Vincent J. Lasorso
"A person's mastery of tai chi and qigong should not be judged by ethnic origin, the certificates on the wall, trophies in a case, trips to China, or the teachers one has studied with. Mastery is proven in the way one lives, their daily practice, the quality of their teaching, their technical understanding and most of all, the positive change they generate in their students and their community."
"Each day I train to improve myself in all these measures. "
Vincent J. Lasorso, Jr.
The Journey of a Tai Chi Teacher
In 1966, after a childhood near death experience, Master Teacher Lasorso discovered martial arts in a magazine his father had brought home. In that magazine was an interview with the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. Ueshiba Osensei described how in meditation he had moved into a light of divine love and that his art and movements were expressions of that universal energy of love. Using that magazine as a guide Lasorso began his practice of martial arts as a means to integrate the divine union he had experienced into everyday life. A year later he would discover how martial arts actually work in a real life and death battle. Having survived the real thing, and the cockiness of youth, he boldly demonstrated his "lack of skills" to his father and two uncles. Lasorso's father had been a semi-professional boxer and was highly trained in hand to hand skills for his deployment in the WW II Pacific campaign against the Japanese. His Uncle Angelo had fought hand to hand in European combat and his uncle Mike was the most experienced of them all. Mike was in a specialized unit that used search and attack dogs to root out the hidden suicidal Japanese soldiers from their caves. He was very experienced in reflexive counter-ambush hand-to-hand combat. Within seconds Lasorso's uncles demonstrated how easily they could "finish him off." Making him promise never to use these techniques unless his life was in danger, Mike and Angelo trained the teenager in the techniques that had saved their lives time and time again. Combining his philosophical readings and the techniques of his father and uncles gave Lasorso his own "secret family style of martial arts" to practice.
Later when Lasorso became a solider his other uncle, who had won the Silver Star in the Pacific and was considered a legendary bayonet fighter among his peers, taught his nephew the tactics he and his special unit used. Everyone in his uncle's unit, after years of intense close combat engagements with the Japanese, returned home alive.
In 1974 Lasorso discovered Tai Chi Chuan the same place he finds most of his life changing knowledge... on TV. The martial, healing and meditative practice of Tai Chi Chuan seemed to be capable of filling all of his needs. Because of an absence of teachers, he taught himself the Sophia Delza's Wu Style and Marshall Ho'o's PBS modified Yang form. He was surprised by how natural it felt but knew he wasn't doing it correctly. By the time he completed the choreography of those forms he found his first Master Teacher: Grandmaster Tanka Ramos.
The First Master
Grandmaster Ramos at that time was a famous GoJu Ryu Master and ordained Buddhist priest. Due to an injury, Grandmaster Ramos changed to the Shaolin arts of Hung Gar and Choy Li Fut. He was in the most advanced Shaolin practices of internal Qi cultivation, meditation and empty force when he opened his school on Main Street in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Grandmaster Ramos trained Lasorso in the deepest details of martial art structure, form, mechanisms of force, and the power of relaxation. He also learned the teaching techniques and methods, which guaranteed successful assimilation of the material. Lasorso learned the skills of Buddhist breathing, Qi circulation, Qi projection and meditation. This solid traditional training in Chinese martial arts unlocked all the mechanics and energy that was missing in his self learned tai chi forms. Training with Grandmaster Ramos and being exposed to the lectures and demonstrations of his master revealed that the mythical powers of kung fu masters were not only real, but also accessible through proper training. Together, Grandmaster Ramos and Lasorso co-founded the very short-lived University of Bridgeport Kung Fu Club in the winter of 1976. Lasorso still uses the training of Grandmaster Ramos as a core to his teaching.
Grandmaster Ramos eventually rediscovered Jesus Christ as his savior and became ordained as a Christian minister. He runs a recovery and prison ministry in Connecticut, which includes martial arts training. He has saved and improved the lives of tens of thousands of people.
Master Teacher Lasorso received a B.S. in Industrial Design from the College of Engineering, of the University of Bridgeport in 1977. Industrial Design is the unique blending of art, design, manufacturing, engineering and Human Factors. Lasorso's knowledge of design, engineering and obscure human anthropometrics enabled him to invent and receive a U.S. Patent for a medical device while still a student. Lasorso spent sixteen years designing, engineering, inventing and marketing consumer products and toys for major international corporations: Marx Toys, Kenner, Teledyne Water Pik, S.C. Johnson & Sons, Cosco, Revell Monogram Models
While establishing his professional career, Lasorso pursued an avocational career in emergency medical services, law enforcement, fire service and Mountain Search and Rescue. Lasorso has received formal training and certification as a Paramedic; Firefighter and Officer; Deputy Sheriff; and Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator and Medical Officer.
