However, her husband Steven used to attend her sessions at that time and he was liable to show a few of us all sorts of traditional martial stuff if he thought you were interested, serious and had a good character. Unfortunately, Shirley took a dim view of this and if he started to get too much of an audience during what she saw as HER sessions, she would come over and lecture him in Chinese in a serious voice and the impromptu martial lesson would usually end. He would get a sheepish look and go back to supervising people working in little groups on whatever part of the form they were struggling with.
I hadn't known until recently that that Shirley had been a school teacher and later a principal in Hong Kong before coming to Canada in 1973. In those days, it was unusual for a woman to be the head of a school and the personality that made that possible explains her no-nonsense approach with us. She didn’t smile a lot in her classes but she was patient with our efforts and mistakes as long as we worked during class.
Sadly, Shirley and I lost touch after I started studying with another taiji school that emphasized the martial side and I eventually stopped practising and teaching her forms as I got deeper into the new material.
When Shirley finally retired from teaching a few years after Steven's death in the mid-1980s, she moved to British Columbia to be near her remaining family. She lived to a ripe old age and was active in her church till the end. Shirley was a devout Christian and I trust that she has gone to her spiritual reward and that there is a little corner of Heaven devoted to those like her who practised and loved taiji.
Thank you, Shirley, for giving me a decent grounding on the solo form work that is so important in Yang style taijiquan and for having faith in my interest by encouraging me to teach. Those early courses I led as your representative taught me a lot about the joys and frustrations of teaching.If I have fallen short as a practitioner and/or teacher all these decades later it certainly isn’t the fault of those, like Shirley and Steven, who taught me to the best of their abilities.
Copyright, Michael A. Babin ©2018