"I started the Wu Dao Gong training a year and a half ago. Prior to starting, I had experienced around 5 years of severe depression and anxiety following on from a traumatic head injury. The depression spiralled down to a point where I was suicidal and attempted to take my own life requiring hospitalisation on two occasions. My anxiety was so severe that even walking out the front door was incredibly hard even whilst being heavily medicated and I just simply stopped trying. A good day for me was when I accomplished one task for the day, such as sitting outside for 5 minutes or making the bed, but most days, even those simple things were just too much for me. I'm very lucky I had a couple of people in my life who refused to give up on me and with a lot of help, support and a huge amount of effort, I started to do a bit more. I didn't like it; I wasn't comfortable doing it but I simply had no other choice.
Prior to all of this, I had always wanted to try another martial art (I had done some taekwondo in the past). So even though it was incredibly hard to turn up, I decided to trial a Wu Dao Gong class. During the lesson, Brett had us doing a basic deflection of a punch which was fine and a bit of fun, until he came around to us and he punched. I tried to push his hand out of the way and was in shock when his arm didn't even move a millimetre. He didn't even appear to be trying. I tried again as hard as I could but with the same result. I have never experienced anything like that before. I knew 2 things at that moment;
(1) I knew nothing about martial arts or self defence (I had thought I knew a bit of self defence from the taekwondo).
(2) I was hooked.
I loved coming to class as I was so engrossed in what I was learning for that hour or so that I 'forgot' to be anxious. I started training a lot at home and I just started feeling better mentally but in a way I had never felt before. I started to feel joy, happiness, a sense of calm and not so much confidence as a 'comfortableness'. So I kept training.
A year and a half later, I am simply a completely different person. I am stronger and fitter than I have ever been. More importantly for me, I have started to live and really experience and enjoy life. Things seem a lot clearer and I am more 'connected' with myself. People notice that there is a difference in me, even from the person I was before the head injury. I had tried all the 'traditional' ways to treat depression and anxiety: medication, seeing psychologists and psychiatrists and general physical exercise. I spent 5 years going round in circles. I believe I would have improved to a point but I don't believe that I would be anywhere near where I am today without the Wu Dao Gong training. I don't understand it but there appears to be much more to it than just a form of exercise or self defence moves. I am looking forward to continuing to learn and grow and appreciate and live life."
a Wu Dao Gong Student, Electrical Designer (The name has been suppressed for reasons of privacy.)
"A few weeks ago I was walking through Civic to my car. It was shortly after midnight, and I was confronted by five young people, four males and a female. Having trained in Wu Dao Gong for a number of years, which teaches sensitivity to your surroundings, I immediately knew there was a level of menace directed my way.
One of the males asked me for a cigarette for his girlfriend. This was clearly not his intention as the girl was already smoking one. As I told him that I didn't smoke, I saw out of my peripheral vision one of the other males swinging a strike at my head.
Without thinking, I reacted by intercepting the strike and capturing the male's wrist in my hand. I then pushed him away from me by his arm. My training came into play, meaning that I used a reasonably correct technique - power through the legs and waist - because the guy went flying backwards and hit a shop front window very hard.
This must have been unexpected to the youths as they all stood around gaping at their mate who had bounced off the window and was sprawled on the ground. I took the opportunity, while they all stood around uselessly, to make my exit. After a while they gathered their wits and made a half-hearted attempt to yell abuse after me, but without even needing to turn around, I knew they were not following and the danger had dissipated.
I think I can safely say that my training assisted me a great deal that night to neutralise their threat and make my escape without doing any damage to them other than some bruised ego. Without the knowledge I have gained through training in Wu Dao Gong and my body's instinctive reaction to the attack, things might have turned out very differently."
James, Public Servant
"I want to tell you how extremely beneficial the whole Wu Dao Gong experience has been for me. I find more balance in my life, I feel in better control of my emotions, I am able to focus better and longer than before. All the instructors are extremely qualified and always very helpful – demanding without discouraging you! They all are very good at picking up what you are not doing correctly and always convey their advice very clearly and very gently. I would highly recommend this course to anyone who is looking at increasing personal well-being, (re)connecting mind and body. A beautiful and fullfilling journey of endless discoveries, a sentiment of progressive connectedness between the physical, mental and spiritual. Kudos to the whole team!"
Christophe, IT Consultant
"Since starting Natural Style Kung Fu about two years ago, I have never felt better physically or mentally. I find I am generally more relaxed, am able to cope with stress better, and of course feel more confident about being able to defend myself if the need ever arises. The overall approach to training is a refreshing change from many other forms of martial arts, and the people involved are all very friendly, making it very enjoyable to go to training sessions."
