Plum Dragon Podcast Series, Episode 2: Kenton Sefcik, TCMD, R. Ac
The Warrior Mindset of a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner
Kenton Sefcik’s Warrior Mindset:
“I have really learned that if I can just have a stubborn ‘stick-it-out-ed-ness,’ I will survive, I will win. I will be able to influence my community with health and healing, and I will be able to feed my family. This mindset took a lot of time, and it took a lot of other people’s involvement in me, mentorship in me. There’s no way that I just kind of woke up one day and said, ‘Oh I am the never say die kind of guy.'”
Welcome to the new Plum Dragon Herbs Podcast Series “Staying in the Game.” In this podcast series, we will have conversations on achieving greater health and fitness and natural ways to manage pain. In this, our second episode, we’re talking to Kenton Sefcik, a seasoned acupuncturist and TCM practitioner as well as martial artist, author, and mentor about his warrior mindset in life and business. Kenton is also the creator of TCM Graduate TV where he provides online education to up and coming acupuncturists and naturopathic doctors.
Kenton discusses how his ‘never say die’ attitude has served him well in life, and how developing this warrior mindset of mental toughness didn’t happen overnight and took a lot of time, effort, and mentorship.
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View the complete transcript of the show (at the bottom of this post)
0:42 Introduction to how Kenton got into acupuncture and martial arts
5:14 How acupuncture school impacted his martial arts training
6:38 Traditional Chinese Medicine principals: The body has an innate ability to heal itself
“The body has an innate ability to heal itself. All that i think I am doing it is reminding it and coaxing it back to health. We don’t really force anything to happen.”
9:10 How Chinese medicine zooms out on the person to see the whole picture
11:24 Most gratifying experiences as an acupuncturist and TCM practitioner
17:28 “Never say die” warrior mindset in life and his mantra: “Whoever lasts the longest wins.”
19:05 Being patient with people who struggle to have a positive warrior mindset
24:23 Getting your mindset right takes time; what to do while developing mental toughness
29:00 Some patients aren’t ready for change; their fixed mindset is serving them somehow
30:40 Being patient and developing rapport with patients to help them adopt new healthy practices and warrior mindsets
“I learned that not only could I hurt somebody, I could also heal….so a big part of martial arts is self-defense. Putting somebody down. Getting control of them. And the Chinese medicine is the other side of that coin. It’s the helping healing member of your community…so they definitely compliment each other….so you’ve got the hurting and the healing, if you will. They really compliment each other. The yin and the yang.”
31:42 Teaching the importance of “BPM” (breathing, posture, movement)
35:30 Using acupuncture and practicing BPM on himself
39:20 The role of Chinese herbs in his practice and his experience with Plum Dragon products
40:00 Dit Da Jow has been around forever and has played a huge role in martial arts training
42:50 Pain is bad but discomfort is good
43:40 Why the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) doesn’t work
46:30 How to get in contact with Kenton and not be afraid to approach him on any health topic
Links and Resources Mentioned
- Find out more about Kenton Sefcik and connect with him on Instagram
- Shop for Plum Dragon Herbs Dit Da Jow
- Connect with Plum Dragon Herbs:
Thank You For Listening!
How did you like this episode? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments below so we can continue the discussion. Be sure to share your takeaways.
Full Transcript of Podcast:
Janelle: You’re listening to “Staying In The Game,” a Plum Dragon Herbs Podcast, where we have conversations on achieving greater health and fitness and natural ways to manage pain. I’m your host, Janelle Leatherwood. Joining us today is Kenton Sefcik, a seasoned acupuncturist and martial artist, author, and mentor. He is also the creator of TCM Graduate TV, where he provides online education to up and coming acupuncturists and naturopathic doctors. We’re thrilled that he can join us today. Kenton, welcome to our podcast. We’re so glad to have you here with us today.
Kenton: Thank you.
Janelle: And I would love to have you introduce yourself to our guests.
Kenton: I’ll do my best. So my name is Kenton Sefcik. I’m a registered acupuncturist and I’ve been practicing acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. I’m in my 11th year. I’m also a martial artist. I’ve been practicing traditional Chinese kung fu for 24 years.
Janelle: Wow, that’s amazing.
Kenton: So I got started…my usual story, how I kind of tell everybody how I got in all these things, many patients asked me, “So how did you get into acupuncture?” And I say, “Well, I have to back you up to when I was 14 years old.” When I was 14 years old I was living in my parent’s basement. And a commercial came on at about 2 am. And it was a white-haired guy beating up ninjas on a bridge.
Janelle: That’s great.
Kenton: So I woke up the next morning. And I said, “Mom, you have to take me to this kung fu school.” And she said, “No, way. You’ve quit soccer. You’ve quit piano. You don’t ice skate anymore. There’s no way that I’m taking you to a kung fu school.” But my mom’s a little bit of a softy for me. I’m adopted. I’m an only child. It only took me about an hour. I was joked at. I won her over pretty quickly. And you know, within a couple of days she talked to my dad and said, “Okay, fine. We’ll take you to this kung fu school.” And I’m so grateful that she did because, you know, here I am 24 years later. You can do the math on how old I am there. And I’m still practicing Chinese kung fu, martial arts. I’m obsessed with movement. Martial arts has been a great way for me to relate with the world of today.
