Suck It Up, Buttercup: Success in Martial Arts Requires You to Be Uncomfortable

Tai Chi Class 1Last October, I offered a free tai chi class for people aged 40 and over. I stopped teaching older students a decade ago because I wanted to focus on the martial-oriented side of the internal arts. But we used to have a lot of fun with the older friends we made, so I started this new, free class to make new friends, have fun, and teach the Chen 19 form. Some of the students were nearly 80 years old. The oldest student was 83.

When you have practiced a form for 20 years, it seems easy. It was clear the very first night that even a beginning, short form like the Chen 19 appears like a deep, yawning abyss in front of someone who has not studied it before. The idea of actually getting through the thing seems impossible when you are learning the first movement.

As we went through the opening movement, I began coaching them through the simple stepping out and raising the arms, then dropping the energy while lowering the arms.

We practiced it a few times and then I said, "Okay, practice the opening movement on your own and I'll watch."

Reaction - DeerSuddenly, the entire class looked like a herd of deer in the headlights. Most of them had no idea what to do. Most of the others could not step out and then remember to raise and lower their arms.

It had been more than a decade since I had taught a group of beginners. The enormity of the task hit me like a roundhouse kick to the head, and I believe it hit them, too.

Oh Crap! This is Hard!!

In the past 20 years of teaching, I have seen a lot of students show up for their first martial arts class, eyes shining and with eager faces, ready to discover the mysteries of self-defense and Chinese kung-fu.

I have also seen a lot of students fail to return for their second martial arts class.

There is a good reason for this. Martial arts pushes people out of their comfort zone, and when they get a glimpse of the hard work and physical and mental challenge ahead, it's far too easy to run back to an easier life.

Very few activities push you out of your comfort zone like martial arts. It isn't like running or lifting weights. With running, you simply try to run a little farther or a little faster than the last time you laced up your running shoes.

With weight-training, you add one more rep or a few extra pounds of weight.

But martial arts pushes you in more ways. If pushes you physically. Your legs are burning and exhausted, you are sweating and gasping for air, and your arms are sore and feel like they weigh a ton.

Martial arts also pushes you mentally. You are asked to learn movements that rewire your brain and make you feel uncoordinated.

Look at how uncomfortable it is to learn a new form. It can take years to learn one Tai Chi, Xingyi or Bagua form and do it well. 

No Comfort for the Achiever

I have seen my teachers being corrected by teachers such as Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing, Ren Guangyi and others, as if they are beginners.

Ken-Gullette-Chen-XiaoxingI have been corrected by those same masters, and others such as Chen Bing, Chen Ziqiang and Chen Huixian. Each of them made me feel like an uncoordinated fool. And I would collapse from the physical pain and fatigue as they made me hold stances until my legs burned and would not hold me up any longer.

It isn't easy for our egos to take such a beating. 

But that's what excellence requires. 

Each time I left a class feeling as if I had been humiliated, but feeling as if I had taken a baby step forward in my insight and skill, I was excited, bouncing off the doors of my car as I was driving home. Yes, it was not easy for my ego or my body to take, but the payoff was worth it.

Success in martial arts is awarded only to those who are willing to put themselves in an uncomfortable place for a long time.

Practicing the same movements year after year is too boring for many. Practicing the same body mechanics, the whole-body connection, the smooth unfolding of internal strength through the body -- the slow, step-by-step progress year by year -- it's just too much.

Darren Hardy, the former publisher of Success magazine says, "Comfort is mediocrity. Success is hard. Enjoy that fact. It eliminates the weak."

The Difference Between Successful and Unsuccessful

Hardy says that the things we have to do to be successful are the same for both successful and unsuccessful people. Both groups of people HATE doing the uncomfortable things that are required to achieve your goals.

But there is a big difference between successful and unsuccessful people.

Even though they don't want to do what is uncomfortable, successful people do it anyway.

It really is true, and it is true not just for martial arts but for any goal in your life.

As I was reaching my fifties, I adopted a tougher conditioning program as I prepared to compete and spar in tournaments. I would go 12 rounds on a heavybag -- three minutes per round with 90 seconds of rest between each round. During the first round, I would punch as fast and as many times as possible for three minutes. The second round, I would kick as fast and hard as possible. 

This was very difficult. I wanted to pour a glass of wine and watch TV, but I got in shape, and continued to win sparring competitions until my mid-fifties. 

