‘How Tiger got his Mojo’
– Steel wrapped in Cotton –
The center is where the power is.
The big muscles control everything, the small muscles just follow.
So I focus on the center. I follow the body’s center of gravity. It’s an Eastern thing.
‘Dr. J’ Julius Erving
In 1992, upon the sage advice of Earl and Kutida Woods, I relocated my golf academy from America to Thailand. Hearing Earl speak about the Eastern influences in Tiger’s training while I lived in America was one thing, but seeing them in Asia, first-hand, was another entirely. Thailand is an amalgamation of many cultures. It’s location, at the crossroads of ancient migratory and trade routes between India and China, makes Thailand the meat in the sandwich that separates the layers of these two major cultures, blending together the best of both. A unique equilibrium of influences has been achieved there, a fusion of the best in Indian and Chinese cultures.
– Golf & Meditation –
Many elements in Thai culture are influenced by India including Buddhism, yoga, meditation, and the traditional healing arts. Buddhist temples glisten at every turn. At dawn, barefooted, saffron-robed monks gather alms. Thailand overflows with magnificent Buddha images — from giant Buddha on hilltops to the diminutive Buddha on personal amulets. The study and practice of meditation is very common among the Thai population. Meditation — ‘sitting still and doing nothing’ — allows the mind to abide in a natural state of tranquility, silence, stillness, and is a proven way to give your mind a complete rest. In true meditation the mind does not move. Kultida disciplined Tiger to always meditate and pray before golf practice. As a result Tiger gained the energetic skills that enable him to be relaxed, centered, and to still his mind under pressure. This is a vital for any golfer who wants to achieve peak performance.
– Golf & Yoga –
Hatha Yoga — an ancient system of balancing and uniting body, mind, and spirit — is widely practiced in Thailand. In Sanskrit, ha means ‘sun’ and tha means moon’, and yoga means ‘union’. Hatha Yoga is one way to develop mental and physical potential; purify and strengthen body; and unlock the hidden powers of the mind. The theories underlying Yoga — Prana (Qi), Nadis (energy meridians) and the practice of holding Asana (Sanskrit for ‘steady pose’, or ‘Kata’) originated in ancient Africa (Egypt) and were profoundly developed in India before reaching Thailand. Hatha Yoga skills can easily be applied to golf. First the mind is slowed down and turned inwards, so the latent powers in the body can be contacted and brought to life. Simple movements are combined with circular arm and hand movements in basic stances and correct breathing, to connect through the body’s center with the rhythms and patterns of the life force. The source of power — in the feet — is triggered in the legs, controlled through the waist and manifested through the hands. Tiger’s swing demonstrates this yogic-energetic progression of power.
– Golf & Qi-Gong –
The underlying and pervasive influences of Chinese culture are also deeply woven into the fabric of Thai society and Tiger. Like many Thais, Tiger has Chinese grandparents on his Thai-Chinese mother’s side, linking him to China and her rich legacy by just a generation. From ever-present Chinese temples through to the Chinese names on business signage, Thais have assimilated and acquired many things Chinese including religion, customs, and traditional medical practices. This is nowhere more apparent than at dawn as parks fill with thousands of Thai-Chinese drinking tea, practicing yoga, and dozens of styles of Qi-Gong, China’s oldest healing, meditative, and martial art. Qi-Gong — an essential part of Chinese Medicine and grandparent of Chinese acupuncture, feng-shui, massage, herbology, martial arts, and sexology — relies upon Qi (life force) and Gong (our skill at managing it) for health, fitness, rejuvenation, longevity, and ultimately, spiritual enlightenment.