And it was through martial arts that I made a very good friend by the name of David Rose, who practices in Calgary, Alberta Canada. And Dave and I became really good friends. And he was the one… He was thinking about Chinese medicine in college, of all things. And he said, “I don’t even know where to start.” And he wasn’t very internet savvy at the time. And so I jumped on the internet and found a website. I said, “Well, there’s this school, the Alberta College of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine in Calgary. This is the only place that’s here.” So he started going to school there. And it wasn’t until he was in 3rd year. And I wasn’t really too sure what I wanted to do with my life.
And he was the one that kind of put it back on me. And he said, “You have to go talk to the dean at my college.” And I went and talked to the dean (excuse me)..and that’s kind of where that happened. I had also had a skateboard injury. I grew up skateboarding and listening to punk-rock, and hip-hop in Calgary. And I hurt my foot really, really badly on sliding off a curb, and I went to the usuals. You know, I went to the medical doctor. I tried copious amounts of physio. Nothing was happening. Then we rewind the clock again. So Dave was not in third year. He was in first year. He says, “You have to go see a 3rd-year acupuncturist. It’s only $20.” I said, “I could afford that.”
I went in there for two sessions. They put like two or three needles in the ball of my foot, and I’ve never had any pain in my foot since. So you kind of put all this up in the air into the mix. And that’s how I got into Chinese medicine. And that was the dean of the college. I was completely blown away. I thought, “Wow, this has helped my foot pain. I can help everybody else’s foot pain.” And I learned very quickly that Chinese medicine was a complete medical system. And I could treat anything from sleep, to digestion, to fertility, to mood. It is a phenomenal system. So yes, so that’s kind of my story and on how I got into all this stuff.
Janelle: Oh, wow, that’s amazing. And so you enrolled the next year?
Kenton: Yes, so we kinda got…
Janelle: Or did it take you time?
Kenton: No, I enrolled immediately. And so I talked to the dean. And that fall I was in there. I was just super passionate about the programs and it became…it came a little easier to me. And later on, I wondered why? And I figure it’s due to the fact that I spent so much time training Chinese kung fu. I would go hang out in Chinatown. I’d read Taoist and Buddhist texts. And I think that’s had a huge impact on my life.
Janelle: Right, because they’re all integrated to some extent. And the philosophies really work well together of martial arts and alternative medicine.
Kenton: For sure.
Janelle: How did that education shape your view about martial arts? Did it impact your training at all?
Kenton: It did in the sense that I learned that not only could I hurt somebody, I could also heal. So, a big part of the martial arts is self-defense, putting somebody down, getting control of them. And the Chinese medicine is the other side of that coin. It’s the helping, healing member of your community, all those sorts of things. So, they definitely compliment each other. I didn’t have the opportunity to learn. You know, what’s really cool is that I’ve met lots of people that have partook in kung fu classes.
And their instructors taught them some form of healing. Oh, well, you hit your partner. They’re a little sore. They ask the partner to come over they do a little [inaudible 00:06:02]. They do a little bit of, you know, acupressure, that sort of thing. And that was maybe part of their martial arts education. I didn’t get to have that. So the other side of it was that I went to Chinese medicine college. I got to have it from that side. So, you’ve got the hurting and the healing, if you will. So, they really compliment. The yin and the yang, they complement each other.
Janelle: Yes, definitely. So tell us what are some of the most fascinating things that you find with Chinese medicine?
Kenton: That’s a great question. The most fascinating things about Chinese medicine? That the body has an innate ability to heal itself, and all that I think that I’m doing is just kind of reminding it and coaxing it back to health. We don’t really force anything to happen. I can’t force a patient to have their menstrual cycle return. But, I can maybe build up enough blood stores so that their body can facilitate that. We often hurt ourselves really, really fast. But, it takes time to heal. Chinese medicine has taught me patience, perseverance, one foot in front of the next. And, martial arts has done that, too, on martial arts practice.
So, the other thing that’s totally amazing about Chinese medicine is the things that it can help. I often tell my patients if you are a tree, because in Chinese medicine you are not different from nature. You’re a part of nature. When the pressure changes outside, and all of a sudden it goes from plus 10 to minus 10 Celsius in a matter of hours, people get headaches. And, so, we are totally affected by the seasons, by what’s happening and going on outside. So, we often relate human beings to being a tree. If your branch is broken or on fire, you need to go to the hospital because Western medicine is phenomenal at treating that kind of life or death or very serious concerns. But, if you have a slow growing fungus on your tree, there’s not a very good chance that Western medicine is going to take care of it. It’s just not built for that sort of thing.
