CULTURE: Shaolin Tai Chi Cultural Center celebrates first anniversary
-Because of the current Mixed Martial Arts craze, many people seem to be focused on Pay-Per-View fights and gyms that literally revolve around this style that takes elements from boxing, wrestling, and various other styles.
In spite of this, Master (Shifu) Chang Yuan, has opted for something different. He strives to go beyond simply kicking, punching and throwing, by emphasizing tradition, meditation, and other aspects of Chinese Culture. This is why he has opened up the Shaolin Tai Chi Cultural Center (STCCC), 9310 S. Eastern Ave.
Starting June 8, STCCC will be having its very own Summer Camp. Now, this will not involve what most westerners think of when they envision Summer Camp. To start with, the camp site will not be out in the remote woods but in STCCC’s premises and the campers will not be swimming, building fires(hopefully!), telling ghost stories or even staying overnight. Instead, some of the activities taking place will be Chinese Language Classes, Calligraphy, and Traditional music.
Students will also be studying Shaolin Kung fu, Tai Chi and Qi Gong, which are exercises that teach proper breathing. Besides the martial arts and classical Chinese training, this academy hopes to teach its students other concepts such as respect, balance and proper thinking.
STCCCs founder [or co-founder], Shifu Yuan, is a 33rd generation Kung Fu master who began his training at 12 years of age. Oddly enough, this meant that he had to leave his home and move into the Shaolin Temple in Songshan, China.
The young Chang Yuan began with nine other students, including his cousin, after six months there was only him and his cousin, then after the first full year, he was the only student left of those original 10. Daily training was 8 hours a day or in Shifu Yuan’s own words, “It’s really a very difficult life.” At one time, he could do a two fingered handstand, using both hands.
If one was ever curious as to why Shaolin monks practice Kung Fu, Shifu explains, it is to balance out the mediation. The practice of Kung Fu is part of the whole Zen ideal, or Chan in Chinese, this also includes mediation, sleeping, tea, walking and everyday life. All of this can be captured in the old Shaolin saying, “Life at this moment.” And it is this focus on being present at this particular moment that Shifu Yuan hopes to impart to his students; he doesn’t only want them to learn Kung Fu as a martial art but to live it as a way of life.
For those who wish to join a Mixed Martial Arts gym, Shifu Yuan has no problem with that; he sees it as another kind of exercise. However, he hopes they have a proper type of philosophical foundation and are seeking the training for self-improvement not violence. According to Shifu Yuan, the best weapon anyone can find is ai, which is Chinese for love. This is because a major part of the Shoalin philosophy is learning how to accept everyone by having a big heart and being part of the universe.
This Kung Fu master has a strong sense of tradition. According to his website, “He hopes to bring the old traditions and philosophy of the Shaolin culture to the west. With over twenty years of Kung fu and Tai Chi experience, he continues to be a great influence on all martial art students.” In fact, if one is lucky, they may be invited to a ceremonial Kung Fu Tea. | iH