Why Bob Is the Way He Is and Does What He Does

Pour yourself a strong cup of coffee. Can there be anything more boring than reading a self-penned bio?
Okay… you’re right… “Family Feud”.

For inspiration, I went to the online bios of noted yoga teachers. What I found were countless tales of redemption from drug addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, self-hatred and other real or imagined personal faults – all accomplished through yoga. Growing up in Los Angeles, I had plenty of opportunities to indulge in such things (and I did – quite a bit, in fact), but I didn’t need yoga to halt or prevent a precipitous descent. Nowadays, redemption bios are becoming passé. The new style lists a sparkling CV of packed Yoga Journal Conferences/Bhaktifests/Shaktifests/Wanderlusts, tapings of “Oprah”, lunches with Chopra, smokin’ of Dopra, appearances with Marianne Williamson and Carolyn Myss, public service awards arranged by high-priced publicists and, of course, the requisite oeuvre of best-selling and yoga CDs and downloads. All of this through a publicly shouted “I care nothing about money!”. The New Narcissism.

If only I’d answered that call from Dr. Phil! But, I was so close to a personal best in Sudoku!

My hatha yoga beginnings are a little less glamorous. I was a decathlete and even though I had long been interested in yoga philosophy, I wanted hatha yoga practice to help me kick ass in the decathlon. In that regard, I was fairly successful. I have since decided that that was a bit short- sighted. Especially more than four decades later.

I became interested in South Asian and Asian philosophies while an 8th grader in military school. I’ve never quit (the interest; not the military school). Before I took my first yoga class – because there really weren’t any to be found in L.A. back then; can you believe that? – I immersed myself not just in the Patanjalayogasutra and its several commentaries, but also in the other six orthodox philosophical systems of India. That led me to the Vedas, Upanishads, Brahmanas and Aranyakas. The so-called “last” Upanishad, the Maitrayaniya, led me to Tantra – which (spoiler alert!) has almost nothing to do with sexual intercourse. Sorry.

From there, I got into Somananda’s Śivadriṣti and kept on moving through Utpaladeva, Abhinavagupta (and his unworthy successor, Kshemaraja) and the rest of the various threads of what is called in the West the “Saivism of Kashmir”, but is more accurately called Trika (loosely, the three essential realities) or Pratyabhijñā (divine recognition), but there are many others. I consider this massive philosophical school – composed of many schools – to be, along with the Chan Buddhism of China, one of the apexes of mankind’s philosophical and spiritual development.

Even earlier than that, my Hancock Park Republican Mom had clued me into Daoism and I read Dao De Jing and the Chuang tzu, the pinnacle of Daoist philosophy. Over the years, this brought me into contact with the Ch’an Buddhism of the Hongzhou school, the fierce lineage that began with Mazu Daoyi and culminated in the greatness of Master Linji Yìxuán, the founder of one of the two principal lineages of today’s Ch’an (j. Zen), the Linji (j. Rinzai) lineage. Linji Ch’an is the central philosophy of my life.

After a couple of college tries at Economics (a non-science), English (just a “non”), U.S.C. Cinema (Dad pulled strings and I did a year in The Palace of Insufferability) and living in London, I decided to put some formality into my philosophical investigations. The aforementioned U.S.C. was the best on the west coast for a couple of B.A.s in Religion and Philosophy and, as an added bonus, they had a great football team.

I’ll bet you want to hear about some actual training in hatha yoga, don’t you? Okay, we can get through that quickly.

At 19, I found Bikram Choudhury at the Beverly Hills YMCA, This is, of course, back when he was sane and a fairly decent guy. I was an early student at his first school in Beverly Hills. There, I witnessed the accidental invention of “hot yoga” when choreographer Marge Champion brought a space heater to warm up the alcove at Bikram’s first freakin‘ cold basement school. The legends created afterward about hot yoga are just that – legends.

