Allen Pittman has dedicated his life to the study of the human body as the enlightenment vehicle. He has apprenticed with Wisdom teachers around the world in medicine, martial arts and yoga. His main studies have combined the Warrior and the Healer.
At the age of 15 he began his studies with Robert W Smith and after 7 years he moved to Taiwan and studied with Hung I Mien which set him upon a world journey meeting various teachers and practices. Allen taught for Robert Smith for 18 years and co-authored two books with him. Few have his level of experience and practice.
He has studied various forms of yoga and developed a practice named Wisdom of the Body which is rooted in innate movements that we are all born with. The system weaves together individual history, world history and existential initiation into protocol of movement combining animal insights with Rites of Passage. Its unique root has been the culmination of 45 years of study and practice and he teaches both through digital and in person workshops.
Allen has been the security coordinator and sometime personal escort/bodyguard for celebrities who participated in The Mythic Journeys Conferences and at various times the bodyguard to H.H.the Dalai Lama, Ralph Nader, Andrew Young and Deepak Chopra.
At six years of age I began drawing pictures of the human skeleton and reading about the human body. At eight I was immersed in Comptons Encyclopaedia fascinated by the transparent over laying pages of human anatomy. This interest was alternated with books about nature. My mother taking note of this brought me books. At eleven I asked for Karate (Tae Kwon Do/Moo Duk Kwan) lessons as a Christmas present and my parents conferred and decided to do it.
My first Karate teacher, Lawrence Huff-one of the few men I have ever seen actually using Kata successfully in Free-Sparring! He is now a well awarded photographer living in Japan. Thanks to Billy Fox for taking this picture for me last year! his assistant was Peter Fabian and Pete also made a strong impression on me. I am very grateful to both men.
I discovered Robert Smiths books on martial arts, particularly Ba-gua and Hsing-I and I began to teach myself from his books. I wrote the publisher of his books for his address and eventually Robert Smith replied. I wrote several martial arts guys but only Robert Smith replied. At 15 with the assistance of Danny Emerick – I went to see Robert Smith and begin studying in his classes and taking private lessons. Robert Smith taught me many things. In his world of “Chinese Boxing”-as he called it .
Smith also taught Hung I -shiangs version of the 5 Element Linking Form. He did not teach the animals til I brought them back from Chen Pan-lings sons in 1984. He worked on Sun Lu-tangs Single and Double Palm change in several variations from Kuo Feng-chih, or “Paul Kuo”. (I was able to learn Sun’s System at a later time) To these were added the static arm postures taught by Sun Lu-tang and now mixed into most Ba-gua forms, whatever style – in the Chinese Mainland. He also taught 18 of the 24 basic movements of Gao Ba-gua and the first House of Gao Ba-gua- the first eight linear tactics – he had learned from Hung I-shiang. I was later able to get his notes on these (he had learned all 64 Ho-tien forms in a modified form) and contrast them with the teachings of my own teacher Hung I-mien.
I wanted to know the tactical side of Ba-gua and Hsing-I. I decided to go to Taiwan and with the help of Danny Emerick and Marnix Wells was able to find Hung I -mien and begin training with him. The first year we worked on the Ho-tien Ba-gua or “After Creation” tactics. There was 64 of these and they varied between two and twelve movements per tactic. I had told Hung I could not fight my way out of a paper bag and his responded by saying, “So we will work on fighting then!” So every morning, in 1982, we met at 7:30am, Chinese Scholar Marnix Wells, his girlfriend Tracy (who navigated Taiwanese translation), Hung nephew Alex and myself.
If the form was not right the tactic was done on me. Not to harm but to inform. Hung was a bone setter and knew his anatomy well. He hurt but he was careful. He especially stressed never taking strikes to the head or neck. Not even light ones. I finished the year and returned to the U.S. to rest from the trauma of living in the crowded, polluted and noisy metropolis of Taipei. In 1983 Robert Smith visited Taiwan again and met with both Hung brothers and I-mien told him to send me back as I was a good student (I had visited Hungs son at the University of Maryland and offered help during that period). So I received a phone call from dear Danny Emerick who said, “Mr. Smith was just here talking to Hung I-mien-you better come back!”. Hung had said he would teach my “Chren bu” or “the whole ball” if I came back. So I resolved to do so and returned to Taipei in 1984 as a live in student of Hung I-mien.
I taught for Robert Smith for 18 years and did not teach applications, co-authoring two books with him. I also introduced Smith to another man who became a primarily influence in my life, Tim Geoghegan. I introduced them on my birthday as a present to myself around March 24, 1986. I had met Tim at a workshop he gave in Atlanta, Georgia . Tim has literally wrestled in most of the major countries around the world. He had boxed bare knuckle in Ireland and had met famed flyweight boxer Jimmy Wilde and many of the “Physical Cultists” of his era. And so for ten years I studied with both men — from Smith-Asia and from Geoghegan-the Celt. Both men shared a good sense of humor, the Irish Literary Renaissance as an interest, both loved books, read voraciously and enjoyed poetry and were appreciative of the books of Max Freedom Long.
