A traditional Tai Chi Teacher in Donegal, Ireland, with over 20 years experience

Hello I’m Kevin McMonagle and I have done tai chi everyday for 27 years now. As a teenager I became interested in meditation and wanted to study it properly. I wasn’t sure how I was going to find an instructor, at this time I had never heard of Tai Chi Chuan. One day, I met master Li practicing chi kung in a garden, I thought it looked like meditation, at that time I hadnt heard of chi kung. I thought that Mr. Li looked like someone that could teach me meditation me so I boldly approached him. He laughed at and looked me over with pity then to my surprise he agreed to teach me. Later he explained that he also practiced a system of yang family tai chi. From the first movement I learned I was hooked.

Master Li’s Yang Style Tai Chi system.

Tai chi chuan teacher master li, shaolin teacher Master Wong and myself

Coincidentally master Li’s tai chi system was integrated a form of chi kung method and was in fact a very meditative practice. His Tai Chi practice was very good for health and longevity, but he didn’t emphasize martial arts. He explained that in the age of firearms it was easier to get a gun if you wanted to protect yourself, and then you could devote more time to studying for health.

Master Li was an acupuncture doctor who learned this art as well as tai chi from his uncle. Later on during WW2 master Li learned a form of xie xi qigong from a general in the flying tigers unit. He integrated this practice into his tai chi and that was the “meditation” method that I studied with him. Master Li had a very challenging life, surviving both the Japanese occupation and the Chinese revolution, from which, being member of the manchu aristocracy he was forced to flee to Taiwan. Later on he told me that he English from a Scottish missionary priest and because of this he was happy to have an Irish student. He also picked up a fondness for Johnny Walker from the priest.

A Traditional Tai Chi Curriculum

I studied the Yang Family Public Tai Chi Form (108), the Jian and Dao, push hands, Da Lu, Ba Duan Jin and the seated xie xi qigong. After a few years I made a small bit of progress and master Li gave me permission to teach tai chi, although I did not want to do this for many years. He also asked if I would like to learn his acupressure (not the acupuncture) method, which was related to the qigong practice, I learned a very small bit of this system. At this time however I had to move back to Donegal. I was not able to return to the states very much for a while and Master Li passed away. I was resolved to practice what he taught and improve my tai chi. Even though I’ve practiced different martial arts over the years it was always with the intent to improve my tai chi.

After I moved back to Ireland I attended a Chen Tai Chi class in Letterkenny, Donegal to meet people and keep my practice-focused. I also traveled to Dublin, Cork and London to attend seminars and visit Tai Chi teachers from different styles. I soon discovered that traditional tai chi teachers are very hard to find and the public classes were taught in a different manner that I was accustomed to. In the end I made new friends but I didn’t find a system that was compatible with what I had already learned. There was no tai chi teachers teaching qigong along with their tai chi which I thought was strange. Neither were any of the senior students practicing much push hands. The main difficulty I had however was finding another tai chi system with a compatible breathing method.

My Second Tai Chi Teacher

At this time I was reading a lot of Chinese martial arts books. One of these books, introduced me to the idea that the three “sister arts” of Tai Chi, Xing Yi and Bagua were branches of a single root. I found that historically there were high level tai chi masters in China that studied xing yi or bagua.

Since I couldn’t find another tai chi teacher compatible with my existing art I thought I might have more luck finding a teacher in the other two arts of Xing Yi or Bagua. Shortly afterward I again had to move back to the states and I met my second teacher, Shifu Victor Chao.

Shifu Chao is a Bagua Master from the Yi Zong tradition in Tawain, where master Li also lived after the war. If I was looking for a traditional training method, I really found it. Shifu Chao’s system has a breathing method very similar to master Li’s. Of all the teachers I met Shifu Chao’s system was the most compatible with what I had learned previously, even though Shifu Chao was a bagua master of the Yi Zong lineage.

I started learning bagua but told shifu chao I was interested in keeping my tai chi training going, after a year or two I realized that Shifu Chao’s bagua system was so detailed that I would have to give up tai chi if I were to continue with it. I asked him if he would instead show me Xing Yi Chuan. At first he didn’t really want to do that but then he started teaching me the postures. Shifu Chao’s xing yi is based on standing practice. For a long time he made me only one postures. I found that xing yi was compatible with my tai chi and that it was simple and different enough to not overwrite anything.

After studying with Shifu Chao for 4 years I moved back to Donegal Ireland and started up a tai chi class of my own. I also found that there was a very good Yi Zong teacher in France, Edward Hines, so I have been able to keep up my studies. For the last 5 years I have been studying along a teacher training curriculum facilitated by coach Edward and taught his own teacher, the master Luo De Xiu.