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  • Interview with Master John

Dragon and Crane is a unique facility that offers programs for all ages. This “American Chinese Cultural Center” brings a taste of the Orient into our backyard. Our building, nestled in a wooded grove, has been carefully renovated to be reminiscent of the Shaolin Temple in China, where much of our martial art forms have their roots.

At Dragon and Crane we accompany the forms and movements of the internal and external martial arts with the theories and principles behind their development. We believe that by keeping with this traditional and authentic approach, students will develop a full appreciation of the arts and attain the self-development, self-growth and self-knowledge which is its mission.

Our spacious studio is home to master teachers and dedicated students. Classes include the martial arts, tai chi, yoga, meditation, Chinese language, dancing, and more.

We welcome you to join us.

Master John Scattaretico
Director

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"When the student is ready, the Master will appear."

It All Started in a Pizza Parlor

An Interview with Master John Scattaretico

By Marilyn Jean Young

Dragon and Crane, a unique facility opened in 2006 and nestled in a wooded grove, is a dream come true for Master John. Long awaited, this “American Chinese Cultural Center” brings a taste of the Shaolin Temple in China to northern Westchester County. Vibrant colors, swirling shapes and harmonic forms surround and gracefully lead us from the gardens outside to the courtyard within, where the journey into the Chinese arts occurs. One perfect summer afternoon, with green tea nearby, we sat under the triple white birch and chatted.

The kwoon (gwan)

MJY: How does it feel to have your dream come true?

Master John: I'm very grateful - it's very rare that some-one can actually have a true dream...and two things happened to me over the last year that were very unique in terms of something that I wanted to accomplish my whole life. One was to stand on the ground of the Shaolin Temple alongside the monks in China which was really just a dream come true. And of course the other was just a long term plan of hopefully one day having our own place to train. So I've been really lucky that those two things came to pass before I came to pass (laughs)...so that's remarkable!

MJY: How do you feel inside about that?

Master John: Oh - I'm glowing about that! But that thought's been out there for a long time – and you wonder how things come about and this came about pretty much as a good thing arriving out of a difficult set of circumstances as both my wife and I ended up losing our jobs. One door opens as another door closes and that's pure yin and yang and you never really know what's going to transpire. So I've been graced with being able to accomplish not just one dream but two.

MJY: How long have you wanted to have your own school?

Master John: Oh probably ever since I started teaching on my own. The trials and tribulations of having to find a spot - a suitable space with affordable rent - and as soon as you say martial arts people slam the door in your face and it's really difficult. I knew it was going to be a challenge to ideally find our own location - but that would be the best way to go in the long run. We followed our teacher all over the county when we started training and the distances were not always short - Putnam Valley, Croton, Ossining, Tarrytown, backyards and basements and it went on and on and it's difficult to hold your group together along the way and that's understandable but when you have a nice central location it's good rooting and good foundation and it becomes a home for people.

MJY: How did you decide on this particular place?

Master John: Well I started this project on this particular location about a year and a half ago. And interestingly enough when I used to live in Carmel and worked in Yonkers I used to drive by here – for 16 years I drove by here and was always curious about this little building set way back in the woods and it was tantalizing to me to think about the possibilities of that and I didn't even know what it was. One day I drove up the driveway – it looked like private property– and I saw this Trollheim place “The Sons of Norway” and I just left. I always thought about that place – boy that would be a nice spot. And then a couple of years ago my daughter came home and she told me she wanted to go to this “teen outback”. I had no idea what it was... so I said let me check it out...and lo and behold it's the same building! I took one look at the place being secluded and tucked in the woods and I told my daughter “no you can't go.” So that was that. Months went by and...at a local town meeting this building was being discussed that it was actually for sale. So I called immediately and we went into negotiations - and we struggled with that for another six months and everything just fell apart – it wasn't going to happen – we couldn't afford it – the terms weren't really favorable to us. I just threw my hands up and we walked away from it.  And then three or four months after that we got a phone call from the owners asking if we were still interested and one thing led to the next and everything kind of worked out. But it's been a struggle and it's been hard ....we've had great support...the Carolina school and all the other schools have offered their support if we needed it and our own students have been really working hard on this project. We only took the building over in late March so we've really cranked bringing it to how we see it now. So I feel very fulfilled in that sense.

