April 5, 2005 at 9:52 am #4015
Reply to Jsrit, from below link “We all gsossip, don’t we?”:
My advice about consulting your shen to find out who is the best teacher for you at Omega this summer still stands.
But I will go deeper into Kwan. He is an interesting character, i really like his playfulness. At the time I studied with him, he was a strongman type surrounded by “weaklings” who wanted to become strong. They thought they needed to protect him from others, and eventually his main lieutenant refused to let me study further with Kwan on the grounds that I might write a book about him.
I was amused, as I didn’t really want to go farther into his martial practices anyway. But they later blocked ron diana and other healing tao students from study with him also, based on a general paranoia.
I was just warning that you should not mold your expectations of Kwan based on a novel by one of his students. And his weakling-paranoid students wanted to believe he was God and had studied with every great tai chi master in China. By elevating him, they were elevating themselves. They put it in his brochure. From my point of view, it was a lie and false advertising. Kwan should not have allowed it; but he is a trickster, he is careful never to make those claims for himself, he lets others make them and take the responsbility for their illusions.
When you study with a new teacher, best to enter neutral, with no expectations or illusions. Impossible for most of us, but it helps to try, otherwise you can waste too much time chasing your expectations or illusions about someone else.
You might get something different from Kawn than I got. I noticed he relied heavily on physical breathing methods – a short tai chi chi kung form that had a total of 14 inhalations……
On the other hand, Kwan has apparently used these post-natal methods to rejuvenate himself – he looked 45 at the age of 65. That was over a decade ago. So where he is at now may be a totally different place. At the time his meditations were clearly borrowed from hinduism, he even had us chanting OM, etc. That is partly what tipped me off that he was not into high level taoist meditation.
Kwan has a wonderful spirit, and lots of martial skills. But he got some of them from trading with Ken Cohen. Ken studied Chinese, but never spoke Chinese with Kwan. One day they were ina restaurant, and the chinese waitress said to Kwan, “where are you from? You don’t look Chinese.”.
Kwan relief to her in Chinese, “I am half-German”.
Ken slyly said nothing. He later related the story to my wife, who studied with Kwan as well. You can even find details in his third novel hinting at this truth. It is the most autobiographical, including his years spent working in Chinese restaurants in California, liek many immigrant chinese. But Kwan had a dream to create a different life, possibly fed by kung fu novels and a gift for story telling.
When you look at Kwan, it is easy to see the stocky heavy german build that is NOT typically chinese (except for the northern Chinese/manchurian types, but they are much taller than Kwan). This is not a criticism of Kwan, or change who he is or what he’s teaching, but it should open the discerning student to another layer of his reality.
And that’s good.
michaelApril 5, 2005 at 4:00 pm #4016
Hi Michael, You seem to know alot about other teachers.As this stuff is pretty small circle that makes sense.I personally don’t see it as gossip, I figure the sharing of information is to the benefit of everybody since well informed decisions require just that, to be well informed.If you are familiar with Glenn Morris I would appreciate it if you could share what you know of him and his teachings.I have seen him recommended a few times and am curious as to what the deal.June 6, 2009 at 8:35 pm #4018
As a high-school student, I studied with a man who went by the name “Kuan” from 1974-78 in San Francisco. Practices were held early on Saturday and Sunday mornings in Brenham square, across from Old St. Mary’s Catholic Church. I had previously studied Taiji, Northern Shaolin, and Xingyi Chuan for several years with a two very well-known Masters, who I will not name, in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
I heard of Kuan through a friend named Derek, who at the time was studying Kinesiology at Berkeley. Derek billed described Kuan as a master of Monkey, Drunken Boxing, Mizhong Yi, Bagua Chang, and several other arcane styles. With my youthful enthusiasm, I imagined that I would learn from Kuan all of the great secrets that other teachers did not possess or were reluctant to impart. Indeed, Kuan’s approach to teaching was very different from the slow, methodical, and demanding approaches I had previously experienced. My other two teachers expected students to develop tremendous patience. They would only teach a few movements of a form at a time. Only after it was clear that a student had absorbed the essence of those moves would they teach the next sequence of moves. Kuan, on the other hand, would take a new student and expose him (we were only male at the time!) entire forms in a single session.
Within less than a year of studying with Kuan, I developed serious doubts about him. The forms seemed to change from week to week. He was somewhat clumsy and portly and possessed little flexibility. He had nowhere near the mastery that my previous teachers possessed. In addition, he displayed many characteristics of an inveterate liar. He told us that he was an apprentice in the Beijing opera as a boy. He told us that he studied with various illustrious masters in China. He told us that he was a Golden Gloves champion. The stories often contradicted one another on various levels. My most servious questions arose when, at a student’s request, Kuan began to teach the group Xingyi Chaun. It appeared to me that he had found a book on Xingyi. He could not remember the (rather simple) forms and continuously stumbled and changed the order of movements. It was a farce.
After class on Sunday’s the group would often eat at a restaurant named Huibing Lou. Kuan apparently knew one of the cooks. He would stuff himself. One day after class, a few of us went instead for a barbeque at Kuan’s apartment in the Mission district. It was a ground floor unit overlooking the garden that he was sharing with the senior student, named Jeffrey. The garden had at least one Wing Chun dummy. There were shockingly obscene pornographic magazines (at least to my rather sheltered eyes) strewn throughout the place, which was a shambles and smelled rank. I was dismayed. The food was also what I would summarize as “white bread.”
While there someone saw Kuan’s passport. I do remember the first name “Frank” on the passport. This raised all kinds of red flags.
About this time, Kuan, Jeffrey, and another student (who was very overweight, had serious back problems, and was a Sufi) began to study Chigung with a herbalist in Chinatown. They became obsessed with Chigung and would practice it during our practices, practices which became increasingly chaotic and disordered. I found the snorting and the awkward postures that they would assume, which were completely lacking in the grace that I had come to associate with Chinese martial arts, to be rather strange.
I continued to study with Kuan until I graduated from high school and went on to Berkeley. This gave me the opportunity to smoothly break ties with Kuan.
To this day I regret that I did not stay with my other much more traditional and reliable teachers.
By the way, I do agree completely with Michael that Kuan had a very playful spirit. I also agree with him completely that Kuan is a trickster. I should, however, add that even as a naive high school student, I picked up and was repusled by this aspect of his character. Finally, it is true that the majority of the adults who were studying with Kuan at the time I was, somehow needed to believe that he was all of the things he told us he was. The worst was Jeffrey, who was Kuan’s lieutenant during the period in question.
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