[01:35] Four Sigmatic
[04:15] About Chris Holder
[7:40] Breakthrough Performance With His Student-Athletes
[12:08] The Five Yin Organs
[23:10] Qi Gong Versus Performance Enhancing Drugs
[33:00] Why More Athletes and Exercise Enthusiasts, The Fitness Community Aren’t Utilizing Qi Gong
[36:56] The Link Between Emotions, Inflammation and Cancer, and How To Use Qi Gong to Release Negative Emotions
[44:55] The Lower Dantian
[50:55] Increase Drive and Sexual Performance with Specific Qi Gong Exercises
[52:45] Using The Mind to Make the Kettlebell Swing More Effective
[68:35] Tongue Positions in Qi Gong Exercises
[70:36] Bob Frissell – “Nothing In This Book Is True” Book
[1:15:24] End of Podcast
Ben: Hey everybody, it’s Ben Greenfield. This is one of those way cool episodes where I actually had an amazing person come up to my house here in Spokane, Washington, hang out for a couple of days doing some amazing, in this case, kettlebell and Chinese Qi Gong practices. The guy's name is Chris Holder. Amazing dude. This podcast was so much fun. We sat in my office and he’s this enormous like 350 plus pound former football player turned qi gong physician and the guy is just amazing. Strength conditioning coach for Cal Poly, I believe, as well, or is it Cal Poly? Yeah, it’s Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. You're gonna enjoy this. All the show notes are over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/holder.
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In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“Most of the strategies that western doctors use to address those illnesses are more about eradicating what’s there that we don’t get into the thinking of what started this.” “And it helps you kind of keep things consistent. It goes back to consistency. The intention and consistency as the secret to all things good.” “There are studies all over China that shows that one of the main things that Qi Gong does for cancer patients is it gets their inflammation markers way down.”
Ben: Hey, you guys. Welcome to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show. I want to actually read you a quick quote here that I happened upon on this website. It's a fantastic website. It’s called Breaking Muscle over at breakingmuscle.com and the quote that I came across was the following as I was reading an article about qi gong and qi gong for athletes. The quote says, “What separates us from the rest is something that happens every morning around 11 AM. I walk over to the stereo, change the music to either Enya or Lama Gyurme, the room stops. Those athletes who have been involved with this process all gather around. We walk over to a central space in the room and we began a practice that has been performed for thousands of years.” Now, that practice, that the person who wrote that sentence is referring to is something that I personally just got done doing in my own backyard here in Spokane, Washington.
And this guy is the head strength conditioning coach at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. He works with 22 division one athletic teams, over 500 student athletes there and he’s actually a doctor of medical qi gong. His name is Chris Holder and he came all the way up to Spokane to not only train me on kettlebells and qi gong for athletes, but to fill my head with the host of knowledge that he has on this blend of western strength training practices and eastern medical and spiritual practices. He’s actually a co-author to study looking at the effects of qi gong on strength gains in collegiate athletes, specifically and he’s one of the few guys I know who has merged like bad ass kettlebell strength training and extreme athletic performance with what many people consider to be eastern woo-woo mysticism in qi gong. Chris is one of the only 13 master RKC kettlebell instructors in the world. He's known in many strength training circles as the first person to introduce kettlebell training to collegiate sports and he works with people in the NFL, the NBA, the MLB. He writes, like I mentioned, for Breaking Muscle, TrainHeroic, or Dragon Door. He's a wealth of knowledge, he's right here in my office with me. So, Chris, welcome to the show, man.
Chris: That was quite an introduction.
Ben: Well, I worked hard on it.
Chris: Yeah, it’s good.
Ben: Yeah. How’d you like the smoothie I just fed you?
Chris: It’s good. Very good. Lots of stuff in it.
Ben: Yeah. There's a lot of stuff in there.
Ben: I gave Chris my Super Food smoothie comprised of… we had nettle and mints that the boys went out and picked yesterday. We had choco powder and cacao nibs and green juice powder and turmeric anti-aging tea, little fish oil.
Chris: That’s the main I'm here. I wanted to get them made by the man himself.
Ben: You just wanted the smoothie. That’s right. The smoothie and last night's homemade tacos.
Chris: That’s right.
Ben: Yeah. So, Chris, that quote that I started things off with, as I was explaining that practice that you do with your collegiate athletes and exactly you took me and my boys through in the backyard just now. Tell me about that. What you do with those athletes each morning? What did we do this morning?
Chris: So, what we ended up doing was a study that you had mentioned in the introduction. We took about 110 student athletes, college student athletes, through an 8-week sort of experiment on qi gong and its effects on strength gains at college age, of course, people. And we had such a phenomenal result from the kids that ended up doing that they, when we finished, everyone was like, “Okay. Are we done? Are we gonna continue on with this?” and so I was motivated to keep the practice going. So we picked a, kind of a, neutral time during the day for the athletes to come through and when they're away from class and the kids that were there that knew the practice, we would literally just turn the stereo off and they knew that we were gonna start and the kids that wanted to participate did and the ones that didn't, we continued to train and do what they needed to do. But that practice we put together is something that's been used for, like I said, a very long time and it's got some accents of things that I wanted to add to it that would be very beneficial for athletes for recovery and for their sleep and focus, and all the things that go along with being a full-time college student and an athlete playing division one athletics. So we would just get together and it takes about 20 minutes and, you saw this morning, we went a little bit slow this morning because I was explaining kind of piece by piece, but once you do it a handful of times it's very smooth, there's no talking and it looks like a Tai Chi class to anyone else who’s like walking by.
Ben: Now, we went out there and we stood with our feet wide in the grass and there was, for example, like chanting and humming that we did for certain organs. What was that all about?
Chris: So we call those “purging sounds” and if you look at Chinese medicine and you kind of understand what they're trying to do, and we talked about this a little bit before outside, but there’s a big purging time that you do when you're working with anybody who’s gonna be doing acupuncture and that stuff and then there's, you tonify and regulate and that's the three, sort of, big health benefits of Chinese medicine. The toning that we were doing was help to purge various organs and those sounds are very specific to those organs. So very much like tuning a guitar or a piano and you're looking for a very specific result and you’re trying to target something those sounds will zero in on a specific organ and purge out anything that's dank or sort of stagnant energy.
Ben: Now, when you say “purge” you mean, when you’re making a certain sound like what was the sound that we made for the liver, for example, because I really actually felt like I could feel qi like coming or like chi or however you pronounce it, coming in my liver when we were doing this. What was that sound?
Chris: So, it’s “guo”. It’s G-U-O, we dropped that sound. So it was “guo” and we would kind of hold that “-uo” sound and you could feel the actual organ vibrate and the idea is that the entire body, if you look at it like through the matrix of it all, everything's energetically got a shell to it and as the body goes through the day, as the body goes through all the experiences that it has, your relationships, the environment you’re in, your diet, whether you're sedentary or do a lot of exercise, qi gets caught up, gets hung up, gets kind of blocked and can stagnate there and if that qi is moved around or purged out then over time that's when you start to see some of these funky disease patterns begin. And so for what we did, the practice that I did with the athletes’ call is called the “Taoist Five in Organ Exercises”, okay? And the yin organs are kind of the primary focus for the medical stuff that I do and one of those organs is liver and with that purging sound, we’re able to get some of that stagnant energy, some of that stuff that’s kind of sitting there like pond water. Think of like a pond sitting there that’s got flies and just sort of garbage, just kind of gathering up or moving some of that qi out and then later on in that practice we tonify and sort of replaced what we got rid of. And so the purging’s a really essential part because it's like pouring dirty water or pouring clean water into a dirty pool. It's still dirty and the idea is to go in and clear out what's not helping, clear out the things that are unhealthy and then replace it with clean and move forward from there.
Ben: So we did liver, we did spleen, we did kidney, we did heart, and lungs. Those are the five major organs that you focus on with this practice.
Chris: Yes. it's called the “Five Yin Organs.” Now, they have their yang pairing, and we’ll get into the whole yin and yang thing later on, but those are kind of the drivers to the human body as it relates to Chinese medicine and kind of how we look at things.