MJY: What were some of the challenges that you faced?

Master John: The biggest challenge overall was of course the financial aspect. I basically put my whole family and our life on the line for this - in a financial way - our house - everything we own. I hope to be able to make it last. I just want to be able to keep the building alive and meet the expenses and hopefully we'll be able to earn a living where we can survive. If I have to work other jobs I'll do that but hopefully we won't.

MJY: How is this center different from other martial arts centers and what is your vision of it for the future?

Master John: Well I think first and foremost, our allegiance to our system is very strong. We've always been trained in good tradition and good Wu De. So the first thing that comes to mind is that...we try not to compromise the integrity of the art. We're very true to the ethics and the traditions of the arts. We don't want our schools to be – how should I say it – martial arts factories. And for me personally I feel very strongly about that. So I think we're different in that sense. We are also different in the richness of our art which embodies the teachings of great masters as well as those of the Shaolin Temple in China. Our personal little space here is different from most schools because when we planned it out I used the principles of Feng Shui along with form and function. We sanctified the place when the Buddhist priests came up from the Temple of Mercy and performed a special ceremony. I haven't done much in here without considering the Feng Shui dynamics of the building and I also hope to bring back a flavor – a little piece of the Shaolin Temple back to Westchester County. It's ironic but if you look at the photos of the Shaolin Temple this building, even before I touched it has a reminiscence of that – it has a wood structure and the massive stone foundation in the front of it and two large windows on the side of the large main door – which happen to be round in the temple and they are square in this building but it conjures the image right away with the basic form of it. I tried to pick up some of the design cues from the temple and they're in here in one form or another. Even though this is a basic contemporary style in a sense I tried to stick with the colors that I saw in China - just tried to capture that flavor a little bit.

MJY: Do not other schools consider Feng Shui in their design?

Master John: No, I think most people don't consider Feng Shui when they do things. I don't think martial art schools pay attention to the broadness of the art. I think most martial art schools are single minded in that they are self-defense oriented and they are interested in cranking out a lot of students. I would like to think that there are a lot of other schools out there that are interested in helping people to develop themselves and using the martial arts as a means for self-cultivation.

MJY: You mentioned the broadness of the art. Can you talk about some of the programs you plan here and how they might be different from other schools?

Master John: Oh absolutely. You know, the martial arts are such a cultural event from the Chinese standpoint and even from other countries in the truest sense – in Japan and Korea. But because of my constant exposure to the Chinese community maybe it's been a little bit easier for me to draw on some of those other aspects like Chinese language, Chinese cooking - being in the Chinese restaurant business for such a long time lends itself to that. That is probably unique for a martial arts course. So I hope that we are a little bit well-rounded culturally so we can draw people of varied interests not just those who are interested in training in martial arts but open up the culture to people in interesting ways and maybe using that as a kind of a eye opener for them. So if they come into cooking or if they come to play mahjong they'll be intrigued by the tai chi or the Shaolin and the meditation and their interest will be piqued and they'll look in those directions too.

The student and the teacher

MJY: How long have you been involved in the martial arts?

Master John: Well, we never really like to talk about time because it's never long enough. If I have to put a time on it it's 25 or 26 years [in 2006 when this interview was conducted] not including my meditation training that started many years before that. I started kind of late in a sense but my teacher said to me, “Where there is breath there is life.” In my head I would've liked to have started when I was a kid. But Kung Fu was not available then - it was still very tightly held close to the Chinese community and prior to that it really wasn't taught to non-Asians. So my teacher was one of the few early on – you might call him a pioneer in terms of authentic Chinese Kung Fu.

MJY: What prompted you to get into the martial arts? You said you started with meditation?

