Bruce’s Story

by | Apr 14, 2010 | Bruce's Picks, Travels

Bruce Frantzis is a Taoist Lineage Master with more than 40 years experience in Eastern healing systems. He is the first known Westerner to hold authentic lineages in qigong, bagua, tai chi, hsing-i and Taoist meditation.

Bruce trained for over a decade in China and also has extensive experience in Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, yoga, Kundalini, energy healing therapies and Taoist Fire and Water traditions of Taoism.

Bruce’s credentials include:

  • 16 years training in China, Japan and India
  • 20 years studying Zen, Yoga, Kundalini and Taoist Fire traditions
  • He is the first known Westerner to hold authentic lineages in qigong, bagua, tai chi, hsing-i and Taoist meditation. His meditation lineage is directly linked to that of Lao Tse, author of the Tao Te Ching, the second most translated book in the world.
  • Extensive study of the Water tradition with Taoist Lineage Master Liu Hung Chieh in China
  • Training more than 20,000 students in qigong, bagua, tai chi, Taoist meditation and other Taoist energy arts
  • Certifying more than 400 instructors worldwide
  • PhD in Health Sciences
  • In 1981, he was the first Westerner to be certified in Beijing by the People’s Republic of China to teach the complete system of Tai Chi Chuan
  • Studied acupuncture and worked as a qigong doctor and tui na bodyworker in medical clinics in China, healing more than 10,000 patients
  • Fluent Chinese speaker who uses his native language of English to peel away the metaphor and vague language surrounding the concept of qi
  • Fluent in Japanese
  • Author of eight books on qi practices including tai chi, martial arts and Taoist meditation
  • Served as an advisor to Harvard University’s Qi Research Group

Since 1961, Bruce Frantzis has followed the 3,000-year-old Taoist tradition of warrior/healer/priest by studying, practicing, teaching, and writing about energy arts including: qigong; energetic healing therapies; Taoist meditation; and martial arts, including tai chi. The heart of his tradition is the cultivation of qi, the internal energy that connects the mind, body and spirit to the underlying consciousness of the universe (Tao).

Frantzis developed a practical, comprehensive system of programs, Energy Arts Programs, enabling people of all ages and fitness levels to increase their life-force energy and attain vibrant health. Some of his instructors have founded their own schools.

His books, CDs, DVDs, instruction manuals, and free articles, offered through his monthly newsletter, help to teach Westerners China’s energy arts and support his commitment to disseminate the practical Taoist tradition. Although a spiritual tradition, most students practice Taoist energy arts secularly for stress reduction, healing illness, and maintaining health and well-being.

Bruce Frantzis: The Path of the Warrior/Healer/Priest

By Stuart Kenter, excerpt from Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body

Hong Kong: In Search of the Elusive Chi Power

The dream of every serious student of tai chi, qigong and the martial arts is to study with an authentic Oriental grandmaster who will reveal all the secrets of these arts. These secrets of internal power are not taught to the general public, but are privately transmitted only to select family members or inner-circle disciples. In China, being accepted as the disciple of a grandmaster is the equivalent in the West of being admitted to do postdoctoral work at Harvard or Oxford with the most brilliant professor in one’s field.

Bruce Frantzis is one of the very few Westerners who genuinely has been able to achieve this dream. In an odyssey through various martial arts that began in 1961, his ambition was always to study with a lineage grandmaster. Like other Westerners who sought this path, Frantzis was constantly thwarted throughout those years by the tightly closed door of Mainland China, a country where he was both isolated and subject to the harsh consequences of traumatic political upheavals.

His frustration was intensified by an unrelenting Oriental prejudice: the unspoken agreement that the most secret teachings should not be given to Westerners. It was not until the summer of 1981 that one of Frantzis’ teachers in Hong Kong consented to give him a letter of introduction to his own master in Beijing, a man named Liu Hung Chieh (pronounced Lee-oh Hung Jee-eh). This letter contained potential that excited Frantzis greatly. He had already been invited there by the Beijing Institute of Physical Education to study tai chi chuan (chuan: fist).

During that summer in Beijing, Frantzis spent his mornings studying the national simplified system of tai chi, push hands and weapons. The instruction emphasized the health aspects of tai chi over its martial arts applications, and it is here that Frantzis gained a deep knowledge and respect for tai chi as a comprehensive healthcare system. At the conclusion of this course, Frantzis was the first Westerner to be certified in Beijing by the Chinese government to teach the complete system of tai chi chuan. Frantzis went on to develop tai chi and qigong into a viable healthcare program useful to the West.

