MEETING MY NEW MASTER – ADDITIONAL

In January 1984, during the Chinese New Year celebration, I went back to Taiwan again for three weeks with my new wife Chou Hwa. We saw Master Hsu only a few times. It was at this time that my older kung fu brother Carl Kao, who was Master Hsu’s student also, first introduced me to Master Chiao Chang Hung (pronounced “Chow Chang Hung”). He was the most respected kung-fu master in the Internal Kung Fu Society. It was Master Chiao who brought the Little Nine Heaven System and the Shih Shui system from China to Taiwan.

At that time, Master Chiao would not accept me as his student as he was not taking any new students because he had retired. But he did say that he would introduce me to two of his closest friends. He said, “You should learn Tai Chi from the best Chen Tai-Chi master in all of China and Taiwan. His name is Master Pan Wing Chou (pronounced Pon Wing Zo). I will also introduce you to Master Chin Chi-Yin who is the last lineage holder of the system called Tzu Men-Chang (pronounced Zoo Men Chong). We will all have dinner together and I will ask them if they will accept you as their student. But I cannot promise you what they will say as they have never taught an American before.”

Two days later, Master Chiao, Master Pan, Master Chin, Carl Kao, my wife Chou Hwa and I all met for dinner. Master Chiao asked them if they would accept me as their first American student. They asked me questions about the different styles I had learned and how long I had been practicing. Being Master Chiao’s good friend and respecting his recommendation, both masters agreed to accept me as their student.

On October 9, 1984, I received a phone call from Taiwan informing me that Master Hsu Hong-Chi had died unexpectedly. I left right away for the funeral. The sad thing is he had many American students whom he taught and to this day, they claim how much he taught them and how much they loved him. But not one of them had enough love or respect to attend his funeral, as like many, they talk from the mouth and not from the heart. Of all the hundreds of American students that he taught, I was the only one who respected and loved him enough to go back to Taiwan for his funeral. He died at the age of 50 as the fortuneteller predicted.

A few days after the funeral of Master Hsu, my wife and I went to Master Chiao’s house for a visit. I told Master Chiao of Master Hsu Hong-Chi’s death and explained that I had to come back for his funeral as I respected and loved him very much. Then Master Chiao looked at my wife and said, “ I knew I picked the right one. From the first day I met him, I felt I knew him from another life. I am sure he was a kung fu brother of mine.” From that day on, a strong bond began to take hold between teacher and student. I loved Master Hsu very much and respected him, but wondered if this strange fate of his death was also my destiny to expand my knowledge of what was to come. (Is this what Sui-Mei meant when she told me of my future teacher?)

The training started the next day. At 6:00 am I would practice Chen Tai Chi with Master Pan. He was a great teacher. From the beginning he told me, “When doing the form your thighs must be no higher than a 90-degree angle to the ground, so we will be going over and over the moves until you have learned it properly.” I practiced hard and went over repeatedly what my new master was teaching me.

After training in Chen, I was then to meet Master Chin Chi-Yin at Master Chiao’s school at 9:00 am. Master Chin explained to me that Tzu Men Chuan had only three form six fundamental techniques along with the 18 characters. Merely repeating the forms over and over again will do little more than teach me the order of the moves. I must constantly think of how each movement relates to the principles of this style. I must know how to use every move of the form in a fighting situation. Doing the form correctly will teach me many things. Is should be able to develop a sense for the enemy while doing the forms and should constantly focus on how to apply each techniques if found in a confrontation. I need to feel what their bodies are doing during each movement of the form. I also need to be able to feel each movement and each technique. Students are urged to be creative. They need to get away from the idea that a movement in a form can only have one application. I must constantly study and train in order to understand the secrets hidden within the form.

I practiced for anothser three weeks until a few days before it was time for my wife and I to leave. After practicing with Master Chin, Master Chiao came up to me and asked, “Would you like to become my student?” I was almost in tears because the deep, deep feeling from such an honor had overwhelmed me, “Yes, sir.” He said, “Meet me at my house at 2:00 pm today.” With tears in my eyes I said, “Thank you, Master.”