1. How would you define your personal practice?

My approach is simple – a fluid practice that prepares my body, mind, and emotions to work in harmony and create an internally meaningful life. Gravity doesn’t play favorites =) I want to play well with myself first to do that with others too. My practice is more of a “life resilience system” to help me deal with each stage of my life appropriately. For example, in my 20’s I was interested in being a competitive Weightlifter. And in my 30’s I became interested in teaching it. I also want to be able to pack my wagon up and go backpacking any minute in Yosemite and have the physical resilience to do that. I have the cool tricks I can do for show – and then there is the actual stress tolerance I have accumulated through good eating and training choices.

 

 

2. What turning points have you encountered on your movement journey?

Significant milestones in my training history:

–Finding CrossFit and transitioning from being a pack-a-day smoker to a personal trainer and weightlifting coach
–Discovering psychedelics and uncovering limiting self-beliefs and stories at 25 yrs. old and continual rewriting of past trauma
–Encountering Chinese weightlifting philosophy in 2014, which espouses lifting is more like a rhythmic dance than a “labor”
–Trying several iterations of “Squat Everyday” to challenge folk recovery/stress adaptation theory (thanks Matt Perryman)
–Teaching weightlifting to high school students and “non-athletes” changed my entire view of the purpose of fitness and respect the craft of pedagogy
–Discovering Jon Yuen, Ido Portal, and the controversial world of Movement Culture in 2016 – and seeing how myopic my weightlifting practice had become
–Becoming a Wilderness Survival Instructor made me direct my training to prepare my joints and cardiovascular system for the outdoors rather than urban athletics
–Going through a Somatic Sex & Relationship coaching program in 2017, which showed how connected sexuality, movement, pleasure/pain, and autonomy are connected with human potential

 

3. What role has injury played in cultivating your current niche?

Injury is accepted as part of the package deal in Weightlifting and barbell sports. And honestly, you’d think when people are pushing limits injuries are bound to happen. But in my experience (and this drives me crazy), it’s actually because the Snatch & Clean/Jerk are not strength exercises. They are power developers and do little to actually train the resilience of the joints, tendons, and nervous system – they test them. And injuries often happen when training becomes myopic and general skills like twisting sideways and Jefferson curls are scoffed at. A lot of people jump into CrossFit and Olympic lifting skipping the general preparation of the joints. They want to do the “cool trick” without paying the Piper.

Injuries are also dealt with as specific to one muscle and that small physical therapy style “activation-exercises” is enough. For example, if a lifter has knee pain during squats, people think that doing anti-valgus movements or glute medius activation is enough. And I’ll examine their foot arch and hip drive mechanics and they are so out of whack. But because I’m not a physiotherapist – hardly anybody takes my word seriously. Injury is not looked at from a movement pattern competency standpoint. The only spinal mechanics that matter are lumbar and thoracic extension – spinal flexion is a faux pax and is not considered useful. But I have solved every one of my own injuries from weightlifting by including “organic movement training”. Heck, I program Jefferson curls and recommend them 100% but it’s not caught on yet. I suspect my injuries were from missing basic functional patterns like low-gait locomotion, hip abduction/adduction dominant exercises, gymnastic shoulder girdle protocols, dance/rhythm training, and just hyper-focus on power generation. In other words, all the stuff Movement Culture espouses and accuses “Fitness Industry” of specializing too much in. But I think Movement Culture still does not respect the effectiveness of standard barbell strength training and loses a lot of attractiveness because Ido refers to Weightlifters as “shitty practitioners”.

 

4. Do you consider yourself a teacher? Why or why not?

Yes, I do consider myself a teacher. But it’s a selfish reason – only for the reason of keeping my own sword sharp. If I cannot transmit the feeling of a movement or my student can’t grok what I’m saying then I have not spent enough time with the movement or concept. I believe a teacher is somebody who can learn and submit just as well. But I’m not an expert on any subject matter. I just have a ton of experience that people can relate to pretty easily. And some far out ideas too!

 

5. What has been your experience with physical education, both in the schooling system and sought out knowledge/ know-how elsewhere?

My experience in high-school and college physical education was lackluster. I was asthmatic from birth and continually enforced the narrative that I could not trust my body and I was uncoordinated, unathletic, and so forth. I had the identity of a nerd who was “anti-jock”. I rejected my own body and did not trust it. So I thought the schooling system did not prepare me because it favored already athletic kids and did not have the infrastructure for teachers to scale. That’s why I think CrossFit in school is an amazing thing. I saw it in a private school in 2013 and it was wonderful for scaling and not letting the less-skilled students cop out, and still challenged the more athletically-inclined students. It made me realize movement patterns are what are important, not just specific sport skills.

As for my own personal education, I did not take responsibility for that until I was out of college. I was 24, jobless, depressed, and unprepared for adult life. So I thought getting a six-pack would fix that. Funny to think about how my fitness journey started out of vanity. I couldn’t afford a CrossFit gym membership, so my coach Saul Jimenez offered me an internship if I clean the gym and organized papers. He even prepared me for my personal trainer certification and I got my first gig doing training at Equinox. He also put me through my first Weightlifting competition in 2011. I was hooked after that. I didn’t realize it at the time, but making the decision to submit to my coach and learn a craft the long, slow way was the best decision of my life. My ability to learn grew from fitness and gave me the courage to delve into the following realms:

Holotropic breathwork, Psychedelic-assisted Therapy through MAPS, Enneagram, Shamanic Journeying, Eco-depth psychology, Somatic-based Sex & Relationship Skills, Wilderness Survival Skills, Horseback Archery, and Drifting race cars.

 

6. How do you involve your mind/ emotions into your physical routines?

I use emotions and the mind as board members in the “Corporation of My Best Self”. I have a CEO that is the ultimate decider of how to self-actualize, and my emotions are like the COO and rational brain is like the CFO. A partner of mine taught me this concept as I was gaining my emotional intelligence skills. I have learned that they inform me of the potential limits of my physical form through pain – but they are not the governors of performance. I use the mind as a gauge for how safe or endangered I feel approaching a movement.

 

7. What are your personal aspirations regarding movement? How do you hope to find purpose and use in the skills you have built?

My aspirations have changed through my 11 years in the Movement/Fitness journey. Right now, it is to enjoy the craft of movement research and teaching for a living. I want to perpetuate the beautiful practice of the Olympic lifts for non-competitive purpose, a.k.a. just lifting for fun. Basically Snatch & Clean/Jerk for the beauty of the lift and do gymnastics, contact improv, dance, and Fighting Monkey Zero Forms. I want to co-create a community because I believe our modern conception of “addiction” is misguided. I believe addiction is the proper adaptation to an unsupportive environment – which is a lack of 1. Identity in a community 2. Regular food and feeling of safety and 3. Physical challenges. I believe Movement communities can alleviate at least a minority of mental health and obesity conditions in this country.

 

8. How can people find/ contact you? Do you have a site or social media handle to share?

People can find me on Facebook and Instagram. My handles are “The Art of Self-Alignment” on Facebook and @Brandon_Chien on Instagram. You can also find my podcast Happy Asian Males on iTunes!

 

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