Do you want to succeed at something? Do the things that most people won't do. 

Chen Xiaowang practiced Laojia Yilu 10 to 20 times a day for many years. Imagine spending that much time each day practicing one form. How boring! How uncomfortable.

But what a master he became!

Small, Consistent Steps Over Time Equal Results

My class of older Tai Chi students reached the end of the Chen 19 just four nights ago, after five months of practice (with a little time off during the holidays). As we practiced the last move, the closing of the form, I turned to the few remaining and said, "See? That wasn't so bad, was it?"

I could see the recognition in their eyes that they had achieved something special.

Out of 75 people in the first class, around eight or nine remained for the end. But they now have something the others do not have.

Do you want to succeed in martial arts? Decide what you need to practice today and do it. You don't want to spend an hour practicing? Do it anyway. You are tired of working on this form? Work on it. You think you are good enough at these body mechanics? Good enough is not good enough. Drill deeper, think deeper, and break down your movement again. And again.

Your success requires a constant state of discomfort, of going farther and pushing harder than the person who simply wants life to be easy and comfortable.

As Chen Xiaowang says, "If it were easy, everyone would be master."

--by Ken Gullette 

Try Two Weeks Free on Ken Gullette's Membership Website -- Take Years Off Your Development Time and Save Thousands of Dollars with More than 800 Step-By-Step Video Lessons -- Basic to Advanced -- in Tai Chi, Xingyi and Bagua. Check it out via this link. 


Zhan Zhuang and My 96-Year Old Buddy: An Idea for Your Elderly Friends and Family

Earl Hansen
Me, Earl, Minnie and Nancy when we delivered a 95th birthday card to Earl in 2016.

My neighbor Earl is one of my best friends. He is also 96 years old. A couple of weeks ago, I realized that he could benefit from the practice of Zhan Zhuang -- "Standing Stake" or "Standing Pole."

If you do Zhan Zhuang as part of your practice (I call it "Standing Stake"), you can teach it to elderly people in your life.

We moved into our current home almost four years ago and Earl, who was 92 at the time, walked across the street to introduce himself to us. His mind was sharp and he had a great sense of humor. His wife had died two years before. He fought in the Philippines during World War II, came home with PTSD, but got help and lived a happy and successful life. His three sons all live within a mile.

During the first year we lived here, I was friendly with Earl and would sometimes cross the street when he was outside to talk to him.

But during the last three years, Earl and I have developed a close friendship. My home office looks out toward his house. We sit out during warm weather and my dog Minnie and I visit all the time. When I have health setbacks, he calls to see if I'm okay, and I keep my eye out for him. We have each others backs.

Earl and I go out for lunch sometimes, and he always tells me how glad he is that I am his neighbor. I told him recently that he has become one of my best friends in the Quad Cities. He replied, "We have a good thing going." 

I've never had a "bromance" before, but I think I have one now.

My home office looks out at Earl's house across the street. He says sometimes, he looks over at our house and wonders what I'm doing. I told him I do the same. Instead of looking at him as the old man across the street, I connected with him, and discovered a friendship that has added tremendously to my life.

During the past year, I've seen Earl get weaker, and I have been worried. He fell a couple of times, really banged himself up, and now he walks with a cane, and sometimes uses a walker in his house. This is a man who was using a push mower on his yard a year ago.

So a couple of weeks ago, I taught him how to do "Standing Stake." It's an important tai chi exercise that is used for meditation, but also for strength-building, especially in the legs. When you first do it, you can feel wobbly after just a minute or two. The idea is to add a little time each day.

Earl giving Minnie a belly rub yesterday.

Yesterday, Minnie and I visited Earl and he said he had been doing Standing Stake every day. He stands next to the walker and does it while watching TV. He has worked up to 15 minutes, and he says he feels stronger and is now walking around the house without his cane. He thanked me for showing it to him.

During the past nine years, I have been in the hospital a few times. The hospital drains the strength out of your body. When I was able, I got out of the bed and did Zhan Zhuang in the room to help build leg strength. It really works, and it even works for people who are unable to do strenuous cardio exercise.

If you know someone who is aging and getting weaker in the legs, through age or illness I believe Zhan Zhuang can help keep their legs strong.

Who knows, next I might teach him some Silk-Reeling exercises. Most of those are the same as taiji without the space requirements.

