In May, Ray and I traveled to Chicago to visit Master Choi to continue our studies with him. I was interested in learning more of the Liu Ho Pa Fa Main Form and Ray was going to study more Pa-Kua and Hsing-I weapons. We arrived at Master Choi’s studio Saturday afternoon and found him watching a Chinese cable TV station, which was showing an interview with two distinguished academics. One was the head of a prestigious university in China the other the head of Oxford University in England. A question was asked of the Chinese scholar; “What’s the most important thing you teach the students at your university?” The professor answered, “Not to look and think in only a straight line but rather to see and think with a broader field of vision.” Master Choi exclaimed, “Good answer! Just like martial arts.” He then spoke for the next fifteen minutes on how this has been his objective in teaching “real internal training” for years. This discourse set the tone for an enjoyable and valuable weekend of study.
We began our session with Master Choi correcting my Main Form while Ray manned the video camera. Master Choi has considerable knowledge and skill in T’ai-Chi, Hsing-I, and Pa-Kua, but the Liu Ho Pa Fa Main Form is the crown jewel in his repertoire of styles. He knows every centimeter of the form in great detail and my form felt strong, natural, and comfortable after receiving the subtle corrections he made to it. A review of the self-defense applications for the form came next. Many of the applications he demonstrated were different than those we had learned previously. When asked about this Master Choi said since fighting is unpredictable, any given movement in a form should be applicable to different situations. The founder of the style had an idea in his mind that worked in his generation and we should analyze and adapt it, but “don’t copy it.” This means we must understand the principle in order to freely use it, as a situation demands. Master Choi used the analogy of learning architecture by studying the blue print of a particular building. By only copying the blue print you continually build the same building over and over rather than understanding the principles of architecture and engineering to design original structures that fit their environment.
Ray and I changed roles as student and cameraman and a session of Pa-Kua and Hsing-I staff and spear techniques began. Every weapon is used in a particular way based on its physical design but weapons must be thought of as an extension of the hand. Master Choi clearly demonstrated this idea through the 5 elements of Hsing-I and various Pa-Kua palm changes. Our afternoon session came to a close all too quickly even though it was over three hours long. It was time for a well-deserved meal.
Master Choi drove us to our favorite Chinese restaurant in Chicago, Li Wing Wa in Chinatown. There Master Choi ordered in Cantonese the best beef and pan fried noodles we’ve had anywhere, a delicious shrimp in honey-mustard sauce with glazed walnuts, and crispy chicken. The tea and conversation flowed as we waited for the food to be served. At one point Ray asked Master Choi what his Liu Ho Pa Fa teacher Chan Yik Yan’s favorite food was. This brought up a story about a banquet that Master Choi held in his teacher’s honor when he was a student. Grandmaster Chan loved to eat fish but his favorite fish was a large, rare and very expensive fish (he said the name in Chinese but not in English) which was considered a delicacy in Hong Kong. The fish needed to be caught and prepared the same day and a special chef who knew how to cook it had to be used. To cover the cost Choi and the guests had to pay a hundred dollars each – this was in the early 1960′s. As a self-employed truck driver, the time and expense was difficult to manage but he told us sometimes in order to show respect and appreciation money is not important. After the restaurant Ray and I returned to our hotel to digest a great meal and a lot of information.
The following morning we arrived back at Master Choi’s studio for another session before returning home late that afternoon. In this session new Main Form postures and applications were learned as well as a lot of discussion and demonstration on body-harmony, speed and power, sensitivity, comparative styles and strategy. Before we knew it morning became afternoon and we invited Master Choi out for one last meal before heading back to the airport. Another delightful feast at Li Wing Wa was enjoyed during which time we arranged to meet with Master Choi once this summer and again in the fall.
Thanks to all our students and friends who contributed to our education fund for making that possible. Wai-lun Choi has continually investigated and questioned the principles and commonly held beliefs in the martial arts for over forty years in order to reveal their essence-both for himself and for his students. At one point during our lunch Master Choi joked that he was named Wai because he was always asking why. For Ray and I, that weekend he had a lot more answers than questions.