Ben: When you got to my house last night you laid me on a massage table, I actually had my massage therapist swing up to the house's yesterday and drop off the table so it’d be ready and it was kind of funny. My kids started a fire, while you were working on me, with a little Palo Santo incense stick. They were burning it. You put on some massage music and you had me lay there on the table. Tell me about what you did on me last night and also, if that's something you do with the athletes that you work with?
Chris: That’s kind of a long story and for your listeners…
Ben: It's alright. We got time, dude.
Chris: Yeah, I know. We’ve got plenty of time. So medical Qi Gong is about me moving the energy onto you. Okay, so what we did last night, you were getting, in a clinical setting, you were getting basically what a sick patient would get. Come in, laid down on the table. The idea is for you to relax as much as you can and kind of force it to the process and then the doctor, me being that person last night, stands over you and goes through the whole process of the purging, the tonification, and the regulation. That, right there, like I said, it was a very clinical setting. But the athletes, we have done some of that. I’ve had to create protocols that allow us to move them faster through. There’s some interesting sort of situational things where, me, being alone with an athlete is not looked highly on, so we had to figure out ways to do it where…
Ben: What do you mean? Why is that not looked highly on?
Chris: Well, you know if I have a female athlete up a table and I’m alone in the room…
Ben: Ah, I get you. On the table and you’re waving your hands over her. Okay.
Chris: Right. You can get into some sticky, perceptive things and so we've created a standing protocol that we do right in the middle of the weight room and everyone in the room can see it happening and everybody’s so used to it now that the athletes can come through and it helps cut my time down because what we did last night took about 20 minutes from start to finish…
Chris: And it was fairly thorough. I was giving you one of the protocols we put together for sort of athlete-like performance based protocol versus a protocol for MS or protocol for bone cancer or something like that. And we went through and just did basically what you did this morning, but I did it for you and that's where we get into some more of the esoteric kind of the woo-woo stuff that you were talking about.
Ben: So you’re using like hands and energy medicine to do the same thing…
Ben: To the lungs, my spleen, my liver, my heart, and what was the last one again? The kidneys. And you were walking, I mean your movement, I could feel the energy coming off your hand. It’s kind of freaky.
Ben: And I mean like in a very intense way. I had my eyes closed and I could tell exactly where you were at because I could feel this intense energy coming off of your hands and there were a few times when you grabbed my head and when you slipped your hand over my back you were just basically hitting some of the same organs?
Chris: Yeah, and accessing them from different sort of places. So like when I go to access your heart to do the heart work I go through your back to sort of set a, imagine me spraying a hose from your back to the floor and sort of pushing out anything that's there that needs to get moved out. And the various hand placements, a lot of that has to do with just getting your body in positions so I can access what I need to access versus like what we did today where your intention and a lot of the movements and this sort of that practice kind of carries us through all the work.
Ben: So you can do this work on someone or you can teach them how to do this work themselves like we did in the backyard today?
Chris: Correct. So the medical side of it is, like again, me doing the work for you and then we have tons of practices. So when I was going to school the first year of our schooling was basically, us cleaning ourselves up so that we would be in a place ourselves to work on someone and not introduce sort of our own garbage to the receiving patient. A lot of what you did this morning with some of those practices that we did during that time for our own cleanup and then when you're on the table and working on you, I can go as deep as I need to go in terms of investigation and working through some of the stuff that we need to kind of work through whether it’d be traumas or old energetic patterns that we’re trying to break.
Ben: A lot of this stuff is stuff that seems like you could actually talk about, but have it be a little bit more kinda “woo” and invisible. You can’t see the energy moving.
Ben: You can’t see the stagnant Qi coming out the liver. You can actually witness a lot of this stuff or even really quantify to the same extent that you might be able to quantify like the swings we were doing this morning. Progressing from a one to one and a half [17:06] ______ kettlebell, for example. Tell me about any investigations that you’ve done because you said you would kinda look into this with some studies on how it actually affects performance.
Ben: So what have you actually found when you look at this for more of an analytical study perspective as far as the efficacy of this stuff for say, improved performance?
Chris: The issue that we have with Qi Gong, and if you do any sort of real heavy research is, the western scientific model has some pretty stiff and very rigid things that qualified what we consider to be science and when you look at a lot of the Chinese Medical studies, especially when it comes to things like Qi Gong, our western model won’t necessarily support the way they do it. There’s some looseness to what they do. The sample sizes are small. And so my goal when I was going to school and finishing up my doctoral thesis and the study that we did afterwards was to try and marry the two together, get enough of what I needed to get done in terms of the Qi Gong piece and then back it up with all the rules that we have with standard western scientific regulations and all that good stuff for getting published.
And so the first big study that I did, again, was my doctoral thesis and we took three full teams. It was football, it was women's soccer, and softball and we broke the teams basically in half. We took volunteers, anybody who was willing to participate in this. And then those teams, when they were enduring their in-season time, we brought doctors in from the school that I was attending and myself and we would do two medical treatments, very much like what you received last night, on those athletes participating and then we put together this you know pretty thorough questionnaire and both the Qi Gong Intervention Group and our control group who were just other athletes playing on those teams, fill that questionnaires after every game and what we we're trying to do is we were trying to get some footing and understanding how they were feeling during competition, how they were sleeping, and some of those kind of arbitrary variables that we don't really consider when we talk about performance and so-and-so rushed for 250 yards and there’s also a past for. We were looking for, “How well did that running back sleep before, then the game? How are they feeling in terms of their nerves before the game? Or at the end of the game could they have gone another quarter, how was their energy? Things that they can sort of quantify and what we ended up seeing with that group and it was pretty amazing when you run the statistics, you would see both groups have great days. They would have great games. So and so would have great sleep at night, but when we got into really looking at the information over time, the Qi Gong group was on a really steady incline and they stayed in really high, what we consider to be high positive numbers the whole way.
We didn’t have a lot of fluctuation from good days to bad days. Whereas the other group would experience those bad days and you’ll have this radical swings left, up and down and that was one of our first tales that consistency with Qi Gong. Just like anything else. It’s like getting a strong, if you plan on getting strong and you can’t just sort of whimsically train. You have to be very consistent with it and continue exposure to that stimulus. Qi Gong’s the same way and when we were consistent with it, you could see a really clear pattern with the group's that we were receiving.
And then the next study, so I had a buddy of mine who came to work for me at Cal Poly. He was getting his master’s degree. He’s now in LSU and he’s taking some of these things with him to LSU. When he was finishing his master’s degree we were putting together his thesis and what we ended up doing was, again, what we showed you this morning. We took three teams again and we asked for volunteers and it was just you know all comers, whoever wanted to come and they had to basically sign up for eight weeks of getting up at six in the morning and attending, very similar to what you went through this morning, is a big group…
Chris: And teach them the whole protocols…
Ben: At 8:30 AM instead of 6 AM. Thank you.
Chris: And with two kids, two young kids. It was perfect this morning. And what we ended up seeing with that we were looking for a regular Qi Gong practice actually impact strength gains. So we took those three teams. We broke them up. We put everybody on the exact same lifting schedule. So whether you were volleyball or you were football, we were all doing the same sort of kind of GPP general prep stuff. We tested them in the beginning of the eight weeks study and then we tested them at the end of the eight-week study and again, what we ended up seeing was the strength gains were, they weren’t close. The differences in height and off the top of my head I can’t remember percentages, but we're talking about probably a 20% increase over what the other people were receiving from their training.
Ben: You mean, the Qi Gong kids were getting a 20% strength increase compared to the others?
Chris: Compared to the 15 to 20% that the…
Ben: Wow! Are they doing this everyday?
Chris: They were doing this Monday through Friday.
Ben: Twenty minutes?
Chris: Less than that because when you can kind of get humping through it, once you know it, you can kind of fly.
Chris: So we would be in and out by 15.
Ben: Wow. Exactly what we did in the backyard.
