Philippe Gagnon, based in Quebec, has come a long way since starting as a Tai Chi instructor in the 1980s and learning from renowned masters, including the late Moy Lin Shin. — Jean-René Archambault photo

Tai Chi instructor working to revive rare Xingyi practice

Parksville Shores Tai Chi Society welcomes back Philippe Gagnon

Philippe Gagnon has been practicing Tai Chi for so long, that, when he first started, someone called the cops thinking some teenagers were fighting in the park.

Gagnon, based in Quebec, has come a long way since starting as a Tai Chi instructor in the 1980s and learning from renowned masters, including the late Moy Lin Shin.

He’s also been providing workshops in Nanaimo and Parksville since 2013, and watched as the Parksville Shores Tai Chi Society grew.

Now he’ll be back in Parksville to teach during the Parksville group’s third annual Tai Chi workshop on Wednesday, Sept. 13, at the Bradley Centre in Coombs.

There he will be giving workshops on Tai Chi as well as Lok Hup, sword, saber, and, new this year, Xingyi.

This latest discipline is part of a wider effort to bring back a fairly unique style of Xingyi created by one of Moy’s instructors, said Gagnon.

“Xingyi is very different from Tai Chi,” he said. While Tai Chi has many movements (Moy taught a 108-move set of Tai Chi), Xingyi has five basic movements, Gagnon said.

“And (they’re) practiced in a straight line,” he said, adding it’s also faster and more explosive.

The Xingyi style Gagnon and some of his colleagues hope to revive combines Xingyi with another discipline that doesn’t have a set sequence of movements.

Though Moy was not able to pass on too much of this style to his students before he passed away, Gagnon said he and some of his colleagues are looking to revive it.

“We’ve worked pretty hard to get that Xingyi particular form, which is quite unique, back on track and be available,” he said. “So now I’m coming (to Parksville) this time to introduce the basic movements because it takes time to use the form, so I can’t just teach all these moves without preparation.”

Gagnon said he’s excited to bring this style to the area, adding that he’s always impressed by the growth and thirst for knowledge of the Parksville and Nanaimo groups.

“They are sponges,” he said with a laugh. “It’s fun to teach to a group that’s so enthusiastic and wants more.”

Gagnon added he wants to encourage more young people to take of Tai Chi, though it has a reputation as being a low-impact exercise for seniors.

He first learned about it as a teenager, and said he had no preconceived notions about what it was.

“It was a total blank,” he said, adding that Tai Chi wasn’t well known in his community either.

“To give you an idea … I was practicing in the park with a few friends, and people called the police saying there was some youth fighting in the park or something,” said Gagnon.

The police arrived, but luckily Gagnon could show that he would soon be teaching at the local community centre, which lent a bit of credibility to the gathering.

Registration for the Parksville workshop on Wednesday, Sept. 13 is at 9:30 a.m. The workshops runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a one-and-a-half hour lunch break.

For more information and for prices, go to www.nanaimotaichi.org/wkshp_gagnon_2017.html.