<![CDATA[bamboo studio - Michaels\' Blog]]>Fri, 03 Apr 2020 07:17:58 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Training an Artist. Training a Praxis.]]>Thu, 24 Oct 2019 18:36:13 GMThttp://bamboostudiostl.com/michaels-blog/training-an-artist-training-a-praxisTraining an Artist. Training a Praxis. 
These fragments and shards are about the training of an artist in the Theatrical Arts. My experience is the whole cloth of which these stories and memories have stepped forward into direction. I am hoping that they provide a glimpse of the whole effort and life living with decisions that make a difference in how I spent my time and the tremendous amount of work it takes to become a practicing artist of an art. It is in the experiencing of the doing of the art, which takes time and living. Especially Theatre as reflected on the stage. Your art constantly disappears. You can’t pull it out and say “look what I have done.” 

The shards and fragments of stories below are my story about creating a praxis as a theatre artist. I lived my art and now more and more my art has become my LIVING. I do not claim to be a great writer but I am accomplished in human experience and it is human experience I am trying to describe. It is a LIVED experience: training as an artist and learning my craft; understanding my time and place as a baby boomer born into a turbulent and maybe even a decaying civilization; watching the human psychology play out in literature and LIFE. But I get ahead of myself: this is a beginning. I am a writer of mosaic tiles; shards; fragments; memories of experience. I am definitely an artist of human experience. We are a biologically cognitive species.

In 1968 I was enrolled in Augustinian Academy all boys, College Preparatory, Catholic high school. I had been raised catholic by the Sisters of Precious Blood at Holy Family grade school. I had been an alter boy and a street crossing guard. Of course my family and neighbors were Catholic.  In 1963 my innocence had been shattered by the assassination of John Kennedy - the uncertainty that arose from this incident about the government and its capabilities was totally finished by the time of Bobby Kennedy’s and Martin Luther King’s assassinations. 
I grew up with the tribal radio; part of the baby boomer tribe and the gospel of Rock-n-Roll; I came of age with the Beatles, Stones, Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane;  and all of the revolution could be heard on KXOK with Johnny Rabbit here in St. Louis.
If you look up Augustinians on wiki you can find the following:

“As well as telling his disciples to be "of one mind and heart on the way towards God", Augustine of Hippo taught that "Nothing conquers except truth and the victory of truth is love" (Victoria veritatis est caritas), and the pursuit of truth through learning is key to the Augustinian ethos, balanced by the injunction to behave with love towards one another. It does not unduly single out the exceptional, especially favor the gifted, nor exclude the poor or marginalized. … The Augustinian ideal is inclusive.”

At Augustinian Academy the above was practiced but I did not know that then - it explains a lot to me now. 
At orientation we were told that we were now “men” and we would be treated like men and there might be unexpected consequences of being men and being treated like men that we should be aware of.
The first incident that took place to let me know just how much I did not know about those consequences was in my Freshman Latin class a couple of days later. We were going to translate Caesar’s Gaelic Wars from Latin into English. The Soccer coach, was our Latin teacher. He was a stocky, well built and in great shape South American man and rather short for a teacher. 
In our class was a 6’7” teenaged male of gangly stature. He said something that showed disrespect for the Latin teacher who bolted out from behind his desk and down the aisle; pulled the teenager up and out of his seat by the front of his shirt; the desk fell to the ground sideways and the Latin teacher slapped or punched the teenager in the mouth and said if you ever talk to me like that again you will be expelled. The class was very silent, the soccer coach told the teenager to straighten his desk and sit down. It was this incident that made it very clear to me that the whole environment I was now in was much different than grade school, taught by nuns.
In 1969 I am sitting in my first or second class of my Sophomore year and I realize that without working at more then doing what I was told to do I had jumped up a “section”. My insight was that I was not average - if I applied myself I could be at the top of my class. During those years, Augustinian Academy had one of the best (I think) stage directors and English teachers available in the city - John Faust. He had us reading Canterbury Tales by Chaucer out loud and in “OLDE” English. The plays he was directing and the capacity to turn growing boys into stage actors who could make audiences laugh and cry was magical to me. 

