Ever since I was introduced to Eastern Medicine and Bak Fu Pai QiGong I have been absolutely blown away by the impact they have had on my life. I find it hard to believe that a mere 18 months ago I was in the midst of hitting rock bottom due to complications from a nasty blow to the head I received while lifeguarding the Los Angeles Triathlon in October 2010. With the help of my family, friends, doctors, practitioners, and Bak Fu Pai family I have come full circle and am now in a place where I am ready to commit to the iron palm level 1 procedure.

Many people have flooded me with questions and comments about the procedure. “What is it?” “Why are you doing this?” “Why do you have to be home by 9:30pm?” “It seems like a big time and financial commitment.”  “Are the sacrifices really worth it?” “That’s cool that you will be able to break a coconut.” Does the idea of hardening my hands and turning them into a powerful tool spark excitement? Yes, it certainly does. However, to me it is not about the ability to break a coconut or the other things I will physically be able to do with my hands when I finish. It is about the mental journey. It is about the mental game that needs to be played in order to overcome the obstacles that seem to find their way onto the path. It is about trying to satiate my curiosity for the unknown. Lastly, it is about helping others by leading through example. These are the elements that I find exhilarating and worth the investment.

I have been an athlete my entire life. Early on, my coaches taught me the importance of setting realistic goals as well as helped me understand the process one needs to undergo in order to be successful. I have used this tool ever since it was gifted to me. I, now, in a way have stepped into my coaches’ shoes and am “paying it forward” as I lead my student-athletes onto the path of achievement. In two weeks, I will be starting the goal setting process with my students. However, I have started that process myself and will use my own work as an example. So, what does that look like? Before I set any goals I ask myself and answer four questions (acronym – SWOT):

  1. What are my Strengths?
  2. What are my Weaknesses?
  3. What Opportunities do I have available to me to help me achieve my goals?
  4. What Threatens my ability to achieve my goals?

From there I start thinking about goals I wish to pursue and use the SMART goal setting system to make sure they are realistic and attainable. As such, I ask myself if my goal is SMARTER?

Specific: What exactly will you accomplish?

Measurable: How will you (and others) know when you have reached your goal? How will you track your progress?

Attainable: Is attaining this goal realistic with effort and commitment? What resources do you need to achieve this goal? Do you have all these resources? If not, how will you get them?

Relevant: Why is this goal important to you?

Time-Specific: When will you achieve this goal?

Evaluate: How will you track your progress? How often will you reflect on your progress?

Revise: Can your goal be changed if achieving it is too easy or too hard?

Below is my SMART goal synopsis for Iron Palm:

My goal for this winter season is to complete Iron Palm Level 1 and 3 Star procedures. I will have completed both procedures when I have carried out the tasks specific to each for 108 days and 100 days respectively. Successfully breaking a coconut with a palm strike will be one way to measure my success. 

I chose to complete this procedure during the winter because it is the time of year where I am in one place longest and have a predictable routine in place allowing me to incorporate time for completing this procedure the way it is meant to be done. I also have the resources I need to be successful despite the fact I will be out of town (with respect to the White Tiger Kung Fu School) for 2/3 of the procedure. I will be able to send my journal and skype with Sifu Dennis if needed. I will also travel to L.A. monthly for doctor appointments and to check in with Sifu.

One of my favorite things to do in life is to overcome obstacles and challenges. I have always been that person who, when presented with various challenges, picks the harder one. Since my head injury and introduction to Bak Fu Pai QiGong I have been absolutely fascinated by the Eastern view of the body as well as the sensations I have felt during my meditation sessions and the power it has had on healing my body. I yearn to learn more. In addition, I see this as one way to thank my teachers (family, friends, physical therapists, doctors, instructors, etc). After having thought about how to repay the favors/gifts I have been given, especially when I hit rock bottom, I decided that the gift of “paying it forward” is the finest one I can offer. As such, this goal serves an even more important purpose in that I will help my student-athletes achieve their own goals this winter through leading by example.

I plan to start both procedures on October 28th. As such, I will be finished with Iron Palm Level 1 February 12, 2014 and 3 Star Procedure February 4, 2014. To measure and track my progress I will use a checklist and calendar to make sure I am carrying out each task daily. I will keep a written, photo, and video journal detailing my practice, what I am experiencing on a day to day basis, and my coconut break attempts. In addition, I will check in with Sifu Dennis on a weekly basis sending him my journal logs so that he can provide feedback.

If I find that attempting to complete both procedures at the same time is proving to be too challenging with my work and training schedule I will postpone completing the 3 Star procedure.

Once I determine that my goal is SMART, I then move on to coming up with a Plan Of Attack (POA). I do this in stages. For Iron Palm there is a preparation stage. My POA for that stage is below. I take both my goal and my current POA and pin it up in two locations I frequent daily (i.e. bedroom/bathroom wall) so that I am reminded to stay focused on the path.

Long Term Goal POA



As I near completing a stage, I reflect and ask myself if my goal is still SMART. If it is not I make changes. More often than not, I find that it is not the specific goal that needs readjusting, but rather it is the plan of attack that has issues. Confucius once wrote “When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps”. That being said, in the past I have adjusted deadlines or simply broken up goals into smaller ones and gone after them sequentially. Don’t give up on your goals. “Where there is a will, there is a way!” After reflecting, I come up with my POA for the next stage. My next stage for Iron Palm will be the first 33 days where I have to strike a bag of sand for an hour each day and do my form and meditation.

The other element to this goal setting process is involving others. Each time I set goals for myself I send them to someone I trust and who will hold me accountable. I typically will involve coaches, family members, and teammates. For this goal, I have selected six people (Sifu Dennis, Si Jei Tanaka, Si Hing Nick, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my fiancé). In a recent White Tiger Kung Fu blog, Si Hing Nick touched upon those days where you “just don’t feel like it”. We may have had a really busy day. Perhaps we are absolutely exhausted from training and the easiest thing to do is lay on that couch instead of doing what you promised yourself you would. These are the days I have found I may need that extra little encouragement because my mental game is wavering a little bit. It happens to all of us at some point. It’s part of the game. As such, I have found that involving just a few people and asking for their assistance in holding you accountable to be instrumental. If I fail, not only will I be letting myself down, but I will let those who have invested time and energy into helping me, down as well.

Another thing that I found to be extremely helpful is sharing my goals with others who are doing the same. It creates that team atmosphere where we help each other go after “the gold”. Even if we have different goals, the process is really very similar. In addition, I have never really found myself to be in the same mental place as one of my “teammates”. While one might be going through a rough spot on the path the other might be cruising along on an easy section and able to offer the encouragement needed to motivate their teammate to keep pushing on.

Overall, this process has nurtured my growth as an athlete and a human being. I have had successes and failures through which served as valuable lessons. Lessons I do not think I would have learned had I not developed the tools to set goals, to plan my path of achievement, and to reflect. As I look back on what the Bak Fu Pai system has given me thus far, I find it difficult to keep my excitement for what has yet to come from bursting at the seams. After having spent the last couple weeks making sure I did what was necessary to prepare for Iron Palm, I received the thumbs up from Sifu Dennis today to start on my goal start date; October 28, 2013. Bring on phase 2!

“The minute you choose to do what you really want to do, it’s a different kind of life.” – Buckminster Fuller