Tai chi grand master Gary Khor was raised in a traditional Chinese family, and still recalls his first martial arts lesson while on the shoulders of an uncle.
Now aged 63, he is often referred to as the "father of tai chi" in Australia, but says he is still learning every day. And on his first trip to Waihi to lead a two-day workshop over the weekend, he was "humbled and impressed" to be greeted with a powhiri outside the Waihi Memorial Hall.
While it's new to him, "I have a special feel about the Maori culture," he said. His learning experience continued when the workshop started with an exchange of cultural knowledge and understanding, in an introductory morning session that was open to the community and attended by several members of the Waihi Community Marae.
Both tai chi and the Maori culture have a close affinity with nature, said Mr Khor, and a blend might be auspicious - "with Maori having a shorter life expectancy [than New Zealand non-Maori], and the Chinese renowned for health and longevity."
The workshop, hosted by the Waihi Tai Chi Community Group, arose from an invitation by Waihi instructor Trish Miller when she attended one of Mr Khor's seminars in Sydney two years ago. "It's a big opportunity for us to have teaching of this calibre," she said.
Mr Khor was assisted by a team of three from his Australian Academy of Tai Chi. The Saturday afternoon and Sunday sessions were open to registered participants, who came from as far as Thames and Tauranga, and even Timaru.
The programme was a mix of demonstrations and exercises designed to refresh body, mind and spirit. Mr Khor said anyone could do tai chi - even people in wheelchairs - and for health and stress release it is more relevant than ever in a modern environment that's increasingly complex and stressful. "Sometimes we dismiss things because they seem too simple."
For Mr Khor, who has fronted up to 125,000 people in a metropolitan basketball stadium, the Waihi event may have been small. But he welcomed the chance to relate to the participants on a personal level, and said he was overwhelmed with the friendliness of New Zealanders and the beauty of the country.