Chike Okeafor, Defensive End for the NFL Seattle Seahawks, was attracted to kungfu by the ability to overcome greater size with focus, balance, and full-body technique. Being an undersized lineman at 265 lbs (small by NFL standards), he has utilized kungfu to become a force on the line of the NFL grid-iron.
"It's perfect because I'm not as strong as my opponent," says Okeafor, raised in West Lafayette, Ind. "The way to get around the size difference is efficiency of movement, straight lines and quickness -- I need to beat him to the punch." Here's how he trains to do just that:
1. MERIDIAN STRETCHES (WARMING UP) Before practice and games Okeafor does poses that stretch what he calls his "meridians" or "energy lines." Says Oram, "On a surface level he's stretching the underneath of the forearm and getting his hands, arms and wrists loose and relaxed. On an internal level he's stretching the lung, pericardium and heart and increasing circulation."
2. TAO FORM (REACTION TIME) "The purpose of the exercise is to focus your mind, body and internal energy at the same place at the same time with minimum conscious awareness," says Okeafor. "Ultimately, the subconscious is the realm of the reflexes." The exercise is, in essence, a moving meditation.
3. GUARD POSITION (BALANCE) In this breathing and centering exercise, says Okeafor, "his conscious awareness is in the dan tien, the literal center of the body, about an inch and a half below the navel. That's where the center of your energy and your physical center of gravity are." Assuming this combat-ready stance, Okeafor guards his center while sparring with a fellow kung fu student