In the afternoons, Frantzis would study with Grandmaster Liu in his home. After the tai chi course was completed, Frantzis would study in the mornings and afternoons with Liu, a standard practice that would continue throughout the time that Frantzis was living in Beijing.

Beijing: Grandmaster Liu Hung Chieh

Frantzis studied for a total of three years with Grandmaster Liu Hung Chieh, who was in his 80s. Liu had an intriguing past.

He had lived and studied with the founder of Wu style tai chi, Wu Jien Chuan, and he had been the youngest member of the original Beijing Bagua Chang School. When he was only in his 30s, Liu was declared enlightened by the Tien Tai School of Buddhism, after which he spent ten years studying with Taoists in the mountains of Western China. He was a lineage holder in tai chi, hsing-i and bagua as well as an adept in Taoist qigong and meditation practices.

Like many of the traditional martial artists, Liu was not a public person. Since the revolution in China in 1949, he had taught hsing-i and bagua to just one man-Frantzis’ teacher in Hong Kong, Bai Hua. When Frantzis had asked Bai Hua if Liu would take him on as a student in Beijing, the instructor replied, “Who knows? He teaches virtually no one and it’s impossible to predict what he will do.”

Liu was cordial to Frantzis at their first meeting. Frantzis realized immediately that the 20 years he had spent immersed in the martial arts and meditation would only serve as a foundation to studying with this man. Well over twice Frantzis’ age and less than half his size, Liu was able to pick Frantzis up and move him any way he wished. Frantzis, on the other hand, was literally unable to move even Liu’s little finger. Frantzis, who was considered to be a “young master” in Hong Kong and Taiwan, was duly impressed. Liu told him, “There is more to having energy than just being big.”

During the years that Frantzis studied with Liu, he was frequently able to observe the results of the Taoist rejuvenation techniques that the older man practiced. These would seem to change Liu from an old man to a young one in the space of a few hours or days. The transformation was amazing, and Frantzis saw this control over the aging process as the mark of a true master.

Frantzis requested Liu to teach him bagua. Instruction entailed the most strenuous energy work that Frantzis had yet undertaken. After the lessons, he would be so fatigued that Liu let him lie on his own bed, entertaining him with stories of Buddhism and Taoism, and teaching him meditation.

Years later, Liu revealed that the only reason he had consented to teach Frantzis was that his arrival had been presaged in a dream. Liu had had five prophetic dreams in his life, all of which had come to pass. Like many of the older Taoists, Liu believed in karmic connections being fulfilled, and he felt deeply that such a connection existed between himself and Frantzis. It was Liu who began to teach Frantzis the deeper internal secrets of qigong and other Taoist energy arts found in the books Frantzis has written.

New York City: The First Training Ground

Born at the end of the 1940s in New York City, Frantzis was a fat, clumsy kid who at the age of 12 witnessed a fellow student get badly injured in a fight at school. This event had a powerful effect on him, and an ad in a subway that promised “Fear No Man!” led him to his first judo class. Shortly thereafter, he also began to practice karate, jiu-jitsu, aikido, and Zen Buddhism.

He was 14 when he became involved with Zen. At that time, he used it primarily as a tool to eliminate hesitation from his karate and weapons forms. His interest in meditation at this young age was primarily focused on training the mind for martial arts rather than for spiritual growth. Even without the spiritual component, however, Frantzis claims that Zen provided him with a one-pointedness that led to the strength to move through obstacles.

His early years were concentrated on learning the Japanese martial arts. He had earned black belts in jiu-jitsu, karate, and aikido even before his first trip to the Orient, and another in judo soon thereafter. Following the recommendation of his jiu-jitsu teacher, he also studied shiatsu (Japanese acupressure massage), and he practiced this type of body- work throughout high school. Both aikido and shiatsu utilize ki (the Japanese word for chi), or life energy; aikido for power and shiatsu for healing. Clearly Frantzis’ interest in, and emphasis on, the subject of health started at a very early age.

By age 18, it had become clear to him that, in order to learn the essence of the Oriental martial, healing and meditation arts, he would have to find their source. This desire led to 16 years of study abroad: 11 years in China, three in Japan, and two in India. Still, his teenage years in the martial arts were primarily motivated largely by a fascination with destruction. He was, at the time, preoccupied with how to injure the human body.

