Fitness as Self Expression, with Mark Cheng

Have you ever considered fitness as a means of self expression?

It’s something we certainly encourage here at GMB. There’s great freedom in allowing yourself to move in accordance with how you decide to move – creating your own flow and routine.

On this episode of the GMB Show, Jarlo dives deep with Dr. Mark Cheng, acupuncturist, FMS/SFMA practitioner, and StrongFirst instructor. Mark and Jarlo look at what it takes to find this path of true self expression and how you can experience this freedom for yourself.

Mark has a multi-faceted background in martial arts and fitness studies. And as you’ll hear, he credits those different explorations with leading him into honest self expression.

Dr. Mark Cheng has always been interested in martial arts, and after earning his degree in East Asian Studies from UCLA (after spending some time at Caltech), he decided to continue pursuing his interest in the field.

He earned his Masters and PhD degrees in Chinese medicine and acupuncture, then went on to practice acupuncture and teach Chinese medicine in the Los Angeles area. He now speaks and gives workshops on body movement and staying pain-free, in addition to having his own practice in Santa Monica.

Dr. Mark Cheng on Facebook

Dr. Mark Cheng on Twitter

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You’ll hear:

2:30: How and why Mark strives to be real on social media.10:35: How he got into health and fitness and studied with some of today’s living legends.21:20: Some of the lessons that newcomers to martial arts should understand.31:00: How the human body is meant to move around and adapt to changes.38:45: When and why a feeling or perception can be just as important as measurable results.48:15: How misconceptions about movement can lead to pain.

When you do find something that resonates with you, I cannot put it to words how rich that experience is going to be for you.- Mark Cheng

Links and Resources:


Using Fitness As Self Expression

Jarlo: Hey everybody. Welcome to GMB Fitness Show. I’m real happy to have Dr. Mark Cheng here. Hey, Mark.

Mark: Good morning, how are you?

Jarlo: I’m really good. I’m happy that we got time out of your schedule to talk with me, and a little bit about Mark Cheng, Dr. Mark Cheng, acupuncturist. Strong first instructor, FMS SFMA. Just all of these great things and then my favorite over there with guru Dan at IMAMA, and martial art’s our shared passion, our shared passion. We have a lot of mutual friends and unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to meet each other in real life. Had a couple of opportunities but our schedules are just, it’s too much I think sometimes.

Mark: Constantly.

Jarlo: Yeah, constantly. Always running around, families, work responsibilities, you know seminars, all these things, but I’m really happy to have him on our show right now. Mark, give us a little bit of a back ground of your recent stuff. What’s been happening over the last year or two for you.

Mark: Wow, recent stuff is really just trying to rework my life. I think a lot of what I’ve been doing lately is focusing on making my work revolve around my life, rather than letting my life revolve around my work. Trying to make that change has been challenging. It’s been enlightening too. There have been a lot of aha moments.

Jarlo: Yeah, man. I’ve been following you for quite a while. It was interesting I mean, with the stuff, like for years with Pavel and working with him and then Dan John all these guys, then Gray Cook who is you know one of my idols. What he’s done for my profession is just amazing. Working all of these different people, and martial arts-wise guru Dan, all of your different instructors in various styles and you keep yourself so busy, and I was asking about that because I really like when you post things because your hearts on your sleeve. I mean, you just kind of lay it out there and it lets people feel real connected to you, but a lot of these times I feel your stress coming out through the post, and I’m like, “Wow, man.” How are you keeping this up?

Mark: I think it’s … You know I cautioned about that a lot when I started participating in social media. I had a lot of people telling me straight up, “Like, look man, you can’t wear your heart on your sleeve. You can’t do this. You can’t do that. You got to post only stuff that’s up lifting and this, that, and the other,” and I thought man, how disingenuous is that? We’ve all got our stresses, we’ve all got our challenges, and sometimes it’s good for people to see you bleed. It’s good for people to see you struggle and hurt because they know that they’re not alone. I can’t tell you how many times on social media the posts that seem to be most engaging, aren’t necessarily the ones that are like the cheerleader post, but they’re the ones that people see that I’m struggling to just get my stuff done, I’m struggling to have enough energy to make through the day, I’m struggling to keep up with my kids.

Jarlo: It’s real.

Mark: I had to miss training or you know whatever, I’m having static with my life or whatever. It’s just all of these little things where people can see that there are challenges and those challenges are universal, but there are ways that we can deal with those challenges that are going to be higher percentage, higher what’s the word I’m looking for? Higher yield.

Jarlo: Yeah, right. I think it’s real. I mean we hear all these things about, what was that story about this Instagram model, you know the Instagram model who just had a breakdown. She showed like all these different pictures of her where she wasn’t made up, and she was like, “This is the real thing.” She was making how many thousands of dollars as being sponsored and all that and then she busted out with this Instagram like “It’s all fake.” It’s hard because every person out there is trying to do their best whether it’s like with their fitness, with their health, their work, their family, and then they see all these examples of everybody just being perfect. Everything is just happening so perfectly for these other people and how can you not feel down about that? Yeah, being real like you are and showing your struggles and showing your successes and just having your heart out there I think is the way to go, man.