Close-Up Self-Defense Using Tai Chi Energies and Methods: Takedowns with Tai Chi

Close-Up Self-Defense Front-250You are in a situation where you cannot escape a fight. Someone your size or larger lunges at you, grabs you in a clinch, and tries to take you to the ground.

Can you use your Tai Chi skills to take HIM to the ground instead?

I have been working on this since 2006, when I was practicing push hands with Chen Xiaoxing in my basement and he kept putting me on the ground -- over and over again -- and he did it so easily, I could not understand what he was doing until about the tenth time I found myself on my back.

He was breaking my structure and controlling my center.

The insights from that training have driven me for the past dozen years to explore how to use the "energies" of Tai Chi (Taiji) for close-up self-defense.

How do you use ward-off, roll back, press, push, split, pluck, bump, elbow, empty, advance, withdraw in a real fight? How do you use these methods of dealing with force to take your opponent to the ground without using muscular force or "wrestling?"

My new DVD answers that question and teaches you -- step-by-step -- the principles and techniques you need to unbalance your opponent, control his center and take him down.

When Reached For, You Cannot Be Found

When your opponent reaches for you, he will not find your center, but you will find his.

To my knowledge, this material has not been put on DVD for widespread distribution. Most Tai Chi students never learn this. It has taken me 30 years in Tai Chi to feel prepared to put the instruction on video.

One of the members of my website told me that this material can save people years of development time and a LOT of money that they would normally spend, waiting for their teachers to someday teach them this -- if their teachers know these concepts (many do not).

The reason I make DVDs, and have my membership website where the video streams 24/7, is to teach the details that millions of internal arts students around the world do not ever learn.

Here is a promo video for the DVD, which costs only $24.99 and runs 2 hours 23 minutes. If you buy it from my blog (see the link below or on the right side of the page) there is free shipping worldwide, and there is always a money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied.

Watch the promo video below and, if interested, click on the button to go to our secure order page.



A Peaceful Approach to Self-Defense -- the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Paul Linden

Paul Linden 1
Paul Linden

Is it possible to love your attacker? Can you find the fun within misery?

Paul Linden has a unique perspective on self-defense. He is the chief instructor at Aikido of Columbus (Ohio), and the Columbus Center for Movement Studies. He holds a sixth degree black belt in Aikido and a black belt in Karate. He earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a Ph.D. in physical education. He is an instructor in the Feldenkrais Method of body awareness, and he developed the "Being in Movement" mindbody training.

Since his late fifties, Paul has also been faced with a challenge that has required the practical application of both philosophy and his knowledge of body awareness. Fourteen years ago, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.

Paul Linden is my guest on the 34th edition of the Internal Fighting Arts podcast. 

Listen to the program online or download it through this link to Audello.

It is also available on Stitcher and iTunes. 

Dr. Linden will hold a 6-day workshop called "Embodying Power and Love: A Workshop on Body Awareness & Self-Regulation" in Columbus, Ohio on April 16-21, 2018. See his website for details by following this link.

Martin Luther King Jr Was a Real Kung-Fu Hero

American ShaolinIn the book, "American Shaolin," author Matthew Polly described his adventures as he moved to China to live with Shaolin monks for two years.

He trained with them, ate with them, and became their friend.

Often, he would watch kung-fu movies with the monks.

In their culture, the hero of the movie was usually the man who would continue fighting even when hope was lost. 

You are fighting for a good cause, but you know you are doomed to defeat. You fight anyway.

I was 15 years old when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Growing up in the racist South, I reflected my white culture and I thought he was a troublemaker. I'm sure I dropped the "N" word many times if his name came up.

MLK was not a troublemaker. He was a hero in the truest sense of the word.

By 1968, he had been beaten, arrested, jailed, and threatened with his life because he had the audacity to protest when black men and women were turned away by restaurants, stores, the voting booth, and generally treated as animals.

When I was a child, black people did not come to "our" public swimming pools. I never saw blacks in "our" restaurants. And they sat in the balcony at the movie theater, not on the main floor with "us."

I remember seeing "Colored Only" water fountains in Georgia.

We treated black Americans as inferior. 

MLKAnd then, through nonviolent protest, Martin Luther King and his brave friends such as now-Congressman John Lewis, Jesse Jackson, Ralph Abernathy and others, used kung-fu on the white culture.

