Vol. 22 No. 5
The first time I met Jou Tsung Hwa was at A Taste of China 10 or more years ago. I had heard a great deal about him and talked to him on the telephone. The first real one-on-one contact was sitting on the grass under a tree on a very hot day outside the gymnasium, listening to him explain the cycles of Yin and Yang, the phases of the moon, and how they relate to circular movements.
His accent was hard to understand, uniquely so, and it never got easier for me to understand through the years.
But it was clear then and in later years that he was trying to transmit what he felt was very important information. He always wanted important information to be transmitted to students so that they could learn and progress. This was because of his love for Tai Chi Chuan and because he knew by personal experience how difficult it can be to make genuine progress in one's studies.
A year ago, when I visited the Tai Chi Farm, he confided that it was hard for someone his age to make progress. But he didn't lessen the effort. And this past year, he was much more upbeat about his ability to make progress.
At lunch, he described new exercises he was doing for the arms and legs, which he taught at a Farm seminar. These were developed in part because some practitioners at advanced ages lost the mobility in their legs. Master Jou's solution was the new silk reeling exercises. They involved turning and twisting the legs and arms, while at the same time contracting and expanding the abdomen and sphincter muscles. He intended to be on his feet and practicing T'ai Chi at the age of 95 and beyond.
A constant theme of his was that all parts of the body have to move together. One of his favorite examples was of a baseball pitcher. He would imitate throwing a baseball and say that a pitcher can't just use his arm to pitch, but must use his whole body.
Another important theme was that you have to be your own teacher, regardless of who you have learned from. He also encouraged people to experiment and be creative in their practice.
While he was not aggressive, he was always active and knew that passive learning leads nowhere. He never stopped learning and was always seeking another “breakthrough.”
When he did reach another level, he was eager to pass it on to everyone.
He always seemed to try to be in touch with the Tao, which meant that he was trying to see and understand the overall perspective of any particular moment or stage. In spite of his strong constitution and mind, it was not his way to force things, but to cooperate with the flow.
His single-mindedness was balanced by playfulness. When I couldn't understand what he was saying because of his pronunciation, he was amused by it. And it was not unusual for him to test people's response to things he would say yes or do in a serious, yet playful way.
With his many accomplishments, it is just as important to note the things that he did not do.
--He did not try to use his T'ai Chi teaching or the Farm to make a lot of money or make himself famous. He financed everything with his own money and the fees at the Farm were nominal.
--He did not try to put himself forward as being better than others.
--He did not put down other people as being bad for whatever reason, and did not set himself up as a judge of the merits of other teachers and practitioners. He only offered to help them.
When he saw that he made a mistake himself, he tried to correct it.
During recent years, I enjoyed going to the Zhang San Feng Festival in June. Master Jou was always in the background, while others took care of any problems that occurred. But when he was needed, he was there. The event ran very smoothly that way.
Master Jou will be missed. There is not another like him. He set a standard for what could be done and showed how it could be done. For that, we can always be grateful.·