A young, newly married woman and probably newly minted Ph.D or Masters in English became my sophomore English teacher. She was teaching us short story writing and I wrote a piece that I called De Ping, De Pong which was a detective or mystery short story using the game of Ping Pong as Main Motif and activity to structure the story around. She loved it and gushed over it and asked me if she could keep it - I was shy, I did not know how to handle this, I was flattered, here was a woman singling me out for my writing capability. I had enjoyed writing the piece. It had flowed well and spontaneously and was not a struggle at all. I said “yes” she could keep it. I have remembered this memory often since I often wanted to review that first successful short story and see how it was written and remember more detail about the writing. Writing has never been an easy process for me since. I have never found the naivety from which I wrote that story.
I had a stuffed monkey that I used to take to bed with me. I would entertain myself with stories out loud about this monkey. I had not noticed that I did this out loud story telling until one night my brother who slept in the same room with me, asked for me to tell a story with the monkey since he was having trouble going to sleep. 
These two stories are to emphasize that I had some natural talent for telling stories from a naive and innocent place where they just welled up and I told them not thinking of how or why but once I turned my attention toward telling stories all fell apart and I have had to study, contemplate and learn ever since. 

In my Junior year I was supposed to take Physics but I did not want to go in that direction and they offered Psychology in its place - I jumped at the opportunity in excitement and relief. C.G.Jung came into my awareness and I read two small books by him: Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933) and The Undiscovered Self (1957). These books are written about “modern man” and his loss of a Soul and Organization Man and his overwhelming of the individual; if you wanted to be a whole person in this civilization you would self-cultivate with integrity. This was my intent. 

In Senior year Al Keeney came in as our new head of the Theatre Department. I was deeply impressed with John Faust and I had great trepidation, that, in my senior year I would have a new Theatre and English Director. Al Keeney was better than Faust in ways I would not truly understand until years later. He gave me my first comedic role as one of the Parents in the Fantastics. There were the two fathers of which I was one and we had a vaudeville song and dance number to sing about “Why do kids put beans in their ears?” the first night with live audience, we brought the house down; every night after that we made it our goal to put so much energy into that number that we would bring down the house; the first night was nervous energy but the following nights it was us working a craft. Timing, pausing, waiting, working levels of loudness and softness with our voices, with our shapes of dancing and prancing and vaudeville nuttiness that had all been handed to us by Al but we brought it to life with an audience and there was nothing like finishing and have the audience jump to its feet in surprise and admiration that these young performers could entertain so well beyond their years. But as I have aged Al Keeney gave me more than that. He was our senior English teacher and one of the books on the list was Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan, which is an author that continues to influence me to this day. 

In our high school during senior year there would be days when colleges would send student reps to talk to those of us who were graduating about their programs and schools. My parents wanted me to go to St. Louis University and that would have been the most logical choice but I was not interested in staying in St. Louis - I wanted to move away from home and find out about the “real” world. I was no longer a practicing catholic and I was looking for meaning and wholeness in my life and I was not finding that in the turbulent times I was growing up in. I met with a theatre student from North East Missouri State College (Kirksville) who talked eloquently to me about a thriving theatre department that was doing cutting edge theatre. I was sold.

My training as an artist had begun. I was four years deep and I did not know what a liberal arts education was but I had one. Because it was a College Preparatory high school when I went to NorthEast Missouri State College (NEMO) I had tested out of the Freshman English, History and Mathematics; I could take Sophomore and Junior classes, and I did in Theatre, English and Psychology.

I started NEMO in fall of 1971. The play they were putting on was Samual Beckett’s Endgame. I saw every production of this show. I had never seen any theatre like this. I absorbed the Absurd theatre which would become a major genre in playwriting but I did not know this then. One of the four directors was teaching Absurd theatre and its related authors and critiques; all I had to do was hang out with him when I could. 

In Spring of 1972 I was given a scholarship to go to Hannibal, Missouri’s, Ice House Theatre (which was run by the NEMO Theatre Department) during the summer. We did five shows that summer of which I was the lead in two and had a bit part and stage managed another and did props for the fourth and ran lights on the fifth. We ran this theatre in all its many formats from the back stage to the front ticket office. We had prepared You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown as the last play of the season for NEMO then we would take this play as the first play and produce four others during the summer in Hannibal. 