They allowed the hateful energy of the whites to be seen in all its ugliness. Instead of fighting it, King and other black protesters did not contend. They absorbed the hateful energy by taking the punches, the kicks, the firebombs, the attack dogs, the hoses, the insults and the injuries -- and they showed white America what was lurking inside its heart.

They turned that hateful energy against their racist attackers.

Hearts and minds began to change across the country. 

On the night before he was murdered, Martin Luther King Jr. told an audience that he had been to the mountaintop and saw the other side. "I might not make it there with you," he warned.

He knew what might be coming. And he fought anyway.

The following day, when he walked out of his room at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, the shot rang out and he was dead.

It took a few more years and some college experience before my heart began to change, but it did. I began to realize that a LOT of what we are told as children is simply not true, but we are not old enough to reason, so we model the behavior of our parents, grandparents and friends.

MLK 1Two years ago, Nancy and I visited the Lorraine Hotel. It is part of the National Civil Rights Museum now. 

As I stood near the spot where he was gunned down, and stared through the glass at his room, which has been maintained exactly as it was the moment he was killed, I was struck by the heroism of the man.

We can practice martial arts all of our lives; we can compete in full-contact matches and we can consider ourselves pretty heroic.

Very few of us will even come close to the level of heroism displayed by Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who did not practice martial arts.

I occasionally see social media comments by martial artists, including some teachers, that are racist, or xenophobic, or intolerant in a variety of ways with a variety of targets, and I realize that an important part of the arts has escaped them; the connection with others, the philosophical thread that binds us to our fellow human beings.

One instructor I met preached Taoist philosophy and being connected to others, then he would fire up a cigarette and use the term "chinks" instead of "Chinese" when he talked about Chinese people. I still occasionally see intolerant social media messages that he posts, and I realize that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him think, you can't make him connect with others, and you certainly can't make him a hero.

These misguided martial artists do not realize that the concept of defending the weak against attackers means a lot more than stopping a husband from beating his wife, or stopping a bully from attacking a weaker kid. 

A martial arts hero defends the unarmed black man who is being shot by a bad cop; the woman who is subject to harassment at work; the gay young man or transgender woman who is taunted and insulted because they are different.

A martial arts hero connects with others, and defends the weak even when hope is gone.

Hardly any of us reach the level of heroism that was displayed by Martin Luther King, Jr. When hope was gone, he fought on. Fifty years later, he is remembered, but his work is not done.

There is a lot of hatred still out there. There are people who could use your help.

Are you really a hero? 

The Importance of Fascia in Martial Arts Movement: The Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Dr. Ginevra Liptan

Internal Fighting Arts - Ken Gullette Logo 300Fascia is the most important part of your body that you probably have never heard of, or at least you haven't heard very much about it.

In the past few years, as medical science has taken a closer look at part of the body that doctors typically ignored for centuries, a picture is beginning to emerge.

Fascia is a web of connective tissue that is made of collagen, elastin, and other tissues and cells that lies under the skin and runs from our heads to our feet. It forms a continuous network that covers and connects organs, muscles, even nerves. 

Fascia allows us to move as a single unit -- a crucial aspect of tai chi, xingyi and bagua. 

It turns out that tai chi and bagua in particular are outstanding activities for stretching the fascia and keeping it healthy. 

During the past year, I have read some things by internal arts and qigong teachers that make it sound as if they knew about fascia all along. Well, they didn't. So I searched for someone at a level of medical education above a physical therapist, massage therapist or TCM provider -- someone who could tell me about fascia from a medical perspective.

Dr. Ginevra Liptan of Portland, Oregon.

After months of searching, I found Dr. Ginevra Liptan, a medical doctor who is board certified in internal medicine and also practices a holistic approach to health that combines Western medical science with "alternative" therapies. She founded the Frida Center for Fibromyalgia, and as she has battled fibromyalgia herself, and researched treatments for her patients that involve the fascia, she has become well-versed on the topic.

Dr. Liptan is my guest in the final Internal Fighting Arts podcast for 2017. You can listen online or download the file here:

During the interview, she talks about a video called "Strolling Under the Skin." Here is a link for that video:

Also, at the end of the interview, we talk briefly about "cupping," as it was done in the last Olympic games (remember Michael Phelps and his big red dots?). Here is a link to a presentation on fascia -- if you go to exactly one hour in, the discussion of cupping and fascia begins.