Mark: You know, it’s interesting Daisy Ridley, the actress from Star Wars recently made a post saying something along the lines of that same sort of thing where she just said straight up here are some of my faults, here are some of the problems, here are the things that you guys think you see, but here’s the reality, and those are the things, those kinds of admissions, those kinds of touches of reality really just I think they endear people to you, and they also garner a certain amount of respect, you know, like you’re so real that you’re not afraid to show that this is a challenge or this is an issue, and I think with fitness especially in the world that you and I both roll in as far as both as clinicians but both as performance coaches, there’s a lot of hype.

There are a lot of people that want to say that this is the best way of doing this, or this is it. When really we’re, as human beings coming to fitness or coming to rehab, or coming to whatever movement is with a different background, like some of us have a particular way that our fascia wound or taught or skeletons have been developed, whether due to injury, whether due to training, whether due to birth defect stuff, whatever the issue might be. We come to movement or we come to these pursuits as individuals so to measure who you are, to measure your performance, to measure your worth based on someones arbitrary standard, you know that needs to change.

Jarlo: It’s interesting too, you talk about fitness and where we are positioned, and it’s funny because like you were saying earlier when we were talking earlier like, “Oh it seems like I kind of lucked in to it.” Well, I mean it’s just the way life is, sometimes you’re in the right place and sometimes you’re not, and sometimes you’ll meet the people that will move you forward. With that, and with like, let’s just say it, our popularity, we’re out there, we’re putting ourselves out there. We have videos, we make products, we have clients and we share stories. People are looking up to us because they’re looking for information, they’re looking for role models and all of that, and we have to be. We have a responsibility to these people and it’s a big responsibility. I always thought being a teacher, being an instructor, being a coach, being a therapist, and a clinician, it’s a huge responsibility, and it can be really draining..

Mark: Yes, absolutely.

Jarlo: To put it in another context for you, if you would go back to that social media thing, if we always feel like we have to be perfect and show only the perfect thing, man that’s got to personally be draining as well to the person putting it out there.

Mark: I just don’t see why we have to portray a kind of perfectness. I think it’s important for people to see that we struggle, that we have conflicts, that we have things that bother and hurt us, but I think the big responsibility of leadership is to show that not only do we have these same problems that everyone else does, but how we choose to deal with them is unique, is powerful, is inspiring, is on the up and up. Those are the things that I think really, you know like you said, as people who have been fortunate enough to be in positions of leadership or positions of notoriety, that are going to continue to set us a part.

Jarlo: Right, and totally. With leadership, my friend Andy, my business partner and friend, he always says you get chosen by other people to be a leader based on what you do. It’s not like oh you follow this path and you go step by step and like oh now I’m a leader. For a lot of people, and I know same with me, I never really thought of myself that way but you get thrust in it and you’re like, “Okay, I guess I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and then I’ll have this thing attached to me but now I have a greater expense of responsibility to it too even.” The best leaders have this serious sense of responsibility and the worst leaders don’t and it’s really obvious to see that. We have that, we can see that politically right now, not to get in to it, but there’s people out there in these positions of leadership and they feel very little responsibility, in my opinion, and you can see it. You can totally see it.

Mark: Yes.

Jarlo: To get away from that a little bit, I think that was a little bit of a tangent but I liked it. For all the listeners out there it’s what we’re dealing with and it’s what you’re dealing with too. It’s not like their Instagram’s are like 10 thousand followers or their Facebook’s, or have to get their business page and all that, but they way you present yourself to others it really relates back to how you live your life, and what Mark was talking about are you going to let life revolve around your work, or are you going to let your work kind of work for you? How can you do your best to do your best? You can’t force yourself to be the best all the time everyday because that’s just a losing proposition.

Mark: It’s not sustainable, absolutely.

Jarlo: It’s not sustainable. I want to talk a little bit more about that with you, like you’ve been on the healing path for a long time with acupuncture. How long have you been a acupuncturist now?

Mark: I think I got licensed in either ’04 or ’05, I want to say ’04 for some reason.

Jarlo: Before that you do were doing a lot with the FMS stuff, right?

Mark: No, the FMS stuff actually came afterwords. Here’s a story of how that works. I’ve been in a martial arts, in some form or another for the majority of my life, and then after I graduated college and started doing work in the corporate world I was just miserable out of my mind, and I said I’m putting weight, I’m not feeling good, I’m not doing the stuff I love. Just having a check to cash is dope, but I’m frickin miserable, I just can’t deal with this. I just figured, all right what do I really love? What makes me happy? What has never let me down, and the only answer I could come up with is martial arts. I figured okay, what’s going to allow me to participate in martial arts or some facet of martial arts on a professional level that will educate me, will inspire me, will allow me to help other people? Well, Chinese medicine, which is like part in parts … If you’re in traditional Chinese martial arts, it’s pretty much an expectation that at the senior levels you’re expected, or more advanced levels you have some understanding or some working knowledge of traumatology of Chinese medicine.