Chris: Exactly what we did. But imagine now picking up the pace a little bit and we don't have to talk.
Ben: Got it.
Chris: I mean, we spent about two weeks letting them know what they needed to be thinking about. Kind of where their intention is. They knew what to do and at about two weeks I stopped talking, and we just kind of roared through it. We had guys put on like a fun squat max over 100 pounds in eight weeks, which is, those numbers just don't, it doesn't compute.
Chris: Those are like PED numbers, you know what I mean, and we had lots of guys have that type of…
Ben: Performance enhancing drugs.
Chris: Right. And it was phenomenal. I have kids. We have a guy right now who's in camp with the Green Bay Packers and you know he's a freak athlete. He’s a linebacker for them and he'll tell you, this is during his sophomore campaign, he felt the best, he felt the strongest, he felt sort of the most together during the time we were doing that study and I’ve heard that actually several times from the kids who were involved with it. It was pretty remarkable and we’re in the process right now of getting old manuscripts together too for publication.
Ben: That’s crazy. Yeah, you’ll have to send it to me and I’ll tweet it out once you guys get that manuscript published because that's crazy. Now, you’re a big dude. I mean you’re sitting here at my office and you look like a friggin’ linebacker yourself, but yeah your bio says you’re a medical qi gong doctor. I know you play football, right?
Chris: I did. Yeah.
Ben: Back in college? Who’d you play for?
Chris: Eastern Kentucky.
Ben: Okay. Cool. Linebacker?
Chris: No, I was a center.
Ben: Oh okay. Yeah. Alright. Same size.
Ben: Or bigger?
Ben: Yeah, exactly.
Chris: And a little softer too.
Ben: So how'd you go from playing football to become, I don’t even know what a medical Qi Gong doctors is.
Chris: So football led me to the strength conditioning. So I have the sort of two hats that I wear. I'm the strength conditioning coach at the college level and then I was working, I used to work at San Jose State, and I was working with a couple of yogis as like private training and they were very in tune and everything spiritual…
Ben: You were training them or they were training you?
Chris: I was training them.
Chris: So what would happen is they were coming to me because of the hyper flexibility they were starting to get injuries and they had come to the conclusion they…
Ben: Okay. So you were working with them to train them with yoga…
Ben: Or were you just training them strength conditioning?
Chris: Right. They came to me for kettlebells like stuff we did this morning.
Chris: And developed a great relationship with them. They’re phenomenal people and about a year into that personal training sessions that we were doing, they came to me and they were like, “Hey, this legendary guy in Monterey” so for those of you who are in California, Monterey in San Jose, about an hour and a half away from each other, “this legendary kung fu master, qi gong master, is going to be coming out of retirement to teach this program one time and it's a doctoral course” and these two individuals that I'm talking about, one of which was a doctor also. He’s an anesthesiologist. He knew my background. We actually did some studying together in terms of performance stuff, qi health and those things. He’s a kettlebell guy now also, but he was like, “This is something that would really round out my tool kit” and to be perfectly honest with you, Ben and then your listener, when it was first mentioned to me I was kind of like, “I don't really know what this is about. I don't know if I have the time and the money to invest in this type of thing. It's going to be a four-year thing. I don’t know if I want to do this.” Especially just purely just off of a recommendation, someone's called recommendation. The only time prior to this that I had had and qi gong experience was my RKC and I think it was April four.
Ben: What does RKC stand for again?
Chris: Russian Kettlebell Challenge.
Ben: Right. Which I’m gonna do with you in February.
Chris: You better be there. I’m expecting you to be there.
Ben: Gonna be kettlebell master, dude.
Chris: That’s right. On Sundays, John Du Cane, our CEO, he's a qi gong guy also. He took us through a recharge which is a morning thing, very similar to what we did with you this morning, but his style and that was the only time prior to this discussion with these two personal training clients that I had that I’ve ever been exposed to Qi Gong.
Ben: Yeah, and John Du Cane, he's the chief editor at Dragon Door Publications. This is where he writes for.
Chris: And he’s the CEO owner. Yeah, he’s the top dog.
Ben: Good guy. If you guys want to go listen to the podcast that I did with Jon Bruney, who’s another Dragon Door author along with Chris, just go over to bengreenfieldfitness.com/dragondoor and do a search for some of Chris’ stuff over there. Dragon Door Publications has good stuff like that’s [27:05] ______, that’s a lot of these like old school kettlebell guy, Russian martial arts training. Very cool website.
Chris: When Jon started that publication, Du Cane, it was a martial arts thing. So on his book he published my Sifu which is really interesting. We go way back in the…
Ben: Published what?
Chris: My Sifu because of my teacher, my Qi Gong teacher.
Chris: Sifu is like master, teacher.
Ben: Okay. I get you.
Chris: It’s that sort of honor/respect thing. But I found out years after getting involved with Dragon Door and then meeting my Sifu. He knew who Jon was just in passing because he published him before.
Ben: Wow. Okay. So you were training these two yogis and you were teaching them kettlebells and at that point all you'd known about Qi Gong was some of the stuff that Jon had brought you through.
Chris: Right, and it was like, again, one time and so trying to make a long story short…
Ben: You don’t have to make it short.
Chris: Yeah. They were pushing me to join them with this. We become very close as you know with some of your clients. It just happens. And they continued to push the agenda. I was like, “I don't know. I don’t know. I don’t know if I want to do this.” and so after about two or three weeks after the program began I was like, “Listen. I'm not into this. You can go and drop it.” And so they started going to these classes and they were doing their stuff and then it came up again and I had finally decided that I was gonna go give it a try and the way the school worked, it was fairly loose in terms of requirements about getting in and those types of things. It was different than what you consider to be applying to medical school. Anyways, I was approaching a Tuesday, that was Thursday and it was going to be the last time they were going to accept new people to come in, and then class was closed for the rest of the time and you can't come. And so I was all geared up and ready to go and I changed my mind at the last minute and, Ben, as sure as I'm sitting in front of you here when they drove away that day, my gut told me I just made a gigantic mistake.
And so, they left and I spent a couple of days just sort of reeling over my decision even though I wasn't 100% sure what I was saying no to and then they came back for their following personal training situation or appointment that we had and I was like, “Listen. I’m gonna change my mind one more time and I’d love to give this a try. Can we call the director of the program and see if we can get me in.” and they were like, “Well, he's closed and we’re not sure.” They made a phone call and got me into the program and I drove up that day set out in front of the school. I was sitting there waiting for the first course to begin, not knowing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. There’s some guys out playing hacky sack. I’m thinking to myself, “Why the hell am I here?” and I went upstairs and the moment I walked in the door I knew I was supposed to be there. It was this weird kind of a spiritual moment for me and I walked through the doors and it was like I’m home. It was great and I never looked back.
Ben: How long of a course does it take to become a medical Qi Gong doctor?
Chris: Well, my school’s closed now. There's another school that’s open and it's an off shoot of what we did. The doctoral program was a little over three years. We did pre stuff and martial arts because in the Chinese systems, martial arts, the medicine, and then the mysticism piece of it kind of all run together. They don’t separate things kind of like we westerners do and so we started with the medical stuff and then quickly picked up the martial and then the mysticism. The mysticism stuff went on for like six years.
Ben: Oh wow.
Chris: Yeah, and I actually had to drop out early, but that group had to become a priest and all that good stuff because I took a job away from the bay area and had to move away. So they actually went on another two years before everything wrapped.
Ben: Wow. But, dude, this particular practice, this is like 5000 years old. Like this has been going on for a long time.
Chris: Yeah, the Qi Gong part of it, yes.
Ben: Okay. Got it.
Chris: So for your listeners you’ll all note Qigong, herbs, acupuncture, and massage are the four main pillars of…
Ben: Qigong, herbs, acupuncture, and massage.
Chris: Right. They’re the four main pillars of traditional Chinese medicine and so when you go see a traditional Chinese medicine person, they're going to do one of those four main thing as part of your treatment or part of the intervention that they’re gonna use for whatever you're going to see them for.
