martial arts

Movement, mindfulness through meditation taught to kids in martial arts program

Lori Corbin, KABC: At Ekata Training Center in Valencia, a massive mural of martial artist Bruce Lee reinforces the power of marital arts.

Ironically, the main theme taught here is peace.

“If you look at the warrior perspective of the Samurai, it was to maintain the sense of peacefulness in the eye of the storm,” said owner Ed Monaghan.

Multi-black belt instructor Monaghan doesn’t allow TV or magazines while at the gym, and adds meditation as a requirement in his classes, especially for kids.

“The idea is no TVs, it’s meant to be …

Read the original article »

Read More

Day 13 of Wildmind’s 100 Day Meditation Challenge

100 day meditation challenge 013Brendan Lawlor is participating in the 100 Day Challenge, and in fact he was one of the catalysts for it. Brendan’s part of Wildmind’s Google+ Community, which is a place for people to discuss their practice, and he mentioned that, according to the meditation app on his smartphone, he had meditated for 100 days straight. Another group member suggested that we could turn that into a challenge for the new year. And so here we are.

Brendan wrote something about beginner’s mind and the 100 Day Challenge:

I speak fluent but deeply compromised Italian. When I was in the earliest learning phase, I acquired new words and structures very quickly but I had to work very hard indeed. Most of my processing went into the parsing and production of grammar rather than the actual content and meaning of the conversations I was having. This meant that I was working furiously but neither expressing myself very well, nor understanding deeply what was being said to me. This was frustrating for me, as in my mother tongue I am a good communicator and (it has been said) good company. I felt like a fool in Italian. Worse – a boring fool.

In my hurry to express myself, and impress others, I started to care less about the form and more about the content of my spoken Italian. And with some amount of success. I could crack a joke occasionally, and certainly understand one. But I was riding roughshod over the grammar. I wasn’t paying much attention to the details of pronunciation, to the intricate elegance of the subjunctive voice (very important and very widely used in Italian) and I constantly forgot whether nouns were masculine or feminine. Many many years later, matters are still very much the same. I have a greater vocabulary, I’m comfortable and confidant when I speak, but I make constant errors that, while they don’t impede understanding, they must certainly jar the listener’s ear. I will never be mistaken for a native speaker (though my pasty white face would have seen to that in any case). And I regret that I didn’t take a more steady approach to learning. I regret I didn’t stay longer in Beginner’s Mind.

According to a Japanese martial art concept, learning happens in three phases called, in order of appearance, Shu, Ha and Ri. (I’m not a martial art student – I learned these terms when they were applied to software programming languages, of all things). To summarize:

  • The Shu phase entails obedience to the teachings. We follow the instructions – what could be simpler?
  • The Ha phase represents the beginning of digression – we start to find our own meaning in the teachings and tailor them to ourselves.
  • Ri is separation or transcendence – we have achieved such mastery of the subject that rules are irrelevant.

When we begin to learn a new skill, we dream of Ri, but feel imprisoned by Shu. Those of us whose personality types tend towards arrogance or excessive individualism ‘escape’ Shu almost as soon as we start. We tell ourselves we’re being creative, but if we’re really honest we just haven’t developed the discipline or courage to rein ourselves in.

The 100 day challenge offers a chance to Dhamma Pirates like us to put the uniform back on, to return to the ranks of Beginner (which in reality we never really left) and put in our time, under the watchful eye, if possible, of our sangha. The continuity of daily practice allows us to chart a steady course through the basic techniques, over and over until we really do get the basics under our skin. The sangha provided by Wildmind obliges us to stay that course.

Read More

Ultimate Fighting Championship Light Heavyweight champ Jon Jones meditates before big fight

wildmind meditation news

Before facing and defeating Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida in the mixed martial arts Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones spent some time meditating at a scenic waterfall on the Ball’s Falls conservation area on the Niagara Peninsula.

“It was really beautiful but it was so cold out there I could only meditate for about maybe 15 minutes because I didn’t want to get sick,” Jones said Saturday night after defeating Machida.

