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“Extreme Pilgrim”: Learning to Navigate Spiritual Traditions

In this remarkable BBC series, Peter Owen Jones, a Church of England vicar, travels in search of the serious spiritual endeavour that he finds missing in his own church. His journey takes him to two places of interest for us- the Shaolin Temple and the Egyptian desert.

The honesty, open-mindedness and seriousness Jones brings to this journey makes the series truly remarkable and very watchable in this era in which dogmatism competes with the fast-food approach to spirituality.

On the other hand, what can’t be ignored is that the lack of background or understanding of the wider context of both these traditions severely hampers him on his journey.

 

Going to the Shaolin Temple in search of authentic Buddhist spiritual practice is an understandable mistake- a movie like the original Kung Fu leaves a deep impression of spiritual depth. Unfortunately, as Jones finds, the modern Shaolin Temple is little more than a tourist trap, a martial arts theme park. What is interesting is that he finds a smaller temple up in the hills, where the monks and nuns are after the real thing.

But even here, there are problems. The monks seem to do nothing but physical exercises, and while they are extremely mindful in all they do and there is much to learn from them as a community, the lack of deeper Buddhist spiritual context makes all the physical stuff rather extraneous. Jones might have been better off visiting some of the Tibetan traditions that could have given him very detailed theoretical explanations of and practical experience in their spiritual process, or even some of the more contemplative Chan or Zen establishments.

 

 

But all of this is a cakewalk next to the Coptic monasticism of the Egyptian desert. Here, Jones runs almost immediately into a monumental problem- the problem of juridical language. When he visits the hermit whose life he plans to imitate, the hermit’s first question is, “How conscious are you of your sin?”

The idea that the purpose of monastic life, and spiritual endeavour in general, is to repent for sin, to abase yourself enough that God will forgive you, is not and was never the idea of Orthodox spirituality. While the Desert Fathers certainly talk about sin and repentance very seriously, and a few go overboard on this point, even the very words did not mean what they mean now to Western ears. Sin, amartia, the tragic flaw of the hero in Ancient Greek drama, literally means missing the mark, missing one’s potential. Repentance, metanoia, doesn’t mean ritual actions intended to allay the anger of a divine judge, but a change of mind, and by implication, of the whole mode of being. Repentance in this sense was the first step of monastic life.

The problem is that the language of judgment lingers on from the Old Testament, and the Coptic Church in particular will use it innocently in a way that Western ears cannot accept after centuries of enduring Anselmian and Calvinist theology. Listening to the hermit, however, there seems to be more than a little of that influence in his thinking. Whatever the case, he loads poor Jones up with this mentality and then casts him loose in a cave for three weeks. And by the way, some demons may come knocking. No wonder the poor guy has trouble coping!

Jones is pushed nearly to the breaking point by what he rightly calls the hermit’s “bleak theology” and almost seems to come unhinged.  His struggles with the pervasive guilt which an Anselmian view imposes for any sort of natural pleasure or enjoyment, and it is really painful to watch.

In the end, to his great credit he perseveres and achieves a measure of inner freedom and perception of God. Jones would have been better off bringing some more reliable spiritual guides- such as the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, the Ascetical Homilies of Isaac the Syrian and other sources that could have given him a far better idea of the real goals of ascetic life. Before going to the monastery, Jones visits the cave of St. Anthony the Great, founder of monasticism, and wonders why anyone would choose to live in such a place. That unanswered question is the problem all throughout this episode.

Here is what St. Isaac the Syrian has to say about sin and judgment:

“As a handful of sand thrown into the ocean, so are the sins of all flesh as compared with the mind of God.”

“Just as a strongly flowing fountain is not blocked by a handful of earth, so the compassion of the Creator is not overcome by the wickedness of his creatures.”

“Far be it from us that we should ever think so wicked a thing as that God could become unmerciful. For God’s attributes do not change as those of mortals do.”

“Sin, Gehenna and death do not exist at all with God, since they are effects, not substances.”

What then is the purpose of spiritual life?

“Love is the Kingdom in which the Lord mystically promised that his disciples should eat and drink.”

“The person who has found love eats Christ at all times, and from then on, he becomes immortal. Whoever eats this bread, he says, shall never taste death.”

