Ronnie Robinson died on Friday, March 11th 2016 after a short, severe illness at the age of 63. Ronnie was a pioneer of Taijiquan and Qigong in Europe. His Tai Chi Caledonia, a Taijiquan and Qigong exchange meeting, celebrated its 20th anniversary in summer 2015. Ronnie was an active participant of almost all European exchange meetings of the last decade, both as a teacher and a journalist. For years, he has been the most active networker of the European Taijiquan and Qigong scene and a committed volunteer in different positions both in the TCUGB and in the TCFE. Ronnie published 49 issues of the “Tai Chi Chuan & Oriental Arts Magazine”. – These are but the essential points of his Taiji biography; in less than a few hours hundreds of people from around the globe condoled via Facebook.
Ronnie’s death leaves a huge gap in the European Taijiquan and Qigong landscape.
The 21st Tai Chi Caledonia will take place from July 8th to July 15th 2016 in Stirling, Scotland; it will be organised by Ronnie’s team. It was Ronnie’s wish that this event should be carried on after his death.
Here you will find obituaries by Nils Klug, Bob Lowey, Luigi Zanini, Helmut Oberlack, Faye and Tarry Yip, Al Scott, Cornelia Gruber, Franziska Rüscher, Alison Gardner, Serge Dreyer, Isabelle Boitiere, Scott Chaplowe, Dominique Robin and Heather Budge.
Ronnie and me got to know each other in 2001. From the very beginning Ronnie was an active supporter of the idea of the 1st International Push Hands Meeting in 2001, also giving a workshop there. We quickly became friends. In the course of the years a friendship grew which went far beyond professional ties. Together, we traveled to many meetings in Italy, France, the UK, Germany, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. In close collaboration, we set up the Taiji Europa project and worked intensively for the linking-up of practitioners of Tajijquan, Qigong and other Chinese (movement) arts. I will miss Ronnie’s hearty, direct Scottish way and his humour. Once more I would like to express my deep compassion to his son Paul, Hannah, Nellie and Gabi as well as to Al, Bob, Aileen and his many other friends. At the 16th International Push Hands Meeting in Hanover, the gala and the party on April 9th 2016 were dedicated to Ronnie.
Miss you my friend!
I had some 9 years experience of Chinese Martial Arts study behind me including Taijiquan prior to working overseas. I returned to Scotland in 1981 and my first encounter with Ronnie was through his self published “Essence of Tai Chi Chuan” provided by his then Teacher Larry Butler who I sought out in Glasgow for further teaching. Larry had spoke of him as a shrewd businessman who had organised health festivals throughout Glasgow and who also teaches Taiji. Eventually we met at a class Larry had organised and my first impressions of him were one of an abrupt pain in the butt that needs sorting out! This was to change however. We met on several other occasions thereafter, mainly at workshops organised by Larry and “clicked” at one in particular – the Lawrence Galante workshop in Glasgow. Ronnie’s sardonic perspective of the chap had me in stitches after the event and I thought yep – this guy has a similar humour as I. Years went past very quickly after this with much collaboration in events. Ronnie had certain a way of people in ways you don’t expect – he had me as a bloody detective come body guard at a few of his “Connections Festivals” – unpaid I may add! But that was Ronnie and I’m not even going into what some of you poor sods ate in the early years of Tai Chi Caledonia. Tai Chi Caledonia came about after I had a meeting with old “moneybags” Robinson (He did have shrewd business sense)… Continue reading Obituary by Bob Lowey
Ronnie Robinson, Caledonia’s wizard
Now that Ronnie Robinson is not any longer here with us, it strikes me even more evidently the importance of his contribution to the development of Taijiquan and Qigong in Europe. Caledonia has been an excellent vehicle for helping people meeting and sharing, for the promotion and the evolution of our arts, and for the social impact the event had. I would like to remember here Ronnie the way I knew him, the way I lived the Tai Chi Caledonia experience, starting from the first edition until the twentieth anniversary. And when I talk about Caledonia, I really mean Ronnie, since they were the same thing in the end.
We met twenty years ago somewhere in Europe. After having seen the “Rencontres Jasnieres” in France, organized by Serge Dreyer, Bob Lowey and Ronnie decided that they wanted to replicate such an event in Scotland. Ronnie was teaching Qigong at that time, he had just opened his own company, Chiron, and started his new career as a teacher in Qigong and Taijiquan and selling books. I remember still the genuine enthusiasm for this new adventure, they really wanted to start a new era in Scotland. And they made it.
