"The Heart of the Matter"

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Transcripts: 488.1 to 488.3

Week: 488.1 Guest: Master Paul Olivas Topic: Self Defense - Part One Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA: This is a three part series on self defense for your health and survival. My guest is Tai Chi and Kung Fu instructor Master Paul Olivas from the Chattanooga Martial Arts Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

NEMA: Mr. Olivas, probably most of our listeners have at some time in their lives seen a clip from the movies or television in which a person is attacked by someone of far greater size than themselves but manages to prevail over their attacker using some form of the martial arts or self defense. Is this Hollywood or is this real?

OLIVAS: It depends on what you're talking about. There's a thing that's called "neutralizing." Tai Chi Ch'uan is not a pose. Basically anything that you resist will persist so what Tai Chi Ch'uan teaches is how to neutralize. You shift your center and you take that energy that's coming at your center and redirect it circularly and you send the person flying. I've seen a good example of this just recently. I attended a workshop at the University of Indiana in Bloomington, Indiana and there was a Dr. Tao, Tao Siang-Ping who is from Taiwan and he was giving a workshop at the University on this same concept of neutralizing and Dr. Tao is in his 90s. He's just 90, 91, somewhere in there. I don't even think he weighs 100 pounds and there wasn't anybody in the workshop including myself that was able to lay a hand on him. People will think, if they hear this, they're going to think - This guy is telling a story. I don't believe it. However there were too many people there that did try and he's been invited to come back again and I'm inviting him to my studio here at the beginning of the year and the guy is really amazing, in his 90s, and you just don't touch that man!

NEMA: I have known you for over 20 years, I would say, and I know that you approach the martial arts as exactly that, as an art but what are the options for a person who is fearful and wants to learn some self defense without devoting our entire life to the art? Is that possible?

OLIVAS: Sure. What has happened is that more of the arts are being exposed - I'm saying that people are more aware today of various arts and that people like myself who went into it for 30 or 40 or 50 years have started seeing a lot of principles from all the different arts and today we're able to take and simplify a lot of things so a person doesn't have to devote their whole life to becoming a martial artist. I've got a program that runs for six weeks that I teach women some very basic principles and they work. Unfortunately for Chattanooga here, we've got a large mall and they've had some assaults on ladies here recently. One lady was shot and several were assaulted and one was raped and I've been offering this free program to any lady in my county to come in and to study this program and just see how to be able to defend themselves within a six week period. They're not going to take on Hulk Hogan, okay? But if a mugger comes up and expects to have a victim, he's going to be surprised and he's going to get something that's going to hurt him and that may give my student a chance to get away.

NEMA: Well, there's so many forms of the martial arts as you mentioned that evolved from so many parts of the world that it would take hours to really list and explain them. This alone is overwhelming to a novice. What is sort of the entry level form that teaches the basic body dynamics and prepares a student in a well balanced way?

OLIVAS: Let me tell what it's not. It's anything that kicks above the waist. You see a lot of stuff in the movies where they do these spin kicks leaping in the air and they kick to the head. If that's what's being taught, get away from there quickly. Run. If you see something that is being low-lined, that means they kick strictly below the waist, they're trying take a knee out, if they're using targets like open hand for ladies as opposed to fists, then you're starting to get the real thing.

NEMA: Join me for part two on self defense with Master Paul Olivas.

Week: 488.2 Guest: Master Paul Olivas Topic: Self Defense - Part Two Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA: This is part two in a three part series on martial arts for health and self defense. My guest is Tai Chi and Kung Fu instructor Master Paul Olivas from the Chattanooga Martial Arts Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

NEMA: Some practitioners have been developing self defense techniques and I know you're familiar with some of these that take into consideration the fact that most women have far more strength in their lower body that in their upper body and one of those techniques that I talked to you about recently is called "ground fighting." Would you explain a little bit about what that is based on and what it is.

OLIVAS: Imagine a ball and the ball is on the ground so as soon as you go to leap on it, it turns slightly and you go flying off and it takes your energy and sends you in the direction that your energy was leading. So we teach our students how to use their legs and how to think of themselves as a ball and be able to turn. They use their hands and their feet. They've got four weapons against their opponent's one or two and so they have an advantage. There's a long range, a middle range and a short range to this so we teach them how to be able to defend themselves on the ground understanding that they can attack from the long range and if a person gets close enough, they've got other targets and when a person gets too close, then they've got four weapons. They can take this person and take him down.

NEMA: Then when you say "on the ground," you literally mean on the ground.

OLIVAS: I mean on their back.

NEMA: And part of the basis for this is many assaults originate with somebody being knocked to the ground, correct?

OLIVAS: That's right. I've got one student here right now from the University here who recently was attacked and the guy was going to rob her. He knocked her down and she wouldn't give the purse up so he started kicking her and so basically she came in to me and said "I never want that to happen again. Show me how to defend myself from the ground." So that's one of the things we concentrated on.