I figured why not just formalize my education in that. I finished my masters and sat for the boards and got my acupuncture license for here in California. Opened up my practice and then not long afterwords I was introduced to Pack Victor Detories who then in turn introduced me to … He goes, “I have a student that would benefit from you very much,” and I go, “I’d be glad to help whoever sir,” and he goes, “You might know of him, he’s Ustad Dan Inosanto,” and I go, “Oh my god, yeah, absolutely.” I got to treat Guru as a patient first for a couple of years, and while he was under my care he said that, “Doc, I got a favor to ask of you,” I go, “Sure.” “One of my patients bought these training sessions from me with weight lifting coach, this Russian weight lifting coach, but now that my back is feeling better I’m kind of worried. Would you mind coming to these sessions just like in case he’s going to have me doing something crazy? You can, as the doctor, just overrule, or if I get hurt you can put me back together.” “Sure” That Russian weight lifting coach was Pavel Tsatsouline.

Jarlo: Wow, I have not heard of this story. That’s amazing. That’s amazing.

Mark: Pavel, you know, I recognized him on site because I had seen him in his ad’s in the magazine. I was like, “Ah, okay.” I’m sitting there observing on the sidelines and like I’m listening for what Pavel’s saying, I’m listening for any red lights that are going off in my head, and the more Pavel’s presenting to Guru, the more exercises that Pavel was having Guru go through, the more I thought, “This stuff is really good from a clinical standpoint, not just strength training, but just like how would you get people to feel better because of the dysfunctions that happened in their body?” I thought, “This is genius. Why the hell wasn’t I taught this stuff?” You know, as a clinician I thought this was that valuable. The more I listened and the more I learned, the more I was like like, my eyebrows were like lifted, I was like, “Wow, this is pretty dope.” I think that was the Wednesday morning group. What happened was Guru would have a private lesson with Pavel, and then at the time he would have private lessons immediately following with Professor Roy Harris, Jiu-Jitsu Professor Roy Harris, or in the streets, Professor Roy Harris.

Professor Harris eventually started joining in on those training sessions, so it was Pavel, Guru, and Professor Harris, and then I can’t remember what happened one morning they were like, “Oh, Doc are you joining in,” and I’m like, “One of these days.” I can’t remember whether it was Pavel or Professor Harris, someone was like, “Are you going to man up today?” I was like, “Oh, shit okay now I got to jump in.” Immediately the feeling, the improvements in chronic pain areas in my body, specifically my shoulder and my lower back was just dramatic, and so a couple of years later I went through the RKC, certed in April of 06 and then I want to say later that year or the following year Pavel calls me up and he goes, “Doc, what are you doing?” “Uh, nothing sir.” When he calls up I’m like whatever he wants I’m going to clear my schedule. “Very good. I will pick you up at so and so time.”

We drive down to this stadium in Carson, which I think now is Stub Hub, back then it was called the Home Depot Center, and then underneath they had an athletes performance, which is now Exxos. He goes, “I would like you to meet this gentlemen, hear what he has to say and then on the drive back tell me what you think.” That dude was Gray Cook.

Jarlo: Awe man. Amazing.

Mark: Gray ran me and Pavel through the screen. The screen found certain liabilities in my movement as well as teased out a little bit of stuff from Pavel as well, and as I was listening to Gray speak I was just like, “Dude, this is also another thing that should have been part and parcel of every clinicians education.” I mean, why isn’t this … Looking at movement patterns rather than it’s hurts here so we’ll treat here. That regional interdependence might set I thought was just mind blowing. From that moment on I was like, I got to hear as much as I can from this guy.

Jarlo: Man, I love that. I mean it’s sort of like you just kind of stumbled in to everything. You had your clinician and then, oh wow, there’s Guru Dan, okay, here’s Pavel, wow there’s Gray Cook.

Mark: I mean dude, my life is just a series of those insanely lucky, you know..

Jarlo: I think also, insane luck, I mean yeah there’s a certain amount of randomness in there, but I think you put yourself in that position too. You were in a place you didn’t like so you found a way to get out of it. You were in this corporate world and then you’re like, “You know what, I need to get out of this.” That was your choice, that was your decision, and then you became a clinician and became a good enough one where someone you respected felt like he could recommend someone he else respected and then that same thing. I mean, it’s not as much as we make our own luck, but I think we put ourselves in the position. If you didn’t make that choice, if you would have just said, “Oh, a paycheck is fine.” You would have got fat, you would have probably been out on martial arts, we wouldn’t be talking today, right?