So, I absolutely love how Chinese medicine really fills in the gaps and complements Western medicine in these situations. So, that’s what I really, really love about Chinese medicine. And what’s amazing for me is no two days are the same. No two hours are the same. A new patient is coming in. They might have headache just like somebody I saw last week. But, we have a saying in Chinese medicine. Same disease, different treatment. Different disease, same treatment. Now, what this means is, we’re diagnosing according to the branch and the root, again using a tree metaphor. So, I’m zooming out and looking at a patient as a whole person. Western medicine is phenomenal because it zooms in as far as it can go. And, it fixes very small parts. It doesn’t look at the whole system. And that’s okay. But, Chinese medicine zooms out. And it says, “Well, these three branches of the tree are actually related to the same root cause.” So, that’s why we have that saying.
So, if I have a patient that has headache again, and I can line up five people that have headache, well, three of them might have the same mechanism root cause. And, two other ones have two different causes. So, I have to approach them from a totally different angle from a Chinese medicine point of view. However, if I had somebody who has a headache, I have somebody else who has pain from menstruation, I have somebody who is very irritable and they’re having lots of irritability symptoms, I can line all those three people up, and I can treat them the exact same way. So, Chinese medicine has caused me to do what I call like the “zoom out” on. So, I zoom out on my life. I zoom out on relationships. I zoom out on situations. It allows me to see the bigger picture. So, that’s definitely how it’s influenced my life and what I love about it.
Janelle: I love thinking of it like that. And it is true because Chinese medicine is addressing the whole body and the whole person and looking at all the factors that could be influencing their pain and whatever affliction they have at the time. And I…you know, it’s interesting and good to hear you talk about how it compliments Western medicine, as well, and that it can work together and each play a role in person’s health.
Kenton: Definitely, I think one thing that doesn’t serve us as Chinese medicine practitioners is to poo-poo anything really. I’ve had a couple of hernia operations. Western medicine has, you know, kind of, if you will, saved my life, so to speak, or made my life a lot better. And Chinese medicine has made my life a lot better. So I think that I think they need… you know, I think we just all need to get along. And, we need to know what our strengths are and what our weaknesses are. And, then we can help each other out.
Janelle: Yeah. What are some of the cases that you’ve had that have been interesting and fascinating for you to try and heal? And what was your approach in trying to help those people?
Kenton: My approach to help anybody is to try and put myself in their shoes. What I try to do is think about, if I was this patient with my knowledge and experience, what acupuncture points would I perform on myself? What herbs would I prescribe for myself? Would I prescribe myself a movement therapy, whether it’s qi gong or tai chi? Would I eat certain foods?
So that plays a huge part in my practice, and I’m very passionate and almost aggressive, if you will. I really like to get in there and do things, especially when I’m training martial arts and that sort of thing. So, that approach is what I take in my clinic. So, what I’m saying is when I put myself in my patient’s shoes being the impatient, passionate, aggressive wanna get stuff done guy that I am, I’m always thinking about, “I want my patient better yesterday.” And, so, that’s a huge thing for me.
One of the most… there’s been two cases over the last 11 years that have been the most gratifying, if you will. One gentleman, he was over 80 years old, and he had had four back to back strokes. And he went from driving his car to when he walked in my clinic, he was using a walker. And, I was probably in my second year of practice and feeling still pretty green in both things. And he said, “Can you help me?” And I said, “I have no idea. But let’s try.” And, I’m the let’s try guy. I’m not the used car salesman type. You don’t come to see me three times a week for the rest of your life. I’m not gonna try and sell you something. If you’ve got something serious, let’s try three. four, five treatments, whatever your time and your financial ability you can stand. He came in for no [inaudible 00:13:30] like four acupuncture treatments. And he was driving his car again.
Janelle: I love that.
Kenton: He got his license back. So that was, like, completely mind-blowing. And you know, I often tell my patients this. and I tell upcoming practitioners this. When we’re trying to communicate to our patients how long it’s gonna take for them to heal, oftentimes we don’t know. We have good ballpark figures. So, you know, most conditions once a week for 8 to 10 weeks. Menstrual conditions, once a week for 12 weeks. So, that ends up being, like, three cycles, if you will. You know, skin conditions, hair growth, alopecia in women, you know, can take up to 30 weeks of treatments.
And we have to like almost like build blood from the base. And, that’s really difficult to do with just acupuncture alone. Herbs help a lot. So here I had a patient, four strokes, four treatments, back driving his car. I remember having a patient in student clinic, tennis elbow of all things. She was a draftsperson at nine acupuncture treatments. And, then, she’s just started to get results. So you know, where the logic in that is I have no idea, but, again, influencing the body to heal.
Another really, really cool story was I knew a gentleman that also practiced martial arts. But, I didn’t know his background. Him and his wife had been trying to get pregnant for years, and they had two failed IVF’s that they paid obviously out of pocket for thousands and thousands of dollars. And, they were even looking at adoption. Like I said, I’m adopted, and adoption has changed so much over the last, you know, 30, 40 years. And, I remember him lamenting to me that there almost were treating him like a criminal.
And, he almost just wanted to give up because the adoption process was so caustic, and costly rather. And, I just said to him, I said “Do you know what I do for a living?” “Yes,” and I said, “Why don’t you try. I think, like, let’s just try it.” So I said, “The best is when we don’t blame everything on the woman.” So, I treat a lot of fertility concerns. But, if all of a sudden only the woman’s coming, I said, “No if you want top results, both parties involved should come.” Two acupuncture treatments, each: twins.