One of the main reasons I might have gotten the scholarship was that I could be typecast as a Tom Sawyer or a Huck Finn (thin build; blond hair; kind of scraggily looking). The chairman of the department was going to write from Mark Twain’s two books a play about Huck and Jim on the raft - it was part of the agreement that the Ice House theatre would have a play about, or a work from, Mark Twain. The black actor who was to play Jim was offered a more lucrative job (summer theatre’s do not pay well) elsewhere and so we ended up doing a compilation of Twain’s work one of the pieces being A War Prayer [https://warprayer.org] which was definitely a part of the times and turmoil that was arising around us. I fell in love with Mark Twain as a writer of great stories that year. I had tasted him before but I was now deep into any and all of his work. He understood “humanity” in a deep and scorching way and could put it into powerful words and images in multiple genre’s and he was born in my region. Someone from the mid-west close to St. Louis could become insightful and wise. The mid-west was very conservative and still is. Hannibal citizens were not happy with our Mark Twain selection and grumbled but in the end it was the writing of their “favorite son” Samuel Clemens - they did not stop us.

I was exhausted when I came out of this summer and wanted nothing to do with the theater when I went back for Sophomore year in the fall. I remember only one class that semester - my Psychology class. It used the following book: Principles of Behavior Modification by Albert Bandura. I had already been subscribed to Psychology Today which had devoted a full issue to B.F.Skinner’s 1971 Beyond Freedom and Dignity. This was not the kind of Psychology that made sense to me - it was significantly different than C. G. Jung. In essence it was the rise of AI (Artificial Intelligence). We were all Operantly Conditioned Machines - that was learning; as simple as that. No better than salivating dogs or mice running labyrinths. I was appalled. I barely passed this class.

I went back to St. Louis to work in a furniture factory called Gusdorf’s; I was flailing, all roads looked closed to me. 
I was watching the papers for possible work when I saw an advertisement for “tryout’s” in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown at the Elk’s Lodge, downtown of all places. I went and got the part of Charlie Brown. The director was John Kuppinger who was the long time director at St. John the Baptist high school. The rest of the cast was made up of many Fontbonne University theatre students. - I could go to Fontbonne since they had just recently gone co-ed. I majored in Theatre.
Catholic schools did not take education lightly. I was ready to get a degree in Theatre and I did get a Batchelor of Arts in Theatre Design in 1975. I knew theatre from art to business. Simultaneously at Fontbonne there was much ferment from English to Theatre and back; several of the English majors were on the stage and several of us theatre majors were taking all the English classes. I took an English class where we studied the works of Yeats, Eliot, Joyce, and Pound. We read in-depth on these authors and I wrote a paper on T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland. We studied Joyce up to Ulysses: the teacher thought that Finnegans Wake was a joke. I never knew wether she was putting me off with a deep pun (Joyce was an Engineer not a Joker) or did not want to deal with the most complicated piece of English literature by a major artist that had ever been created. Joyce and Eliot have stayed with me throughout my studies.

I acted at Fontbonne. One of my favorite rolls was I played an aging Mark Twain. A very clever woman whose husband was a stage director at St. Louis University had taken The Diaries of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain and written a short one act out of it; using the Aging Mark Twain himself to introduce and structure the play together. She also directed in very creative ways. Now at the Ice House theatre I had studied under some journeymen actors and one of them played an aging Mark Twain; it was part of The War Prayer compilation; he played Mark Twain very well and there was a good deal of his Mark Twain in my Mark Twain and I enjoyed the part immensely. We toured this show around the high schools to engage students to consider Fontbonne arts programs. I had to improv a lot to get the production going and quiet the teenage audiences.
I now had 4 years of liberal arts and 4 years being trained as a theatre artist. I could operate as: an actor; in the rigging; building and painting a set; writing a play; directing plays; producing plays; knew the History of the Theatre and the Theatre arts and had seen plays from Antigone (Greek Tragedy) to Mister, Mister (Absurd societal breakdown as drama). I understood the ongoing social, civil and artistic commentary that was part of my art form. I was seeing that the human condition and some human psychologies were hitting the mark and other psychologies went astray. That every subject that humans could get involved in was a subject that could be portrayed onstage. Every civil and social disturbance could find their way in multiple ways and levels into playwriting. Shakespeare’s culminating metaphor for LIFE and theatre “all the world is a stage” is so solid in this art that we often, play on stage with the difference between art and LIVING and that there might not be a difference.
But, it is also an art of Human Behavior because you as an actor or a director or a writer or a designer of human sets must study what goes on amongst humans to be able to translate that onto the stage. The “genre’s of theatre” are broad and have depth. I did most of my work in Theatre of the Absurd, Theatre of the Oppressed, Symbolic Theatre, Surrealists Theatre.. the playwrights are many and should be treated as great writers of human psychology but seldom are - it is here that I learned a great deal of human psychology because I had chosen to become an artist of human psychology trained in theatrical arts. 

