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).

 


The Best Way to Meditate While Doing Tai Chi, Hsing-I or Bagua -- Mindfulness

A philosopher asked the Buddha, "What is your method? What do you practice every day?"

"We walk, we eat, we wash ourselves, we sit down," the Buddha explained.

"What is so special about that? Everyone walks, eats, washes, sits down," the philosopher said.

"Sir," replied the Buddha, "when we walk, we are aware we are walking; when we eat, we are aware we are eating. When others walk, eat, wash, or sit down, they are generally not aware of what they are doing."

In Buddhism, mindfulness is the key. -- from Zen Keys by Thich Nhat Hanh

Are you mindful when you practice your gongfu?

Are you mindful when you are at work? Does your mind wander when talking to other employees or when sitting through meetings?

When in public, are you on a cell phone instead of being engaged in the world around you?

When your significant other is talking, do you zone out or are you mentally engaged in what they are saying?

Are you constantly multi-tasking? 

Psychology Today reported that we lose 40% of our productivity when we attempt to multi-task.

Our brains are not wired to focus on more than one thing at a time with full attention.

But you know that, don't you? How much time have you wasted when you hop on Facebook to post something, and suddenly it is a half-hour later and you have spent the time hopping from one friend's post to another, clicking links, and then being distracted by another post? How many times have you logged off and then realized you had forgotten to do what you logged on for? Yeah, admit it. You have done it, too. So have I.

Mental Discipline is supposed to be a benefit of meditation and of practicing martial arts.

But mental discipline takes work. You know -- kung-fu. A skill developed over time through hard work.

There are many ways to apply the internal arts and philosophy into your daily life. But first, you have to calm the mind, and that requires work.

One of the best ways to "meditate" while doing any martial arts form is to simply be in the form; focus on the movements and the intent of the movements -- the body mechanics of good internal movement and the "intent" you would need to do the movement as an application.

You do not have to perform with a "blank" mind. Just getting into the form and eliminating other distracting thoughts is one way of meditating while doing the internal arts.

When doing Zhan Zhuang at the beginning of a practice, Chen Xiaowang might say something like, "Calm down. Listen behind you."

The goal is not to detach from everything.

The goal is to become connected, aware and part of everything. The goal is to be in the moment.

When you are in public, are you in the moment and aware of all things around you? When someone looks at you, are you looking back and able to engage or smile, or are you unable or unwilling to make eye contact?

Do you detach, or are you listening behind you?

At the gym, everyone plugs in their earbuds and will hardly make eye contact with others. We are not connected, not engaged -- we are isolated in public. 

Who is the person standing behind you? You wouldn't know. You are not willing to give them that much attention, are you?

If you are a true internal artist, you are connected.

Master Po 2In the Kung-Fu TV show, this was one of my favorite scenes: 

"Do you hear the grasshopper which is at your feet?" asked blind Master Po.

Young Caine looked down to see a grasshopper.

"Old man, how is it that you hear these things?" he asked.

Master Po replied, "Young man, how is it that you do not?"

Be mindful in your forms. Be mindful and engaged with the world around you. Calm your mind. The more distracted you are; the more you "multi-task," the less connected you can be.

Be here now. When walking through a grocery store, be there. When listening to your boss in a meeting, be mentally present. When doing your forms, become the movement.

And whatever you are doing, stop checking your cell phone every three minutes.

Calm your mind.

It is a goal we should all work to achieve. If we achieve it -- if we are able to be here now, in the moment, focusing our attention on what we are doing right now, everything we do is potentially part of our meditation practice.

-- by Ken Gullette 

 


Marketing for Martial Arts Teachers -- The Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Dave Dee

Ken Gullette - Dave Dee2
I enjoyed meeting and learning from Dave Dee in Chicago last April.

If you teach the internal arts -- or any martial art -- do you have enough students? 

Probably not.

Do you believe your marketing efforts are effective enough? Are you as successful as you want to be?

I didn't think so.

A lot of martial arts teachers do not understand marketing. Some of the internal arts teachers I have known almost consider marketing "beneath" them -- almost as if "marketing" is a dirty word. Then again, there are others who lie in their marketing, pretending to make students fall down or hop away with the slightest touch.

You can do ethical and effective marketing to have a more successful teaching practice -- or school.

In the latest edition of the Internal Fighting Arts podcast, I talk with one of my favorite marketing experts -- Dave Dee.

I would urge you to take notes during the interview, and then compare what you hear to your ads and marketing messages.

Listen to the podcast online or download the mp3 file through this link to Audello. It will also be available on iTunes (Apple Podcasts) within a few hours.

