Chan Seng Chee's newsletter for Sing Ong Tai Chi branches affiliated through him.
The last newsletter was published just after Prof. Yek (Tai Shi Ye - Great Grand Teacher) and Master Yek (Shi Ye - Grand Teacher) left to live in Sydney. In the five years SOTC has established a couple of branches in Sydney besides the growth in New Zealand. The annual events calendar has been modified to have a student camp and an instructor camp and two seminars alternating between Auckland and Christchurch. We also have a seminar in Sydney and Montreal every year.
This year, because of many different factors, Tai Shi Ye and Shi Ye have returned to live in Auckland. One of the consideration is to be more accessible to the majority of the students in SOTC. This should be the beginning of another era in growth and technical progress.
Even though most students have great respect for the skill and knowledge of Tai Shi Ye and Shi Ye, they are often unclear about the role of the students and instructors.
In the last fifty years, many Tai Chi organisations and teachers around the world have chosen to adopt an informal structure and/or attitude to training. Tai Shi Ye started our school with a clear vision for very specific technical and organisational goals and values.
In SOTC, we use the family model as in the good traditional Chinese martial arts schools. Classmates are ‘older’ or ‘younger,’ ‘brothers’ (Si Xiong, Si Di) and ‘sisters’ (Si Jie, Si Mei) and the teacher (Lao Shi) is the ‘father’ and so on. The use of the appropriate titles for addressing one another defines the structure and help to foster the appropriate relationships, respect and harmony within our organisation. The ‘older’ may not always be the more technically advanced and may have to accept that they can learn from the ‘younger’ who are appointed assistant instructor or instructor.
SOTC is not a club, gym an academic institution or a cult, and our instructors are not just regular coaches, personal trainers or teachers. The student do not just enrol to purchase rights to acquire a number of lectures, drills or forms in a certain time frame. Anyone who choose to learn at SOTC should be aware of this, and accept the our philosophy, rules and regulations when signing up. They cannot dictate their own terms for learning if they become students.
The instructors will endeavour to teach the students in the best of their ability. The material, rate and level taught can often vary with individual students as they have different capabilities, attitude and capacity to learn and train. Some individuals will need a great deal longer than others to understand the concepts and develop certain skills. We have many examples of students taking twice as long as usual to learn, but eventually achieve good skills. Yet others in good physical condition with high intelligence sometimes struggle to improve because of their own ‘baggage,’ such as previously acquired bad habits/ideas or a closed mind.
In fact, the classics said: “To enter the gate of Tai Chi Chuan, one has to be guided by oral transmission, then train without a break till the skill is attained.”
This means the student has to be humble in order to be guided, also that the guide must have the knowledge and can demonstrate the skills. The most important being not using force in push hands.
“By oral transmission,” specifically means not books or any other medium, and that every morsel of information must be supplied at the appropriate time and digested before the next bit is fed. Too much or an inappropriate level of information is detrimental and will stifle the student’s progress.
Finally, training must be regular and sustained, so that the mind and body can be successfully programmed to have the ideal Tai Chi Chuan reflex. Given the best instruction, it is only half the equation. The student has to take responsibilty to understand and train till they develop the skills.
Another very important part of our training is grading. This is where the student is tested individually in segments of the syllabus. Formal feedback is then provided to the student so that the student can clearly address their shortcomings in their Tai Chi Chuan skills. It is another important test of one’s humility (needed for one to confront one’s weaknesses in order to correct them) and the ability to stay calm and relaxed under stress.
As Tai Chi Chuan has great mental and physical health, as well as social benefits, Tai Shi Ye, (like the great Prof. Cheng Man Ching and Prof. Huang Sheng Shyan before him) would like to make sure the true essences of the art not only survives in the future in its entirety, but also to share it to as many worthy people as possible. So far SOTC has been able to develop into a well structured organisation with many branches and good students without being a burden to our central or local government or any charity.
We have a programme of selecting students with potential, good values and a strong desire to help others enjoy the benefits of Tai Chi Chuan to become instructors. Besides helping others learn, teaching also helps the individual review his own Tai Chi Chuan training and improve. The instructors and their assistants have special weekly classes and extra sessions at seminars and camps for more information and skills to teach with. This programme is not to exclude the regular student but to enhance the teaching quality of the instructors.
Tai Shi Ye want to support our instructors to the highest level, to equal if not exceed the standards of other professional institutions. The instructors can then spread it to every part of the world. They will surely make a more worthwhile contribution to mankind than just selfishly keeping that knowledge and skill to themselves.
I often reflect on my good fortune to have met Tai Shi Ye about twenty years ago and persuading him to accept me as a student. All my sacrifice and effort are more than rewarded by his revelation of the great treasure of Tai Chi Chuan. I hope you will appreciate Tai Shi Ye’s vision for SOTC, fully enjoy its benefits and share it with as many good people as possible.
May chi be with you,
S C Chan