I think it’s just a way that, I mean we talk about it all the time with our clients like, “Oh if I didn’t pick up that thing the wrong way, I’d be fine.” I was like, “Well, there’s a lot of things that came up to that point.” Or even something like a slip and a fall, like “Awe man, I remember I had this..” You hear all these stories, it’s just crazy, “Oh I was drinking a little too much by the pool, and then I broke my arm,” and now she had this ridiculous compound fracture and she’s out for 6 months, and I’m like, “Well, yeah maybe you shouldn’t have been drinking, but it was a party, you we’re having fun, and you work hard and you do your thing. It just happens, sometimes it just happens.” I really like that you’re humble and you said, “Oh, I’m lucky,” but I think you put yourself in this position, really I do, and all of these things, and you’re out there, and you’re showing that you’re doing these things to help people. You have tai chi you have these products, prehab 101, all of these things. You’re using your position in a really helpful way and that’s what I really respect.

Mark: That’s been something that I’m still, I don’t what the right word is, I don’t want to say conflicted but it’s still taking a while to swallow that idea that I’m in a particular position. Whether it’s tai chi, or whether it’s prehab rehab 101, or whether it’s anything else that I’m involved with like K3 combat movement, whatever it is, everything that I’m a part of now is it’s like this is stuff that I’m doing for pay that I would have gladly have paid to do.

Jarlo: Right? Exactly.

Mark: Do you know what I mean? The fact that I get to train with Guru Dan to treat Guru Dan or any of my patients, I mean like the fact that I get to spend the time that I do with them, or right now one of my areas of investigation is actually very traditional Aikido with Matsuoka Haruo Sensei. The former number 1 of Steven Seagal. His Aikido is very different, very … It’s got two extremes of influence like that very internal stuff that he’s got now from Abe Seiseki Sensei and then some of the other teachers that he’s been training with recently, and then also that very like rough Aikido from Seagal. It’s so insightful.

Jarlo: Yeah, that’s another thing I like that you’re out there and you’re seeking different instructors. You could very easily just be with Guru Dan and then you spend years, years just working off one thing he says. I mean, I’ve seen it. We go to it, and you’re like, “Oh, he just threw all these things,” and some of the things he says in passing you’re just like, “Woah, what was that?” Then he moves on to the next thing.

Mark: Exactly.

Jarlo: I just love it because we have a chance to explore, there’s just so many different things. I love following you because you have these different resources and you make the time and you’re really worked to see what you can get out of it. With all these different teachers it can be really hard to … Like you said, there’s even distinctions within that Aikido. You can’t just say Aikido. It’s who your teacher is, who he learned from, and the little aspects of maybe even that time period that you learned from a certain person is different than if another student was during a different time period.

Mark: That’s very important for people to realize. I think a lot of people will look at something like tai chi or karate or kung fu and go like, “Oh, that’s just sticks, or that’s just..,” and there just phrase means that you’re trying to pigeon hole something that’s way broader than that.

Jarlo: Right. With that the complexity goes high and you’re like … For people that either are just starting in martial arts or are clients that are kind of interesting but maybe it’s not for him, so what are the commonalities and the big lessons that you can share with us from these different teachers? As a take away, and it’s hard, we’ve talked about this before, we don’t have the 6 to 10 hours a day that may be we’d love to spend on one thing and spend on the other, you know what are the big picture things that you think most people should be able to benefit from?

Mark: For the people that aren’t already martial artists, like people that aren’t already involved martial arts I think one of the things that’s super important to understand is that even within a particular style or in a particular system or even in a particular lineage, quality will vary and personalities will vary, so you need to actually shop around. Think about finding a martial arts instructor or finding a martial parts club or a group that you can learn from in a lot of the same way as if you’re looking for a spouse. There are times when you’re going to have to date around, there are times when you’re going to have to break up, and I think the best relationships are ones where you have enough freedom to go and open your eyes and look around and see and realize that you’re not threatened, the person that you’re with is not threatened, like Guru Dan Inosanto, while he himself is an encyclopedia and he says stuff all the time that, like you said, his off the cuff remarks are enough to write a book on, never mind like the meat of what he’s presenting in a work shop. He’s always encouraging us to go and explore facets of what he’s saying with other subject matter experts who know that particular facet really well.

I’m someone who came in to the Inosanto Academy with already a background in throwing. My background is Shuai jiao, Chinese wrestling. That, like of all the techniques that are available to us as martial artists, like throw based, lock based stuff has always kind of resonated with me, and so he’s encourage … Also, with my background in Tai Chi, soft arts, so when I see him training in Systema or when I see him training Aikido with Matsuoka Sensei, it’s like, and he goes, “Doc, come and train with us, come and join in the session.” It’s like, “Okay yeah, I’m in, I’m totally in.” There are the things that may not resonate with me, and like he said too that’s okay, but the things that do resonate with you, don’t be afraid to explore more of that and for the people that are new to martial arts or don’t have that background in martial arts, understand that it’s what you may have geographically available, may not be the stuff that resonates with you the best. Don’t be afraid to drive a little bit. Don’t be afraid to carve out the time, because the levels of reward that are there waiting for you when you do find something that you dig, when you do find something that resonates with you, I cannot put it to words how rich that experience is going to be for you.

