To all the faithful followers of Sensei Thong Nguyen,
I have been fortunate in my life to have had the opportunities to travel to many parts of the world and see life from numerous perspectives. I have also had the opportunity to meet and train with many excellent practitioners of different Martial Arts, and I have learned much. I have also been practicing and teaching for 70 years of my 82 years on this earth. I still enjoy teaching and continue to do so today.
As with many practitioners, I have found that as I get older I tend to look at my life from the past to the present and wonder, what have I done besides achieve knowledge, skills and experiences both good and bad. I ask myself was it worth dedicating my whole life to this path. Of course I would have to say yes otherwise I wouldn’t have lasted as long as I have. At first it was the pleasure of passing on knowledge and skills that I had accumulated over the years. Later, to see students learn and progress and walk away with more assurance and confidence while going about their daily lives. But now, I am much more philosophical about life and see many things differently than I had when I was a younger person.
When I meet other instructors I see beyond their physical skills and think more about their humanity. Anyone can be taught skills to varying levels. The more important question that comes to my mind is, what will this person do with such knowledge and skills? So studying the individual becomes much more important to me now. I have found that quite often, many who achieve skills and knowledge develop big egos which over shadows their abilities. The person that retains humility and humbleness is a far greater person in my estimation. This, I think is because he is happy with himself and doesn’t need to prove anything to others. This person has captured the true essence of gaining skill and power.
The reason I am wring this rather lengthy piece is that meeting Sensei Thong has rekindled a flame inside of me, and gives me a great joy to know there are still many wonderful people in the world who share my same feelings for the martial arts while retaining high morals and ethics. I feel privileged to have him as a friend and I know that I can learn much from him.
May you continue on your journey through life in good health.
~ Robert Koga Sensei
Founder of The Koga Institute, Inductee World Martial Arts Hall of Fame 1996, Inductee Martial Arts Hall of Fame 1998, Chief Defensive Tactics Instructor LA Police Academy, Ret. Detective LAPD 25 years.
If I were going to try and encapsulate the meaning and implications of KaizenTao, it would be to be perfectly human.
Introspection and accurate self-evaluation is required for constant growth, improvement, and specific skill building. This should be done while maintaining a tension free, pliable state of being. In order to adapt to new strategies, tactics, techniques and the ever-improving equipment options, one must remain a “student of the game” throughout one’s lifetime; inhabiting a form that is malleable, changed and guided by intelligent design. Knowing this and living this are two entirely different matters. This state of being is not obtained by mere observation and mental ascension, but honed and refined by force of will in the multiple dimensions of life.
Once infused with capabilities, the ability to handle, share and pass on these gifts in a useful, humble manner becomes the end game. There is no greater joy for a teacher. Our students are our greatest treasure.
I have had the opportunity, the blessing if you will of being involved in tactical training for military and law enforcement personnel for over 3 decades.
It’s a calling more than a vocation. It’s taken quite seriously as concepts presented to those we interact with have real world implications.
When I first was put in contact with Thong, I was immediately impressed with his genuine no-nonsense approach to the study of combatives; but more importantly his even stronger uncompromising approach to life, relationships and ethics. One of his mantras is “You cannot teach martial arts without teaching ethics. It’s like giving a loaded weapon to a child.”
After a “rough start” between us, over time it became evident that we had a unique synergy, a strong connection/bond between us with respect to our passion for brushing aside the useless, obtaining the truth and passing on that which is truly useful to those that go in harm’s way. Our backgrounds are remarkably similar on many levels…Scary!
Thong is highly skilled in multiple disciplines beyond fighting no doubt, but his expertise and value to those around him transcends a simple accumulation/collection of knowledge and achievements. His philosophy is encapsulated with his own statement: “There are many with skills out there. I am more impressed with those with ethics, good character and a willingness to share”.
Thong has taken the time through lengthy phone conversations and online Skype sessions to directly assist me in sorting out a myriad of previously unseen compromises and weaknesses I had allowed to reside not only in my body & movements but also in some key areas of my understanding.
We have since had the opportunity to meet in the tactical training environment. He immediately settled in with the students and my own teaching staff.
He did not strut; he served.
He did not take; he gave.
He did not try to climb to the top, but dug under in order to lift others up.
He did not overwhelm; he came alongside those seeking.
One cannot help but appreciate the fine music.
I look forward to the continued interaction with Thong and those that represent and make up what is KaizenTao.
Thank you Thong for who you are and your willingness to make the world a better place.
Best to all.
