(My book about Master Choi, his life and teachings)
Last month I got to visit my teacher, Grandmaster Wai-lun Choi, in Chicago. We scheduled an hour to catch up on many subjects and reconnect after a few years. The hour stretched to three and a half hours! The time flew as it always does when I get to learn and just be with this amazing master.
I stood on the corner for almost 40 minutes waiting for Master Choi to arrive, and it was chilly! And then, there he was driving up and waving. I jumped into his SUV as we looked for a place to park. His ready smile and laughter were infectious. After parking, we actually hooked arms and rushed across the street weaving in and out of traffic like two teenagers, at least he was a teenager!
( Chut Yu Li Ji, 7 Halberds Strung Like Pearls)
We caught up on what the past few years brought to our lives, him with retirement and me with bankruptcy and divorce.He talked a lot about his mother, who is 97, and about his observations on aging and independence.We talked about our kids and families and all that had happened since we last met, at his 70th birthday party in Minnesota. I got to clear up some misunderstandings and then we were on to Master Choi's favorite subject, martial arts.
( Master Choi's teacher, Grandmaster Chan Yik-yan)
Master Choi waxed philosophical with the wisdom of looking back on a long career teaching full time. He gave me many ideas for being a better businessman as well as a better teacher. He told me to emphasis healing and health because," You may train self-defense for your whole life and never need to use it. But you need to keep healthy."
At one point Master Choi was so animated and full of energy that I said, "You look like your are 25!" He said not to say that. "I know lots of 25-year-olds who are weak, tense, slow,out of shape, and don't know martial arts. Say I look healthy."
At one point Master Choi looked at me and said,"You look good. You look strong."
Master Choi told me a lot about how he spends his day and his training. He said he never regrets learning martial arts because he always has something to do. "I never regret learning this art. It's like my best friend. I feel lucky. I'm never bored. If I have a whole day free, I don't worry, I just have more time to practice and meditate. I never feel lonely because I have this art."
We talked about stretching and strengthening as we age and Master Choi said it is important to stretch and be able to squat so you can get up if you fall. He encouraged me to put "heel to butt" to keep my legs soft and flexible. He also said to never block the circulation, that relaxation is the best for health. He also said to strengthen the bones with gravity and pressure from standing mediation.
He said if you have a headache you can take an aspirin to relieve it, but you can't take an aspirin for a heartache.
Master Choi lamented that as a teacher, he gave many 1s, but the students were looking for 2s. He said,"If I give you two 1s, it's up to you to come back with 2. Then I give you another 1 and you come back with 3." He said a teacher's role is to teach the basics, principles, and theories. It's up to the student to refine them. He laughed and said there is no school for being president of the USA!
He also reminded me of his three "don'ts:"
Don't be selfish.
Don't be greedy.
Don't be jealous.
He said not to be afraid to die. "You need to be afraid of being sick or weak. If you die when you are happy, NO PROBLEM!"
I got do some sensitivity with him and he was as soft and alert, and fast, as ever. He gave me some new ideas for practice and teaching sticky hands and close-distance sparring. We talked about 9 Joint Harmony and what the other joints do, as he reminded me there are 15 joints, not just 9, in the martial arts body. He gave me more to think about and research in Hsing-Yi's Sam Tai Sek.
Master Choi gave me a last caution. "Plan for when you are 90, don't let it sneak up on you."
I have talked to him a few times since last month, he even called me in Denver, and we are moving into a new cycle of my training. I am excited to be studying with my teacher again and to be privy to his constant exploration and research into martial arts, meditation, healing, teaching, learning, and life. I'll keep you posted!