In the fall of 2004, I visited the world famous Shaolin Temple in China for the first time. While there I received a private audience with one of the head monks at a local school.
He and his students exhibited their amazing strength and flexibility for an entire hour. Afterward I sat with them and asked numerous questions about how they developed their skills.
And what I learned was amazing. At the same time, what they discovered about me was equally stunning.
Even though they knew I won a world title in China (1997), in the oldest style of kung fu (shuaijiao), the tour guide made the classic mistake of assuming because of my stocky, muscular build, I was inflexible.
“Unlike yourself,” the tour guide said, “these monks have muscles that are very flexible.”
My Chinese brother-in-law then began to laugh. “Ta de ji rou zhen hen ruan,” he said. Translation, “His muscles are truly soft.” (By the way: “Soft” muscles in China means that your muscles are flexible instead of tight.)
More than a few eyebrows raised when the monks heard I was flexible – so a demonstration was in order.
I stood up and fell over backwards into a perfect bridge. From this position I kicked over and back a few times, showing the flexibility in my spine and shoulders, as well as the strength in my core.
After this I slid into the splits. Then I spread my legs wide and flattened my chest on the ground like a pancake.
And from there I maneuvered onto my stomach with my hands grasping my ankles. I began bouncing off the ground from this position, just by using my stomach muscles.
At this point “the proof” was conveyed.
“Zhei ge lao wai zhen de hen li hai,” said the translator to the head monk. Translation:
“Our foreign friend is really good.”
Inflexible Muscles Equal Pain and Old Age
After I left the temple that day, I couldn’t help but think about all the people who automatically assume that I’m tight and inflexible because of the way I’m built.
Moreover and more importantly, these people could greatly benefit from the unique system of stretching I teach.
So listen to me now and believe me later: If your muscles are stiff, your joints are tight and you have aches and pains all over your body – then the very words you’re reading right now may be the very catalyst that turns your life around. In fact, these words may even represent the moment in time in which you stopped growing older and got out of pain.
Yes, flexibility and aging tend to go hand-in-hand. Show me someone who is stiff and inflexible and I’ll show you someone who is aging far faster than necessary.
On the other hand, show me someone whose muscles and joints are loose, pliable, supple and flexible – and I’ll show you someone who is defying gravity, someone who’s turning back the clock and living a life of high energy and vitality.
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