Janelle: Oh, my goodness.
Janelle: That gave me the chills.
Kenton: These things just completely blow me away. So those are, you know, the gentleman with the stroke, the couple who had two failed IVF’s and were unable to get pregnant, and it was, you know, two acupuncture treatments later. You know, those are great victories in my practice. And, at the same time patients have come in for tennis elbow, nine treatments, back pain… can’t fix it. And, they’ll find out… oftentimes, when I can’t fix something, however, I find out that it’s broken, if that makes sense. It’s not a functional problem. A lot of times we have somebody who comes in with knee pain. But, you find out that they’ve completely torn their tendon or you find out that somebody has broken their back. You know, those are quite serious. And that’s when again you go see your Western medical professional because that’s their specialty, but yeah. So, I’ve had my victories and I’ve had my losses in clinic, for sure.
Janelle: Yeah. I love those stories. That is really amazing. And I can’t believe the changes, you know, that occurred in those people’s lives from the acupuncture treatments. That’s really cool. So, let’s see. I wanna talk to you a little bit more about who you are and what makes you tick, Kenton.
Kenton: For sure.
Janelle: Tell me a little bit about your mindset and philosophy in life.
Kenton: I have a never say die attitude. And, in business, in life, I kind of have a mantra that I can repeat over and over. It’s whoever lasts the longest, wins, because one of the elephants in the room that I talk about on, you know, on Instagram, on podcast and all these things is that the elephant in the room is that when the Chinese medicine graduate passes their provincial or state examination, they are officially a small business owner. They’re officially an entrepreneur. And this is extremely disconcerting for lots of people. And, I’ve torn down and built practices a few times in my career so far, and I have really learned that if I can just have a stubborn, stick-it-outedness, I will survive. I will win. I will be able to influence my community with health and healing. And, I’ll be able to feed my family.
This mindset took a lot of time, and it took a lot of other people’s involvement in me, mentorship in me. There’s no way that I just kind of woke up one day and said, “Oh, I’m the never say die, guy.” Like, no. It took a lot of personal and self-growth to kinda get to the point where now when I make a decision, it’s just as fast as a light switch. And, I have to be very cognizant of the amount of personal growth that I’ve had because if a patient comes to me and says, “I wanna quit smoking,” my quick flippant response is, “Well, quit smoking already because if you said you want…” And they say, “Well, it’s addictive, and my friends smoke, and my partner smokes, and I like smoking on break.”
I said, “But, wait a minute, you just told me you wanted to quit smoking. So why don’t you just quit smoking?” And, I know it’s more complex. And, being you know, a Chinese medicine practitioner and a healer, I know it’s more complex than that. But due to mindset training, if you will, I almost… I have to… I’m always trying to figure out how I can get my patient to do what I do and do what other people do, and that’s make quick decisions. So, that’s kind of my mindset and like I said it… I think we’re all on a journey, and I think that it takes time. If you want something, keep at it. It’s worth it.
I have absolutely no problem telling people that it took me about a year and a half to two years to get really, really good at acupuncture, like, out of school. Like I…but that was due to the amount of mentorship that I had. But, it took me over 20 years to get good at martial arts, kung fu. And that was due to the lack of mentorship until I got to about year 20, and I met a gentleman by the name of Suki Gosal out of DC (originally from the U.K). And, he was a huge influence on mindset training. He was a big believer in mindset first, conditioning second, and then skill sets third, in that order.
Janelle: Can you repeat his name for our listeners?
Kenton: Yeah. Suki Gosl S-U-K-I and then G-O-S-A-L.
Kenton: And, just a phenomenal martial artist. If you Google his name, you’ll come up with…I’ve interviewed him for, you know, martial arts magazines. He was instrumental in my martial arts career, and he put me kind of on a path to reaching out, if you will, and looking for mentors from afar, I would call it. So, while, you know, we would send e-mails, they wouldn’t be e-mails. They’d be novels. And then MSN Messenger was a big thing and then texting, of course, and FaceTime and all this sort of thing. So. he spent countless hours over an eight-year plus period with me mentoring me, helping me. But, that kind of influenced my ability.
You know, I did a lot of research on a gentleman by the name of Geoff Thompson, who is a top U.K. martial artist, and that led me to Al Peaseman [SP], the top U.K. martial artist. And, these gentlemen were really, really big on mindset. Of course, that kind of led me to people like Eric Thomas. Also, he was known as the hip-hop preacher. And, I watched his journey in the early days of, you know, quitting his job and going on YouTube and creating inspirational and motivational videos. And now he’s got contracts with the NBA and the NFL, and he goes in and he does motivation. He doesn’t really call himself a motivational speaker, but that’s the best way to describe him, and his mindset affected me.