Another issue is that the Coptic Church missed the real theorisation of the ascetic life that took place in the Eastern Orthodox hesychast tradition. Although Jones employs the Jesus Prayer, had he been taught the process of stabilising the prayer of the heart, understanding its purpose in the transformation of the human being, he would have encountered a much easier and more productive path than mechanical recitation of psalmody.

Theophan the Recluse defines inner prayer as “standing before God with the mind in the heart.” The goal of this practice is “To unite with God in an inseparable union of love… And the heart, set on fire, will warm all the inner man, will enlighten and teach him, revealing to him all is unknown and hidden wisdom.”

Spiritual seekers today need not only to know where to look, but what to look for. They need to go to the heart of the issue, the objective of the transformation and healing of the human person, and understand how to look for this systematically in a tradition. To go to any particular tradition doesn’t guarantee that you’ll encounter it if you don’t know what to look for.


Warrior Culture at Peace

“I can teach you to fight with the Green Destiny, but first you must learn to hold it in stillness.”
– Li Mu Bai, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

When we talk about warriorship on this site, we’re referring to the ancient traditions of spiritual warriorship. Warriorship, much like athletic contest, was an apt metaphor for spiritual endeavour and personal development which took on a life of its own in many authentic ancient traditions. Sometimes, as with the Shaolin Temple or the Japanese Ninja, the spiritual and physical realms of warriorship intersected.

But more often, the popular warriorship of a culture had no clue. That’s why the ultimate test of the spiritual value of any warrior culture is not how it deals with war, but how it deals with peace.

The Ninja, or Shinobi, were despised by the official Samurai warrior class because they did not offer absolute obedience to a feudal overlord or conform to the rigid social order of the period. Instead, the Ninja were loyal only to their families, and would fight to protect them. Rather than fighting and dying on the battlefield by the thousands as the samurai did, they would endeavour to find the single weak spot of the enemy, perhaps one person who could be removed to prevent a fight.

That’s why Stephen Hayes, disciple of the last living Ninja grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi, writes that to follow the spiritual warriorship of the Ninja in this time does not simply mean learning their ancient martial arts. It means learning to integrate effectively and peacefully into society. For the Ninja, war was never the goal. To be left in peace by the authorities was. Because of their spiritually-grounded understanding of warriorship, the Ninja can happily adapt themselves to more peaceful external circumstances.

A far cry from the Samurai, for whom death in service to their lord was the very purpose of life, and who even in peacetime were legally obliged to kill commoners under certain circumstances.

Similarly, the Shaolin monks did not merely train themselves to be deadly and resilient warriors, they also prepared themselves to be resilient people, through their emphasis on the inner cultivation of gongfu, the quality of peaceful inner power that underlies all of the truly spiritual martial arts. The 72 Arts of the Shaolin, the great pre-Revolutionary compilation of Shaolin training methods, says:

“The pugilistic arts are like fire, while Gong Fu gives a stable ground for shaping a man.”

When undertaking these methods, “the main point is peace of mind and concentration. It is necessary to give up extraneous thoughts.” There are very detailed requirements for the mindset and way of life of the practitioner, without which health benefits and skills will not materialize.

When we consider the warrior cultures which did not assimilate this quality and were therefore unable to make peace either within themselves or with the rest of the world, we can see a pattern. The Spartans defeated the Athenians, but made themselves intolerable to the rest of Greece. Athens was left standing out of respect for its cultural achievements. Sparta was wiped off the map.

Similarly, the warriorship of the samurai resulted in hundreds of years of civil war, and ultimately, the leveling of most of Japan’s major cities in the Second World War.

Discerning Worthwhile Warrior Traditions

It is important for us to understand that the goal of spiritual warriorship in physical conflict is to seek to create peace whenever possible, and to pass through the storms of war not with the idea of vanquishing the enemy, but with the idea of avoiding his force and bringing the conflict to a close as decisively as possible, so as to minimise suffering. To try to prove one’s warriorship by seeking combat is like trying to prove the strength of your skull by hitting it against harder and harder objects- eventually, you will find the one that cracks you open, and long before that, you will have killed so many brain cells that it really won’t matter anyway.


Resilience Secrets of the Shaolin

If an enemy attacks, peace reigns in my soul, my breath is concentrated, I am courageous and brave.  When thoughts and breath are in peace and steadiness, only then Qi, flourishing and powerful, is born.

