Health and Wellness in Traditional Chinese Martial Arts and Medicine

By Leland Stillman, M.D.

Thousands of years ago, the Shaolin monastic order of China was founded to practice and advance the philosophy of Chan (in Japanese, known as Zen) Buddhism. Chan Buddhism is now known throughout the world as a philosophy devoted to peace, and has become very popular in the West. Likewise, traditional Chinese medicine has also become known throughout the world as a powerful style of healing, and now practitioners of Chinese medicine may be found in conventional Western medical schools conducting research and caring for patients. What most people still do not know is that traditional Chinese martial arts and traditional Chinese medicine are part of the same system, and that this system began with the Shaolin monks of China.


What do martial arts have to do with my health and wellness?

Gong fu (kung fu, which in Chinese means martial art) began as a system not only oriented around self defense for monks living in a dangerous world, but as a way of understanding their own bodies to promote longevity and wellness. Many of the concepts behind modern ideas of health and wellness can be found in Chinese doctrines thousands of years old.


  1. Posture is foremost in a martial artist's mind, and many of our most debilitating diseases in the West are the result of poor posture. The careful cultivation of good posture practiced in traditional Chinese martial arts is meant to prevent the degenerative changes associated with spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, disc degeneration, and slipped vertebral discs.

  2. Flexibility is as important to martial arts as it is to yoga or gymnastics. Flexibility has everything to do with how well we resist injury to our limbs and connective tissues. Stretching has a positive anti-inflammatory on the body and a positive effect on mood. Many people practicing conventional sports do not maintain their flexibility, and when they suffer an injury they can no longer practice. They become sedentary, lose more flexibility, gain weight, and cannot perform to the same level again.

  3. Stress has been well studied as a contributor to disease and ill-health, which has led many people in the West to embrace Eastern arts that seek to calm the mind and balance their emotions. Yoga is often practiced by people in the West for its positive effects on mood. It is not well known that many of the same principles that have made yoga popular for this reason are common to traditional Chinese martial arts. Many of the classes at Monkwise teach this gentle, spiritual approach to the physical.


Health problems tend to compound and accumulate over time. Growing old is a gradual process. Posture, flexibility, stress, and many other factors wear the body down day by day. Maintaining posture, flexibility, and a positive attitude is what traditional Chinese martial arts and medicine have, over thousands of years, been designed to do. Ask at Monkwise about your masters and their most dedicated students, or see them for yourself when they visit, you will see and hear about people living to advanced age in excellent health. They do not need spinal surgeries, joint replacements, or joint surgeries that nearly everyone in the West has at some point in their lives. This has been the norm for thousands of years, over many generations of masters.

Chinese martial arts, particularly Tai Chi, have become the subject of many studies recently, most of which have examined their effects on everything from blood pressure to mobility. These studies have consistently shown the positive effects that traditional martial arts have on one's health. People are increasingly turning to these traditions to find health and balance in their lives.

-Doctor Stillman has been a student at Monk Wise since 2010 making the trip from Virginia, his home, as often as he can to continue his understanding of Chinese Martial Arts. 

-Doctor Stillman has been a student at Monk Wise since 2010 making the trip from Virginia, his home, as often as he can to continue his understanding of Chinese Martial Arts. 

Come find out how Chinese martial arts can fit into your busy schedule and help you lead a happier, fuller life. Our curriculum provides a variety of classes at two locations, including private instruction with masters who can help find the curriculum that meets your needs, lifestyle, and skill level.

-Leland Stillman, M.D.

The Transforming Power of Martial Arts For Children

The Transforming Power of Martial Arts For Children

By Stacey Nemour

After twenty years of teaching martial arts to students from age three to eighty, I have observed that the benefits to every age has been nothing less than astonishing! Some include control of aggressive behavior and the gain of self-respect, self-control, self-defense, self esteem, focus, confidence, and courtesy. As an additional benefit, the child will also excel in other athletic endeavors. Martial arts training gives your son or daughter the chance to strengthen in mind as well as body. It encompasses not just the physical aspect of the “sport”, but mental and emotional lessons as well.

Comparing that to other youth activities and sports, where fierce competitiveness and “winning at all costs” seems to be the order of the day, it’s not surprising that many children grapple with issues of self-esteem and misplaced aggression.

The martial arts style that a child adopts should be influenced by the parents. It will of course be convenient if the child can practice with, or at least in the same school as, the parents. Crucial to the success of the program, is the integrity and trustworthiness of the teacher and the school. Check out their qualifications, training philosophies and watch carefully how they interact with the children. Just because someone is an accomplished martial artist, doesn’t mean they have acquired the gift of teaching it to children in a healthy way. It should be a fun learning experience!

The joints and connective tissues of children are more vulnerable to injury than those of adults. Keep this in mind when selecting a style and school for a child, and discuss it with the instructor. Schools which allow aggressive joint locks to be applied to children or don’t train them to refrain from snapping/hyper-extending elbows on strikes and knees on kicks should be avoided. (It is for this same reason that good baseball coaches will not allow young pitchers to throw pitches which require hard snapping of the arm - like curve balls). Throws, however, are quite different; the small size of children makes them naturals for arts which require falling down.