Master John: Yeah, well ...I have a very strong background in science and physiology and After graduate school I was called back by Columbia University to take part in a research study. They were interested in developing a program of meditation called Clinically Standardized Meditation or CSM that could be put into a hospital setting. They recognized the tremendous benefits of meditation as far as lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, creating endorphins and putting people into an altered state of consciousness. And they understood the benefit of that for both healing and for pain relief for terminally ill patients. In order to be involved in this program I needed to be trained. And in the course of that training I had some very unusual experiences if you want to call them that – out of the ordinary or paranormal or mystical. And that really was an eye opener for me and it opened up some windows that I simply had to jump through (laughs).  So I wanted to pursue that very strongly and I thought how am I going to continue on this quest? And at the same time I was very physically active – a lot of exercise, a lot of running. And then one day I ran into the person who would eventually become my primary teacher.

MJY: How did you run into him? Where was that?

Master John: In a pizza parlor – waiting for a table. (laughter) And he mentioned that he was going to open up another martial arts school. I was always interested in martial arts and I had visited the karate Dojos and the Aikido places and none of them felt right to me. But when he mentioned Kung Fu my eyes lit up because I had been weaned on those old Kung Fu TV shows - glued to the TV set every single week. So, when I stopped by the school the first night I knew that was it – that was the place I wanted to be and that's how I connected. It was through realizing that the true journey in Kung Fu involved meditation, as well as good physical conditioning, and that it's a very spiritual quest.  And I really believe that – I think that people who come for purely self-defense training either leave or they change. And I think that is pretty much the way it is. So I came to it kind of through the back door. I never anticipated teaching. I just continued to train and train and train. And then it seemed like almost an accident that I was teaching.

MJY: And your martial arts teacher was also teaching meditation?

Master John: Absolutely. We were fortunate enough to be trained by someone who really understood the full magnitude of what the Kung Fu is really about. And probably I never would have stayed if it hadn't been like that because that's what I saw missing in many other places and that's why they never really connected with me. The body part is always there, it's the mind and spirit part that's put aside all too often, but you can't have one without the other.

MJY: So how did you slide into teaching?

Master John: Well one day my teacher came to Master Eric and me and said I want to make you Sifus and that's how it took off from there. It's a natural process. You're pulled out to lead class here and there just as we like to do with our students whenever they have an opportunity to work with a younger brother or sister. We like to pull you aside and give you a chance. Probably the best time to become a student is when you become a teacher. You realize how much you need to learn and you have to see it through the eyes of a student. And also you have to be careful of how you're teaching and what you do because you want to give everyone everything the right way...with no errors ...because they are going to pass this on. So it's a lot of responsibility. But I like it. I think it's worth it.

MJY: What have you learned about yourself in teaching?

Master John: (chuckles) That I'm pretty goofy. I'm shy. I don't like to get up in front of people. I really don't like to talk and then of course I find myself having to talk. My teacher would always say “Talk is cheap” and it is. But you need to get out a certain amount of information and it's necessary for people to understand. So I stand there and talk. And little by little you get over it. But basically I'm still kind of quiet and shy. And I learned that I'm a lot more dyslexic than I thought I was. When I have to move lines around it's a struggle for me. You know left and right side it's a struggle (laughs).

MJY: When did you get to teach on your own? How did that happen?

Master John: Well the mechanism is inherent in becoming a Sifu. The whole idea is to generate that one person who can go out and continue to spread what we do. That really is our mission, that is our goal. My teacher always preferred that people would go out on their own and actually start a school. And that's really hard as I said before. It took me a couple of years to find a spot that I could actually go to. In the meantime, I started out teaching at the college. And then it spread and people kept asking me would you continue to teach. So, the students got together and did the leg work and we found a spot. And that's really how it happened. It wasn't something that I put my mind to - it really developed on its own and took a life of its own.

MJY: Do you think students have changed since you started?

Master John: Overall I'd have to say yes. And I don't even know if that is a fair expression. I only judge it on the fact that in some ways we've had to adjust our training to accommodate our society. Certainly years ago, to tell you the truth, we would have fallen on the sword for our teacher. It's a type of dedication and loyalty that I know is out there in many students but...when you draw in from the general population you draw in people who are not always like-minded. The training is always available for those students who want to push the envelope and we know who they are. It's not that we sacrifice the training - it's just that that type of training is not for everyone. And, that is neither good nor bad because one of the great things that I've always felt is to try and open up the arts to as many people as possible because it's such a great vehicle for self-discovery and self-development, as well as physical wellness.  And that's one of the things that we reached for many years ago when we directed our energies towards an American Chinese cultural center; to try and create more of a welcoming image for people so they wouldn't be intimidated by coming to a martial arts studio. And I feel very strongly about that - which is one of the reasons I like to keep the cultural aspect up.