The research I have done for this interview, and the interview itself, has made me look at parts of my practices and workouts in a new way, especially certain movements and moving qigong exercises, and how effective they are for maintaining healthy fascia.

Tai chi has shown to be effective in maintaining flexibility, balance, coordination, among other benefits. It turns out that fascia and tai chi work together in excellent ways.

The Only Surefire Way to Achieve Your Goals in Martial Arts (or Anything Else in Life)

Ken Trophies 2008On April 7, 2008, a vice president at the university where I worked as the director of media relations walked into my office with a Human Resources manager and closed the door.

Oh, crap, this is not good, I thought.

It was not good. After almost a year on the job, I was being let go. A month before, I went to lunch with the VP and he said, "Ken, you have been set up. I don't know if it was intentional, but you have been set up."

So I had an idea that this would happen, but it is still a shock when you lose a good job, even a very political and public job where you are placed in front of news cameras to hold news conferences on sensitive university issues, then you walk away from the news conference and realize there are arrows in your back, fired from within the university. It was a very interesting, intense job. I loved it, but I was, as the VP said, "set up" for a fall.

After the VP and the HR person left my office, I quickly cleared out my stuff and within a couple of hours, I was sitting at home wondering how I was going to replace a six-figure paycheck.

My feet had been on firm financial ground for years, and suddenly, the floor had collapsed like the trap door on a stage.

A couple of days later, I was talking to my nephew Brian, who was launching a website to teach language skills online. Previously, I had tried to launch a website called the Media Relations Coach to teach media relations, but it had not been embraced by the public.

In talking with Brian, three days after I lost my job, the idea came to me -- I would do what I loved the most, the internal arts, and I would create a website to teach what I had learned, step-by-step in plain English, without the mystical mumbo jumbo that so many instructors teach.

My wife, Nancy thought privately that it was a crazy idea, but she supported me.

Bruce Lee DefeatThis was April 10, 2008. I set a goal of July 4th, Independence Day, to launch the site to the world.

The plan was that I would do it all myself -- content creation, photos, Photoshop, shooting video, editing, creating the membership website, marketing it, posting the content to the site and working with payment processors so members could pay monthly.

I had my goal, and I developed my plan. 

I got to work, and less than three months later, on July 4, 2008, was opened. It is still going strong. I work on it every day, creating content, videos, marketing it -- and the content I create for the site also helps me create new DVDs, which I sell on my websites and on Amazon.

Setting Goals is Only Step One

I was talking with a couple of students this week about the new year that is fast approaching.

Both students are within striking distance of some major goals. One is one test away from his brown sash; the other will test for his black sash.

Progress has stalled for both, and as the teacher, I am faced with the challenge of motivating them in a positive way.

We all go through stagnant periods -- plateaus -- where it seems like our progress has stalled. Many things compete with us day-to-day to knock us off our martial arts path, from jobs to relationships to children and more.

I completely understand. The week before I lost my university job, I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. After three procedures to fix it, the pulmonary veins from my left lung to my heart shut down.

For a few years, the challenges I face each day after losing the lung, going through heart failure, and struggling to regain some muscle mass that I lost in 2009 all conspired to stunt my progress. I made progress here and there, punctuated by periods when I was simply trying to survive. 

A few months ago, I suddenly felt as if I had broken through to another level, as I gained insight through practice of the use of taiji "energies" in close-up fighting. It has boosted me again.

In other words, I am very familiar with hitting plateaus. It happens to all of us.

There is one surefire way to make progress on any goal in martial arts or in life. The coming of a new year is always a good time to look ahead and plan.

Let's not use the word "resolution." We all know what happens to resolutions by February first, don't we?

If you have a goal, you must visualize yourself successfully achieving that goal.

For example, you are going for a brown sash. You know the curriculum you are working on.

Here are steps that will help you achieve this goal:

Step 1 -- Visualize how good it will feel to wrap that brown sash on your waist and hang the certificate on your wall.

Step 2 -- Look at the calendar and set the date when you will achieve your goal. Since I am writing this on December 20, let's say March 1 is the day I will earn my brown sash. I write this on the calendar.