In 1976, I drove with three other actors from Fontbonne College, to New York - my intention was to make it as a theatrical artist in New York city.  I found a place at Broadway and 76th, a transient hotel. It took all the money I had left for two months in a room barely bigger than a closet with a communal bathroom and shower. But it was a way and by Halloween I had moved down to 1st and A and shared an apartment with a taxi driver and a burgeoning movie maker.  I was driving a van around New York city for a mobile lighting company: we would bring a set of lights and booms and structure to run said lights and you would pay us rent so I would be dropping off a set of lights for some event be it conference in the garment district or rock-n-roll follow-spot for Muddy Waters concert in New Jersey. I was paid to do whatever it took and I did.
Then I found out from the Master Carpenter that was working for the Rock-n-Roll Lighting company that I had the qualifications to be a staff carpenter at Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival theatre. He would know because he had just left the Master Carpenter job at the Shakespeare Festival. I applied and by spring of 1977 I was a staff carpenter at the Shakespeare Festival theatre which was a rehabbed public library space; 5 different theatre spaces had been built in that space and it was our job to get shows in and out of those spaces and often we were building those very set pieces simultaneously across the street. I worked here daily until 1981. I did a lot of theatre arts.

Back to New York city.
My Technical Director at Fontbonne worked and ran New York city theatre-design-and-build shops but went across to New Jersey to do it cheaper but that upset some people so he came to St. Louis. He knew how to manage and run a theatre set design and scenery painting, shop. I ran Fontbonne’s set design and scenery shop along with sound and lighting my senior year. Most of the time you are doing “good enough” structural work that can “take a beating” for a “period of time”.
Like I said above, back to New York city. It is the beginning of 1977 and I am looking up and finding Hartley House theatre West 46th Hell’s Kitchen and the technical director there who worked with my teacher. Soon I was working at Hartley House theatre [https://twitter.com/NYCCouncil/status/1043663262456467456] for resume (no money just credit for lighting design or whatever in the program). For instance; I lit a short story by Joyce Carol Oates, as my first lighting design gig. I set the show up; light it; rehearse it; ran it and broke it down at the end. Maybe three weeks of work, not every night until the last week because we would have gone into production maybe for four shows (a doable weekend run) at most and then shut down.. During this time I am working down at the Shakespeare festival as a staff carpenter and I am working at the Hartley House theatre in any capacity I can because my name goes on the opening night Program. 

The Shakespeare festival crew had an “A” team and I was on it. I enjoyed this team work and this jack-of-all-trades around the theatre was within my capacity yet I was trained as an artist and at night I was doing my “art” at Hartley House from acting to writing to producing to improvising to set designing to light designing to stage managing to Technical Director. I did it all. My nickname amongst the festival crew was “Showtime” from All that Jazz “its showtime folks.” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2e9acreKmQ] The intensity was similar and those were New York “cattle calls.” Many artists come to New York to test themselves - the culling is always going on.  I could get “locked” into projects and the projects fed me. Of course there are always the other projects that “eat you alive” before you can get out of them. I have the scars, experience and training of both.
The Great Theatre of Oklahoma was the name of the theatre that I helped to found. The name comes from a Kafka novel. Another founder of The Great Theatre of Oklahoma of whom I worked with closely came up with this classic piece of sarcasm in the middle of New York city. We created a piece that was based off of T.S.Eliot’s The Wasteland which I had so long ago studied and written about. We actually through improv and the structure of some the characters in The Wasteland put together a production that performed maybe 6 times in front of paying audiences. We barely made expenses. 