Ben: Yeah. My newer physician here in Spokane, his name’s Siah. S-I-A-H. I wish I could remember his website. I’d give it to you guys listening in if you live near Spokane, but when I go in he’ll talk to me about like stagnation of chi in the liver and he does acupuncture and he does a little bit of massage. He does some herbs, we haven’t done much qigong together, but in a typical Chinese medicinal situation, it’s herbs, acupuncture, massage, and qigong and qigong stands for, the qi and the gong both mean different things right?
Chris: Right. The qi is like vital energy or breath and then the gong is like practice or skill.
Chris: And I promise you, Ben, when he’s needling you, he’s doing qigong on you.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha.
Chris: He may not talk about it, but he's helping things move.
Ben: Okay. I get you. I mean I’ve been combining that with that device I was showing you last night. I think it was sitting in on the table or somewhere where you can actually use this device called the NES scanner and I interviewed Wendy Myers about this. It's almost like energy medicine that you use a handheld device for. So you place your hand on that scanner, it’d be cool to do this with you in the office maybe later on today, put your hand on the scanner, it identifies areas where there are like restrictions in flow through your meridians or through your chakras and then you go through with this handheld scanner and you basically hit those areas with the scanner and it emits a frequency associated with that specific channel. And so it's almost like you're doing your own acupuncture with electricity.
Ben: So I've been doing a lot more of that and that's super interesting stuff, but for you with this whole idea of qigong, you know you said it was like a performance enhancing drug almost with what you saw on the strength in these power athletes. Why the heck aren’t more athletes or fitness enthusiasts and exercise enthusiasts doing this? Why does it seem like there's some kind of like a resistance to implementing this and like a modern strength training setting?
Chris: Truthfully because…
Ben: Too “woo”?
Chris: It’s too “woo”. It’s probably too weird for most people. I mean for those of your listeners it looks, when we're doing like a group, like a class setting type thing, it looks like a Tai Chi class. And so they relate, “they” being anybody who's watching related to sort of that, and it's how far are they willing to go to sort of try new things. I think in a lot of respects too because it’s so tightly woven into the martial side of things, you get more of the karate gee-looking uniforms, the guy with the long ponytail. It's not what a strength athlete’s looking for.
Ben: So I was telling you this on the table last night when you were talking to me because after we finished, I'm pretty connected to my feelings and you told me that that's more of like a yin. It's almost like a female type of energy and I feel like I'm pretty connected to my feelings and my emotions and I'm okay with expressing that. That Yin part of my energy, but then the opposite of that like a Crossfitter, for example. That's very yang energy, right?
Chris: Completely. Yeah.
Ben: So there's like an excess of yang energy in traditional sports?
Ben: Did you say that?
Chris: The thinking with that is weight training and all these really just sort of high effort, high intensity. Blow it out every workout. That’s a very yang type activity.
Ben: You pronounce it yang?
Ben: Yang. Okay. So you get like yin yang?
Chris: Yes. So white people say yang. We, Chinese people, say yang.
Ben: You’re not Chinese, dude.
Chris: Not at all.
Ben: You’re like a freakin’ like 350-pound white guy with a beard.
Chris: It’s true, but it’s yang for those people who care. But all those things that they're doing are so high effort, very yang practices. And the problem that we see and I think with CrossFit in particular, and I’m a giant fan of CrossFit, I think what they're doing is awesome. They don’t come down. They don't sort of marry the yang effort now with something very yin coming behind it and this is where the Qigong and these type of meditative practices, where you're taking the nervous system and you're downgrading everything, are really, really important.
Ben: And that’s where you would get sick. That’s where you get like adrenal fatigue or overtraining being to yang.
Chris: Or injuries. I mean you see CrossFit especially in the beginning, I think it's leveled off a little bit more now and there's a lot of really smart people that are involved. But in the beginning, you were just seeing all these people just breaking down and the problem was a lot of them didn't have any recovery sort of strategies. They were probably trying to do something nutritionally that made sense, but for the most part they weren’t doing anything to really actively pursue recovery. They were just going in, banging weights, grabbing some sort of high calorie protein shake at the end of it and then going on with your day. And what people don't understand is…
Ben: Kettle lift and kettlebell swings, baby.
Chris: Right? And people don’t understand that not only is weight training a big yang activity, but so is the stress in our lives and our jobs and challenging relationships. I mean these are things that are… you're running, redlining the whole day and if you don't have something that can bring you down and sort of mellow you back out, sooner or later something’s gonna give and typically it shows up in the form of adrenal fatigue or some silly injury that people just didn't get out of the blue. Their bodies just can't tolerate anymore and it starts to break. And so, my whole thinking during my entire time going to school, because the program that I was studying was an oncology program. My entire thinking was, “Well, these people who are suffering from these really horrible, insidious diseases like cancer,” which if you do your research and you look at it a lot, most cancers are related to, as far as western medicine is concerned, an inflammatory state. If I can get inflammation down with qigong for cancer patients to help them in their recovery, this would be perfect for athletes. I mean, it's just different because it's not alive in their body, but their manufacturing that inflammation themselves and there are studies all over China that shows that one of the main things that qigong does for cancer patients is it gets their inflammation markers way down. And so as I was doing all my research I’m like, “Oh shoot, man. We should do this with the athletes.” because it's the perfect marriage for what they're doing.
Ben: When you say inflammation markers you mean like HSCRP and cytokines and things like that?
Chris: All that stuff, yes.
Ben: Okay. Now, what about this idea that cancer is a result of pent up emotions like bitterness and anger and shoving stuff deep down inside? Like you told my kids last night, we had a little bit of a discussion about this, that if they feel those emotions that they should just let them out and not suppress them. What does qigong do for those type of emotions? When we're getting rid of stagnation in the liver and the spleen or I’m standing in our backyard, like where we were this morning, and we’re sweeping different energies out from the body. Is that doing the same thing? Is that clearing those type of emotions that would then lead to physical manifestation of things like inflammation that would then lead down that long road to cancer?
Chris: Yes. When you think of cancer, cancer's sort of the end of the road. The cancer itself, it took a long time for theoretical soil to be rich enough to grow something like that. So Chinese medicine looks at the emotional state of the patient very closely because in a lot of respects we believe that that's the route to all chronic illness. Okay. Nothing acute like shin splints or when you’ve got a cavity. Go to a dentist. Get it taken care. A broken bone? Head to your western doctor. If you have something chronic now, it's a wise decision to get an eastern medical minded person in the mix because what we're looking at is, again, the cancer itself or anything that’s sort of been ongoing for a while, has been there for a while and most of the strategies that western doctors use to address those illnesses are more about eradicating what's there in terms of the flower, I guess we could say, whatever a tumor would be or what have you. And we don't get into the thinking of, “Okay, what started this?” What enriched soil so this could actually take place.
Chris: And so we talk about emotions, so like we did that Five Yin Organ exercises today, those emotions, we classify some of those emotions to specific lung or specific organs like, for example, grief and sadness reside in the lungs. Anger and rage are in the liver. Anxiousness and nervousness, all that stuff is in the heart. Worry is in the spleen and fear is in the kidney. So those things, if you find a person who is like a rage-aholic, they will tend to have liver-related, gallbladder-related stuff. And when I mean rage-aholic I mean someone who, not even someone who expresses himself well, somebody who is penting up, holding it in. My father, for example. One of the reasons that I'm so heavily into the whole qigong thing is when I was going to school he developed something called polymyalgia rheumatic which is a really terrible term that says his entire nervous system is inflamed. They don't have any solutions for it. It’s just an umbrella term and, “Here’s a bunch of prednisone.” Rest of your life, walking around using prednisone which is, it's a miracle drug in some senses and it’s an absolute nightmare in other ways. And when he was going through this… it’s funny because I was living at San Jose at the time and he lives in a town called [41:01] ______ like three hours away and this poor guy would drive in to come see football games, he’s on this prednisone. So he's feeling better. Before he was diagnosed and before they started putting him on the drug, he would have such severe leg pain that you couldn’t walk on certain days or he would bend over, he's a rancher, we raise horses. So he would bend over to pick up a feed bucket and like double visioning, go blind and it would be for a day at a time. And so he was having all these tests run and they're like, “No, [41:29] ______. Here’s prednisone. Good luck.”