-Miao Xing

When it comes to personal resilience, few groups have a reputation to match the Shaolin Temple.  In 1934, the secrets of their training were laid out for the first time in the book “Training Methods of 72 Arts of Shaolin.”

Today, we will look at just a few of these methods, and the principles behind them.  While few of us need to be able to throw a punch with unerring accuracy or stop blades with our skin, we can all use the principles that enabled the Shaolin to achieve these feats.  Beyond this, training for physical and mental resilience is built in to their method and we all need that!

Far more importantly, the essence of their method is to develop inner resilience and stability, Gong-fu, which transcends all techniques.

Let’s take a look at a few of the exercises.

Nephrite Belt

This is a method both of cultivating Qi and of making the body capable of ‘rotating, collecting and holding’ large and heavy objects.  The method is as follows:

Find a tree which you can easily put your arms around.  Put your arms around it as tightly as possible and clench your fingers.  Squat pressing both knees into the tree, and try to stand up.  Do this for a long time every day, and in one to two years, you should be able to uproot the tree.  In this way, by training persistently against a great obstacle, anything less seems effortless.

A famous Indian wrestler used this method in the early 20th century by practicing on a tree in his backyard.  Although he was short and not very heavy, he was well known for tossing around much heavier opponents as if they were rag dolls.  When asked if he ever uprooted that tree, he replied, “No, but compared to that tree, a 300 pound opponent is nothing.”

After the description of this method, there follows an injunction warning that this method ought not to be employed for frivolous reasons, but only to improve self-defence.  This is a reminder of what the Shaolin say about those who use their arts for malice or vanity and do not master their anger.  They will not persist in learning, or if they persist, they will not cultivate Gong-fu and thus will come to a bad end.

Pinching a Flower

This is an exercise for the cultivation of Yin energy and what the Shaolin method calls “soft external” hardening.  Begin by placing the middle and index finger on the thumb.  Maintaining pressure, rub the fingers over the thumb in a circular pattern, alternating the same numbers of clockwise and counter-clockwise repetitions.   Do it every day whenever you have time, and within one year of persistent effort, the strength of the fingers will increase many times over.  Aside from the usefulness of strong fingers in everyday life, the purpose of this technique was to make even the most delicate parts of the body deadly in combat.  Similar techniques for strengthening the fingers include pushing on rocks and trees, lightly at first and then with increasing force, or plucking nails from a board.

Golden Bell

A considerable body of the techniques involve striking the body all over, lightly at first and then with increasing strength, using either the fist or a wooden mallet.  This is the technique that hardens the body and builds Qi for the deflection of weapons, something for which the Shaolin are so well-known.  These exercises are related to the “Iron Shirt” Qi Gong methods, further developed later by the Taoists, that not only keep you safe in combat, but also protect you in case of accidents.  Even better, these exercises have enormous health benefits!

The Hanging Object Exercises

Many of the exercises make use of objects suspended from the ceiling with string.  A cotton ball suspended this way is used to train pinpoint-accurate punching, and hanging stones for accurate kicking.  Swinging objects such as beads are used to train the senses, for instance by swinging one in front of and one behind the head, the object being to pay attention by sight and sound to both and to catch each one with a single movement.  These exercises exemplify the simplicity of the Shaolin techniques – a very simple thing repeated again and again is used to amplify a particular skill.

To get a feel for real Shaolin training, check out this excellent video by National Geographic:

Principles

You begin to see the pattern in these methods.  The Shaolin path to mastery is the opposite of what we all learn from a very young age.  Where we tend to learn by doing a lot of things, and adding constantly to what we do, the Shaolin recommend focusing on a very few methods, persisting in them for long periods of time.  Each of these methods is quite simple in and of itself, but that simple exercise plus an investment of time and effort yields a quite disproportionate payoff.  The Yin Fist method, for instance, requires ten years to fully master, punching the air above the water of a well one hundred times per day.  The result, however, is that the practitioner would be able to deliver a punch without touching the target.

