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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.

Liptan
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:

http://internalfightingarts.audello.com/internal-fighting-arts-33-2-fascia-with-dr-ginevra/

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ky0BmGP5nbU&feature=youtu.be

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raCBeQ-gXfs&index=1&list=FLxi0PwWp4KesVlONtxxgb_A

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, www.InternalFightingArts.com 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

Kernspecht-1
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 book.....deals 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?