When the Caledonia project started, we were in the mid ’90s, and the world was quite different from what we know today. Twenty years ago there was no common use of emails, only fax. Mails and telegrams were made of paper, and the global communication was one way: television. Mobile phones were few and expensive, and you could only talk or message, nothing more. Communication was much slower and more local then today. Time was slower. It was a much less connected world, no images and sounds in real time. To start a new business project like this, you had to be a real pioneer inside, investing youself, money and work, ready to go forward no matter what, against all odds.
In the beginning Caledonia had two souls, one yin and one yang: one was Bob Lowey, the man of music, of laugh, of confidence. The other was Ronnie, the man of numbers, organization and decisions. As it happens, at one point the Caledonia Brothers separated, Ronnie took the drive, but luckily enough Bob managed to remain somehow always present in Caledonia with his music, his classes and his jokes. To me the two of them have been always equally important for the balance of the event…Continue reading Obituary by Luigi Zanini
Ronnie – a friend.
Without Taiji or Qigong I would probably never have met Ronnie, I guess the same applies to most of us. We met at a large pan-European Taiji and Qigong convention in Hungary, just before the end of the last millennium. I was there to represent the German Taijiquan and Qigong Network, he was there because he was involved in the Tai Chi Union. It didn’t take long for us to click. Ronnie had the gift of getting on well with people, and people warmed to him quickly. It probably took me a little longer – but only because I struggled with his Scottish accent at first…
In 2000 I invited him to a convention hosted by the Taijiquan and Qigong Network in Germany. Gabi was working in the Network’s office at the time, and this is where she met Ronnie. – And not long after, the Taijiquan and Qigong Network had to find a new person to run the office
Thus Ronnie acquired two stepchildren, and a little later he and Gabi also had a child together. He loved being a stepdad and a dad, and he put a lot of energy into these roles.
Ronnie and I kept in touch as we were both editors of a magazine about Taijiquan and Qigong – Ronnie in the UK, me in Germany. He was always extremely helpful. I can’t tell you how many photos he contributed for printing from his massive archive, some of which even made it to the magazine’s cover. Whenever there was anything I needed, he would help me, even when time was short. That was just what he did.
We became very good friends. I have fond memories of his stays with Tamara and me. One winter he brought Paul with him to our house. It was a proper winter, and the two had a wonderful time building a snowman in our garden. He thought we had more snow than he had ever seen in Scotland!
Of course Tamara and I also went on several trips to Tai Chi Caledonia. For us it was always the best type of Taiji meetings: the great instructors, the relaxed atmosphere, the lovely Scots, and it was also always a great opportunity to catch up with Ronnie.
Fortunately we also managed to attend the last one, the 20th anniversary convention. He had put so much work into preparing this convention, and had planned everything in great detail. We had also never seen him this tense before – not really surprising under the circumstances. And still, despite the stressful situation and the minor glitches that occurred, his sense of humour, his warmth and his empathy for everyone were evident throughout. The thing that impressed me most was the gala. Ronnie in a kilt on the big stage! Everything was brilliantly arranged and choreographed. Only the video clips didn’t quite work as intended, but he just took it in his stride, with his typical Scottish humour. In a way the glitches made the event even more memorable. Maybe he actually put them in intentionally? This particular Caledonia, planned with so much passion (as of course were all the previous ones), was his masterpiece. With Ronnie’s passing the Taiji and Qigong community in Europe has lost the person who held us all together. And I personally have lost a good friend. I am sure I’m not alone in this. Ronnie, rest in peace, you’ll always stay in our hearts.
FAYE & TARY YIP
A small tribute to our friend Ronnie:
We are greatly saddened to hear that our good friend, Ronnie Robinson has passed away. We are still in disbelief that only last year Ronnie was full of life and we talked, laughed and joked in Tai Chi Caledonia when we were celebrating it’s 20th anniversary. Life is so precious and yet so fragile!
We have known Ronnie for more than 20 years, through the years his dedication and tireless effort in promoting Tai Chi and Qigong in the UK and Europe inspired many Tai Chi Teachers and practitioners.