~ Ken J. Good
Former Commando of SEAL Team One, Founder of Combative Concepts , Founding Director of the SureFire Institute, Founder of Strategos International, Current Owner and Director of Progressive Combat Solutions, Exposure to Wrestling, JKD, & BJJ, Longer Study of Aiki jujutsu and RMA.
Classically, the “scientist” seeks to reveal and understand relationships that exist within the natural world and the “artist” forms and expresses new relationships from previously existing ones. It is rare that you find a person who demonstrates both and is capable of transcending beyond conventional labeling within contemporary martial arts training – especially in transmitting that insight to others. And yet, what appears to be so effortlessly presented by Thong Nguyen within the recently released “KaizenTao – Private Lesson with Professor Steve Kardian,” is the emergence of mastery through a return to a natural state.
What I love about Thong Nguyen’s style & manner of instruction is that it is not merely “cerebral” (pre-frontal cortex) through theory, memorization and analysis, but goes directly to the basil ganglia – through increased physical awareness and personal experience during a guided process of self-discovery, resulting in a dynamic shift of perspective. This is usually accompanied by the exclamation of “Wow!” resulting from the participant’s naturally occurring kinesthetic feedback. We comprehend this change through a process of actually FEELing, of re-learning structural linkages, balance, alignment, relaxation, breath control – as prior conditioning (training & experience), expectations and misunderstanding/application of fundamental principles are clarified or entirely removed. Proper, holistic instruction does that – it does not confine, limit, confuse or obstruct – it liberates, transcending that which would otherwise hinder through resistance, tension, ineffectiveness and inefficiency. In place of contention and competition with an opponent, a collaborative relationship is formed that yields an ever increasing capacity for options, while maintaining and advancing tactical initiative, as if by “magic.”
This video presentation is invaluable for the insights it provides and something much more… a reaffirmation of commitment to the process of continuous and never-ending learning, as both martial scientist and artist, championed by Professor Steve Kardian and his experience of KaizenTao firsthand. Regardless of our level of experience or training, we are always the lifelong student in the quest for truth, personal expression and the realization of our potential within the world… on the “Path to Continual Growth.”
~ Mitch Boudrot, Law Enforcement Training Program (LETP) Director and Tactical Operations Coordinator/Instructor, Division of Public Safety Training Center, Franklin, North Carolina; State, County, Municipal LEO Supervisor; Academy field instructor, investigator, SWAT operations & command; Deputy Sheriff and Police Officer. Associate Member Police Survival and Defense Institute (PSDI) National Training Center. North Carolina Certified Specialized Instructor Subject Control/Arrest Techniques (SC/AT), specialty certifications; Member of North Carolina Basic Law Enforcement Training SC/AT Revision Committee. Martial arts training: Sifu rank in Chinese Martial arts ie. Pa Lung Pai (Republic of China Martial Arts Association (RCMAA)), Kuo Su Shaolin (Sil Lum), T’ai Ch’i Ch’uan (Yang Family), Northern Shaolin Ch’ang Ch’uan/Southern Sil Lum systems, Taoist Tai Chi Society. 1982 Kung Fu Instructor nominee (Inside Kung Fu), Vladimir Vasiliev Systema, Hochheim Combatives, SPEAR System, pioneering Defensive Tactics of Robert K. Koga.
In my years of martial arts training, I have learned from a lot of different teachers, from a lot of different styles. Most of these teachers only demonstrate the physical level of the techniques. Training with Thong, I immediately noticed that he teaches from the inside out. He very sensitively guides the students to experience more of the feeling of a technique, rather than just its physical form. He also emphasizes how to receive techniques in a very sensitive manner, which he calls Smart Resistance. This is very important in order to develop both the students application and feeling for the technique.
I have experienced many styles of martial arts, but I have not studied them as deeply as Thong has. He has a tremendous knowledge of how to move all the different parts of the body naturally. He shares with his students how to use their minds to move the bodies in a most relaxed manner.
Not only with Thong’s words but through his actions, he demonstrates the importance of respect for others. Thong has so much to offer everyone on so many different levels.
~ Yoshi Shibata Sensei
Extensive background in Karate, Ogawa ryu, Yawara, Judo, Jujitsu and Aikijujitsu. Over 25 years of practicing, teaching and researching Aikido, Self-Defence. Teaches at University of California Santa Cruz.
