Flowing Around Another Kung-Fu Obstacle -- a Pacemaker

The image in this post (below) might be disturbing and is a bit personal. -- FYI.

Two weeks ago, a cardiologist put a pacemaker the size of a matchbox into my chest and ran wires down into my heart.

You have to go with the flow, right? 

Be water, my friend, right? Flow around obstacles and find your way.

I try to remain centered and be water, but this took me by surprise. My cardiologist and I had been talking about it for years, but the decision to do it was not made until about five days before we put the pacemaker in.

I still suffer from atrial fibrillation, also known as a-fib, and that causes my heart to beat erratically. Just sitting at my desk, or on the couch, my heart will suddenly jump from 60 beats per minute to 155 bpm, as if I am running the 100-yard dash. Then, after a few seconds it will drop to 70 beats per minute, and a couple of seconds later it will jump to 140 bpm. 

This can go on for hours. It makes me tired, and if I bend over, it makes me have to breathe heavy.

A-fib has been the number one obstacle in my life. When doctors tried to fix it three times in 2008, it cost me the use of my left lung.

But my heart has been beating in crazy, dangerous ways for the past two or three months, so the time came.

A pacemaker does not fix the erratic heartbeats, but it allows me to take medication to slow my heart rate and try to cut down on the rapid beating.

The pacemaker is there in case my heart beats too slowly as a result of the medication. If it beats too slowly, the pacemaker kicks in and provides a burst of electrical current to make the heart beat at the right pace.

In my hospital room before the surgery, I asked, "When can I practice Tai Chi again?"

"Today," he said. "We want you to move your left arm so you don't get a frozen shoulder."

I had no fear of getting a frozen shoulder. Then the rep from the pacemaker company came in to see me. Yes, the pacemaker company sends a rep in to talk with patients before the procedure. That must add to the cost of the machine!!

"When they put it under the muscle, the recovery is more painful," she said. "We want you to move your arm, but you will be surprised by how little you will want to move it."

She was right. 

They wheeled me into the operating room and kept me awake during the procedure, but they put a hood over my face and pumped me with enough goofy juice so that I could hear everything, and feel some things through the numbness, but I didn't care. I was in la-la-land, and that was just fine with me. 

A lot of pacemakers are placed under the skin. My doctor cut the muscle and placed it under the muscle. I could feel him poking and pushing and prodding it, pushing it down closer to my heart. I did not feel him running the wires, called "leads," down into the heart chambers.

The surgery lasted about an hour, then I was wheeled back to my room to shake off the grogginess.

Because of the coronavirus, Nancy was not allowed in the hospital with me, but she picked me up at the door.

It is surprising just how much your upper chest muscles work when you move your arms. After the procedure, they sent me home within a couple of hours. Moving my left arm caused the upper chest muscles to fire, and it was very painful for days.

So I took it easy and decided to let it heal as quickly as possible and not stress it. 

Nancy helped me tremendously, as she always does.

Ken Pacemaker Bruises 2020The bruising was surprising. It looked like someone had drawn a tattoo in a half-circle on my left pec, looking like someone had poured blood inside and filled it half to the top.

You can see the slice near the shoulder. That's where they put the pacemaker under the muscle. Below that, you see the red smudge closer to the heart. That's where they pushed the device. The bruising on the arm is just part of what happens when they cut into the muscle in the chest.

I now have a hump on that part of the chest. When I do heavy push hands and grappling-type throws with partners, I'll have to wear chest protection and make sure I don't take any hard hits or kicks to the pacemaker. Just one more adjustment to make as I get older. 

I taught my first class six days later, a live Zoom Xingyi class with members of my website from Texas to Sweden and Germany. 

I have taught my regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday Zoom classes since. 

After a little more than two weeks, I can now move my arm normally with no pain, and I'll do my live Bagua class at Noon today. 

I went in the week after it was installed. A technician with an iPad said, "Okay, I'm going to test your leads. You may feel your heart race when I hit this button."

She touched the screen of her iPad and I felt my heart race for a few seconds. It made me take an extra breath or two.

Damn! 

Then she hit another button and the heart raced again for a couple of seconds.

