Saturday is the new Monday; and Friday never comes

I just got back after a week-long Texas trip and year 6 begins on Monday. But I hate this down-time right before the start of a sememster. It drives me "cray cray." I just want to skip to the inevitable: the torture. Thankfully, NOW I can see past the torture to expect progress and growth. So that's what I patiently wait for. I suppose that comes with experience because for the first few years I used to feel a lot of anxiety on my way back to the mountain. Institutionalized I guess.

I think I'm still on a high from the summer seminars. Some will say it was the best summer-seminar-season to date and I think I would agree with that. I saw a lot of great camaraderie and willingingness to "empty one's cup." Don't get me wrong the work load is demanding but there are moments of light to keep me trucking-on. A BIG thanks to those who show appreciation and those who step in to help us out. The summer is six weeks of back-to-back-back seminars where people fly in and out on Fridays with a new topic starting every Saturday. It screws with the head if you're used to a Monday-Friday work week. That's why I say that in the summer Saturday is the new Monday and Friday never comes.

If you have never seen the movie Waking Life, get it and watch it. When I experience those few moments of light I feel like I am that kid in the movie. He just floats from scene to scene and has these insane, colorfull, thought-provoking conversations with random strangers. So I like to float around when I get a chance because many of the guests that visit are professionals in there own fields. If I want to learn something I go right up and ask.

People's interest in training at the Retreat Center just seems to grow and grow each year. 30 people have reserved spots for next summer seminars; and for the regular training period (fall and spring) people are wanting to sign up for a year at a time - that's new to us because most stay for a couple of weeks to a month.

Note: those wanting to live and train here for a full year are encouraged to come for a month to test it out. Then it's suggested they make a more-informed decision within that time.

Enjoy this scene from Waking Life

more to come


"Being a poet is a condition not a profession" Robert Frost

When I was a child I never thought about how I would "use" my Karate training. I just really liked it. I enjoyed training and I appreciated the moral principles we strived to adhere to.

Fast forward twenty something years. People ask me, "What are you going to do when you graduate from the program?"

I have to ask myself: Where will I fit in? What role can I play? What skills have I developed that are useful in society? In this day and age what is the relevance for learning what many consider out-dated self defense systems?

When I told people that I wanted to pursue the ten year program they were like, “Wow, that sounds great. It’s a big commitment. What are you going to do with that when you're done?”

It's a legitamate question. I wonder though, will my training ever be complete? There is this notion that my training will finish, a chapter will close in my life, and I will move on to the next chapter. But what if I want to continue training and learning. What if I want to delve deeper? To be honest I feel like I'm just beginning to build momentum as I complete five years.

We are trying to impose a modern mode of thinking to a something that is better characterized as a lifestyle slash relationship between teacher and apprentice. In my field however, according to Dr. Yang a student needs at least ten years of training, every day mind you; and that is referring to a child, who's body is supposed to grow with the training. Further, that is just a starting point - a beginning.

The easy answer when people ask what I will do is, "Well, teach." And granted I did take an oath to pass down the knowledge to future generations, but you can't just "teach" martial arts these days.

So I have been pondering this for a while among other things and I have been writing a lot of ideas down. I hope they help...well...me to find my place, my purpose. Either way I will certainly continue to share what is going on in this brain of mine.


What!? An Update?!?

..Yea that's right. Coming atcha with an update here.

Where do I start????????

The biggest thing for me is the return of my health after my ruptured appendix. It happened in September (2012). It was the first week of the semester and I was gunning to hard. I'm pretty sure that my appendix ruptured while I was doing pushups. "Ya see, what had happened was: I had someone pushing down on me for resistance and I was just... trying to accomplish too much too quickly." There's probably a health professional out there saying that you can't rupture your appendix with a pushup but hey that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

jav hospital

This March (2014) marked 18 months since the surgery. That's how long my doctor said it would take to fully recover because he had to do a partial Cecum-eptomy after the infection had spread. So I have brought back a lot of body conditioning these passed three months. I had still been doing some conditioning throughout my recovery but I hadn't added rigorous strength conditioning similar to that of my first year here.