In 1982, after working very closely with the military in Colorado Search and Rescue, Master Teacher Lasorso enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served between 1982 -1984 earning M.O.S. in Infantry and Military Intelligence with a Psychological Operations designation. During 18 months he earned more awards and recognition than most soldiers get in a four year tour including: Expert Infantry Badge; Airborne wings; an Army Commendation Medal for attempting to save a civilian life; two Army Achievement Medals for exemplary job performance; two Army Certificates of Achievement one for saving a soldiers life; and Division approval and recommendation for direct commission as an officer in the Medical Service Corps.
It was as an infantry solider, on alert for a combat deployment to Beirut, that Master Teacher Lasorso's perspective on marital arts changed from theoretical to real. Lasorso analyzed and considered the close combat conditions, the bulky equipment of a soldier and the suicidal, hand to hand tactics of the Hezbollah terrorists. This environment was similar to the conditions his uncles had faced: you have one second to make one movement that had to result in one kill. Lasorso - based upon the experience of his uncles and his own experiences - came to the conclusion that "real" Tai Chi Chuan would be the most effective hand to hand solution. Flow, rhythm and complete body integration were the principles of surviving short range ambush attacks. Every combat technique his uncle's had used was found - slightly modified - within the Tai Chi forms. Fortunately, President Regan decided against combat operations in Lebanon, saving countless American lives. Yet, those events established an unwavering reality standard that all of his martial arts techniques and training still have to meet.
Master Teacher Lasorso considers himself an "ex-soldier" and not a martial artist. He does not teach his White Willow program with any emphasis on martial arts. Students are taught only enough martial theory to understand the structure, balance and kinetic flow of the forms. "You can not have love, happiness and health if you are training to fight your imagined fears."
Re-entry and Research
After his military service, Master Teacher Lasorso re-entered the corporate world. He began teaching Tai Chi and Kung Fu at a local YMCA and then co-founded a small Martial Arts School. In 1985 he taught his first corporate qigong and tai chi program at S.C. Johnson and Sons. This began a long period of research into the healing potential and mind/body aspects of Tai Chi, Qigong and meditation. Before the Internet, research was a long tedious venture. Working with the corporate library services and medical department, Lasorso conducted a one-year research project into qigong, relaxation and mind/body theory that could be used as a basis for a total corporate wellness program. From that research he began the process of parsing the usable science from the dogma and myth. This was an amazingly radical venture for its time. In the mid eighties, religious groups associated Tai Chi with satanic practice. The concept of the mind influencing the body to create meaningful healing was completely unaccepted by the medical and scientific community. Teaching to the general public meant you had to frame Tai Chi as an exercise or some hippie counter culture feel good practice. By focusing on science and westernizing the exercises, he was able to present a program called The Relaxation Management Program. The program brought the healing effects of qigong and meditation to the corporate world without any objections from religion or science.
While westernizing tai chi for the real world, Master Teacher Lasorso's personal practice moved away from the physical/martial and went deep into his own spiritual/metaphysical quest. The years of trying to control death as a rescuer and a warrior brought Lasorso back to his original purpose for study, the integration of the unitive experience into everyday reality.
The Second Master
In the summer of 1985 Master Lasorso met his next teacher: Grandmaster Y. T. Tolo-naa. They met at a kung fu training camp in Tennessee and it was clear within minutes that Grandmaster Tolo-naa possessed knowledge not readily available to the tai chi community at the time.
Grandmaster Tolo-naa (aka Raymond Cooper) was a national karate fighting champion in the 1960's. Then one day he heard about an "old Chinese guy" that could throw people around without touching them. Tolo-naa enrolled in this master's school regularly attending classes for a year before the master ever really talked to him. That man was Professor Hou Chi Kwang.
The Chinese Lineage
Professor Hou was one of the last private students of Yang Shou Hou the grandson and last family student of the founder of the Yang Lu Shan system of Tai Chi Chuan. Yang Shou Hou only taught the best masters his “closed door” family art and kept secret all of the metaphysics. Professor Hou was only accepted for this training because he had learned his martial arts from his uncle the world famous Hou Yaun Jia immortalized by Bruce Lee in the movie “The Chinese Connection” and Jet Li in the movie “Fearless”. Professor Hou’s skill, lineage and his father’s influence with the Emperor opened the closed door to the “Secret Yang” style for him. However, it only opened the door. Yang Shou Hou was legendary for his brutal and precise training. Professor Hou had to earn every new bit of information through his performance and asking the right questions at just the right time. Eventually, Professor Hou learned the most advanced forms, fighting and metaphysics of the system. He used these skills as a guerilla fighter against the Japanese and later went on to help form the government of Taiwan. When he retired from political office he settled in Chicago in 1966 forming the Chinese Cultural Academy, teaching art, calligraphy, Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi. Professor Hou opened a door into Chinese culture, art and martial arts that thousands of westerners walked through.
