I was born with complications and my skeletal structure has major anomalies. Several vertebrae in my neck are fused, as is an area in my mid back. Doctors have looked at x-rays of one of my shoulders only to give up trying to figure out what is going on. My scoliosis twists my ribcage so that my right lung can’t fully inflate. By the time I was 10, my poor parents had taken me to more specialists than I can remember.
I hated those doctors, with their special language, treating me like a specimen, and they all said the same thing: that I would be in a wheelchair by the time I was 13 and surgery was the only solution. In addition, the operation had only a 50% success rate and an 80% chance of leaving me in even more pain. My mother, thankfully, said the decision was mine to make. I knew surgery was out of the question, but what was I going to do?
We lived in the middle of nowhere, on a large farm. At night, because I had trouble sleeping, I would go to my favorite clearing in the woods to listen for the voice of the spirit in the sky, just as I’d heard about in church. I asked the stars what to do. I didn’t want to be crippled. I was young enough to have an open mind and, as I relaxed, my body began to sway back and forth. I didn’t fight it. I assumed it was the spirit in the sky telling me how to move. I came to call these nightly practices my secret moving meditation.
I continued my nighttime practice whenever I could. It made me feel powerful and those were the times I felt my best. I became stronger and, as the years progressed, I continued the moving meditations and remained healthy and mobile. The issue of wheelchairs or doctors never came up again.
My family moved to Phoenix, where, because I stood out, I was jumped daily and had to fight a lot. That was when I discovered I could easily redirect other people’s energies and went in search of answers. I joined the first of a number of martial arts schools. Unfortunately, when I graduated high school and left for the Navy, I began a period of instigating many bar fights, just for fun.
I eventually learned that my secret meditations were actually a form of what the Chinese call qigong (pronounced chee-gung), an ancient Chinese art involving the breath and the body’s energies, or qi (or chi). The proper development of qi is essential to health and longevity and the more I studied various martial arts, especially tai chi and kung fu, the more aware I became of the transformative power of qi we all possess, regardless of our differences.
Over the years, I have slowly but surely changed my body in ways my old doctors never thought possible. Not only am I not in a wheelchair, but tai chi and qigong allow me to improve with age rather than deteriorate. Our minds as well as our bodies, even our bones, no matter the condition, are in a constant state of flux and everyone has the ability to affect positive change.
Once I knew how powerful the practice of tai chi and qigong could be, I wanted to share this knowledge with anyone who could use it. With my wife, Alicia, it has become my joy to spread this knowledge and instruct others in changing their lives. We have found that the earnest and proper practice of tai chi and qigong will not only produce profound physical changes, but also boost your mental capacities and forge new, positive thinking patterns.
I eventually opened my own martial arts school and taught acupuncturists how to deflect unhealthy energies and increase their sensitivity. These health professionals were typically under great daily stress and found that tai chi and qigong gave them a balanced center of calm amid the never-ceasing influx of information. In addition to immediate health benefits, this form of mindfulness training also gave them focus, allowing them to stay sharp while working long hours and notably increasing their productivity.
In today’s world, “striving for success” is often accompanied by information overload and constant stress. While qigong alone can renew your energy and ward off chronic physical problems, traditional tai chi training offers something very special. The fact that tai chi is actually a fighting art is often ignored in America, but that is to dismiss tai chi’s full potential. Martial foundations teach one to function better under mental and physical stress, they heighten your reflexes and senses, and improve your capacity for self-knowledge. This transformation extends into your worldview as well as how you react to your circumstances, even insofar as creating new neural pathways.
There is a reason why not only the world foremost medical institutions but also many successful business leaders are embracing tai chi, and not just billionaires like Jack Ma of Ali Baba fame, and encouraging their employees to do the same.
Since those early days in the woods, I have continued to seek out and study authentic tai chi and qigong material so I can teach and train more effectively. It is a never-ending journey and one that now finds me in Chicago studying for my doctorate in Oriental medicine and acupuncture to become a more effective tai chi and qigong practitioner and teacher. However, I will always see myself as but a student who wants to share and I look forward to helping many others with their physical and mental transformation through tai chi and qigong.
I hold an advanced instructor certificate from the American Tai Chi & Qigong Association and am a certified kung fu teacher. I taught CEU classes under the aegis of the State of Arizona Acupuncture Board of Examiners. I am currently studying for my doctorate at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in Chicago and for my diplomate in Canonical Chinese Medicine at the Institute of Classics In East Asian Medicine. I teach weekly tai chi/qigong and kung fu classes and monthly qigong workshops for the community at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, as well as private classes.