What do you desire most as you progress through life? Are good health and inner stillness on that list?
As we wander this life path and the years progress, there is one thing that rings true: Creating a healthier self creates a happier life. How to engage that happiest, healthiest self with the passing of time is one of the most important life lessons.
Lake Tahoe resident Mark Shuey is an expert in the field of aging gracefully. He is a fun-loving and engaging person who exemplifies vibrancy. A professional in martial arts for 50 years, he is a shining example at 70 of how actively engaging in wellness practices makes growing old a beautiful thing. Mark owns and operates Cane Masters, a martial arts program based out of Incline Village. He created the business 22 years ago to assist in strengthening, increased flexibility and overall health by incorporating the use of a cane.
Knowing the positivity that he promotes, I was so excited to chat with Mark about how he started Cane Masters, the ways in which it can enhance a person's life and how it has created sparkle in his own. Continue reading to learn his fascinating story.
Starting off, please give us a description of how you came to learn about the mixture of canes and martial arts.
I was visiting my brother in Palm Springs, and three ladies over the age of 70 were brutally attacked. Two of them had canes [to use in their defense]. My brother said that it happened all the time, so I went and checked it out. I was taking Hapkido at the time, along with three other martial arts. I found out that we had canes in the martial art systems, but no martial arts system on the cane. I was able to put a system together on the cane, on the crook cane, which amazed me because the martial arts prides itself on taking tools and making them into weapons. The cane is what, 5,000 years old?, and no one had started a system on the crook cane, so I was able to find my niche in the martial arts.
Wow. That's pretty amazing.
Well, I think so. I'm surprised it was me that came up with it, but, yeah, 22 years ago was when the Cane Masters and the American Cane System evolved.
How did it empower your own practice?
Well, I loved to compete. I was a fighter, one of the Chuck Norris system guys, and I competed for many years. When I got this cane, first I'm looking it up and stuff, there's nobody that had any fighting canes. I started making fighting canes because at that time I was a general contractor with 91 employees, and I love to work with wood. I kept on practicing to get better. Not to brag, but I became number one in the world for four years in the Master's Weapons Division.
That's at 50 years old. I was pretty hard to beat. I took eight grand championships, which is being number one in the tournament and going against 20 and 30 year olds, so I'm in my 50s, beating everybody. It changed my whole martial arts life. That, the cane and yoga changed my life completely. When I started in martial arts, I couldn't get my two feet apart. I didn't start until I was 22, when I got out of the Army. My first goal was to get flexible. It took me two and a half years to get into the full splits and been I've been at it ever since.
It's all because of yoga.
Would you say that it is the using of the breath in yoga that creates the benefit?
Yoga to me, is breathing. That's the main part of yoga. I do a lot of pranayama, which I believe keeps you healthy, but it's the yoga, the balancing techniques you do in yoga, that really help in the martial arts and being able to focus on one thing. When I started getting good, I had TV cameras on me all the time and people doing this and doing that, and I could focus on what I was doing and not get interrupted. It was kind of neat.
Beautiful. What a gift yoga is.
It really is, yes.
Would you say, then, that yoga is incorporated into your Cane Master System?
Yes. In fact, I have a virtual dojo now. Anybody in the world who has internet can get on my virtual dojo site, which is canemastersdojo.com. I have about six DVDs on yoga, plus I do videos probably twice a month, just on yoga.
Do you have any stories of clients who have had the Cane Masters System enhance their life?
Yes. Number one, I had designed a complete exercise and rehabilitation system with the cane. You can exercise standing, sitting or laying down. I get calls everyday, especially from people who have diabetes and are over 70 and lose their balance. The cane gets their balance back. I get people telling me all the time that they've lost 35, 40 pounds in a couple months' time, because instead of sitting in front of a TV eating cheesecakes, they exercise. It's helping so many people in getting their balance back.
What amazed me when I first started this, is that it was all about self defense for me, being a martial artist. But when I started going around to the senior citizen groups, they weren't strong enough to do much with the cane. So I had to design a complete exercise system to get them strong. In that, I also do the rehabilitation, so I narrow it down to do one joint at a time. Whatever your ailment is, the cane can fix it. The cane with an exercise band is like a complete gym. Any exercise you want to do, you can do with the cane.
It's like carrying around a gym. It's amazing how many people it's helping.
If someone's interested in taking the next step and learning about Cane Masters, what would you suggest?
Well, the easiest way is to get onto my website. The website is pretty thorough. If you have any questions, I love talking on the phone. The biggest thing I'm doing now is helping people design their own cane. I have a wood carver who does dragons, horses, wolves or dolphins – whatever you're into we can put it on the cane. I would say probably 70 or 80% of the people ordering canes from me now design their own cane.
Do you have any future events or workshops that you'd like me to share?
I'll be doing a hall of fame in California where I'll be teaching veterans. We have a nonprofit program that has helped more than 900 disabled veterans so far. We give them a free $200 cane and three hours of lessons on how to use it. Other than that, be sure to visit my website and look under events. It will show you what I'm doing.
Photos courtesy of Mark Shuey