Dragons & Dialectics

Since I left dental school, I’ve made an intense study of martial arts. I started in tae kwon do, then moved into mixed-martial arts, and finally kung fu & tai chi. It’s all the same, just a different form, and each must be trained with focus & diligence to get any kind of worthwhile results. All gains are measured internally. The ultimate purpose is mastery so you don’t have to use them.

One teacher of mine, who is no longer with us, was Cliff Black. At the time I knew him he was around age 60, but looked much older– as he’d lived a hard life. First as an outlaw & drug addict, then rehabilitated & a drug-addiction councilor; he taught tai chi as a passion. He also was a professional bouncer as some of the roughest redneck bars in central Florida. He worked alone, and had plenty.

I’ve had some bad-ass instructors, which is what you want if you are serious here. Martial arts isn’t a game. It’s about defeating your enemy. Cliff Black knew this well, and had plenty of stories, which he loved to share before, during, AND after class– which could go on for awhile. It was always worthwhile, I remember.

He used to describe his strategy against hyper-aggressive patrons, who wanted to test their karate-kicking skills under the influence-of-alcohol. He’d say softly but with glee, “I LOVE those high-flying dragons. I just wait to get underneath them, and then take out their leg. It’s over after that. I’m a low-flying dragon.”