John, Air Force Officer
"I have been participating in Wu Dao Gong training for some eighteen months. When I commenced training, I was substantially overweight, a diabetic with unstable blood sugars and very unfit with high blood pressure. Since I commenced training, I have reduced my weight by two clothes sizes, my blood sugars have become completely stable and my blood pressure normal. The training is developmental in that in each training session, one learns more about the movements and their application. It is hard, but no one is expected to do more than they are physically capable of doing. Each participant moves at his own pace in developing his capacity and skill. The contemplative aspects and the whole process of internal strength development are remarkable processes to experience. I am greatly appreciative of the guidance of our teachers in the process of developing skill in this art."
Stuart, Land Resource Researcher
"The positive effects of undertaking this authentic martial arts training were immediately apparent in the physical changes to my body. Through the regular training, I felt stronger and had much more energy. In particular, I learnt how to relax and let go of tensions created by every day life. Since beginning Kung Fu training, I have felt physically fitter than when I participated in and practised other sports in the past.
The Kung Fu training has helped me to develop a sense of overall well being and mental clarity. Kung Fu training has improved my self confidence, which has helped to develop a positive energy in other aspects of my work and private life. Through Kung Fu training, I have learnt to look within myself for the strength I need to make life changing decisions. Equally, through practising martial arts I have become less judgemental and much more introspective."
"I had never noticed how much tension I was carrying in my body. Since beginning the Internal Martial Arts training, tense areas have begun to relax and, perhaps more importantly, I have gained an awareness of my body which allows me to feel and begin to relax tension where I hadn't previously. For someone who has always had shoulders like lumps of granite, this is an amazing experience! As a direct result of this awareness, I am able to handle the stress of a demanding study workload much more effectively."
Nick, Law Student
"I've done a lot of martial arts, starting out since I was about seven years old and I've done a lot of styles, even some of the more traditional training such as Shaolin. When I started with the Tai Chi Academy earlier this year, the first thing I noticed was that unlike all the other schools I had been to, there was a very calming and peaceful nature to the people and the training. The element of ego was not present and I found this helped me learn a lot faster and really understand what was being taught to me.
The instructors seem to have unlimited amounts of patience and are always so willing to help or answer questions. Another difference I have found with the Academy is that they are very interested in helping you to become the best you can. Other institutions I have studied with are more concerned with how long you have been there and how well you get along with your instructors and the decision for advancement appears to be more based on social skills as opposed to actual merits.
The training itself has been really beneficial for my health. As I work in the IT industry, I spend most of my day sitting in my office behind a computer screen. I've found that my posture has fixed itself up and I am not getting the same aches and sores in my shoulders and neck as I used to. I am constantly aware of my body now and remain relaxed at all times. This is great for Canberra winters as through relaxation, my circulation is better and I don't feel the cold as much!
I also have done Reiki and I've found the practice to be very beneficial and complimentary for when I use Reiki. I haven't really gotten sick since starting the training and I feel really good all of the time now. I think overall the training is great for reducing stress as well. I find quite often, work can become stressful and all it takes is to quietly slip away and find somewhere I can do Qigong for five minutes!
The training is something which I look forward to every time and find myself eagerly awaiting training days during the week and weekend. I've found this training so good that I've recommended it to all my friends, some of whom have joined up and completely agree."
Jaden, IT Manager
"I first started practising Internal Martial Arts, Natural Style Kung Fu, two years ago as a fun way of getting fitter and healthier. It has since become much more than a simple fitness program. It has taught me how to relax my body yet develop real power, to focus my mind. My concentration has improved and my confidence has increased. It has also greatly improved my self-esteem, enabling me to decrease the level of anti-depressant medication I take daily. Others have also noticed the physical changes that have occurred over the two years. While I have noticed the toning of muscles in my arms and legs, others have noticed the overall change in my general body shape - an unexpected benefit."
Kylie, Network Officer
"I had been considering learning a martial art for a number of years, but I have always been deterred by the hyper-aggressive attitude of many schools. A friend convinced me to try Wu Dao Gong. To my great surprise, it was not at all like my preconceptions, and within a week I was hooked.
The training emphasis is on mental discipline and self-development, with no place for aggression. Many of the exercises appear quite simple, yet contain endless subtleties which gradually become apparent through practice (or Brett's explanations!). There's always something new to think about.
The benefits I'm experiencing from this training are unquestionable. I have more energy, feel stronger yet more relaxed, and am in better shape than at any time in the last ten years. I'm also finding it much easier to remain calm and focused, which is proving very helpful with my studies."