When I returned to the mountain from the hospital I was weighing just over 130 lbs. and now I am weighing just over 150 lbs. I have added a lot of things into my diet that I had never been exposed to prior to my surgery: probiotics (I make my own kombucha), flax and chia seeds, maca root powder, FIBER, and there's quite a bit more (check out my Pinterest Ninja-secrets-board). There were a lot of people that helped me throughout my recover. Thank you all so much.

Good things are coming and more updates are coming. I will still be here conquering those demons. Here are a couple of recent videos of me continuing to accomplish goals.

Muscles-up. Getting that strength back. (5.2014)

The is actually a belated birthday present to myself: the Back Hand Spring- 3 years of blood, sweat, and tears for this... but it's just the beginning. (5.2014)


Newsletter from Dr. Yang

Hi all. I'm back from vacay. I cut it down this winter to two and a half weeks. It was great to relax and spend time with my family. I'm back on the mountain getting ready for the next semester. It's cold and wet here. Just yesterday we had about an inch of snow in the morning. The following is an update from Dr. Yang about the Retreat Center. Check out the new Skype Seminars we are offering!!


Dear Friends,

Happy new year! I wish everybody a great 2013. Here is an update of current events to start off the new year:

YMAA Live! Online Seminars

We will be teaching online seminars at the YMAA Retreat Center this year. If you are interested, pleas sign-up or email us to see if anybody can co-host with you.

2013 YMAA South American Camp

YMAA International will be holding the first YMAA South American Summer Camp in Pucon, Chile from February 12 - 24, 2013. If you are interested in this camp, please visit the YMAA Chile website at www.ymaa.cl.

Applications Received For 5-Year Program

About 23 total people have shown serious interest in the 5-Year Program, and several of them have visited the center already. We will select the best applicants to visit the center for a Trial & Interview Period from March - June. If you wish to know more about program, please visit: http://www.ymaa-retreatcenter.org/full-time-program/5-year. Although we are past the official deadline for submitting an application, we will still consider applicants who visit the center to train with us (minimum 1-month) and to submit the application in person. Visiting information is here.

Summer Seminars 2013

We had a great turnout for last summer's seminars and are looking forward to this year. Here are the seminars that will be offered for 2013:

July 5th-12thTraditional Taijiquan/Taiji Sword (Please Choose One)
July 12th-19thTaiji Pushing Hands and Applications
July 19th-26thQigong-1 (Qigong Theory and Spine Qigong)
July 26th-Aug. 2ndQigong-2 (Medical Qigong)
August 2nd-9thQigong-8 (Muscle/Tendon Changing, Marrow/Brain Washing Qigong and Grand Circulation)

The maximum number of participants per seminar is 21, so try to register ASAP. Lodging also fills up fast. Please see the attached PDF for current lodging availability. Please also be aware:
  1. We are unable to accommodate very specific dietary needs and meals, although though we can provide some vegetarian meals.
  2. You should arrive on a Friday and depart on a Friday. Friday is the reserved arrival and departure day, so there are no seminar activities then.
  3. Payments should be made by sending a check (USA only) or using PayPal. PayPal payments should be sent to paypal@ymaa-retreatcenter.org. If you register for a free PayPal account, you can send money through PayPal using a credit card. More information at www.paypal.com. Please email us if you have any difficulty.
  4. There are two prearranged pickup times at the Eureka/Arcata (ACV) airport. If you are able to arrive at the airport at either 3:00pm or 7:00pm, the round-trip transportation fee is $50 per person. If you are unable to arrive for a 3:00pm or 7:00pm pickup, you can arrange a different pickup time with us, but the round-trip fee will be $100 per person. We would like to encourage carpooling as much as possible to save on gas and reduce pollution, so please try to make the prearranged pickup times. The drive to the center is roughly 90 minutes from the airport.
  5. If you have to cancel your registration, here is the policy:
    • Refund:
      Before January 1st ---------------- 100% Refund ($50 Service Fee will be Deducted)
      Before February 28th -------------- 90% Refund ($50 Service Fee will be Deducted)
      Before March 31st ------------------ 80% Refund ($50 Service Fee will be Deducted)
      Before April 30th ------------------- 70% Refund ($50 Service Fee will be Deducted)
      Before May 31st -------------------- 60 % Refund ($50 Service Fee will be Deducted)
      After May 31st ---------------------- No Refund

