15 June 2007
"Accountability breeds response-ability." Steven Covey
Table of Contents
WDK Chief Instructor Promoted by Rick Collette
Interview with Sooyong Kim,
Licensed Shiatsu Therapist, Energy Therapist,
and Aikido Instructor
by Steve Amoia for WDK Slayer News
She also teaches Aikido at the University of Maryland Club at College Park. Before Aikido, she studied Tangsoodo, Tae Kwon Do, and Karate. She is a member of the Aikido Shobukan Dojo of Washington, D.C. (http://www.aikido-shobukan.org/) Her web site may be found at http://www.sooyongkim.com. She is a graduate of Princeton University, and worked several years in the insurance industry. I asked Sooyong to share some of her insights and expertise with regards to the healing/martial arts.
Your career path had an interesting turn in the direction of the healing arts. What made you depart life in Corporate America to dedicate your energies to alternative health and martial arts?
I had reached a point where I was questioning the purpose of my life. My healing path began when I took a Shiatsu class at the Ohashi Institute in 1996. From then on, there was no turning back.
A few months ago, I interviewed a Shiatsu practitioner from Switzerland. He provided us with an introduction to the healing art of Shiatsu. For those who may have missed that discussion, could you please describe Shiatsu therapy from your own perspective?
Shiatsu applies the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine through pressure and stretching, and is sometimes called “Acupuncture without needles.” We all experience the ups and downs of life, and when we don’t address and release emotions regularly, energy blocks can stay in the body and create disease. For instance, when there is a storm and a tree falls into a stream, the flow of water is impeded and may eventually be blocked completely. When energy (chi) is not flowing optimally through all of our meridians, we may experience symptoms like discomfort or pain, which could develop into something more serious. In Shiatsu, the goal is to remove blocks to the chi so that it is flowing freely through all the meridians.
When someone comes to you for Shiatsu or other therapies, how do you determine what ails them? How are diagnoses made in Shiatsu, and what are some of the most common afflictions that you treat in your practice?
In Shiatsu, the hara (lower abdomen) is palpated to feel the chi in each meridian, since each part of the hara represents a meridian. Then the meridians felt to be the most jitsu (overactive) and kyo (depleted) are chosen and worked on during the session to bring about balance. There are protocols from other healing therapies that I also use, but more and more, I am opening to my intuition and letting that guide me throughout the session. Some symptoms that people come to with include aches and pains (like lower back pain), strained muscles (like shoulders), digestive problems, headaches, nausea, diabetes, anxiety, and depression. Most of my clients are fairly healthy and use Shiatsu as preventive maintenance. I have, however, also worked with several cancer patients recently.
What is Reiki, and how is it used as a healing art?
Reiki is an ancient and simple system of “laying on of hands” healing derived from Tibetan Buddhism and “rediscovered” by Dr. Mikao Usui. An attunement (a transfer of energy from the teacher to the student which opens the body’s energy channels) allows the healer to open to universal energy (chi) and healing for him/herself and others. For more information, go to http://www.reiki.org. “Essential Reiki” by Diane Stein is the first book that published the symbols that are used in Reiki, a long-guarded secret.
Craniosacral Therapy, Vita Flex, and RainDrop Therapy are new treatment options. Would you be kind enough to define and discuss each one, along with how they augment and complement Shiatsu treatments?
Craniosacral Therapy uses a soft touch of no more than 5 grams, or the weight of a nickel to release restrictions in the functioning of a physiological body system called the craniosacral system, which consist of membranes and cerebrospinal fluid around the brain and spinal cord. It improves the functioning of the central nervous system and complements the body's natural healing processes.
Vita Flex is based upon a complete system of internal body “control points”. When applied by a pressure with a pull of the finger and a slight twist of the wrist, a vibration of healing energy is released to heal. Stanley Burroughs says in his book “Healing for the Age of Enlightenment,” that his many years of research led him to the conclusion that this system apparently originated in Tibet many thousands of years ago, long before the discovery of Acupuncture.
