Previous month:
November 2009
Next month:
January 2010

Okay I'll Say It -- MMA Gets the Adrenaline Pumping but There's Something Ugly that Lies Beneath

Mma  MMA is mesmerizing, especially for guys. It gets our testosterone pumping. There is a part of us that wants to be inside the ring, mano-a-mano, toughing it out with minimal protection, and may the best man win.

I've watched MMA matches on TV and they hook me with raw brutality. Maybe it's the fights I got into while I was growing up. I never wanted to fight, but I was often picked on by older, bigger guys, and was forced into fighting. Once the fight began I loved it. I considered it the ultimate competition, and you have no excuses if you lose.

I never lost a fight. A few were draws, but I was never beaten up. 

So MMA appeals to me on one level. On another level, I've reached the conclusion that this type of fighting is ugly, and the fighters and hard-core fans may have a problem.

Maybe I've gotten older and wiser.

There's a reality show that follows ultimate fighters around through their lives, training and travel. I watched one show and it was obvious that some of the guys on this episode had violence issues -- physically abused as children, growing up in violent families. As I watched the show, a realization set in.

If I were 20 years old again, I might train for MMA for a while but I doubt that I would last. I believe MMA attracts fighters who like to hurt people and don't mind being hurt. Perhaps they've been hurt at other times in their lives and feel as if they deserve it. Perhaps, as a lot of us do in our marriages, they're recreating what's familiar to them from their childhood. Naturally, this is a generalization and wouldn't be true for everyone, but I suspect it's widespread. I'm sure there are a lot of guys who try MMA just for the adrenaline and testosterone rush -- the same reason I entered the Toughman Contest back when I was 38 years old. I just wanted to test myself.

But there are other reasons some people want to go "ultimate." Perhaps its part of the video game culture of the past 20 years as kids have grown up hurting people on video screens. Have we desensitized ourselves to the point where we're returning to the days of the Roman Coliseum? Have we gotten to the point where we have a sociopath's lack of empathy when we see someone getting hurt?

One hilarious scene from the recent comedy "Bruno" was a scene near the end where Sacha Baron Cohen pretends to be an homophobe and gets into an MMA ring. It's a real crowd of MMA fans who aren't aware of the joke. Shots of the crowd show a lot of angry people who want to see violence. As the scene progresses and Cohen ends up making out with a guy in the cage, the crowd goes nuts and the ugliness of the people attracted to the MMA event is revealed.

My wife works at a filter manufacturer and she overheard guys in the shop talking about going to a bar downtown while they show MMA fights on the TV screens. One guy said he stopped going during those times because "you have to be very careful. You can't look anyone in the eye. They watch MMA and they just want to fight someone."

In recent years, MMA has siphoned off a lot of younger guys who would normally have entered into traditional martial arts. Go into a bookstore, check out the sports section of magazines, and you'll see a dozen MMA-type publications and only a few martial arts magazines like Black Belt, Inside Kung-Fu, Taekwondo, T'ai Chi Magazine, etc.

MMA guys laugh at regular martial arts. They believe real fighting is their domain. Those of us who have been in the martial arts for a long time know how wrong they are. Sure, there are bad martial arts schools, but in general we do learn to fight and we learn to defend ourselves. There are two main differences. I don't ever want to be in a fight. I don't want to make someone else bleed. I would do it if attacked, but I wouldn't feel good about it. If I go to a tournament I want to see skill and good sportsmanship, not competitors or spectators who suffer from a bad case of blood lust. Some of my students have had to defend themselves and they've done so very successfully. So we have nothing to apologize for when people who want to hurt others badmouth what we do.

I also like the precision and demands of the complete martial art. To become good requires determination, persistence, and physical skill. It takes many years of focus and self-discipline. I've never done anything as difficult and demanding as Chen tai chi.

Can anyone name more than one or two active boxing champions right now? If you're my age, you remember when Ali, Frasier, Holmes, Foreman, and others were competing for the heavyweight title. Some, like Ali and Holmes and Sugar Ray Leonard were artists. Boxing was the "sweet science." Sure, it was brutal at times, but underneath it all was skill and personal determination and toughness. You could win a fight on points, without hurting someone.