And so when he was going through all this, we brought him in when we were doing our clinical rounds because we went through four major phases of my program. A practitioner, therapist master and doctor. Entering my therapist rounds I was like, “Hey, why don’t you come and try this. It can't hurt.” It’s certainly not gonna, the great thing about the medical qigong practice is it will do no harm. We can’t really set you back. We can only help you sort of edge forward. And he came and got seen and he had a wonderful experience. He’s an old Vietnam vet and never talked about it. So he started making regular trips up to see some of the senior students that we had, some of my Sifu’s most trusted people and doing like paid visits. And basically what I’m [42:13] ______ to was just this old guy, he's a wonderful man, he’s my hero, but he’s a guy who, Vietnam and he went through a divorce and had all this stuff going on his life and he never expressed himself, okay? And you put on a good face for everybody. Always smiling, he's just the greatest dude ever, but inside he’s screaming. He wasn't getting it out. And so the gentleman who started working on him gave him a simple exercise called “Beat the Bag” which is a funky, weird… Did a couple dowels. Did a 10-pound bag of rice covered in duct tape and you got a sign that say “beat the crap out of it” and you're using specific sounds. It's pounding away and what he's doing…
Ben: Sounds amazing. I do that with my Onnit mace and my big tire that’s out there by the pickup truck and I go out there just banging on that thing sometimes.
Chris: Yes and what it did is it gave him an outlet. Let them release stuff and he went from needing prednisone to being weaned off prednisone and fine, he’s good to go now.
Chris: And it's, again, it goes back to, here is a guy who lived a very good life and he’s been a phenomenal father. He’s been a phenomenal husband, he’s a phenomenal soldier. He just needed an outlet and his body was basically being torched by the angering sort of all the stuff that was in his system. And once he was given a release valve, all his stuff went away and this is just one example of having emotions drive what's going on in the physical tissues.
Ben: Wow. So yang would be like over excitability and people just amped up nervous systems that eventually leads to things like overtraining and adrenal issues and stagnation of qi, and that's where qigong for the athlete and for the exerciser and for the heart, charging high achiever would come in pretty handy.
Chris: Yes absolutely.
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Ben: Now, last night, for example, like after we finished, I felt amazing. I had great sex later on. You opened up what you called my lower dantian and you talked a lot about this lower dantian and how much importance that you place on it. And I noticed on some of your articles on Breaking Muscle you talk about the lower dantian in relation not just to sex, but to speed, and the power, and the movement. What’s the lower dantian and why is that so important?
Chris: So we look at the body a bunch of different ways and when I say “we” I mean…
Ben: And by the way, I'm gonna interrupt you because when you guys hear me drop knowledge about Chris’ articles online, I’ll link to his Dragon Door stuff and also his breaking muscles stuff if you just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/holder. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/HOLDER which is Chris’ last name. So bengreenfieldfitness.com/holder. Okay. So fill me in on the lower dantian.
Chris: Okay. So Chinese medicine people will look at the body in a bunch of different ways. We look at the physical body like the tissues that's considered to be ging and then the emotional body, which if you wanna get real woo-woo and esoteric, it’s maybe kind of ideas like your aura for those people who can understand that language. And then your spirit body which is this gigantic version of you that's connected to the divine and all that stuff. For those people who are familiar with like the shocker system, depending upon which group you follow just like 7, 9, 13, whatever you wanna consider it the shocker of these major energy centers. In my world we look at the lower, middle, and upper dantian. The lower dantian is this major energy center. Think of like the spire that burns in your belly, this cauldron of just white hot light that is situated behind your belly button just south of your sternum and just north of your perineum and it’s this big container of energy.
Ben: And you have the upper, the middle, and the lower.
Chris: Middle is in the chest kind of in the heart and the upper is up in the head and they’re all sort of related to specific sort of qualities of that person. I know you're very much into the mind, body, spirituality, peace of everything you're doing. This plays right into that. The lower dantian is in charge of a lot of things, but mostly in charge of your physicality. So what we were talking about like the physical tissues and then we were talking about an athlete like yourself or a football player or somebody who's training with weights. The more robust that part of them is the more that cauldron is full, the more that you can pack as much energy in there. The more the physical tissues are going to be enhanced and that….
Ben: That's where you hear that word like ging or essence that's where you’d hold all that ging in your lower dantian.
Chris: Exactly. And when you even think about ging when we talk about sex and stuff. When a man ejaculates, you're giving your ging away.
Chris: And so when you talk to like hard core…
Ben: That's why there's a lot of times like that superstition or that practice a lot of times that you shouldn’t have sex before you go for like a hard race or a hard workout. You’re getting rid of some of your ging. You’re giving away some of your ging.
Chris: Exactly. You’re giving somebody the way in and ultimately I mean that’s…
Ben: No matter how much it helps you sleep the night before the race, that’s why sometimes it’s not worth it.
Chris: Every once in a while you should just retain a little bit. And so, building that out is going to allow your body to become, I guess the best word is robust. I like that word because it sort of fills in a lot of points.
Ben: That’s even that whole idea behind ayurvedic medicine, that concept of not ejaculating every time that you have sex or ejaculating only at certain times during the month.
Chris: Sure. And the more you build that, what we saw on the study was you have these athletes who… we only have a few rules with them and none of them were in terms of you can/you can't do that. We never talk to them about sex even though most of those athletes are probably having some sort of relationship whether it be with a partner themselves. We spend a lot of time focusing on building up the lower dantian. So when we were working today, when we were doing the what we call the beating drumming exercise, that's the build and fill that back up. And what you’ll find is, and I'm not 100% sure how old you are, but as we get older…
Ben: I’m 35.
Chris: 35. So I’m 42. As we get older, as your sex drive declines a lot of that is because the lower dantian is starting to disperse and they’re not doing anything to feed that. So a lot of the exercises that we showed you outside and some of the stuff that I did for you last night when you were on the table, you can take a man who’s in his 50s who should be drives dropping off the cliff and the erections are whatever, you build that lower dantian and now what you're doing is you're turning back the clock for them. And I’ve seen, more often than not, a lot of my male patients who’ve come into the clinic to see me. Even young guys. It’s kind of crazy. They’ll come in and they’ll, one of their chief complaints is they have stuff with erections, and for me, understanding this stuff the way I do, it’s a very simple fix. And a lot of the getting completely geeked up on Viagra and things like that, you wouldn't have to do that if you would just spend a little time nurturing that part of who you are.
Ben: Right, and a lot of times you'll hear like erectile dysfunction is related to poorer vascular function or endothelial dysfunction or poor production of nitric oxide, and what you're saying is that might be the case for a lot of guys, but for like a healthy, young dude like myself, if I were experiencing something like that it would be like stagnation of qi and…
Chris: Or lack thereof in lower dantian.
Ben: Or too much yang and not enough yin.
Chris: Could be, yes. And we’re talking about the disharmony piece.
Chris: Because when you’re talking about yang, it's all about harmony, it’s all about balance. You and I talked about it, and forgive me for not knowing and I know you’ll fill in the blank for me, but you went to Florida to have a special treatment done?
Ben: Yeah, the acoustic soundwave therapy for your dick, baby.
Chris: Yeah, and you know what, another way to do that, the poor man’s version of that is beating and drumming because what you're doing is you're waking those tissues…
Ben: Beating and drumming like what we were doing outside earlier.
Chris: Yeah, and your…
Ben: And by the way, for those of you who are listening in, it’s not beating and drumming your crotch. You’re not actually out there beating on your crotch. You’re just moving energy around.
