On November 15, I attended the 2019 Negotiation Pedagogy Conference
at Harvard Law School, organized by the Program on Negotiation (a consortium program of Harvard, MIT and Tufts). My
Soft Answer Verbal T'ai Chi coauthors and I were invited by the North American Collegiate Karate Conference (NACKC) to join their delegation at the conference. Their President, Greg Cumings, felt that The Soft Answer Verbal T'ai Chi resonated with their Shotokan traditional teachings (exemplified in their motto, "Walk in gentle strength"), as well as with their mandate to engage in community outreach, which includes organizing Karate Clubs in many of the Boston area's public schools.
Conference presenters were intrigued by the number of participants in the NACKC group (about 20% of the total), and were curious about how the study of a martial art might relate to the field of negotiation and negotiation pedagogy.

Over the many discussions during the conference, it became clear that there is a great deal of mutual benefit to be had from continuing the dialogue between teachers of negotiation and teachers of traditional martial arts. Many positive connections were made, and we look forward to the possibilities of future joint conversations and projects with the diverse array of educators we met.

Our holiday giving is spreading!

Friend and T'ai Chi and Qi Gong teacher ALESSIA PIERINI was inspired by our Holiday Giving and Forgiving initiative to organize her own T'ai Chi and Qi Gong for charity event, a wonderful example of how good ideas can go viral. You can read about it at her website.
I first got the idea several years ago from an article in the Supreme Chi Living newsletter of the
American T'ai Chi and Qi Gong Association. A teacher gave a free class for the holiday season and asked participants to donate the value of the class to the charity of their choice. Since I was doing a lot of free classes already at that time, I tweaked and expanded the concept to include our regular classes.
This year, my article about our group's holiday giving was included in
Supreme Chi Living. The giving continues!

Acting locally for a healthier, more peaceful planet

For our 2018-2019 Holiday Giving and Forgiving Initiative, I'm encouraging us to focus locally for impact globally. If you participate, please consider extending at least part of your donation to a local nonprofit. I have chosen The Center for Teaching Peace, which is very small and right in the neighborhood, as this year's featured charitable organization.
This being our 5th year of the Holiday Giving and Forgiving Initiative, I personally wanted to find a way to do something action-based in addition to donating money. Many of us volunteer and already work locally towards global impact. I was looking for something fresh to try that was outside the more familiar territory of donating time and money.
Awareness-raising "challenges" have become popular, a social phenomenon that demonstrates the power of small groups. I've decided to do two during the season, and I encourage you to at least look at the variety of "challenges" out there to get an idea of this new wave in social change. There are week-long and month-long challenges in everything from knitting to mindfulness. I've decided to take the plunge with two of them to see what happens. If you decide to participate in a challenge that interests you, please let us know!
I am not on Facebook, and I'm not formally registering, but I have selected two awareness-building activities to do during the season, and both involve making intensely personal and local efforts to affect global change. In addition to making a donation to
The Center for Teaching Peace, I've decided to take the 10 Day Local Food Challenge, and the One Nature challenge.

Our holiday giving initiative is about raising awareness and doing good works that radiate outward. I look at my grandsons and wonder what kind of a world we are leaving them. How can we become forces for peace and healing in a world where so much is breaking or broken (including the planet itself!)?

What I arrived at will not be easy, and I'm not even sure if I'll succeed, but here is my thought: our every action, however small, is a seed, a vote for the future, an impulse that sends out a wave of… what? This is where we have choice. Locally focused actions may make a world of difference both locally and outward to our wider planetary neighborhood.

To make a donation to
The Center for Teaching Peace:
There's no website, and no one-click easy donation button. To donate to this worthy, tiny, local nonprofit, you will need to write a check. Coleman McCarthy founded it (along with his wife, I believe), and my family and I have taken his Peace Class 2-3 times over the years. When Coleman was asked to teach a writing class for School Without Walls years ago, he responded, "I'd rather teach peace." And then he set out to figure out how to do that.
The class opens your eyes. Coleman teaches it at AU, Georgetown Law, and BCC High School, and others are also teaching his curriculum for peace. If you want to contribute online, you can go to
Amazon and buy one of Coleman's books, such as Strength Through Peace: The Ideas and People of Nonviolence, for which the profits go to the Center for Teaching Peace.
You can send a check to The Center for Teaching Peace, 4501 Van Ness St NW, Washington DC, 20016

To take the
10 Day Local Food Challenge:
For 10 days, eat (almost exclusively) food grown and produced within 100 miles of where you live.
Could you live on only locally-grown foods for 10 days? In many places in the world, and here in the US only a few decades back, this might have sounded like a silly question. What else is there? We know that much of what we typically eat and drink every day has been packaged and shipped and has passed through many hands before it ever gets to our plate. That takes a lot of resources. How can we lighten our negative impact on our environment?
Vicki Robin, activist, visionary and author of the time-honored Your Money or Your Life, came up with this initiative, but Michael Pollan and others have also advocated us becoming locavores in order to create a more sustainable world.
I've done a bit of research, and here in Washington, DC we are very lucky where locally grown and produced food is concerned. New Morning Farm has a market on Saturdays right down the street from my home with a wonderful selection, but still, I can already tell succeeding at this will require a bit of attention! The farm is 110 miles away, and Robin's challenge calls for a 100 mile radius. Should I let that slide? I'll have to do a bit of planning in any case.
Robin is not strict — deprivation is not the point of the exercise—but I may have to let go of some well-loved seasonings or beverages for a few days. Robin allows 10 "exotics," and says that the most common choices are oil, salt, caffeine, lemons and chocolate. This will be an adventure!
Bonus peace initiative: check out Robin's
Conversation Cafe concept!