– Core Dynamics –
Traditional Chinese Medicine views the human body as a chemical machine powered by energy streams. The energy is Qi and the streams (grid) it flows through are the acupuncture channels, meridians, and capillaries. The free-flow of Qi through us is the true source of strength. According to Chinese Taoists, physicians, martial artists, dancers, and acrobats, an energy vortex and balance point exists in the human energy body, below the navel and inside the trunk. This one point is our center of gravity, an energetic gyroscope – an invisible Iron Byron. This lower tan-tien (elixir field), as it is known in China, and hara, (in Japan), is a repository of our athletic abilities, and the true center of the swing. All the energy channels in the human energy grid that enliven and sustain the physical body originate from, radiate out, then, return to there. In martial arts, this one point is the physical center of rotation and the source of power. In Buddhist meditation, this one point is the center of attention. It spins like a gyro with a spiral/spherical rotation. Ideally, the physical body should swing from this energetic center when golfing.
Qi maximizes power, can be stored so strength increases with age, and helps golfers harness abilities that normally only the most talented of champions acquire. When golfers deliberately develop Qi exceptional feats are possible. Millennia ago, when the Shaolin warriors martial arts, yoga, and meditation they awakened the latent powers that reside in the human energy body to unleash extraordinary abilities. Eastern golfers intuitively fusing yoga, meditation, and martial arts — Qi-Gong — into their swings has produced an over-abundance of champions. Tiger’s intuitive fusion has developed energetic powers and abilities virtually incomprehensible to golfers in the West.
– Golf & Martial Arts –
At the core of Earl’s hand-to-hand close quarter combat martial arts training were Wing Chun and Small Circle Jujitsu. Wing Chun — which originated in the Shaolin temple 300+ years ago — teaches positions first, and identifies the ‘one point’ in the lower abdomen as the true source of power. Proper structure, alignment, and rootedness are emphasized. Training is precise, gradually moving from small to smaller movements.
Wing Chun reinforces speed, accuracy, and power by programming the body to perform skills automatically. Wing Chun instilled in Earl speed, economy of movement, and the ability to strike from his center rapidly, explosively, and powerfully. Small-Circle Jujitsu — created by Professor Wally Jay — exerts torque in the tightest possible arc by coordinating the movement of the fingers, hands, and wrists — taught Earl the skills of energy transference, and to properly direct force by focusing on the smallest point possible. Wing Chun & Small Circle Jujitsu taught Earl to generate power by transferring Qi from the ground-up; to focus Qi into a single point when striking; and end every strike with an explosively penetrating snap several inches beyond the target. These secret skills form a matrix of capabilities that Earl fused into his golf swing and conveyed to Tiger.
– Hyper-Drive –
Tiger’s first swing was a perfect imitation of me.
Fa-Jin is the highest and most secret level of Shaolin martial arts technique — is an explosive release of internal spiral Qi power: a relaxed, elastic, whole-body power originating from fusing the tendons, fascia, and human energy grid. Normal physical strength comes from expanding and contracting the muscles, but Fa-Jin harnesses Qi and tendon elasticity — so they wrap around bones forming a spiral latticework from the soles to the crown, and toe-tips to fingertips — like a spring coiling and uncoiling. Fa-Jin fuses 7 energetic martial art, yogic, and meditative skills — stretching, breathing, rooting, centering, standing, linking, and spiraling. Fa-Jin (Hyper-Drive) — a martial-energetic striking skill anyone can learn — activates an invisible spiral of energy that emerges in the lower abdomen, generating a centrifugal force Inner-Swing that gives speed, precision, and power to the outer swing. This spiral rotation of Qi energy inside the body enables mastery of the swing and shots that defy belief. Tiger’s Hyper-Drive transmits a wave-like Qi force that issues out of the ground, and is multiplied as it passes up through his body from his feet then out his fingertips. With so much force concentrated in such a small area (clubface at impact) explosive speed is unleashed through a powerful, penetrating strike. Fa-Jin in Tiger’s swing is like the action of an archer shooting an arrow. Tiger uses integrated whole-body strength (bow); elastic tendons (the bow-string); and the explosive containment of his delayed-hit (Qi & dynamic tension) to launch breathtaking shots.