During the podcast, Dave and I do a quick analysis of this typical tai chi ad. I disguised the addresses and names because we are using this for educational purposes, not to humiliate anyone. 

Tai Chi Ad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the other hand, here is a better ad, and you can understand why after hearing the podcast.

Tai Chi Ad 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Enjoy the podcast, and if you have any questions or comments, please fire away!

Want to learn more about how Dave Dee can help your marketing efforts? Follow this link to Dave's website at www.davedee.com


The Joy of Teaching Tai Chi to an "Older" Group of Students

Ken Gullette Tai ChiSomething happens when you start getting older, when your health begins to go South and the hair turns gray.

Suddenly, you feel differently about the old people you see in the store or on the road. You suddenly develop empathy.

Oh, I get it. That old man still thinks of himself as the strong 25-year old that he was just a few minutes ago. Wasn't it just a few minutes ago?

No, it was 40 years ago, before the losses started piling up; before his parents died, before his friends started dying, before his earning power began dropping, and before his heart began beating like a bad carburetor.

Now, when I see a healthy 25-year old, I think to myself, "It seems like just yesterday." When I was 25, life seemed endless and everything seemed to come easily.

As the years passed, I lost a daughter, I lost jobs, marriages, and eventually, my perfect health declined. There were some gains along the way, too, but the losses pile up.

As we get older, it becomes even more important to maintain our mental and physical balance as we try to ride the ups and downs of life.

Ken Gullette Tai Chi ClassLast week, I started a free Tai Chi class for people aged 40 and over. The first class was packed with more than 70 people. The oldest was 83.

I had forgotten how much fun it is to teach a more "mature" group.

When I first began teaching Tai Chi in 1999, I was still teaching the Yang style. My first official Tai Chi class attracted students from their twenties to their eighties.

At that time, I had already begun studying Chen style and was in the process of switching from Yang to Chen in my practice and in my kung-fu class, made up of mostly teens and young adults.

By 2001, I was teaching Chen style in the Tai Chi class, and the older students began slowly dropping out. Chen style was just too athletic for them.

Nancy and I closed our school in 2007, when I took a job in Tampa, Florida. A year later, that job ended and my health began to go South. I lost the lung and developed cardiomyopathy. For a couple of years around 2012, I was living in heart failure.

Ken Gullette-Nancy Gullette-Tai ChiStarting another Tai Chi class did not appear to be in my future.

But a few weeks ago, I decided to do it, only this time, I would not do it for money, I would do it as a labor of love. The class would be free, and it would be for anyone aged 40 and over -- a free, 6-week class in Qigong and the Chen 19 form.

The turnout was surprising. More than 70 people came in for the first class -- so many that I decided to teach two classes per week.

It is surprising how much I enjoy the class. No one is seeking perfection, and so I make it easy for them, remove the pressure, and make them laugh. My wife, Nancy is in the class, and I use her to demonstrate fighting applications, giving me an opportunity to flirt and tease her. The class really enjoys it.

I encourage heckling in my classes, and always enjoy it when someone cracks a joke. 

On the first night, we do some very light warmups, working down from shoulder circles to side stretches and hip circles. Then, I say, "Touch your fingers to the floor," and I bend over, touching my fingers to the floor. There is usually some giggling, and comments such as, "Yeah, right."

"Okay," I say, "Keep your legs straight and touch your head to the floor." 

That gets a big laugh. Then I say, "If you can touch your head to the floor, you get a black belt."

More laughter.

So here are my tips for teaching Tai Chi to a mature group of students:

** Teach them Qigong exercises and tell them how to use it in their daily lives.

** Lighten up. None of these students wants to be Chen Xiaowang. Don't take it too seriously.

** Go over movements slowly, with a lot of repetition and corrections.

** Encourage laughter. They need it and they want to have fun.

** Have patience. Many older people have little experience with athletics, and as they mirror your movements, their arms and legs will often be in drastically different positions than yours. Give them gentle coaching and expect to go over it several times.

** Ask for questions regularly.

** If you put yourself up on a "teacher pedestal," climb down and be a real human being. Show an interest in them personally.

When I taught the class back from 1999 to 2007, we would occasionally have parties at my house. Sometimes, if a new kung-fu movie was coming out, like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, we would pick a showing at the theater and meet there, sitting as a group. It was a lot of fun.

I believe one of the best reasons to teach a class like this is to make new friends. Mature people make great friends. You can add value to their lives, and they can add value to yours.

It is a win-win situation, and nothing is better than that! 

 

 


A New Spiffy Platform for the Internal Fighting Arts Website

Internal Fighting Arts Logo 250Sometimes, change happens naturally, and sometimes it is forced on you.