Chris: Right, and what we're doing is we’re using kind of the energy of the earth and heavens and all that stuff, and we’re very specific movements and sort of intentions to draw energy to that area and start to pack and sort of fill that area out. So what you were receiving with that therapy that you received, the beating and drumming does a very similar thing because you're filling that up and your dilating all those issues and you’re waking those things up. It’s also great for digestion and most people who know and have done any study know that the stomach in that area is the second brain and it has a lot of communication with all the good stuff that goes in the gut, and those exercises and building the lower dantian out help all those things.
Ben: Yeah. You have an article on the lower dantian on Breaking Muscle and embedded in that article is a whole video on beating and drumming. So I’m gonna link to that one in the show notes for those of you who wants to just try this beating and drumming exercise. Same for women too, can they increase their sexual performance by doing something like that?
Chris: 100 percent.
Ben: Cool. Okay. So you also, you're obviously an RKC instructor, so you do a lot of kettlebell swing and you were training me like I work out this morning. We did 10 by 10 kettlebell swing. You and me and my boys, and then we did our qigong practice after that when it comes to something like performance, not sexual performance, but physical performance, speed, power, strength, how could one harness the lower dantian in activities like that because you know, let’s say, I wanna make my kettlebell swing more effective.
Chris: This is gonna be a super lame answer. This is where the interview gets just super lame.
Ben: Come on, man. I gave you like a whole cup full of cacao nibs before this.
Chris: You did. I have to reach deep. It goes back to making sure that that part of you is just topped off. The idea is the more limitless from an energetic standpoint that you are, especially in that area, when we're talking about being an athlete or when we’re talking about being a strength athlete. The more robust you are in that area, the more go you’re gonna have and in order to, you know better than anyone, when it comes to training it's about consistency. It’s about hitting certain intensities that you need to hit at various workouts to make sure that you're getting adaptations that you’re looking for. What you can afford to do whether it’d be through diet or lack of sleep or you're putting crap in your body in terms of like alcohol, most things, during major training times. If you're going into a workout and from my vantage point the lower dantian is not tapped out or topped off or you're kind of like lacking there, something's gonna…
Ben: You would have a lot of qi in your lower dantian.
Chris: Correct. You’re gonna have a substandard performance. So you’ll see, I have a handful of guys that I'll treat to my standing treatment. So they’re similar to your laying down treatment last night, I will treat them on the sideline before the football game. I literally will pull them aside and we'll do a 5-minute just sort of recharge. The vast majority of that work is clearing their heads for them and then building the qi out onto their lower dantian. So that they have just a second gas tank basically.
Ben: Is that what you called, just a little bit of going outside doing this “the qi packing”?
Chris: Yeah, you’re packing the qi in the belly.
Ben: And how does that look?
Chris: In terms of what….
Ben: Yeah, we were doing, it was almost like we were putting on a belt, I think is the…
Chris: Oh no. So what we were doing, that was when we were tying off. It’s called “turtle breathing”.
Ben: So the “qi packing”, what’s the qi packing?
Chris: So it's building that area out, okay? And remember what was, do you remember my cue to you when we started doing the turtle breathing? What was the one thing that I told you to do before we started? Do you remember?
Chris: It was one of the weirdest things that I’ve said to you this weekend.
Ben: You were talking about breathing into my perineum and my anus.
Chris: And closing your anus.
Ben: Yeah, closing my anus.
Chris: You'd be surprised how many people walk around who were just sort of open. And, oh yeah, just kind of like loose and everything’s sort of spilling out of them from a qi perspective. So when we were going through school, when we were learning all this stuff and especially with the martial art is you're building the energy for martial purposes. We hold this sort of continual wink. So when I say “wink” it’s like you’re closing your eye and you’re not squeezing hard, but you're holding this wink at all times downstairs and you get used to it. I mean I'm like, right now I can feel that I'm pulled up and I’m holding. It's to pack and hold everything.
Ben: And it's a good thing. You want to be not like consciously clenched but tight down there.
Chris: Don't you need to know about tight. Think of like how you would, like you were gonna wink to your girlfriend. It's that level of tension, it's you know…
Ben: Interesting. A lot of people, a lot of athletes, for example, well not a lot of them, but many struggle things like incontinence or prolapse especially women, but I know even some men get this as well.
Chris: 100 percent they do and a lot of it's because they're not pulled up and as they push the anus becomes this opening and you're leaking life force basically.
Ben: And they’re not packing the qi?
Chris: They’re not packing and holding the qi in place. So when we did the turtle breathing, we were closing up, we should’ve been closed the whole time, but I really made it a point to tell you that and part of it was because we were going to hinge over, and when you hinge over you naturally kind of release your pelvic floor and we don't want you to do that, we want to continue to pull up on that. And then we were just tying off any excess qi and rooting it down in to the lower dantian to just store it away. We’re packing it away. And again, the idea is that you're going to have it for use for later on down the road whether it be the next workout or the next bedroom encounter or whatever you might need it for. It's ready and it's there and you can use it.
Ben: So when we were doing like the 10 sets of 10 kettlebell swing that we did this morning, I could literally imagine energizing my lower dantian, packing my qi, having a little wink in the anus.
Ben: And as I'm doing my swing literally a couple of things you had me focus on was the squeezing of the glutes and the hips a little bit and the hollowing, you had me kind of like holding almost like a front plank kind of posture.
Ben: Top of the swing. So you could take a lot of these concepts and even if you’re not doing a qigong practice just incorporate them into something as simple as like a 10 by 10 kettlebell swing workout.
Chris: Exactly, and I wrote a piece on that about intention. So a lot of your guests from former podcasts have talked about intention and how really pivotal that is and to make it more user friendly…
Ben: Yeah, like Mike Bledsoe.
Chris: Mike Bledsoe is huge?
Ben: I think, was it Mike who introduced us?
Chris: To the intention piece?
Ben: No, Mike Bledsoe. Was he who introduced you…
Chris: No. David Weck.
Ben: It was David Weck?
Chris: Yeah, David Weck.
Ben: Who I’m also interviewing in a couple of weeks.
Chris: Yeah. I was trying to come up with a way about…
Ben: Guy who invented the bosu ball.
Chris: Right, and your listeners, you guys make sure you tune into that one. It will be a riot the whole time. The kettlebell swing, if you think about the way the beating and drumming was working and the kettlebell swing, they look similar even the one that you’re holding a weight, you're hinging a little bit more that are in very similar motion. And so, what we've talked about and some of the things that I have written was taking the intention of packing qi away and like using, one of the terms I used with you when we were starting the beating and drumming was I made a reference to the old time water pumps. You know, when you pump the handle and the water comes to the surface that was the motion that we were going to use for that exercise. While kettlebell swings have a very similar style, a very similar motion and if you go into that exercise with the idea that not only are you going to be getting the fitness benefit of it but we’re going to be circulating qi and packing it in the belly. You can start to actually do qigong while you’re training and kind of double down. So that's where those ideas come from.
Ben: What about exercises other than the kettlebell swing? Like if you had other good exercises that you could use to practice something like this, just get bored with kettlebell swings?
Chris: The only exercise anyone should do, Ben, is kettlebell swing.
Ben: (laughs) That’s not true because the RKC, the certifications, you were telling me this today, it’s kettlebell swings, Turkish get-ups, clean and press.
Chris: Clean and then press.
Ben: Clean and then press, snatch, and goblet squat. So those are the five basic kettlebell exercises…
Ben: That you think, or six… Oh yeah, because clean and press are two separate things.
Chris: And for that certification, those are the six sort of bread and butter. Once you own those six then anything that comes after that is some you know, derivative.
Ben: I dig it like I mess around with all six of those and I feel amazing when I do any of those exercises. I can't wait to learn them really, really well to go to the cert.
Chris: We’ll have a great week.
Ben: Yeah. Okay. Cool and by the way you guys, I’ll link to the Dragon Door website in the show notes if you guys want to go hunt down one of these certifications. They have them all over the world. I think yours is down in San Luis, Obispo?
