This interview was conducted by IAI Instructor Jonathan Breshin
IAI: Today we’re sitting down with internal arts instructor, Eric Deutsch, based out of Southern California. Thanks for sitting with us today. Eric. Eric, when were you originally introduced to Internal Arts International?
Eric: I first met Tom in 2006. I had read several of Tom’s articles in Inside Kung Fu Magazine. From reading these articles I became intrigued with the Chinese healing arts. I had been dealing with some injuries and tracked down Tom’s clinic and made an appointment. I really didn’t have a deep understanding of Tom’s martial arts background at the time. Several years later in 2010 Tom was teaching a one day seminar on the Foundational Training of Ba Gua, and after attending the seminar I knew immediately I found a teacher and an art I was looking for.
IAI: What got you first interested in the martial arts?
Eric: When I was in middle school I was bullied and also saw some school yard fights. As a result, I wanted to learn how to defend myself. My good friend’s neighbor was a 5th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and was also an amateur boxer. He turned his garage into a dojo and taught a small group of students. After showing up with my friend a few times he allowed me to train with the group. He taught Tae Kwon Do and some western boxing as well. I also discovered Bruce Lee around that time and saw some of his movies. After watching his films and reading his books I knew I wanted to study Kung Fu at some point.
IAI: Prior to studying with Tom and Internal Arts International, what martial arts did you study prior?
Eric: As I just mentioned. I started with Tae Kwon Do and did that for about two years. During high school I found out about a martial arts camp in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. The camp was on a property out in nature in a small town called Otis, Massachusetts. For 6 years I trained there for about 7 weeks every summer and lived at the camp. I was exposed to a variety of martial arts disciplines from very accomplished martial artists. Some of the arts taught at the camp were Judo and Jiu Jitsu from an Olympic level instructor, Aikido, Wushu, Kickboxing, and Karate. With the exception of Sunday we had class for 4 hours each day, but I would often train for an additional 2 hours on my own. It was also at this camp that I was introduced to Liu He Ba Fa, or “Chinese Water Boxing”. Liu He Ba Fa was my introduction to internal martial arts. I learned the animal forms and their applications. After the camp closed I decided to make monthly trips to Connecticut to learn the Liu He Ba Fa long form from my instructor, Glen Newth, and eventually became an instructor in that art. In college I had the opportunity to study Shaolin Kung Fu and Jiu Jitsu.
IAI: What drew you to study Ba Gua with Tom and Internal Arts International?
Eric: When I was in my mid 20’s I became really intrigued by Ba Gua, as well as other internal martial arts. Ba Gua Zhang intrigued me the most. I explored the available teachers in New Jersey, which is where I grew up. I kept searching for the right instructor and method. As I mentioned previously, after attending that seminar with Tom in 2010 I knew I found what I was looking for.
IAI: What made you intrigued or interested in the internal arts, versus some of the others that you’ve practiced in the past?
Eric: I think the there are several things that intrigued me. First of all, I really liked the fact that the internal arts focus on both health and martial arts, and draws a connection to how they compliment one another. I wasn’t just looking to learn a martial art that was focused only on fighting, but also on longevity, health, and mind-body unity. From a martial arts perspective, I wanted to study an art that did not rely on brute force, but emphasized correct body mechanics, body position, and principles of movement. I also wanted to find a martial art that I could practice for decades to come.
IAI: You’re a school teacher, have you taught these arts to any of your students?
Eric: I am a physical education teacher and have had the opportunity to teach martial arts at a few different schools. When I was living in New Jersey I was friendly with a principal of a charter school in Jersey City, NJ. She brought me in to run a 6-week Kung Fu program to elementary school children once a week. It was a big success, and even in that short amount of time I saw progress amongst the children. In California, at my previous school in Los Angeles, I taught middle school students Kung Fu and the students really enjoyed it.
IAI: In what ways if any has Ba Gua and the internal arts changed or transformed you?
Eric: On a basic level, I think the internal arts practices helps keep me physically and mentally healthy. It cultivates an awareness that I can integrate very easily into my daily life. The same mental focus and awareness that you cultivate in a training session I try to bring that into everything that I do. I was taught that the martial arts training should be integrated into your daily life and I try to embody that. I also think it helps you become more connected to the natural world. Additionally, It allows me to engage with the students I teach with more clarity and presence. Ultimately, I feel regular consistent practice connects you with your true self.
IAI: What keeps you inspired and how have your teachers inspired you over the years?
Eric: As far as inspiration, I’m inspired by the constant learning and evolution that you experience when you practice consistently over time. It’s amazing to watch instructors who have been practicing the same forms for decades, still intrigued and excited to practice every day. It’s like they have the curiosity of a child every time they practice. It’s amazing to watch that level of commitment and dedications. It’s very humbling to watch Tom and some other instructors who have that mind set and attitude. One of my Liu He Ba Fa instructor’s mentioned that after over 40 years of training, “You always feel like a beginner”. I’m also inspired by my training partners, particularly by Tom Bisio’s students. When we get together we all train hard, and they are just great people to be around.
IAI: For people thinking about engaging in an internal arts practice, or for any new students, what do you think the most important thing is for them to consider while embarking on this path?
Eric: I’ve been told that in order to be successful in martial arts you need three things, 1. A good teacher, 2. A good method, 3. A dedicated student. I think if someone embarks on a journey in any martial art, you really need to take the time to find a good teacher who’s knowledgeable and that you have a connection with. Ideally, that teacher inspires you to become a better martial artist and a better human being. If the teacher and practice method are solid, then of course the student needs to practice continuously and with intention. They really need to put their whole mind and body into the training if they really want to progress and develop any real skill. I also think it’s imperative that you practice with your classmates on a regular basis.
IAI: I know you are teaching out in California? How can people find you? Are you teaching group classes? Or privates? How can people potentially work with you if they’re looking for a teacher?
Eric: I currently live in Orange County, California, but I teach a Sunday morning class in Pacific Palisades, CA from 8:30am to 9:30am. I would like to start a group class in Orange County, California in the future, and I’m also available for private lessons in both Los Angeles and Orange County, California. The best way to contact me is through email at moc.oohaynull@uedse.
You can also check out my website at https://www.bodymindmastery.org. My website will have any updates on additional classes I will offer in the future.
IAI: Moving forward, it sounds like you have a lot going on what are your goals and vision for the future of your training and teaching?
Eric: Training in the martial arts has honestly been my biggest passion throughout my life. I also enjoy teaching, so my goal is to teach group classes and private students. I learn a tremendous amount from teaching and would like to share what I have learned with more people. I also plan on continuing my training in Ba Gua, Xing Yi, and the martial arts to further my development as a practitioner. Additionally, I also have an interest in the healing arts and bodywork. While I’ve taken a number of bodywork courses over the years, I would like to explore go deeper, including taking more of Tom’s Chinese Medicine classes that he offers.