Tai Chi Caledonia has provided a fantastic platform for world famous Tai Chi Teachers and rising talents in the field to reach out to Tai Chi and Qigong enthusiasts all over the world, bringing Tai Chi & Qigong family together without borders. This could not have been achieved without Ronnie’s fantastic organising acumen, great people skill and sheer dedication.
He might not have been a smooth talker or great diplomat, but his earnestness, love and passion for Tai Chi has touched us all. Not only did Ronnie promoted Tai Chi & Qigong tirelessly throughout Europe, we also worked together so he could provide Tai Chi enthusiasts the real opportunity of travelling to China, the land of Tai Chi to learn and exchange Tai Chi.
Ronnie’s contribution to Tai Chi & Qigong is immense and invaluable and we are sure, like us, Tai Chi teachers, enthusiasts and players, who have known him, worked with him or taken part in activities he organised are grateful for the platform he provided and his achievement in making Tai Chi and Tai Chi Caledonia a great place for friendship and enjoyment.
We sincerely hope his legacy will live on through Tai Chi Caledonia and Tai Chi Magazine. May you rest in peace, our friend and enjoy a happy afterlife in the Garden of Eden and in the arms of God.
Greatest respects from our hearts
Ronnie, The Friend I Knew
It is my great privilege to contribute some words about my very good friend Ronnie Robinson.
I first met Ronnie at the third Tai Chi Caledonia, the first one to be held on the Stirling University campus. I remember on the last night I bought him and Bob Lowey a drink. It was nothing personal, I just wanted to say thanks to them for providing the chance to attend such an awesome week which had opened my eyes to how much was out there in the world of internal arts.
From what I have seen and heard over the years I am not alone in having such an experience and to have been able to not only maintain, but continuously improve, that initial standard speaks volumes for the man and his commitment, Bob having had to step back some years ago as a result of work priorities. As the years went on I got to know Ronnie extremely well and in recent years we often travelled together to events in Europe. As well as having the privilege of meeting some of the many wonderful friends in various countries he had made on his travels, this has given me an insight into how he worked.
The original idea for Cally, as it’s affectionately known, arose from Ronnie and Bob’s attendance, not at a single workshop in Italy or somewhere, but from Serge Dreyer’s annual Rencontres Jasnieres gathering at Marcon in France. The first Caledonia was in a glorified hut in the highlands and the second in a castle in Argyll! Improvements already! However, having settled on the more accessible and comfortable base in Stirling Yoonie Ronnie and Bob focused on bringing to Scotland instructors of a high standard… Continue reading Obituary by Al Scott
Ronnie and I have been crossing paths all over Europe since the late nineties . He has been one of my joys that come with family meetings, be it at the occasion of a forum, of a competition or of any taichi/qigong gathering. At all of those meetings Ronnie was always full of ideas and intiatives feeding into the European Taichi scene. His total committment to the art and the way he expressed it through the careful editing of the Tai Chi magazine and the fabulous organisation of Tai Chi Caledonia as well as his
very important input in the TCFE make him a key figure in the European Tai Chi and Qigong circle. I only have one regret with regards to this, and that is the fact that we do not have an extensive interview with Ronnie to add to all the important interviews he did with contemporary Tai Chi celebrities! Because his rightful place is right up there with the stars of the Tai Chi / Qigong community.
Besides the tremendous work he did for the art he also impressed me again and again with his very strong character and the way he just was himself at all times. Ronnie was always Ronnie – no playing phony games. He was true to himself in his fights as well as in his love – he dedicated to each a proper time. I was one of his fighting partners on more than one occasion and everytime we found our way back to our underlying loving friendship in a short time. His heart was such that he could easy turn to positive thinking when things went the wrong way.
I’ll miss his swearing as much as his jokes – sometimes those two things were interchangeable in Ronnies words.
I am so happy to know that his last years have been rewarding to Ronnie and compensating his dedicated work and also his spiritual practice. Many of his dreamshave come through – even such trivial ones as his fancy TAO mobile in the form of a Mercedes, the success of an unforgettable celebration of 20 years Tai Chi Caledonia, his election to the position of Chairman in the TCFE.
In the last few days of his life I had a visit at the hospital with a very tired Ronnie, aware of his terminal condition and still: he was himself with a joke, with a smile on the photos we took together but also with a very transparent tenderness. It is that tenderness of his that touched me deeply.