    • Transfer to Next Seminar (Effective Only One Year):
      Before March 31st ------------------ 100% Transfer
      Before April 30th ------------------- 80% Transfer
      Before May 31st -------------------- 60 % Transfer
      After May 31st ---------------------- 50% Transfer
Visit the following pages for full details and registration:

California Seminars 2013
(July 5th – August 9th)

You are also always welcome to come and train with the disciples during non-seminar times as well:

California Regular Training
(September 1st – December 15th; January 16th – June 30th)

Thank you for your time. I wish you all the best for 2013.

Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming

Message to the candidates

When I first came here I was all gung-ho. “I got this” was my mantra. It was fun…until it became work. Dr Yang calls this the honeymoon period. It’s easy to be excited for the first few months. The will is there and the spirit is there, and this allows you to endure a lot, but those feelings are superficial and temporary. They will eventually fade.

I feel like the trick to surviving the program is to try to find ways of prolonging your “honey-moon” period. It’s like a fire, constantly needing wood pieces to stay alive. This means finding things that get you excited or interested, because if you are not at least interested then you might as well be a robot just going through the motions. I find comfort in small improvements because they equate to progress. Each improvement whether big or small is an additional piece of wood thrown into the fire. This keeps me focused on myself and engaged in my training, in hopes of snowballing into a cycle that will keep that flame lit.

Many people are curious about what life is like here, especially those applying for the 5 year program. Some guys have been flying out here to stay with us and get a glimpse of the life. I would say that a glimpse IS better than no exposure at all. It helps in starting to paint a picture. Unfortunately you just can’t feel the WEIGHT of this place without living here for years on end. It can become like a pressure cooker. How? Responsibilities of the homestead, work, school, family and friends all pile up on one little mountain. You can’t avoid people or problems because you see the same faces every day and do the same things every day. Every emotion is not only felt but magnified due to the fact that everyone is in close proximity. I can’t stress the importance of people skills along with time-management skills.

I don’t want applicants to think that they are just going to drop their worldly possessions and escape their problems of city-life, move to the mountains to meditate and train Kung fu all day. It doesn’t work like that. Don’t think you are jumping out of the matrix because you will find that the mountain is governed by its own matrix, with its own flaws. There is no perfect system as there is no perfect person. Humans will always be human and problems will always arise at the worst moments.

My message to the candidates: You will need to find ways to keep that flame lit while not burning yourself out. You will need to tolerate others but stay true to yourself. And you will need to stay adaptable to all situations, but remain calm and focused.


That’s my two cents. Hope it helps.

Year 5 Begins.

I’m not feeling good so I’m resting and thought I would update the blog to keep my mind from the pain. Year 5 of the 10 year program has begun, but it’s my fourth year here. I came out guns blazing ready to get back to the regular routine; however I think I pushed my body to hard and made myself sick. Strange, this isn’t the first time.


So we had a good turnout for summer seminars this season. Thank you everyone. Your contribution keeps this place running during the regular seasons. A very special thanks goes out to Dale and Christine. They stayed throughout the whole seminar season and cooked bomb-ass meals day in and day out. Those reading should know that is NOT easy. So hats off to you two and thank you for taking some of our work-load.

YMAA International

I want to officially welcome Nicholas Yang (Dr. Yang’s youngest son) as he will be living and training with us throughout the program’s duration. He Jon and I have started training together. I’m stoked. He already has a ton of knowledge so it’s great to have that resource.                   

