Learning from Master Chong: An Account after 6 Months of Training
by Frank Teo
I pondered upon Rennie Chong Tai Chi Training Centre over the internet in May 2014. The articles there got me interested but I gathered that the master would be already in his seventies. Nevertheless, I gave Master Chong a call and was really surprised that he was still actively conducting classes. So, I registered for a course at the training centre.
Master Chong's Tai Chi lineage could be traced to Zheng Man Ching and further back toYang Luchan who is known as the founder of the Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan. So I gotthe assurance to be able to learn the authentic Zheng Man Ching's Yang Style Short Form Tai Chi.As the training progresses, this assurance was affirmed slowly but surely.
The warm up exercise was specially designed to strengthen the body so as to facilitate the execution of proper Tai Chi postures. It is tough. Perhaps tougher than the Tai Chi routine itself, but after a few months, I could feel the effect, especially the knees and lower back.
Master Chong teaches what he called Tai Chi Martial Arts. He always emphasize the use of each Tai Chi posture. According to him, knowledge of the application of each Tai Chi posture and execution with intent bring the practice to a different level of training. Otherwise, the routine is just mere exercise. He urged us to execute Tai Chi as thoughthere was anopponentwho wassparring with us. "Look at the opponent, don't look at the floor", he would say.
Training is never boring; there is no time for it. It is interestingand engaging. I ended up taking two classes in parallel. The training video is also very useful. In my enthusiasm, I learnt from the video all the 37 steps within two months. This was despite Master Chong's advice that executing a few Tai Chi postures properly would be more effective than completing the full set in haste.
Looking back at my 6 months of training, I cannot agree more with him. The class that I joined is about one third through the 37 steps and I am realising what Master Chong meant. The basics are important. First is to get the posture and direction correct. Then, there is a multitude of refinements. How to stand? How to sit on the kua both in the posture and when executing Tai Chi moves? Train so that one is rooted, yet maintain agility at the same time. Stability is important but it should not be at the expense of responsiveness. The body should be relaxed and yet not listless. And the list goes on. This is real Tai Chi!
With Master Chong, there is so much to learn. Not only is he generous with sharing his knowledge, he always complete it with demonstration. He teaches patiently and with passion. For me, the limitation is not with how much Master Chong imparts, buthow fast can I learn, execute and experience for myself what true Tai Chi is. I am glad to have started to learn from the Rennie Chong Tai Chi Training Centre.