When dad’s traveling I cover his classes and this is where my mind gets pulled out of everything else and I am bathed in memories of a lot of things.
Dad’s in Hawaii teaching at the moment, which means I am in New York, teaching his classes in very unHawaii weather.
The other night I just realized how freaking gangster my dad actually is.
Ok, so there’s the name, right? I have only heard my father called either Master Chen or Grandmaster Chen growing, so much so, it was confusing when I heard people call him Mr. Chen, this was only by people outside of the school.
There’s the name, a name is just a name, without that person who gives it the right meaning. My dad, gives his name meaning and meaning of giving meaning a whole new meaning.
Dad’s a quiet guy, but just cause he doesn’t seem to say much, doesn’t mean there isn’t a tornado of everything swirling around inside of him all of the time. If ever there was a human who personified Tai Chi Chuan and embodied it, it is him.
I have an wonderfully, embarrassing fact to admit. I literally do not know much of anything about the actual traditional history of Tai Chi Chuan. I had an amazing conversation with dad, spurred by a conversation with a student that made me realize how much of the history of the lineage I did not know at all, but then again, dad did raise me by saying, don’t waste too much time talking about the past, just focus on what it teaches you about the future so you can live in the present. So, I’m pretty good at NOT thinking about the past much and I enjoy swimming through the experiences of life that I am presently living in, because Tai Chi is after all the Practice of Presence.
Maybe this is where a lot of Tai Chi schools go a little wrong when trying to teach Tai Chi today. They want to talk about the philosophies and constantly regurgitate lineage. There’s nothing wring with this, but the actual practice of Tai Chi is about Practiced Presence, so to live to much in the present teachings by obsessing over lineages, naturally just gets tired and boring, kinda like how I feel about the Kung Fu uniforms my mother endlessly tried to dress me up in and thankfully it is a battle I ended up winning. I can’t stand getting dressed up in traditional kung fu attire, it makes me wanna barf on myself.
If you think about it, dad has never been a traditional martial artist, especially with an art like Tai Chi. Someone mentioned to me the other day, which never occurred to me, about how dad was the first to openly embrace non-asian students. For the most part, the school, until recent years was always filled with every race, but Asians. I remember joking that it was our family who were the only Asians in our school growing up.
Then to continue the non-tradition of my traditional Chinese family, his daughter becomes a fighter, because her father unknowingly signs her up one day for her first fight at nationals. No, I was not pleased with this decision, but I did it and learned from that moment that the most badass quality anyone could ever own, is to own yourself, no matter what kind of adversity you face. Cause let me tell you, my first fight was more than just stepping in the ring. I had a world against me, people I had been friends with for years and then my own brother telling me I wasn’t good enough to fight and this was on fight day, the verbal battery continuing up until I actually stepped into the ring. I thought I had everyone against me, but then I realized I had everyone I needed behind me, including a very special woman from an opposing fight team, whom I have always regarded as a guardian angel in my life. When you have the right people behind you, it doesn’t matter who is trying to tear you down, I know this is something I learned from having a gangster dad.
You see all these outward portrayals of gangsters and behavior that is gangster, but the most gangster kinda guys I have ever known in my life are the silent but deadly. They are men who choose their words carefully and speak with action. They are men of their word and with that comes a unique trust you can’t find in the boys who pretend to be men today. They are the guys who are tough because of how they choose to command a room with their silence over violence. They don’t avoid fights because they are scared of loosing, they know their power, they know their strength, but they also know what precious commodity their time is, so they don’t waste it on anything so small (Tank, if you are reading this, sole this form you, again). Their silence is the deafening power of their core character, built only by hard work, honesty and humble pride.
No bragging. No Name Dropping. No Show Offs Allowed. A manner of integrity and dignity that is becoming depressingly and grossly obsolete in this day and age.
Grandmaster Chen, a true Modern day Gangster in this Modern World of Misfits and Wannabes.