It's a different world. People interested in MMA aren't as interested in "sweet science" as they are in toughness.

The purpose of this post isn't to say that martial artists can kick an MMA fighter's butt. I know that isn't necessarily true (and so do you). It all depends on the person's size, strength, skill, and ability to remain cool under pressure.

I enjoy watching MMA sometimes because I'm a guy, I'm familiar with fighting, and it gets the adrenaline flowing. But there's something very ugly lurking just below the surface (and sometimes on the surface), and I think there are more positive martial arts that a lot of guys could participate in to channel their energies -- martial arts that could, in the long run, have a much more positive impact on their lives and their own self-image.

Download the New Issue of the Internal Fighting Arts E-zine

The latest issue of my e-zine, Internal Fighting Arts, is available for download here on the blog. Click here to go to the e-zine page or look at the links on the right side of this page.

I haven't been able to achieve my monthly publication goal - for obvious reasons - but I hope to at least publish every other month in 2010. It's one of my resolutions. :)

The new e-zine has information about DVDs, techniques, and a guest article by Sifu Phillip Starr.

If you'd like to contribute an article for consideration, please email it to me. We don't pay for articles but every issue of the e-zine is read by hundreds of internal artists.

Another "Chi Master" Preys on the Weak-Minded

This guy sent me this video link by email. Apparently he's on the Internet trolling for stupid. Talk about spam!!!

I sent him a reply challenging him. I'll give him $5,000 if he'll do this to me.

Notice that when he's behind his student, he moves his hands in reaction to the way the body is moving. When the student can see his hands, the movement of his body matches the hands a lot more closely.

The sad thing is -- this was shot in 1987, so this guy has been fooling a lot of gullible, weak-minded, supernatural-seeking people for decades. Another sad thing is that all of these frauds -- from George Dillman to Rich Mooney -- give themselves an "out" -- an excuse -- because they know this doesn't work, and so when someone doesn't play along, they pull out the excuses. This guy below says that both people must be "connected." So if I faced him and he didn't move me (he can't because "empty force" is a lie) it's because I'm not connected. See how they work it?  

New Chi Kung DVD -- Center Yourself and Ease Stress

ChiKungDVD250 A few years ago, I put some good chi kung exercises on DVD. It was 35 minutes long. I've never liked to spend my money on short instructional DVDs. Some of my single DVDs run up to 2 1/2 hours, so I've always felt that 35 minutes wasn't enough.

I've now expanded the Chi Kung DVD to include the Eight Pieces of Brocade and 36 exercises that make up the Yi Jing Ching -- the Palm Set, the Fist Set, and the Moving Set. Buy the DVD through PayPal.

I've practiced these exercises since 1987, and they helped me learn to center myself in just about any situation -- from tense situations at work, to the highway when someone cuts me off, even to the dentist's chair. The best give of Chi Kung practice is teaching yourself to remain centered at all times.

Here's the real secret behind Chi Kung. It isn't magical and it isn't mystical or supernatural (oh, how people want you to believe it's supernatural). What Chi Kung does is teach you to calm the mind and body -- then recreate that feeling when you find yourself in a tense situation.

Stress is very hard on your body. Easing stress enables your body to work more efficiently. Chi Kung teaches you how to ease stress. These exercises are easy to learn but it takes weeks and months of practice to internalize the principles. It takes a while to learn to relax the body (we aren't taught to do that normally) and calm the mind.

Check out the new DVD. If you're not practicing Chi Kung, it will help you start on the road to a more balanced mind, and hopefully a more balanced life.

Can a Christian Study Tai Chi?

A lot of misinformation has spread about Tai Chi. The art is a very effective way to ease stress, improve health, and develop self-defense skills. So why am I asked so often if Christians can study Tai Chi?

I need to let you know that I grew up in Southern, conservative, fundamentalist Christian churches. I was baptized.

I can also tell you very clearly that there is nothing religious about Tai Chi or any other martial art, including boxing, wrestling, fencing, karate, or taekwondo.

Americans are not always well-informed about other cultures, and sometimes they jump to conclusions about things they don't understand. My daughter had a yin-yang sticker on her notebook in junior high school, and a couple of girls accused her of being Satanic.