– The One & Three Inch Punch –
Bruce Lee — whose roots are in Wing Chun & Small-Circle Jujitsu — was the first Asian martial arts superstar. By training religiously in many disciplines to discover what he was ultimately capable of, he transformed his body, and developed astonishing energetic skills. Much like Tiger. Lee’s most amazing skill, a ‘One-Inch Punch’, enabled him to knock a grown man across a room with a punch of only one inch long. According to Karate legend Ed Parker: “From the tips of his toes to the end of his fingertips, Bruce generated explosive speed and power that hit opponents like a high-speed bullet.” Until he demonstrated it at Parker’s Karate Exhibition in 1964, it had never been seen in the West. Of this skill, Lee said: “You’ve got to move the whole hip into it, and then snap it”. Professor Jay taught many martial arts legends, including Bruce Lee. In this photo Professor Wally Jay, at age 71 performs a Three-Inch Punch (based upon Lee’s One-Inch Punch). While Jay couldn’t generate enough power to do a One-Inch Punch since he was past his prime, he could still execute an explosive short punch. At impact, Rick Clark screamed as his head snaps back. He was in shock for a split-second, then said: “I felt the impact through my spine”. In the floor mirror his feet can be seen several inches off the floor. When Clark showed his wife where he was hit, Jay’s knuckles (despite a phone book in-between) were imprinted on his chest.
This skill is mirrored in Tiger ‘Sudden Stop’ – his ability to completely stop the momentum of his downswing just before impact. Because Tiger exerts maximum torque in the tightest possible arc by coordinating the movement of his fingers, hands and wrists, his super-delayed hit — Hyper-Drive — is the golf equivalent of Bruce Lee’s ‘One Inch Punch’ Tiger’s ‘Sudden Stop’ would cause back spasms in most, but minimal movement in a small circle — a close-quarter punch from Aikido, Jujitsu & Wing Chun — enables him to suddenly stop with no ill effects. Perhaps you’ve seen it on T.V.? There are countless slow-motion replays of it. Lanny Watkins said: “How does he do that! He was almost at the ball! You’ve got to be one strong man”.Tiger can stop his club that is going 130 mph an inch before contact. Tiger said: “It felt like the club was going to snap because when I stopped the swing so abruptly.” And Paul Casey remarked : “Tiger’s quick stop was as impressive a feat as I’ve seen. Of all the things I’ve seen him do, it was unbelievable.”
– Steel wrapped in Cotton –
Tiger has the agility of a gymnast. He does stretching exercises you wouldn’t believe a human being is capable of.
Fa-Jin creates an internal structure in the body that feels like flexible steel cable. It can only be unleashed when the body is transformed the state of fitness where the muscles are relaxed and soft, while underneath tendons, ligaments, and bones are extremely strong. For 1,500 years, since the time of Ta Mo, Shaolin have fused martial, yogic, and meditative training to achieve this exalted state of battlefield fitness.
Earl’s example and martial-yogic training developed Tiger’s speed, strength, & swing. But without the meditative-yogic energy skills instilled by Kultida, Tiger would never have learned to circulate and cultivate his Qi, which transformed him physiologically. Tiger’s Steel wrapped in Cotton – that enables him to swing/strike rapidly, explosively, powerfully, and precisely — is often seen in martial artists but never before in a golfer.
In early 1998 I witnessed Tiger’s breathtaking 8-stroke come-from-behind victory over Ernie Els at the Johnny Walker Classic in Phuket. During Tiger’s final round he hit shot after shot that utterly defied belief. And after he sank the winning birdie putt and had hugged his Mother, I walked across the green to congratulate him. As we shook hands he smiled. Then, firmly griping my left elbow, he pulled me closer to him, and suddenly and without warning, zapped me! For a timeless moment, Tiger opened his force-field and let me feel his Qi powers full strength. Tiger’s palms were soft. But just beneath the skin I felt the vise-like steel grip of his tendons. Like high-voltage cables, they surged and tingled with Qi electricity. Tiger reminded me of a ‘Terminator’, a cyborg with a super-high alloy metal chassis sheathed in flesh — Steel wrapped in Cotton. Then he winked, smiled, released his grip, and walked away. Steel wrapped in Cotton — a state of energetic aliveness where the energy channels and meridians are wide open, and Qi spirals/surges through the energy grid unimpeded — is one key to Tiger’s Mojo.
