his parents had four children – Faisal is the second boy – and so a play school and other activities for school kids were added.

Faisal remembers playing in the spot he now teaches just as well as getting down to homework. He clearly worked hard as he speaks English, Urdu and bits of Punjabi and Hindi.

Life lessons
As Faisal is now a super fit martial arts expert it’s a surprise to find out that as a child he was not very active. “I was kept indoors because I had allergies and hay fever. My headmaster at Poole’s Park Primary used to play chess with me. I didn’t get to do football. But at Highbury Grove I was thrown into judo classes in Year 7.” He enjoyed them, but the funding ran out by Year 8 so his mum then sent him to karate at the Sobell Centre. He also tried fencing, not giving that up until he was about 20.

After Highbury Grove Faisal studied astrophysics at UCL. Although he didn’t finish the degree it left an interesting legacy – he’s recently built a space ship simulator in his attic.

“I left university to join a rock band, Lux. We had a great time,” explains Faisal joking that he doesn’t remember much about his time on the road with his mates, although the band did star at one of the early Plimsoll Road street parties. The rock star tours may be over but Faisal still has his electric sax and occasionally plays it when the Seven Heavens clinic and studio is empty. “I prefer an audience of angels and insects,” he jokes.

In a way it’s music that inspired his career. “We’d turn up at punk gigs and though punks were anti-Fascist there were hard core white supremacist groups too,” and the result could be trouble. “My friends said they weren’t prepared to have me along unless I did martial arts. That’s when Awais said ‘Let’s go and do tai chi’. We bumped into Michael Acton who was a disciple of Dr Li-Qun of Shangai who showed us, but he also encouraged us to be ourselves. It’s a Taoist art [sometimes described as meditation in movement] offering a gateway to a whole bunch of concepts sorely needed in the world.”

Michael has a way with words,” says Faisal who has a similar gift. “He talks about the state of ‘quiescence’ which allows you to find the eye of the storm in your own internal dialogue. It’s a way to stop thinking and to listen to the birds in the trees and the wind rustling – a sacred state.”

20140901_170658

Lara’s next door to Seven Heavens clinic is an unofficial waiting room – but it also serves fabulous drinks and food which can be enjoyed in a cosy garden or the cafe.

Places Faisal likes in Islington

K Food Store - recommended local halal butcher.

K Food Store – recommended local halal butcher.

Lara’s next door has lots of healthy food and she functions as our waiting room. Patients go there before and after – they even give our clients a discount. Lara’s, 16 Blackstock Road, N4, tel: 0207 226 5456, or facebook.

“I send anyone who needs medical supplies or supplements to Thoia at the Park Pharmacy.” Park Pharmacy, 286 Seven Sisters Road, N4, tel: 0208 800 0786

Brother Sulaymen at Hamid Butchers (K Food Store) cuts meat so well! I tell him his hands are blessed. He went to school with my little brother and played football at my mum’s community centre.

“I like the village mentality in Finsbury Park.”

 

Lidl is popular in Finsbury Park because it is cheap and sells an eclectic range of food.

Lidl is popular in Finsbury Park because it is cheap and sells an eclectic range of food.

“Because I’m so active at work when I relax I like to sit down and watch films with big tubs of ice cream from Lidl. I’m glad there’s a cheap shop like Lidl for our family shopping, we couldn’t afford to eat otherwise! But I do remember when it was a pram, toy and bike shop – it’s where my Mum and Dad got all our Eid presents.”

 

The clinic
Seven Heavens clinic has been open for 10 years now and has plenty of regulars needing remedial work as a result of their jobs acting, playing music, dancing or doing stunts, repetitive strain injuries (RSI) are a particular risk. “The ones who keep their careers realise they are a bit like a race car – a finely tuned machine that needs to go into the workshop every 2,000 miles. I explain it’s not the service that matters it’s how the car is driven properly and how to prevent the issues arising in the first place,” explains Faisal.

However good a healer he is, it’s clear that tai chi is Faisal’s passion and he’s able to pass basic skills on to anyone – whether they are patients at St Joseph’s Hospice needing to stretch stiff limbs or his young sons letting off steam.

“Some patients may be terminal, but a martial art gives peace – it helps people not to think. We’re all children of the information age and our biggest problem is that people cannot see the wood for the trees.”

His winning trick for youngsters is to use Starwars style light sabres. “Starwars draws on oriental philosophy,” says Faisal “the Jedi’s are the sages of ancient China and the Muslims of the Medina. They are selfless souls. We are trying to teach children how to meditate. Rather than force feed a religion we give them the opportunity to realise through their own experiences.”

Faisal, together with Awais, has given many public demonstrations. At the recent Plimsoll Road summer street parties (2014) long, sharp Jian swords were used (see photo above). If you are lucky and have seen Faisal show off his unique expertise then you may be tempted to watch a short film that’s recently been made featuring him, see here, http://youtu.be/58xB2b2VCHI. But tai chi isn’t just for the watching – so if you are tempted to have a go yourself, why not pop into the Seven Heavens studio and join one of Faisal’s classes?

Seven Heavens studio and clinic is open seven days a week. Find it at 20 Blackstock Road, N4, tel: 0207 704 2777. There is space for a few spectators to watch sparring practice on 20 and 27 September 2014. Or visit the website.

Watch this short film starring Faisal.

Words*
Faisal teaches Tai Chi and Qi Gong to supplement treatments as a complete system for health maintenance and stress management. The martial arts syllabus is Wu Shi Taiji Quan and includes the traditional weapon forms and the original fast form (Kwai Quan).

Over to you
Would you like to nominate someone to be interviewed? Or would you like to write a guest post for this blog? If the answer is yes for either question, please email nicolabaird.green@gmail.com

If you’d like to feature on this blog, or make a suggestion about anyone who grew up, lives or works in Islington please let me know, via nicolabaird.green@gmail.com. Thank you. 

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right), @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or jobs to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

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One Response to “Faisal Ahmed Mian: Wu Shi Taiji Quan & Qi Gong Association senior instructor”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Nicolette Jones: plimsolls for #plimsollday | Islington Faces Blog - January 13, 2016

    […] You may also like to read about house research in Plimsoll Road, see http://islingtonfacesblog.com/2014/09/03/michael-hayle-house-detective/ or stories about growing up in Plimsoll Road (and now working very close to it), see http://islingtonfacesblog.com/2014/09/10/faisal-ahmed-mian-wu-shi-taiji-quan-qi-gong-association-sen… […]

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