Raindrop Therapy combines Vita Flex and aromatherapy, using pure essential oils. The founder of Young Living Essential Oils, Gary Young, first demonstrated it at a workshop many years ago. For more information about essential oils, go to http://healyourself.younglivingworld.com.
You have studied and taught Aikido for many years. Could you please discuss the training regimen of Aikido?
Practicing Aikido definitely requires at least two people. Much of the training consists of becoming sensitive and aware enough to feel your partner's movement and working with that energy to change the direction of the movement by affecting the balance of your partner. You end each technique with a throw or a pin, which brings about a peaceful resolution. The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, known as O-Sensei, was skilled in various martial arts, yet towards the end of his life brought the art to harmony and reconciliation. It is important to practice with a variety of people to experience many body types, since the movement angles change with different bodies.
Ultimately, you want to get to the stage where your partner cannot feel what you are doing and so cannot resist at any stage of your technique. The other crucial aspect of aikido is the practice of “ukemi”, which is the art of attacking and falling safely. It is just as important to practice “ukemi” as it is to practice the art of throwing. In practice, we take turns being the attacker (uke) and defender (nage). Ultimately, aikido is a multiple attack art form, so you have to always be ready for the next attack, which means that your posture is always good, and even when you’re falling, you get back on balance as quickly as possible which may give you an opportunity to reverse the technique. Aikido is something you feel and experience, so if you just watch it, you won't fully get what it's all about.
You asked me how I, along with some other virtual members of WDK, learned the techniques of Dragon Kenpo without a consistent training partner or group. Coach Pfeiffer provided you with a tour of the Yellow Belt requirements. As an experienced martial artist, what are your views about learning an art in this manner?
(Note: Dr. Bobby Newman, an early instructor of Dragon Kenpo, is a certified behavior analyst, licensed psychologist, and also a college professor. In 1997, Dr. Newman, presented a paper entitled “Video Modeling Versus In Vivo Modeling and Reinforcement in Martial Arts Instruction,” to the annual convention of the International Association for Behavior Analysis. Here is an archived link for further detail of his findings).
I have respect for all types of learning and training. Since I have not had any experience with virtual training, I do not have an opinion on it at this time.
Thank you for your insights and expertise into these very intriguing topics.
DECIDE TO DECIDE - - Such a simple directive, but oh so powerful! We can push some things away from us once and have done with them! We can make a single decision about certain things that we will incorporate in our lives and then make them ours - - without having to brood and re-decide a hundred times what it is we will do and what we will not do. President Spencer W. Kimball
Nothing ventured, nothing gained
Phoebe Nelson Oshirak, RN, “Advanced” Tai Chi Student.
Almost anyone can enjoy Tai Chi. You can practice it just about anywhere (just disregard the folks who stand around and look at you funny)… and you can do it even if you have only a few minutes to spare. There is no equipment required, merely the desire and motivation to do it. I began learning Tai Chi earlier this year at the YMCA in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I was fortunate to have the expert guidance and coaching of Mr. Ron Peiffer. In addition to Tai Chi, Ron teaches Karate and other forms of martial arts to both young and old alike. Ron and his assistant, Mike, are inspiring and motivating people. Their enthusiasm and dedication to Tai Chi is contagious. When I watch them perform, I want to grow up some day and be just like them!
I am no spring chicken, being only a couple of years shy of seventy, but I managed to survive my first Tai Chi session quiet nicely, with nothing bruised except perhaps my ego! From the beginning, I was hooked on Tai Chi, however; I realized the movements and memory work would be challenging for me and I had doubts my brain could assimilate or remember the many moves required to perform even the basic routine. At first, I felt awkward and lacked confidence uncertain I could bring the movements together in the slow, graceful and continuous manner in which Coach Ron and Mike performed them.