Grandmaster Tolo-naa, as a private student of Professor Hou and Bagua Chang Grandmaster Lu Hung Bing had access to first hand knowledge of Yang Shou Hou's teachings and the teachings of his grandfather. This status also gave him access to closed-door masters in Taiwan. Tolo-Naa's own personal quest took his studies back to the cradle of civilization: Africa. Tolo-naa delved into the study of Egyptian martial arts and spirituality, which led back to African tribal martial arts. The goal of this research was to find the core moves and spirit of all human martial movements. He established the Marital Arts Research Society (MARS) to teach his findings. Tolo-naa, after years of research created a system of African Martial Arts, which was adopted by the Ivory Coast as their national martial art.
Through the African Martial arts, Tolo-naa and his master students were able to bring a rich new cultural heritage to inner city Afro-Americans around the United States. The methods provided alternative models of success emphasizing personal discipline, cultural esteem and a deep organic spirit unifying all things. These methods proved especially useful in guiding young men away from the socioeconomic influences of crime and drugs.
Being within a solid lineage and learning material within its proper context filled in the missing pieces of Master Teacher Lasorso's art. The small frame style of the "Secret Yang" system and its integrated theory produced amazing results. Lasorso trained hard, routinely practicing four or more hours a day. Within three years he had learned the structure of all the forms and had become the first of his generation to successfully complete the metaphysical process of Professor Hou. But this was only the beginning. Being able to perform a sequence of movements, experience wondrous states of consciousness and access power is in no ways Mastery. They may earn you a title or recognition but they do not bring understanding and wisdom. In December 1987 Lasorso published an article in T'ai Chi Magazine called Spiritual Power and the Dilemma of Ego. In that article he states: "We must use the ego to transcend the ego."
Master Teacher Lasorso left the worlds of martial arts and power behind him. It became more important to understand the mechanisms of humankind that are capable of profound healing of mind and body and the key to unfathomable longevity.
It was more important to understand love and happiness.
Serious Research into the Mind
The first place Master Teacher Lasorso began was with the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the psychological patterns of the mind. The practices of Yang Shou Hou's training of the internal qigong had the most profound effect on Lasorso's CNS and mental patterning. The actions repatterned the architecture of the brain, which in turn repatterned his thoughts and degree of perceptions. In his research on how this repatterning could be controlled, Lasorso discovered the work of Robert Monroe and The Monroe Institute, which he founded.
In the mid 1960's Bob Monroe had a series of physical sensations, which produced an altered state of mind that allowed his locale of consciousness to appear to move outside of his body. In an effort to replicate these patterns he used acoustical sound to vibrate his body and mind in a way to reliably repeat the results. Monroe then discovered - by using auditory binaural beats - the brain could be predictably guided into almost any state of consciousness. In 1971 Monroe patented this auditory Frequency Following Response technology. He later called the technology "Hemi-sync" for its ability to synchronize both hemispheres of the brain into coherence. Monroe studied the brain waves of gifted individuals and orchestrated many methods to help people with their personal growth or healing via the CNS. Lasorso purchased Monroe's home study program and found that the tapes when added to the movement practice produced results in hours, which normally would take years. Lasorso then went to the Monroe Institute to be certified as an Outreach Trainer of the technology in October 1990. Bob Monroe and Lasorso personally collaborated on research of a remote consciousness project for six months. In 1992 Lasorso and his wife Connie created a series of qigong exercises to be used in a Monroe Institute pilot program to radically expand human potential called "Hemi-sync 2000". The program was never presented to the public but it provided a valuable information link between movement, mind and brain. A decade later in 2002 Lasorso fine-tuned the movements and information into a healing system called the Immortal's Method of Healing. It was refined further in 2006 into the SoundBodyTM Healing System. In 2007 Lasorso filed for a U.S. Patent for his SoundBodyTM Healing System using a sound technology of his own creation called WholiSoundTM. This system has been tested in pain management and has produced profoundly positive effects on the brain.