NEMA: Can a novice learn a useful amount of self defense techniques from books or videos or again, must they have a teacher and others with whom they may practice?

OLIVAS: You need to practice so that you have a chance to try techniques on people of different sizes and different skills and different strengths and you need a teacher because somebody needs to take a look and say, "Hey, that's nice but or, however, you know, you need to try this." And then they need to be exposed to it. Maybe they're just learning principles and the principles really are just ways of showing to you other things that can be done.

NEMA: How long will the average healthy person have to study before they've learned enough to be somewhat safer walking down the street?

OLIVAS: Realistically, I feel that in a year, they can know enough to be able to handle themselves in normal situations, a year and a half. And that doesn't mean that they're going to be professional. It doesn't mean that they're going to be able to take on somebody that's been fighting all their life. But against an average person that is not trained, they're going to be able to handle themselves.

NEMA: Is someone ever too old to begin studying the martial arts?

OLIVAS: Well, as I said, I started teaching at the Senior Neighbors and most of my people were above 65 and I had several people in their 70s and 80s and after they got comfortable with the idea of learning the form and starting to develop more strength in their legs, some of them wanted to know how it worked. Right now I have a federal judge who is fast approaching 60 here and he started with me just for the health and well-being and all of a sudden now he finds himself intrigued with self defense and he started to hang around to watch how the Tai Chi is translated into self defense so here's a man that's been out of shape for a while and now he wants to get into shape and he's using the Tai Chi as a stepping stone and he just loves the martial art application of this stuff.

NEMA: In China, there are life-long practitioners of Kung Fu who are still practicing at very advanced ages. Talk about that a little bit.

OLIVAS: The average Kung Fu practitioner doesn't die at 65 or 72.

NEMA: Join me for part three on self defense with Master Paul Olivas.

Week: 488.3 Guest: Master Paul Olivas Topic: Self Defense - Part Three Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA: This is part three in a three part series on martial arts for health and self defense. My guest is Tai Chi and Kung Fu instructor Master Paul Olivas from the Chattanooga Martial Arts Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I asked Mr. Olivas about elderly martial arts practitioners in China.

OLIVAS: The average Kung Fu practitioner doesn't die at 65 or 72. He's been at it and been serious about working out and conditioning. What we call Kung Fu the Chinese call Ch'uan Fa or Wu Shu. It's a lifestyle. It's not so much about self defense. The reason I study the martial arts is because it's a lifestyle and a way of health and well-being. It just so happens that self defense is a side benefit. Now, I went to a workshop, I said, where I met a man who's 90 years old. He's a miracle. But is he? I've met a lot of guys in their 60s and 70s and 80s that have been around the martial arts for a long time and these people are still very very effective. There's one gentleman out on the west coast named Wally Jay who just celebrated his 80th birthday. If he were mad at me for any reason, I would be afraid for my body! He is wonderful. There are still a lot of guys that were before me that I have the highest respect for because they're good! So it's a lifestyle and it helps you to become agile and supple and nimble and it keeps you mentally alert. It does all those wonderful things for you.

NEMA: Okay. The million dollar question, just as I asked you when we talked about Tai Chi. You ride down any city and any county, anywhere, you see martial studios of various types whether it's Korean styles like Tae Kwon Do or whether you see the Karate or Chinese styles, there are signs everywhere. How is a person who is facing all this and has never had any martial arts training supposed to have a clue where to begin to get that training?

OLIVAS: If they want a martial art and not a sport, again, anything that kicks above the waist, avoid them. And this is not to say that we don't practice kicking above the waist. We do to develop flexibility and suppleness and reach. If I want to kick horizontally a long way, I learn how to kick high. However, if a person is teaching you kicking above the waist and calls it self defense, run from that man. If they're teaching hard style blocks, run from that person.

NEMA: Would you explain what that means.

OLIVAS: A hard style block basically means you make a very rigid arm movement to stop a punch from coming at you. I never say Mohammed Ali, I never say Sugar Ray Leonard block like that. I mean, you should take a look at the blocks and say to yourself - would a boxer use these? And if you say to yourself - no - then avoid that place. It's the wrong place. That's a sport.

NEMA: Now do you have any recommendations for beginners in terms of the school from which the martial art they'd begin studying comes from?

OLIVAS: There are a number of great schools out there. Unfortunately, there are more bad schools and so what you have to do is start taking a look at what would realistically work in the street and you have to ask people who have been in the arts for a while that you may know, that you trust their judgment and ask them - who is good in this area? Why should I accept this person as my teacher?

NEMA: Do you feel it's good to start children at a relatively young age as long as you know they're with a good teacher?

OLIVAS: Yeah. I don't take any child normally any younger than six because they don't have the coordination for that and I see a lot of schools that have programs for kids that are like four years old and five years old. That's glorified baby-sitting. The kids don't have the coordination as a rule and they don't have the concentration and I'm not saying that we can't help them but at that age they're not quite ready.


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Last modified: December 02, 2021