Becoming a Taiji Master or kung fu master is something one is born to do, and also comes from one’s ceaseless training and one’s grasp of what one has studied and practiced of Taiji and kung fu.
Here I will share one of my student’s personal stories.
In March of 2021 I received a letter:
I am Leah. This year I am eighteen, and will graduate from high school in May. I want to become a great kung fu and Taiji master. I have interest in becoming one of your long-term students. This way I can gain teaching qualifications. I want to register for your course of training. Do you have a program for providing food and housing to long term students? If that’s the case, how much are tuition and living expenses? If you do not include food and housing in the training program, then I’m interested in distance learning. Also, about how long does it take to become a kung fu master?
And I replied:
I’m delighted to meet you! Thank you for your interest in Wudang Daoist arts.
I’m also happy to know that your goal is to become a kung fu and Taiji master. Cultivating more kung fu and Taiji masters is my goal.
We do not have a long-term kung fu training plan. The longest program is three months, every year from March to June.
Also, every summer we have a week of kung fu silent practice.
I always diligently train my students, so if you can assiduously study, then in a year you should be able to begin to teach students. After two years you can obtain a teaching certificate. But you must come to study new materials with me every year. Being certified as a kung fu and Taiji master is not something I can define for you: it is something you students will determine.
If you have any questions, please let me know.
Master XuanYun Zhou
Later she wrote me several messages, saying that she was still in school and had no way to come to my center to study, and could she study Wudang kung fu online with me. I wrote back to her saying this was not possible since I do not offer kung fu online, and that my Taiji class is not accepting new students. I had her added to the 2022 three-month training program. After two days she wrote to me again, saying that she could come to my school, that she could finish her high school courses online, and at the same time she gave me two phone numbers with completely different area codes, saying that one was her number, and the other was her mother’s. If I could not reach her, then I could call her mother. After reading this message, my impression was that this was a fraud. Previously I had encountered this sort of situation where a student sends letters or text messages, sets up class times and gives out fake credit cards or fake checks, and then tries to make me refund them. Thankfully, if I do not see a student I do not take their payments, so this did not affect me. I also did not respond to Leah.
Two days later she sent me another message, asking why I had not called. I responded that she and her mother had to meet with me online so I could determine if she really was sincere about studying. My English is not very good, so I asked my assistant Rosie to join the meeting with me. I also had to talk with her mother, asking why Leah had chosen to study kung fu and Daoist culture.
Later in the video meeting when I was chatting with her mother, she said she was an engineer, and that although her income was good, she was unhappy because she was not living the lifestyle she wanted. If her daughter had something she wanted to pursue in life, then she would support her.
Also of great interest was that Leah and her mother were very interested in XuanXue 玄学, a Chinese thought of both abstract and practical teachings regarding “a more spiritual dimension” to navigate through the human condition, and wanted to choose the right day when she bought a plane ticket. It was only in April when I met Leah at the airport that I learned this was her first time travelling, her first time taking a plane, and she still felt dizzy from the plane and also from riding in the car.
When we got to the Daoist center, since she was still feeling sick from the plane I had her rest the first day. After eating breakfast she began to talk with the students here about daily training, and she practiced very diligently. Her ability to pick up Wudang Taiji was also very fast, for which I was grateful. During the afternoon free time I did not see her, so the students started looking for her. She was in the training hall practicing Taiji to music on her phone. In the following days whenever I would see her she was in the training hall practicing kung fu or Taiji. Interestingly, one morning when we woke up to start training, she said to me “Shifu, my hand hurts,” so I asked her what she had done. She said that in her sleep, she had dreamed of practicing kung fu and she hit the wall! When she walked, when we went to a restaurant to eat, it was only when she was not talking with other people, I could always see that her hands were practicing the Taiji and kung fu movements.
What Leah most feared was not being allowed to practice kung fu or Taiji. When she was practicing kung fu she had two injuries, mostly because she was too forceful when practicing, and also her training times were too long. Practicing kung fu and Taiji will change the body, but it needs to go through a process. Practicing too much or too intensely makes it easy to get injured. Every time I saw her practicing too intensely or too much, I would caution her that she ought to take her time, and if she got injured again, I would not let her practice for a week or two. This time her practice slowed down.
The planned three months of intensive training came to an end, but she and her mother still thought it would be best if she could remain and continue studying. Three months stretched to five months. She stayed through the summer and planned to come back next Spring in 2022. In that time Leah stayed at Xuan Ju, she studied Taiji, Taiji sword, Bagua, Xingyi, and also two kung fu forms. When a few local students took classes with her I would also let her teach the new students so she could learn how to be a Taiji and kung fu teacher. After she returned home to Arizona, she already had her first pupil (her mother).
Author: Daoist Master Xuan Yun Zhou
Translator: Larson Di Fiori