“I got a good 12 minutes in but the job was done,” he added. “We felt really refreshed and our spirits were lifted on the ride back to the hotel. So mission complete.”

Both fighters on Saturday night are into meditation. “The fact that [Machida’s] into meditation like I am, the fact that he’s a student like I am — he has my utmost respect,” Jones said.

This isn’t the first time that Jones has been spotted meditating at a scenic spot before a big fight. In March, Jones was en route to Great Falls Historic Park in Paterson, New Jersey, to meditate ahead of his fight against Maurício “Shogun” Rua, along with his coaches Mike Winkeljohn and Greg Jackson. As their driver prepared to drop them off, Jones observed an elderly couple screaming for help. The woman informed Winkeljohn that a man had smashed her car window and run off with her GPS. The 205 lb Jones, along with his two coaches, chased after the robber, caught and tripped him, and held him down until the police arrived.


Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

Read More

Shaolin Temple’s real kick is inner peace

Closely aligned with the temple in China, the shrine in Sherman Oaks focuses on philosophy and meditation.

China’s world-famous Shaolin Temple gained prominence among many Americans with the release of the 1980s martial arts movie of the same name. An updated version of the film, loved by fans for the riveting kung fu stunts of the temple’s legendary fighting monks, is in the works. And in recent weeks, Hollywood’s remake of “The Karate Kid” has topped the box office, wowing audiences with its seemingly magical martial arts techniques.

But while kung fu continues to make a splash on the big screen, members of the Shaolin Buddhist Temple in Sherman Oaks are keen to spread a different message about the Shaolin culture and what their sanctuary has to offer.

“When people come here, it’s not just about martial arts,” said the temple’s master, Italian-born Franco Testini, 43, whose Buddhist name, Shifu Shi Yan Fan, was given to him by the abbot of the Shaolin Temple in China.

“Hollywood has completely exaggerated the martial arts scene,” added Cindy Truong, 32, a temple volunteer and event coordinator. “It’s not all about Chinese people being thrown over chairs. The martial arts you see in the movies, that’s Americanized. It’s a very small part of Shaolin culture.”

Situated on a busy stretch of Ventura Boulevard, the temple opened in 2008 and offers a tranquil escape from the world outside. Instruction focuses on Buddhist philosophy and meditation, the art of ancient Chinese tea ceremonies, a combination of stretching and breathing exercises known as chi gong, tai chi — and, of course, martial arts.

“But we don’t train people to punch and kick,” said Truong. “We train people to become strong internally, and that emanates externally. We try to educate people, that it’s more than just fighting and fancy moves.”

Testini stressed the link between breathing, listening and learning as a key to developing harmony between the mind and body.

Although there are several Shaolin schools in Los Angeles, only the Sherman Oaks shrine is listed on the official website of China’s Shaolin Temple, where it is described as “the first official branch organization in North America.”

What makes the Sherman Oaks temple even more unusual is Testini, its master.

In 2007, Testini became the first Westerner to be accepted into the elite of the 1,500-year-old Shaolin Temple in eastern central China, his supporters said. In an ancient ritual, he received the Buddhist brand marks that symbolize his high status in Shaolin culture, they added.

Articles in Chinese news media and American martial arts magazines publicized the honor bestowed on Testini, whose journey to monkhood began when he was a youngster in his hometown of Brindisi, an Italian port city.

Testini was 7 when he started taking martial arts lessons, he said. At 9, he began to compete. By his teens, he had won numerous competitions. And at age 21, he entered the monastery and eventually took vows to become a monk. His study at home was complemented by numerous trips to China’s Shaolin Temple, to solidify his discipline and faith.

In 1994, Testini arrived in the United States. He didn’t speak English and he was homeless for the first several months, sleeping on the beach or in abandoned cars. He traded martial arts instruction for food and soon developed a following of students and friends, who eventually found him permanent shelter. And in 2008, his students helped him lease a former furniture store that became the Sherman Oaks temple.