Putting my doubts aside, I gathered courage and attended the second session…then the third. I felt more confident each time I went to class. I am not certain when it happened, but lo and behold, my brain began to connect the dots. After the fifth or sixth week, I was able to complete the entire beginning routine. Truthfully, I was still not sure of the moves nor was I graceful. Nevertheless, my brain seemed to take over and lead me from one move to the next without having to give it much thought. It was helpful to have other more accomplished classmates to follow and one other thing I noticed: it had become fun! Despite a full hour of intense concentration and practice, after a Tai Chi session I felt less stress, less fatigue and experienced a renewed energy, even at the end of a long day. I began to practice at home, working to coordinate my breathing with the Tai Chi movements. I made a concerted effort to slow my pace, which makes the Tai Chi movements more physically challenging and thus more beneficial. Without doubt, there was and continues to be, improvement in my muscle tone, coordination and balance, not to mention a more positive outlook about myself.
As I age, time seems to pass more quickly and in what felt like a blink of an eye, the eight- week course was over. What was I to do now without Tai Chi classes to anticipate?
Our last class concluded, I gathered my coat and car keys. Then I heard coach Ron saying, “You should sign up for the advanced Tai Chi session.” I stopped briefly, wondering if he was speaking to me. Probably not, I thought, because I was not ready to leave the nest or fly that high. Could I possibly master the 31 movements? Could I remember even a few of the 73 movements knowing there were days I had difficulty remembering what I ate for dinner the night before? I felt the blood drain from my face just thinking about it. How would I explain to my children that I was considering taking the “Advanced” Tai Chi course? I recalled their raised eyebrows when I announced some years earlier I had signed up for the motorcycle safety course. By some miracle I did received my license to “cruise” but not until after I completed the ten week motorcycle training course and taken a few spills in front of classmates young enough to be my grandchildren. Would this Tai Chi adventure be pushing the envelope? Would the children think their mother was ready for the funny farm?
Feeling intimidated and uncertain, I left the gym. I headed down the hall knowing escape was only a few feet away. Seconds before arriving at the door, something made me throw caution to the wind. Nothing ventured, nothing gained I thought, as I reached over and picked up a registration form for advanced Tai Chi. Then…like Elvis, I left the building. The rest is history.
Debunking of the Myths
The Claim that a belt is certification of ability is the original sin
of the martial arts community. It is not! Not here and not anywhere
else. If a Karate belt were really a certification of ability, the
holder would have to re-test at regular intervals. Yet how many
people have dropped out of a school, quit practicing, forgotten all
the techniques, and still, correctly, claim to be a Blue Belt or Brown
Belt, or a Black Belt? A Belt is simply an acknowledgement of
exposure to training. It means the student was made aware of the
techniques associated with that belt rank in that style. No more no
First let's make sure we understand something clearly; belt ranking
did not appear until Martial Arts introduction to America. Also; the
story of the belt changing color from white to black over time of
study in Japan – not true either. Sorry.
Belt ranking holds a serious place in modern Martial Arts. It may
have begun as merely a way to stretch out the learning curve so that
some schools could keep students longer, and thus earn more income,
but the reality is that belt ranking hold a very different place
We have a strict set of curriculum for each rank level, and glancing
down at the individuals belt gives teachers a very clear indication of
that student's ability and what they should be working on. It makes
life easier for the instructor to be able to separate a group of White
Belts and a group of Green Belts out into working groups after the
class warm-ups and Kata. I've found that by focusing on the
curriculum specified by the rank level, the student will learn much
faster than jumping around without any structure.
While I have never personally run across a Black Belt who has not
trained in many years still claiming the knowledge and rank, I am sure
it does happen. Does it make them less of a Black Belt? How long
would it take this person to be back up to speed as a Black Belt?
Once it's wrapped around your waist, you earned it. No one can take
it from you except yourself.
If you are not training to be a boxer don't bother training like a
boxer. You can't really spar with open hand martial arts techniques.
They are simply to dangerous and even illegal to use in most
tournaments. Kenpo techniques are used for rendering your attacker
unable to continue. Please pay attention to this point.
