How Did Kai Chi Do Begin?
It started with Charles Robinson and the altar boys. When he was in high school, Charles began teaching his fellow altar boys a blend of martial arts in the basement of Saint Peter Claver church. Charles had been studying martial arts since he was 13 years old, when he took classes at Mr. Kim’s Southern Style Kung Fu studio near Chinatown in New York. But Charles’s approach was most influenced by the training he received from Dr Fred Stahl, the founder of AMDO. This was a philosophy and a life teaching, not just a martial art.
More people started coming to take his classes and some of the students wanted deeper practices. So the basement meditations began at Charles’ house. The central theme was teaching people how to go beyond the mind – and even beyond the body.
And a new form started to develop, a physical philosophy – using the body as a teaching instrument, to elevate consciousness, discovering the mind-body connection through movement. Charles said, “It felt like it came naturally, like I knew it already.”
One of the basement sessions brought the name of this new form: Kai meaning “free” and “open.” “Chi” – Life Energy or Spirit. “Do,” meaning “way” or method. Kai Chi Do literally translates as Free Spirit Way, or Way to Free Life Energy.
At that time, Kai Chi Do was a combination of movements drawn from the wisdom of a wide variety of martial arts teachings, along with deep breathing, and music. The students began to notice health benefits – increased energy, breathing better – and the group presented Kai Chi Do as a part of an exhibition of martial arts at Madison Square Garden.
Then Kai Chi Do was put on hold for a while. The altar boys became men. Charles was working full time, going to college for his Masters degree, and caring for two elderly “grandparents” – who both eventually passed away, at home.
Years later Charles began leading Kai Chi Do groups at a nationally accredited treatment facility where he worked as therapist and Clinical Director.
Prior to this, Kai Chi Do had always been practiced with the students in a row facing the teacher, the class structure found in most martial arts. But at the treatment center, Charles gathered the clients in a circle, as a way to unify the group and help them to work together harmoniously. Charles says, “Being a therapist that’s all we do. We do things in circles. So it was really just a continuation of psychotherapy.” Kai Chi Do became an integrated and powerful component of the treatment program, using the body to heal the mind and to cultivate the bond of community.
And Kai Chi Do evolved. It was no longer a martial art, but a movement art.
Charles was inspired by Nature to add the sequential form of the Five Elements to Kai Chi Do. He designed the movements of The Depths, the Root Element of Kai Chi Do, after Phyllis Singer introduced him to the self-touch healing practices of Jin Shin Jyutsu. Together with his wife Susan, Charles articulated the philosophy of Kai Chi Do, gave names to the movements, and identified the energy dynamics and alignment of the Five Elements with the chakra system in the body. Together they identified the goal of Kai Chi Do, the experience of the feeling of connection – to self, and Source, and others.
Charles led Kai Chi Do circles 5 days at week at the treatment center, and also began offering Kai Chi Do classes every Sunday at local parks and beaches. He started receiving invitations to bring Kai Chi Do to festivals, such as Bhakti Fest. People who experienced Kai Chi Do wanted to become instructors, so Charles and Susan designed an instructor training program. That is how Kai Chi Do has spread across the US and into other countries and continues to grow.
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