A little over two months ago, the company that hosts the platform for my website -- Kajabi -- let me know that all the membership site owners using their platform would need to upgrade by October 1 or our websites would go dark.

I had a lot of plans for new content during the past two months, but I ended up spending a lot of the time moving the site over. We're talking more than 800 videos that would not work on the new platform without a new player.

Making a long story short, it took me until this week to get it done.

But now, the website will be even better.

I'm planning a lot of new content.

So check out the new and improved Internal Fighting Arts website. Try two weeks free, get instant access, and brace yourself to be blow away by the content on the site.


Reflections on Earning a Black Belt 20 Years Later

Ken Gullette with Staff in 1997
Ken Gullette at age 44, shortly after earning a black sash in 1997.

20 years ago this summer, I got canned from my last job in TV news.

It wasn't a total shock. In fact, it was a relief. Despite award-winning work, I was the manager of a newsroom, and it was a fate worse than death.

Anchors acting like prima donnas, reporters angry because they wanted to be anchors, videographers dinging news cars, inexperienced kids on the air and me having to answer for their screw-ups.

I got into news to be a writer, reporter, and to be creative. I found myself in a living hell as the top decision-maker in the newsroom.

Suddenly, I was canned. It happens in the news business. The life expectancy of a news director is 18 months. I had been there three-and-a-half years.

Two days after losing my job, I had an idea. I was 44 years old and I had been one test away from black sash since 1991, but I had moved away from Omaha, where my teacher was, I was working more than full-time, I was a single (divorced) father with two teenage daughters living at home, and was also trying to have some type of social life, so there was no time to pursue the black sash.

Making it more difficult, my teacher had sold his school in Omaha and was in seclusion.

So I got canned from the TV job, just 10 months after I was re-married. One daughter had moved out and the other was living with her mom in Cincinnati.

Within a couple of days of being fired, I called the instructor who bought my teacher's school -- one of his senior students -- and asked if he would test me. He agreed.

Every day for one month, I trained for a several hours. I had no partner to work on chin-na or one-steps or sparring, so I fought mental opponents. I stood in the basement and imagined my partner throwing attacks and I would respond.

Xingyi, Taiji, Bagua, Qigong, chin-na, shuai-jiao, weapons forms, sparring empty-handed and with weapons -- it was a deep curriculum. The test was intense.

In late August, 1997, I drove to Omaha, took the test, and did well. I was now allowed to wear a black sash. And brother, I was ready!

On October 1st, I began teaching at a fitness center in Muscatine, Iowa, and at that time, as I faced my first students, young guys who all expected me to be perfect, I began feeling that there were deep holes in my curriculum and my knowledge.

The Internet was beginning to take off. I was reading the Neijia List every day, an online discussion by Chen taiji guys, including Mike Sigman. All the guys on the site seemed to look up to Mike, and they were using terms and descriptions of skills that I had never seen or experienced. I had never heard of the ground path. I only knew "peng" as the "ward off" posture in Yang style tai chi, which I learned as part of my curriculum.

Holy cow! I had a black sash and it meant I had to begin studying!

I was still proud of the black sash. Many people begin martial arts training, but in a school as difficult as the one I trained in, few earned their black sash. But I knew there were a lot of internal principles and mechanics missing.

The next spring, I set out to make a mark in tournaments in the black belt division, but I still continued to research and seek out what was missing in my internal mechanics and material. Within a few months, after being directed by the guys on the Neijia List to Jim and Angela Criscimagna in Rockford, Illinois -- a couple of hours from my house -- I switched to Chen taiji, which gradually became the foundation of everything I did.

I left the system that I earned the black sash in -- it was a little too much into the woo-woo for me, and the more I studied Chen taiji, the less internal I realized my previous art was -- but I still practice and teach the most solid pieces of the martial material, infused with and improved by better internal principles.

Ken Gullette tournament champion
Ken Gullette and his trophies in 2008. Most of them were won after age 44. He threw them away after taking this photo.

I did very well in tournaments. I did a lot of Xingyi, but as the years passed, I did more Taiji. My goal was to publicize the internal arts, and show martial artists from all styles that these were martial arts. At that time, karate, TKD, Kuk Sool Won and other "external" artists thought the "internal" arts were for old people, and for people interested in moving meditation. My students and I showed them something that changed their attitudes.

One of my first students, Rich Coulter, walked into one large tournament when he was a brown sash. A student from another school said, "Great. Rich Coulter is here. The most I can hope to win is second place."

