Category: tai chi

My Journey Stephen “Lucky” Luckingham

My Journey

I remember standing in the living room of our home in Roswell, New Mexico at 4 years old, with huge boxing gloves hoisted laboriously at chest level in a guard position. I was preparing to “get even” with the first bully of my life. Being of a “soft hearted” nature, I was an easy target, and my father was determined to change me into a 4 year old “fighting machine.”

He, being of Army and Air Force background, was versed in military “hand-to-hand” combat. As it turns out, my great grandfather taught JuJutsu to the Hartford Police, so I have some “lineage” in this “stuff.”

At 5, he put a toy “GI Issue M1 Rifle,” bayonet, and all, in my hands and showed me how to parry, lunge, thrust, just in case I got attacked by another 5 or 6 year old boy wielding a similar weapon.

When I was 8, I took back my favorite Davy Crockett rubber knife with a very simple, but effective, one hand choke. By then, I was versed in a lot of “cool techniques” from the Army manual of self-defense.

My serious training started at 14, though, when I was watching a Kenpo class at Wheeler Air Force Base, Oahu, Hawaii. The little “old” Chinese man saw me, and invited me to try the class. He didn’t know I had a war going on with asthma, and graciously declined. He wouldn’t let me off that easily, and said, “Come, I teach you how to breathe.”

That literally saved my life. The doctors indicated my situation was such that I would grow to be a sickly man, thin, frail, etc. Those of you who know me see they were very wrong. I owe that man my deepest gratitude as his “gift” allowed me to do martial arts, and any other physical activity I chose, all my life.

Because I went to a private military school in Honolulu, my daily schedule was up at 5 am, to catch the bus at 6, which took 2 hours to make it to school by 8 am.

I used study halls and the bus ride home to get my homework done so I can eat dinner and make training almost every night. Sunday’s, I surfed!!! But that intensive got me a 1st degree black belt in 3 years.

I moved to Connecticut in 1968. Dad chose to retire over making Lt. Colonel if he went to Vietnam. He said he did two wars (he was in the Army for WW II, and a bomber pilot in the new B-47 Strato-jet used in Korea), and that was enough for him.

Renshi LuckinghamI didn’t find a Kenpo school here, but I tried out the 3 mainline Korean styles of Tae Kwon Do, Tang So Do, and Moo Duk Kwan. I also tried Kyokushinkai, but finally fell in love with Tong Leong (Praying Mantis). It was that Sifu who introduced me to Tai Chi back in 1972. We didn’t do the form as much as we took more from Qigong and applied that to “mantis” techniques.

At this same time, I was introduced to Judo. This art seemed “impractical” to me, until I was offered an opportunity to pit my Kenpo against the Sensei. I was converted. Those of you who’ve seen the Gracie Brother’s realize how effective this grappling art is. All arts have their strengths and weaknesses, so cross training became an eventual goal when I decided to open a dojo someday years later.

One of my Judo Sensei also taught Kendo, which is exhausting. I learned something about Japanese etiquette from that man. One day, I was admiring a shinai (bamboo “sword” used in Kendo “play.”) He came up to me and said, “You like?” Of course, as a young man in my early 20’s I said, “Yes!” enthusiastically. His response was “You keep!”

“Oh no, I can’t take this.” He repeated himself, “You like?” I nodded that time. He said, “Good, you keep.” I realized a rejection of this offer would be an insult, so I smiled and said, “Thank you.”

Another favorite experience I received from Judo, which led to my studying Tai Chi eventually, was when I was 19, a brown belt going for black belt and a strong competitor at that time. My contest weight was 175, and I was 6’1″. One of my Sensei’s teachers was visiting. He was 4’11” and weighed about 105. He was 81 years “old.” The proper protocol as the senior student was to play him first. He moved slowly out to the center of the mat, so I thought I should go easy on him.

That was a mistake.

As soon as I touched him, he tossed me like a bad habit. I shook it off, figured he was “lucky” until he repeated the experience. I decided I should “step it up.” He threw me all over the place, and I couldn’t stop it. To add insult to injury, every time he threw me, I would see him bow and look down at me with a boyish grin on his face saying “Ahhh, very good, but you no try hard enough.” This became the standard for the rest of my session. I went through everything I had, except one technique, which I was bad at, and still don’t do that well. But, I had been working it for about 3 weeks, and thought I would give it a go, what did I have to lose?

