In this interview, Master Chu was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions on the art of Yang Tai Chi Chuan. Unlike other interviews, I wanted to focus on the health benefits and not the martial aspect of the art.
Master Vincent Chu, M.ed is an internationally known 6th Generation Master of Yang Tai Chi Chuan, authority on qigong techniques, lecturer, author and contributor to martial arts publications- ‘Inside Kung Fu’ & ‘Tai Chi’.. As a child he began training with his father Gin Soon Chu (disciple of Yeung Sau Chung).
Master Chu deepened his Tai Chi Chuan and qigong training under the instruction of Master Ip Tai Tak and Prof.Fan Ning. Master Chu continued to further his knowledge of Yang Tai Chi Chuan with other well known Masters of the art.
Master Chu gives instructions at the Gin Soon Tai Chi Chuan Club headquarters in Boston’s Chinatown http://www.gstaichi.org. Founded in 1969, Gin Soon Tai Chi Chuan Club is the oldest school teaching Tai Chi Chuan in Greater Boston.
Master Chu also conducts local and international workshops on qiqong and different solo forms of Yang Tai Chi Chuan. He also has been instructing a Yang Tai Chi Chuan class at Brookline Adult and Community Education Program for over 20 years.
Master Vincent Chu, a promoter of health and wellness, philanthropist and teacher of authentic Yang Tai Chi Chuan.
What is the difference of Tai Chi and Tai Chi Chuan? The difference between tai chi and tai chi chuan is the following: Tai Chi is the ancient Chinese philosophy based on duality. It refers to everything in this world belonging into two categories called Yin and Yang. Everything in Yin category is opposite, complimentary and sometimes becomes Yang category and this becoming is happening slowly, not suddenly. For example, in the Yin Category, we have night, female, inside, back, bottom, left and winter. Etc. In the Yang Category, we have day, male, outside, front, top, right and summer. Etc.
Tai chi chuan is one of the Chinese martial art systems based on this philosophy. Today, there are many people mistakenly calling tai chi as tai chi chuan. Again, tai chi is the ancient Chinese philosophy and tai chi chuan is one of the Chinese martial art systems.
Why is the Master of Tai Chi Chuan background important? Tai chi chuan training is similar to education, the better the teacher, the quality of training offered is better and this is obviously better for the students. A tai chi chuan master’s background reveals how much education the master has, this is very important information for a new student.
What is Chi? Chi is a very important subject or concept in Chinese culture. One can find this terminology in all types of traditional Chinese cultures. Today, there are enough scientific researches on this subject to conclude that chi is an invisible substance equivalent to energy and power. Traditional Chinese medicine said that all living things have chi, if a body without chi, it is but a corpse. If the body is weak or blocked of chi, the body is in a sick condition and this chi is existing throughout the body. Its circulation pathway is called channel and the crossing of the pathway is called acupuncture meridian point.
What can someone gain physically or even mentally from ‘playing’ Tai Chi Chuan? Playing or practicing
tai chi chuan provide multiple benefits. Physically, due to its relax, slow, circular and continual movement, all parts of the body are involving in the motion. It is able to re-balance the body. Mentally, due to its concentration in each movement, the central nervous system is better exercised.
What is the goal of practicing Tai Chi Chuan? The goal in tai chi chuan practices is chi circulation. If there is chi blockage, the body is weak or sick. Tai chi chuan is a good modality for applying physical movement to clear any chi blockage. This function is similar to people applying needle in acupuncture and massage therapy.
A main benefit of Tai Chi Chuan is that one can apply it to himself/herself at anytime, no need to employ someone else to do it to himself/herself.
Do you believe that ‘playing’ Tai Chi Chuan on a regular basis may heal ailments? Example digestive disorders, joint discomforts etc… Yes, regular/daily practicing tai chi chuan keeps the chi well circulated inside the body. It is a healthy condition. If a body of isolated water without connecting into any fresh water, soon or later, this isolated body of water will begin to smell and have microorganism. This is why there are many people called practicing tai chi chuan as preventive medicine.
In addition, tai chi chuan practicing is often applied nature breathing, deep breathing or diaphragm breathing method. Diaphragm breathing is generated a gentle vibration to message the internal organs. Obviously, this is good for the digestive system and the gentle circular motion is good for the muscular skeleton system.
Have you witnessed this phenomenon of healing? Can you describe 1 event? I have been teaching tai chi chuan at the Brookline Adult and Community Education Program since 1984 and offering tai chi chuan to the seniors at the Brookline Senior Center since 1990. Over the years, I received many comments from the senior students that they wished to have started tai chi chuan earlier in their lives because tai chi chuan helped them so much not simply for their health but made their life better.
I recalled one student told me how difficult for her to drive to Providence, Rhode Island every weekend to baby sit her grandson. Now, she practices tai chi chuan 30 minutes before each trip and felt so much better that she is looking forward to the journey each week. She also told me that when she drives, it is very difficult for her to turn her head to look back. Now she can do it without relying heavily on the mirrors.
Is there a connection between a practitioner’s breathing and Tai Chi Chuan? Why is it important? In our daily life, we do not pay much attention to our breathing. However, in tai chi chuan practice, deep breathing or diaphragm breathing is recommended. It is able to intake more oxygen into the body.
Why do you believe there is a surge of interest in Tai Chi Chuan? Tai chi chuan was practiced as a martial art in ancient China. It was available to very few people. Able 100 years ago, the famous Yang Cheng Fu recognized its value in health and beginning to made adjustment so that more people have access to its health benefits/availability. Therefore, tai chi chuan was very popular in China.
The recent surge of interest in tai chi chuan is but the second availability due to more Chinese immigrated to the west and more western visit China. In another word, it is the result of cultures exchanged.
Ok, let’s change gears. Do you have a favorite martial artists, philosopher or individual you draw inspiration from and why? They are my parents, teachers and students. Without their support, encouragement and evaluation, I would easily get lost in my journey.
Are you working on any new projects or upcoming events? I am writing a book on the subject involving tai chi chuan for seniors and working on a tai chi chuan instructional video for beginning students. In addition, I continue to write article for “TAI CHI” and “Inside Kung Fu” magazines.
Based on your experience, can you give the beginner of Tai Chi Chuan 3 suggestions? My three suggestions are: don’t give off, practice and find a good teacher. Over the year, I saw too many people stop training after one lesson. These people gave up something they don’t fully understand yet. One should make the decision after all the facts are in. I observed it is common for people today to spend time to talk about something rather than actually get involve with it. To be good with anytime, one has to spend the time to study it. To find a qualify teacher is very important for someone study tai chi chuan or anything else that matter. At the same time, it is difficult for a novel student to tell who is good and who is qualified. This is why the background information of a teacher is very important. It tells the student everything about the teacher.
Thank you, Master Vincent Chu and wish you and your family continued wellness.
For Master Vincent Chu’s Books, Videos please visit http://www.gstaichi.org
Yang Large Frame Solo Form
On a personal note,
the training thus far for me at Gin Soon Tai Chi Chuan Club can be summed up with a Zen Koan:
‘Ordinary Mind is the Way’
“The spring flowers, the moon in autumn,
The cool breezes of summer, the winter’s snow;
If idle concern thus not cloud the mind,
This is man’s happiest season.”
Be Well and Stay Active!
Julio A. Salado, NSCA C.P.T., USAW Performance Coach