Paradoxically, even his ongoing interest in health and meditation was, during this period, expressed in terms of violence: Zen meditation became to him a way of destroying the nonsense layers of his mind. Doing massage became a way to vanquish people’s aches and pains. It was not until later, in his 20s, that he changed, allowing his interest in health and well-being to dominate completely. At that time, he also became seriously involved with learning how to apply the techniques of the martial, healing, and meditation arts to preserve the useful aspects of body, mind, and spirit, keeping them from harm.

This transition began in China. Here, Frantzis witnessed firsthand elderly practitioners of qigong who were healthier and more vital than people half their age. He was awed, at first, by the physical techniques of qigong. Then, when he began to learn the actual qigong methods of working directly with energy, he understood: here was a way of preserving and increasing strength and vitality.

He noticed that all those he saw practicing-himself included-grew stronger with age, and more content. In the Chinese hospital clinics where for many years he practiced qigong therapeutic massage (qigong tui na, pronounced “chee gung twee na”), he watched people who had been weak and sickly all their lives become-through qigong-men and women of obviously superior health and strength.

He saw many who were neurotic, mentally disturbed or prone to extremes of anger, depression, anxiety or fear become calm, stable, and balanced through qigong. He witnessed qigong elevate dull minds to intelligence and perceptivity. To Frantzis, the Chinese arts worked demonstrably better, and made more sense, than much of what Western medicine or athletic workouts had to offer.

Tokyo: The Path through Aikido

In 1967, at the age of 18, Frantzis traveled to Japan, where he enrolled at Sophia University in Tokyo. His primary interest was still in the hard styles of the martial arts, such as karate. He had the good fortune-from 1967 to 1969-to study with the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. He was an extraordinary man, one who had unmistakably reached an advanced level of chi development. During the last few months of his life, too weak to walk, he had to be carried into the dojo (practice hall). Yet, even in this condition, he was able to stand up and suddenly muster the energy to throw his strongest students as if they were rag dolls. After practice, he would again be carried back to his bed. Frantzis took such episodes as a graphic example of how the life force transcended mere flesh.

While Ueshiba passed on the physical techniques and spiritual philosophy of aikido to his students, Frantzis felt that none of them had attained Ueshiba’s remarkable level of chi.

It had been a widely known, but little discussed fact within the dojo that after Ueshiba had spent a long time in China as a monk, his entire technique changed: it went from aiki-jitsu to aikido (do is the Japanese word for Tao). That is, it went from a system based on jiu-jitsu, to one based on the use of ki, or chi. At this juncture in his career, Frantzis had black belts in five of the Japanese martial arts. He had visited many of the top Japanese teachers. None of them, in his view, had Ueshiba’s tremendous chi power. Frantzis wanted to find out what chi practices Ueshiba had learned in China.

Taiwan: The Astonishing Wang Shu Jin

Yet another experience pointed in the direction of China when Frantzis visited Taiwan in 1968. There, he met Wang Shu Jin, an internal martial arts master who had come to Taiwan from the city of Tianjin in Mainland China. Wang was in his 70s and-at 5 feet 8 inches tall-overweight at 250-plus pounds. Nonetheless, he proved to be physically faster than the much younger Frantzis, whom he could throw or knock across the room at will.

In their conversation, Wang maintained that karate had inferior fighting technique and insisted that actual prolonged karate practice itself would make your body old and damaged before its time. Frantzis, who had studied karate for most of his life, disagreed vehemently, which resulted-as such differences of opinion between martial artists often do-in a challenge. Wang invited Frantzis to test the reality of his view.

What Frantzis remembers best about that fight was that he only ended up hurting his hands and feet on various parts of Wang’s body, and that Wang had the disconcerting habit of ending up behind him several times during the fight, tapping him on the shoulder. Etched deeply in Frantzis’ mind is the moment in their match when Wang walked slowly toward him, eyes half shut. At that moment, Frantzis relates that he actually began to fear for his life. He backed up against a wall, braced himself, and heel-kicked Wang as forcefully as he could in the solar plexus. The kick simply woke Wang up and made him mad. He tapped Frantzis on the head. Frantzis felt a bolt of electricity jolt through his body and the next thing he knew, he was suddenly, and to his complete surprise, on the floor.

