The first time I saw Chan Tai San, I didn’t even know who he was, much less that I’d spend a good part of my life with him. I had heard some rumblings about him around Chinatown. The rumblings were mixed, and at the time I wasn’t really that interested in finding a teacher. I was pretty much teaching my mixture of Hung Ga and Shuai Jiao, with some boxing and assorted other stuff I had picked up. I never really imagined how meeting him would shape my life so much.
I was sitting in Tin Yik, a restaurant that no longer exists. It was a little place, and mostly Chinese. But I managed to order my ha jeung (shrimp in rice noodle tube) and my coffee and it was the sort of place that if you sat and BS’ed they didn’t care.
Old Chinese men arguing was nothing strange here, but one old guy was louder than the rest. He then suddenly stood up and proceeded to run through a line of movement. Now, I know it was bak Mei, at the time I just knew it was some sort of Kung Fu. Sifu Chan was already in his 60’s by the time this happened, yet he moved as if he was an active student in his 20’s!
After demonstrating the movement, he apparently must have felt he proved his point. The guy he was arguing with sort of put his head down, and Sifu Chan actually slapped his forehead. As I would later learn, Sifu Chan when it came to martial arts was ALWAYS right, and he wasn’t shy about telling you, showing you and pointing it out afterwards.
At this point, Steve ventura, who was eating with me, had pulled our friend the waiter over. He was a man I’d get to know over the years and call “uncle”. I didn’t know at the time, but he was a relative of Sifu Chan’s. He did Taiji and Tan Teui (spring legs) in the park every morning. His Taiji was his own synthetic form, he’d studied with like 20 different guys including version of yang, chen, wu, hao and li…
Anyway, my “uncle” as I would learn to call him, told us he was a famous teacher who had just arrived from China recently. He told us the name, which only sort of stuck, we were dumb lo faan who didn’t speak Chinese at the time. But he also told us he spoke no English and wasn’t exactly interviewing for students. A little crest fallen, I figured it wasn’t meant to be…. of coure, I was wrong
NOW GO TRAIN!
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