Please allow me to share something that touches me very much. I’m writing this with a mind that is still racing, but in a very positive way. This morning at around 3am, I came home from a two day seminar with Thong Sensei. I’ve been practicing martial arts for over 30 years now, but always(one exception being, Systema) “Hard Styles”, or “Reality-Based Styles”. After hurting myself for the umpteenth time in training, after noticing that I’d begun to develop a closed mind when it came to martial arts, and after admitting to myself that Reality-Based Styles offer NO way whatsoever to develop myself as a human being, to cultivate openness and physical and mental health, I decided to stop teaching about two months ago.
I’d always had an interest in “Internal” Styles, but I never felt driven to really explore them. It seems I had to walk the path I did, before admitting to myself that it didn’t do anything for me anymore. As long as I can remember, I defined myself as “Norbert who does Full-Contact Combat Sports”. My friends and family had known me as that Norbert as well.
Now, the “Full-Contact” part of my self-definition had fallen away and left me with a big hole. A huge part of what I thought defined me was now missing.
So I was torn when my brother Alexander Schilgen called and told me that Thong Sensei would be holding a two day seminar in Munich. I was on the verge of leaving martial arts completely behind me. There were only two options: Quit and avoid the pain, or man up and face reality. Thankfully, I chose the latter and went to the seminar. Thong Sensei shattered every preconception, every assumption, every LIE I had built around my martial arts practice.
For the first time, I felt that mysterious emptiness Thong Sensei spoke about in his Facebook group. I really felt it, and it destroyed my Reality-Based Combat arrogance. Boy, did I feel humbled and ashamed for having been so pretentious… “Reality-Based always works!!!” — yeah, sure.
Funny how life goes. Thong Sensei has opened a new door for me, and I will now go exploring what lies behind it.
Thank you brother, Love you!
~ Norbert G. Matausch
Kyokushinkai Karate, Cadena, Wing Tsun, Systema, Senshido Instructor
I have been around martial arts for a few decades. After a decade in Asian Arts, including a good amount of Aikido, I spent a decade playing Capoeira. Then most recent decade was training in Systema under Sonny Puzikas for three years, under Vladimir Vasiliev for a couple of months, and with Mikhail Ryabko for a couple of weeks (over the years). I’ve taught for seven years since.
Last weekend a friend and I met up with Thong for some amazing southern BBQ outside of DC. We had driven up from Charlotesville, VA where we’d been working. The three hour meal turned out to be a continuous lesson from Thong whose enthusiasm for art and teaching is extraordinary.
Mostly the lesson was about relaxed strength. An example was to make an “OK” sign with index and thumb so they couldn’t be separated. It quickly became obvious that it could not be done with strength of the fingers. Although, Thong could consistently do it with his method, I was completely unable to hold my fingers together. Finally, he gave us a simple idea that could engage the type of strength to be successful. After a few fails, I was able to succeed enough to get a peek at a new way to concentrate. The most amazing thing was that it required me to find the sweet spot, which was to relax further than I had previously ever felt possible. If you resorted to a flinch, focused strength, it immediately brought excessive tension and the stress overwhelmed the joints and one couldn’t hold the fingertips together. But done lightly, with what I can best describe as fullness, I could hold the position.
This exercise was key as it was so simple and isolated that it let me see more clearly what later became more elusive. Since we were at a restaurant (with food on the table no less) all work was done from a closed space, as we looked at using relaxed intention to escape various holds, single and double. The scary part of it was to see how impossible it was to hold back Thong’s hand with a knife in it.
Best part was to see this work up close over good food, with my own two hands. Being critical of complicity of students, I was never more certain about the reality of quiet internal power than in this occasion where I could test it out for myself. I have felt similar things from teachers before but always thought it was because they were much stronger. I have seen work from relaxation before, and realized that I needed to relax more so this was not a new idea. But now, I just think I was not aware that the work needed to be THIS relaxed.
The trick now is to learn more while living a good distance away. Thanks Thong for your enthusiasm and generosity. That was an amazing meal and lesson, much appreciated by us both.
~ Marc Bresse
Instructor Systema(Ryabko/Vasiliev/Puzikas), Capoeira, Aikido
I started Systema in 2005 at a seminar of Mikhail Ryabko in Augsburg, which impressed me very much. After that, I learned with a small Systema group in Munich and took seminars and occasional private lessons from Andreas Weitzel. I had a feeling I’d learned a lot during these last couple of years and built up some very solid skills and knowledge… Until I got in contact with KaizenTao.
Since I first saw videos of Thong on Youtube a couple of years ago, I was interested in learning more about this way of moving. There was something behind it I couldn’t identify which looked incredibly powerful yet, effortless. Some things have to be felt and experienced to believe, so I was grateful when Thong gave us the opportunity to see and feel this first hand.
We learned how to create a free mobility by using our imagination which directly affects the people interacting with us. This is hard to believe but must be experienced first hand to appreciate! Thong showed us the effortless power of nothingness, which in my 30+ years of martial arts training, I had never come across! Sometimes it felt like I was slipping away on icy ground or being washed away by a wave while desperately trying to hold onto Thong for support.
Thong then gave us very clear explanations, exercises and background information on how to grow and develop these skills. I have learned much more than martial (movement) arts at this seminar. I had also learned many important life lessons. I’ve now changed a lot in my daily life to become a better person …. for my family and those around me! I still have to digest all the great impressions from this seminar in Munich, which still feels like a powerful but positive emotional earthquake.
This was definitely the best seminar in my life Thong! I can’t thank you enough for coming to Munich and sharing with us. We miss you very much every day. Thank you very much for all your guidance. While other’s preach… you do!
~ Alexander Schilgen
Judo, Shotokan/Fudokan Karate, Wing Chun, Latosa Escrima, Systema
I’m a VP at a very large US Defense Contractor. My job is extremely stressful, and takes me to very austere environments around the globe. I originally came to Thong seeking to gain more confidence in my abilities to protect myself and loved ones. This was vitally important to me while traveling to various assignments. However, I learned that his teachings were more valuable in my daily activities and how they improve every aspect of my life.Thong’s extensive background in multiple martial arts, dance styles and extreme sports provides him with an unbelievably high comprehension of human movement. He has translated his experiences into a unique art KaizenTao, and shares his expertise with dedicated pupils from all walks of life. Though I’ve trained in different styles of martial arts, I hadn’t mastered any of them. Thong was able to take what I knew, teach me how to modify it and apply them in a natural way.
Whether it’s negotiating in a corporate environment or walking a third world alley, his teaching have given me a clarity and calmness in handling these situations, I’ve never experienced before. KaizenTao helps you develop a very controlled mental state. From this mental state, your moves appear seamless and appropriate, no matter the obstacles you face. You learn to deal with things with calm and composure.
~ Jim Tran
Vice President, Defense and Federal Solutions, Harris Caprock
The mental aspects of human conflict permeate all components of class and lay the foundation for the lessons learned during each session. Thong has a fun and genuine group of people spanning a wide spectrum from professionals at the forefront of local and national security to dedicated martial artists to those with no experience in combative forms. Thong’s teaching exceeds everyone’s needs. His classes are invigorating, challenging, insightful, and always humbling. Regardless of your line of work, the lessons learned transcend individual combat and can be applied to daily life and tactical situations alike.
~ Major Matt Van Echo
Battalion Cmdr. Instructor Basic School USMC, Quantico VA, RSCO Central Florida
I began training with Mr. Thong Nguyen three years ago and in that time it’s been an excellent journey of discovery, not only of martial arts, but of concepts that are applicable to daily life. Thong’s teaching style is such that it cuts straight to the core without the hype and mysticism that many people try to preach.
From the first day in class you’ll know you’re in good hands as Thong sets the tone, with safety and honesty in training being of paramount importance. Classes are designed to place you in situations that mimic everyday real life scenarios that will stress you in a controlled environment and allow you to experiment with ideas to meet the confrontations, not a set pattern of moves. One of the greatest benefits of the training is learning to recognize and control the tension and stresses that work against us not only in combat, but also in our daily lives.
Learning to control that tension was key in my recovery from a nearly fatal, stress related, health incident. Since then, KaizenTao training has taken on a greater depth and meaning. My fellow students are some of the most talented, humble and generous martial artists I have ever met, and with no ranking system, there is no false pride that comes with empty titles. I’m fortunate to have found such a great class to train with and will miss it greatly when my time comes to leave. I would encourage anyone looking for a new and honest approach to martial arts to visit us.
~ Scott Kelley
Chief Warrant Officer 4, U.S. Army
I have had the pleasure of training with Mr. Thong Nguyen both as part of a group and on an individual basis. Mr. Nguyen’s extensive martial arts background combined with his other athletic pursuits (dance, cycling, rock climbing) creates a unique learning environment that is safe, informative and fun. Classes are a mixture of drills, conditioning, demonstrations and discussions that cover the gamut of combative ranges and situations: ground work, stand-up, weapons, personal safety, mobility, fluidity, breathing and release of tension and fear.
