To promote health, the federal government of Brazil has sponsored an annual national health expo and this year it awarded the first prize in the category “Social Actions Developed by Social Movements that Contributed to the Improvement of public health surveillance” to Being Tao for its tireless effort of teaching Tai Chi (Taiji) to the general public for 40 years.
Hosted by Health Surveillance Secretariat, with the support of the Government of the Federal District, Brasilia University, Health System, Ministry of Health and the Pan American Health Organization, this year’s health expo was held at Brasilia for five days at the end of Oct. There were over 4,000 experts from all over Brazil. More than 700 items belonging to 24 different health categories were submitted for competition. Additionally, there were 17 different exhibits to compete and 16 different categories of posters to show various methods to prevent and cure diseases. The competition was intense and there were several phases to go through. The final qualifiers had to do a presentation before a vote. Jose Milton de Oliveira, member of Being Tao, delivered a presentation on behalf of Being Tao and also led a short Tai Chi practice with audience as part of the presentation. Master Woo also made remarks after the presentation. At the end, only 51 items were selected and awarded. This high profile event was widely broadcasted and reported by the Brazilian national media.
Being Tao is a non-profit organization registered in Brasilia, Brazil. Its main goal is to support Master Joseph Moo Shong Woo’s effort to teach and promote Tai Chi for health to the general public. Born in Taiwan, the 84-year-old Master Woo learned Traditional Chinese Medicine and martial arts from his ancestors. He also studied Western medicine at University of Alabama. He migrated to Brazil in 1961 and settled in Brasilia in 1968. He has been practicing medicine there since. He feels very strong about disease prevention. Therefore, he started to teach Tai Chi and martial arts to people in 1974. At the beginning, no one knew much about Chinese martial arts and he would practice by himself between 6 – 7 am every morning in the Square of Universal Harmony. When bystanders were curious what he was doing, he asked them to punch or push him. At his repeated requests, they finally mustered all their might to push him hard and only found that he easily threw them at the ground without much effort. They begged Master Woo for lessons. He taught them Chinese martial arts for free. Sadly, some of the young people used their newly learned martial skills to start fights. Master Woo then decided to only teach martial arts for people’s health.
For the past 40 years, Master Woo trained numerous practitioners and some of them have been with him over 30 years. Many students became well versed and skillful in Tai Chi and started to teach Tai Chi either in Brasilia or other Brazilian cities. Some in other cities heard about Master Woo and went to Brasilia to study with him. Now he and his disciples have hosted three free classes daily in the Square of Universal Harmony. Jose Milton de Oliveira estimated that there are an average of 50 people for each class and one third of the participants are under 40, one third are between 40 and 60, and one third are over 60, they even had someone in their 90’s practicing with them before. The 6 am class teaches Tai Chi 24. Other classes also offer the Yang Style Tai Chi, Chen Style Tai Chi, Baguazhang, Qigong, and Push Hands.
Father Padre João Manoel Lima Mira S.J. was Master’s early disciple. With Mira’s organization and effort, Being Tao was founded so they were able to accept donation from the Chinese government for Tai Chi books and DVDs. Today, Being Tao also has extensions in San Marino, Italy, and Japan.
In 2006, 2011 and 2014, Being Tao hosted a train-the-trainer program to provide free lessons to sixty government officials in the Brasilia health department. Through the trainers, Tai Chi was taught to 22 local health organizations.
Due to his continuous effort, Master Woo is highly respected in Brazil. He was bestowed with the honor of “Honorary Citizen” in 2006 by the city government of Brasilia. In 2007, the Federal Government in Brasilia declared that Tai Chi taught by Master Woo and Being Tao at the Square was an intangible cultural heritage of Brasilia. In 2011, Being Tao received Honorable Mention for the Project of Universal Harmony Square by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO / WHO). In 2013, Master Woo was honored by the Brazilian Congress (see a photo in the slide show) for his tireless effort to promote health through Tai Chi.
Subscribe to this column to get reviews, recaps, and latest news regarding Tai Chi, Qigong, health and martial arts sent directly to your inbox. If you enjoyed this article please click the social media links above and to the left to share it with your friends. You can also subscribe to my page on Facebook here. You can also follow me on Twitter or my own website www.violetli.com.