Frantzis began to practice with Wang’s 5 a.m. class in Tai Chung Park. About a week into the sessions, an old man who was a fellow student, asked Frantzis if he wanted to “play.” This elderly man was short and thin, a student after all, and Frantzis felt a bit uneasy, not wanting to take advantage of him. He acquiesced, however, and after being hit a few times, decided his concern was misplaced. He went after the old man as hard as he knew how. The fellow had no trouble handling Frantzis as an opponent.

Frantzis was stunned at this turn of events. While he was standing there dazed, the man’s wife came over and asked if she could have a go. After a year in Japan, Frantzis did not know how to refuse such offers. He found to his amazement that she could spar with him on the level of any top competitive Japanese second-degree black belt in karate.

Frantzis became so utterly depressed over this experience with the elderly couple that he seriously considered quitting the martial arts completely. That Master Wang Shu-jin could beat him was one thing; that these seemingly average and elderly students could beat him was something else. By this time, he had been a black belt for four years. He had been training in Japan for eight hours a day. Yet he felt he had missed the boat. Were they going to bring out five-year-olds to beat him next? Should he have started when he was three instead of 12? Should he have been practicing 14 hours a day?

He had the opportunity, a few days later, to converse with this elderly couple from Taiwan. (By then Frantzis was fluent in Japanese, which many elderly Taiwanese also spoke). They had come to study with Wang seven years previously because the husband suffered greatly from arthritis. He was initially concerned with regaining his health, not with learning martial arts. After three years of practicing tai chi, bagua, hsing-i, and qigong, however, he was loose and his back had straightened so he felt he could cease practicing. Six months after he stopped, his symptoms recurred. When he resumed practice, the symptoms went into remission.

The day before this conversation, trying to regain some of his lost confidence, Frantzis had fought-and was duly beaten by-some of Wang’s teenage students. It became more than obvious to him that all of Wang’s students had reached a superlative level of both health and power through the development of their chi. Frantzis’ thought changed direction: if each and every one of Wang’s students could attain these ends, then he could too. His commitment to study the Chinese internal arts with Wang was cemented then and there.

Wang began to explain the difference between the internal and external martial arts. Whereas the external arts develop the bones, muscles, and outer physique, the internal arts concentrate on the development of chi. Qigong and the internal arts of tai chi, hsing-i and bagua enable one to work with the energies of the body, so that chi becomes as tangible as a solid object. The energy field in the air becomes as real to a qigong or internal arts practitioner as the water in the ocean is to a swimmer.

Before the internal arts were ever used for self-defense, they were part of Taoist yoga, where their chief purpose was to heal the body, calm the mind, promote longevity, and form the physical foundation for higher meditation practices. The internal arts are based on beautiful flowing movements that develop structural integrity, sound body mechanics, and a strong sense of physical and psychic power.

The 19-year-old Frantzis would never forget the words directed to him by the 70-year-old Wang: “I can eat more than you can, I have more sexual vitality than you do, I can move and fight better than you can, I never get sick, and you call yourself healthy? There is more to being healthy than merely being young. Chi can teach you all of this.” Frantzis recognized the truth in Wang’s words and studied with him on and off for 10 years.

Frantzis returned to Sophia University in Tokyo. From 1968 to 1971, while still taking courses there, he pursued his study of internal arts with the hsing-i master, Kenichi Sawai, and with various students that Wang Shu Jin had in Japan. He was also fortunate enough during this period to have encountered an old Chinese doctor who taught him qigong tui na, a Chinese bodywork system whose fundamentals he was able to master over a period of two years. Frantzis would later learn much more about this system and use it in his clinical work.

With this doctor, Frantzis was introduced for the first time to a man who could consistently transmit the chi energy from his own hands to cure illnesses and repair the bodies of others. During his third year in Japan, Frantzis became a special karate research student in Okinawa, where he concentrated further on karate and weapons systems. Here, at the veritable birthplace of karate, he keenly felt the absence of practices that developed chi and improved health, as well as a lack of many of the most sophisticated martial arts techniques.

He came to a realization that caused him to give up the study of purely external hard styles for good. From this point on, he focused all his efforts solely on the internal martial arts and qigong.

