Interview with visiting world renowned Tai Chi Master Jesse Tsao
who will be in Newcastle teaching April 4th and 5th (third visit to Australia – second visit to Newcastle)
Jesse Tsao, holds a PhD in Wushu from Shanghai Sport University, is an acclaimed author, world renowned Tai Chi master, Qigong therapist and alternative medicine and wellness consultant. Master Tsao is the founder of Tai Chi Healthways USA internationally recognised as a leader in tai chi and Qigong education. Master Tsao is 12th generation direct-line lineage holder of Chen style Tai Chi and formal disciple of Chen Style Tai Chi Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei.
What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi is widely practised for stress reduction, energy enhancement, preventing illness, improving concentration, strengthening the mind and body, and slowing the effects of aging. Tai chi has been recognised by medical experts as a practical, effective alternative to expensive drugs and therapies to control chronic disease. Doctors and researchers both in China and in the western world have documented many health benefits of Tai Chi practice, including improvements in balance, flexibility, stamina, blood pressure, general heart health, mental health and symptoms associated with stroke, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Its gentle and fluid motions are suitable for everyone, regardless of age or athletic ability. Tai Chi is the
fastest-growing popular practice in the world today. In the old times, Tai Chi is a special self-defence/ fighting martial arts, even in nowadays, many people train to be an internal Kung Fu master.
Can you explain what is a Tai Chi Master?
A master of any art must be an extraordinary practitioner who have achieved the mastery skill level. A Tai Chi master is normally a formal disciple of lineage holder who received the deepest and most secretive levels of specialised knowledge available in Tai Chi. Masters can be truly exceptional at all aspects of Tai Chi, not only practice forms with precision, flow, focus and power, he has to be able to teach effectively to practitioners of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced Tai Chi instructors. It is also our responsibility to enrich this art while carrying it forward. A Tai Chi master must be a highly skilled teacher able to teach in deeper layers of Tai Chi, the nei-gong (inner energy cultivation) and nei-jin (internal strength/power). Many Tai Chi masters are also highly skilled in Chinese medicine, calligraphy, painting and martial strategy. Being a master requires “Kung Fu” which has become confused over the years and Western culture tends to think of it more as a martial art in itself. Kung Fu actually means having refined your skill after many years, often decades of development.
How did you learn Tai Chi?
I will never stop learning, I still study and research delightedly every day. Tai chi is an art of endless. I was born and raised in Penglai, Shandong province China a city immersed in Taoist culture internal alchemy development, meditation and the practice of martial arts. When I was a small boy I was very interested in Taoist healing and self-defence skills and when I turned 7 years old, I began my training with Tao masters and learned Taoist breathing methods, stretching techniques, energy collecting and nourishing, as well as Kung Fu. In my youth I spent 10 years of intensive study and training with Professor Li Deyin in Beijing Renmin University, and Grandmasters Chen Xiaowang, Chen Zhenglei, Zhu Tiancai, Abraham Liu, and Daniel Lee. I also seek counsel from Wu Bin (Jet Li’s coach), Li Ziming, Wu Tunan, Zang Hongxian, Chen Sitan, Su Zifang, and others. Beginner or Grandmaster, if you believe you know all there is to know you have lost the essence of Tai Chi.
Can you tell me why you study and teach Tai Chi ?
I was assistant professor of Economic Management in Beijing Renmin University in the 80s and economist for the State of Arizona USA throughout the 90s. During this time I developed a pilot program “Tai chi for employee work-site stress management” which was an overwhelming success. I taught the chief attorney and chief judge at the Arizona Supreme Court, and here is what they said : “ I am writing to extend my appreciation to Jesse Tsao for introducing our office to an innovative and beneficial program of Tai Chi for use in the contemporary workplace. It is also my privilege to recommend him to other offices which are seeking such a program for their employees. In a brief period of 6 weeks, Mr. Tsao effectively communicated the basic elements of Tai Chi to a group of the Court’s justices and staff. His program was enthusiastically accepted by all participants, who came to value his sessions as means of reducing stress, increasing wellness and mental focus and enhancing our overall professional and personal capabilities. His unfailing courtesy, ability to accommodate the working environment of a busy office, and eminent qualifications as an recognised master of Tai Chi, all contributed to an overwhelmingly positive experience for our office“– Pattience Huntwork, Chief Staff Attorney of Arizona Supreme Court, October 14, 1998. From that moment I knew I had to resign my economics position and focus totally on Tai Chi research. I felt Tai Chi is my life. I have been teaching and training Tai Chi and Qigong instructors worldwide since 1996. I created Tai Chi Healthways to provide quality instruction and which has trained 1000s of instructors from 36 countries.
You are teaching two different workshops in Newcastle can you explain the difference?
· 18 Fan in Yang Style Workshop 4th April
The Chinese have a saying regarding weapons; “The shorter it is – the more dangerous. The more ordinary looking – the deadlier it is.” During this workshop students will learn to combine body movement and footwork to turn a soft implement into a hard, versatile weapon with the flick of their wrist.
· 24 form applications Workshop 5th April
During this workshop students focus on how each posture is used as a self-defence move, ward-off , roll back, press, push, adhering, deflections, fajin strikes, kicks, joint locks, sweeps and take-downs, are all contained within the movements of the Yang style Simplified 24 form. I will show how each posture is used to overcome an opponent. Whether using grips or locks (qin na) or attacking with punches, kicks and strikes, I will uncover the martial aspects to help students understand the positioning and applications of each of the postures.
You travel all around the world teaching Tai Chi and this is your second visit to the Tai Chi Centre in Newcastle……..
Why have you returned?
Yes, I travel and present seminars all around the world and have been to Australia already twice before. I was fortunate to present workshops to students of the Tai Chi Centre in 2018 and was struck by the amount of knowledge they have already, and their desire to continue to learn and improve their Tai Chi.
After working with the students here before would you say they are learning well?
They are fantastic. I was happy to see that even the very beginning students are competent in the movements and body alignments needed to practice Tai Chi. Their teacher Amanda, is very accomplished in Tai Chi and is an excellent Tai Chi teacher who gives her students everything they need to learn well. Amanda is always studying and developing her skills further, she even travels to San Diego to train with me. I see happiness in students at the Tai Chi Centre, Amanda calls her students her family and there is much mutual respect.
Do you go sightseeing when you are visiting Newcastle?
Of course. I am lucky I have a wonderful host Amanda. Last time I visited Newcastle I did much sightseeing. I enjoy the ocean and I visited all the beaches along your beautiful coastline from Fingal Bay to Caves Beach. I went to Blackbutt Reserve and saw the Koala and Kangaroo, but my favourite thing was swimming in the Bogey Hole.
Do you plan on coming back to Newcastle to teach again?
Yes, definitely I will! I have been conducting workshops, seminars and training tours internationally since 2005, in Germany, France, England, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Russia and Greece. I like Melbourne and Sydney too but I really enjoy working with Amanda and students from Newcastle, so yes, I would very much like to come back again.