A new love and career
While at the Monroe Institute, Master Teacher Lasorso met an extraordinary trainer and his future wife: Connie Stafford. Connie had been a surgical nurse and became interested in alternative methods of healing cancer. She learned about the use of Hemi-sync in surgery and immediately went to the institute to learn more about it. She soon became a trainer of residential programs and the coordinator of the Outreach Trainer program. Connie also conducted a clinical test to determine if Hemi-sync influenced the amount of anesthesia required for surgery. The positive results were presented at Grand Rounds. In 1990 Connie created a private retail and counseling center called Whatever Works Wellness Center and Bookstore. The purpose of Whatever Works was to provide support for people going through serious illness and responsibly introduce them to medically proven complimentary therapies and products. Whatever Works worked very closely with the newly formed Wellness Community and Barrett Cancer Center. It became a safe haven for concerned citizens and medical professionals who wanted to learn more about complementary medicine. Connie convinced Lasorso to move to her center and add Tai Chi and Qigong as a therapeutic module. In 1991 Lasorso formed the White Willow School of Tai Chi within Whatever Works. The combination of qigong, Hemi-sync meditation, Shiatsu, craniosacral therapy, Healing Touch, nutritional supplements, books and support groups made Whatever Works the first full service complimentary medicine center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Working full time teaching students Tai Chi, qigong, and meditation gave Master Teacher Lasorso a laboratory and a mirror to perfect the teaching and performance of his art. He had developed a curriculum that sped up the acquisition of skill. Watching hundreds of students progress through the curriculum revealed the repeatable and predictable effects that the system produced on the body, mind and emotions of the students. It became clear that the unmodified, integrated tai chi/qigong system designed by Yang Lu Shan was a defined technology of human transformation. Originally the system was designed to train an experienced tai chi martial artist into a "Jedi Knight'. But Lasorso knew this complex system is actually better suited to (and safer for) beginners than the common popular tai chi systems. The personal changes that students desired just came quicker using this method.
Lasorso also observed that the forms he had been taught were an intentionally modified beginners or public version. This version had amazing effects on healing, fitness and spiritual processes, but it lost some of the application principles. He adjusted the stances, timing and kinetic flow to bring them into harmony with the Yang family, classical tai chi writings and combat applications.
Making Tai Chi a Science
But having quick, consistent and predictable results, did not discount the fact that the student had to commit time and effort to attend classes and practice. This isn't always practical, especially for those with serious or debilitating health problems. For many people time is running out and personal energy is overextended. To better serve the community Master Teacher Lasorso used his school to discover the mechanisms driving the results. By 2001 he had found the answers. In 2002 he revised his system based upon what he called the Immortal's Method. The Chinese had always said that Tai Chi and qigong worked by releasing resistance to the flow of Qi, the massaging of the organs and the opening of the joints. The immortals method ( Movements of Peace Qigong) was based upon releasing physical tissue misalignments and "bracing" which inhibited movement, functions of the organs and metabolism. It did this by orchestrating naturally occurring kinetic and acoustical pulse waves of the body with patterns of movement. This realigned the physical structures and improved health, strength in flexibility with only ten stationary movements. The next goal was to understand what the waves were saying to the cells. The pulse waves were communication waves moving through the connective tissue network right into the DNA of every cell via the integrins. Activating the network with movement - although remarkably beneficial - is no more than sending a random "ping" to each of the DNA. Master Teacher Lasorso building upon the sound therapies of the philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras, that sound and movement can be used to directly control physiological functions. In 2007 he applied for a patent on a sound device that stops pain in minutes via communication to the Central nervous system and the source of pain at the same time. Based upon this same mechanism, Lasorso developed a movement protocol, which produces dopamine in the brain and stimulates neurogenesis for Parkinson's Patients. At the time of this writing Lasorso is seeking sources to research these processes further.
A Way of Life
Master Teacher Lasorso has taken the teachings, work and research of a lifetime and created a new therapeutic model of tai chi which he believes is in harmony with the organic needs of humankind without regards to east or west. He has committed his life to turning his White Willow system into a viable system of complimentary medicine. A system which can prevent and heal illness, is an effective and efficient system of fitness avoiding the normally physical depleting and destructive methods we have been programmed to believe in - and lastly for those who really need it - a realistic easily applied system of combat. He continues to study the myths to find the science and find even more effective ways to improve his community.
In 2000 Master Teacher Lasorso published what he considers his "masters' thesis" The Immortal's Gift: A Parable for the Soul. The book is set in the context and beliefs of a 13th century Taoist monk. It tells the story of how this monk uses the physical, spiritual, metaphysical, and healing skills of internal Chinese arts to overcome the physical and emotional trials and wounds of his life. He ultimately understands the two greatest gifts given to humankind: forgiveness and love. It is by using these gifts that we are guaranteed a wonderful peaceful life no matter what the circumstances.
Becoming a master of anything is primarily a matter of thinking rather than skill.
Skill alone creates technicians, not masters.
A master's skill is manifested by his thinking and he uses that skill as a tool to obtain a higher level of purpose and understanding of the complex simplicity of the universe, or at least his art.
To the master, skill is not an end to itself, but part of an artistic expression, which is used to create personal, and possibly, universal harmony.
Attributes of a Master
Vincent J. Lasorso, Jr.
T'ai Chi Magazine August 1987