While they will be missed as people, and should be, what they have taken to the next world of our art will be missed more, and by more people than ever knew them. However, on the escalator of life, a new crop of us, however unwillingly, is closer to the top step and must assume their responsibilities. We must do as best we can with our smaller skills to take their places.
Master Jou has left many able teachers to carry on his tradition. However, he should be remembered for two things he did which were very important to American Tai Chi and go beyond individual teaching. These things must not die.
1. Encouraging students to explore their Tai Chi, so that they may improve through their own understandings. This he was doing himself, and encouraging others to do.
2. Bringing us all together. Now that we are all together as a community we may tend to forget how it was when he started having the Chang San Feng festival, long before there was a Tai Chi Farm. He encouraged us all, whatever style, to work together, play push hands together, study together and be friends regardless of what style or what we thought was right to practice. To paraphrase Jay Dunbar, one of Master Jou’s students: we all do it the same, but a little bit differently. Master Jou got us started respecting each others differences, and coming together in harmony.
Master Zhang Lu-Ping has also left us this year. His lessons were different. He was one of the most knowledgeable people in Tai Chi in the United States. He gave to many of us as much of his knowledge as we could absorb, also encouraging his students to figure out for themselves. Sadly, he took many of his insights to the next world. He gave so generously, but we just weren’t ready to learn many of them. And so the lesson he leaves for those who need to fill his shoes is this:
We must teach thoroughly that which we understand, to as many as can learn it. So that when we leave on that greater journey, Tai Chi can remain here for new generations to learn. We only have a lease on our bodies for a short time, however the body of Tai Chi can be a permanent resident here on the planet.
Since the passing of Yang Cheng Fu we have been losing pieces of our art, as each generation takes a cut for themselves of the knowledge they were taught. If this continues this art will become no more than slow motion aerobics. This must stop now.
As we step in to fill the shoes of our masters, we must prepare our students to fill our shoes, so that Tai Chi may blossom and not pass away, with our beloved teachers, from the face of this earth.