And then, of course, there’s people like Gary Vaynerchuk, who is a big proponent of “Consume my stuff. But eventually, you’re gonna have to stop consuming my stuff and you gonna have to go do what I do.” I follow him on Instagram. Syatt Fitness, who is Gary Vaynerchuk’s personal fitness trainer, he’s a hoot to watch on Instagram. But, again, he’s got a similar message like, “Don’t watch what I do. Do what I do.” So yes, so when it comes to the mindset, I’m always looking at the winners, the people who are affecting change. I’m a huge Tony Robbins fan. I think that, you know… His stuff led me into like researching an NLP (neuro-linguistic programming).
I think anybody who’s been a martial artist for a long period of time, you know, does these things and starts to branch out because initially, you think that… at least I thought, and people are probably along the same boat as me, but initially, I thought that by learning a kung fu skill, I would be good at kung fu. And, you kind of get into this… I got into this thing where I was thinking all the time, “If I just learned how to do this properly, if I just learned this new technique, or if I just learned this new approach, I’ll finally get good.”
And there is a part of that because if you learn crap martial arts, you can get into trouble, and you don’t function well when you’re against somebody who you’re pressure testing with. But, a huge part like [inaudible 00:24:13] said was just mindset. So, once I got my head right… and he knew that it would take me time to get my head right. So, what he told me to do initially was run hill sprints, skip rope, you know, push ups, sit ups, heavy bag, lift weights, do stuff. And, so that was the conditioning process.
Remember, like, mindset, then conditioning, then skill set, in that order. But, when we approach things, we approach it generally in reverse. First, we get the skill set and then through training the skill set, then you get your conditioning. And then those combined over a long period of time and hopefully in situations that are healthy for you, that builds your mindset. So, it’s kind of a funny way of going about things. We kind of go about it in reverse. And, maybe we should go about it the other way. And, maybe we should have everybody in all types of fields and their mindset first.
Janelle: Yeah. And that isn’t easy to learn. Like, you said it took you a lot of…
Kenton: It takes time.
Janelle: Yeah, it took time and mentorship. Do you feel like, you know, one of your other hats that you wear is being a therapist because…
Janelle: Yeah, you’re trying to explain you know, how your patients’ mindsets can affect their overall health.
Kenton: Right, and one big things that I do in clinic… I’ll never forget, kind of a light bulb moment went off for me. I was teaching for a Chinese medicine college, and I had one of my students who is actually a physiotherapist who was going back to learn Chinese medicine, which was a phenomenal idea. And, she said to me when we got out of… she watched me perform acupuncture on a patient coming into the student clinic, and I was helping the students learn how to do acupuncture in the clinic.
And she said to me, “Have you ever noticed the language that you use in the clinic room?” I said, “What do you mean?” She says, “You say, ‘Perfect. Great job. You’re doing a phenomenal job. This is what this acupuncture was.'” She said the language that you use is always positive, uplifting. You’re always complimenting the patient on how they’re putting up with you, putting stainless steel inside their body, etc. And, that was kind of a light bulb moment for me when I realized “Wow, in a therapeutic exchange there is so much going on.” We know that when we go see any type of medical practitioner, Eastern, Western, whatever, if they don’t have good bedside manner, as we kind of call it here in the West, then we’re not really gonna get along with them.
And we kind of poke fun at the specialists or, you know, the anesthesiologist who has a bedside manner of a door. But, these things really, really matter. So, when you talk about what happens in clinic, I’ve really put a lot of effort into, after that light bulb moment went off of me, I have put a lot of effort into the language that I use, the body language that I use. And, how I do this is I point a finger back at myself and I say, “How do I feel my patient wants to view me? Do they want the Kenton that just got cut off by three people on the way to work and, you know, had a fight with you know, his best friend? Do they want that Kenton? No, they don’t want that Kenton. They want the Kenton that is going to uplift them, exact change. And we have to match those.
And if I have a patient that came in that just put down their golden retriever, I’m not happy, bubbly Kenton. But, I’m compassionate. But, I may be one notch above them, instead of five notches above them, because I still want them to benefit from that therapeutic exchange. I have absolutely no problem with placebo. I think that saying that placebo is a dirty word is wrong. When I walk in, again, to a medical office and see a medical doctor, if they’re meek and shy and they think, they say, “I think we should do this…” What do you mean you think?”
Janelle: Yeah, exactly.
Kenton: It kind of puts me off. So, the therapeutic exchange used in the clinic is important, and there’s a dance there happening, for sure.
Janelle: Yeah. Definitely, you don’t wanna go to a practitioner who is not sure what they’re doing to treat you. I’ve been in that situation. It’s not very fun and it’s not comfortable. And then you don’t trust the therapy.
Janelle: And, I think that, in itself, will, can affect whether you heal or not, if you don’t believe in what is happening for you.
Kenton: Yeah, I mean, it all plays a part. I tell my patients all the time, “If it’s you versus me, you win. If it’s you versus my herbs, you win.” So there has been a handful, five patients in my career, let’s say, where I’ve actually you know, let them go or, “Do you really wanna get better? Is this pattern of emotional disharmony, if you will, is that pattern serving you?” Yes, it is serving me.” “Okay, well, when you decide that it’s no longer serving you, you come back and see me.”