India: Meditation as Chi Cultivation

From the Taoism that he learned from Wang Shu Jin in Taiwan, Frantzis knew that energy cultivation could be one of the basic methods of meditation. Since legend dictated that Bodhidharma had brought the martial arts and meditation from India to the Shaolin Temple in China in the fifth century A.D., Frantzis, always an avid seeker of original sources, decided to go straight to the Indian source. (He had been unaware at that time of the historical fact that China possessed both martial arts and a highly honed chi development methodology centuries before Bodhidharma’s visit.)

Deeply disappointed by the Oriental teachers he encountered in America (as Frantzis saw it, they either withheld information, did not have genuine knowledge to impart in the first place or were unable to convey what they did have because of language difficulties), he decided to return once more to Asia, the “Harvard” of energy development.

Until 1987, when he anchored himself permanently in the United States, Frantzis spent years alternating between Asia and the West. He earned his living by teaching qigong and the internal martial arts in the United States and Europe, as well as practicing the healing art of qigong tui na. In 1972, after a six-month stint of teaching tai chi in America, he departed for India. He went first to an ashram in southern India to learn the techniques of pranayama yoga, which works directly with life energy. He practiced in the classical manner-using breath, mantras, and mudras-four sessions a day, three hours a session.

After three months of this intensity, Frantzis says that he was able to “awaken the Kundalini shakti.” This is a spiritual force that begins the process of purifying the consciousness, eventually resulting in enlightenment. In northern India, Frantzis studied Tantric Kundalini meditation with Guru Shiv Om-Tirth of Rishikesh, an experience that enabled him to comprehend the fundamental energetic similarities and differences between the Chinese and Indian systems of energy development.

Frantzis knew that both the Indian and Chinese practices, if implemented correctly, could heal and increase longevity through development and control of the life force. Both systems had been proven by the test of time and both had undergone literally thousands of years of testing and refinement.

The main difference that Frantzis perceived between the two systems at the level of health resided in the nature of their practice: the Chinese system is concerned with body motion, the unceasing flow of energy, like water in a stream, whereas the Indian methods use postures with distinct beginnings and ends, and pauses between each posture. The difference is more profound, on an experiential level, than it might seem.

Tai chi and qigong are active; yoga is passive. Yoga seems to give greater flexibility, whereas tai chi builds greater power and integration of movement. Yet both are similar in that genuine hatha yoga teaches pranayama with the postures-the postures open the body and the pranayama works with the energy. Genuine Chinese internal arts, in comparison, utilize certain movements-motions that encourage internal energy circulation. However without internal energy work, the amount of energy gained in either system is relatively small.

Frantzis believes that, in the vast majority of instances, the teaching of yoga, tai chi and qigong in the West fails to include the internal components. Sole emphasis on the external martial arts, or the external movements of tai chi, or the external postures of yoga, Frantzis maintains, can only develop a severely limited amount of chi.

The two systems are by no means mutually exclusive. Frantzis believes that they can be practiced simultaneously to beneficial effect. For those who are currently practicing yoga, the Chinese arts can prove a wonderful adjunct, accelerating the process of clearing obstructions and developing energy. Although, while studying in India, he was able to achieve many of the most difficult postures of hatha yoga, Frantzis never found this practice as satisfying as the movement arts.

There was one aspect of his India experience that Frantzis felt uneasy about: the concept of the guru. Worship of the guru plays a pivotal role in the Indian traditions, the guru being God’s direct representative on earth. As divine agents, gurus are treated with a deference and reverence that very few Westerners would accord to a living person.

Though the Chinese tradition also accords a greater respect to teachers than one finds in the West, Taoist masters (bear in mind that not all Chinese masters are Taoist) are considered to be custodians of ancient wisdom. The relationship between student and teacher in the Taoist way is more like a respected friend helping a friend than a godlike master helping out a mere mortal. The Taoists consider everybody to be one in the Tao and they speak of being friends in the Tao. Consequently, Frantzis’ training under the Taoists had a much lighter feeling for him than his training under gurus.

In India, Frantzis was able to formulate a comparative perspective on the world’s two classic systems of internal energy. He assimilated a great deal of valuable knowledge on meditation and chi there. Unfortunately, he also was infected with a nearly fatal case of hepatitis.

