When Howard Ketola moved to Vernon in 2009, his plans for retirement took a detour.
Instead, Sifu (master) Ketola has been busy introducing the North Okanagan to Traditional Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan.
And thanks to the support of Trevor Warkentin at Kees Tae Kwon Do School in Vernon, Ketola has been given the opportunity to expand his classes.
“I am just amazed and overwhelmed at how he has opened up his studio,” said Ketola, who connected with Kees after he won a three-month introductory course at the school. “There are no coincidences — I’m a firm believer in that I’m meant to be here teaching this.
“It’s gone so well and those students who started with me earlier this year are now moving on to the advanced classes.”
Ketola ran a school on the coast for 25 years, the Mission School of Traditional Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan.
“I was going to retire, not teach, but I started teaching again and I caught that feeling again and it made me reflect on the responsibility I had accepted from my teacher and that was to continue to teach. It’s a way of life for me and it changed my life.”
Ketola began his study of Tai Chi Chuan in 1979 under Grand Master Raymond Y.M. Chung (Chung Yan Man).
“I started studying with Raymond and over the years I became serious about it. I still practise every day.”
Then living in northern B.C., Ketola travelled to Vancouver three times a week to study with the master.
“He shared more with me as I progressed because he saw something in me. People started asking if I would teach them and Raymond said I should teach.
“He is 100 years old and I want to honour him. Master Chung is tai chi. He personifies it and I have accepted the responsibility to carry on his legacy and to keep teaching the pure form.”
Chung Yan Man’s Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan was developed by Yang Lu Chan in the early 1800s. His grandson, Master Yang Chen Fu, taught Grand Master Chung, who gave Ketola the title Sifu (master) and the honour to carry on the teachings of Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan.
“We call it a complete exercise: spiritual, mental, emotional and physical.
“I offer the full system of the martial arts. Our ultimate goal is to be as soft and as powerful as we can. It’s about breath and focus — you cultivate the chi.”
Ketola will be offering beginner classes in Tai Chi Chuan starting next week: Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m., Thursdays at 9:30 a.m. and Saturdays at 10 a.m.
Ketola said he is indebted to Warkentin and his space at Kees, as well as to office manager Carol Robinson.
“She’s amazing and has helped me with the brochures and anything I need; she keeps the place running. I want to stress how wonderful this studio is — the energy is amazing.
“Tae kwon do is a hard martial art and Tai Chi Chuan is a soft martial art so you have everything here: the yin and yang. We have the ultimate example of the hard and soft and they complement each other. Trevor really wants to promote the tai chi and I think we recognize something in each other, as we are both very traditional but we are living in the 20th century.
“We come from the same perspective on the arts we have chosen to study. I recognize a real master when I see it. I still take the tae kwon do classes because I like to be involved with all of these young people. I look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with Kees.”
Ketola said Tai Chi Chuan is suitable for people of all ages and can improve overall physical and mental fitness. For more information, or to register, please call Ketola at 778-932-1947, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or Kees Tae Kwon Do School at 250-545-7710.