Born in the projects of Spanish Harlem to a disabled mother and an abusive father, Steve DeMasco spent most of his childhood lost and angry. Drifting from one job to another, he stalked the streets as a troubled youth, barely surviving while all of his peers were either dead or in jail, until he found himself on the steps of the Shaolin Temple.
Originating more than 1,500 years ago in ancient China, the Shaolin monks were simple farmers and worshippers of Buddhism who learned to protect themselves from the constant danger of bandits and overlords with a kind of "meditation in motion," a nonlethal form of self-defense that didn't violate their vows of peace. As their legend grew, they became known as the Shaolin Fighting Monks, revered across the land for their spiritual dedication, enlightened message, and amazing fighting skills.
DeMasco entered the Shaolin Temple to battle the demons of his past. But he got more than he bargained for. Besides learning how to wield weapons and take on multiple attackers at once, he discovered an ancient philosophy that helped melt away preconceived notions of the world, and gave him a powerful platform on which to live and grow. In The Shaolin Way, he adapts these teachings for the modern world, singling out ten secrets of survival that can help anyone live a more fulfilled life.
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About the Author
Steve DeMasco is a tenth-degree black belt in Shaolin kung fu who has dedicated his life to helping prisoners, teenagers, abused women, and many others who have lost their way. He currently lectures around the world on behavior modification and reducing school violence. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and three sons.
Alli Joseph, a writer, producer and television host, has reported and produced for a variety of television outlets including USA Network, CBS News, VH1 and TNT. She's contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers, including Premiere, Maxim, People, the New York Daily News, Miami Herald and New York Post. She is a native New Yorker.
Read an Excerpt
The Shaolin Way10 Modern Secrets of Survival from a Shaolin Kung Fu Grandmaster
By Steve DeMasco
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Steve DeMasco
All right reserved.
Survival Is Not Enough
Warfare is the greatest affair of state,
the basis of life and death,
the way (Tao) to survival or extinction;
it must be thoroughly pondered and analyzed.
-- Sun Tzu
Sun-Tzu said that the basis of life and death is whether one survives or dies. The idea that people get up every day to survive is a habit-forming concept, but we need to rely on it because getting up every day is a necessity of life. Therefore, it's an extremely difficult habit to get away from.
Most of the people in my world were survivors; they grew up in the projects, often went hungry, and didn't have clothes or shoes for school, and many had abusive or drug-addicted parents. It wasn't until much later in my life that I realized there are different levels of survival for all people, and that those levels depend on where we are in our lives. For children, young adults, or adults, survival can mean dealing with what I had to as a kid, or it can be something entirely different, like going to a job that many days you hate, dealing with the everyday pressures of life like bills, family issues, and education, and then justwaiting for Friday to come to have the weekend. A lot of people spend the weekend just trying to get done what they couldn't do Monday through Friday, and then it starts all over.
Whether you're a monk or a regular guy, the quest for survival is a natural dynamic of life. In prehistoric times, a cave person's life was probably about staying away from hungry animals, natural disasters, and sickness. We have also been surrounded by war -- something else we must survive -- in some fashion for all time, in every part of the world. What we have not personally seen, we studied in school; when you cracked your history textbooks as a kid, what did you learn about? The Civil War. The War of 1812. World Wars I and II.
For many years I defined survival by my own experiences. However, I learned one very important fact about survival: It is not a condition only of the poor. It does not discriminate and does not care about your color, nationality, or socioeconomic status. The struggle to survive -- just to get by -- affects everyone, and can often feel like it's taking over our entire lives.
Are you living to live or living to die?
We essentially have a choice about whether we want to live to live (enjoy life as we should be doing) or live to die (live to survive only). Humans were never really taught just to live to live. Society tells us that if we don't protect what we have, it will be taken away from us. Money and power in today's world are what a piece of fresh meat might have been to cave people; you have to grab on fiercely to what you find, catch, or earn, and fight everyone, including yourself, to keep it.
Therefore, the way you were trained to survive determines the methods you will use to survive. When we are born, our parents protect us. When we've learned to walk and talk, and have mastered a kind of day-to-day existence, we get thrown out of the house into something called "school." When we first get there, we don't know anyone or feel comfortable. Those whom we love have made us leave our home to go hang out with strangers, and we are introduced for the first time to people whom we will see more than we see our parents, who will have a profound effect on us for many years, and who will be essential to our self-worth, good or bad: our teachers.
At such a young age, none of us have the skills to master this new experience, so we come home with glue in our hair and a bruise where one of the other kids (also scared and uncomfortable in his or her new forced environment) hit us, and ask, "Why do I have to go to school? I want to stay home and be with you, Mom."
Here is where the fight for survival begins for most people. The answer from Mom comes: "Stevie, you have to go to school to get educated." The kindergartner or preschooler then asks, "What does that mean, Mom?" She probably told you that it means you'll go to school, get smarter, and then be able to get into a good college -- all so you can get even smarter than that, and when you're big like Mommy and Daddy, you can have a good job and make a lot of money. It all starts here!
One of the major problems with learning to survive is that many of us spent so much of our young and adult life learning how to survive that there was little or no training on how to live -- that is, balance it all so that we could survive and at the same time enjoy life.
I lived in the thoughtless "survival" mode for a long time, without really "living." I worked six days a week, and on the seventh day I was on the phones and going to business functions that I would bring my family to, thinking that was good because I was spending time with them, even though sometimes they would be left standing around while I networked. I thought I was having a great life, but really, I was just surviving. What was my life really all about? Work, work, and more work. And when I'd go home and my wife or kids would need my help, I would get upset because hey, didn't they know how hard I worked -- for all of us? When I use the term "living to die," it's because I wasn't living at all. I was working toward a goal that didn't include the very people in my life I love and care about ...
Excerpted from The Shaolin Way by Steve DeMasco Copyright © 2006 by Steve DeMasco. Excerpted by permission.
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