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.