Continuous sparring builds endurance. Sparring also gets you used to
being attacked, and allows you to feel what it's like to be hit.
There are other obvious benefits such as learning how to move out of
the way of a full speed punch or kick, how to properly slip and
roundhouse swing, how to move yourself into position after an attack,
and a whole list of other things that would take a whole book to
To say that our techniques are too deadly or dangerous to use in
sparring is such a ridiculous and closed minded statement, that it
should be ignored. When someone makes a statement like this to me, I
think to myself that these folks are afraid to show how little they do
know or perhaps how little control over the techniques they really
One simple example of a sparring drill that I have found to be very
effective is to have an attacker and a defender. The defender can
only block, slip, roll, re-position, and strike once per round. The
attacker can do whatever they like. In this sparring drill, the
defender learns to use everything they have to block the barrage of
attacks, move themselves into new angles, and to make the one shot
count. (A note about the one shot; this isn't meant to be the "one
shot kill" of Karate-Do, this is meant to teach the defender that they
need to make every move count.)
Most Karate and Kung Fu schools teach "Forms" or "Katas". Katas are
not necessary in order to become effective at defending yourself.
Katas are useful for studying how techniques work
I wouldn't really call this one a debunk – although the statement
that "Katas(sic) are not necessary in order to become effective at
defending yourself" while factual, is not complete. No, you aren't
going to get in front of your attacker and perform whatever Kata you
were working on that morning (at least I hope not). Rather, for the
beginner, the Kata will teach proper stances, punching and kicking
techniques, and how to move.
Later in the practitioners' martial arts life, when the Kata is
performed on their own rhythm, they will discover things within the
Kata that were not so apparent when they first learned it.
For some, Kata have become as much a part of their morning ritual as
eating breakfast or (hopefully) showering. And, like the artists
techniques, the more it is practiced, the more it becomes a part of
them. They will find that the punches and kick are on target, the
endurance is heightened, and movement has become more fluid and less
A black belt around one’s waist symbolizes that they have shown great determination in their training. One who wears a black best knows many of the techniques taught in their style, and has the responsibility to pass them on to others while still continuing their own studies. Studying for the rank of black belt requires many hours of training. It requires a lot of time just to perfect a single technique. A true black belt never gives up when it comes to their training.
Achieving black belt status requires several different types of discipline. It requires physical discipline in that you have to be able to complete the techniques fluently. Mental concentration is needed because one has to be completely focused in order to receive their black belt. Discipline is required to obtain a black belt, but that does not mean that fun is not allowed.
Not everything comes easily to one that wears a black belt. When the holder of a black belt comes across a challenge, they take their time and overcome it. When a black belt teaches someone who holds a lower rank, they do not easily get frustrated. When a technique seems redundant and the end of one’s training is nowhere in sight, the black belt accomplishes their task through patience and diligence.
Receiving one’s black belt is just one of the many opportunities presented by World Dragon Kenpo. As a black belt, one must study hard, share their knowledge and practice their art. A black belt knows that they must carry on the traditions they have learned as well as their knowledge of techniques. As I have stated earlier, obtaining the rank of black belt is an honor, but it is but a step along the path of mastery of the black belt’s style.
Coach Ron Pfeiffer: 6th Dan; World Dragon Kenpo
A few months ago, it occurred to a few of us that Coach Ron had really been going beyond the call of duty with his students. People from all over the world are effected by World Dragon Kenpo, and the positive encouragement used by it's instructors to produced solid, well rounded
After a few chats with some of the WDK student base, I received
numerous responses from people citing just some of the great things
about our Chief Instructor and Head of World Dragon Kenpo.
A letter was sent in to Mr. Rod Lacey, with a petition for rank for
Coach Pfeiffer. The letter contained the petition, as well as some
very kind words from the student base.
Excerpt from the letter: "What I am hoping for here, is that by
reading this petition, and by the actions of Ron's students, you may
see wisdom in perhaps offering our Instructor the Honorary (This
should have said "HONORABLE" – I made the mistake; rc) Rank of a 6th Dan in Dragon Kenpo.