So they can control my heart with an iPad??

I hope Nancy doesn't get that app on her tablet. She might get a lot more out of me around the house.

In the end, this pacemaker may be a good thing and hopefully, I'll be able to practice more and teach even more. One of the reasons I haven't done more workshops in the past few years is the unpredictable nature of my health. Hopefully, this will help smooth things out a bit.

So we flow around the obstacles and find our way, like water.

At 67 years old, now with a pacemaker to catch my heart if it falls too low, it is time to keep pushing forward in these amazing arts. I don't think I'll be able to quit practicing until the heart completely stops. Hopefully, that is a few years away. 

--by Ken Gullette


Coronavirus Dangers Are All Around Us but It Is the Best Moment of Our Lives

Ken-Nancy-9-17-2017Nancy and I were sitting out on our screened-in porch a week ago, after watching more bad news about rising death tolls, infections and the economic toll of Covid-19. 

Nancy had been in tears several times over the past week or two, worried that she was going to bring the virus home from work and kill me. I am in a high-risk category -- 67 years old, one lung, a heart issue (a-fib) and asthma that has developed since I lost the lung. If I caught the Coronavirus, I would probably be toast within a few days. 

I have been watching a lot of network news and reading the Washington Post and New York Times because, as a former news guy, I want to keep up with it all.

So it was a mild spring evening and we were sitting on our porch with a glass of wine.

I turned to Nancy, looked her in the eyes and said, "This is the best moment of my life."

And I felt it.

You see, the question we should ask ourselves is not "What is the meaning of life?"

The question should be, "How can I make each moment of my life meaningful?"

My personal philosophy, based on philosophical Taoism and Zen Buddhism, is that in every moment, no matter how horrible, there is always something to be treasured, to be enjoyed, and to give us pleasure if we will only find it and be open to it.

During the past 11 years, since my strong, muscular body decided that a lifetime of clean living wasn't enough to stop it from self-destructing, helped along the way by medical malpractice, pursuing my passion has been a challenge.

I have continued to improve in the internal arts. My movement is better and I understand more deeply than I did in 2009.

Physically, I have to stop and gasp for air quite often when I do athletic forms or movement or strenuous push hands or sparring for a couple of minutes.

But there are nights when I get ready for bed, look in the mirror and laugh. No, not for the reason you're thinking.

I laugh because despite the challenges, I'm still pushing forward.

Some days, my heart will go from 60 beats per minute to 155 beats per minute within a couple of seconds. A few seconds later, it will drop from 155 to 70 BPM, then back up to 140, then down to 65, then up to 150 -- and this will go on sometimes for hours.

But I love my life. I absolutely love it. I wouldn't trade it with anyone.

And so, even though my life is in serious danger with this invisible enemy floating around infecting us, I have felt very little stress. I try to live my philosophy every day.

It is not a philosophy that depends on another being or person to save me or to bring me happiness. I guess you could say it's a philosophy of personal responsibility. The farther you get outside of yourself, the farther you are from the answer you seek.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not ready to go. I am sheltering in place and I am washing my hands and avoiding touching my face. I'm centered, not stupid. 

Remaining centered is not just something I talk about when I discuss philosophy.

It is a crucial part of my mindset and my outlook on life. I have been through some serious stuff in my life. 

I give fear and stress no place to enter.

What is your personal philosophy? Can it help you ride through this storm without leaving you capsized in the waves?

Do you know how to live?

I love this part of the Tao Te Ching:

He who knows how to live can walk abroad
Without fear of rhinoceros or tiger.
He will not be wounded in battle.
For in him rhinoceroses can find no place to thrust their horn,
Tigers can find no place to use their claws,
And weapons no place to pierce.
Why is this so? Because he has no place for death to enter.

This is not just philosophy. It is not just something to read in a book. It is a tutorial on how to truly live, even when danger, physically and economically, is all around you.

Don't you love this life?

-- by Ken Gullette


41 Years Teaching Internal Arts in the Big Apple - The Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Frank Allen

Frank Allen
Frank Allen

I love to interview dedicated martial artists.