MJY: What causes that lack of dedication and commitment?

Master John: There are a few things. One is that it's hard work. People are used to immediate gratification, the quick reward, and it's not that way. The truth of the art is that it only gives you back what you put in. So it's a very honest system in that way. And so any cheating or any shortcuts are only shortcuts of the self – you're really cheating yourself and no one else. I think one of the other issues is it's facing the self. Many people don't want to turn their eyes inward. They're reluctant to get a sense of their true self. Whatever fears they might have or whatever self-image they might have - the idea that as they see themselves may not be the way other people see them.

MJY: Can you talk a little bit about what it was like to train in the old days?

Master John: Well the first night of class my teacher practically knocked me out (laughs). He hit me in the solar plexus with an elbow while I was standing in front of a wall.

MJY: You didn't know it was coming?

Master John: No.

MJY: So that was your introduction?

Master John:Yeah. Today you might not choose to send that message to people right away. But I don't want to give the impression that the arts have gotten softer by any means, only that there are avenues for people to train and not have to go through the intensity that we did years ago - my fists looked like two bloody pieces of meat, big and swollen up from training, breaking boards, breaking my knuckles - but that's still there if people want it. It's there for the select few who want to pursue it.

MJY: But along with that intensity was a healing, was it not, of your back problems?

Master John: Yes. I'd been practicing for many years and then I had a car accident. I was stopped at a traffic light and someone slammed into me like I wasn't even there. And I had injuries to my vertebrae and disks and they were pretty severe. My orthopedist knew I was in martial arts and he told me that was the end of my martial arts career. Sifu gave me special meditations to do and I did special exercises in class. I never stopped training. I even came to class wired up with tens machines taped to my back and I just continued on. The doctors wanted to operate but the options were 33% chance I'd get better, 33% chance there'd be no change, and 33% chance I'd get worse. So with odds like that [I thought] I'll wait and see what happens. So I did – I stuck with everything that Sifu told me plus acupuncture and Chinese herbs, tai chi, modified my Shaolin training a little bit for awhile, and Western physical therapy which is always good anyway. And as time went on the MRIs kept showing that there were changes in my injury that weren't supposed to happen. And that's what the doctors said – we don't know why – you should be getting worse not better – we can't understand it. It was a mystery – but nobody asked, nobody was interested. I started to heal and nobody wanted to know how. They just passed it off as a medical anomaly.

MJY: How have the principles of the martial arts affected your own personal life and can you give examples?

Master John: Ah well - every day of my life I hope to be living those principles. The idea that things are good enough - which I see far too much of. Everybody seems to think that everything is good enough. And very often things are not good enough and people are not willing to go the extra effort or the extra mile to try to put things right. Like even for me, in paying attention to detail. I might have been a little sloppy in detail you know early on. And of course the Kung Fu trains you to pay attention to detail. And that was one thing that overlapped pretty quickly into my everyday life – everyday chores, everyday work things, pay attention to detail. Also another thing is being able to be in the moment. Whatever happens to be going on at the time - to actually be able to devote yourself 100% to the task at hand. It's another lost art in many ways for people. But that comes about through focus and through understanding the Zen of whatever it is – whether you're painting a wall or sweeping the floor or paring an apple - there is great beauty and great peace even in a task that you don't like doing if you simply allow yourself to be in that task 100%. Some of the other things – [like] patience. Patience is a great teacher when you realize how you have to be patient with yourself in training. It’s not easy to grasp certain things. It's much easier to become patient with other people when you try to realize what it is that they are going through. I think I'm a pretty patient person. I try to understand things from another person's point of view or from where they're standing. And Tao - the duality of existence - stares me in the face every single day. I can't not think about Tao, everything in terms of Tao. I look at the newspaper, I watch the news, I see Tao. I see yin and yang, peace and war.

MJY: Can you review the four principles that you talk about in class?

