Thursday, December 8, 2011


So you want the magic pill? You want that quick fix that’ll help you fit into that pair of jeans you loved turning around in, and into those arms which once used to clasp at the elbows around your back but now the fingers barely seem to meet, and yes, in your partner’s dreams (it’s a family magazine and that’s what we will call them) where your torso is usually replaced by someone else’s from Baywatch or whatever else you watch… Well, you’ve come to the right page, but before I give you the methods, here’s a bit about the man…

It was a small spiral-bound little yellow book where I first saw his photograph. It was a black and white image of an oldish man. He must have been in his mid-60s. A shock of white hair framed a face that you couldn’t quite call handsome or otherwise. But considering the fact that he was way past his best-before date, this should sound like a compliment. It gets more interesting by the inch, after that.

A taut, strong neck, surprisingly unwrinkled, flows into a sculpted pair of traps and shoulders that look like someone put a pad over a pair of round river rocks. Then that barrel chest and heavy sinewy arms that hung unashamed on either side of a midriff that you knew could take a punch even if you did add an ‘a’ in the mix on a bad day. We’ll stop there, as far as the picture goes, but here’s what I found out about the man in the mix. His name is John McSweeney and he was one Ed Parker’s (Ed, for those not in the know was one of America’s biggest martial arts icons and his students include some of the silver screen’s most celebrated action stars) early star students. McSweeney rose to be a celebrated martial artist in his own right and came to be known for his punching power. It was said that a McSweeney right could drop a horse dead. When John McSweeney started teaching, he stripped his karate down, focusing only on techniques that were equally effective in a New York alley as they were in a Manhattan Dojo. With their karate shorn of all the trappings of tradition and techniques that were mere relics from a different battleground, McSweeney’s Kenpo students became a would be rapist or mugger’s worst living nightmare.

But that isn’t important here. You are not reading this to fight off rapists and robbers. You are reading this because you want to know to fight off the ravages of time, and of the lack of it. You want to know how you could fight off that double chin, that beer/bore children belly, the wasting away of those once robust arms... That’s what you care about and therefore you must read on...

You see martial artists need to train for three things – technique, endurance and power. For developing techniques boxers box, wrestlers wrestle and karatekas do katas. For building muscle and cardiovascular endurance, they all do roadwork of some kind... Cycling, running, rollerblading etc. And for developing the power to knock a man out cold in their punches and kicks, these super athletes lift weights, do endless calisthenics and hit the heavy bags. But what does John McSweeney do? We know he did not bother with tradition. He just wants to do what works the most in the least amount of time and so he tries it all but he knows he is looking for something else... Then one day, he goes to the zoo and stands in front of the tiger’s enclosure. Guess all these boxers and fighters find a kindred spirit in these big cats that have to kill to live... Remember Sylvester Stallone in some of those Rocky films? Anyway, our man, McSweeney, sees this tiger stretch out its feline form with a grace and power that makes the whole body quiver. And that was his Eureka moment.

John McSweeney thought that if the tiger could build its phenomenal power by just stretching and contracting his muscles with such intensity then maybe instead of lift ing weights he would be better off tensing his muscles till they could quivered and he might well approach the mind boggling power to weight ratio of a jungle cat. And so began Mc- Sweeney’s experiments and eventual love affair with what has come to be known as ‘dynamic tension’ – the act of moving a muscle through its range of motion while tensing it as much as possible. McSweeney developed seven primary exercises which he called ‘The Miracle Seven Tiger Moves’. There were three other exercises too but these seven would do for you for now. In McSweeney’s own words, his system is nothing but “contracting and extending your muscles with great tension while thinking into them. It’s the mind muscle connection...” that builds incredible strength, and if I may add, tones your body and builds muscle that is both strong and supple. And as McSweeney adds, you don’t need any weights or equipment. You can train anytime, anywhere. Most importantly this method of training, since it’s just muscle resisting muscle without any jerky snappy movements, is safer than most other forms of exercise.

Just remember to keep breathing, through both nose and mouth, exhaling when exerting, and inhaling when not, and not hold your breath at any point of time.

These workouts have a bit in common with the hard qigong moves of Hung Gar Kung Fu. Interestingly, the Hung Gar style of fighting and training the body found inspiration in the movements of the tiger and the crane. And yes, you should know that Hung Gar masters are known for their strength and vigour. So you now have a martial artist vouching for these workouts, and a centuries old fighting style endorsing the principles of these workouts, and last but not the least, you will now have yours truly giving his grateful perspective on the matter.

Last week I had expressed the constraints that tie us all down and while I had been meaning to get back to the workouts from the beginning of my early youth, now that I’m admittedly in the fag end of my early youth, life and its demands leave me no time for those happy hours in the gym. I had been looking around for some do-it-anywhere workouts and three months ago, I came across a book by John E. Peterson and Wendie Pett titled The Miracle Seven, the aforementioned yellow book, and that’s where I met Mc- Sweeney’s tiger moves.

I added them to my regimen which included calisthenics and yoga, but because of its convenient and comprehensive nature, I found myself leaning on the Tiger Moves whenever I was pressed for time. Soon I realised that while I might miss out on other bits of my workout, it needed very little other than desire to manage the tiger moves at some point in the day. I could do them in shorts and tees, office formals, shower cap or whatever else, wherever else. And I wanted to, because I saw my body go from soft and pudgy to toned and er... if you must know, some would say approaching a shape not too far south of what one might describe as.. er... rather athletic, even if I do say so myself.

John McSweeney says that the tiger moves are an ‘instinctual exercise system’ that will help you develop incredible strength, health and youthful vigour that would stay with you all your life, and develop proportions like that of a gymnast or a ballet dancer. Having stayed with the tiger moves for the last few months I’ve got to admit that I feel the only reason I might not be able to send you a postcard at 90, flexed and toned in my Levi’s 501s, would be because I would’ve a grown a modest bone or two by then.

Oops, I almost forgot, but where are the miracle moves? Well, I recommend you visit and let John Peterson and Wendie Pett, spiritual inheritors of the McSweeney legacy, take you through the moves that promise to reshape your life.

Hey, breathe... remember to breathe...! You are about to become what you were meant to be...



  1. The cruellest of slurs are those borne of ignorance. You are considered to be an enlightened man. Yet you chose to validate my existence with a line which though very eloquent did not even resemble the truth behind matters. You are in the business of selling dreams, you had no right to question mine. The problem with people like you is that you have an opinion about everything, yet you feel nothing. No matter how things turn out for me, know that one day I will settle a score with you. View it as immaturity. View it as a childish act. But view it, for if you don't that will be your biggest mistake.

    Amartojit Basu

  2. Did you never have a dream on your lips and a book in your and? Have you never felt what I am feeling now?