I can take the biggest skeptic off the street and make them a believer. The trick is, if you will, with any therapy… and, just like you said, they’ve got to want to get better. “Do you wanna get better?” There are people… and, I don’t fault them, because of whatever happened in their childhood or their life situation or whatever, they might be stuck in a pattern that is serving them. But, when they decide that that is no longer serving them and that their patterns are actually damaging to their health or their life situation, that’s when I think that anything and everything can really benefit them.
Janelle: Yeah, yeah, that’s so true. So Kenton, when you are talking to your patients, what are some of the advice that you give them for daily practices of health? And what do you do yourself to stay healthy?
Kenton: Yes, that is kind of a two-parter. I’ll talk about my patients first. One thing I try to not do is proselytize anything to my patients. I try to have a very organic conversation with my patients. We talk about compliance a lot in Chinese medicine and Western medicine. “Oh, are your patients compliant? Are they taking their pharmaceuticals? Are they taking their herbs? Are they eating what you told them to eat and not eating what you told them to stay away from,” and all these sorts of things. I think having those conversations with our patients takes time. And, it takes rapport.
So, I would absolutely love nothing more than my patients to switch out their diet for eating what I call real food, to adopt a movement practice, to belly- breathe. I have my own personal acronym that I share with my patients. And it’s called…and when I teach qi gong or tai chi or even kung fu, it’s called BPM. And, it’s breathing, posture, movement. And, I really believe that if we have a breathing practice where we have… we can control our abdomen and we can do diaphragmatic breathing, I think that’s extremely beneficial.
Posture. Adopting a very good posture, head up high, shoulder blades back and down, butt tight, which neutralizes the lower spine, soft knees. And keeping this alignment that is taught through Chinese martial arts when we pull our lawn mower, when we pull our snowblower, when we lift groceries out of the car, I think this would help a lot. Squatting to pick up a pen that you dropped instead of bending over at the waist, this is important. I think learning how to lift weights is extremely helpful. When you learn how to squat and dead-lift, when you learn how to do a pull-up or chin-ups, these body mechanics are present in through daily life. And, then, last but not least, movements. And, I kind of talked about that already, but having some sort of movement practice.
So I would absolutely love to just hit my patients with everything. You need breathing, posture, movement, and a clean diet. But, I can’t because exercise and diet especially are emotionally-charged topics. So, what I have to do or what I try to do in clinic is I just start to develop a rapport with them, but exacting change through acupuncture and Chinese medicine therapies that hopefully builds rapport. And then it opens the floodgate to having this dialogue where somebody says, “Well, why do you think I have so much phlegm?” Well, looking at your tongue and your polyps and all these other symptoms, do you consume any dairy products? “Yes, I consume lots of dairy products. I have dairy products seven times a day.” Okay, so do me a huge favor. Let’s just try no dairy products for six weeks. “Okay.” And, so, sometimes I get some compliance because they just wanna get better, darn it. And they’ll try anything.
And sometimes I’m met with, you know, an obstacle “Well, but you’re not gonna make me give up cheese. I love cheese.” But, that at least we start the dialogue, you know, and magical things happen when that…when a patient starts walking a certain path. And, patients have shocked the heck out of me by telling me, you know, three or four treatments in, “Hey, guess what? I stopped eating dairy. I have no more post-nasal drip, and I found a yoga studio that is convenient for me, and it’s on the way home from work, and I’m absolutely loving it.” Wow, I’m totally floored.
So, that’s, kind of, to answer your question. So, I do have these dialogues with my patients when I have built rapport. And, I am very careful to tippy-toe around these conversations because the minute you tell somebody that they can’t eat something or that they have to exercise, we view it almost as I guess shaming. And, I am extremely careful. I think that everybody is just perfect and beautiful in their own way. That’s the yin. And then the yang is, improve yourself, darn it! So, you know, I play that card with myself too. I say I’m great the way I am on one side of the coin on the inside. And, then on the yang side is I still have lots of room for improvement. So, I see that with my patients. And I’m always trying to do a little bit of a dance to not offend them while stoking a little bit of a fire, while trying to be a catalyst for change, as Bruce Lee would have said.
My own personal practices include breathing, posture, movement and a lot of self-acupuncture. We have a saying in Chinese medicine, it’s probably present in lots of other medicine or practices is, “He who treats themselves has a fool for a patient.” And, that’s something that I was taught in Chinese medicine college. And, it’s something that I think is wrong. As a health professional, how am I to know what works on my patient, if I don’t even know if it’s gonna work on myself, so to speak? So, I think it’s important for me to practice on myself. And the older I get, the better I get at Chinese medicine because eventually, you become, I don’t know, 32 years old, and you get shingles for the first time. And, because you have a totally stressful episode in your life and you get shingles for the first time, well, I know how to treat this with Chinese medicine.
But, maybe I’ve never treated in the clinic before this or the other things you treat yourself, and one of the best things that happened to me is I worked in a multi-disciplinary clinic for almost 10 years. So, I got to work alongside naturopathic doctors and massage therapist and physiotherapist and doctor of chiropractic. And, you really learn how to, kind of, heal yourself. So, a big part of my health routine is to give myself acupuncture anywhere from two to three times a week, and this would just look like me sitting down watching Netflix and putting a few needles in me to, you know, just to relax muscle tension, to help digestive motility, those sorts of things.