Master John: Yes. I like to talk about them as the four guidelines that are easy to grasp and I try to bring them to our students early on right there for everyday life, including my own. Very simply: 1. The “watercourse way” – the idea is to try to be fluid. Understanding that you don't have to meet everything head on, that there are other ways to accomplish things – to be flexible, changeable – the inherent strength in the softness of water. I could go on for 45 minutes about that. 2. The concept of “isness” – that's another big one. Everyday of my life too I think about that. Things simply are what they are. My current situation isn't easy – the one I've just been through but it is what it is and we need to just accept it for what it is and move on. So often students come to me and they have issues, problems in their life that aren't going to be changed - things simply are what they are. So you have to accept that and when you accept it you're free from the burden of carrying that around or thinking “oh if it can only be like this or if it can only be like that or if I can only change it” well you can't change everything and things are what they are. So it's the concept of “isness.” 3. The concept of “seizing the moment” - being in the here and now is so important not just for tasks. How many times have you gone to the store or anywhere and all you want is for someone to actually listen to what you're saying to actually understand what it is to take a moment to listen to what it is you have to say. Maybe then you can get something accomplished you know you can actually communicate an idea to somebody. But being in the here and now for people is very hard. So take a step back and just focus 100% on the moment.  Martial arts is certainly good training for that. It makes you focus on yourself, focus on the moment. And seizing the moment is important. 4. “Letting go” – just able to let things go. When you come to class you learn to let go - just kind of put all those things in the outside world behind you, forget about it, just let it go. The bigger issues that I see every day – you turn on the news, you pick up the paper, people fighting over property and land and lives being lost over something that they simply can't let go. The borders are imaginary lines in the ground no one even owns the earth to begin with and yet we carry on - they adhere to the property they adhere to hate for generations and rather than simply let go. People have trouble letting go of wealth. The concept of letting go.

The philosophy

MJY: Can you explain, from your own view, the difference between the Eastern philosophy out of which the martial arts arise and our western tradition, for instance, in the view of and approach to life?

Master John: Hum – wow that's a big question. Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that western ideology is really a linear kind of thinking. We tend to view the world in terms of black and white. It goes way back to when man first began to realize himself and think about his own existence. In the west we began to think about the “I” as being separate from all things - different from all that existed because we could think. “I think, therefore I am” – that was the premise. So that set up a paradigm where he saw himself as “I” vs. everything else. And so from that point on rather than seeing himself as part of a whole he always began to see himself and the rest of creation – animals, solid objects, and so forth – as separate. And that carried through philosophy, Western philosophy, Aristotelian thought, and it just permeated our culture and it permeated the way we began to see things in the world – as the “I” being separate from all things, since the “I” was a sentient being. Whereas, the Eastern philosophy never started out that way. It started out right from the beginning that man recognized himself to be part of all things. And so immediately they set off in the direction of wholeness - all things are integrated – all things are part of a whole – all things affect each other. Man and the environment are inseparable – which is Tao – the single energy source working in many different ways but always working together. And interestingly enough science has recently discovered that Asian people actually, ocularly, see the world differently. And I've always found that interesting because anyone who spends any time dealing with the Asian community it's kind of frustrating and kind of funny at the same time. We're very logical in the way we think – you know 1+1=2, A+B then C. But you get this feeling of total confusion all the time in the Asian community because it's largely that they actually see the world differently. If they look at a picture, for example, as westerners we'll look at a picture and we'll focus on a single object. When we look at a picture of a tiger in the woods, westerners will immediately focus on the tiger. Asians, if they look at that same picture, the tiger will probably not jump out to them immediately. They'll see a jungle – they'll see all of the greenery – their tendency will not be to focus on a single object. What we've found in science is that it is unique about how people really see the world. So it's not only philosophically how we see the world but we tend to visually see the world differently. It has so permeated – this “allness” thinking in the culture that the nervous system responds in that way too. And so that's a big difference in the way we relate and communicate with each other. And that is probably why there are problems communicating cross culturally across the international community. If all cultures see the world differently then until we can come upon a single – sort of communal - way of seeing we're always going to have obstacles and divisions in the way we think. I tend to think that trying to see the world holistically is the better way to go for everyone.