Gong-fu

These exercises cannot be separated from the cultivation of Gong-fu, that quality of inner pwer and resilience at the core of the martial arts, to which Master Miao Xing alludes above.  When undertaking these methods, “the main point is peace of mind and concentration.  It is necessary to give up extraneous thoughts.”  There are very detailed requirements for the mindset and way of life of the practitioner, without which health benefits and skills will not materialize.   For many people, simply being able to put oneself in this mindset is a needed boost to resilience.  In other words, if you can take on the mindset of someone who would do these exercises daily for several years, you are half-way there.  Chapter 1.9 also outlines how different habits, activities and states of mind can harm the Qi and internal organs, while the following chapters give specific and quite simple methods for maintaining health while training.

72 Arts on Gong-fu

“The aims of training are to improve health, be strong and sturdy, withstand external forces, eliminate inner diseases, protect oneself against attacks…Training should be treated seriously, don’t be in a hurry. Success should be gradually achieved.”

“The pugilistic arts are like fire, while Gong-fu gives a stable ground for shaping a man.”

“They say if you understand that life and death are false illusions, you can distinguish truth from deception and cultivate knowledge within the heart; then deep meditation will break your bondage to emotions and aspirations.  However, it needs resolution and determination – this is the most important.  It is necessary to give oneself to this cause every day, and not at one’s own will.  Equally, one should be aware of life’s lures and not be a slave of desires.”

“When exercising, one must observe five demands: first, be serious; second, be conscientious; third, the Spirit should conform to the Will; fourth, live a moral life; fifth, strictly follow the methods.”

Health Warnings 

“Looking for a long time harms Jing (vitality), listening for a long time harms Shen (Mind), lying for a long time harms Qi (Energy), sitting for a long time harms the vascular system, standing for a long time harms the bones, wild rage harms the liver, meaningless thoughts harm the spleen, deep sorrow harms the vascular system, gluttony harms the stomach, fear harms the kidneys, excessive socializing is harmful to the marrow, chagrin is harmful to the heart, sadness is harmful to the brain, overwork is harmful to strength.”

What We All Can Learn from the Shaolin

If we take the Shaolin training methods as a whole and look for principles we can apply to our own lives, we can come up with some basic recommendations.  Each of these recommendations is incredibly DEEP IN MEANING.  I could happily talk about each on for an hour and illustrate it further, but we have to stop here for today.  So here they are:

  1. Always know exactly the result you wish to see.
  2. Have complete faith that the result is possible.
  3. Find the very simple practices that will inevitably lead to this result and practice them diligently.
  4. Always master the basics.  The person who masters the basics is a hundred times more effective that the person who dabbles in many practices and masters none of them.
  5. Start every practice with what is easily possible, then do what is just a little bit harder and keep improving incrementally.  If you do this, you will eventually do the impossible with complete ease.
  6. Continually build the resilience of the whole person, not just a part – engage the physical being, the mental focus, the breathing, the movement, the will power.

Take a few minutes and think about how you could apply these principles to your own life.  Think about what the educational system would be like today if it taught these principles.  Think about what your life would be like today if you had been taught these principles from an early age.  It will blow your mind!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


What Every Woman and Parent Needs to Know About Women’s Self-Defense

Let’s face it, you could be the target of physical violence…  It happens all the time in our society.  It could happen while you’re commuting, walking down the street, at your place of work, or even in your own home.  

And yes, statistically speaking, you’ll probably never have to defend yourself or your loved ones over the course of your life time.  But you don’t ever want to be put in that position and realize you don’t know what to do.  That’s why self-defense is an integral part of mastering personal resilience.

Not surprisingly, self-defense is of even more concern for women than for the guys.  So if you’re a woman trying to figure out the best way to learn self-defense or if you’re a parent wondering where you can send your daughter, what should you do?  The array of options out there is bewildering. 

To help you out, I’ve rated most of the readily available alternatives for you here.  Keep in mind that there’s no way I could cover every possible style or system, and that one of the most important variables is the one you’ll have to rate for yourself – the quality of the instructor(s).  

The Rating System:



The most desirable rating under each category is 5.  Just think of it as a “5 star” rating 😉


Availability: this refers to your chances of finding competent instruction in this style/system in an average major city.


Speed: 5 stars here means the style will make you genuinely effective at defending yourself in the shortest possible time.


Sophistication: The less sophisticated systems may give you a baseline self-defense capability, even quickly, but may keep you from progressing beyond that level.  The most sophisticated styles, on the other hand, have incredible potential.  Unfortunately, there’s sometimes a trade-off between speed and sophistication, and a less sophisticated system may serve your immediate purposes.