Andrew, PhD Student
"Practising Wu Dao Gong at any age.
I have been attending the Chinese Internal Martial Arts class for just over two years now and I’m not sure, sometimes how I am still here. This year, my twenty-seven year old son also started training with me.
The first time I came, I poked my nose into the 6pm class at Aranda one very cold and windy winter night. All I saw in that brief glimpse were many young men training hard. I felt overwhelmed and scurried away before I could go in. After a bit of a chat with Fontane, I decided to try again and even though I was much older than most of the people there and the other two women left shortly after I started, I instantly loved the training and something inside me became hooked.
I have never been the kind of person who has done a lot of physical activity. I prefer to lie down and read a book. I won’t exercise simply to stay fit but the fact that I was learning how to defend myself while also becoming fit was wonderful for me.
In the last two years I have noticed big changes in myself that I attribute directly to Wu Dao Gong training. I am stronger and more flexible and I have a very different attitude towards my body. I am calmer and more able to manage anxiety. I notice that my physical response to anxiety making situations is totally different. I am learning how to manage my own mental limitations and this, I suppose is one of the best things about the internal martial arts training. Whilst it is very egalitarian and there is no competition on the outside, inside one’s head there is all kinds of competition going on. I tell myself that because of my age or any number of other variables it is not possible for me to continue, to be good, to be like others. Yet through all of this, I train every day and the benefits are enormous. I am noticing that I enjoy my life more and more as I learn to keep going and simply practise every day. I think there is something profound to be learnt here for all aspects of life."
"Although my story isn't the average one, I believe I must express how much the Tai Chi and the Internal Martial Arts courses have changed my life. Coming from a childhood of divorce, abuse and fear, I spent a decade of my life addicted to drugs and alcohol with a very low self-esteem and relatively no hope for a positive future. Several years ago, I had become so angry as well as anxious and depressed that I took up Tai Chi, just to try and calm down. This was truly the beginning of my journey down the positive path of life. The Qigong as well as the slow moving traditional Yang style form 'tricked' my mind into looking at life at a different pace. They also taught me how to focus on the moves so intensely that my 'wild elephant' mind could no longer wander aimlessly through innumerable thoughts. The positive vibes given off by the serene instructors were also infectious as well as inspiring. I never knew humans could be so happy!:)"
"The Martial Arts course has been the true epiphany in my life's story. Growing up in the USA, I never learnt the concepts of discipline, motivation, dedication or determination. I'm no master – very far from It – but the 'old me' didn't even think I would last one lesson of Kung Fu. At first, I found it very hard to come to class as I knew the workout was quite intense; sometimes I just felt so low on energy it took everything I had to just show up. Now I look forward to the lessons as I know no matter how bad I am feeling, I'm going to leave feeling great. The mix of meditation and hard training has made me a much more positive, confident and loving person. I have a long way to go before I'll feel truly proficient as a martial artist, but I look back at myself when I started and I can't believe how much I've improved mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.
I have to say, this training has been a major factor in turning a lost and negative individual into a happy person with integrity and who contributes to society. I only hope that one day I will achieve the level of tranquil peace and internal power that the instructors exude every time I am in their presence."
Jesse, Professional Writing Student / Internet Journalist
"Before I started Natural Style Kung Fu, I had wanted to learn a martial art for self defence for a long time. I also thought it would be very hard to find a good quality class that did not involve hitting bricks and yelling a lot in a room full of angry guys, so I kept putting off making the effort to find a class. I think on some level I also believed I did not have the physical strength or mental suitability to pursue martial arts.
This feeling of unsuitability became more and more of a deterrent as I entered my thirties, climbed the ladder in the public service, was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid and put on weight. Generally speaking, my lifestyle was not a very healthy one, physically or mentally. I drank more than I should, ate a lot of junk and did not get enough exercise. I also had a number of problems with anxiety, something which made my day to day headspace quite stressed out.
A co-worker attending the Natural Style Kung Fu class talked about the class one day at morning tea. He was especially appreciative of the health benefits and lack of formalities. I decided to give it a try and found it manageable and inspiring - and very challenging. While there were a lot of men in the class, the class was not full of aggressive men which made it easier to be one of the few women. Now there are a lot more girls sticking with the classes, which is great to see.
I've been attending classes for two years now and the physical health benefits have been very noticeable. The whole way I move has changed, I drink much less than I used to, and my doctor has recently cut back my thyroid medication. I feel strong, and my body is more a friend than an enemy.
