Estimated reading time:8 minutes, 51 seconds
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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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 not only works at Seven Heavens seven days a week, he also lives above the clinic with his wife, Saira, and their young sons.
Not so long ago it was Faisal‚Äôs mum and dad spending long days at the same building. His dad was a travel agent working from the front of 20 Blackstock Road. ‚ÄúMy 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,‚ÄĚ explains Faisal amused by the difficulty of labelling his family‚Äôs nationality.
‚ÄúMum has an MBE for services to the community,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúShe‚Äôd 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‚Äôs Welfare Association which became a hub for people from south east Asia.‚ÄĚ
Over the years his parents had four children ‚Äď Faisal is the second boy ‚Äď 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.
As Faisal is now a super fit martial arts expert it‚Äôs a surprise to find out that as a child he was not very active. ‚ÄúI was kept indoors because I had allergies and hay fever. My headmaster at Poole‚Äôs Park Primary used to play chess with me. I didn‚Äôt get to do football. But at Highbury Grove I was thrown into judo classes in Year 7.‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôt finish the degree it left an interesting legacy ‚Äď he‚Äôs recently built a space ship simulator in his attic.
‚ÄúI left university to join a rock band, Lux. We had a great time,‚ÄĚ explains Faisal joking that he doesn‚Äôt 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. ‚ÄúI prefer an audience of angels and insects,‚ÄĚ he jokes.
In a way it‚Äôs music that inspired his career. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôd turn up at punk gigs and though punks were anti-Fascist there were hard core white supremacist groups too,‚ÄĚ and the result could be trouble. ‚ÄúMy friends said they weren‚Äôt prepared to have me along unless I did martial arts. That‚Äôs when Awais said ‚ÄėLet‚Äôs go and do tai chi‚Äô. 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‚Äôs a Taoist art [sometimes described as meditation in movement] offering a gateway to a whole bunch of concepts sorely needed in the world.‚ÄĚ
Michael has a way with words,‚ÄĚ says Faisal who has a similar gift. ‚ÄúHe talks about the state of ‚Äėquiescence‚Äô which allows you to find the eye of the storm in your own internal dialogue. It‚Äôs a way to stop thinking and to listen to the birds in the trees and the wind rustling ‚Äď a sacred state.‚ÄĚ
Places Faisal likes in Islington
‚ÄúLara‚Äôs next door has lots of healthy food and she functions as our waiting room. Patients go there before and after ‚Äď they even give our clients a discount. Lara‚Äôs, 16 Blackstock Road, N4, tel: 0207 226 5456, or facebook.
‚ÄúI send anyone who needs medical supplies or supplements to Thoia at the Park Pharmacy.‚ÄĚ Park Pharmacy, 286 Seven Sisters Road, N4, tel: 0208 800 0786
‚ÄúBrother 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‚Äôs community centre.
“I like the village mentality in Finsbury Park.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúBecause I‚Äôm so active at work when I relax I like to sit down and watch films with big tubs of ice cream from Lidl. I‚Äôm glad there‚Äôs 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 ‚Äď it‚Äôs where my Mum and Dad got all our Eid presents.‚ÄĚ
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. ‚ÄúThe ones who keep their careers realise they are a bit like a race car ‚Äď a finely tuned machine that needs to go into the workshop every 2,000 miles. I explain it‚Äôs not the service that matters it‚Äôs how the car is driven properly and how to prevent the issues arising in the first place,‚ÄĚ explains Faisal.
However good a healer he is, it‚Äôs clear that tai chi is Faisal‚Äôs passion and he‚Äôs able to pass basic skills on to anyone ‚Äď whether they are patients at St Joseph‚Äôs Hospice needing to stretch stiff limbs or his young sons letting off steam.
‚ÄúSome patients may be terminal, but a martial art gives peace ‚Äď it helps people not to think. We‚Äôre all children of the information age and our biggest problem is that people cannot see the wood for the trees.‚ÄĚ
His winning trick for youngsters is to use Starwars style light sabres. ‚ÄúStarwars draws on oriental philosophy,‚ÄĚ says Faisal ‚Äúthe 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.‚ÄĚ
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‚Äôs recently been made featuring him, see here, http://youtu.be/58xB2b2VCHI. But tai chi isn‚Äôt just for the watching ‚Äď so if you are tempted to have a go yourself, why not pop into the Seven Heavens studio and join one of Faisal‚Äôs classes?
Watch this short film starring Faisal.
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).
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