Tea Time with Marcus McDonough

For any who has seen Marcus McDonough’s work at the Academy, it will come as no surprise that Senior teacher John Ottenberg recently awarded him the rank of Black Belt in an open ceremony at class.

Marcus is a talented martial artist who  works hard to surpass his natural gifts in order to become an exceptional practitioner. His dedication is evident, not only in his work but also in his concentration and the spirit with which he practices. He is also a generous partner with other students, a qualifying trait for this rank.

Marcus has been involved in martial training since he took Tae Kwon Do lessons as a young person. He has also spent six years training in the Six Animal system. Now at the Academy, he is deeply involved in studying with all the teachers here.

One of the things he likes   about martial training is the opportunity to express himself through the art. We talked about this recently and he shared some of his observations with us…

So, after giving it some thought and navigating thru so many teachings that cross over to other aspects of life, this is the one I’ve been noticing most recently which has impacted my relationship with myself. I have heard one thing from all my instructors that I wish to master in the studio and in other areas of life.  I definitely can see the importance in both.  It is Structure.

Now, in Linda’s way of teaching, we are always working on structure in Liu He. Alignment,  movement, coordination and ‘pure’ energies are the foundation on which everything is built.  And the more we work at it, the more depth and importance is revealed.  The further I progress, the more appreciation I have for structure and the more I look forward to visiting it.

John teaches self protection.  But more importantly, he teaches movement.  Everything he teaches stems from an understanding of just a handful of motions.  He emphasizes the details in the basics and keeping true to the structure of mechanics.  Since being promoted to black belt he has been introducing me to a concept he calls ‘whipping hands’… no thinking, only moving and responding. The name says it all!  And it feels good to freely move like this, wow! Because the motions are so fluid and spiraling and travel along ellipses, combinations of techniques are infinite.  At one point I was having trouble ending at the position/technique (which was a take down) he wanted me to find.  He stopped me in mid-motion and pointed out a mistake I was making from the beginning.  I was so enamored by this end move that I was rushing past and not paying attention to move #1.  How can I arrive to the take-down if move 1 is not sound? He reminded me that each move relies on the one before it.  Thus making the basics, the foundation for success.

Recently, during both the Eight Pieces of Brocade seminar and Intro to Tai Chi seminar, Sifu Mancuso touched on the importance of structure.  He said “What good is the wine if there is no bottle to put it in.  Be sure to buy your bottles first.”   Living in Santa Cruz, I have been exposed to many ways of being in the world.  For me it can be easy to get lost in the free expression and lose sight of my mission.  I have struggled in the past (far and near) keeping true to my course and staying with my intentions.   The free spirited view is nice but can be dicey when there is a lack of discipline or structure.  I have found the easiest way to stay on track towards my goals is to continue to revisit the basics.  To reorient myself with a workable structure. Which is familiar and simple yet, deep with potential.  Specifically in my career as a Massage/Sports Therapist.  A few times I’ve had to step back and pause because I was creating too much suffering/confusion in my life;  whether it was becoming too impatient with the pace of growth in my practice, or finding myself a bit over my head with responsibilities and cases that I was just not ready for.  So, I gracefully reevaluated my position, refocused on my goals and created a step by step approach which comprised of receiving more education and refining my basics and to continue my committment to being mindful of the details in front of me. The outcome was that I developed a trust in the process because the structure was set in place and carefully devised for success. Knowing that hard work over time pays off, I am able to relax in knowing that my bottles are with me, and the wine is being made.

It is this acknowledgement and understanding of the importance of basics and structure that has crossed over into my life, forging my character and helping me lay the groundwork for success in my career, which, recently turning 32 is my main focus.

Ha, after rereading this a few times it seems such a simple concept, but goodness the effects are profound and real!

Thank you, Marcus!


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