Thank you, Ronnie, for your friendship.
When I visited Ronnie in January 2016, I felt that I would never meet him again in this body. To say goodbye is one thing, the goodbye forever another.
When leaving the hospital feelings arise like being lonely, letting go, to let it be, but also thoughts about dying, death and what happens afterwards. All the material things suddenly fade in the face of death. The present moment is big, the veil to the other side transparent. Love remains … and memories.
I met Ronnie in August 2011 at North Sea Taichi Festival. From this time on he was a very good friend of mine. We both love Qigong and Taiji Quan, so there was always something to speak about. His „Scottish character“, to say things forthright and straight forward was not always easy to handle. He got very bothered about unjust and unbalanced situations which led to many discussions between us.
In his circle of friends, we often laughed about his habit of forgetting important things everywhere. On one of his travels he forgot his passport on the train, he forgot his laptop on the plane, leaving his camera on the shore of a mountain lake … and then he laughed at himself.
I remember the 20th Tai Chi Caledonia in summer 2015. For this organization he gave everything. It was a fantastic festival – unforgettable. That it was his last, makes it even more memorable. In the same year he was also elected as Chairman of the TCFE, and began with enthusiasm and idealism to fill this position.
The announcement of his illness reached me before Christmas 2015. Ronnie is gone his last way very upright – with a Scottish braveheart. May he be free.
In silent remembrance.
If it weren’t for John Johnstone, Ronnie and T’ai Chi who knows what I would be doing now. They boosted my confidence when it was rock-bottom and helped my life and career to take a completely different path. There are so many places I’ve been, things I’ve done and wonderful people I’ve met, both through T’ai Chi and the charities I’ve ended up working for over the past thirteen years that wouldn’t be in my life without Ronnie in particular.
Yes he could be grumpy, yes his propensity for changing arrangements at the last minute at T’ai Chi Caledonia drove me nuts sometimes but he was also funny, caring, generous, sensitive and, dare I say it really rather humble. When he was in hospital he expressed amazement at all the cards and good wishes he was receiving. I think he would be totally overwhelmed at the feelings of love and admiration for him that have been expressed by students and friends old and new over the last few weeks.
One of the things I admired most in Ronnie as a teacher was his enthusiasm for his students working with other people. I have heard of some instructors for whom it was “it’s my way or the highway”. That was so not Ronnie. T’ai Chi Caledonia is the perfect example of this. He was always looking to develop his own skills and actively encouraged us to do the same. He had an uncanny knack for identifying the most skilled and approachable practitioners from not only Europe, but beyond and so many T’ai Chi players have benefitted from him bringing them to Scotland over the last twenty years.
Ronnie’s energy and enthusiasm for T’ai Chi has been truly inspiring and the T’ai Chi community owes him a great debt for all that he has done over the past thirty plus years. His legacy will live on, however, not only in the form of his beloved son Paul and step-daughters Hannah and Nellie, but also in his students and their students and in the many deep friendships that have been made in his classes and at Caledonia.
Rest easy Ronnie and thank you for being you.
When I met Ronnie for the first time in the Rencontres Jasnières I didn’t realize he was a factory of energy walking on two legs. I’ve have met all kind of people by organizing the RJ but few have been so dedicated to make people of all walk of life get together in Europe around their common passion, taiji quan and qigong. I don’t think any federation has granted him a diploma certifying him as a “master”, a title which make so many teachers of taiji quan and qigong desperately panting. Anyway, he will not need this diploma where he is now but he got something much more precious, our recognition and affection.
Some of you probably know this joke: “Ever wonder why there’s a stairway to heaven but a highway to hell. More traffic on hell”. We’ll, I’m pretty sure that Ronnie is not bothered by traffic.
With Ronnie, the communication was not so easy, because as he told me once “sorry I forgot you don’t speak Scottish !”
Nevertheless, we share the same passions, so many good memories, so many Jasnières, Caledonia, Tai-Chi Tcho, competitions…
Despite his high level of practice, he never behaved like a proud master, but rather like joker child, and I appreciate the most his sense of humor (Scottish humor !).
Cornelia said he’s still making jokes. I’m not surprised !