When you execute a technique in Judo perfectly, you throw someone with absolutely no effort. There is a feeling associated with that. Well, wouldn’t you know I got that feeling, but unfortunately, I was distracted as in my mind I thought, “Woah& I got him!!” Well, that was enough to change the event horizon, and once again I got to see that stupid grin and hear him say “Ahhh.. VERY, VERY GOOD, but still, not try hard enough.”

I shook his hand and thanked him.

As I watched him toast the others, I thought to myself if I had just 10% of his ability when I reached 40, I would be on the right path. I also noted how clear his eyes were, how sharp his mind was, the texture of his skin was not “old,” and his bones weren’t brittle. His timing was perfect and overrode the fact he had no strength to speak of at 81 years of age. If this is what the martial arts has to offer, I’m in for good.

So I learned some Tai Chi from another Judo Sensei who knew it, attended workshops, and visited the Tai Chi Farm as most Tai Chi players did as part of their long-term experience. I was fortunate enough to run into Zibin Guo, a Chinese martial artist who taught Tai Chi and other Chinese “gung fu” systems. I didn’t know he taught Tai Chi, though. I met him at the Judo Club up at the University of Connecticut. He was a brown belt at that time. I was a 3rd degree black belt in Judo, and had a lot of experience by now. I say that to help the reader realize I should have had little trouble throwing the brown belt. However, his balance was incredible, and I had to ask how achieved it. He told me about his Tai Chi background. Until then, I had a cursory understanding of that art, but he said, he would help me get to the “root” of the art ;-)

My favorite story about my experience with Zibin was the day I came to him and asked him “Now what?” I asked that question because I felt I had done the Yang 24 posture short form “enough” now where I knew it. His response to me was “What you mean, now what?” I told him I knew the form, and I wanted to go on to something else. He said, “You do? You know the short form now?” I said, “yes” with confidence. He replied, “Good, ok… You teach me now.”

My life changed.

I opened the current dojo in Manchester in October of 1992. I had many over the years doing just Judo in back yards, barns, recreation centers, “YMCA’s”, and miscellaneous clubs east of the river. There was much frustration with these situations as I always had to answer to someone, and could never develop the Judo program the way I wanted to. My appreciation for Tai Chi and other arts could never be fully expressed, as the day-to-day bureaucracy required me to renegotiate contracts as often as every 8 weeks. Classes ended up suspended during those periods, so we often had to start over.

I decided I could not offer anything meaningful to my potential students so long as I had to share space with other organizations. I worked extra hours at my profession to save enough money for a good mat system, and found my current location to be “perfect.”

I didn’t want to limit the classes to Judo, because I saw the strengths and weakness of each art, and wanted to provide cross training capability to help students close those gaps. Most importantly, I felt Tai Chi was absolutely essential since it is really fundamentally the most sound of all the arts, and is really “underneath” them all. That’s why it’s considered the “Ultimate Supreme” of the martial systems. Students of any system that come through Tai Chi training talk about how it improved their understanding and execution of the other art “hands down.”

From the day Master Pancipanci told me he would teach me how to breathe, I have been indebted to the wisdom behind the martial way. There are no forms of exercise that offer so much to us as human beings as does any one of the arts when taught and studied in a traditional way. The “way” is consistent. It will never disappoint you or let you down. As long as you adhere to its principles, you can look forward to a rich, rewarding, and healthy life. There is only one requirement…

“Ah… very good, but you no try hard enough!”

Be well, and enjoy the journey…

Lucky Sifu/Sensei



After: Goshin Budokan USA

Tai Chi Moving for Better Balance Home Study Materials

Tai Chi Moving for Better Balance Instructor Guide and DVD

tai chi moving for better balance instructor guide and dvdNEW: Instructor guidebook with Parkinson’s protocol & DVD

The  Tai Chi Moving for Better Balance Instructor’s Guide and DVD provide the detailed information you need to plan a program (including a protocol for Parkinson’s) and weekly classes:

  • How to plan a weeks class and practice schedule, including a weekly planner (workbook)
  • Detailed Movement Practice:  extensive photo and written instructions, with supporting video

This Tai Chi Program represents the results of years of scientific research and community evaluations. It’s focus is on preventing falls through regular practice. Tai Chi, when practiced regularly, will improve one’s balance and reduce the likelihood of falling. (has been shown to reduce the risk of falling by as much as 55%).

