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Rocklin man practices ancient martial art in park

Chinese immigrant eager to teach others
By: Kathy Maynard, Placer Herald correspondent
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Anyone who regularly jogs, walks a dog or brings a child to play in Night Ridge Park between 8 and 9:30 a.m. can expect a big smile and friendly wave or greeting from 83-year-old John Kuan Huie. He’s either in the park leading neighbors through a series of basic t’ai chi routines or practicing more complicated movements on his own with fans or ceremonial swords.
 
T’ai chi is a Chinese martial art consisting of slow, graceful routines combining martial arts movements with breathing, stretching, balancing, proper posture and re-finement of subtle body mechanics to improve the health and power of mind, body and spirit, according to www.taichicanada.com.
 
Though the Chinese immigrant speaks limited English, Huie has become a fixture in the community, said Peter Eakland, who started practicing with him about 18 months ago.
 
“He says hello to everyone and when I come out and he’s not here, people ask where he is,” Eakland said.
 
“He’s a social butterfly, he likes to be with people,” explained his daughter, Susie Ravo of Rocklin, who translated for him during the interview. “He comments about all the dogs he sees and takes pictures of people with their pets and children.”
 
Huie was born in Canton, China, in 1929 and worked as a pharmacy technician until he escaped to Hong Kong during the Chinese Revolution in 1949. He found work in a dry cleaners and laundry, met and married his wife, Sau, and they had two sons and a daughter.
 
In 1962, the family moved to Stockton, where Huie worked as a chef, and had three more boys and another girl.
 
They moved to Rocklin in 1992 and now have 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren living in the area.
 
“I used to do kung fu back in 1942 – a totally different force than t’ai chi,” Huie said. “I started doing t’ai chi in Hong Kong in 1953, but when I moved to the states I had to put that aside to make a living.”
 
He started practicing t’ai chi again at the Chinese Benevolence Association/Confucius Church in Stockton before retiring in 1989 and was quite involved with the senior citizen program, giving demonstrations in groups in the community, Ravo explained.
 
Since moving to Rocklin, Huie has been doing t’ai chi almost daily at Night Ridge Park.
 
“He does it for his own relaxation and meditation, and it keeps him in shape,” Ravo said. “He gets up really early, at 4:30 or 5, gets warmed up and meditates at home. Sometimes he goes running before he comes. He’s fine with helping people learn t’ai chi to get healthy. He wants harmony within yourself, and it rubs off on each other.”
 
Jessor Cuyos, who has practiced with Huie since moving to Rocklin in 2005, was introduced to t’ai chi in his native Philippines.
 
One day while jogging through the park, he saw Huie practicing, approached him and was so happy when Huie said he could join him.
 
Last year his brother, George Cuyos, joined the morning exercise group to improve his health.
 
“T’ai chi, it’s a form of exercise and relaxation that helps with your focus and your balance,” Jessor said. “It improves your flexibility because you do a lot of stretching, and your concentration as you become more aware of yourself and your movements. We also get to meet a lot of other people, enjoy nature and appreciate our surroundings because we do this outside.”
 
Eakland, who had some shoulder problems from leaning over the computer, said he has developed flexibility and strength and the pain has gone away since he began practicing with Huie.
 
While he finds the first hour of exercising as important as the half-hour doing t’ai chi, Eakland said other people have come out for a week or two and then dropped off because the long learning process can be frustrating.
 
“It’s not really a class. You learn from following John all the way through the movements,” he said. “He is very patient with us and calls out the moves as we go through them. The benefits get greater as you go on and there are rewards for sticking with it. To me, it’s a gift and I’m surprised more people don’t come out and take advantage of it.”