Since Nicholas is head of YMAA International this means that the Retreat Center CA is now the Headquarters for all schools. Because of our remote location it will be harder for international students to visit the headquarters but I can ensure that we are committed to refining this art so that when people do visit they have a lot to gain. Jon and Nicholas are spearheading a movement to standardize all YMAA material so that it is ALL consistent throughout the organization and subsequent schools.  

Online seminars

We are now offering Webinars from the Retreat Center. The prices are listed in the website http://ymaa-retreatcenter.org/ymaa-live-signup  This idea came about when Dr. Yang was stuck in Argentina and couldn’t make it to South Africa for a seminar. The only thing they could do was Skype but after its success he realized what a great tool it is and how it would cut down on travel costs. We hope this will be one avenue that the Retreat Center may self-sustain in the future. The Retreat Center relies heavily on Dr. Yang’s personal contribution, but he has clearly stated that once the 10 year program ends if the Center cannot support itself he will sell the land.                 

Other projects

During the seminar breaks this summer Dr. Yang encouraged people to help with his garden-makeover project. This project is still underway but so much was completed thanks to everyone who pitched in. Thanks Guys!! This lightened the work load for the disciples and allowed for some rest before the semester started. It’s a lot of hard digging and it’s often hot out but the garden is really starting to look nice. We have raised the beds from the ground which cuts down on underground critters and allows us full control of the dirt. Dr. Yang even gave me my own little section for planting.

The most recent project came after we discovered a natural water spring on the land. We are going to use this resource to fill our well hopefully ensuring that we don’t have to buy water from town anymore. There is a considerable difference in the quality of the water we have to buy and you can definitely taste it. The spring has a nice flow, about half an inch thick and it’s only the dry season, so one can only imagine how much this spring can provide during the rainy season.


Well that's it for now.
Thanks for reading

A whole bunch of stuff from this semester

Well testing is over and all major cleaning has been done in preparation for summer seminars. Today I got to sleep in and even though I woke up at 6:50 instead of 5:50 it felt great to get up, tend to the livestock, and lay right back down.
Testing results were not very different from the years prior. Basically progress was minimal and we have fallen behind. As each year passes we seem to fall farther behind and at that rate it makes me question whether I will finish the entire curriculum to the level required within the 10 years. Dr. Yang did give each of us a compliment the other day which was somewhat out of character. He told me that my feeling for Long Fist has improved. I'll take what I can get and try to build from that.

A former student from Andover who now works for Crossfit came out to shoot a short video. Here's what he ended up with. I think it came out great.

We will also be featured in ESPN's E:60 http://espn.go.com/espn/e60/index  which is a show comparable to 60 Minutes. They came here to shoot footage for about 4 days in March and we were told that it will air in either August or September. The pic below shows me doing my interview.

We returned to San Jose in June to compete in the 20th Anniversary KungFu Tai Chi Magazine Tournament. I got first place in Taiji Sword and Moving Pushing Hands, and I got second place in Restricted step pushing hands. Click the link below to see videos and pics from the tournament.

Birthday cupcakes from our good friend Bree =D

We spotted a dear mingling with the chickens

Flower garden...

Keep scrolling to see how these bloomed : )

Veggie garden

Fennel. One of my favorites.

Our pear tree that we had to protect from the birds with this netting.

Our rooster with his hens. He is no longer with us : (  ...they turned against him for some reason.

Looking closer.


Spring BBQ with the neighbors. Thanks Javier (he's from Chile) for cooking!!

Tofu skewers courtesy of Bree and Melissa!

The next generation

A pic from my next article on meditation.

This is where I've been sleeping for the past few months.

Frank and I celebrating our birthdays. Both of us April 21st

Mochi sent from our good friend ShuLei

In The Zone


We are all under pressure over here as we prepare for ESPN to arrive. They will be here for only three days: One day for arrival, one day for shooting, and one day for departing. This means that we will be basically doing a one-day-demo from 6 AM to 6 PM on that shooting day. The plan is to show everything we have trained up to this point.