Taiwan, Hong Kong, Poona, Beijing:
From Consummate Fighter to Consummate Healer

The extremely virulent form of hepatitis Frantzis contracted in India killed two close friends and left his own liver severely damaged. He is convinced that without the energy work learned from tai chi and qigong, he, too, would have died in India. His situation was grim. He lay on a hospital bed barely able to move. The Indian doctor who examined Frantzis told him that he was in danger of dying. He recognized the truth of what the physician said and knew that he would in fact die unless he did something. He crawled out of his bed and, shaking all the while, stood and forced himself to do tai chi and qigong movements.

The pain throughout his body was fierce, but he persevered until he finally collapsed back onto the bed. He slept continuously for three days. When he awoke, he knew that he would live. When he was able to travel, he returned to Taiwan. There, he practiced the internal arts with a passion, working with bagua fighting master Hung I Hsiang for a cumulative period of four years. Frantzis is certain that this practice slowly regenerated his liver, allowing him to continue his martial studies.

He explored the half-internal, half-external Kung Fu styles of Eight Drunken Immortals, Northern Praying Mantis, FukienWhite Crane, Northern Monkey, and Wing Chun. He realized that many of the truly superior martial arts teachers from mainland China were very old, and felt that this might be his last chance to learn many of these arts well, before they faded completely from the face of the earth. During this incredibly intense period of concentration on the fighting arts, Frantzis squeezed out time to study medical qigong for treating specific diseases. He paid special attention to qigong for nerve and spine regeneration. With his energy level continually increasing from his practices, he was also able to devote time to studying meditation with Taoists, whose emphasis was on clearing negative emotions from the body and the mind.

Toward the end of 1975, Frantzis flew back to Manhattan, teaching semi-privately and treating many of his patients with qigong exercises and qigong tui na. He was still unwilling to teach large groups publicly, both out of respect for the Oriental tradition and because he felt that he did not know enough to teach in this way and would not be able to monitor the progress of his students since he was traveling back and forth from Asia.

In the United States this time around, he became acutely aware of the significance of stress in American life, and of the vast numbers who were burning themselves out through overwork and worry. He thought a great deal about how to apply his Taoist training to this problem but knew that there were gaps in his medical education. Many of the internal organ structural health problems he encountered were beyond his abilities to deal with as a qigong healer. He kept a careful log of all the weak areas in his training and when he returned to the Orient within a year, he attempted to find the missing medical links he required.

His search for insight into the emotions and their impact on stress-related conditions took him to Poona, India, in 1977. There, he continued his Tantric studies while simultaneously working with a group that explored the connection between emotions, the psychological realms, meditation and chi, integrating Kundalini methods with New Age psychotherapeutic techniques. This research provided Frantzis with excellent information on how the workings of the Western mind fit into the Oriental energy framework.

By late 1977, he was back in Taiwan, devoting 12 hours a day to the internal arts, refining his bagua, immersing himself in Taoist and Tantric meditation, and developing a sharp interest in processing bound emotional energy. He continued his work on studying the spine and nervous system. Although he completed an advanced acupuncture degree in Hong Kong in 1978, he chose instead to concentrate on qigong tui na therapy rather than practice acupuncture.

In late 1979, he moved to Denver, Colorado, opening a private school that was restricted to a few continuing students. It was not until after studying with Grandmaster Liu in Beijing that Frantzis was confident enough of his mastery of the internal components of qigong to teach public workshops and write books on the subject. After enjoying considerable success in the full-contact fighting arena for years, Frantzis now began to shift away from fighting to focus in depth on healing and meditation.

By the end of the 1970s and through his subsequent years in Beijing, Frantzis had continued to refine his fighting techniques, however, his primary emphasis had markedly and irrevocably changed. Indeed, during the summer of 1981, the seminal time when he worked diligently with Grandmaster Liu Hung Chieh in Beijing, he was so deeply immersed in his training he never even visited the Forbidden City, even though it was a five minute walk from Liu’s house.

In fall of 1981, Bruce Frantzis returned to Denver, where he quietly resumed teaching and training instructors, and was nearly crippled for life.

Denver: The Crisis of Self-Healing

In early 1982, Frantzis was involved in a bad automobile accident. He suffered massive injury to his spine. Two vertebrae were badly cracked, a few more had hairline fractures, many of the spinal ligaments and tendons were torn, and all his vertebrae were knocked out of alignment. Surgeons pressured him to have a spinal fusion, which Frantzis, through his pain, impolitely refused. His years of exposure to qigong and qigong tui na had taught him that, given his condition, once his spine was cut open, the chi of his body would never be as full again.

