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Taoist Tai Chi - Tai Chi for Beginners

Master Moy and Me

When I started learning Tai Chi in Toronto back in the eighties, my instructor was a young, tall and cheerful Chinese man with a great sense of humour. Knowing that Tai Chi was a Chinese martial art, I assumed that all Tai Chi instructors were Chinese. I soon found out I was mistaken!

A few months after I started learning Tai Chi, I was invited to a special evening meeting that was highly recommended by my instructor. I was very curious and eager to attend. This meeting was mostly for Tai Chi instructors who were not, as I soon discovered, all Chinese. Actually, there were almost no Chinese people in the room, except for my instructor, Master Moy and his interpreter.

Taoist Tai Chi - Tai Chi for Beginners: Venerable master
I had heard of Master Moy Lin Shin from the first day, and I imagined him to be a venerable oldster with mighty authority.

In fact, he was then about 58 years old and was definitely not an old man, even though I believed at the time that everyone over 40 was old. He was small and slim and he smiled a lot. He appeared both quiet and friendly. I had the feeling he never spoke without a purpose. Because Master Moy only spoke Chinese, all his instructions were always simultaneously translated in English by an interpreter.

The evening was a lecture on Tai Chi, followed by in-depth practice. During the lecture, we all sat on the floor and I have unforgettable memories of my sore behind on the hard floor. But I remember very vividly the practice that followed. It is during this session – and the ones that followed – that I learned to do perfect to-yu’s and dan-yu’s with Master Moy’s direct approval.

During those special sessions, Master Moy was always surrounded by a crowd of followers, which made him rather unapproachable. Yet, after that first evening event, when I attended my regular classes on King Street, I occasionally found my Chinese instructor conversing with Master Moy in their own language. There were relatively few students in that group, so Master Moy observed all of us very carefully. The only word I ever heard him utter in English was “Good!” and I am proud to say that I heard it several times as he watched me perform my Tai Chi routine.

In August, 1990, I participated in my first “Tai-Chi-thon” as we called it. It was a Tai Chi Awareness Day held on the Toronto Island, with food, friendship and a lot of fun. Master Moy was there, doing his Tai Chi like everyone else. The idea was to do as many Tai Chi sets as we could and, despite the very hot and sticky weather, I managed to perform 13 consecutive sets (i.e., 1404 moves in a row!)

I still have the tee-shirt I received and wore that day. Because it was ‘one-size-fits-all’, there was enough room in it for me and a Sumo wrestler. The tee-shirt featured Master Moy beautifully “creeping low like a snake.”

Taoist Tai Chi - Tai Chi for Beginners: Creeping low
Creeping low like a snake

Being a pillar of my Tai Chi class, I was eventually given a set of keys to our practice location on King Street, in case the instructor couldn’t make it, which happened more and more often. Even though I never became an official instructor, I ended up leading many classes and passing on Master Moy’s teachings to numerous students.

Life events and countless activities took me away from Tai Chi for many years, before my return last year. But I never forgot Master Moy’s precious lessons, and I still hear in my mind his Chinese-accented voice whispering “Good!”


Taoist Tai Chi - Tai Chi for Beginners: Yin-Yang symbol

Taoist Tai Chi - Tai Chi for Beginners: Chinese characters for Tai Chi Chuan

Taoist Tai Chi - Tai Chi for beginners: New button
- A 12-minute recording calling out each Tai Chi move in time during the set (mp3)
- A script of the video explaining each move (pdf )
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