Grappling / Striking: This refers to the style’s preference, since almost all of them prefer one or the other.  While ideally you want a mix of both, striking (e.g., punching, kicking, elbowing, etc.) is certainly the more important, especially in the early stages.  


Applicability (to women’s self-defense): Does the style / system leverage a woman’s natural abilities and take into account her physical characteristics?  


Martial Art: Karate
Country of origin: Okinawa, Japan
Availability: 5
Speed: 3
Sophistication: 2
Grappling/Striking: S
Applicability: 2
Overall Rating: 3
Karate is often taught as a sport, rather than for self-defense.  If taught specifically as self-defense, it could bring you to a reasonable level of competence in a short time.  However, it has stylistic elements that can inhibit further progress.


Martial Art: Taekwondo
Country of origin: Korea
Availability: 5
Speed: 3
Sophistication: 2
Grappling/Striking: S
Applicability: 2
Overall Rating: 3
Same comments as for Karate.

Martial Art: Jiu-Jitsu
Country of origin: Japan
Availability: 5
Speed: 3
Sophistication: 3
Grappling/Striking: G
Applicability: 3
Overall Rating: 3+
Although primarily a grappling system, jiu-jitsu verges on a “mixed system”.  It may lack the sophistication of more “internal” arts, but it can be learned to a basic level quite quickly.  Particularly worthy of a look-see is modern “Brazilian Jiu-jitsu”, which has made a name for itself in the martial arts world. 

Martial Art: Judo
Country of origin: Japan
Availability: 5
Speed: 1
Sophistication: 1
Grappling/Striking: G
Applicability: 1
Overall Rating: 1
Judo is solely a sport.  Anyone telling you they teach “combat Judo” is out to lunch – the combat version is jiu-jitsu, from which Judo was explicitly constructed as a sport.  You’ll never learn to defend yourself competently through Judo.  

Martial Art: Aikido
Country of origin: Japan
Availability: 4
Speed: 2
Sophistication: 5
Grappling/Striking: G
Applicability: 4
Overall Rating: 3+
Aikido is one of the world’s top martial arts, no doubt.  However, it takes quite a while to reach competence.  Note that some Aikido styles are combat oriented, while others are not much more than an elaborate form of exercise.

Martial Art: Ninjutsu (Tai-jutsu)
Country of origin: Japan
Availability: 2
Speed: 4
Sophistication: 4+
Grappling/Striking: Mixed
Applicability: 4
Overall Rating: 4
This is the martial art of the Ninja.  It’s far more sophisticated than all later Japanese martial arts, with the exception, perhaps, of Aikido.  Competence in a short period of time is easily possible with good instruction. 

Martial Art: Shaolin
Availability: China
Speed: 3
Sophistication: 4-4+
Grappling/Striking: S
Applicability: 4
Overall Rating: 4
The catch here is that the Shaolin systems (northern and southern) and their off-shoots are sometimes taught more as aesthetic practices than as martial arts.  Authentic Shaolin instruction from real Shaolin-temple trained instructors has become easier to find in recent years. 

Martial Art: Wing Chun
Country of origin: China
Availability: 4
Speed: 5
Sophistication: 5
Grappling/Striking: S
Applicability: 4+ to 5
Overall Rating: 4+ 
Wing Chun is a superbly designed system and was invented by a woman, Yim Wing Chun, explicitly to defeat the greatest martial art of the time, the Shaolin system.  This was also Bruce Lee’s primary style.  A competent Wing Chun practitioner will defeat most comers quite easily. 

Martial Art: Jeet Kune Do
Country of origin: Hong-Kong / USA
Availability: 3
Speed: 5
Sophistication: 4+
Grappling/Striking: S / Mixed
Applicability:  5
Overall Rating: 4+ to 5
Bruce Lee and his senior student, Dan Inosanto, developed this from Wing Chun, Kali/Escrima and other martial arts.  It’s extremely effective, easily learned and takes the best of everything.  Highly recommended.

Martial Art: Tai Chi Chuan
Availability: 4
Speed: 1
Sophistication: 5
Grappling/Striking: Mixed
Applicability: 2
Overall Rating: 3
Tai Chi is one of the most sophisticated martial arts in the world.  In China of old, to challenge a Tai Chi master to combat was regarded as a one-way ticket to the after-life.  Now, however, Tai Chi is usually taught for its health benefits and few instructors can teach the combat aspect.