Keeping the surgeons at bay, Frantzis began doing qigong flat on his back eight to 10 hours a day. Miracles did not occur. It was a long, hard ordeal regenerating his spine with these techniques. Complications arose. Frantzis speaks of how the shattering of his spine neutralized every psychological control mechanism he had. All the darkest forces suppressed in the depths of his mind surfaced. Without his years of centering work in meditation, Frantzis was sure that he would have gone over the edge, sentenced to life in a mental hospital. Instead, he held on.

However, the emotional experience on top of the constant nerve pain made life unbearable, both for himself and for those around him. His sudden loss of physical strength and ability, the broken pride as an athlete, was a devastating blow. He fell into a profound depression, losing all interest in tai chi and unable to do bagua because of the pain.

He knew he had to do something about his mental outlook. The feeling of being useless to himself and his students could not continue. When qigong practice finally repaired his spine enough to be able to move to some extent, Frantzis participated in various mind/body therapies in Colorado and Oregon. They helped somewhat, reinforcing his mental stability. However, no matter how effective a psychological therapy may be, round- the-clock nerve pain created emotional havoc. The psychological work was not enough.

Frantzis tried all the physical therapies, including chiropractic, deep tissue work, Rolfing, acupuncture, massage, and a variety of movement therapies. They, too, helped marginally, abating the pain for a day or two, but it always returned. When it became clear that the alternatives available to him in the West would not permanently restore him, Frantzis did what he had always done-he went to China to search, this time for the appropriate healing technology to make his own body whole.

Beijing Again: The Final Lesson with Liu

When Frantzis arrived in Beijing in the Summer of 1983, Liu was in meditation retreat and unavailable to work with him. Fortunately, because of another letter from his teacher in Hong Kong, Bai Hua, Frantzis was able, instead, to study the inner technology of Yang style tai chi with Lin Du Ying in Xiamen, Fujien Province.

Although Frantzis had studied the Yang style of tai chi with many teachers, including Yang Shao Jung (the great-grandson of Yang Lu Chan, the original Yang, who founded the Yang style of tai chi), he had great respect for Lin Du Ying, deeming him the most exceptional practitioner of the Yang style he had ever seen. Since Frantzis had been accepted as a formal disciple, he was given the information openly. He felt that it was an honor to be allowed to receive this tai chi transmission from Lin.

When after nine months Liu was finally available, Frantzis joined him. While his practice of the Yang form had eased the pain in his neck and upper back, the rest of his body still hurt. Liu prescribed Wu style tai chi. This style emphasizes soft healing and meditation; it strengthens the body and clears the mind. Within months, practicing the Wu form obliterated the pain in Frantzis’ middle and lower back.

Liu then began teaching Frantzis Taoist meditation, twice a day, in two to three hour sessions. Once Frantzis’ lower back had healed sufficiently, Liu commenced the teaching of bagua and hsing-i, as well as certain qigong methodologies. This training went on for three years, seven days a week, nonstop.

Liu filled in many gaps in Frantzis’ esoteric education (accumulated over 20 years) and escorted him to places in the mind he never knew existed. He led Frantzis through all the levels of Taoist meditation practice, into directly experiencing the place where all is unified with the Tao. It was Liu’s wish that Frantzis teach not only martial arts and qigong (which, by this time, he was thoroughly qualified to do), but Taoist meditation as well, when Frantzis felt comfortable to do so. It was through Liu that Frantzis was able to organize the qigong system presented in this and other volumes. Liu took the unprecedented step of authorizing a Westerner to impart knowledge locked up in China since antiquity.

On December 1, 1986, Liu died just one day after he finished teaching Frantzis the last palm change of bagua chang and the final level of Wu style tai chi. He had passed the lineage on to Frantzis. The sadness was overwhelming. Frantzis felt deeply privileged to have met such a man. To have studied with Liu was to have been the recipient of a great and rare gift. After being extended the honor of stirring Liu’s ashes, usually an act confined to the immediate family, Frantzis returned home to the United States.

Frantzis’ goal in the West was and still is to convey as much as possible of the life-enhancing material he has learned. Liu’s generosity gave Frantzis knowledge and confidence, and it is Frantzis’ hope that he can bridge cultures by making this knowledge available to people in the West. “The time for secrets,” Frantzis says, “is past.”


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