MBTP 009: Mr. Chan: Don't Dumb Down

When I walked into my first Qigong class on a Monday evening in the late 1970s, I had only a vague idea of what I had signed up for. I had no idea that the small man leading the class would introduce me to a way of being that was very different to what I had known before.

This podcast recalls my early days of training with my first Qigong teacher and my introduction to a whole new way of learning.

Under Extras below there is also text about Mr. Chan, a picture of us from 1989, and a link to a short video of him doing a Qigong exercise.

Extras

• Notes about Mr. Chan

Mr. Chan – A True Master of No Rank

When I walked into my first Qigong class on a Monday evening in the late 1970s, I had only a vague idea of what I had signed up for. I had no idea that the small man leading the class would introduce me to a way of being that was very different to what I had known before. I didn´t realize that in fact I had signed up for a school for life.

And so began five years of intensive study with a man who taught me much more than the Qigong that he loved. The deepest teaching that I received from him is evident in his parting words to me when I left New York to move to Germany in 1983. After   giving me permission to share Qigong with others, he added, “Most important is that you teach with your heart, not with your head. Then no matter what, even if you make mistakes, your Qigong will be right.”

Mr. Chan´s knowledge was vast. At the age of 10 he began Taoist meditation and Qigong with the monks of An De Guan monastery, not far from his home in Fujian province. He also studied White Crane boxing and standing meditation with the famed Master Chen Jin Ming. At 11 he began training in North Shaolin boxing with Master Lian Dak Fung. Shortly thereafter, he studied Taiji Ruler Qiong from Master Lui Chow-Munk. After he moved to the Philippines after World War II, he mastered xingyiquan with Master Chow Chang-Hoon and developed his baguanzhang with Master Liu Hing-Chow and Master Liang Kay Chi.

But all these details of what and with whom Master Chan studied were unknown to me in those days. I only found out about his teaching lineage in an obituary marking his death at the age of 80 on March 17, 2002. In fact, he rarely talked about his background or his personal life. I knew that he had eight children, and that he was deeply attached to his wife. By the time I became his student, he was working in a sporting goods store in an unassuming job in the stock room. I also knew that for many years in the Philippines he taught dawn classes in the park before putting in a full day at the family business.

He would not let us call him Master, and he refused all interviews. He would not let his students write about him. Ken Cohn, a well-known American Qigong teacher who studied with Master Chan some years before I did, reported the following exchange with him:

“When I asked Chan what B.P. stood for, he replied, “Do you want to learn the martial arts or my name?”

Ken went on to ask: “Then how can students verify my lineage or find out if I am authorized to teach?” I asked.

Mr. Chan replied: “Good Qigong follows Qigong principles and creates health and happiness: it is not a matter of lineage- You do not become good because of the name of your teacher. Do not mention my name.”

For Mr. Chan, what it meant to be “good” was not so much a matter of how one did the forms as whether or not one embodied the true spirit of practice. And for him that meant that as our teacher he was as much concerned with our developing the inner spirit of Qigong as in mastering the outward forms.

• Web Links

Short video of Mr Chan

• Book

T’ai Chi as a Path of Wisdom
By:
Linda Myoki Lehrhaupt (Author)  
Publisher:
Shambhala; 1 edition (October 2, 2001)