Chris: No, we’re doing, so the one you and I are gonna do, it will be in February and it's in Pleasant Hill which is Bay Area. We’re gonna be able to have CrossFit and we're gonna sell this one out and have great experience. So if any of your listeners are looking to do kettlebell stuff, that's a cert to come to.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So when it comes to kettlebell training and qigong, it sounds to me these are kind of like bread and butter, could people learn both at the same time?
Chris: You could.
Ben: Okay. So you’d go to an RKS Cert to ideally learn how to really truly do kettlebell training the right way.
Ben: How about qigong like nobody’s gonna, well not nobody, but a lot’s not gonna go and be a doctor of qigong, at least not a lot of folks can drop everything and go do what you did for nine freakin’ years or however long you were in school. Best place for people to start if they just, like is there a certain breath work practice that they could learn even without going to some class? Is there some kind of a video or an article that you've written? Walk me through and just like a basic qigong exercise so people could start with to tap into what this feels like.
Chris: My first recommendation to anybody who wants this, because it is a little abstract and hard to find especially quality stuff, would be the twin sister of qigong which is tai chi. And so, if you're looking to do any kind of energy work that’s fairly mainstream, you're gonna get a lot of that from a tai chi class. So taking tai chi and getting involved with that. If you’re looking specifically for qigong you’re gonna have to search a little bit harder. There are videos out there. There's a lot of people who produce videos that are, I've seen a lot of stuff, of course John Du Cane has his videos and everything he does…
Ben: And John Du Cane has videos?
Chris: Oh Yeah.
Ben: The only ones I’ve done before is Robert Peng. I actually went back there and interviewed him in New York City and actually by the time this interview drops I think that one may have already come out, but he does this thing called “The Master Key”, “The Master Key” book and the Master Key videos. You look like you could probably crush him with your pinky finger, but he’s a very interesting guy. He's graceful…
Chris: If he’s a qi, trust me, don't sell him short. He’s probably got a ton of power.
Chris: My Sifu, the guy that I learned from, he's got the old video out and it's called “Qigong: The Healing Workout.” And it's a lot of the elements that you did with me this morning are on that video. Problem with that video goes back to some of the things we've already talked about which is it's a kind of a camp-y video. It's got some Star Trek feel to it. It's a little goofy.
Ben: That’s what Robert Peng’s videos are.
Chris: And so you’re like “ooohh”…
Ben: Yeah, you have like the “oh” and he’s like teaching the video and then there’s like the overlay of like the light pearls coming out through his body.
Ben: And it's really poor CGIs. Pretty crappy, but you get the basic concept.
Chris: My Sifu’s video is exactly the same type of stuff. They're all dressed in the same weird kind of Star Trek outfit and they're these buttons and they’re in front of the green screen and there's waterfalls, and then the mountain setting that it flips to it. If you can get past all that information and the exercise, the ideas on those videos are priceless.
Ben: And who is your Sifu’s name?
Chris: His name is Doctor Jerry Alan Johnson.
Ben: Jerry Alan Johnson. Is that stuff on like Amazon if I were to find a link for people on there?
Chris: If you were to jump on Amazon right now and put in ‘Jerry Alan’, with one ‘l’, Johnson, that Qigong movie and then his doctoral books will show up.
Ben: Okay. Cool, cool. Yeah, I actually see it here. Awesome. I like it. Okay. So in terms of Chinese medicine, there’s qigong, there’s massage, there’s acupuncture and there's herbology. You take herbs? Do you take like specific Chinese herbs that help you with everything from kettlebell swings to sexual energy to packing your qi?
Chris: I, personally don't actually. To be completely frank with you and I don't get needled very often and I don't get massage very often. I lean on my qigong practice a lot for all the energetic stuff and again, it goes back to me being somebody who spent a lot of time really focusing on that part of the traditional Chinese medicine side. The herbs are great, and you know probably from people you've been around, people who know herbs have spent their entire lives learning about herbs. It’s not something that you can take a weekend course on. I mean, could people who know the herbs and especially the Chinese herbs in terms of giving you mixtures for certain ailments and certain disease, these people studied their entire lives to get the level of skill to put the right combinations together. And so the fancy answer to your question is no, I don't do a lot of herbs and I lean on my qigong practice a ton.
Ben: Yeah. I was just curious because my Chinese medicinal practitioner here gave me one bottle of these powdered herbs that were designed specifically to improve, I believe, or help get rid of like stagnation in the liver. And he combines this with acupuncture and then he encouraged me to do qi gong along with it, but it sounds to me like herbology seems to be an important part of this. There's another guy who I've interviewed on the show before and probably one of the best-selling products on my website because it's so freakin’ efficacious and he makes it in this little spot down in Portland, Oregon. It’s called TianChi. It’s just a collection of all these different Chinese herbs that help with flow of qi through the body.
Ben: And it seems like it's pretty powerful stuff to include along with this.
Chris: Completely. And think about it like this, Ben. Qi gong practice, the stuff that we did today, it's gonna carry you through the next, say, 24 hours, and then emails and plane flights and sort of the headaches that go along with…
Ben: I don’t do any of that stuff.
Chris: Yeah, I know but just imagine if that's the way it was. All those things are gonna just start to move the energy and situate in a different way than what we reset for you when we were together. If you don't do something about that then that new pattern sort of takes hold and it becomes who you are and then if there's anything, any sort of kick back on that negatively it’s going to then start up for you. What the herbs do is it helps fill in the gaps in between. It allows you to carry a certain energetic state for a longer time because the herbs are alive in your system and they’re setting off energy for wherever they need to be, whatever their specific sort of assignment is and it helps you kind of keep things consistent. It goes back to consistency. Intention and consistency as the secret to all things good.
Ben: Okay. Got it. What’s Taoism have to do with all this? Because you describe yourself as a Taoist.
Chris: Taoism. So Taoism is one of the…
Ben: Taoism, Christian, Buddhist, Pagan.
Ben: I think you’re a little mix of everything.
Chris: A little bit of everything. I’m super maw when it comes to religious spiritual stuff. For those of you who don't know, Chinese have three main religions: Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. Those are three kinds of primary religions or original Chinese related religions there. My Sifu was a Taoist priest; he’s a Taoist bishop. And so much of the esoteric practice and a lot of them are mystical shamanic stuff that we did came from the Taoist lineage. And so, you can't do qigong and those types of things without there being a spiritual element coming in. So one of the things that we, you and I, talked about when we started last night was we can lean in any direction that we want just tell me what your religious background is so that I have a little bit of foundation. So when we're doing this work I know what to avoid and which potholes not to step in.
Ben: Yeah, you asked me that last night and told you my background is reformed Baptist Christian in North Idaho, homeschooled, conservative.
Chris: There you go. Probably we were meant to be…
Ben: Who know is very into eastern medicine too.
Chris: Of course, but Taoism has its footing very deep in the old practices because these shamanic Taoist were the ones who were doing the guys in the caves and they were doing the mystical healing. So qigong kind of stemmed from a lot of those times. So Taoism is a very firm footing and qigong and the more authentic you can get down those roads, the more powerful the practice becomes. So I studied, like I said, with Doctor Johnson, my sifu, and he’s a Taoist bishop and so we did, I did years of Taoist training with him and was ordained in November of 2012 in Mungo Shatin, China, and it was one of the most amazing things in my life. But it’s more of the shamanic mystic side of things. Less staying at the pulpit, and pounding the pavement, and preaching the word. It's more of the shamanic side.
Ben: Okay. Interesting. So that's one of the three major religions in China. You have Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism.
Chris: Yes, sir.
Ben: And you’re more of a Taoist.
Chris: I’m a Taoist.
Ben: Okay. Got it.
Chris: But I’m a Taoist Catholic.
Ben: Got it. Okay.
Ben: Cool. I got a couple more questions for you.
Chris: Give them to me.
Ben: Why’d you put your tongue in the roof of your mouth when you do this stuff?