I went to the Speedo King for about three years; sometimes three times a day and I practiced his method at home. After boredom set in (similar to what’s happening to you as you read this), I went to The Center for Yoga on Larchmont for awhile. Over the years, I’ve studied with a constellation of “big names”. Martyn Jackson, Ganga and Anna, Francie Ricks, B.K.S. Iyengar and his children Geeta and Prashant, Pattabhi Jois in India, Richard Freeman, Shandor Remete, Tim Miller, Kofi Busia, Faeq Biria, Felicity Green, John Schumacher, Patricia Walden, Gabriela Giubilaro, Ramanand Patel, Judith Lasater, Neeta Datta, Karin O’Bannon, Gloria Goldberg, Elise Miller and a gigantic host of others. You probably noticed a distinct Iyengar slant to that list. The name left off it is the most important. In 1987, I found the person I consider the most brilliant yoga teacher in any style in North America. His name is Manouso Manos and he resides in San Francisco. With the exception of the Iyengar family, I have yet to find anyone of such talent and depth, who refuses to rest on his laurels and who continues his deep search into the heart of hatha yoga. All of what I teach comes from India and most of it came to me through Manouso. The truly innovative things I teach are all his. The faults and failures are entirely my own. It was because of Manouso that I became a certified Iyengar yoga teacher. It was not because of him that I willingly gave up that certificate almost two years ago.

Now, about this martial arts thing: At the same time I was getting into yoga with Bikram, I was also going to West L.A. to study Kenpo, billed as “Chinese Karate”, with Kenpo’s big guy, Ed Parker. Okay, that’s that. Let’s move on.

A few years later, I got deeply interested in neijiaquan, or Chinese “internal martial arts”. I began in taijiquan (the “grand ultimate fist”) thinking that with such a name, it had to be the ultimate martial art. My thinking has changed since. But, I got very, very lucky and was introduced to taiji through its original style – Chen. I got even luckier by having the opportunity to study directly with Grandmasters and Masters of the Chen family: Chen Xiaowang, Chen Xiaoxing and Master Chen Bing (with whom I really resonated). But, the two greatest Chen taiji teachers I studied with were the late Ma Hong – a direct student of Chen Zhaokui. Shortly thereafter, I met and studied with late, legendary Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang – a direct student of Chen Fake and originator of his own fighting method of Chen taiji known as “Chen Shi Xinyi Hunyuan Taijiquan”. It is my great honor to have had the privilege of learning taiji from such great martial artists.

But, it had long been my goal to learn what is, in my opinion, China’s most powerful internal martial art – Xingyiquan (the “form-mind fist”). In particular, I wanted to learn Xingyi’s difficult, fluid style from Shanxi province and – as if that weren’t enough – I wanted to learn the Shanxi Xingyi taught by the Song family. What were the chances of finding that?

I’ve always had good luck. After a few false starts, I learned that Tim Cartmell, perhaps America’s most heralded internal martial arts teacher, was teaching a few miles up the freeway from where I lived. I began Song family Xingyiquan with this extraordinarily intelligent and talented teacher in January of 2007 and I haven’t looked back since. Tim has also instructed me in the powerful Sun style of taijiquan. To read a not-so-current biography of Tim Cartmell – done long before he added a 3rd degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt to his accomplishments, go to: http://www.shenwu.com/background.htm. This interview covers the exceptionally deep and thorough neijia training Tim received during his almost eleven years in Taiwan and China. Tim has also graciously allowed me to use his essay on Xingyiquan, since I certainly could not do better on my own.

Along the path of studying internal martial arts, I have learned numerous neigong (internal practice) and qigong (energy practice) techniques originating in a variety of powerful martial arts. I knew these exercises could be extremely beneficial to the non-martial artist. In recent years, I have compiled these methods into a separate discipline that I call the Internal Power Method. You can read more about IPM in the essay on this website. Suffice it to say that IPM is available to everyone and, in my experience, no single exercise protocol, including true, Indian hatha yoga, so completely brings the sincere non-martial practitioner to his or her highest fitness potential.

And, finally, we arrive at Foundation Training. In 2013, before heading off to Europe to teach, Tim Cartmell told me in passing about this simple, yet profoundly powerful new therapeutic training regimen devised by chiropractor Eric Goodman and Peter Park, a noted personal trainer to professional athletes. FT is superior both for adding posterior chain strength isometrically and for overcoming back pain. By the time, Tim returned to the States, I was an early certified FT instructor.

Okay, that covers almost half a century. Now, get up, stretch, take a walk, throw ice water on your face and look at the rest of this website.