Remembering my teacher's teacher

Fall is here, and with the arrival of autumn, time to slow down - by no means, don't stop moving - just an invitation to transition to a more contemplative season.

This month's tip from my "Semi-Secret Manual"
I want to take a moment to remember Sifu Chen Qingzhou (my teacher's teacher) who passed away this time last year at the age of 81. Although I never met or studied with him directly, I remember spending an afternoon spellbound reading his biography, only to receive news of his passing later that night. He suffered poor health as young child and wasn't expected to live beyond high school. To ease his suffering, his father advised him to practice the family's treasure: Chen Taijiquan. Gradually, his health improved and he completed his studies. Sifu was his own renaissance man: before his Taiji career, he made a living seal-carving, painting tigers and calligraphy posters. It wasn't until years later after starting a family and gaining financial stability, that he returned to Taiji and deep training. I am not doing his story justice here, but I did want to pull out the two themes in his life that struck me:

1) Whatever craft he found, he dove in. Calligraphy in school. Seeing a seal-carver sell at festivals, his reaction was, "I'm going to do that!" He saw tiger paintings sold better, then tried that and gained the attention of a painter who offered to teach him. He was a true self-study. 

2) Nothing was in his way. By that I mean, external circumstances certainly made for tough times and difficulty, but they did not stop him. Sifu lived during the Japanese occupation and Cultural Revolution in China - and not to mention his multiple bouts of illness: fevers and bloody coughing throughout his school years - and his concern was not his own mortality, but all the books he wouldn't be able to finish!

His life was a mix of turbulent and triumphant, and I am inspired by how diligently and fully he lived. Fast forward, and I have heard many stories and seen photos of his US workshops in which he would throw down and joint lock students half his age before they knew what happened to them. It's amazing that this art is what connects me to him - and to a network of worldwide practitioners carrying on the tradition.

Major respect Sifu. Rest in peace.