View Full Version : When police were called to investigate a late night disturbance, they found.....

3/15/2007 11:55am,
Joe McNamara, of Ocala, credits Chinese internal martial arts with a remarkable turnaround in his health. LEE FERINDEN/STAR-BANNER

Martial arts training leads to turnabout in student's health

OCALA - When Ocala police were called to investigate a late night disturbance at Central Florida Community College recently, they expected to find a trespasser. But when they encountered a man flinging around a 12-foot-long spear, they could only stare as he performed an intricate martial arts routine.

Joe McNamara, 30, has spent the last five years in China learning and teaching internal martial arts.

The Chinese internal martial arts include taijiquan, baguazhang and xingyiquan. These styles of martial arts have surged in popularity through wuxia-genre films such as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," McNamara said.

Unlike other martial arts styles that teach adherents to return force with force, internal martial arts redirect that energy into a more efficient style.

McNamara was invited recently to return to China to take part in the Second Hong Kong International Wushu Competition, a five-day event that expects this year to host nearly 2,000 competitors from many styles of martial arts.

As a child, McNamara took tae kwon do lessons. When he got older, he was diagnosed with autoimmune rhabdomyolysis, a rare, incurable disease that attacks the central nervous system, stiffens the muscles and results in kidney damage. When he had the opportunity to go to the Wudang Mountains of southwest China to learn how to better maintain his health, he left law school at Cornell University and took a flight halfway around the world. Expecting to only be there for a couple of months, he stayed there for half a decade.

"All the doctors said, 'You're going to go to the mountains? You're going to go there and die,'" McNamara said. "I'm friends with the doctors. They're good guys - but they were wrong."

For the first two years of his trek, McNamara lived in the famed Wudang Mountains, the site of several-thousand-year-old Taoist temples, where he learned many forms of internal martial arts. He was referred to a master, Niu Sheng Xian in Beijing.

Back in America, the same doctors who told McNamara he would die if he went to China are amazed at the turnabout of his health. They can't explain why, with his rare and incurable disease, his kidneys and blood pressure have become so much better, he said.

In Ocala, McNamara is pursuing a degree in sports science at CFCC. He also teaches basic taijiquan in Ocala, Gainesville and The Villages.

Because McNamara doesn't have enough space to practice in his apartment, he said he sometimes goes with his 12-foot-long spear to the CFCC parking lot or to Celebrate 2000 Park in southwest Ocala.

McNamara said Ocala police officers have come to the college campus three times since he started practicing there at night.

"I've been questioned a lot," McNamara said. "It's because in Ocala, in particular, it's unusual. I train with various weapons, and with a sword, and a spear that's 12 feet long that looks more like a tree. People aren't used to seeing that. If you see a guy at 9 or 10 p.m. in a dimly lit parking lot swinging a spear, people get nervous."


Teh El Macho
3/15/2007 1:41pm,

3/15/2007 1:52pm,
Can't argue with that. But I kinda like the internal arts (as long as you're not trying to defend yourself with them) so I wouldn't want to anyway.