Of all of the things that I’ve ever access to in my life there’s nothing that’s paid me more dividends, there’s nothing that’s made me happier, there’s nothing that’s opened more doors to me, there’s nothing that’s introduced me to great people, like you, than martial arts, nothing.

Jarlo: I feel the same way. The passion for it and for me, yeah, I started when I was 12. I did all these different things, community school karate then boxing and then Wing Chun, and all these things and it just kept rolling. Your parents put you in this thing, right? For me, it was my parents put me in this thing, and I was like, “Okay I’ll go,” and it just became my thing and it just kept on going. I always say this thing like, we were talking with a friend a couple years ago and he’s like, “Yeah, I just met this friend from high school and wow, it’s funny, he’s interested in the same thing, it’s the same thing. He’s been interested in the same thing,” and I’m like, and he said that was kind of a joking way and I’m like, “Hmm. Dude, that’s me man. I’ve been doing the same two things for like 35 years, so I kind of relate to that guy.” When you find your passion, and whether it’s martial arts, whether it’s fitness, whether it’s bowling, I don’t know, whatever it is, when you find it, you got to hold on to it. I really believe that, you got to hold on to it and it becomes your anchor, it becomes your anchor through a lot of life.

I really believe that, whatever it is, and you have to make it, you have to do it in a way that keeps you going. There’s too many people in their 9-5 jobs where they hate it and they only do it because they need some money or there’s some circumstances and they’re slowly … I hear it all the time. I hear it from my patients. They’re dying in it. They’re dying in it, and whatever passion they had it’s either one or they forgot about it and it’s sad. It’s really sad. Once you find your thing, and you just got to hold on to it. I really believe that.

Mark: I concur.

Jarlo: For martial arts it’s funny because everybody’s like it’s fighting and it’s brutal and all these things and you get that from even the way certain martial artists present it. They’re like all warriors and all these things and they’re wearing like five knives and all these … I like it too. I have two knives on me right now. It’s just much more than that. I was talking to my teacher Burton about it too, it’s cultural for me, Filipino martial arts especially. Actually, I didn’t get in to that until like a few years, I was around 15 or 16, I was lucky enough we were in the Philippines for a month and I had a crash course. For four day, I did four hours a day for four or five days in and I had no idea.

I told my mom, I was thinking I want to learn a little bit of the sticks so they found this guy and it was Grand Master. Who I had no idea back then who he was, but apparently he was second in this lapu lapu honor system, and years later, year later I found out, I was like, “Wow, okay, there’s this rare system,” and I was like, “Wow.” It was just amazing. It was just lucking out in to it. For me it was the culture, part of it was like I should learn this, and then I was kind of get steeped in it and I was like, “Wow, this is my favorite thing now,” it’s beyond fighting, it’s beyond all that, it’s just part of who I am now.

Mark: Totally, totally. I think for us as people who get to practice the arts that are of our ethnic heritage, that’s a particular kind of, I don’t know, richness. I mean, that’s so awesome, but I think also too for people that don’t necessarily come from a particular ethnicity or lineage or tribe, like for me as an ethic Chinese who gets the chance to spend time training Filipino martial arts and forging relationships with so many super skilled Filipino’s, Japanese martial arts, whatever it is. I think martial arts is a vehicle also too for us to understand that no matter where you come from we all deal with combat, we all deal with moving someone else’s moving body, we all deal with trying to protect ourselves, we all deal with trying to improve how we move, our athleticism, our available ranges of movement. How do you do this? You know? I think that’s one of the coolest things. As I get older one of the things I see most in martial arts isn’t so much the little differences that make people get all sectarian and stuff like that, but really we are the commonalities and seeing those commonalities is in some ways really cool and inspiring.

To see Guru Dan looking at different locks from Aikido and looking at it and going, “Oh, you know I learned a lock like this from Lacoste,” his Kali teachers. I look at things like that and go wow, you know, there’s really only so many ways that they human body functions in terms of high percentage or high likelihood and so to see how different training methods capitalize on that has been really cool.

Jarlo: Right. They’re going to kind of sort out and filter over the years what’s going to be the most efficient, and then at that point it becomes little distinctions in how you teach it or how you present it.

Mark: How you customize it…

Jarlo: That’s exactly it, how you customize it for your own body type. Filipino’s on the most part are smaller people so it’s going to be a lot different than working on some big Mongolian.

Mark: Unless you’re Dave Battista.

Jarlo: I mean, it’s so funny especially with that kind of stuff, you’re like, “That guys Filipino?” That goes back to there’s a lot of recent talk about evolutionary biology and rate. What’s primal and what’s paleo and all these things and people are wanting to scribe something to that, and I think the best concept to scribe to that is that we were meant, we aren’t meant to just sit around. We’re supposed to move around, we’re supposed to do different things with our bodies, and if we can’t do that then that’s when a whole host of problems come on, not just physical but I think even psychological.

