Small world, Big teaching: an unexpected T'ai Chi encounter

On my way to pick up my daughter after work this afternoon, I found myself with a few minutes to spare before her choir practice finished. Since I'd missed my T'ai Chi practice this morning, I decided to stop in Grange park to do some form work.

I've been studying regularly for a little over two years under the Rising Sun School's excellent instructors, but I recognize that I'm still very early on a lifelong path, and still feel a bit self-conscious when I practice in public. Nonetheless, I dropped my gear at a picnic table and began to roll through the third stage of the Yang style long form taught by my teacher.

I practiced for ten minutes or so; when I finished and began to pack up to go, I noticed a man who was out walking his dog heading my way. We exchanged greetings, and the fellow asked me who I studied T'ai Chi with.

"Paul McCaughey," I answered, and started to mention the name of the school. Before I could finish, the man surprised me, smiling and telling me that he had studied under the same teacher as Paul had, Master Lee Shiu Pak, himself a student of Chen Wei Ming. The man introduced himself as David Bray, and told me he'd studied with Master Lee around the same time in Montreal during the 1970s.

I was amazed at what a small world it is, but even more intrigued when David told me how he'd recognized my form. He said he'd been watching from across the park, that he had seen something familiar in my movements, and guessed that I must have studied with a student of Master Lee.

My first reaction was to be flattered that a student of my teacher's teacher could recognize his own style in me -- I must be learning something! Upon further reflection, I recognized that this probably says more about the distinctive branch of our particular lineage, which is often described as being unique within Yang styles.

Still, to be told this, and even to recognize it within the school setting, is very different from having a complete stranger recognize something that connects me back to a rich oral history and a deep wisdom.

I am deeply honoured to know that this tradition, this practice, this style of movement, is beginning to take root in my body, and that I will carry this with me through my own life. After chatting a couple minutes more, I said goodbye and left the park feeling elated and humbled at this unexpected encounter.