In truth any art can be taught in a manner which promotes any of these things.To select the appropriate styles, look at three things:

A. The basics of the style (what does it teach, what is it used for)
B. The skill and the teaching style of the teacher
C. The purpose and the logistics of the school

At the beginning of every class I always talk with my students about how Kung Fu is truly a peaceful art; whenever possible it’s always best to walk or run away from a fight and go tell a teacher or parent .The rule is that it only should be applied if one is in serious danger. If they practiced it on family, friends, animals, that would result in being banned from the class. That worked wonders! Bullies learned about control/discipline and not to “act out” due to having a healthy outlet for their stress, anger and issues to be healed and released in a peaceful environment.

Children who are bullied also benefit tremendously and become empowered. One of my students was a six year old girl. Three boys came around to bully her and no adults were around to help. She surprised the boys when she used her roundhouse kick to defend herself. She then chased them away and they ran for their lives! There was a story on the news recently about an eleven year old girl who encountered a predator while walking home from school. She had been studying martial arts and automatically gave him a hard kick to the groin, which enabled her plenty of time to get to safety.

I noticed many parents would enroll their children that struggled with Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.) into my class, which always proved to be more than a handful in the beginning.When they saw the other children joyfully participating, they would become inspired and start to watch closely. They learned quickly that by paying attention they would be able to participate and then would be beaming with good feelings. Add to that the positive feedback they gained, plus this new confidence and ability to focus starts to carry over into their school work, at home and with other activities.

A study written by Gregory Lichtenthal entitled “How Can Martial Arts Benefit the Disabled” confirms what I have observed for many years. “Another disability taekwondo has found to be helpful for is children diagnosed with ADHD or ADD. There has been much research over the past decade regarding ADD (Dunlap). Children stricken with this disorder may appear unorganized, and may have difficulty following instructions or directions (Dunlap). “Increasingly, more and more professionals are recommending that these children become involved in a martial arts program. For many children with Attention Deficit Disorder, the dojang provides the ideal place to increase attention span, decrease distraction, develop motor and behavioral control, improve self-esteem, and build positive peer relationships” (Dunlap).

Dr. Dunlap is a Certified School Psychologist and as a taekwondo instructor, she frequently recommends martial art for children with A.D.D. She tells parents some ways to enhance the positive benefits that taekwondo can bring. First, do not punish the child by withholding taekwondo class. Second, be consistent in making sure the child attends every class on a regular schedule. Third, have a consistent place for gear storage. “At its highest and best, taekwondo not only improves the physical skills of the practitioner but, also, elevates both the mind and the spirit” (Dunlap).”

Once you have checked out the instructor and are confident that your child is in good hands, get ready to let go! I find that for the child to make good progress, it’s best when the parents do not watch the class. Usually when they observe, I would immediately feel the whole energy of the class change. The intense focus and connection I had with the children would be broken because they now felt the pressure to perform. Without the parents present, they would feel the freedom to transform into a better version of themselves. What was also interesting is that the shy ones that cried for their parents, would shine once the parent left. If the parent stayed, they would keep running over to them, which would disrupt the entire class. I would be happy to have the child demonstrate to the parents after class what they learned and they would be surprised and overjoyed with the results!

Stacey Nemour - Black belt in Kung Fu, highly-respected martial artist

"Walk The Circle"

To all students enrolled in our Internal School of Martial Arts, if you are not yet familiar with Bagua you will be soon.  Bagua qigong as well as old 8 palm are taught before black sash.  After beginning black there is much much more to learn.  Bagua spear and double straight sword to name a few.  

A student brought this song to my attention and I love it!!  Get out there and practice every day.  Why walk the line when you can walk the circle.  ;)

Provided to YouTube by TuneCore Walk the Circle · Bagua Joe Energy B4 Mathematics ℗ 2014 Dadojo Media Group Released on: 2013-12-16 Auto-generated by YouTube.

Press Release


Press Release:  New Book Being Published – “Modern Masters of the Martial Arts”

The martial arts have continued to increase in popularity over the last decade due to things like MMA – Mixed Martial Arts and the U.F.C. – The Ultimate Fighting Championship.  Although the public’s perception of the martial arts is slightly changing to the perception that the martial arts are a sport, there are millions of people who look at the martial arts as a way of life!  With thousands of martial arts styles in existence, David Nemeroff – Soke Dai has lifted the veil and helped those that are curious about what makes one martial art style different from another?

In this book author David Nemeroff along with over 50 modern martial art masters share with you what makes their style, philosophy and history so unique. This amazing book is a photographic showcase of over 50 different styles from around the world and the modern masters that teach them. Modern Masters Of The Martial Arts adorns the pages with each instructor sharing their expert insights on their particular martial arts system plus a personal quote from each of them.

Inside, David Nemeroff has presented a compilation of modern legends for you in one volume to show you first hand who is in the forefront of the martial arts community.  This book is both an informative martial arts encyclopedia and a beautiful collection of photographic artwork. 

Adam Woolsey and Wei Fo Jung- Founding Masters of Monk Wise Martial Arts Academy (located in Saltl Lake City, Utah) are both receiving this high accolade of being featured as one of 50 instructors chosen for this book and are honored to be known as two of the modern-day masters of the martial arts.  For more information on the work of Monk Wise Martial Arts Academy you may call 801-833-2727, email, or visit their website at  Thank you.