Other students did well, too -- Chad Steinke, Rick Todd, Josh Stocking, Fabio Castro, Marilyn Hackett, and later, Chris Miller and Kimberly Miller.

And meanwhile, every day, I was working to improve and learn better internal mechanics for my arts. I taught in a school setting until 2007, when I moved to Tampa for a new job.

In 2009, I lost the function of my left lung, a freak side effect of a medical procedure. I went through a couple of years of heart failure. My cardiologist said, "You could drop dead at any moment with no warning."

That really plays a number on your mind, but it didn't stop me from practicing.

My heart situation improved. Breathing is still an issue, but I have been teaching anyway, through challenging circumstances, and still trying to get better. I now teach in parks and in rented rooms at community centers. I moved my "school" online and have made more than 800 video lessons, passing along everything I learn as my skills develop.

When I was in TV news and became a manager, I would work with my reporters, producers and anchors and try to cut years off their learning and development time by giving them straight information and coaching on delivery, writing, and a more creative approach to their stories.

As an internal arts teacher, my goal is the same. I teach what I have learned and hold nothing back, hoping to save people a few years of getting information bit-by-bit, or not at all, sometimes from teachers who did not have good training but never realized, as I did, that you never stop seeking out new, better, and more advanced information to push your own skills forward.

I never went back into the news industry. I worked in media relations at ACT (the college test), then at the University of South Florida and a couple of nonprofits. In 2013, I began doing the internal arts full-time and handling my own marketing, media relations, video editing and customer service. It is a labor of love and a completely creative job.

And always, I am seeking training and information, practicing the studying, working through forms and movement and fighting applications carefully, like studying a college course, always trying to look beneath the surface.

I was so proud when I earned a black sash 20 years ago, but it was just the beginning. Even 20 years later, and almost 44 years in martial arts (next month), I still feel like a beginner. It is a lifelong endeavor. There is so much to learn.

-- by Ken Gullette

Check out my membership site and enjoy more than 800 video lessons in Chen Taiji, Xingyi, Bagua, Qigong and more -- right now -- with two weeks free and no risk. Follow this link to www.internalfightingarts.com.

Take your understanding deeper with Taiji, Xingyi, and Bagua DVDs that teach principles, internal mechanics and fighting applications at www.internalfightingart.com


Are You Getting This Important Benefit from Your Qigong Practice?

Broadsword 1998I stepped into the ring, holding my broadsword and feeling butterflies in my stomach. I wanted to do well in my first tournament performance as a black belt.

It was February, 1998 in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and at 45 years old, I had studied different martial arts for 25 years, had been in the internal arts for more than 10 years, and had practiced qigong diligently for more than a decade.

"Just get into the zone," I told myself as I calmed down and prepared to do my broadsword form.

God, there are a lot of people, I thought.

"Settle down," my inner voice said. "Detach. Rise above the pressure."

It was the worst advice I could have given myself.

A few movements into the form, I turned to my right to do a sweeping cut and noticed a young boy was walking across the ring, just a few feet from me. 

Within another movement or two, I completely spaced out and forgot where I was in my form. For a flash of a second, I was mentally Broadsword 1998-2paralyzed, then I made up some movements, wrapped up the form, and bowed out.

I did not place in weapons forms that day.

I was disappointed at myself. After using qigong in my life so effectively during the past decade, why was I so nervous and unable to hold it together when performing for the first time as a black belt in front of a jury of strangers and a gymnasium full of spectators?

Shouldn't I be a bit more "one" with the universe? Shouldn't I be able to detach my mind? 

Last night, a member of my website -- a man who is becoming a friend -- told me how he was very nervous during a recent karate test (which he also studies) and had the same thoughts about how qigong is supposed to help him remain calm in those situations.

But here is the real secret of qigong practice.

It does not prevent you from being human.

Qigong is not intended to prevent the normal human emotions that we all experience. The key to effective qigong is that you do not hold on to emotions like fear, anxiety, greed, and other negative thoughts. 

To suppress negative emotions is to give them even more power.

And that is where the mindfulness component of qigong comes into play. It is actually an important part of our quest to calm and center ourselves -- to "be in the moment."

When you are "mindful," you are completely in the moment, giving attention to the people or the situation that needs your attention. Your mind is not wandering, and if it does, you simply bring your attention back to where it needs to be.

The negative feelings, the butterflies in the stomach, the fear of failure -- it's all part of the experience. No one ever brags about doing well when nothing was at stake. We don't sit around in our golden years reminiscing about all the boring times we had. 

The best moments in life -- when you are most alive -- happen when you are testing your comfort zone and feeling every sensation.

And so I realized that calming and centering were not enough. I needed to be in it.

