Our teachers are our greatest asset. In any school, and in particular in martial arts schools, nothing makes more difference than the quality, experience and character of the teachers. They are the people who make the school great. We know that a great teacher not only needs to know their Kung Fu, they also have to know how to pass it on to others. They also need a genuine desire to get the best out of their students. We run ongoing teacher training 5 days a week to keep our teachers sharp and motivated because we know that if they are not constantly improving, they are not good enough for our school.
All of our teachers speak fluent English. We do not use translators. They are all used to teaching Westerners.
In our approach to teaching, we emphasise care, kindness, patience and results.
We have 4 levels of instructor:
Master level Instructors are genuine Kung Fu Masters with over 30 years of experience. They are a rare breed indeed. There are not so many around. We are very lucky to have some outstanding international Masters who speak fluent English.
Instructors. Experienced Kung Fu teachers who form the backbone of our teaching team.
Assistant instructors. Less experienced but still very competent teachers.
Not all of the teachers will be present at the Retreat all of the time so we try to make it clear under each teacher’s biography when they will be at the Retreat. The Master level instructors are in high demand internationally and usually have heavy teaching commitments in a number of different countries. Many of the instructors have families and other commitments which prevent them from being at the Retreat all of the time.
Do please note that, in accordance with Kung Fu philosophy, we list our teachers in order of seniority.
Master Level Instructors
Grand Master Tan Soh Tin
A legend in the world of Kung Fu, Grandmaster Tan is one of the world’s leading authorities on old style Shaolin Kung Fu and one of the very few old Chinese Kung Fu Masters to speak fluent English. He has been training in Shaolin kung fu for 66 years now! He was born in Singapore to Chinese parents during the Japanese of world war two and has seen great changes during his lifetime.
Master Tan’s knowledge is an encyclopedia of Kung Fu. More than this, he has the depth of wisdom which is always expected of an old school Kung Fu Master but is seldom found. His patience and approachability make him extremely popular with our students.
Grand Master Tan’s advancing age means that he can not travel as frequently as he used to but he is expected to be teaching at the Kung Fu Retreat again soon.
Master Iain Armstrong
Master Iain is the driving force behind the Kung Fu Retreat. He and his wife founded the Retreat in 2007 and he lives and teaches here. He is a Kung Fu philosopher and author with 36 years of living Kung Fu. Trained personally by Grand Master Tan Soh Tin in Singapore, he’s a two-time world champion and veteran of real street battles. Famous for his high-quality Kung Fu teaching, his instructional films and magazine articles, and for his demonstrations of Iron Shirt Chi Kung, Master Iain is a mine of information but retains a very practical, down to earth, and realistic approach. Most people who meet him are struck by his air of calm, patience, and wisdom.
Iain learned his fighting skills on the streets of South London and has never forgotten those lessons. Over the years, he has coached the British full contact team, judged the world championships, washed in broken glass, been hit with a tree felling axe in front of 10,000 people in Trafalgar Square, met the queen of England, organised a lion dance for 10 Downing Street and promoted professional fight competitions. Back in the days before digital, he wrote for ‘Combat’ magazine and now writes periodic blog posts. He sits on the executive committee of the BCCMA (British Council for Chinese Martial Arts) and runs training to qualify Kung Fu Teachers in the UK.
After beginning his training in London he began travelling to Singapore to learn with Grand Master Tan and over the years they have travelled to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and of course Thailand in the pursuit of the art to which they have dedicated their lives. They have taught in very many European countries.
Master Iain’s specialities are the Tiger Fork and Double Crescent Axes. Needless to say, he is also famous for his ability in the Tiger – Crane and Sun Frost White Crane arts. He is known for his ability with Iron Shirt Chi Kung and is certainly one of the leading western practitioners of this fascinating but rather dangerous art. He has plenty of stories to tell of Kung Fu training in Singapore’s least desirable back streets including an encounter with the God who guards the gates to Hell along with many colourful characters. More often, though, he can be found talking to his students about Kung Fu’s history, philosophy, ethics, culture, values and traditions. He is a very popular teacher. Indeed he is often considered to be the Kung Fu Retreat’s greatest asset! We think that you will like him.
Master Iain is usually based at the Kung Fu Retreat except during Mid September to Mid October and Late March to late April. He may be absent for periods of a few days at a time in order to visit his family, renew his visa or perform demonstrations.
Master Dougal Simmons
One of the few westerners to be accepted as a Kung Fu instructor in a predominantly Chinese community such as that in Singapore, Dougal has an excellent memory for routines and a wealth of experience from his many years training and teaching at Nam Yang’ Singapore headquarters. He is Kung Fu brother of Master Iain and together with Grand Master Tan they have travelled South East Asia and China in their pursuit of real Kung Fu.
Dougal spends most of his time at the Singapore branch but is planning to visit the Kung Fu Retreat in 2017 / 2018.