I train martial arts, and I move my body a lot, and, you know, you’re not gonna find me downtown at the club getting into a fight, getting drunk, all these kind of things. I’m in a, you know, totally different zone in my life now. You’re either gonna find me out doing martial arts, you’re going to find me at work, or you’re going to find me at home. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I don’t gamble, I don’t do anything that I feel would affect my martial arts practice. My martial arts practice is like huge for me. And, when somebody calls me up and they say, “Hey, you wanna train Sunday morning at 8 am,” I can say, “Yes, I can,” because I’m not gonna be hung over. And, so martial arts has become a movement practice for me now in the latest, in the kind of middle-age stage of my life. I just recently took up hip-hop dancing for the first time.
Janelle: That’s so cool.
Kenton: I’ve never danced a day in my life. Of course, when you know, six years old and you go to a wedding and your mom is like, “Oh, you’re such a good dancer,” that’s your mom saying you’re a good dancer. You don’t know if you’re a good dancer or not. But, I took up hip-hop dancing, and that has been phenomenal for my Chinese kung fu practice, my Brazilian jiu-jitsu practice. It is making, you know, we have this beautiful shell that we’ve been given for an undetermined about of time. We should figure out what we can do with it.
Can I pick heavy stuff up with it? Can I pick my body up with it? Can I dance with it? Can I punch and kick and grapple with it? What can I do with my human body? So, yeah, so the movement, eating real food and, you know, giving myself lots of self-acupuncture and taking the old Chinese herbs when I know exactly the pattern that’s going on in myself. I don’t mess around too much. Those are ways that I keep myself healthy.
Janelle: How much did your training involve Chinese herbal medicine when you went to the acupuncture school? I assume it goes for a lot of it.
Kenton: Yeah, there was a huge amount. When you go to Chinese medicine college, you learn single herbs. Then you learn how to pair herbs. Then you learn what’s known as Chinese patterns. So, those are little black balls you get down in Chinatown. And, then you learn formulas. So, there’s a huge amount of Chinese herbs. I’ve used the Plum Dragon products. I absolutely love them.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the package of the Dit Da Jow… I wrote this on my Instagram and I said, “You know, I’m not getting paid for this. Like, I don’t want anybody think like I’m endorsed by this or something like that.” But like, I really wanted to try the products. I’m a huge fan of Chinese medicine in general and old practices. You know, Dit Da Jow has been around forever. And it’s always been a huge part of health and healing, especially in a martial artist’s life. And the first thing I noticed when I opened the Dit Da Jow was the smell. It smelled like Dit Da Jow. It didn’t smell like camphor or menthol in some, you know, kind of our usual rub, a 535 stuff.
It smelled like, you know, Chinese rice wine and herbs that have been sitting in a vat and fermented. You know, really potent stuff. And, it just brought me back, you know, to… I don’t know. It just brought me back to like old Kung Fu days. Especially, you know… so, that was the first thing I noticed. I apply it to… we do a lot of punching in Wing Chun kung fu and non-classical kung fu who was… Bruce Lee’s first student was Jesse Glover. And, Jesse Glover taught Suki Gosal. And, he taught me some Wing Chun’s stuff, but mostly the non-classical kung fu punching [inaudible 00:41:05]. So, there’s a lot of action happening with my knuckles. So, I apply the product before I punch, especially when I punched the focus mitts, and I apply after it, and my recovery time is a lot faster.
And that is a huge thing because if I’m gonna do a lot… Like I said, I’m probably training martial arts five to six times a week. I’m punching mitts. I’m punching mitts. I’m punching mitts. It’s really, really important. I’m lifting weights. Maybe I strain my knee, and I’ll put some Dit Da Jow on my knee after because I’m already putting it on my hands. So, it’s definitely helped my recovery time. That’s not something that’s in my head. I’ve been at martial arts for long enough to tell. You know, as a martial artist who wants to train and has to train, if you will, multiple times during the week, recovery is what it’s all about. So you know, not only do I have to get good sleep. I’ve got to stay hydrated. I’ve got to eat real food. I’ve got to watch comedies, stay positive mindset, all that kind of stuff. If I can get a little bit of an edge with something like a Dit Da Jow, I’m on it.
Janelle: Yeah. It’s so fascinating to me how, like you said at the beginning of our conversation, you know, your job is to heal people. But, you’re also in a form of art that hurts people and hurts yourself. And, so, your life revolves around pain basically.
Kenton: You know, I don’t know if I can jump in there. But, you know, what I think is really important is that and it’s something that I try to teach people that train with me or that maybe I have a long-standing rapport in the clinic with, is that pain is bad. There’s no question. If I have lots of weight on the bar and I squat and my knee screams at me, we’re done for the day. I have to figure out what I’ve done wrong. Did I not torque my legs over? Like, I’ve got to figure out what I did wrong. Discomfort is not a bad thing.