– Sinew Metamorphosis –
It’s the inevitability of sports; golfers are going to get bigger, stronger, faster, with greater elasticity.
Tiger’s elastic, whole-body power — originating from the synergy of tendons, ligaments, fascia, and Qi — enables him to unleash Fa-Jin. The Shaolin approach to fitness differs quite remarkably from that of the West. In the West, most athletes equate weight, bulk, and muscle mass with strength and tend to age quickly. Weightlifting compresses and stiffens the body and engorges muscle with blood so the joints, vertebra, tendons, and ligaments tend to become less elastic and lose resiliency. In the East, athletes primarily rely on Qi, speed, and tendon power. Yoga & Qi-Gong help stretch, loosen, lengthen, and open the physical and energetic matrix of the body. This process tones and returns the body’s muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, and organs to a state of optimum functionality by filling them with a fresh supply of rejuvenating Qi. This Eastern approach to training — which Shaolin call ‘Sinew Metamorphosis’ — begins deep inside the body. It first builds Qi and blood circulation to gradually strengthen internal organs, tendons, and bones. It then increases the power, flexibility, and resilience of tendons by packing and storing Qi into a condensed form in the connecting facial tissues. The practice of stretching, loosening, and basic breathing postures gives them the ability to soften and relax their muscle, tendons, ligaments, and nerve fibers, which enhances agility, speed, power, precision, and performance.
As weak tendons are made strong, yet flexible, the entire physical system, (especially the joints) is affected. This method of training changes a weak body into a strong one with an abundant supply of Qi, physical strength and vitality. This process transforms the sinew, and brightens the aura. As the joints open they become filled with Qi, which is drawn into the marrow to nourish them, (increasing bone size and density to make them soft, elastic and resistant to fracture), then upwards into the spinal fluids and brain, building tremendous reservoirs of radiant core energy. When you wash the marrow with Qi it produces fresh, healthy blood so your body rejuvenates and restores itself to radiant health. Once the marrow is saturated with Qi, it radiates out from the skeletal core permeating each cell and completely transforming the body. The bones become pliant like bamboo so they bend but don’t break, and tendons gain the elasticity and strength of liquid steel – Steel wrapped in Cotton.
– The Shaolin Connection –
Practicing yoga, meditation, martial arts, and Qi-Gong will transform your body, and develop a lightening-quick transfer of power in your swing. Tiger’s done it, and you can too. Vijay — the only golfer to successfully challenge Tiger for the #1 ranking — shares more qualities with Tiger than any other player. They both fused martial (weight-lifting) yogic (breathing & stretching) and meditative (Zen) training with golf to attain Shaolin levels of energy, fitness, power, precision and performance.
According to the illustrious Bangkok-based Qi-Gong teacher, Mr. Peter Daetwiler: “Nearly everyone is freely given at birth a wonderful vehicle, the human body. It’s really a superb high-performance machine, like a Maserati. In the heart of this Maserati is the tan-tien. It works effortlessly and uses no energy. Once you learn the skill of spherical rotation and how to use it properly, you will have unlimited energy, and you won’t get tired. Martial arts training, such as Qi-Gong, are the driving lesson. They teach the secrets of spherical rotation — the complex mental and motor skills required to focus your Qi and to move from your center.”
“In the East people learn Qi-Gong as a basic facet of the culture… to meditate and go within from a young age. In the West, we aren’t usually taught Qi-Gong or how to meditate, so we never learn to run the body that should get better with age. Because we never shift into Hyper-Drive, where all our elements and forces are balanced and moving effortlessly, we never get the extra boosts of energy and learn what we’re really capable of. To know our capabilities gives us the strength to move into higher levels.” This Shaolin Connection, a quantum leap into higher dimensions of Qi energetics, speed, power, and performance (Mojo), is the next step in golf.