To take the One Nature challenge:
Spend 30 minutes in nature for 30 days. This one comes from the
David Suzuki Foundation. It's Canadian, but hey, we are thinking globally while acting locally here. Many of you are walkers living car-free in the city, and so you are already outside for 30 minutes a day. I guess it then comes down to have we define "nature." The website says. "time in nature is about getting outside and taking time to notice and connect with the non-human life around you."
The goal is: "to reconnect human beings with nature for the sake of their health and mental well-being."
Now, that, I think, is lovely!

Synergy: doxycycline & vitamin C may be lethal to cancer stem cells

Synergy and new research with old ingredients: how antibiotics and vitamin C kill cancer stem cells

The study of T'ai Chi and biotensegrity both involve
synergy, wherein the combined effect is greater than the sum of the parts involved. Synergies create better value propositions; you get "more bang for the buck," "more bounce for the ounce," "more bling for your cha-ching."

With T'ai Chi, for example, numerous studies of the health benefits of T'ai Chi practice include a comment like, "although the exact mechanism is not well understood…"—meaning they know it works but they can't tell
why it works. No, you can't. Because it's not additive and it's not linear. There are emergent properties at work here, and it's synergistic.

In the natural world, most things work this way. Synergy is efficient; it maximizes effectiveness. Biotensegrity is the study of nature, and biology in particular, through the lens of tensegrity, itself a synergistic architectural principle revealing several emergent properties (auxeticity, mechanotransduction, helicity, visco-elasticity…). Here, as in T'ai Chi, synergy is the name of the game.

In traditional scientific research, however, randomized controlled trials tend not to have more than one parameter. Synergy, although apparent in many sciences and actively studied among them since the 1800's, does not seem to extend much into research. This is why some have proposed the alternative research strategy of
factorial randomized controlled trials. But science, justifiably, is a ship that turns slowly.

So, I always take particular delight when synergy presents itself in a new incarnation, especially when a simple combination of things that are relatively common and easily accessible is shown to be of potentially huge and immediate benefit to millions of people worldwide. I'm talking about a recent report showing that a combination of doxycycline and vitamin C can be a "lethal combination" for cancer stem cells.

Of course more research needs to be done. But sometimes, especially when there is more than one parameter to be tested, randomized controlled trials are trickier to coordinate, and may take years. Strategically, especially when the costs of NOT implementing the protocol may be quite high, the effects seem to be synergistic, and the interventions involved are considered relatively benign, the general public may prefer not to wait for them.

This was the case recently when the National Academies reported on three interventions which may, when combined, help to prevent or delay cognitive decline and dementia (see my previous blog article). Even though more testing needs to be done, the researchers felt that the public needed to be informed of the possible benefits immediately, so they could make their own choices regarding implementation of the relatively simple but potentially very highly effective three point strategy.

In the case of pairing doxycycline with vitamin C, we're talking about combining a readily available, inexpensive and commonly used vitamin with an antibiotic that is generically available, inexpensive, has a 50-year history of use, and is included in the
World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines.

For scientific integrity, researchers need to proceed slowly; but informed citizens may choose whether they want to, or have time to, wait.

Here's the report, entitled
Vitamin C and Doxycycline: A synthetic lethal combination therapy targeting metabolic flexibility in cancer stem cells (CSCs), available on the Oncotarget website

T'ai Chi for Preventing Cognitive Decline and Dementia

Just out from the National Academies is a report entitled Preventing Cognitive Decline and Dementia--a way forward, which should be of interest to T’ai Chi teachers and students everywhere.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine operates under an 1863 charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln and granted by the Congress of the United States in order to meet the government's need for an independent advisor on scientific matters. The consensus report from the Committee on Preventing Dementia and Cognitive Impairment asserts that encouraging evidence supports the implementation of three concurrent interventions in order to slow cognitive decline and the onset of dementia.

The three classes of interventions recommended are: cognitive training, blood pressure management and increased physical activity. Those of us who practice T'ai Chi will immediately recognize that the traditional Chinese internal art covers all three of these bases. Those of us who follow scientific research may appreciate what a rare move this is for a findings committee.

Why? The gold-standard of scientific research is randomized controlled trials. But, as the report acknowledges, randomized controlled trials with protocols having three different parameters would be “challenging to evaluate.”

They could also take years.

And so, the absence of randomized controlled trials notwithstanding, the report suggests three interventions that the committee “believes should be discussed with members of the public who are actively seeking advice on steps they can take to maintain brain health as they age.” Additionally, because “the apparent complexity of the pathophysiology underlying cognitive decline and dementia suggests that a multi-facted approach may be most effective,” report committee chair Chair Alan I. Leshner has declared that "the evidence is strong enough to suggest the public should at least have access to these results to help inform their decisions about how they can invest their time and resources to maintain brain health with aging.”

In terms of cognitive training, ample studies have indicated that T'ai Chi practice
improves cognitive functioning, memory, and even brain size. Research also has shown T'ai Chi to be effective in lowering and managing blood pressure, with one study even suggesting it may be as effective as prescription drugs. And although the movements are slow and gentle, we know that T’ai Chi improves lung function, aerobic capacity, strength and oxygen uptake.

Only time will tell, but cognitive training, blood pressure management and increased physical activity may turn out to be the trifecta of cognitive protection. Fortunately for us, T’ai Chi bestows all three, and more.

A pre-publication of the complete report can be read online here: