Martial arts master, mentor commemorated

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Charles Lin, head teacher and founder of the Chinese Culture Center, died Dec. 9. He was 66. (Courtesy of the Chinese Culture Center)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In the Chinese culture, the word “sifu” means “teacher,” but it also has the connotation of “father.”

That’s how students described well-known martial arts master Charles Lin, founder of the Chinese Culture Center, who died peacefully Dec. 9 from brain cancer at his Albuquerque home. He was 66.

Lin, who taught the traditional Chinese arts of kung fu and tai chi, was also described as a mentor, a friend and a healer, said long-time student Cynthia Reyes, a pediatric general surgeon.

“He saved my life,” said Reyes, 60. “More than 10 years ago, I had surgery for colon cancer, and the operation didn’t go well. I got very sick and wound up having another surgery from complications. I had been training with Charles for about a year at the time, and because I was in good shape, I survived the complications.”

Reyes wanted to resume her training but still sick and weak she couldn’t do the more dynamic kung fu. “So Charles put me in the tai chi class to rebuild, and it was amazing. Within a year, I was able to go back to kung fu, and it took me two years after that to get back to where I was, but coming from being at death’s door, it was a miracle.”

Bill Doleman used to be runner, but knee problems made it difficult to continue that form of exercise. “A friend who was a student of Charles’ suggested that I try tai chi,” a softer martial art that is often described by practitioners as a moving meditation.

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