Step 3 -- How do I realistically set aside time to practice and polish the curriculum needed for the promotion test? I have four tai chi forms to work on, weapons fighting techniques, and freestyle sparring with xingyi, tai chi, and chin-na. I will need to work on it all, but I will set aside time each day. At the end of week one, I will be done working on the Chen 19 form. Week two, finished reviewing the Chen 38; Week three, finished reviewing the Chen Broadsword form and applications; Week four, finished reviewing the Chen Straight Sword form.

Step 4 -- Spend the month of January and February working with my instructor and other students on the forms, applications, and freestyle sparring needed for my promotion. Work to internalize the information. Work to infuse the body mechanics into the forms and applications. By February 1, I will have reviewed it all, and I will take the month of February to practice each day to internalize it.

Step 5 -- On March 1, take the test. On the afternoon of March 1, visualize wrapping that brown sash onto your waist.

There is a simple truth to achieving any goal in life, in business, in anything.

Here is the truth:

You will achieve the goal that you believe you can achieve if you set the goal and establish a clear plan of steps you must take, and then work hard to complete the plan, step-by-step.

If you set success as your goal, you will achieve it.

If you set failure as your goal, you will also achieve it.

In my life, I have seen this truth play out time after time, and as I have gotten older, I have gotten better at it. This truth becomes evident if you shoot for any goal, whether it is a better career or a tournament victory.

If you cannot believe in your own ability to set a goal, work a plan and achieve success, your self-expectation becomes your reality.

In my latest Internal Fighting Arts podcast, one of the most successful martial arts instructors in the world, Keith R. Kernspecht, said that when he decides he wants to do something or learn something, no one can stop him. Listen to the podcast by following this link.

There is a reason some people achieve their goals and some people fail. Which path will you take in the coming year?

It is your decision.

The best book ever written on this valuable concept is called Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. It is available at a low price on Amazon, and a free Kindle ebook is available. I highly recommend it.

--by Ken Gullette

Are you ready to achieve martial arts knowledge and success step-by-step? Try two weeks free on Ken's Internal Fighting Arts website.


A Passion for Martial Arts: The Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Keith Kernspecht

Keith R. Kernspecht

Keith R. Kernspecht is possibly the most successful martial arts instructor in the world.

His European WingTsun Organization boasts 1,000 chapters in Germany alone, with more than 60,000 students.

For those of us who have owned our own schools, this is a mind-boggling concept.

Keith began training in the 1950s, and has never been "stuck" in his training. He searches for martial truth, for principles and skills that can make his art deeper and more effective.

You would think that if people called you "the father of Wing Chun in Europe," you would become a bit rigid in your curriculum. But even though he is linked to top masters such as Leung Ting (WingTsun) and Sam Chin (I Liq Chuan and Zhong Xin Dao), Keith Kernspecht truly represents the ideal of lifelong learning.

You can listen to him talk about his martial arts journey in the new edition of my Internal Fighting Arts podcast. Here are links:

Listen to the podcast online or download the file via Audello.

Listen and subscribe on iTunes (Apple Podcasts).


A Real-Life Use for Qigong -- Getting a Cardiac Stress Test

Pet Scan
The cardiac stress test machine was similar to this.

I went in to the hospital yesterday for a cardiac stress test. After a freak side-effect from a medical procedure nine years ago this month, my left pulmonary veins shut down, meaning my left lung is virtually useless. Doctors at Cleveland Clinic tried to stent one of the pulmonary veins, tore the vein and accidentally pierced my heart with the wire.

That set off complications that I have survived, barely it sometimes seems. But my chi is strong, right? Still, I sometimes have to get tests to make sure nothing is getting clogged up.

Cardiac stress tests have changed. They used to hook you up to electrodes and put you on a treadmill.

It's All in Vein

Now, they stick an IV in your arm, hook you up to electrodes and slide you into a tube, as if you're getting an MRI or something.

They pump radioactive crap into your vein and then take pictures. The new pictures are supposed to be a lot better than even the ones they took during my last cardiac stress test three or four years ago.

"Are you claustrophobic?" the nurse asked before sliding me into the tube.

"No," I replied.

But as they slid me in (my head remained partially out of the tube), they told me I would need to lie very still for about 30 minutes.

Me? Lie still for 30 minutes? Okay, I'll give it a shot, I thought.

How to do Qigong During a Test

I closed my eyes, relaxed, and began doing qigong.