The latest Internal Fighting Arts podcast features an interview with Frank Allen, a veteran internal arts instructor whose school, Wutang Physical Culture Association, located on the Lower East Side of New York City, is celebrating its 41st year in business in 2020.

Frank Allen began studying the same year I did -- 1973.

Frank is a Master lineage holder in Classical Northern Wu Style Taijiquan through his teacher, Grandmaster Li Bing Ci, and a Master lineage holder in Classical Cheng Style Baguazhang through his teacher, Grandmaster Liu Jing Ru.

His other instructors have included B.P. Chan and Bruce Frantzis.

Together with Tina Chunna Zhang, Frank Allen has written books including "The Whirling Circles of Ba Gua Zhang," and "Classical Northern Style Wu Taijiquan."

Frank, Tina and the Wutang Physical Culture Association were featured in their documentary, which you can see on Amazon Prime Video, called "Tai Chi Club." It is an outstanding and moving documentary.

I have always wanted to interview someone who has studied personally with Liu Jing Ru. Frank tells colorful stories of his training.

You can use Audello to listen to the interview online or download the file by clicking this link.

You can also listen or download through Podbean by clicking this link.

Or click Play on the Stitcher link below. The podcast is also available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and other distributors. Subscribe today!

 

 

 


Martial Arts Old School Tournament Sparring - Jim Harrison and Fred Wren Title Bout 1968 U.S. Open

Do you want to see an "old school" martial arts tournament match that will show you what things were like before safety gear?

This is the title fight of the U.S. Open in 1968 between Jim Harrison (on the left) and Fred Wren (right). Jim just died recently. He was an outstanding martial artist and one tough competitor.

Fred won this match with a sidekick at the end. It is an amazing fight.

A lot of tough old guys like to say that this is when a black belt "really meant something," but I don't agree. 

Yes, a black belt really meant something back then. There were not many McDojos in those days.

Yes, these guys were tough and hard as nails. They could probably eat lightning and crap thunder. 

But they both went to the hospital after this match. You don't take punches and kicks like this without suffering damage.

I have had a black sash for well over 20 years and I have not been sent to the hospital. I sparred without pads when I was young, and I was injured plenty -- cracked ribs, injured elbows and knees and black eyes.

Something inside of me, however, just didn't want to go too far, and I also tried to make sure I pulled my punches and kicks on my opponent. I had too much self-esteem to get myself hurt or to hurt someone else.

If you required everyone to go through this type of thing to prove themselves worthy of a black belt, a lot of people would very wisely say, "No thanks."

When you are young like Jim and Fred were in 1968, sometimes you just go for it. By the time you get a little older, you realize how useless it is to damage yourself, or other people, to prove yourself to be ready for a street attack that may never come.

Fred is still alive. He and Jim were both excellent teachers long after this, I hear. And also good people.

This match is FUN to watch! They are young men at the top of their game.

Check out my Tournament Point Sparring DVD for real tournament video and detailed instruction that can help you win matches. Free Shipping Worldwide.

Sparring300


What Does Being "Double-Weighted" Mean in Tai Chi?

Has a Taiji teacher ever explained to you what "double-weighted" means? It's bad to be double-weighted, but if you are looking for a definition of the term, you will find a lot of them out there. Most of them are wrong.

Some will tell you that you are double-weighted when your weight is distributed 50-50 between the legs.

Others will say something else.

The video below demonstrates what I learned about being double-weighted from Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing and their students (my teachers).

 


Internal Arts Training Tips are Featured on Newest Internal Fighting Arts Podcast

Internal Fighting Arts - Ken Gullette Logo 300For the past year, I have sent out a training tip every Friday. Today, I sent the 52nd email.

To celebrate the one-year anniversary, I collected some of the training tips and created my first podcast episode of 2020.

It is also the first Internal Fighting Arts podcast episode that does not include an interview.

There is a theme that begins to weave its way through the training tips and it becomes obvious by the end.

Listen through this link or download the file to your computer.

http://internalfightingarts.audello.com/internal-fighting-arts-46-training-tips/

The podcast is also available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podbean and other podcast distributors.

If you'd like to be on my weekly training tip email list, just drop me a note at ken@internalfightingarts.com. 