MJY: How is Eastern philosophy incorporated into the martial arts?

Master John: Well, the true essence of our art has always been about self-cultivation and enlightenment and trying to move to a higher place of awareness. If you go back to the roots of the Shaolin Temple you understand that the monks there did not start out as martial artists – they started out as spiritual men in the quest for enlightenment. And so, our actual roots were born out of that. If you follow the true way of the art – which we have been lucky enough to be introduced to and trained in – you realize that you are just “visiting” this earthly realm for a short period of time and that we will continue on as an energy source and as an energy system in many ways shapes and forms. And, if you follow the way (Tao) you realize that more and more. Like we spoke earlier, people who come to the martial arts just for fighting ...I feel that if they go to a school that holds true to the traditional values they either change or they leave. And you soon realize that the fighting aspects of the art, as my teacher always said, it's a gift – it's a gift of the art.

MJY: How do you incorporate the Eastern philosophy in your teaching – with Qigong, diet, nutrition, body/mind connection, meditation, etc?

Master John: Well, I like to think I'm living that philosophy. I try really hard every day I look at the world with a Taoist philosophy. Even my own approach to who I am and hope to be is really very much in line with Tao. I like to think at least I strive for it. And so hopefully everything we do in class follows through with that. I've always wanted to make our learning an everyday experience for people and I try to pull every day life situations into our classes and [explain] how we can see those as being part of Tao. Looking at it from an Asian, Taoist, Buddhist point of view, I tailor our exercises accordingly - our Qigong training, our diet and our food – we try to focus on different types of eating for the seasons as they change, through the five element theory. And hopefully we'll see changes in our own life that we can attribute to what we do in the school. And when that happens people are more willing to continue when they see some real benefit from it. I've seen many people change many things about their life through the martial arts training over the years – whether it's a particular habit or life style change - and it just seems to happen automatically just from coming to class. They're not always conscious decisions but it just works into your life.

MJY: Can you go into a little more depth about how the study of the martial arts can help people with the rigors of daily modern life – I'm looking more for the actual physiology of when and how a change takes place – such as rewiring the pathways?

Master John: I guess there's a few things at work on a few different levels. One of course is conscious –making a conscious decision to do something. Maybe because you came to class and it made you feel better and you realized you know I want to do something about my health, I want to do something about my weight, I want to do something about my stress, my high blood pressure, my smoking, my anger, whatever it might be. So you can come from a conscious point of view and you can really want to make that change. It's harder to make things happen if you don't really don't want the change - if you really don't believe that you can do it and accept that change. First you have to be aware that you want to change and then of course you have to apply it. But on the other hand, I know and I've seen, through the arts there's a spiritual connection that happens through what I like to call the universal intelligence. I do believe that in the Tao and in the dynamics of the energy, the nature that's out there, the information is out there – it's like Mulder from the x-files, “the truth is out there”. - (laughs) It really is! The more you move to a spiritual place the more this universal intelligence starts to come to you. Then those changes maybe are not conscious changes that you decide to make. There's something that happens inside you and you start to move in a different direction and you start to behave differently. Maybe it's that you begin to lose your taste for cigarettes, or you go out to dinner and all of a sudden you decide not to have a piece of steak and the next thing you know it's happening more and more but you're not making a conscious decision. This intelligence has somehow found its way into your psyche little by little and the next thing you know three or four months have passed and you really haven't had a piece of steak. And now you begin to actually lose a taste for it. Not that eating meat is a bad thing, but for some people you might choose not to. So, I've seen, there's sort of an unconscious consciousness that comes to work. And I think it's because you open yourself more and more to what I believe is a universal intelligence. I think non-violence is a universal intelligence. However, until the world community is able to raise itself to a level of consciousness where they can tap into that level of awareness it's futile. There's always going to be angst and there's always going to be violence and so forth and so on.

MJY: Actually you just touched on the next question – how would the martial arts and any of these practices help evolve the planet? And do you actually see that happening?