Using reverse breathing, I put part of my mind on my Dan T'ien and focused on my breathing.

With each inhalation, I imagined air and energy coming into my body and collecting at the Dan T'ien.

Each time I exhaled, I felt my Dan T'ien growing warm.

It only seemed like a couple of minutes when the first set of pictures had been taken, but almost 10 minutes had passed.

I did the same thing during the second set of pictures. Relax, remain aware of everything around me, and put part of my mind on my breathing, Dan T'ien, and feeling of warmth.

Second set seemed like only a couple of minutes, too.

Shoot the Juice to Me, Bruce

Then the third set, when they pumped in the drug that made me feel as if I was exercising hard. I began breathing hard to keep up, but relaxed and just went with it. In my mind, I visualized doing Laojia Erlu.

Within a couple of minutes, the heavy breathing eased and before long, the test was over.

Qigong can help you in many ways.

If you are suddenly faced with a tense moment or a crisis, an unreasonable boss or an upset spouse, or someone cutting you off on the highway, you can relax, put part of your mind on your Dan T'ien and your breathing, and keep part of your mind focused on the problem at hand. 

I have found that this has helped me in many real-life situations that would normally result in stress and tension -- even when you get poked and shoved into a tube and pumped with radioactive chemicals.

So remember to do qigong during these moments, and shine on, with or without radioactivity. :)

-- by Ken Gullette

Check out Ken's Qigong DVD -- 90 minutes of exercises to help you remain centered and manage stress. 

William C.C. Chen's Daughter Says I Am Arrogant

Body MechanicsWilliam C.C. Chen's daughter called me arrogant the other day. She also mentioned "gossip," and implied that I do not understand what I was reading.

At first, I couldn't believe it. Then, I thought it was funny. But the more I thought about it, the more bizarre and creepy it became.

Here is what happened.

I pulled a book from my martial arts library this weekend: "Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan," by William C.C. Chen.

Since body mechanics is something I am very interested in, and somewhat knowledgeable about, I wanted to read his take on it. 

I respect all teachers, unless they claim supernatural powers. I have always heard very good things about William C.C. Chen. His name is among the most famous of American tai chi teachers. You have to admire someone who has done so much to spread tai chi in America.

On the back of the book, he writes, "My with the human body under the action of given forces and is based on practical physics such as body leverage and the hydraulic pressures which exist in our body."

Great! I opened the book and began to read it for his explanation of body mechanics.

The book is short. There is background on the art, including a disappointing section that attributes the origin of the art to Cheng San Feng, despite the fact that there is no evidence he existed. There seems to be a reluctance among some Yang style branches to admit that tai chi originated with the Chen family, although this book does mention Chen Changxing, who taught the family art to Yang Luchan.

I look at the "Cheng San Feng" legend to be mainly perpetuated by tai chi politics. Just admit the art originated in the Chen Village. What's the problem with that?

The book briefly discusses relaxation, tension and developing speed, but before long it goes into photos of William C.C. Chen's 60-movement form. A step-by-step approach, with instruction such as "Shift weight to left leg 100%. Turn body 45 degrees to the right. Turn left foot out on heel 90 degrees. Extend left palm forward slightly, facing down."

But there was nothing about body mechanics. 

I put a photo of the book cover on my Internal Fighting Arts Facebook page and commented on how the book contains no mention of body mechanics. I did not insult Master Chen personally, it was a post about a book called "Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan" that does not discuss body mechanics.

Isn't that fair? It was a very short review to let people know not to buy this book if you are looking for information on body mechanics.

Apparently, Tiffany Chen did not think it was fair. One of her friends tipped her off to the post. She wrote:

"Everyone's entitled to their opinion... however, if you're only looking for the words "body mechanics". Body Mechanics requires understanding the actual physics of movement and weight shifting of the body. Not everyone can grasp everyone's else's ideas, especially in writing. But, given the popularity of my father's book as a learning tool for those studying Tai Chi, this is just somebody's opinion with a few other people who agree and they are entitled to express that. Life is always filled with a rainbow of perspectives. People like to talk and most often people like to talk down about the accomplishments of others because it makes them feel good. We all have our own medicine. Mine is listening, learning, always finding a reason to smile and moving on. Thank you for bringing this to my attention Brian Sherman. I was raised to only speak when there was something nice to say and just to work hard, so that's what I do. Gossip always reminds me of my Father's Golden Words."