I had some unique adventures in stage-production of an artist/writer Peter Walker who had his loft space on 42nd street by Times Square, in New York city, at a time when 42nd Street down the block from Times Square was not a nice neighborhood but if you were painting Large Circus canvases (10’ by 15’) pieces then it was a great space to have kitchen, sleeping space (curtained off) and then studio which is of maximum importance; there was space to work there and the rent was affordable; big criteria in New York city.
If you paint and write about the Circus then you might start to live as those who are in the Circus as a training device - it organizes (identity) your training. Those who work Circus’s live Circus as a way of LIFE; a praxis within community. Anyway I produced, staged readings of the plays that he wrote about the circus people whom he studied and painted and wrote about. I still have one of the painted canvases in a drawer and I still have some of Peter Walker’s Circus Works (original prints) hanging in my house.

I also was influenced by: 
Antonin Artaud via The Theatre and Its Double
Peter Brook via The Empty Space
Herbert Blau The Impossible theatre
Robert Brustein The Theatre of Revolt
but most important and most influential on me was 
The Theatre of the Absurd by Martin Esslin. 
These men were wrestling with the art of Theatre which was wrestling with the daily living of “modernity.” Modernity permeates our civilizations and it permeates our theatre from manifesto’s on the art in modern times to critiques of modern works to radical breaks with tradition - it is said that Joyce is the last of the modern writers and Becket is the first of the PostModern writers. 
These were broad expanses and canvases, painted or written by these authors under the title Theatre Arts and I was getting a dose of all of them.
I say now, that I was probably given, or pointed to this book, The Theatre of the Absurd, in Kirksville. Also Towards a Poor Theatre by Jerzy Grotowski. These were now moving into Body-Movement Therapies as theatre. I was part of that arising, since I felt, experienced, my art. I now say my praxis is my LIVING. 
The “circuses” and “living systems” as anthropological study in the mediums of painting and writing and Spoken word; I produced weekends when the theatrical image came forward in multiple mediums of a backdrop painted by Peter Walker who wrote the play we are reading, and the reading I am directing and getting the backdrop lighting, and whole stage set-up prepared so that the statement we, a theatrical troupe, make is that of a world, a circus, a living system.

<![CDATA[Michaels Bio Part 1]]>Sun, 13 Oct 2019 19:54:10 GMThttp://bamboostudiostl.com/michaels-blog/michaels-bio-part-1
These thoughts and Memories are a way of giving insight to my background. One never rises to a Senior Taoist Internal Movement arts teacher without a journey and below is some of mine. It snap-shots and overviews events and processes in my life when I was training, doing Live-in Apprenticeships and Cultivating a Praxis based on Taoist Movement Arts and Philosophy. It is my way of supporting and validating my teaching background and style since it is unconventional. I am reflecting the journey of the Scholar Warrior - see Deng Ming-Dao, Scholar Warrior: An Introduction to the Tao in Everyday Life.

In 1987 I drove from St. Louis to Omega, New York to take a week long workshop with William C. C. Chen and learn his 60 Movements T’ai Chi Ch’uan form. I came home with sore legs and his book Body Mechanics of Tai Chi Chuan and his video tape (William C. C. Chen’s Tai Chi Chuan) of him doing the 60 Movements facing camera and with his back to camera (this was my main usage with me watching his back as I went through the form with him till I had it memorized so that I could make it through the form without forgetfulness).
I would return to study with William in Bloomington, Indiana where Laura Stone had a beautiful second floor studio space with windows looking onto the campus. I refined my T’ai Chi Ch’uan form and learned boxing, sword form and push hands coming to weekend workshops, when Laura would bring William in from New York for a weekend.
It was at one of these weekend workshops that I met Ping-Siang Tao teaching A Little Beneath The Surface of the Tai Ji Quan Classics. Dr. Tao and William C. C. Chen were disciples of Chen Man-ch’ing. I was also to do a workshop here in St. Louis with Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo another of Chen Man-Ch’ing’s disciples. Each disciple was using Chen Man-Ch’ing’s 37 Posture T’ai Chi Ch’uan form A Simplified Method of Calisthenics for health and Self Defense, which Chen had adapted from the Yang family long form. Benjamin Lo’s form was probably closest to Chen Man-ch’ing’s. Finally this list is not complete for me without T. T. Liang and Stuart Alve Olson. Stuart wrote most of the material; Liang dictated. T.T.Liang was the First and thus Chief Disciple of Cheng Man-ch’ing’s. A secondary source was Robert Chuckrow (books and videos). Thus I have invested in a lot of study in the Taoist art of Tai Chi Chuan as presented by Cheng Man-ch’ing and his disciples. 