I wish him farewell, and wait for us. I hope we’ll do some tuishou in paradise !
I met Ronnie in 2008, of course at a Tai Chi meeting. Since that dayand during the many years of our friendship and collaboration, I have come to learn that he was not only a great professional and lover of our discipline, but also and mostly a great person. And even if we are all moved by his loss, we can find comfort in thinking that his strength and his passion will always remain in our memories and in our hearts, as well as in all his important and remarkable work.
I first met and got to know Ronnie at Rencontres Jasnieres, playing tai chi on the grass, singing along with Bob, and trading stories and jokes. His knowledge of tai chi and amazing networking skills for the tai chi community will be missed. Indeed, he will be missed in many ways because he developed meaningful relationships with people, and I feel luck to have stumbled into the web. But he has left much of himself and will remain with us in many ways.
Ronnie is and will always be one of the Three Scottish Treasures in my tai chi and qiqong landscape.
I had the honour to meet him many times in Jasnières and to be introduced to Qigong by him with the Wild Goose in Denmark during the European Tai Chi competion.
I remember how hard it was to understand Ronnie’s accent when I first met him but he was always prone to repeat with his great sense of humour, having the R rolling in his mouth. How many giggles we had in his joking company during the camps’ evenings!
His high experience in pushing hands and his graceful practice of qigong was so enjoyable. His last performance in Jasnières was just fantastic.
Last time I’ve seen Ronnie I discovered what a great cooker he was too. It was just before Chrismas 2014 in Glasgow, I could not imagine it was last time I would have seen him.
We’ll all miss you Mr Robinson. I feel blessed I could meet you in this life.
With gratitude and love.
A Tribute to Ronnie Robinson: a man who forged his own niche, and lived life.
Whenever he looked at me, I always felt like a rabbit in the headlights. Transfixed to the spot, the thoughts would race through my mind. “Am I standing properly? Are my shoulders down? Where is my weight? Am I looking in the right direction?” Am I relaxed? Few students would answer ‘yes’ to the last question when this teacher of such stature, caught you in his gaze. I had been a pupil of Ronnie Robinson’s for about a year before attending my first Tai Chi Caledonia. I joined a 45 minute class of novices run by Bob Lowey. To get an idea of everyone’s level, Bob asked us to begin by just doing a little bit of the form we were learning. At one point, he pulled me out in front of the class saying, “That’s good. Do that move again.” I obliged. “Who’s your teacher?” he asked. “Ronnie.” I squeaked. “ Oh, Christ! That explains it.” He said. Ronnie had an inner spirituality that loved nature and the outdoors. His quick sharp mind was lucid, analytical, inventive and intuitive. A man of many eclectic interests from cooking to photography, technology, music and current affairs, his impressive knowledge and constant interest and appetite for continual learning, along with a wonderful, Aberdonian grown, sense of humour in all things, made him good company, a vibrant conversationalist and an impassioned writer. Of course, we all know of the huge achievements Ronnie’s advanced expertise, deep understanding and endless endeavours have made in the Tai Chi world. He was also a modest, highly respected teacher and, rather like Chen Man-Ching, taught Tai Chi as a Tao, a way of life, but in a realistic, modern, very practical and down to earth fashion. A consummate professional and good judge of character who did not suffer fools, he could be patient and understanding with plenty of amusing anecdotes. However, he did not lavish praise. If you didn’t hear from him you knew you were doing ok, because you certainly heard if you were not reproducing the form to the best of your current level of ability, with such phrases as “Well, it’s not entirely mince” when observing ones attempts. I am not sure that all his students understood this trait intended as humour, but in my opinion, it is simply that he worked hard for his art, and expected the same of others, because the better it’s done the stronger the benefit. When praise was given, it felt rewarding because you knew you had earned it. Ronnie was also an excellent father and step-dad, always loving and so proud of his son. Never happy if they were apart, and always spending as much time as possible with him. From the American film “It’s a Wonderful Life” (Ronnie’s Christmas Favourite) we learn that one life touches so many others. Never truer than with regard to Ronnie Robinson, who influenced, inspired and gave a new, healthier lease of life to a multitude of students, myself included. The Tai Chi night will be long and dark without him, we must use our many happy memories to pull us through.
Kalligraphy by Wang Ning
Author: Taiji Forum
Images: Nils Klug and others