I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Fisher, owner of Progressive Myotherapeutics (Pro Myo) located at the Wilmington, Delaware dojo/studio Quiet Storm. Here, Ryan practices PTM (the Posture Therapy Method), a therapeutic form of bodywork/massage that balances the major structures of the body. Ryan also offers classes in Aikido, a Japanese martial art focusing on self-defense; and Kokyudo, which teaches a less rigorous, breath-centered form of Aikido.
When I first met Ryan over a year ago, he was practicing massage therapy at a local massage practice where my husband, also a massage therapist, worked. I later discovered that Ryan also taught martial arts, and became intrigued. After attending one of his introductory classes in Kokyudo, I knew that I had to find out more about Ryan and his practices.
Ryan’s involvement in Aikido began back in 1997. After attending Aikido camp, he realized that, in order to learn more, he had to help others, and several years later, he began teaching Aikido. After graduating from massage therapy school, Ryan began his massage therapy practice in 2001, developing a therapeutic method of bodywork that aligns and balances the major structures of the body – the Posture Therapy Method, or PTM.
Necessity is the mother of invention, so when one of his Aikido students came to him and said he couldn’t handle all the rolling, falling and physical side of Aikido, and needed something more spiritual and mental, Ryan began teaching a new practice, which he called “Inner Aikido”. This also benefited Ryan, who recognized that the rigors of teaching Aikido and practicing massage therapy were breaking down his own body. This same student then suggested a better way to describe this practice: since they were using breath to do everything, the student offered the name “Kokyudo” – “Kokyu” meaning breath, and “do” meaning “the way of”: the way of the breath. Although not a new concept by any means, Kokyudo was a system that could be easily understood by a student new to meditation or breathing.
After 5 years of practicing and teaching, Ryan took a break, moved to his new wife’s native country of Japan. 5 years and two children later, Ryan returned to the States, renewed and ready to jump back into his practice again. He began managing the dojo Quiet Storm, offering Aikido, Kokyudo, PTM to clients and students.
You might wonder if these three practices have anything in common, and if so, what it might be? The answer is yes ………the universal energy of breath. Ryan explained that the principles of all three practices are the same. “Many cultures build themselves off of these universal principles. They are called different things: prana, chi, or qi – but they are all universal energies.” In Ryan’s classes, there is a sense of unity, and that unification process is the breath.
“We all breathe together. Physically we can monitor the breath – we can’t see what qi, or prana, or chi are doing. In both Aikido and PTM, I teach simple elements of the breathing exercises that I find work to calm the nervous system. In PTM, it is crucial to get to deep layers of musculature without causing too much strain on both the therapist and the client. The whole hour can be spent getting the nervous system of both the therapist and the client to calm down, and it may even take longer.
“In Aikido, since there is a tremendous amount of physical exertion at times, the breathing serves to replenish energy supplies and also to keep the student calm in a stressful self-defense situation. In fact, at the higher levels of any martial art, breathing is of vital importance to awaken the martial artist who is no longer using it purely for self-defense.”
Although a self-defense art, Aikido teaches a person to relax so they can understand that certain “threats” aren’t necessarily a threat. As Ryan explained it, there is a difference between someone attacking you, and not being able to find your socks in morning, yet those events may not necessarily feel different to the physical body if we respond in the same way. “Aikido is the long road to help someone with this. The results are transformative, but it can take a while in Aikido to understand that we’re not necessarily fighting one another on the mat, we’re trying to internalize art and figure out that there is no fight, just perception.
“This is where Kokyudo comes in – (to learn that there is) no such thing as self defense unless there’s a real danger. This is what Kokyudo is – using breath to get to a point that takes much longer in Aikido.”
Ryan is a gentle, thoughtful person, and this is evident in his teaching philosophy: he nurtures the students, and they nurture him, or in his words, he “co-creates a symbiotic relationship with my students.” Opportunities exist for discussions in class: In Aikido, they talk about how misunderstandings can happen in life. In Kokyudo, this discussion focuses inward: “What if misunderstanding is inside of me?” Discussion topics cover a wide ground, including events happening in society and different cultures. To make it personal and relatable, he talks about his experiences in Japan, the students’ experiences, and how they all relate to daily life.
This is what it means for Ryan to be a teacher – he is all about learning from students. As opposed to the Asian arts, which are influenced by more of a Confucian style of teaching (Sensei, or teacher, above, and students below, with Sensei disseminating knowledge downward), Ryan’s class model is based more on the Socratic style, with knowledge shared amongst everyone, (although everyone still knows that Sensei is still the teacher).
I’m all about self-care, so I asked Ryan if that concept fits into any of his practices. The answer was yes, but Ryan stresses that in all of his practices, it is important to be involved in the learning process long enough to give you a good foundation so you can take care of yourself.
There is something for everyone at Quiet Storm. As Ryan says, anyone with a set of lungs can learn how to breathe naturally. Classes in Aikido and Kokyudo are available for both individuals and groups, as well as private PTM sessions.
To learn more about Ryan and his practices:
- Visit his website at :www.promyotherapy.com
- E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or
- Call him at 302-298-1655