William had trained several push hands champions but his most famous student was Peter Ralston. William humbly says that Peter came to him a Dragon - he just gave him eyes. Peter went on to win full contact in 1978 in Taiwan. The first westerner to ever do so.
William trained Elaine Waters who trained out of Fayetteville, Arkansas for awhile and I went down to do some push hands with her and at that time she was studying with Jou, Tsung Hwa. I got his book The Tao of Tai-Chi Chuan: Way to Rejuvenation. This book was encyclopedic in coverage of T’ai Chi as Martial Art and Health Art and Philosophy. I learned his 14 Posture T’ai-Chi Chi-Kung set which combined breathing and movement. 
The Tao Ahn Pai sets: Cloud Hands (Short 31) and Shen, healing Qigong sets combining breathing and movement and meditation Qigong. 

In 1988 I drove from St. Louis to Omega New York to take a workshop with Taoist Priest Share K. Lew. He taught his Cloud Hands set of the Tao Ahn Pai system: which claims linage back to Lu Dongbin (born approximately one thousand two hundred and thirty-three years ago). I came home and practiced for awhile but was not able to sustain.
In 1989 I hosted Share K. Lew for a weekend to learn the Shen set of the Tao Ahn Pai system. Again I practiced for awhile and then got involved in other sets.  In 1996 I helped with logistics to bring Share K. Lew once again to St. Louis - I mobilized my classes which might have added 10 participants to his weekend workshop where he taught the Cloud Hands set of the Tao Ahn Pai system. Share K. Lew was not a physically imposing man. He did not speak great English but he was functioning as a Healer and when he was hosted here in St. Louis he would do Tui Na: Chinese Healing and Acupressure Massage private therapy sessions. He was known to be able to heal bone-breaks in short periods of time; he was a trained Healer and Practitioner. “the TaoAhnPai is for Healing and is so soft and gentle, following the Taoist Way.” Master Lew.

There was a portion of time in the 1990’s when I studied with Anna Lum and learned the Five Element Qigong Set.

In the early 90’s I trained Aikido and earned my first belt in the school of Mitsugi Saotome who was trained by Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido. I traveled to Chicago to study/participate in Saotome’s workshops, twice, while practicing once a week here in a St. Louis Dojo, learning falls, throws and weapons.

In the 1990’s I also trained with Mark Johnson who is a disciple of Hua-Ching Ni. I had read a lot of Ni’s material (multiple generations of Chinese Doctors and Movement artist in his family linage) so I was familiar with him as an author. I do not remember who brought Mark Johnson into St. Louis but he regularly would come at least once a year during the 1990’s and I would go to his Tai Chi forms, Traditional Chinese Medicine and I Ching workshops - these workshops were videoed and I had the tapes and I would watch and study from these tapes. 

I had a Heaven and Earth Taiji Form; A Heart Taiji form but mostly I taught the Taiji for Seniors form in the community college setting in the late 1990’s since it was short enough to learn in a semester and not overly, athletically, demanding. I learned the Ni Taoist Eight Treasures (a very athletic 32 movement Energy Enhancement routine) from one of Mark’s videos he had made from the workshop here in St. Louis. Then when he came back to teach it I was already versed in it and was looking for refinement. Mark was impressed with me having picked up a difficult routine from just the tape alone so we became good friends and he would send me videos of other forms that he either created or remembered from his studies with Ni. 
I was part of the International Qigong Association for awhile because I had trained with Mark Johnson; he was part of the initiating force to get such an association in America.