The Duality of Winning and Losing is a Mental Trap if You Love Martial Arts

Ken Gullette doing the high jump at Lafayette High School in1970
Ken Gullette doing the high jump at Lafayette High School in 1970.

When I was in high school, Paul Carter's dad used to come to our track meets. I was on the team and did the high jump. Paul's dad would always say hello and talk with me a little bit. It was Lexington, Kentucky, but he grew up in the rural part of the state. He was the type of friendly Southern guy you would expect to see in Mayberry, talking with Andy Griffith. 

One day Paul told me that his father enjoyed watching me high jump because, "He says whether you win or lose, you smile."

I enjoyed hearing that when I was 17. When I competed, I always wanted to do as well as I could, but I loved doing the high jump. I wasn't going to get a college track scholarship or anything. I wasn't a talented, gifted athlete, I just loved it.

A few years earlier in middle school, Coach Pieratt set out the high jump one day in gym class. None of us had ever seen it. He wanted each boy to try jumping 4 feet 10 inches. He explained to us how to jump doing the old Western Roll. The Fosbury Flop was so new, he didn't consider teaching it. He set the bar at four-ten and, one by one, each guy ran up and jumped, and knocked the bar off. 

My turn came. Let's see, you run up, jump off the left leg, throw your right leg over and then, when you are above the bar, kick your left leg to help propel your body over.

It seemed difficult. No other boys could actually clear the bar.

I ran to the bar, jumped, and landed on the foam rubber on the other side.

There was a gasp in the gym. I had cleared the bar by a mile.

"Well," Coach Pieratt said, "we finally found something Gullette can do."

Instantly, the Coach put me on the team. I did the high jump for the middle school track team and then for my high school, Lafayette.

Sometimes I won first place and sometimes I didn't. In the four years that I did the high jump, I never remember leaving a meet disappointed. I loved doing it, but I didn't think of winning or losing. I knew I was just an average high-jumper, and if a "natural" showed up, I wouldn't win.

When we compete in anything, we are trained to look at it in dualistic terms. If you don't win, you lose. But I never looked at it that way. I had fun. And whether I won or not, I smiled.

It's a shame we have to ruin activities we love by getting upset over winning and losing.

In 1974, I competed in my first martial arts tournament. At first, I let the macho "kick ass" attitude take over. Winning was everything. It wasn't much fun, because I didn't win first place until 1983. In 1988, at a tournament in Lincoln, Nebraska, I was very upset when the judges ignored some very good points that I scored, and they gave the trophy to my opponent. It was not much fun.

By the time 1999 rolled around, I took a different approach. I started having fun. When someone would score on me, I would nod my head and say something like "Great kick," or "Good shot." If someone landed a good kick, I would look at the judges and say, "Yep, he got me." Or I would wobble back to my spot in a comical way, making the judges and spectators laugh.

I am not a naturally gifted martial artist, but I had fun. I won some, I lost some. But I became known for my skill AND my sportsmanship.

According to Zen philosophy, our intellect sets up duality of thinking -- right and wrong, pretty or ugly, hot and cold, good and evil, winning and losing.

We become trapped in a "this or that" mentality.

But an enlightened person rises above intellect; rises above duality of thinking.

Now, in 2020, the unenlightened person thinks, "You have to be training to kill someone or you're a pussy. If you can't defend against an MMA fighter, your art is useless!"

My advice is to rise above that type of chatter. It comes from people who don't understand that once you develop self-defense skills, there are many other reasons to train.

I'm 67 years old now, and so far, I have not been attacked by an MMA fighter on the street. I doubt it's going to happen. 

My favorite part of the arts is to unlock self-defense applications within the movements and to learn how to flow with a partner in creative, effective ways.

Some of the best things I have learned have happened because I "lost," when a training partner or tournament opponent landed a good shot on me. 

My attitude is, "Thank you for that. I did something wrong there, and now I can learn to do better."

Invest in loss. Even in losing, we can win especially if we learn. There is no losing because if you learn, you win.

And above all, love what you do. Don't let the duality of other peoples' thinking trap your mind. The next time someone asks, "Did you win?" you should reply, "Yes. I learned how to improve." 