Mark: The adaptability of the human animal I think is something that is super important and it’s something that like the importance of that didn’t really strike me until training at the Inosanto academy. Guru will purposefully teach fast, I think in some ways to see how quickly you adapt. How much can you … It’s not how many details can you absorb, but can you adapt from one drill to the next even if you don’t necessarily know what he’s doing. There have been days where I’ve seen like even the seniors like Guru Joel like go, I don’t know what he’s doing today, the fact that they can flow, the fact that they can adapt and still make it either look or function well, that speaks volumes to me, or that spoke volumes to me. I think whether it’s our nutrition or even our movement, we’re not geared towards, well let me rephrase that.

While we can certainly survive in a limited environment, let’s say limited types of nutrients or limited types of movements available to us we won’t necessarily thrive that way, so to say that our skeletons are all going to be a certain way, or say that the skeletal structure of a certain ethnicity is going to be a certain way. There may be genetic predisposition, but we all know that the skeleton molds itself based on impose demands, so if you took a Scottish kid, If you took a Kenyan kids, if you took a Mexican kid, if you took a Pinoy kid and then raised them all from infancy to adulthood in identical environments, in an identical environment with the same things to eat the same kinds of movement available to them, then it would be really interesting to see what their skeletons come out as, but I think there’s too much, there are too many variables to consider when you start talking about how skeletons express themselves because how are we going to talk or how are we going to rule out that, that whole cultural variable of like how certain people will sit on the floor, certain people sit in a chair, certain people in will never squat in their adult lives past butt to knees.

I think there’s a lot to be said for ruling out the cultural variables or being aware, because somethings you’ll never be able to rule out, but I think there’s an awareness that needs to happen when it comes to cultural variables.

Jarlo: Yeah, and I like what you said about that. I mean, in terms of limited environments. If you talk about culture, you can talk about different things where you’re like, “Oh, I’m just going to do this because I’m from this way, because this is the way it’s been done.” In that way, in that respect, culture can be limiting, but if you look at it from a different respect where we’re coming on and because we live in this global world now, not just internet, which just exposes you to different things, but people are just from all over the place are getting together, I mean America and even different countries, the modernization is just not there anymore. I mean, you have to be in a really out of the way place, far away place that’s beyond most of what people here are listening to, I mean we should be able to walk out that door and see different kinds of people, so in that respect culture now becomes more free. You’re able to see different aspects of different people and expose yourself to that, and that’s why I love talking about marital arts and all these different things is you have that window in to some different cultures just by itself, and you can immerse yourself in to that and people become less other when you can see that.

Mark: That’s perfectly stated. People become less other when you can see that.

Jarlo: That goes to a lot of different things. We’ve been involved in martial arts, in fitness, in therapy, and clinicians for years now and the controversy there is just ridiculous, I mean everybody is talking about … You said earlier like, “This is the best thing, this is optimal,” and every time I see that I’m like, “Wow, okay you really got the answer. That must feel really good to have the one answer.”

Mark: It’s more myopic than I think most people realize. Gray had the best phrase ever when he said it’s like a bunch of fleas arguing about who owns the dog.

Jarlo: Right. I mean it’s just so individual and variable. There’s so many things to consider, and it’s like you were saying you could do this … That’s my trouble with a lot of the evidence based stuff. I’m not going to say I’m anti science because that’s ridiculous, how can you be anti science? In some respects, and I remember a few years ago, or more than a few years ago, they were doing these clinical prediction rules thing. Every body is making a clinical prediction rule. For example, the one for low pack pain is less than three months no pain below the knee, or shooting pain, you know some of these things, and then okay go head and you can just manipulate your back. Boom, you’re done. On the face of it you’re like, “Okay, I mean they’ve done the studies and that’s a good thing. You’re just going to do your million dollar role, and then give them a couple of exercises and they’re fine,” but look at what you’ve done there. You’ve eliminated a whole portion of critical thinking, and I think you can’t argue that evidenced based work gives you these algorithms and then just obviates the need for critical thinking.

Mark: I think the biggest problem with a lot of what is written up as science or written off as science is that people aren’t admitting all of the confirmation bias that is inherent in it, like we’re looking for data that we can somehow either manipulate or overtly reinforce as our natural, what’s the word I’m looking for, predisposition, our existing idea, so I think a lot of people … You can make, like Bret Jones said it well, “You can make arguments either way on almost any given point. It just depends on the context.” I think that we do try as a species to over simplify stuff, we do try to make these blanket statements to sound authoritative, and I think unfortunately we do a real disservice to not only humanity but also to our profession every damn time we do that. We need to be a little bit more humble. We need to be a little bit more open minded and realize that context rules the road.

