After 25 years of studying and teaching Yang style tai chi chuan Sifu Howard Ketola is still learning.
“My master said that when you think you know everything, you know nothing and you should start over,” said Ketola, who is proud to share the tradition of the yang style system developed by Yang Lu Chan in the early 1800s. His grandson, Master Yang Chen Fu, taught Grand Master Raymond Y.M. Chung, Ketola’s teacher, who gave him the title Sifu (master) and the honour to carry on the teachings of Yang style tai chi chuan.
Ketola had a school in Vancouver and has recently moved back to Vernon where he is offering instruction.
“People associate tai chi with relaxation and other benefits but there is a whole system of self defence in it if you want. To slow down and learn properly is a challenge in itself. It’s a total physical, mental and spiritual exercise,” he said.
Ketola believes it was meant to be that he is teaching at Kees Tae Kwon Do. He won a gift certificate for a tae kwon do lesson and talked with the instructor, leading to interest in adding the tai chi to the lessons at the studio.
He likes the difference in the two martial arts and is continuing with tae kwon do, which he calls a hard style of martial arts emphasizing external power and strength in technique. He said Yang style tai chi chuan is a soft style focusing on reading energy and using the other person’s energy to defeat themselves. Each style, of course, is much more complex.
Ketola said tai chi chuan is suitable for people of all ages and can improve overall physical and mental fitness.
“It can be adapted for people with a variety of disabilities and can be done in a wheelchair. Some people find it hard at first while it is more natural for others, but most stay with it because they want to learn more,” he said. “I hadn’t planned to start teaching again but I like the positive atmosphere here and that there are both hard-style and soft-style martial arts in the same facility. It balances the energy, chi, even more. I will do more advanced classes if there is interest.”
The Yang style tai chi and qi gong demonstrations take place Dec. 10 at 2:30 p.m. at Kees Tai Kwon Do studio in Vernon. For more information or to register for classes starting Jan. 3 call 250-545-7710 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.