Blog: Sifu Stephen Britt

In a nutshell, Tai Chi Chuan is the centuries-old art of breaking force with softness. Sifu Stephen Britt is technical director of the Michigan Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Kung Institute. He calls for Michigan to be a national leader in research into the efficacy of employing this art form into alternative medicinal therapies.

Post 3: Why Are We Handicapped?

There is a cultural aspect to Michigan and in particular, the metropolitan Detroit community, which I feel works greatly to the disadvantage of the residents. People in this area do not seem inclined to want to travel any distance for services.  Once people finish their work day and return to their homes, that is where they wish to stay.  There are a few municipal areas where people congregate for entertainment and shopping.  As a result, you see a gas station on every corner, a CVS at every intersection, and a population widely dispersed over a huge geographic area.

How this affects our Institute is we cannot establish a central school.  Our instructors have to travel out into the community in order to reach the people.  This is a tremendous handicap.  Not only to our Institute, but also to any small business that tries to open their doors in Michigan.  Unwittingly, Michigan residents leave themselves open to be at the mercy of the big box corporations.  Only big box corporations can set up shop on every street corner.  A small business that opens can only hope that there are sufficient numbers of the population within a small geographic area of where they open that are interested in utilizing their services.  There may be a small Indian restaurant in Madison Heights, that persons in Royal Oak might be interested in visiting if it were not for the geographical separation.  This is a very serious problem.

For Michigan to recover economically and socially, businesses must diversify.  We can no longer count on the Big Three to keep us all going.  Smaller engineering firms and manufacturing firms that are highly specialized and connected to the international manufacturing community will fare better in times to come.  Michigan needs to become small business friendly.

If people do not interrelate and communicate, problems that need to be addressed are slow to surface and solutions are slow in coming.  There is a vast amount of talent available in this state.  People in Michigan are tremendously capable of working together to solve problems.  We cannot rely solely on the government to take care of every issue we face.  It is neither workable nor possible.  We also can no longer rely on large corporations to solve all of our problems.  We are a community.  We need to act as a community.

The situation in the city of Detroit is heartbreaking.  We have done many programs in the inner city, working with children and families in need.  Just as we get these programs up and running and start to see the results in the minds and hearts of the participants, funding gets cut, people get fired, and the programs close.

This has happened over and over during the past three years.  If you have a challenged community and take away the resources that that community needs to have in place to encourage the residents to grow and to participate, you set up a situation where things may never improve.

Teachers are the most vital part of any society.  Without proper instruction, people are crippled in life.  The phrase 'those who can, do; those who can not, teach' is ridiculous.  Not only do teachers have to know how to do what they teach, they have to be able to transfer that information to others who may have a completely different frame of reference.  This requires tremendous skill and patience.  The United States is far behind other nations in the support of their teachers.  In fact, teachers are often ridiculed in this country and seen as second-class citizens.  What better way is there to ensure that the next generation will not be properly prepared for the challenges of life?

A change of consciousness is necessary.  We are all talking about how handicapped Michigan is.  But why is Michigan handicapped?  We have remarkable people.  We have remarkable resources.  We have remarkable personal energies available.  We have experience.  Why can we not set all of this into motion to create a new day?

Perhaps part of the reason is the amount of debris Michigan has left behind during its years of growth.  So many abandoned buildings, both private and commercial, exist  that the landscape seems impossibly tainted and polluted.  We need to go back and clean up our garbage.  If your kitchen is dirty, you do not feel too inclined to cook.  You do not plant new crops until you have plowed and tilled the soil.  You cannot bring new business into a land of devastation and decay.

I'll be the first one to admit that I do not wish to lift a finger personally to clean up anything.  It is extremely unattractive work.  There is, though, a profitable market that can be tapped in the cleanup process.  As the work of demolition continues, many recyclable materials become available.  Redistribution of these materials helps to offset the costs of demolition.  This process is seen in other countries such as India, which imports old ships, barges and so on, to tear them down and then sell the scrap.  People speak of how India can do this successfully, because of the size of its potential workforce.  How many people do we have unemployed in Michigan?  How many new technologies and techniques can be developed in Michigan as new ways of restoring old demolished industrial areas?

I feel it is time for Michigan to streamline.  The problems that we are experiencing are our problems.  It has taken many years for the situation in Michigan to develop and no doubt it will take many years to reverse the situation.  What is certain is that the work needs to be done.  If not, I do not see how things can improve.

I love this state.  I love the people that reside in the state.  They have become my family and my friends.  We have everything we need to move forward.  We even have the will to move forward.  What we need is direction, and direction comes from communication.