Tai Chi Teachings of Master Yun
Santa Barbara Now Home to This Global Master of the Rare Wu Style
By Matt Kettmann | January 27, 2022
For most of my life, I’ve seen people — typically older, often but not always of Asian descent — gracefully sweeping their arms and legs in coordinated movements across grassy parks in various cities around the world. This practice, as most everyone knows by now, is the Chinese martial art of tai chi, one of the most popular exercise routines on Earth. These seemingly effortless movements always struck me as an elegant, effective, and easy way to get your body moving in beneficial ways.
But effortless and easy it is not, which I instantly learned during an introductory lesson with Master Yun one recent Saturday morning under the oak trees and alongside a babbling creek. Existing somewhere between delicate dance, concentration puzzle, balancing act, and spiritual meditation, tai chi requires intense mental focus and complete body awareness to practice. Even just half an hour of repeating the simplest movements left me a bit spent, although both my mind and body felt acutely engaged, having glimpsed a more noble and nimble way of being.
While most of the tai chi seen outside of China is the Yang style, which uses those wider movements, Master Yun teaches Wu style, which is more concerned with smaller movements that emphasize the core. In my conversations with Yun and his student Daniel Nash, I learned that Yun is considered a global expert of this form, which he brought to Santa Barbara just a couple of years ago. At various parks and down at his studio on Los Aves by the bird refuge, Master Yun teaches this and four other styles of martial arts, including Seven Star Praying Mantis Kung Fu, which goes back 1,000 years, and Qing Ping Jian, a poem-powered sword style.
“At the highest level, tai chi is about moving your spirit and your intention through your body,” said Nash, translating a bit for Yun. “It makes you very, very healthy, and it’s also extremely good for balance.”
I fumbled through the forms that Saturday morning, challenged by having to control every extremity at once while copying movements that are simultaneously subtle and specific. The easy part was recognizing that I was indeed in the cheery and supportive yet disciplined and humble presence of a true teacher. One day, Master Yun, I’ll be back.
1807 E. Cabrillo Blvd., Ste. C; (805) 837-8833; masteryun.com
Read all of the stories in this year’s Self-Care issue here.
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