I am absolutely sure you are capable of making these types of
decisions without my interference or even writing in, but I also feel
that you may never know how we, Ron's students, feel unless we tell
you. Naturally, we completely defer to your decisions, and have
nothing but the utmost respect for you and your position within the
community. The intent of this letter is not to overstep my
boundaries, but to bring to you the express and heartfelt thoughts and
words of some of our members.
Below, you will find letters that were written by members of the World
Dragon Community, and how they feel about what our Coach has done for them.
Please also note that this letter is sent to you without the knowledge
of Ron. The idea is that when you do feel the time is right for Mr.
Pfeiffer's promotion (be it now or later), you may also like to
present him with this letter, so that he can see what we think of him
Paul Corrigan WDK 3rd Dan: "Coach Ron has given me a greater
appreciation of Dragon Kenpo and has also rekindled my interest and
participation in Tai Chi. He is a leader in the field of martial arts
and a promotion to 6th Dan would be a fitting tribute to this man."
Michael Sweet : "This letter is to inform you as to the high regard I
hold for Coach Ron Pfeiffer. Coach Pfeiffer has been a big help for me in my study of the martial arts in general, and Dragon Kenpo in particular. He answers my emails as fast as I send them and has helped me to feel as if I were training right there with him. His program is by far one of the best I have found of its type. His work in Dragon Kenpo cannot be overstated. He is worthy of any honor or recognition you can give him. He is a very real asset to the Dragon Kenpo community."
Mike Bachelor 1st Dan: "In consideration of awarding Coach Ron
Pfeiffer the rank of 6th Degree Black in WDK; My name is Mike
Bachelor. I have studied various styles of Kung Fu and American
Kenpo. I received my 1st Dan in 2000, but then re-enlisted in the
Army after the cowardly attacks on 9/11. My Martial Arts training went
on hold as I prepared for combat duties overseas. After deployments
to Iraq and the Republic of the Philippines, I returned to civilian
life. I moved to Colorado and no longer had contact with my previous
Instructors, but had the good fortune of finding Coach Ron Pfieffer.
I had started training again on my own, but wanted to do more. With
much help and guidance from Ron, I went from taking some refresher
Karate classes at the local gym to becoming a full instructor teaching
Kenpo Karate at the Rocky Mountain Health Club in Estes Park, CO.
Thanks to Ron I have achieved more in 6 months than I could have ever
imagined. Coach Pfeiffer's selfless duty goes far above and beyond
any I have seen. He is always available and responds almost
immediately to any questions that arise. Coach Pfeiffer serves his
home school students, us distance students, and still finds time to
contribute greatly in community service. Coach Pfeiffer is an
inspiration and has contributed greatly in the development of World
Dragon Kenpo. I truly feel blessed to have met Ron, and know my
students and I owe him more than we could ever give him. (Not that he
would ask for or expect anything) In any way my opinion counts, I
believe Coach Pfeiffer with your approval deserves and would be
honored to receive the award of 6th Degree Black in WDK."
Nick Fletcher: "I thoroughly agree with you. Coach Ron has given 110% to the WDK, and has arguably brought Dragon Kenpo back to life. Coach Ron is a truly exceptional instructor and person. He holds everyone accountable and gives no short cuts. He sticks to his rules and expects the best from everyone. He has supported me through numerous martial arts endeavors, and he is the sole reason that I continue to patron the WDK cause even though I have moved my martial arts education in different directions. If anyone deserves advanced rank, it would be Coach Ron. Thank you for initiating this movement, Mr. Collete."
Thor E Sulland (WDK EUROPE): "Ron has been my friend an teacher for many years. I would love it if he would be advanced in rank.
Coach Ron's comments...
It was an honor to be recommended by members of our school. I will continue to work towards our shared goals in World Dragon Kenpo and to be worthy of the faith that has been shown.
Closing Comments by Coach Pfeiffer
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