Over time, I developed a joy of being in the moment, whether that was a happy moment or whether I was about to perform in front of a panel of judges and a crowd at a tournament, or whether I was going to be grilled in a job interview by a panel of staffers and VPs.

When I was being interviewed by a panel at the University of South Florida in 2007 for the director of media relations position, I sat down, smiled and said, "Take your best shot."

I enjoyed every moment of that interview, fielded all their questions, was honest and let my creative mind flow. I started a month later.

I want to experience it all -- to be in the now and fully feel the experience:

  • To enjoy demonstrating my arts in a tournament and show martial artists something different.
  • To enjoy the competition of sparring without being overjoyed or upset about individual point calls by judges.
  • To enjoy the "competition" of a job interview, and display my experience and knowledge in a creative way.
  • To be in the moment in a tense personal or job situation, where I can take care of problems without exploding.

Qigong helps us relieve stress, calm our minds and body, and helps us to center ourselves. The goal then should be to recapture that calm, centered feeling in times of tension or crisis.

You should not think of qigong as a way to detach your feelings or your mind from the moment. That is not living.

A key part of qigong is mindfulness: the joy of living and being part of everything; the unpredictable nature of challenges that are thrown at you, then learning from them so perhaps the next time, you can handle them even better.

I got better at tournaments. I still got nervous occasionally, but I felt it fully, I experienced it completely, and I sure did have fun.

-- by Ken Gullette

Check Out Ken's Qigong DVD with Exercises for Stress Relief

Want a more in-depth interview on Mindfulness? Check out Ken's podcast interview with Mark W. Muesse

 


Writing It Down: How to Get the Most Out of Your Teacher's Corrections

Ken Gullette and Chen Xiaoxing
Chen Xiaoxing correcting me in 2005 in Livermore, California.

In 2005, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of private days with Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing. My teacher at the time, the late Mark Wasson, invited me to his home in Livermore, California, for an exclusive opportunity to hang out with him shortly after Xiaoxing arrived in the country for a tour of workshops. 

We spent most of the time going through Laojia Yilu, movement by movement. Grandmaster Chen and Mark would watch as I did a movement, then Xaoxing would make comments and gestures, and often hands-on corrections. Mark would listen and watch his comments intently, then interpret with additional instruction.

I was grateful to have such a valuable opportunity.

When I left Mark's home to drive back to San Francisco to the airport, I was a few hours early, so I stopped at a park, went to a table, and started furiously writing notes. I continued on the airplane flying back to the Quad Cities. Starting with the Opening movement, I went step-by-step through the form and wrote down every correction and piece of coaching I could remember. My mind had retained a lot of it, and it flowed out of my pen and into the pages of my notebook.

Those notes were crucial. I referred to them, thought about them, and I worked hard to incorporate them into my movement. I still refer to them sometimes, to see if I have let anything slide over the years. 

Chen Huixian and Ken Gullette
I can't help but smile as Chen Huixian gives me a subtle bit of coaching in 2013.

This weekend, I plan to attend a workshop held by Chen Huixian in Madison, Wisconsin. On Friday night, she will teach push hands. On Saturday and Sunday, we will go through at least half of Laojia Yilu. I also attended one of her Laojia workshops in Madison four years ago. 

I am looking forward to studying with her again. She is a very good teacher, and she speaks English well enough to not need an interpreter.

You can bet I will be writing down notes at the end of each day's practice.

Are you making notes after classes with your teacher? We don't always retain information over time. We spend a lot of money for instruction, and we spend a lot of time, sweat, and energy to "eat bitter" and to learn.

I urge you to get the most out of your training by taking notes and referring to those notes as you practice.

This week, I was coaching a student in one of the movements in the Chen 38 form. At the beginning of the movement, there is a slight closing of the left kua, a sinking, then a sitting back and turning. Even though I had corrected him on this movement before, I noticed he wasn't sinking or closing the kua before the turning, so I reminded him that we had gone over this, and I encouraged him to write down notes after practices.

Go to a workshop and some people will have notebooks or tablets with them. Each time there is a break, you can see them scurry over and scribble or type furiously, recording the tips they had received during the previous hour or two. I often take a notebook and do this during breaks. At other times, I will go back home or to my hotel room, if I am travelling, and I will write down as much as I can remember.

You can also do that after a regular practice with your teacher. We are no different than high school or college instructors. When a student pays attention, takes notes and focuses on what is being taught, it is what we live for -- to know they are hearing us, taking it to heart, and documenting it so they won't forget.

The best way to get the most out of your teacher's corrections is to write it down and then practice, practice, practice.