Real Self-Defense Requires Fire and Fury, Not Punch and Stop

Ken-Gullette-Toughman-2-AHave you ever done any point-sparring with partners or in a tournament?
 
You score a point and the action stops while judges decide who wins the point. Then the action resumes.
 
When you think about real self-defense on the street, how do you think that will go? Do you think you will just throw a punch or a kick and it will be over?
 
Do you think your opponent will be four or five feet away, in punching or kicking range?
 
Probably not. You might not even know he is going to attack until he is on top of you.
 
And that's why your mindset, and some of your training, needs to prepare yourself for "shock and awe."
 
Instead of looking at self-defense applications as this technique or that technique, part of your training really must focus on going a little crazy.
 
I do this on my Bob training dummy. I just start raining strikes on him, flowing as fast as I can from a punch to an elbow to a palm strike to a forearm strike to another punch.
 
BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM!!
 
It also helps when you get a live partner and pad up -- head gear, face masks, gloves, feet, chest protectors -- and go at it in a flowing but creative and UNORGANIZED way.
 
Ken-Gullette-Toughman-5Don't stop striking. Flow around what your partner is throwing and strike him, over and over with every weapon at your disposal. Bump him. Defend and strike at the same time by taking advantage of the openings he creates when he tries to hit you.
 
Every time your opponent moves to strike you, he gives you an opportunity.
 
Too many of us think that one technique will do it, but we need to develop the mindset that our bodies will explode and rain fire and fury upon someone who intends to do us harm "on the street."
 
Now, I am going to be 67 years old in three weeks. I do not expect to be in a fight again in my lifetime. But it is not out of the realm of possibility. It could happen, or I could see someone being harmed and I could step in to stop it.
 
Make sure you don't just practice for a "one and done" situation. You should be prepared to use your art -- Taiji, Xingyi or Bagua -- in a controlled but "furious" way if the situation demands it.
 
But it starts with practicing the right way and having the right mindset for real self-defense.
-- by Ken Gullette
 
Check out my website - www.internalfightingarts.com -- and get 900 step-by-step video lessons for TWO WEEKS FREE!

Keep it Simple for Ultimate Success in Self-Defense

Da Vinci
Leo Da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was not a fighter, but he knew something that can help you if or when self-defense techniques are needed.
 
There is a well-known Chen-style Taiji instructor who put a video on YouTube recently showing some fighting applications.
 
The applications looked really cool, but something did not seem right, so I decided to test them with students at the next couple of practices.
 
I very quickly discovered what was wrong with the applications. They did not work if the opponent did not cooperate completely.
 
If my student gave me the slightest resistance, or continued to fight as he would in a real-life situation, the application fell apart instantly.
 
My students and I watched the video together. We were quickly disgusted at how the student in the videos was just standing there limply even when "locked" and then allowing himself to be thrown to the ground.
 
That is not the way a real-life fight happens.
 
No wonder the internal arts have such a bad reputation for real self-defense!
 
da Vinci Knew the Secret
 
How many Bagua videos have you seen where the instructor does flowery, circular movements and three or four techniques on an opponent who appears helpless?
 
I have seen FAR too many. But when you try those flowery sequences on an opponent who is not playing along, they simply don't work.
 
Leonardo da Vinci said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
 
He could have been talking about martial arts.
 
If you watch the self-defense applications of movements and forms on my website or on my DVDs, you should notice one thing -- they can all be done against an opponent, even if he is not cooperating.
 
Discard What is Useless
 
Another important artist, Bruce Lee said "discard what is useless."
 
If an application is not realistic, I throw it out.
 
It is okay to practice a theory or a principle, or a technique. But if it does not work as advertised, if you pressure-test it and it falls apart, why continue to practice it?
 
Throw it away!
 
It takes a long time to learn the body mechanics and the smooth application of those mechanics in movement. But once you learn the mechanics, and learn to move with internal strength, the fighting applications are simple.
 
Anyone who has wrestled with a friend, or sparred with fellow students, or sparred in a tournament or other competition knows that many of your best techniques don't work when you want them to work. Your opponent has the same goals you have -- to do good techniques, to avoid your techniques and to win the match.
 
