Kind Words From Our Students
When I have a session with Derek, I experience a heightened level of awareness about my body, especially as it relates to gravity. His approach is gentle and insightful, and his warm, patient voice guides me through the exercises, correcting my technique and encouraging me. He gives in-depth explanations that help me understand why he is recommending particular exercises.
His background is extensive, including years of work in tai chi, yoga, postural therapy, gyrotonic, and Hanna somatics, giving him perspective about how various forms of exercise help and harm a person’s fitness goals. His training also allows him to do hands-on work to unwind areas of tension held in muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints and fascia. He then builds on this process by instructing me in exercises that, between our sessions, allow me to continue the release process. The overall effect is to improve my pain, fitness, and sense of well being.
Kathryn Hayward M.D.
Board certified primary care internist and
Associate Physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital
Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School
Through a conversation about healing and medicine Derek shared with me the core of his approach, specifically regarding holding tension and its effects, etc. What he said made sense to me on a deeply intuitive level that was well beyond the words he conveyed. To my delight, what I found was that somehow the words Derek shared affected me in a most profound, deep rooted way. They seemed to open some stuck passages that initially became much more noticeable in my Hatha practice, as I began to relax into the Asanas and really release. Then, I began to notice how much tension I hold in my hands in my day to day, minute to minute activities. It became clear to me that Derek is a powerful healer.
Subsequently seeking his help, I soon realized that he has the gift of being able to share his extensive experience to convey an immediately applicable and incredibly useful gentle, insightful approach to being in your body and healing on a deep, deep level. Having suffered for years with a repetitive stress injury, Derek was able to help me illicit my own body’s implicit ability to heal and be free from discomfort. More importantly, he has helped guide me on a path to my own empowerment. His work is invigorating and engaging. I am continually impressed by his incredibly powerful awareness and presence.
He clearly has an endless wealth of knowledge and experience and is willing to share it. I am honored to cross paths with him. I look forward to studying with him for a long time.
Ryan D. Zaklin M.D., M.A.
Resident in Internal Medicine
Massachusetts General Hospital
Clinical Teaching Fellow – Harvard Medical School
I met Derek when I had chronic pain and muscle spasms in my neck and pain in my lower back. I’d visited doctors, physical therapists, massage therapists and a chiropractor. Each provided some level of help and/or temporary relief for the problem. The neck and back pain originated from an accident and as time passed I did see improvement, but with increased activity the pain would always return and I’d need to limit my activities. I admit when I first met Derek I was skeptical he could help. I’d seen many healthcare providers and I seemed to be at a point where my recovery had stalled. But Derek was able to identify the problem and provide a series of exercises to help correct it. Within a very short amount of time, by doing the exercises faithfully, I noticed a lot of improvement in my neck. As my symptoms improved and changed Derek modified the exercises and added to them. Now both my neck and back feel great. I forgot what it was like not to have pain. I am grateful to Derek because for the first time in years I am pain free and I am able to return to an active lifestyle. I would recommend anyone with chronic pain or muscular skeletal issues see Derek.
Senior Marketing Manager
“Derek is a teacher who offers countless methods and insights to the movement, connection and potential of the human body. Unlike some who teach on theory, Derek’s knowledge is derived from the study of what takes place in his own body. Something that helps him to better understand what is happening in the body of his students.”
"For twenty years I have studied with accomplished practitioners in a variety of martial arts, including time in China training intensively in internal martial arts. My time training with Derek has been transformational in ways that have far exceeded my previous training. Derek dove deep into his passion of awakened embodiment and emerged with the insights and training to help others along the path. Leading by example, seemingly lofty and abstract concepts are brought down to earth with demonstrable skills and practices. The ideas are simple, but the implications and expressions are profound. It would take a whole book to go into the many insights, realizations and awakenings I have experienced with his training.
As a martial artist, it has greatly increased my capacity to express skill. As a practitioner of Chinese medicine it has raised my quality of care for my patients. If you are a sincere seeker of the path, I highly recommend training with Derek."
Garth Reynolds L.Ac. MSTCM
Recently there has been renewed interest in the Chinese internal martial arts, mainly from the online “movement culture” represented by Ido Portal, Fighting Monkey, etc. Many of the leading figures in this movement renaissance have backgrounds in the internal systems themselves. However, as near as I can tell, few of these teachers present detailed information on internal kung fu in their seminars. For the most part what I have seen has been an eclectic approach, incorporating games, concepts and philosophies from the Chinese internal arts, alongside ideas from dance, acrobatics, gymnastics, etc. This is consistent with the “generalist” ideal promoted in these circles.
That is fine but it can overlook some of the depth and refinement available within these systems. Like dance, acrobatics and gymnastics, the Chinese internal arts are a formidable object of study unto themselves. They have their own group of “specialists,” who have pursued these arts to the exclusion of other disciplines for decades. In order to fully appreciate the results of this kind of dedicated practice, one really needs to see them fully embodied and in person.