In the late 1990’s I started to teach at the community college level and was dissatisfied with my own knowledge and went to find new teachers. Redwing Reviews was a Catalogue that collected and annotated a large amount of Traditional and Classical Chinese Medicine and Health Therapies and I started to look through this catalogue reading the annotations for the Tai Chi and Qigong books. I had been receiving Tai Chi Magazine (1991 to 2000) and The Empty Vessel (1993 to 1998) which both carried reviews of new books and articles of and by teachers from China or who had trained with Chinese Linage. This is when I came into contact with the books of Peter Ralston and Bruce K. Frantzis. 

In 1997 I drove out to San Fransisco to take a 7 day Zen Retreat also known as a Contemplation Intensive and in 1998 I drove out to the west coast again to take a week-long event in the art of Cheng Hsin which was Ralston’s Martial art creation. This took place on the campus of Dominican College which is the same place that BKFrantzis’s was teaching a week-long workshop on Wu Style Tai Chi form. Peter and Bruce knew one another and Bruce came by the gymnasium to watch us workout for awhile. 
From 1997 to 2006 I was driving regularly once a year to week- long or month-long events that Ralston was offering on the West coast, the Gulf coast or finally at his Dojo in Pipe Creek, Texas outside of San Antonio. 

From March 2004 to November 2004 I was a live-in Apprentice with 6 others training with Ralston daily for 2 hours. The training was the hardest I had ever engaged in - we were training at first 8 hours a day and then from June on it would be 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week. On Sunday, we would go through a 2 hour stretching routine and then have to do our weekly food shopping in San Antonio along with Laundry and return for a 2 to 3 hour lecture in the evening. 

I was turning 51 during this summer and I was learning Judo. Martial arts is a young man’s endeavor. I was exhausted all the time and had to take an hour nap in the middle of the afternoon to be able to make the evening training (we broke the training into two sessions early and late because it was so hot in mid-afternoon and the dojo was not air conditioned). The other apprentice’s were from 17 to 40 years old. We did an hour of contemplation each day in addition to our physical workout. 

We did boxing with Ralston - Peter at one point in time was to fight Sugar Ray Leonard. He claimed he was as fast as Sugar Ray and Sugar Ray was known for being fast - the promoter who was holding the money each fighter had put forward in escrow decided he could do much better living on that money in South America so the actual fight never came to be. 

I would be boxing with Peter and one moment Peter’s glove was poised some distance from my head and the next it was hitting my jaw. I was not conscious enough to be able to move out of the way which is the way of Cheng Hsin - to yield and dodge; to constantly remember you were the bait that the opponent was trying to hit. We were constantly practicing running backwards - yielding to oncoming forces and learning to turn that momentum to our advantage when the opponent was off-balance. It was an art of movement and balance - you keep your balance and take your opponent out of balance, in movement. An out of balance opponent is much easier to throw or hit than a balanced one.

I finished the apprenticeship in November of 2004 and went back for one more 3 month long in 2006. I had come into the apprenticeship as a degree two and left as a degree two - the only one not to progress via a degree - I went back in 2006 with the hopes of getting my third degree but was unsuccessful again. I had learned Judo throws, Bagua walking and turning, Aikido throws, boxing, sword form, T’ui Shui techniques and San Shou two man form, Tai Chi Chuan Form and Mini-form, the fine art of falling and being thrown, Pa-sik Po - a stepping routine Contemplative Intensives which were 3 or 7 day, whole day contemplation events from the time we got up to the time we went back to bed. Very, Zen Warrior like training and very Ralston who constantly invoked Rinzai in his lectures and his own mystique. 

Peter had trained and won full contact Chinese Martial Art tournament in Taiwan in 1978 - he had told William and the Tai Chi Chuan world that he would win if he could stay Mindful - he claimed his victory on his Mindfulness and that became the foundation of his Martial art.
Martial art (Cheng Hsin) increased consciousness.  
If you were enlightened (and well trained martially) then you could win top championships in Chinese Martial art full-contact competitions - something that had not been done by a westerner until Peter did it in 1978. He claimed his enlightenment was fundamental in his winning. 
In two separate but similar challenges; Peter won Gold (1978) and William, won silver (1958); both had fought from the background of Tai Chi principles. Be soft, yielding and not where your opponent expects you to be (dodge). 