Pressure-Test Your Arts
 
No one is going to stand there while you wrap an arm around their neck, step behind them, hit them and then throw them.
 
Some applications work at just the right time, in the middle of a fight, when you find yourself with the right opportunity.
 
Punch Ground 1
Punch the Ground Part 1
I'm thinking of a movement such as "Punch the Ground" in Taiji. 
 
You would have to be in a position where you could easily snake your arm underneath and around an opponent's shoulder and be in the right position to put him on the ground. See how my right leg is blocking his right leg?
 
It might happen in a grappling, clinching situation, if you are also able to get him off-balance. But if you go into a fight thinking, "I am going to do Punch the Ground on him," you are doomed to favor.
 
In the photos shown here, my partner is not fighting me. Imagine how I would have to soften him up and distract him before I could pull this off! It can be done, but it would require the element of surprise.
 
Punch Ground 2
Punch the Ground Part 2
The Holy Grail of Fighting Skill
 
A lot of applications are successful only if the opponent is distracted, punch-drunk, in pain or off-balance. When any particular opportunity occurs, the "holy grail" of fighting skill is to be able to take advantage of that opportunity without thinking about it.
 
One of my students talked for 10 years about how, the first time he and I sparred, I handled everything he gave me just using Xingyi's Pi Chuan, "Splitting Palm." No matter what he threw, that is the technique I used.
 
Pi Chuan is simple, direct and effective against many different attacks. It is not flowery or complicated. The simplest techniques always are the most effective.
 
I urge you to practice some of your favorite moves from a form against a partner who will not cooperate. Try them in a sparring situation, too. It will give you an education.
 
Try a simple application, and then a more complex one, but tell your partner not to cooperate at all. See what happens and how you need to adjust the application or "soften" your opponent up before executing it.
 
Sometimes people ask me, "What would you use if you were attacked on the street?" They ask if I would use the Taiji "energies" and methods, or some flowery Bagua circular movement.
 
I disappoint them when I say, "I will probably try to drive their heads off their shoulders with Beng Chuan and get it over with."
 
If it were a clinch situation, at that point I might use the "energies," and hopefully they will be ingrained in my subconscious enough to do so, but I will be using those energies to set my opponent up for a simple technique that will bump him away, unbalance him, break him and put him to the ground.
 
All of this requires practicing with a partner who is not playing along. Any instructor of Xingyi, Bagua and Taiji should know this. When they put videos showing these unrealistic techniques on YouTube, some viewers may go "oooh" and "aaaah," but they will be impressed only long enough to try them on a partner who does not play along and protect the teacher's ego.
 
I love complex techniques. I love the flowery, circular movements. They are good concepts to practice. Just remember that self-delusion is very common in martial arts, and in real self-defense, simple is best, and simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

The Tao of Mr. Rogers - The Secret of Being Kind and Forgiving

BeautifulWhen people hurt me I get angry. You probably do, too.

There have been times when I have carried grudges. There were three bullies who were "after" me for two or three years back in middle school. Rob Brewster, Dan Cotter and Tom Prentice always seemed to be together and always wanted to pound me into the ground.

They were older than I was by at least a year. 

One night, Rob sucker-punched me through a car window, so I had to have been around 16 and driving, but the bullying began long before that, when I was around 14.

One day when I was 14 or 15, I was fighting another bully after school in a field near the school. We were surrounded by boys as our fists were flying and we were wrestling and finally, exhausted, we called it a draw.

Dan decided at that moment, when I was exhausted from another fight and he was fresh, it was the right time to jump me. Bullies always try to pick a target that is weak or alone.

He hit me a few times but I would not fight. I was so tired, I knew I would lose the fight. I left with two other friends and I was in tears of anger and frustration as I walked home.

One day, I was riding my bicycle away from Turfland Mall and came to the top of a dirt hill at a construction site. Suddenly, the three bullies were right in front of me. I took off riding while they ran like hell to try to catch me. At one point, one of them was just three or four feet behind me as I pedaled like hell. I think it was Dan. Somehow, I managed to get away.