At 18 years of age I was trained by a Athens General Hospital as a Physical Therapist and Orthopedic Technician working there for a year and deciding against a hospital career in the “World of Medicine” as one friend called it.
I had my first exposure to Sports Massage during this time with Sports Therapist Alice Moher who had been trained in Holland. I watched her make the back muscles blush under her strong hands and quickly realized there was more to massage than a back rub. In fact I began to realize that blood circulation and its control were primary items in the practice of Actual Medicine.
After that time at the hospital-(my last year of High School was in part of that period)— I went to the British Isles with my best friend Tony Arnold and we hiked all over the British Isles and I started my first Ba-gua training with Rose Li in Manchester, England learning her version of Ba-gua. That too was a very long relationship which lasted from 1978 up until her death after 2000. I visited her every two years or so when visiting family in U.K. and so was able to learn her version of Ba-gua which I do not teach but retain as a reference point as I was never fully initiated by her. But I did speak and work with her students as well and got plenty of advise on both Ba-gua and Hsing-I and general health as well.
At 20 I attended the British School of Osteopathy. I found London equally cold and inhospitable as Charlie Chaplin recorded in his memoirs.
In 1985 when Tim advised me to study Tibetan Medicine he had no idea (or did he?) I would go into Tibetan Buddhism with a determination and I stayed there for ten years and was appointed the Disciplinarian or “Gecku” of the Centre. I also was very fortunate to be initiated and trained in High Tantra by a man who was classified as the Ganden Tipa or “Highest Scholar of Tibet” – Lobsang Nyma. Since that time Buddhist studies and training have informed my work. Later when the Dalai Lama came I was among his personal bodyguards and worked as a liaison between his personal security and the centre.
Around the age of 30 I began studying Western Fencing and did some experimentation with fighting contact in steel armor with pvc weapons. This was cross referenced with what I knew of Chinese Martial Arts, particularly the spear and staff in Ba-gua and other things. This also informs my training and I can still put on armour and “go at it” as they say. I did also get exposed to some basic Escrima from Rick Garcia who I recall had worked with Larry Hartsell of Jeet June Do fame.
From the age of 30-40 I became involved part-time in teaching physical education at a Waldorf School. Due to my previous media exposure as a bodyguard for the Dalai Lama I was also requested to work as a bodyguard. Those were interesting days sometimes split between playing with children in a meadow and putting on a pistol and going into town to protect a dignitary. It was an amazing existential life with a very wide emotional range. I also began my studies of Greek Hoplite warfare-due to Steiners insistence on understanding the Pentathlon.
I had been working part time for ten years with children and certain aspect of learning were becoming obvious. Also the defects of how martial arts was often taught was becoming obvious too. I came to the conclusion the tactile sense of the human being was not primary but essential in teaching physical skills, not only for martial or healing techniques (I was certified as a Massage Therapist and also in Unani Herbal Medicine by this time) but also simply to create psychological balance in the human being. I was also learning that children and adults learn directly and quickly with the minimum of psychological manipulation. (I do not confuse Boot Camp with Education. Nor do I confuse Education and Mind Conditioning).
Wisdom of the Body began forming itself in me during my time in Brittany, France. I was in my late 40s and luckily had a wonderful woman (Victoire Slakey) midwife Wisdom of the Body with me- by providing me with a remote retreat- in rural France in an old renovated Knight Templar Farmhouse.
With this time and seclusion, I was able to begin to teach classes in France. This time was a way of checking how much to do in what amount of time and how intensely it should be done. Besides this Brittany is the Celtic part of France and Wisdom of the Body partakes of the Celtic Spirit in its directness and simplicity and humor.
Alongside Wisdom of the Body and with it I continue to work with the traditional arts which I am responsible for as a lineage holder. But Traditional Martial Arts and Yogas often do not and cannot meet modern needs…and so I continue to develop something which does and that is Wisdom of the Body. I work with training groups and individuals in six countries. These people are often Therapists; Physical, Psychological or Psychiatric. (Some of my advisors are Neuro-psychiatrists and Physiatrists). My other primary student base is school teachers. They are interested in how we learn and what motivates learning. They are also interested in particular- teenagers and Rites of Passage. My third base is martial arts folks and yoga folks; people who are interested in their own body and how it works and how it learns. The fourth base I prefer to work with is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Trauma Victims. My primary objective is in the advancement in the individual student.
I believe Wisdom of the Body template is an extremely useful form of physical education for the majority of people. It seems to me at this stage in human history there is now being made the earnest attempt to turn human beings into machines or robots. This trend is enforced not only by conditioning people to work WITH machines but also by attempting to insert the machine INTO people (nanotech among other things). So people have a decision presented to them more and more in regard to “How mechanical would you like to be?” And Human Freedom is about NOT being mechanical!