I came out of the apprenticeship exhausted and morally depressed. I had a fantasy of being a Zen Warrior and I knew now that fantasy was not going to come true. I was already engaged since 1995 in teaching the art of Tai Chi and Qigong but I was not going to teach the martial portion of the art any more. This is what I knew in 2006.

Sometime in the early 2000’s I went up to Chicago for a weekend workshop with BKFrantzis to learn Longevity Breathing and The Marriage of Heaven and Earth. This was the first time I studied with BKFrantzis. 

In 2005 after completing the apprenticeship I did some study with Pete Egoscue and got my Structural Alignment Specialist certificate in the Egoscue Method; by 2007 I had done the work and gone out to San Diego to get my second degree certificate in the Egoscue Method; all I had to do was write up three case histories - I never finished because I was not interested in writing up case histories nor was I interested in the business model Egoscue was putting forth.
At the end of 2007 I am teaching 15 classes a week, three or four classes on some days. I could not sustain the travel around St. Louis and teaching load (sometimes only a few students in the location); I had rehabbed the lower floor of my two family flat into Bamboo Studio. I started to condense my classes into the studio.
Besides Pete Egoscue I start to read Moshe Feldenkrais, Ida Rolf, Milton Trager, Thomas Hanna, Tom Myers… all the body-working artists that had developed a method of movement or understanding of the body. 

Meanwhile I kept teaching - it was the only way I was making a living. Many of the other teachers in St. Louis had day jobs; I was one of the few if not the only one who has constantly supported myself by teaching this art of Taoist Movement and Health.

In 2011 I decided I would teach the Qigong Health Sets and I Chuan Standing Postures since they were less difficult than the Tai Chi Form: they could be done by anyone who wanted to learn and they were powerful for health. When I was teaching at Florissant Valley and Meramec community colleges I was teaching Mark Johnson’s Senior Tai Chi form and Lam Kam Chuen’s 8 Pieces of Brocade from his book The Way of Energy and BKFrantzis’s Opening the Energy Gates of your Body sets and routines to give students an overview of what Tai Chi and Qigong Health, consisted. Now I knew I would go back to Qigong and the Standings as my major Praxis and teaching. I had started because of health and now I was returning. I would teach no more Tai Chi form. 

In 2010 or 2009 my wife, Jenny, had been listening to a tremendous amount of Dharma Seed Buddhist teachers lecturing on Mindfulness and the Life of Buddha. We had continued going to other Contemplative Intensives by other teachers. Peter Ralston had studied with Charles Berner and Edrid. 
Edrid still taught and we brought him into St. Louis to do an Enlightenment Intensive somewhere in this time. Meanwhile we would travel down to Alabama to do Enlightenment Intensives that were being put on by students of Edrid. 

We were studying Enlightenment, Mindfulness, Consciousness. One day Jenny said, here is a teacher who is saying some of the same things you are, you should listen to him - his name was Stephen Batchelor. He was a Pali translator (original Buddhist texts were written in Pali) and he deconstructed Buddhism to a social movement - not a religious movement in the civilization and time that the Buddha was teaching. Stephen was an ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk and later did extensive work in Zen. It was wonderfully clarifying and removed much of the mystery and authority that had been placed around Buddhist arts of Mindfulness and Meditation. Hundreds of hours have been spent driving in my car while learning, over the years, about Meditation, Civilization during the time of the Buddha and most of all major teachings on what the Buddha was pointing to and what had been added by the Buddhist Authority.

In 2014 I started BKFrantzis’s Energy Arts Training Circle where every month Bruce puts out hours of video of particular live events he has recorded or specially staged events for the Training Circle. I have trained since the late 1980’s with VHS tapes, Audio tapes, books and now Online monthly classes from an International and Linage holding Teacher. This last year I have been working on Gods Playing in the Clouds Mastery edition which is almost finished with the first year and will go into 2020 as second year where BKFrantzis is putting in the 16 Neigong Components. I have been waiting and practicing for this class since 1998 publication of Relaxing into Your Being and on page 55 BKFrantzis puts forward the 16 Part Nei Gung System. This is the culmination of BKFrantzis system and I am pleased to be an online part of it.