I spent two or three years looking over my shoulder when I was in middle school and the first year of high school. A friend told me that he overheard Rob laughing and bragging about how the guys would sneak up on me at school and hit me or spit on me.

When we were 18, Rob turned up without Dan or Tom to play baseball with a group of my friends. It was the first time I had ever seen him alone.

After the game, I walked up to him and asked, "Hey Robbie, you remember how you and your buddies used to hit me and spit on me?"

He said, "Yeah."

I punched him in the nose. Hard. 

He staggered back, his eyes watering.

"Well, your friends aren't here to protect you," I said.

Pow! Another punch to the face. 

Rob looked panic-stricken. On the ground, someone had put down some baseball bats. Rob bent over and picked one of them up.

"Nope," my buddy Ed McCaw said, and stepped between us. He told Rob, "This is going to be a fair fight."

Rob fled to his car and wouldn't get out. He left before too long. That's what bullies do when their target fights back.

Even after all this time, I am still interested in talking with Dan, Rob's bully-friend who became a doctor and practiced along the East Coast somewhere. He would be about 67 by now. It would be interesting to know if he ever reflected on what a bully he was as a teenager. I wonder if he was a bully to his staff when he grew up? Once a bully, always a bully, I believe.

Their other bully-friend, Tom, was not as much of a ring-leader as they were. He was simply a follower. 

So I guess I don't really like it, but I carry a slight bit of anger with me 50 years later -- damage done by bullies and a desire that still persists to see justice done. And justice could simply be an apology.

At the same time, I have worked for more than four decades to remain centered and follow a more Taoist philosophy about life. Carrying this tiny seed of anger means that I have not truly reached the level that I seek?

Do Good Be Kind Ken NancyDuring the past couple of years. my favorite shirts have been the two baseball jerseys that have the words "Do Good. Be Kind." on the front of the shirts.

I do my best to do good, be kind to everyone I meet, and I do Zhan Zhuang as a way to calm my mind and body and remain centered.

This doesn't mean that you can't get angry. You can, but you shouldn't hold onto it. I do a good job of that most of the time. Not all, but most.

I remembered all this as my wife Nancy and I watched the film, "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" yesterday. It is the story of a journalist for Esquire, a cynical guy who was assigned to do a profile of Mr. Rogers.

The film shows how Mr. Rogers' kindness had an impact on the journalist's life.

The best quote in the film, in my opinion, was when the journalist met Mr. Rogers' wife, and they discussed what it was like to live "with a saint" who was so kind to everyone he meets.

"Oh, he's not a perfect man," Mrs. Rogers said. "He has to work hard at it. It's a practice."

The line hit me like a sidekick.

Rogers1Fred Rogers seemed like to kindest man that ever lived.

But he practiced it. He worked hard at it.

There have been many people in my life who have hurt me, both in my personal life and my professional life.

I have tried to walk on, shed these poisonous people from my life and not allow them to control my mind by making me remain angry.

I can decide what I do with the anger they stirred up. I can decide not to be angry -- to let it go and live a happy life.

For the most part, I do that very well, but it is sometimes hard work -- a work in progress, you might say. Some people think that if you are into Taoist philosophy, or Zen Buddhism, that means you should never get angry. But there is a reason monks meditate for years or decades. It is hard, hard work.

It is nice to know that even Mr. Rogers had to work at it.

And so we practice Zhan Zhuang, qigong, and work to calm the mind and body, then bring that sense of calm to conflicts that arise in our lives, from the angry spouse to the micromanaging boss and even to the person who cuts you off on the highway.

Don't beat yourself up for getting angry. The point of following most philosophies is not to be perfect. That is unattainable.

The point is to reach the point when you don't let the anger linger, you recognize it and deal with it, then walk on. You control the anger, it does not control you.

Sometimes, you simply have to confront people who have hurt you and let them know how you feel. I have found that it usually starts a very satisfying discussion, even if I don't punctuate the discussion with two punches to the face. Sorry, Robbie. 

This is a lesson we all need to be reminded of from time to time.

It is the Tao of Mr. Rogers.

I will remember that if I ever run into Dan Cotter again.

Remain centered, my friends. Mr. Rogers would want it that way. So let's get to work.

-- by Ken Gullette