We believe that our masters are the best because they all have very many years of real, traditional Kung Fu training behind them, are all loyal and dedicated to our association and know how to handle themselves in a real fight, not just in training.
Dave has a calm, nature and cares about the people he teaches. As well as teaching he also takes charge of student welfare. Dave's initial success in kung fu drew on his experience as a Karate teacher in England and a strong determination to constantly work hard to improve. He has a background in personal training and specialises in strength against body exercises. Dave became attracted to the Kung Fu Retreat as he wanted to get away from modern commercial martial arts and commit his life to the study of genuine Kung Fu. He enjoys exploring the spiritual aspects of traditional Chinese martial arts and their associated culture. He meditates regularly and helps look after the Retreat’s prayer house and altars.
Dave is based full time at the Kung fu Retreat.
Craig is a very easy going, popular teacher who can make complex movements seem easy. He is naturally very athletic and keeps up a high level of physical fitness. He has a flair for weapons training and teaches our weapons classes twice a week. He is also interested in San Da (Chinese boxing) and teaches this as well. Craig has had a varied and interesting life and worked in roles as diverse as skipper of a pleasure yacht and diver! He thrives on meeting different people and enjoys exploring the art of Chinese kung fu with all its varied techniques. He has a deep wish to focus properly on learning and understanding our arts and likes living in the mountains and forests of Northern Thailand with its mix of cultures and ethnicities.
Craig is usually present from September to April.
Marion is very serious about her martial arts. She has experience in BJJ. Muay Thai and kickboxing but found her true passion in Shaolin Kung Fu. Marion loves sharing her kung fu with her students who find her very thorough, attentive and methodical. Marion is interested in applying her kung fu skills in competition fighting: she is one of our San Da (Chinese boxing) teachers and is a competitive Thai boxer. She is also a certified yoga teacher and horse riding instructor. Hailing from Switzerland she speaks French and German as well as English.
Marion is based full time at the Kung fu Retreat but does sometimes travel to teach in Europe.
Emily is passionate about her kung fu training. She began training in Northern Shaolin Kung Fu in the USA which she enjoyed greatly but was attracted to Nam Yang because of the history and integrity of its arts. Rather than a mix of styles and routines what she found at the Kung Fu Retreat was a tightly connected system of internal kung fu, external kung fu and weapons supported by the practice several styles of chi kung and the study of Chinese philosophy, strategy and culture. She also values greatly the chance to train full time and dedicate herself fully to the arts which she studies.
Emily is based full time at the Kung fu Retreat.
Lefa is a very dedicated kung fu student and also studies meditation and spiritual development. Along with Freya, he leads our meditation training. He is a calm and understanding teacher and takes his role very seriously. Lefa sees Kung Fu as not only a martial art but a way of living and believes it can be applied to every aspect of life. Lefa speaks German and English. He lived in both Germany and South Africa, it was in South Africa where he trained in Northern style Kung fu before joining the Kung Fu Retreat.
Lefa is currently present at the retreat until November, 2018 and plans to return early 2019.
Michael is an enthusiastic teacher whilst at the same time maintaining a very relaxed attitude. He first came to the Kung Fu Retreat in 2015 and loved what he found so much that he returned home and worked hard until he had saved enough money to return and join the instructor training program. He intends in the future to open his own kung fu school. Although he has lived most of his life in the US Michael is originally from Guatemala and speaks Spanish as well as English. He is very interested in the history of Shaolin Kung Fu and Nam Yang Pugilistic Association and is proud to be part of such a distinguished tradition.
Lena is an experienced teacher with a patient approach. Lena teaches at the Kung Fu Retreat during the winter months and teaches outdoor survival skills in England during the summer. She has been interested in developing a self-defence class for women so that those who perceive themselves as vulnerable feel safe. Lena is very approachable and has a good sense humour, which adds to the environment we have created here at Nam Yang of a family-friendly feel. Coming from Austria Lena speaks German, English and, as a result of five years spent in Africa, Swahili!
Freya is the most recent addition to our teaching team. She is highly focused and learns very fast. Along with Lefa, she leads our meditation program. Students think that she has a great voice and a great manner for meditation teaching. Freya enjoys pushing and sticking hands as she believes through it you can develop people to become more intuitive, confident and relaxed. Freya is English and comes from a very rural part of England so she feels right at home amongst the mountains and fields surrounding Nam Yang.
James is a diligent student of Kung Fu and an easy going teacher. He connects well with his students which really helps their learning. James had been in the same line of work for 15 years and eventually wanted a different way of life. He began travelling and found his way to our Kung Fu Retreat. He loves how at Nam Yang we challenge ourselves mentally as well as physically. This enables him to learn more about himself every day which is reflected in his teaching. He is a good example to our students and leads from this ethos of self-development.
Coming from Surrey, England James speaks English and since arriving he has also been studying the Thai language with a few other instructors with the intention of learning more about Thai culture and being able to integrate better.'
James oversees instructor training and development.