Growing in a small town, Rene was raised in the shadow of the western mountain ranges of Luzon, the biggest island in the Philipines. His grandfather, Ingkong Poli, a raconteur and farmer and artisan, was the greatest influence in his early life. Ingkong Poli told him stories of powerful beings, warriors, monsters, fairies, from legends and corridos. It was in this idyllic world that Rene was first exposed to nature, storytelling, native herbs, craftsmanship, martial arts, poetry, and the mystical.
In high school, he began to write and participate in oratorical contests. He was in his early 20s when he connected to martial arts, however. Through his younger brother Flor, he learned the rudiments of Wado karate in 1962. While reading for a law degree, he met and trained with Johnny F. Chiuten, undoubtedly the most complete martial artist he has ever studied Shaolin Kung-Fu with. It was an ancient style of the 5 Animals called Angka that Chiuten shifu learned from the Grandmaster Lao Kim who was in his 70s at the time.
Through the recommendation of Master Chiuten, Rene became the private student of Lao Sigong. Forms included Buddhist fist and weapons: Dragon-Tiger, Plum Blossom, Dragon, Kang Li, Wat Let, Hoe, Flower Broadsword, Staff, Spear and Sword, among others, and the rare Fairy Child Praying to the Goddess of Mercy Kuanyin. Apparently, the forms were transmitted by Lao sigong to students unchanged. In his research and travels, Rene has not seen these forms taught anywhere else.
At the same time, through the intercession of his godfather Chan Tek Lao, he was able to study Yang Tai Chi Chuan with Chan Bun Te at the Hua Eng Athletic Association located at a Buddhist Temple in Manila’s Chinatown.
When he migrated to the U.S. in the 70s, he observed different masters in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Jersey and New York. He studied Wu Tai chi with Master Leung Shum. In 1973, in a strange irony, he found his arnis de mano/Philippine stickfighting teacher, Mat Marinas, in Elmhurst, Queens. When Ferdinand Marcos’ government fell in 1986, Rene went home and studied with several arnis de mano masters in Cebu, the center of the art, and in Bantayan Island. He also observed Philippine psychic and spiritual healers, an experience that changed him forever.
In 1983, he joined a delegation to Chengdu, Sichuan, to study wu-shu which was becoming popular at the time. He studied Northern Spear, sword, Monkey Fist and Cudgel, and Hsing-I Chuan.
In a visit to NY Chinatown, he saw the books of Mantak Chia and began studying with him. In 1986, he became certified as an instructor of the Healing Tao and was promoted to senior instructor in 1989 when he was chosen Instructor of the Year. In the late 80s and early 90s, Rene assisted Mantak Chia during the summer retreats in the Catskills, NY teaching and in testing instructors. He wrote Mantak Chia’s manuals “The Greater Enlightenment of Kan and Li” and “The Greatest Enlightenment of Kan and Li.” He also edited other Healing Tao books, including “Sealing of the 5 Senses,” “Tao Yin” and “Chi Nei Tsang Internal Organs Massage.”
Rene has been studying the curriculum of Classical Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan, including Solo Form (108 movements), Sabre/Knife (2 sets), Sword (2 sets), Staff-Spear, 2-Man Sparring Set/Sansou, Tai chi chuan Chang Chuan/ Tai chi fajing form, and Push hands under Masters Gin Soon Chu and Vincent Chu, lineage masters of the system. Among his teachers are: Lao Cang Wen (qigong), Yao Zhang (Chinese herbs) and Kiiko Matsumoto (Japanese acupuncture).
He graduated from the New England School of Acupuncture where as a faculty member, he pioneered a course in chi-kung/qigong including Tai chi, meditation, and Buddha Palm.
In the early 90s, he began training in Lei Shan Dao/Thunder and Lightning Path with David Verdesi and travelled to Chiang mai, Istanbul, Java, Huangshan and Rome to continue his studies meeting John Chang, called the Magus of Java, and Jiang shifu, two of the masters of the lineage. See www.zhengzongdadao.com for particulars on this ancient tradition.
His poetry has been published in anthologies including, among others: “Flippin’ — Filipinos on America” edited by Luis Francia and Eric Gamalinda; Asian Pacific American Journal” edited by Eileen Tabios; “NuyorAsian Anthology: Writings about New York City” edited by Bino Realuyo; “ErosPinoy: an anthology of Philippine contemporary erotic art and poetry” edited by Alfred Yuson and Ramon Sunico. His essay “After the Hsih Hua” is included in the anthology “Pinoy Poetics” edited by Nick Carbo (Meritage Press: California 2004). He is featured in the book “Masters of Arnis, Kali and Escrima” by Edgar Sulite (Socorro Publications: 1994).
Rene holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, a Bachelor of Law, a diploma in acupuncture and a certificate in classical Chinese herbs. In an earlier incarnation, he worked as a lawyer for indigent clients. He has taught in four continents, including the countries of Egypt, Cyprus, UK, Philippines, Thailand, US and Turkey.
Comments from students:
“Rene J. Navarro is an amazingly powerful, gentle and magical being.”
“Rene’s knowledge is difficult to attain in one lifetime.”