Jarlo: How would you suggest to your clients and to our listeners here, like how do you sort though that? I mean there’s just so information out there like we’re presenting one thing, Mark you’re presenting another thing, some of our friends are presenting this, then you have these other people that may be it’s the complete opposite. It sounds okay, it sounds good. They got some testimonials, they got some, like what … It’s super hard. I have a hard time too. Looking at everything critically can be exhausting. What are some of your methods and strategies for dealing with that?

Mark: To be honest, I think people aren’t going to like my answer, and this is the one that I’ve said for a long that. I think Bruce Lee said it best when he said, “Don’t think, feel.” If you don’t feel the result or you don’t feel an improvement, or you can’t…

Jarlo: That’s not science, Mark.

Mark: Yeah, exactly. People want to think and want to rationalize, but it’s like if you don’t feel better and there’s less resistance internally, because people are going to look for what they can measure and measurable is great, but let’s say you bend at the hips 90 degrees and okay, you’re able to get there with some effort and may be a little bit of discomfort, and then you can get there the next time, and measurably it doesn’t look any different, but you just feel less resistance, maybe the pain is the same even, but there’s less internal resistance. These are things that I don’t think we’re that good at measuring that well yet. Science needs to do a better job of honoring the subjective. I know that’s going to piss off a lot of people and people will say that, “Oh, but you can measure that on reported results and blah blah blah blah blah.” Yeah, no. I think there’s a lot of stuff that … It’s just like the active ingredients in herbs, people go, “Oh, what’s the active ingredient?” Dude, think about all of the stuff that science hasn’t identified as an active ingredient that may be a secondary ingredient but it’s got a special synergy with something else. It’s in that same kind of formula.

Jarlo: Maybe you should eat that whole plant instead of trying to take that garlic pill. That kind of thing. It’s that totality, well then and I agree with you. For a long time I took my measurements, I did the check list and I was just like, I got to do it for insurance or whatever, but my main thing was is the patient moving better, is she telling me, “You know what, I did this thing. I walked from…,” and this is funny, when I was in Hawaii in the mall, she’s like, “I walked from Sears to Macy’s in one trip. I didn’t have to sit down on a bench,” and I was like..

Mark: That’s huge.

Jarlo: That’s huge, that is massive and that’s what I want. I know this is a really difficult question but I want to hear more from you, with the feeling, is it all trial and error, is there anything that we can kind of go into something with, with a little bit more of a way to fair things down?

Mark: I’m not entirely sure I understand the question but I’ll try and answer like is, we’ve been given like you know through different bodies of knowledge, whether it’s FMS practice, whether it’s DNS, whether it’s acupuncture, whether it’s chiro, whether it’s osteopathy, whether it’s PT, every body of knowledge exists for a particular reason and because it’s demonstrated some relevance and some efficacy. The thing that we need to do is to be able to contextualize what modality we’re using when for best outcomes, and I think the thing that is always going to help us is to test and retest. That test and retest thing is super important. When I treat a patient I have an idea, someone comes in with pain, I’ll do an SFMA or some similar sort of evaluation, see what I think is the lynch pendis function, work on that particular lynch pendis function, either with a movement intervention or a passive intervention, whatever it is, but I want to see a change in how that person moves, or I want to hear them say like … Even if I can’t see a visual change in how they move, if they go, “That didn’t hurt that time,” that tells me a lot. Just be willing to not necessarily complete your entire course of a treatment but put a little bit of signal in to the body, put a little bit of signal in to the organism and then retest.

If it jives well with them, you’re going to see an improvement, even it’s in minor, so then you know okay I’m barking up the right tree rather than like, okay I’ve got 15 minute window or 30 minute window with this patient so I’m just going to bomb them with soft tissue, or I’m going to bomb them with this corrective exercise or I’m going to bomb them with half kneeling, and then the end of the half hour, did anywhere along the line did you test? Did you make sure? Is this the right thing for that organism? One of my colleagues, Benad, who’s one of the lead SFMA instructors had a great line, he goes, “If you got someone that comes in to your clinic, or in to your gym, or in to your facility and they’re so wiped, they come in they’re like bags under their eyes, they’ve been working for three days straight. They barely had a real meal, they certainly haven’t slept well. They look like something the cat dragged in, how well do you think your corrective exercise is going to stick on that nervous system?”

Jarlo: It’s the mentality of everything.

Mark: Right. I mean if there’s too much allostatic load, if there’s too much noise in the system, there’s too much stress for that person to be able to handle you adding more information, or you giving more cues of you pushing harder it doesn’t always produce a productive result. I think that’s something that we need to honor. Benad had a great line, he goes, “If you’ve got someone that’s that fried, instead of hitting them with your god awesome corrective exercise, maybe they need a smoothie, hug and a nap,” and I thought “Wow, that’s perfect.”