I have always heard that her father is a very nice man. Another visitor to the Facebook page mentioned that her father never said a negative word about anyone. She replied:

"Yes, this is very true... his humble, golden nature is how he approaches anything and everything in life. He has never spoken a negative word about anyone ever and he never tolerates anyone speaking negatively about anyone else, he simply says "it's ok, maybe we just don't understand, doesn't mean anyone is wrong". I just don't appreciate the arrogance of those who will very opinionatedly speak on my father and our method without ever having met any of us or visited our school... it's quite a lofty thing to wear your eyes so high on your head. Then again, maybe this how people motivate themselves to do better than others, so if that is the goal here, then great. Perhaps I just don't understand..."

I was simply astounded, and so I asked Ms. Chen to let me know which parts of the book contained information about body mechanics and I would apologize if I was wrong, but she did not respond to my request.

I read her comments again, and realized that she did not directly address me. That struck me as incredibly passive-aggressive.

Then I went onto Amazon and checked out the user reviews of the book. There were some 2-star reviews that indicated there was nothing about body mechanics in the book.

For some reason, Ms. Chen had not replied to those people to tell them how arrogant they are for spreading "gossip."

Here is how a review works. You write a book, make a DVD, record a song, produce a movie or a play, and people review it. It is even better when someone who knows the subject (body mechanics of tai chi, for example) writes a review of it. Does the book live up to its title? Does the title even apply to the contents? Should tai chi students invest in the book?

A review typically serves as a heads-up to potential customers. It did not discuss her father personally or his "method." 

I studied Yang style for more than a decade. I won a gold medal at the 1990 AAU Kung Fu National Championships performing the Yang 24 form. I have studied Chen style and its body mechanics for nearly 20 years. That is a total of 30 years studying, practicing, competing with and teaching tai chi.

So here is how Ms. Chen could have responded to my short review that included no personal criticism of her father or his art whatsoever.

She should have said something like, "I am sorry my father's book did not meet your expectations. Let me suggest a couple of other of his books or videos that will have the information you are seeking."

And then tell me which books or videos have information on body mechanics.

The honest thing to do would be to admit, "Yes, the book is a lot more about the 60-movement form than it is about body mechanics." 

Boom! That would not be difficult, would it?

But martial arts is a lot like religion. Teachers become deities. If you dare criticize their work, you are seen as attacking them personally, along with each and every student. And this is especially true if you are an "outsider." It's us versus them, don't you know? We are the best and naturally, nobody else understands what we are doing. Right?

Shame on them. That attitude does nothing positive for your art, and it certainly does not honor your instructor.

I believe in real-world discussions, martial artist to martial artist. No instructor deserves to be stroked when they are phoning it in, and that includes any instructor. By the way, I have learned face-to-face from some Chen instructors whose DVDs contain virtually no real instruction. That is why I began making DVDs. I was tired of buying videos that left me with more questions than I had before. I was tired of tai chi books that delved more into woo-woo than reality. 

But the entire point of my post is very simple. If I buy a James Bond book, I expect 007 to make an appearance in the story. If I buy a book on refrigerator repair, I expect to get some pointers about how to fix my refrigerator. 

And if I buy a book called "Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan," and body mechanics are not discussed, it is worth a heads-up to other potential buyers.

I still believe what I hear about William C.C. Chen being a nice man, but he should have called his book "Instruction for the 60-Movement Form" instead of "Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan."

So, dear readers, would you like to learn about the body mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan?

You can learn about body mechanics in depth from Mike Sigman's videos and written materials. He was a major influence on me. And you won't find any woo-woo in his instruction.

You will also learn about body mechanics in depth in my Internal Strength and Silk-Reeling DVDs, and in every DVD that I produce. And if you don't like a purchase you make from me for any reason, even if you simply think I am ugly and my mother dresses me funny, just send it back and I will refund your money, and I will not criticize you personally. I will not call you arrogant, accuse you of gossip, or accuse you of not understanding what I am teaching.

No. When I receive negative critiques of my work, I think about it and think about how to make it better next time. And if the critique is accurate, as mine was, the honest response from someone who is secure about their art would be to say, "Yes, you might be right about that."

Wouldn't that be the type of emotional balance that would honor an art such as Tai Chi Chuan, and an instructor as accomplished as William C.C. Chen?