The most significant benefits for me however have been mental. While people at class talk a lot about the physical strain of training, the mental challenges have been for me the most rewarding aspect of the training.
Overcoming these challenges has helped a lot with my self confidence in other areas of my life as well. When I decided I needed to lose weight recently, I braced myself for a difficult time, especially as I had had an eating disorder in my teens and had a long history of trying and failing to manage my health properly. I was surprised at just how easy it was to make good changes this time. Now that I have worked out strategies to stop my self-defeating behaviour at training, these skills have been very useful and transferable elsewhere in my life.
I've also noticed that it's harder to provoke me, I don't stress out as much, and overall I am a much calmer happier person than I was when I first started. Natural Style Kung Fu is not always easy, especially for those of us who come to it a little older and with a little more mental baggage to work through, but for me, that's all the more reason to keep doing it. It has definitely helped me in all areas of my life, and I'm looking forward to seeing where I can go with it next."
Catherine, Public Servant
"I began training in Wu Dao Gong after doing a number of years of Tai Chi with the Academy. I remember feeling familiar with some of the fundamental principles as well as feeling a little better prepared for some of the movements we learned. The training is challenging but the learning atmosphere is very supportive. However, after the first few weeks I remember thinking that I would never be able to punch as powerfully as the more advanced students. I felt tired and breathless very quickly. Parts of my body ached, and sometimes quite deep inside the joints and muscles it seemed. I was convinced that I would never cope with this training and that I would never achieve some of the demands such as being able to walk with my thighs parallel to the floor (the Chicken Legs Walking). I also found myself feeling very uncoordinated and thought that the stated benefits would be a long way off.
It is now quite some time since those first months of martial arts for me and I am truly glad to have stuck with it long enough to have achieved some of the basic training outcomes that I never thought I would. This training is not for the impatient but it will reward the patient and the persistent, and even those of us somewhere in between. I feel much more relaxed when trying to punch, and it is amazing how much more force comes out when your movements and your relaxation levels are as they should be. Sometimes even Chicken Legs feels relaxing! The challenge, of course, continues. What makes these arts all the more enjoyable is that I think I am pleasantly addicted to the training. Despite still needing to train a lot more, I do feel odd when I miss daily training and my body reminds me of what it needs to do to feel better. This is excellent motivation. Also, Wu Dao Gong practice (as well as Tai Chi practice) is the type of exercise that seems to give you more energy than you begin with. Great for lunchtime at work on a busy day! Sometimes after practice it feels as though you have been thoroughly cleaned from the inside out.
What adds to the addiction is the benefit you can see the practice having in everyday life as well as during training: the physical improvements to strength, balance and efficiency of movement you start to notice, the improved concentration, the confidence to face challenges, and also some emotional benefits. Much like watching out for an incoming punch or sensing tension in your shoulders, the practice also seems to train sensitivity to your own emotional reactions. If the training also results in developing the ability to be patient even with those people who probably don't deserve the benefit of your patience, then this is surely a complete and very useful system. When the training provides such widespread benefits, it is easy to be addicted!"
"I am just finishing off my first year of Wu Dao Gong and it has changed my life and my body.
I used to be an avid gym girl. When I started Wu Dao Gong, I wasn’t quite sure if this was for me so I went once a week and kept going to the gym. After a few months, I noticed my body had changed more in that time than it had in all the years of gym training. I now go to all the training sessions each week and train a little each other day. I haven’t been inside my gym in over eight months.
I have also done the course in Taoist Qigong and have found that the two complement each other. I feel relaxed, confident, alert and better at dealing with the stresses of my life and job. My body and mind have never felt this good.
I would recommend this course to everyone. It is a brilliant confidence booster as well as a great way of keeping yourself healthy and centred. The teachers are all very patient. There is no grading. There are just beginners, intermediate and advanced. The best part is that you can take your time and learn at your own pace; there is no pressure of tests and belts. People are there to change their way of life, not to compete; the only competition you have there is with yourself."
Emanuela, Promotions and Marketing
"I have trained in Wu Dao Gong for one and a half terms and have recently begun to see some of the changes and benefits that the teachers and senior students have spoken about. I have been amazed by how much power I can generate and how relaxed I can remain in the process. There are innumerable other changes and benefits, but if I tried to describe every little one, I don’t think I would do justice to the teaching. I feel as if I have just started to take my first tentative steps along the Wu Dao Gong path and with every step a little more of the path becomes visible and the desire to take another step becomes stronger. I would definitely recommend the training to anyone who wishes to learn a comprehensive and effective martial art or who simply wants to better understand themselves and bodies."