How I became Captain America (sort of)

5/4/2014

What is a hero? To me a hero is many things. A hero can be anybody. This is because a hero is a person who overcomes his or her fears, works on weaknesses and optimizes his or her strengths in order to be the best person possible.

During the last couple months, I have been watching a great deal of movies about fictitious comic-book heroes such as Iron Man, Spiderman, the Avengers and my favorite, Captain America. Why is he my favorite? It could be because I relate to him.

No, I never was in the military, or even had a remote interest in being in the military. However, I was at one time energetically weak with a slight stature. I was not as scrawny as Captain America was before he became the subject of a military experiment to turn him into the ultimate American soldier. But I was skinny. I was about six feet tall and 140 pounds in high school (I even got down to almost 130 pounds at one point.) My basketball coaches and peers used to tease me all the time about my weight. Even though I ate like a horse and worked out, I could not gain weight very easily. So I quit sports out of frustration, and turned to other hobbies, such as music and writing.

About that time, I was diagnosed with having a heart condition called Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP), in which the heart’s mitral valve does not always close properly. In my case, as in most cases, MVP is not life threatening. Although, coincidentally, when I was diagnosed with it at 16, Reggie Lewis of the Boston Celtics, who had the same condition, ended up dying from it. I was even in Boston on a family vacation at the time Lewis passed away. Sitting in a Boston Hotel room, watching the news about Lewis on television, I decided then I had to quit the game I loved. Although I had played in my high school’s select basketball program for four years and would probably have been on the junior varsity team and eventually varsity as a backup shooting guard (I was good, but not a star player) I just had a feeling I needed to stop playing. Sometimes I regret that decision, but it allowed me to spend more time concentrating on my other passions.

Another basketball player, “Pistol” Pete Maravich (who I believe had he not injured his knee fairly early in his NBA career, would be more of a household name) was actually missing the left coronary artery of his heart. To me, it is amazing that he could even play basketball, let alone be a star player in college at LSU and in the NBA at Atlanta, New Orleans and Boston. Despite his rare heart defect, he became an incredible player and a true hero. Unfortunately, Maravich died young, at age 40, of heart failure, right after playing a pickup game.

Despite my energetic and physical musculature shortcomings, I still worked out through college and after graduating in 2003 got up to a solid 165 lbs. with around 10 percent body fat. I was making progress with getting my muscles bigger and stronger, however, as was curious to me, I did not feel major improvements in my overall energetic levels and stamina. I thought I was just out of cardiovascular shape. However, it would not be until 2009, when I met Brendan Thorson, owner and instructor of the Noble School of Tai Chi and Qigong Training here in Seattle, Wa., that I would soon discover that weight training and cardio fitness were only part of the equation to becoming physically (and mentally) healthy. When I started taking classes from Thorson, I was fairly physically fit, but my stamina was not what I felt it could be.

About a year after starting my Yi Ren Qigong training with Thorson, my energy levels increased dramatically, and my weight lifting performance improved as well. I gained more muscle mass and just as importantly my body began to feel less stiff and more flexible. I was integrating the physical body with the qi body and it felt amazing!

This is not to say that muscle size is an indication of strength. In fact, in the world of Traditional Chinese Medicine, tendon health and vitality is given more consideration for developing strength. However, in my case, I set goals for what I wanted to look like physically, and those goals were not necessarily to look like a body builder, but to look physically fit with lean (cut) muscles which would allow me to live an active and healthy lifestyle. I finally went from being Steve Rogers (Captain America’s real name) to Captain America. I was not injected with some scientific serum, but with qi (chi), harnessed and channeled into not only my muscles, but my body’s organs, tendons and endocrine glands, all by practicing this powerful form of Qigong called Yi Ren Qigong.

So whether you are a comic fan, a sports fan or just a fan of successful people, remember those who are touted as heroes—or those we admire—often had to overcome many obstacles in life to achieve their high stature. We often only see the end results of their hard work, and not what it took to get those results. Speaking of which, I have to get back to working on myself right now…Until the next time, this is your peaceful warrior signing off…Be well…

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