For Testini, his good fortune wasn’t the result of luck but of his unwavering conviction that “everything is within reach.”

It’s a message he preaches daily, over tea, to the more than 50 people who have become members of the temple.

“You have to learn to believe in yourself,” said the monk, who still struggles to tackle some English words and grammar.

On a recent morning, about a dozen students gathered in the shrine’s small hall, decorated with Chinese murals and ornate golden figurines, to practice chi gong. Testini drifted among the participants, gently adjusting their positions.

“He can feel your aura and energy, your intensity and anxiety level,” said Truong, as she observed what has become a familiar ritual. “Just by looking at a person’s facial expression, he can see what kind of stress they have inside.”

The breathing exercises and positive thinking Testini teaches help to relieve that stress, said Gene Cantamessa, who attends the temple five days a week.

Cantamessa, who said he is “pushing 70,” is among the temple’s longtime members, whose ages range from 2 to 80. Some are novices to the exercises and meditation; others have years of experience. Several work in the film industry and use the Sherman Oaks shrine to escape from the Hollywood hustle.

“I find the meditation very good,” said Cantamessa, a retired production sound mixer. “I like the experience of concentrating … the peace of mind. I feel like a different person when I’m in here.”

“You find a sense of inner calm,” actor Adrian Paul, 50, said of his frequent attendance at the temple. “It allows you to enter another world, which centers you. Shaolin is what ballet is to dance. It’s the foundation that gives you the ability to do what you want to do, better.”

Rosie DiPrima said she got interested in the temple after observing her children, aged 7 and 10, participate in a martial arts class.

“After a week of watching, I started participating,” said DiPrima, 37, a movie industry chef. “It’s completely changed my life.”

[Ann Simmons, LA Times]
Read More

“In Search of the Warrior Spirit: Teaching Awareness Disciplines to the Green Berets,” Strozzi-Heckler

In Search of the Warrior Spirit

Available on and

Note to Hollywood: this book would make a great movie. Take a bunch of aggressively skeptical and highly macho Green Berets, the U.S. Army’s elite special forces unit, and throw them into intensive training in meditation, aikido, and biofeedback — led by a bunch of guys heavily influenced by Eastern philosophy and wearing, believe it or not, lilac uniforms — stand back, and wait for all hell to break loose. Which promptly happens.

Some of the instructors are virtually eaten alive by the troops, who are on high alert for any sign of insincerity or lack of integrity, and who have a talent for finding buttons to press. At one point the Green Berets, on an intensive meditation retreat, are in open revolt, crowding round and yelling at the instructors in the middle of a “silent” meditation period. One of the soldiers steps forward menacingly and gives each of the three retreat leaders the finger, yelling, “F___ you and f___ you and f___ you!”

Fast-forward to a quieter moment on retreat, and Strozzi-Heckler opens his eyes to see a Green Beret sitting in blissful meditation. Below the still, relaxed, and concentrated face of the warrior is a T-shirt that reads, “82nd AIRBORNE DIVISION: DEATH FROM ABOVE”. And so on… Not your average meditation retreat.

Lest you think that the program was all confrontation and culture clash, the program, stormy as it was, produced stunning results, with massive increases for example in the soldiers’ abilities to control their body temperature in extreme conditions and to recuperate quickly after exercise. And on a more personal level, it’s fascinating to witness these warriors contact their softer sides. One of the soldiers, who was a Christian, is thrown into turmoil because he’s unsure whether he could kill someone now that he’s learned to meditate and come to a deeper appreciation of the compassion taught in his own faith.

This kind of quandary represents the central question that Strozzi-Heckler returns to over and over in his writings, which are based on a daily journal he kept over the six months of the project. Can he teach these men to be warriors rather than soldiers — fully feeling human beings rather than alienated killing machines — and have them still function as soldiers? It’s not a question that is ever likely to be resolved, but nonetheless this is a fascinating account of a bold experiment in bringing awareness disciplines to the U.S. Special Forces.

Oh, and Hollywood, Kevin Costner is a natural to play Strozzi-Heckler.

Read More