Master John: Well, on the one hand there's yin and yang. And I guess there will always be the good and the bad the right and the wrong. That's the duality of existence. But that doesn't mean it has to be constant. Maybe for the next millennium we can live in total peace and harmony and in the millennium following that things might be a little more tumultuous. Or maybe there won't be a millennium following that. So, I don't think it's futile to hope and think in that direction. I've always said that if everyone studied martial arts there would be very few problems in the world. So I believe, yes, one of the ways to stop the craziness in the world and make the world community a better place to live is to continue to spread this training.

MJY: Can you elaborate more on the Tao philosophy of oneness and the fact that there really isn't duality or if there is that it's really part of the whole?

Master John: You know I like to look at things from both sides – the Eastern view and the Western view. When we tried to understand the beginning of all things from Western science eventually at some point in time all the great physicists – Sagan, Einstein, Asimov, Capra, Hawking, and so forth and so on – came to the conclusion through their super-colliders that there were four energy dynamics at work. One was what they simply labeled to be a strong force, they simply labeled another one a weak force. They said there was gravity and electromagnetism. So they said there were these four forces at work in the dynamics of the universe. And through more and more study and investigation and banging around and smashing atoms in the desert out there somewhere in Arizona with these super-colliders they studied more and more and they said well, you know what, now that we considered this we must recognize that there really are not four forces but there's two. So they said the weak force and the electromagnetic force are really working as the same thing and the strong force and the gravity are working as the same thing. So they said so really at work in the universe are two forces – a strong force and a weak force. And then they studied a little bit more and sometime in the late '80s they said that while there were two forces at work in the universe – the strong and the weak force – through watching the beginning of galaxies and so forth we were able with the help of the Hubble telescope to see stars imploding and exploding – they said these forces are inseparable. There's a strong force and a weak force and they function as one. And so they came up with what they called the Theory of One. And that's been the operating premise so far. And it doesn't take a great leap of discovery to realize that the theory of one is Tao. It's always been Tao. It's the yin and the yang – the strong and the weak – two inseparable forces functioning as one. As we would sometimes say, complimentary opposites.

MJY: But this has not become part of the mainstream in Western thought has it?

Master John: I don't know if I can answer that. Because so much that is part of the mainstream is part of the undercurrent and it's not what people will talk about. So I don't know. You see more and more about it. You go to the bookstore and you see the Asian philosophy section which used to be mixed up with occult section and the mystical section you're beginning to see those sections are growing rapidly – they're expanding. And so what that tells you is that more and more people are looking in this direction. More and more people are saying to themselves that this seems to make a lot more sense – in my everyday life and as a world view. As the world changes we can't get away from the fact – we've come to understand that our environment we must treat our environment as a living organism and that everything that we do effects it and what happens to it affects us. As we pollute the rivers and the rain and so forth and so on – we've been forced into this direction trying to understand that we're all part of a whole. We've been saying that in Taoist philosophy for 5000 years.

MJY: What one thought would you like to leave the readers with?

Master John: Well, one of the things that I think about almost every day is the shortness of life how little time we really do have here and that it's such a shame about man's inhumanity to man on a daily basis. We have such little time. There are such few people on this planet that will ever reach their true objective which is the betterment of themself – hopefully. [So] whenever someone does something for you – and I've said this in class many times – you should never take it for granted. Always understand that whether they take a moment to say good morning or to make you a cup of coffee in the coffee shop or they run a little errand for you – no matter how big or small the effort it's a piece of someone's life – whenever someone spends some time with you or for you they're taking a piece of their own life which is preciously short and small and they're really handing it over to you – and that time can never be taken back – it's a gift of eternity. And I think if you hold that thought it makes you a lot more grateful in your daily interactions with people. And like with my students, I take it to heart whenever they do something – even coming to class – it's taking time out of their life that they can really never have back and it puts on a whole new importance to it I think for me.

MJY: Going along with the concept that less is more – can you give us one word to describe:

MJY: Eastern philosophy

Master John: One (laughs)

MJY: Martial arts

Master John: [the] Way

MJY: How this practice makes you feel

Master John: Hopeful

MJY: How the practice has changed you

Master John: Better

MJY: What you hope to accomplish with the school

Master John: Continuation

MJY: Thank you Sifu.

Master John: Thank you.

Post Script: It was a privilege to be invited to have this discussion with Sifu. I am honored and most grateful. MJY

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