My daughter, a very sweet girl, learned a lot during that time about how ignorant and narrow-minded some people can be. Often, however, these people are reflecting what they've heard elsewhere.

Naturally, not all Christians are this way -- I've been a member of Methodist churches as an adult that were very tolerant of other views.

There is nothing Satanic about the yin/yang symbol and absolutely nothing religious about Tai Chi. You can believe anything you want from a spiritual perspective and still enjoy Tai Chi.

Let's look at it from different perspectives. Tai Chi is a martial art. As far as I know there is nothing in Christianity that prohibits the use of self-defense if you are attacked? I don't remember being taught anything like that in Sunday School. There was a lot of fighting in the Old Testament, as I recall. David was pretty good with weapons. He had to be, to slay Goliath.

Another tremendous benefit of Tai Chi is the relaxation that comes from using it as moving meditation. Is there something in Christianity that forbids its members from relaxing and calming themselves? Perhaps some of the zealous ones believe instead of calming the mind you should turn it all over to Jesus. If that works for you that's fine. But there is nothing religious about relaxing, calming, meditating.

Let's look at chi kung -- you don't stand there thinking of Satan or Jesus. You think of your breathing, energy visualization, and calming the mind and body. It's very restful and replenishes your system just like taking a nap. There is nothing religious about taking a nap.

Some people -- when meditating -- try to feel a connection between themselves and the universe. But this is not in conflict with Christianity, either. If God created the universe, why would you NOT want to be One with it?

There is nothing religious about that but I suppose if you need to, you could assume that you are becoming One with God.

After the terrorist attacks of 9-11, I was at a very intelligent fundamentalist Christian's home (a relative of mine) watching the news. The anchor was interviewing a rabbi and a priest. During the interview the priest indicated that he and the rabbi would eventually meet again when they died -- in heaven. I turned to my Christian relative and said, "Jews don't really believe in heaven, do they?"

This very intelligent Christian replied, "I don't know what they believe and I don't want to know."

I was stunned at the willing lack of understanding -- the conscious dismissal of knowledge that would shed light on a different belief. I believe knowledge is understanding, and drove away from his house that day very disappointed, realizing that he was not as intelligent as I previously thought.

This article was triggered by something I saw online recently -- Christian Tai Chi. The site was designed by a man who -- for some unknown reason -- believed that he couldn't follow Jesus and study Tai Chi at the same time. So instead of giving it up, he modified it to reflect Christianity.

I found this attitude to be quite extremist. Would this person feel that bowling has to be modified to reflect his religion? How about baseball or basketball? A martial art is no different from any sport -- coming from another country does not make it different. It requires practice to develop physical skills just like any other sport.

A week or so ago, I received yet another email from someone asking if Tai Chi was compatible with his Christian beliefs. I decided to write this article after seeing the Christian Tai Chi ad and receiving the email so closely together.

Tai Chi was developed in a nation that is predominantly Taoist and Buddhist. Karate was developed in a non-Christian nation. Taekwondo was developed in a non-Christian nation. So was Krav Maga (Jewish). The fact that it was developed in a non-Christian nation does not make it non-Christian. Fireworks were created in China. I don't know of anyone who attends a Fourth of July celebration that avoids watching fireworks because they are anti-Christian, do you?

I've studied Taekwondo and never heard anything religious mentioned. I know a lot of Christians who are deep into karate and it doesn't seem to be an issue at all. They're fine folks and I consider them among my favorite people in the world.

I've been in hundreds of Tai Chi classes as a student and I've taught hundreds of classes and nothing religious has ever been discussed. Only relaxing, calming, and body mechanics to help you develop powerful martial arts.

In fact, the centering aspects of tai chi can help you remain calm in any crisis. Instead of reacting to tension with anger, you can relax and think things through more rationally. I've used this in potentially violent situations and was able to "turn the other cheek" to avoid violence.

The bottom line is simple -- the next time someone wonders if studying Tai Chi will violate their religious principles, tell them to stop being silly and open their minds to knowledge from other parts of the world. It might just improve their lives.