Martial Art: Bagua Zhang (Pa Kua)
Country of origin: China
Availability: 2
Speed: 2
Sophistication: 5+
Grappling/Striking: Mixed
Applicability: 3
Overall Rating: 3+
Bagua is at least as sophisticated as Tai Chi and high level practitioners are nearly unbeatable.  It just takes a while to become competent.  It’s also hard to find good instructors. 

Martial Art: Xing Yi (Hsing I)
Country of origin: China
Availability: 2
Speed: 3+
Sophistication: 4 to 4+
Grappling/Striking: S
Applicability: 4
Overall Rating: 4
Xing Yi is the third major “internal” style from China (after Tai Chi and Bagua), and is extremely direct and effective.  In 19th century China, many body guards were trained in this style.  Finding good instruction would be the key here. 

Martial Art: Krav Maga
Country of origin: Israel
Availability: 3-4
Speed: 5
Sophistication: 2-3
Grappling/Striking: S / Mixed
Applicability: 4+
Overall Rating: 4
Krav Maga was developed to train people quickly.  So if you want to become dangerous in a short time frame, this is for you.  For women’s self-defense, it’s hard to argue with the idea that becoming effective quickly is the primary criterion. 

Martial Art: Haganah
Availability: Israel
Speed: 5
Sophistication: 3
Grappling/Striking: S / Mixed
Applicability: 4+
Overall Rating: 4
Haganah is based on Krav Maga and two other Israeli systems.  Its virtue?  An extremely well-designed curriculum where you, the defender, terminate all encounters in one of three ways.  Whereas some martial arts bombard you with hundreds of possible techniques, Haganah simply shows you the best response to the most common attacks.  From there, it’s all downhill for your opponent – you either take him down, break his ankle or send him to the afterlife – your choice!

Martial Art: Thai Kick-Boxing
Country of origin: Thailand
Availability: 2-3
Speed: 3-4
Sophistication: 3-4+ (depending on the style)
Grappling/Striking: S / Mixed
Applicability: 3-4
Overall Rating: 3+
Thai kick boxing (not to be confused with generic “kick-boxing”) is a very effective and practical system and is usually taught for real combat, although there are sport variants too. 

Martial Art: Silat

Country of origin: Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia

Availability: 2
Speed: 4
Sophistication: 4+
Grappling/Striking: Mixed
Applicability: 4
Overall Rating: 4
Some of the Silat systems are among the world’s most sophisticated martial arts.  Yet, unlike the Chinese internal systems, these translate into real-world effectiveness quite a bit faster.  They also teach a very sophisticated defensive method against knife attack. 

Martial Art: Kali / Escrima

Country of origin: Philippines

Availability: 3
Speed: 4
Sophistication: 4+
Grappling/Striking: Mixed
Applicability: 4
Overall Rating: 4 
Kali / Escrima is a grouping of systems that, like Silat, strike an ideal balance between grappling and striking, and between weapons and empty-hand applications. 

Martial Art: Systema (pronounced siss-TYEH-mah)

Country of origin: Russia

Availability: 2
Speed: 5
Sophistication: 4+
Grappling/Striking: Mixed
Applicability: 4
Overall Rating: 4 to 4+
An extremely sophisticated use of body mechanics, coupled with internal power generation and economy of movement, this continually updated method has been routinely taught to Soviet and now Russian special forces. 

Martial Art: “Women’s Self-Defense” courses

Country of origin: N/A

Availability: 4
Speed: 3
Sophistication: 2-3
Grappling/Striking: Mixed
Applicability: 2-3
Overall Rating: 3
Okay, a rating of 3 is generous, but here’s why I’ve given it: these courses are often a good first exposure to basic martial arts techniques, they tend to cover the legal issues surrounding self-defense, and they teach women how to make use of items readily at hand for self-defense.  These courses, frequently offered to the public through recreation centers or colleges and usually with accredited martial arts instructors, are however usually too short in duration to bring you to the desired level of effectiveness.  You’d have to continue with something else. 

There you have it – a basic once-over of what’s out there today and how likely each of these styles / systems is to get you where you want to go.  

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger 




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