The Tai Chi Moving for Better Balance Instructor Guide and DVD is the result of years of research, and leads instructors through planning and implementation of Tai Chi Moving for Better Balance classes, and includes the entire Student Guide for planning your learning program for the movements.

There are 8 single forms in the program, all of which are derived from the traditional, well-known, 24-Form Yang Style Tai Chi but tailored to community adults who wish to improve balance and mobility, and consequently, reduce the risk of falling.

The eight single forms are arranged in a progression from easy to more difficult. Each of these forms can be performed and practiced repeatedly as a single movement or in combination as part of a routine.

All forms adhere to the fundamental principles of traditional Tai Chi that involve weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing stances, correct postural body alignment, and coordinated movements performed in a slow,continuous, circular, and flowing manner.

Performance of the forms is closely coordinated with natural breathing, that is,each single movement is paired with the natural inhale and exhale breathing cycle.

Get your ” Tai Chi Moving for Better Balance” Therapeutic Tai Chi Fall Prevention Program planning started now using the  The Tai Chi Moving for Better Balance Instructor Guide and DVD.  Order Today!

Ancient Healing: Cutting Edge Care

Cross Country Education and Tai Chi Moving for Better BalanceLaddie Sacharko and Starfarm Tai Chi & Qigong Search Center are very pleased to announce a new 6 CCE Live Seminar series with Cross Country Education!

Use an Ancient Healing Technique to Provide Cutting Edge Care

Features CDC’s Tai Chi Moving for Better Balance.

PTCHIHAB-0916-1  Registration/Information

In this lab–intensive seminar, Master Trainer Laddie Sacharko shows you the clear distinctions between the Tai Chi of the scientific community and that which is found in popular culture. You will explore the spectrum of outcome categories, and then go in–depth with an analysis of one successfully demonstrated injury (fall) prevention protocol. Then you are invited to practice and demonstrate (teach) the simple exercises of CDC’s Tai Chi Moving for Better Balance. Mr. Sacharko prepares you to assess the correctness of the exercises, to plan a one on one intervention or small group activity, and to determine the appropriateness of a community based Tai Chi class or program. You will be ready to offer this technique to persons with impaired abilities and to make the necessary modifications to make this Tai Chi a powerful, personal self–healing moving meditation.  Learn the CDC’s Tai Chi Moving for Better Balance.

This Course is scheduled for:

Who Should Attend?

•Physical Therapists

•Physical Therapist Assistants

•Athletic Trainers

•Occupational Therapists

•Occupational Therapy Assistants

•Exercise Physiologists

•Personal Trainers

•Nursing Home Administrators

•Activity Professionals


Evidence Based Mind-Body Practices and the Physical Therapist

Extending the Continuum of Care with Tai Chi & Qigong  Two Options for Credit

Evidence based prevention, wellness, and therapy.

In this one day physical therapy continuing education course, participants will learn the basic set of evidence based Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance movements, a teaching protocol, and a method for planning/analyzing fidelity of program implementation.

8 Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy Continuing Competence Credits

American Tai Chi & Qigong Association . 7 CEU

NEW ! Two day (12 hours) physical therapy continuing education course. Gain knowledge and skills needed to Analyze community based Mind-Body programs, determine effects on planned or on-going treatment, discuss and document instructions to client, influence client preference. On day 1, participants will learn the basic set of evidence based Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance movements, a teaching protocol, and a method for planning/analyzing fidelity of program implementation. On day 2, participants learn and practice age old health improving/health maintenance practices (Qigong) with instructor, analyze these practices using a standardized framework, and discuss & document analysis and patient instructions.

12 Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy Continuing Competence Credits

Check back soon for fall dates, or contact us to schedule an in-house presentation at your practice.


visit our website:

Evidence Based Mind-Body Practices and the Physical Therapist