We have candidates interested in the five-year program starting to arrive. Today Nathan from France arrived, we have Tye from Vermont, Eddie from England, and Alex from Boston. Later in the semester Javier (from Chile) will come. This is their opportunity to get an idea for the life here and to be evaluated as potential disciples.

Aside from these guys we still have guests coming to train Taiji, Qigong, and Shaolin. Needless to say we are pretty busy right now but thankfully everyone is getting along and the training spirit is very high. I'm really impressed. We are all pushing our bodies to the max and everybody is super sore.




Javi Out

...Enjoy the pics! 

Black Sands Beach at Shelter Cove


Tournament Results


I’m on the Greyhound heading back to the mountain. This ride doesn’t seem like it will be as bad as the first. Mentally I’m in a good place right now. I’m returning from this tournament with a sense of validation for all of the hard training. Success in a tournament is not why we train but it doesn’t hurt to have that positive reinforcement for a system that requires so much sacrifice and discipline.

Tournament results are as follows:


                                Traditional Northern Bare hand (Advanced) – 2nd

                                Taiji Straight sword (Advanced) - 3rd

                                Pushing hands (Fixed Step) – 1st

                                Continuous sparring (Advanced) – 3rd


                                Grand Champion (Men, Internal)

                                Grand Champion (Men, External)

                                He pretty much got first in every event : D

This tournament was the 2nd annual for ICMAC in Houston so the attendance wasn’t as big as say Orlando, which I have been to in years past. But Houston is the fourth largest city in the country so there is definitely potential. I want to compete in some other events like extreme pushing hands, shuai jao, and san da so I’m thinking next year of going to Orlando or Vegas.

I think it is important for me put any skills I’ve acquired to test in a controlled setting. I realized after sparring in this tournament how crucial candle watching is as well as all the speed drills of the legs and hands.  On the other hand I have a better sense of what areas I am lacking.

Overall I am pleased with my performance because I executed what I had trained.  Vids and pics will be posted soon.

All tournament results:

Watch us testing in the next VLog

Hey all. It’s testing week. That means a few things. It means pressure and high expectations, BUT it also means vacay is coming soon, right? No. Not for this disciple! I’m not going anywhere! That’s right no vacay for Javi…Violin, someone, please. Forgive me, but just let me get it out.

Yea so while the others will be attending the summer camp in Poland and going home to visit family and friends I get to spend my vacation with Frank (he’s staying too) Xiao hu (our dog), the chickens and the rabbits.  Someone has to feed them (Frank included), water the garden, and look out for aliens. But I DO get to visit my family in September so I have that to look forward to.

Sorry it’s just that it has been a long semester and I haven’t had a good month. It seems like I say that at the end of every semester (that it’s been a long semester). Do I? Anyways we really put the pressure on by piling up the goals and the assignments, but I feel like we all came out on top.

We had a great time and performed well at the tournament but when we arrived back we all got sick. We must have caught a virus in the city, speaking of which I wonder if, because we live on the mountain for most of the year, if that makes us more susceptible to common “city” viruses.  It felt like the flu, but this was mid June so, dunno?

I was also wondering, because the tournament was the last major hurdle we had for this semester (excluding testing) if maybe our bodies just shut down and might have needed a rest from all these back-to-back-to-back projects.  Some of us slept for almost two days straight. I personally felt a huge weight off my back upon returning to the mountain, and knowing all major projects were done

.The last thing we need to get through this semester will be the test. We will test everything we train, from Log running, to taiji ball, to reaction.  As a matter of fact you all will be able to watch as our final Video log for the semester will feature the testing regimen. It will span the next three days, starting tomorrow.

Speaking of which, for those who have followed my Taiji Ball Video-log I must apologize because I will not be able to perform/shoot the final video due to injury. I was able to shoot two videos and I showed progress so that’s a positive. When I get over this injury I will get back to training with that marble ball! I think my best time so far is roughly 2minutes 15 seconds.  Dr Yang told me that if I could go for 10 minutes straight he would teach me 10 foot staff. So that is my goal.

That’s all. Thanks all.