Jarlo: I like that because it gives us this sense that we need to critically think each and every time and each and every visit with each and every patient, and taking it back to the individual with us personally if we’re in to our workout or we’re in to our certain day, we have to adjust, be able to adapt and adjust within that time and we can’t just have like a spreadsheet and like, “Oh, I’m going to do 6 sets of 20 today. I’m just going to barrel through it and make it happen,” and so that’s what we’ve been trying to express to our clients over the years is critically thinking and appraising yourself each time. This whole aspect of mindfulness and training it’s more than just this woohoo thing we’re you’re like being aware of your body, but it gives you insight in to how well you’re doing that day and maybe you got to back off or may be you got to push, but each day can be a little different and it puts the illness on the person. You’re in charge of yourself, and even if you’re in therapy with someone and your clinician, you need to give your clinician correct information, right?

Mark: Yes.

Jarlo: You need to give them this feeling and you need to participate and we’ve all that right? We’ve all had those patients and clients where they just want to be passive. As soon as they come in they’ll lay down on the table and you’re like, “Okay, stick some needles in me,” or rub this bit and it’s easy to fall in to that. You’ve got 12 patients that day and you’re like, “Okay, maybe I’ll just spend this half our zoning out,” but those are the worst sessions, those are the worst things. They’re worst for you, they’re worst for the patient, you don’t get anywhere, and that’s what you got to do. You got to engage in everything you do, you have to be fully present to get the best out of it.

Mark: I think of the things that we need to have I think hammered home, or at least or me may be I tuned it out in school, but I think one the things that I need hammered home a lot is that our job as clinicians is primarily as educators, because the human body doesn’t come with an owners manual, and because I think little kids, since we were little kids, you’re always taught don’t fidget, don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do that, and while I understand it, it’s that the value of being able to be still and control yourself in a sociological setting. I also think unfortunately it’s not the way we, we’re not made that way on a genetic level. To be able to get someone to understand that their body needs to move a certain way, or shouldn’t feel a certain way, or should feel a certain way is a big responsibility of us all to keep in mind as clinicians. It’s easy to think, “Okay, I just need to get you out of pain,” but to understand that a lot of people are in pain because they don’t know how their lifestyle or things that they’re doing in their movement, whether it’s their mindset on training, like the no pain no gain, I got to leave it all on the floor every time I work out, or I’m just getting old it’s suppose to hurt.

These different kinds of mindsets we need to educate people to understand that no, dude, you’re getting older maybe you’re not as fast, maybe you’re not quite as strong, but you shouldn’t be in pain. Pain is a signal that something’s wrong and let’s try and deal with that.

Jarlo: Absolutely. Pain itself it’s just a complex, emergent thing that to parse it down and to this is the one thing, and this is the one thing that’s causing me pain, it just doesn’t make any sense on the face of it. I mean you have to look at the whole person, you have to look at the thing and that’s where being mindful, and I like what you said, being an educator, and a lot of times you’re like, “Oh, too much information is not good, you just got to give this person little chunks,” and it’s true for may be one session, or may be that part of the session, but I really feel that the more you kind of shed light on a certain thing, and then maybe you have to do it in different ways for that person to really get it, for that client, for your patient to really understand it will take up more than your simple analogies here that maybe work for one person, and then you say it to this one and they’re like, they say they get it, but you know they don’t get it.

Being an educator is just right. We write all these articles, we write blog post, we do these pod casts, but we have to provide information in so many … I think we have to provide it in a lot of different ways so that people can catch the one that really resonates with them. That’s what I believe.

Mark: I think also too, to be able to game our correctives, or to game our … I’m realizing that fun is the one thing that makes things stick.

Jarlo: Yeah, absolutely.

Mark: Guru is fond of saying, “You learn through playing.”

Jarlo: Absolutely. That’s the structure with him, and I realize that probably a few years in to it and looking at his things and like, “Wow, I wonder why he’s doing it this way because you know, if you’re working with this person, maybe he should it this..,” and then I’m like, one day I was looking at his videos and I’m like looking and he’d smile and like, “Oh, he’s just having fun. He’s just enjoying it. That’s why he’s doing it.” That was a revelation in itself. I’m like, “Man, if I was 76 years old and having this much fun doing something, man that guys doing something right. He’s got it down.” I love that. I love the fun and enjoyment and really that’s what it is, is the passion. What can you enjoy every part of your life. I mean, every part of life’s not going to be enjoyable but if it’s something you can come back to. Man, this is great. I wish we could talk more. I know you got to so I’m going to go ahead and end this here. Maybe we can do this again, hopefully.

Mark: I’d loved that.

Jarlo: Thanks so much, Mark. I really appreciate it. Your varied background is just great for our listeners here and I learned a lot from this session and I’m really happy we got a chance to talk, so thanks so much.

Mark: It’s an honor. Thank you so much for allowing me to be on this.

Jarlo: All right, everybody. That’s it for today’s episode. We’ll have all these links to show Mark’s different web pages, his resources in our show notes. If you have any questions please give us a contact at [email protected] and we’ll be able to answer your questions your questions for you. Thank a lot, Mark, and we’ll see you guys later.

Mark: Thank you, Jarlo.

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