Unfortunately, few Americans have had the opportunity to pursue these systems the way they were designed. Even in Asia, capable practitioners of the internal arts are “as rare as… (I forget the Chinese expression, will ask my housemate)…Not only are there fewer practitioners in the West overall; Chinese teachers are also famously reluctant to pass on their skills to outsiders. Consequently, I have seen a lot of Westerners practicing kung fu, but only a handful whom I would say “have” kung fu.
Derek Notman is one such practitioner. After corresponding online for some time, I first met him in 2015 on my way through Boulder, Colorado. He generously let me stay at his house without expecting anything from me in return. Although I thought I already knew a thing or two, after crossing hands it quickly became apparent that I couldn’t do much to Derek.
I’m not the greatest fighter in the world and there are lots of people who can win against me in a variety of games. But when I spar with most people, their power feels totally ordinary. A scramble ensures, maybe someone gets some cheap shots in, and finally someone ‘wins.’ Playing with Derek is something completely different – he has the qualities I look for in an internal martial arts practitioner.
Rather than brutalizing me or simply rooting my attacks and pushing me around, I felt like I was being played like a puppet at the end of impossibly long strings. Any time he wanted to take my balance, he went right ahead and took it. I know from experience that in order to handle someone like this in free play, one’s level of skill has to be many times that of one’s partner. Merely beating someone up is trivial compared to this.
Derek could easily have taken this opportunity to ‘punk’ me and establish dominance. Instead, he took the opportunity to teach me, generously, for the duration of my stay with him in Boulder. Hanging out with Derek and his students had the same magical feeling that got me into these arts in the first place. He is a real teacher who has the ability to change the quality of the moment, who teaches an art not a curriculum, and who teaches students not an art. If you’re intrigued by what you’ve seen of the Chinese arts and you want to go deeper, I highly recommend a visit to Derek Notman.
Since meeting with Derek in 2015, I have continued to learn from him occasionally via Skype. I haven’t had the time or the resources to be as consistent as I would like, but every Skype session has been crucial for my own practice. Derek is very generous with his teaching and he provides a great value for these sessions. It’s definitely best to go to the source and experience his teaching first hand. However, if you are unable to do so or only able to do so occasionally, Derek can provide a lot of good coaching via Skype, particularly if you have a background or are learning from other teachers.
Having spent a long time struggling to get the goods from Chinese teachers, I very much appreciate being able to stand on the shoulders of other Westerners who have had to find their way through the internal systems. It can be very helpful in cutting through some of the confusion and getting straight to the essence of the arts.
Martial Artist & Chinese Speaker, Taiwan
Derek Notman's online training classes have rejuvenated and deepened my decades long practice of the Chinese Internal and Healing Arts. After many years of learning and trying to understand the core concepts and deeper intentions behind classical Chinese movement, I was at a stand still. Nothing I did was improving my skills. Neither the addition of new and varied material(s) and methods nor increasing the frequency and or intensity of training was moving me forward. The Chinese arts have great depth and sophistication and can provide life long benefits to the practitioner. Yet despite my efforts it appeared as if I would not be able to tap into this richness and benefit from these long standing traditions. Thankfully, I met Derek who was able to address my concerns and open the door to the deeper aspects of the internal arts.
Once Derek and I began working together I was able to break through my stagnation, correcting many sticking points and began to make real progress. He introduced concepts and methods that quickly and clearly realigned my training direction and priorities. Perhaps the most valuable factor in Derek’s teaching is his deep level of understanding of the key mechanics contained within the material. All of the arts have a physical story to tell and to teach one, but often they require a highly skilled guide to unpack the many nuanced points so the full meaning is understood. Derek has been able to fill that role for me answering questions and providing corrections as well as keying me in on the important technical aspects I had been missing.
Going through this learning process with Derek has allowed me to see that my fundamental concepts of what constituted Classical Chinese Internal Arts were wrong. What I had felt were many different physical attributes and skills that required individual attention and training began to fall away. Through practice the pieces and parts began to sync up and feel like one whole new thing. For example balance, relaxation, fluidity, coordination and speed began to seem like one complete unified quality rather than many different unconnected skills requiring individual training. A sense of comfort began to appear in my movements. This was a quality I had not experienced before. For the first time I felt both connected to, and a part of the arts I was practicing. The movements no longer feel like something I am putting on like a coat but rather like a part of my physical being.
Derek has deeply changed my understanding and thinking about the internal practices of the Far East. He has directed me toward the meaningful and enabled me to see the key foundational concepts embodied within the arts. I highly recommend Derek to anyone wishing to understand the heart of the Classical Chinese Internal methods.