Chris: Well, depending on where you put them. So these are tongue positions and they are going to access very specific qualities. So the fire position, for example, was related to the heart and it's more of a neutral tongue position, and that's where your teeth and your gums from the top meet. So when you're doing any of these practices, if you don't know where your tongue’s supposed to be or if ever it’s been brought up to you and you’re not sure, that’s sort of that neutral safe place. When you take your tongue and you put it straight up, so on the roof of your mouth, that’s the wood position. It also helps you access certain levels of the upper dantian and we're getting more spiritual now. You can fill your head open and all that stuff. You work your tongue around certain aspects of your mouth and you access certain qualities. If I need water, I put my tongue up and back. If I need metal down below beneath my teeth and where the gums meet, tongue position plays a big role when you get really deep into the practices. It's nothing that I would probably recommend to just the novice. And if we’re gonna do anything we’re gonna put it in the fire position which, again, is where the teeth and gums meet at the top, but you can you can amplify. Just think about plugging into ways to amplify the practice by moving your tongue around. So when I was working on you last night, so I’m working on you liver, for example, and I’m tonifying your liver so I'm adding qi, I would roof my tongue so I can amp up what I'm pulling in and giving it to you, or if I’m doing your kidney, if I go into the water position and you move your tongue into certain spots.
Ben: I was curious. You feel so much different as soon as you do that. It’s like this little electrical charge.
Chris: Take your tongue and stick it straight down. Okay. Take your hand and do this, and feel yourself a root.
Ben: Oh yeah. I feel that.
Chris: You completely drop into the ground.
Ben: That’s crazy.
Chris: And it goes back and these are hand seals that I’m giving it to.
Ben: Yeah. What’s happening here, Chris basically, those of you who can’t see, Chris took his fist and he kind of grabbed his thumbs and just kind of pointed his fists towards the ground a little bit.
Chris: And you can feel everything pull down to your feet.
Ben: Yeah. So that’s how you ground yourself. Interesting. The other question I have for you was you had mentioned a book last night that you said would completely blow my mind. What was the name of that book?
Chris: So this has nothing to do with qigong or Taoism.
Ben: Oh really? Okay.
Chris: I am on a little bit of Bob Frissell tear right now. I'm a big ‘the band’ tool. A lot of their stuff. One of their albums primarily was a lot of the information and the lyrics that were written for this was taken from or at least reported on the internet was taken from a book called “Nothing In This Book Is True, But It's Exactly How Things Are.” And it's one of those books that you know, it's a funky read. It's kind of the camp-y read but there are pieces in this book that just blew me away and I was reading it, you know, we qi people, I can feel myself light up and I could feel my hands humming and that type of stuff. As I’m reading this stuff it’s like my body’s telling me…
Ben: I’m tuned in, dude.
Chris: Yeah, and I think you’ll…
Ben: Bob Frissell?
Chris: I think it's F-R-I-S-S-E-L-L.
Ben: And the book is called “Nothing In This Book Is True”?
Chris: “But It's Exactly How Things Are.” Alright. “Nothing In This Book Is True, But It's Exactly How Things Are.”
Ben: What’s it about?
Chris: It’s about marker buzz and aliens, and Atlantis and global warming and all kinds of stuff. It’s kind of a take on his life and what he's experienced. Who he studied with and some of the phenomenal things that he's learned.
Ben: That’s crazy, man. You know, you look like a freakin’ football player, big ol’ strong meathead who just crushes people, but you're really tuned in spiritually. It’s amazing and you showed up to my front doorstep and I was like, “This dude’s a qi gong master? He looks like he’s just like a freakin’ lego.” What are those outdoor games, the Scottish games? The highland games. You look like you should have a quilt on and be throwin’ around logs in the highland games.
Chris: Which I'm hoping that someday here down the road someone like myself could package this type of stuff and then appeal to the more…
Ben: Well, that’s why I wanted to interview because you’re this perfect blend of eastern mysticism and westerner strength.
Ben: I dig it. That's exactly the type of thing that I think is super important. Being able to tap into qi gong and swinging a heavy kettlebell at the same time. I mean that’s to me is a really cool way to live is to have one foot in each camp, right. Ancestral living and modern science. Western strength and eastern mysticism. I think it's great.
Chris: Most guys who are doing this type of stuff or getting there, they’re more martial, they're more slight build, they’re just a little bit different and they’re not going to appeal to a weight training crowd.
Ben: Adult flowers.
Chris: Maybe, and they can probably kick total ass.
Ben: Yeah, that’s true. They can do the one-inch punch like Bruce Lee.
Chris: Yeah, but we need someone, whether it’d be me or someone like what I’m doing, to make it a little bit more accessible to those groups.
Ben: Right. bengreenfieldfitness.com/holder is where I'm gonna put all the show notes us for everything that Chris and I talked about from the books that he recommended, to his articles on Breaking Muscle, to Dragon Door , if you guys want to get an RKC Cert and that's also where you can leave your comments, you can leave your questions. I will also put their big album of photos and videos of Chris not only doing the work on me last night on the massage table but also the qi gong and the kettlebell swings we did. This morning if you want to kinda see what Chris looks like and see some of the exercises that he put me through. They’ll be plenty of bonus photos and videos and all that good stuff over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/holder.
Chris, thanks for coming all the way up to Spokane, Washington, hanging out on the property and showing me all the crazy knowledge up inside your head, dude.
Chris: Thanks for the shake.
Ben: Alright. Well folks, thanks for listening in. Until next time, I’m Ben Greenfield along with Chris Holder, signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com.
What separates us from the rest is something that happens every morning around 11:00am. I walk over to the stereo, change the music to either Enya or Lama Gyurme, and the room stops. Those athletes who have been involved with this process all gather around, we walk over to a central space in the room, and we begin a practice that has been performed for thousands of years.
Chris Holder is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Cal Poly in beautiful San Luis Obispo, California. Along with working with 22 Division I athletic teams and over 500 student-athletes, Chris is a Doctor of Medical Qigong (DMQ-China). Under the tutelage of world famous Qigong Grand Master Dr. Jerry Alan Johnson, Dr. Holder conducted groundbreaking research on the effects of Medical Qigong Therapy with athletes in competition, the first of its kind.
With the blending of western strength training practices and eastern medical and spiritual practices, Chris co-authored a study investigating the effects of a daily Qigong practice on strength gains in collegiate aged athletes. These two pieces have spawned additional studies that are currently in progress. The first is investigating the effects of Qigong on flow induction. The second could be one of the most important studies in concussion research. Both are showing tremendous benefits to each area of study.
Chris is one of only 13 Master RKC’s in the world and is known in many strength training circles as one of the first to introduce kettlebell training to collegiate athletics. Chris has worked with athletes at all levels, including professionals in the NFL, NBA and MLB. Chris is a regular contributor to several of the major strength training websites on the web, including, Breaking Muscle, TrainHeroic and Dragon Door.
During our discussion, you’ll discover:
-How Chris blends Eastern Medicine and bad-ass strength concepts to get breakthrough performance in his student-athletes…[7:40]
-The five yin organs that Chris targets with his work…[11:20]
-How Chris has substantiated the power of consistent Qigong work and its enormous benefits to strength-trained athletes…[17:15]
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Fat loss Gaining muscle Having more energy Motivation and willpower Racing and competition Biohacking my mind and body Anti-Aging Injuries/Pain Just help getting started! Other/Anything else
YES, HOOK ME UP!
-Why Chris thinks Qi Gong rivals performance enhancing drugs when it comes to performance breakthroughs…[23:10]
-How Chris went from being a college football player to becoming a Medical Qi Gong doctor…[24:20]
-Why more athletes and exercise enthusiasts, and the fitness community in general, aren’t utilizing Qi Gong…[33:00]
-The link between emotions, inflammation and cancer, and how you can use Qi Gong to release negative emotions…[36:56]
-Why the lower dantian is so important for everyone to build…[44:55]
-How to increase drive and sexual performance with specific Qi Gong exercises…[50:55]
-How you can use your mind to make the kettlebell swing more effective…[52:45]
-Why it’s important to put your tongue on the roof of your mouth when doing these practices…[68:35]
-Why you need to read “Bob Frissell – Nothing In This Book Is True”…[70:36]
-And much more…
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