We have a saying in Chinese medicine that, “Ice is for dead people.” And, that is why I like herbs like that Dit Da Jow have in it are usually, they’re very hot. They promote blood circulation because they’re very hot. If I sprain my ankle the first thing that we’re gonna do is we’re gonna put ice on it. But, in Chinese medicine, we say “No, that’s not right.” And Dr. Mirkin back in 2015, I think, on his website… if you go to drmirkin.com, He’s the guy who created Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, the RICE acronym that got written into all of the physiotherapy and medical textbooks. He recanted his statement and said, “I am wrong.” So, it’s been in there since the ’70s. How are we gonna change that? But, what I’m trying to say, get to, is that Chinese Medicine says, “Ice is for dead people. Put heat on it.”
So we’re big proponents of heat. So, hot water bottle, Magic Bag, Moxa, which is the burning of mugwort to heat the area. If you…if the boss…if I sprained my ankle, and I’ve got swelling and heat and pain, and I have pain because I have heat and swelling, what’s gonna happen when I put heat on my ankle? It’s going to increase my body’s ability to heal. Mirkin said, “I’m wrong with the ice. It slows the body’s ability to heal.” I’m sore. Well, let’s put heat on it. Well, guess what’s gonna happen? The pain level’s gonna go up. The discomfort is gonna go up. We are a weak bunch of human beings, I tell you, Janelle. We wanna move away from discomfort. We should move away from pain. There’s no question.
But we want to move away from discomfort. But, where discomfort is, that’s where the magic happens. I would say where the discomfort is, that’s the gap. Don’t move towards pain. That’s bad. But discomfort? You wanna go get a doctorate? You wanna go get a Ph. D.? That’s gonna be uncomfortable. You wanna go get acupuncture done, and I’m gonna create deqi a little bit of an agent sensation? That’s gonna be a little uncomfortable. You want to get your black belt in a martial art? That’s gonna be uncomfortable. You want to raise a bunch of wrangly teenage kids into adulthood? That’s gonna be uncomfortable. But where the discomfort lies, that’s the magic. I really, really think so.
Janelle: You know, it’s interesting, you’re talking about the practice, the common practice to ice things. We actually have a blog post, “Why ice is not nice” that I wanna send you.
Kenton: Right on.
Janelle: Well, before we wrap up, was there anything that you wanted to share with our listeners or any anything that you felt like you had come prepared to talk about and haven’t talked about yet?
Kenton: I don’t think so. I don’t think so. We covered so many things. I almost warn people, if you’re gonna get me talking about Chinese medicine or Chinese martial arts, I’m gonna have a hard time shutting up. So, I think we’ve covered a lot of ground. At the end of the day, you know, I try to…I’m trying to be here to help. So, if anybody has any questions about Chinese medicine, Chinese martial arts, feel free to reach out. I use Instagram a ton on TCM, so Traditional Chinese Medicine. Tcmgraduatetv is my handle on Instagram. And, I have lots of people, I do, you know… I help the up-and-comers in the Chinese medicine field. This is kind of my goal.
I want people to feel more confident in the medicine that they went to school for. That’s a big shtick of mine. I feel like I was mentored so heavily in martial arts land and also in Chinese medicine land that… and, not in a pompous ass way, but I feel like I have this…I had this or maybe I have [inaudible 00:47:11] for advantage. And, I feel like people aren’t being mentored enough these days. I think that mentorship is an important thing in life, in business, in finance, in martial arts, in Chinese medicine. So, yes, so don’t be shy. Feel free to send me a DM or ask a question on one of my posts. And I will respond.
Janelle: Yeah, and I can vouch for that. And, being an avid reader of your Instagram posts, you know, I can also vouch for the fact that there’s no question that you won’t answer. Like, you’ve talked about, you know, whether it’s fertility issues or backaches or neck pain, you know, you’re able to help people with their questions and problems. And, you don’t avoid any topics, which I love. That’s great.
Kenton: No, I don’t, and when I teach, you know, for continuous education seminars or conferences and that sort of stuff, I really try to develop rapport quickly with the audience, because I want them to ask me about the pee and the poop and the fertility and the business side. And, let’s have honest conversations about everything, because I think that just helps with everybody’s growth.
Janelle: Yeah. Yes, raw honesty.
Janelle: That’s great.
Kenton: With compassion.
Janelle: That’s true. It’s so true. Well, thank you so much. I know we appreciate your raw honesty and being so real and sharing your thoughts with everyone that’s listening to this podcast and on your social media platforms and letting us take a peek into your life. And, that’s been fun for me, and I’m sure it’ll be fun for other people as they hopefully start to follow you and see what you’re all about and to learn from all that you can teach them about acupuncture and Chinese medicine and how you’ve grown with martial arts.
Kenton: Perfect. Well, thank you, for this opportunity. It’s super fun. I hope we get to chat again.
Janelle: And, thanks to all our listeners for joining us today. For more great stuff from Kenton Sefcik, be sure to visit us at PlumDragonHerbs.com. We will post show notes and ways to connect with Kenton. And, if you like the show, send us a comment on our YouTube channel. Until next time.