Tai Chi Master Wille Lim has taken Tai Chi to the next level. As a practitioner of Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan from Chen Man Ching’s lineage, Tai Chi Master Wille Lim has demystified this ancient and complex art.
By John Ding – Tai Chi and Alternative Health Magazine
TCAH: Tai Chi Master Willie Lim, could you please start by telling us how you became involved in Tai Chi Chuan?
I was getting injured all the time with Karate and my Tai Chi teacher was a Chinese herbalist, who looked after me, so I became involved with his art by chance.
TCAH: Why did you choose Tai Chi Chuan as opposed to other styles?
Firstly, my teacher was a close friend of my uncle and as stated above, he looked after all my bruises from my Kyokushinkai sparring.
TCAH: Was the approach very different from your Tae Kwon Do training?
Yes. Instead of being shown all the moves as in Karate or Tae Kwon Do, you get shown if you are lucky maybe 1/2 a step of a move.
TCAH: What difference did you find Tai Chi Master Willie Lim?
That Tae Kwon Do looked very different with all the high kicks, etc. but in actual fact, it was a lot easier to learn. Tai Chi looked so simple yet was the total opposite.
TCAH: What benefits did you find from this approach?
A lot of the Tai Chi techniques are based on “infighting” and this helped me in my free sparring – to jam my opponent and off balance him. I found this a big advantage at the time. Also learning more about your sphere of control rather than what the attacker intended to do.
TCAH: Under whom did you study Tai Chi?
My early days of Tai Chi was under Mr. Yeo Cheng Hoe from Peneng, Malaysia in 1961, who at the time, was one of the better teachers. Presently, I am a student under Master Yek Sing Ong from New Zealand. He is Master Huang Sheng Shyans top student.
TCAH: Are there any stories you could relate to us of your Tai Chi training?
When I first studied Tai Chi, I did not like it at all – being educated in an English School and also a practitioner of a hard style. I got the worst of everything – where I was the punching bag so to speak. This meant I had to learn fast, not to continue to be on the receiving end.
The next story is when I first met Master Yek. After watching me performing my Tai Chi, he turned round and said, “You use your Karate to make your Tai Chi work. You do not know how to use your Tai chi for combat.” I agreed. Since then, the knowledge he has continuously shared with me gave me a deeper insight and understanding of true Tai Chi.
TCAH: What is your view about Tai Chi Chuan practiced nowadays?
I always say that there is room for everyone. Then again, very few people practice Tai Chi chuan. What the majority do is, practice Tai Chi movements yet market it as Tai Chi Chuan. There is Tai Chi and there is Tai Chi!
TCAH: What do you think are the essential points when practicing Tai Chi Chuan?
Patience, patience and more patience if you are learning real Tai Chi as opposed to movements. A sharp keen eye and the ability to “let go.”
TCAH: How important is it to find a good teacher?
I believe this is the key ingredients to learning and understanding the art.
TCAH: How can you tell if one is learning frm a good teacher?
No one can tell especially if you are a complete beginner. In today’s world of advertising and marketing, the one who makes the loudest noise often ends up with the students initially. However a good indication is that if certain names of teachers keep popping up as you cross the boundaries of different continents, then seek them out. Beware of people teaching numerous internal styles and external styles as well. I ask, how is it possible for someone to do them all when only one art takes a lifetime?!!!
TCAH: What advice would Tai Chi Master Willie Lim give to practitioners at different levels.
Have fun in what you do. Set Realistic goals.
Pay particular attention to your basics. without proper understanding, you cannot really progress.
That Tai Chi said and done is a “simply” art. You must give it due respect and time for it to work into your body. Let the feel you developed through the years guide you with your teacher. Do not try to over analyse it and veer off tangent.
TCAH: Often, there are people who are not achieving any power after many years of practice. What advise would you give to these people?
Are you training correctly? 20 years of wrong training does not equate to 1 year of proper Tai Chi. Are you one of those bound up by the mystery of Chi. The Chi is always there, but unless and until the whole body is aligned correctly, you cannot harness and apply the power of Chi.
TCAH: There are many interpretations of Tai Chi Chuan even from the Yang Style itself. How important is it to practice the right way?
As a beginner, it is of the utmost importance to practice the right way as this is the foundation upon which everything is based. without this, you are just an empty shell. Just like having a Roll Royce but without the engine.
TCAH: Does it matter as long as the principals are applied?
No, as long as the principles are applied. If you have years and years under your belt than this is the basis on which everything for your size to execute any Tai Chi applications effectively. Both questions are relevant to the practitioners time period.
TCAH: More and more people from the external Martial Artist are beginning to study Tai Chi Chuan to help them understand their style, what advice do you have for these people.
As a raw beginner, you would be able to look at Tai Chi and enjoy it at your level. As you get deeper into Tai Chi, you can not train in both as you will be undoing what the other does. One is a mechanical move (external) and the other is an economical move (internal). In fact by virtue of analyzing Tai Chi through external eyes, you will never understand the full potential of Tai Chi. I am not saying, throw away your external art, but rather shelve it temporarily. Give Tai chi its fair due and it will bring your external art to a totally different level. However, you will need to seek out genuine Tai chi master who can rally teach and demonstrate the true art. This is the direction in which your journey should begin – The Search.
TCAH: Any last words on what Tai Chi Chuan means for you?
Today Tai Chi to me means – physics and applied mechanics. That sounds frightening yet not. It is a simple art. You must give it the respect it deserves. Do not try to make it complicated. It is not. Tai Chi is full of paradox – it is an intellectual and physical brain teaser. When you get there you will know what I mean. You are the conduit between heaven and earth. The power is limitless. Have fun with the practice and there are no short cuts to it.
TCAH: Tai Chi Master Willie Lim, thank you for sharing your views with our readers. They will find them most helpful!
Interview with Tai Chi Master Willie Lim
by Master John Ding, Editor-in-Chief
Tai Chi and Alternative Health Magazine, Issue 14, 1998