As Mr. Nguyen is not tied to one particular art, he is able to provide numerous options and responses for various situations. His instructional style and expertise allow him to work with students of varying skills and experience levels. Mr. Nguyen has established a training group that is non-competitive, helpful and enthusiastic. He is selective about those whom he will train and puts a premium on safety and proficiency. He displays a superlative level of generosity with his students and demands that his students work to be respectful of themselves and those around them. Quite simply he is a class act.
I highly recommend his classes to athletes, martial artists, LEOs and anyone else who is interested in learning new things, working hard and enjoying life.
~ Lieutenant D.G.
Police Officer, DC. Metropolitan Area
I am most fortunate to have studied several martial arts under the direction of tremendous instructors. However, until happening upon Mr. Thong Nguyen, I never felt any single art addressed all aspects of self-awareness or self-defense. The highest compliment I could offer, would be to say that Thong is not a martial arts instructor, he is a Teacher. I’m sure you can recall fondly a teacher in your life that made a profound impression. It is this rare gift that Thong imparts on all his students.
~ Brian Schmidt
BJJ Instructor Criminal Justice Academy, Fairfax, VA
You have arrived at the home for those seeking inspiration, compassion, integrity and truth. My relationship with Thong goes back to Systema in 2005 where by fate, we met at a week-long Russian Martial Arts camp in Ontario, Canada. The single greatest outcome of this camp was a friendship that is nearing ten years and through it all, I’ve had the privilege of seeing a commitment, KaizenTao, where the practitioners are not in search of the next best secret technique but, the Truth! After 20+ years involved in the Martial arts world, I now know how many practitioners must have felt, when they discovered JKD concepts. As a dentist, KaizenTao philosophy guides me as a professional and as human being, it has allowed me to discover and face some of the realities that I had been evading until now. It’s only then that I can be free!
~ Dr. Milad Bozorgnia
D.M.D., Roy Harris BJJ, Tae Kwon Do, Systema
I just met Thong at the “Three Paths One Journey” seminar hosted by Aikido of Roseville. To prepare for the workshop I took a tour of you tube to view as many videos as I could find. Although Thong’s approach is not “traditional Aikido” I did find a video of his ASU black belt test. This helped me put his movements into an Aikido context. I first started Aikido in 1967 with Kanai Sensei in Cambridge, MA. I have trained with USAF, ASU, Iwama, Shingu and other styles. What I found with Thong’s approach was one more arrow in the quiver. What I am finding is that once we go deeper than the form differences of the various styles, they are all the same. We are movement and there are many, many expressions.
Thong addressed relaxation as a precursor to effortless movement, and as a way to identify and to let go of fear. Then we moved on to visualizations and how a change of focus added to the effortless movement. Then using situations, not exactly techniques he showed how working on structure really made for effective movement. With the alignment gained from your structure you are able to create a very centered relationship with your partner. I really enjoyed the knife take a ways, very, quick, very effective. My only regret is that I am not able to train with him daily. He is based on the East Coast, if you get a chance to train, don’t miss out!
~ Jeff Black
Aikido since 1967, Kanai Sensei, USAF, ASU, Shingu, Iwama, Aikido & Healing Arts Center of Roseville, CA
I live in Buenos Aires, Argentine, where I work as psychiatrist. I found KaizenTao website by chance, around 2010, during my pursuit of further instruction. I´ve been into Aikido (Tohei Style, then Yoshigasaki Sensei Organization) for decades, actually holding 3rd degree black belt. Also been student for many years of Sifu James Wang Tsing, from Taichichuan Wang Style, student himself of Chen Man Ching.
In 2010, I went to Canada for a Systema Summit of Masters seminar with Mikhail Ryabko and Vladimir Vasiliev. On that trip, I met Thong and had the opportunity to practice under his instruction with his school. I was very happy to find Thong not only for his teaching and performing skills, but for his uncanny ability to understand each person, and help them go beyond their comfort zones, reaching into the Unknown. I cannot think of a better, worthier journey to follow since 2010. Thank you Thong.
~ Dr. Adrian Kertesz
Sandan under Koichi Tohei Shihan, Ki Society, Tai Chi Wang Style under Sifu James Wang Sing, Systema, Professor in Charge of the Chairs of Psychopathology and Psychotherapy II Group II of the School of Psychology at the University of Flores(1997-2003).
I am from Mexico City. I started training PHYSICALY MA 35 years ago. 15 years ago in 1999 my REAL MA training started when I met my mentor Robert Koga, this was precisely the reason I met Thong. He has the sad experience of met a Koga “instructor” in his town who gave a bad impression of what Bob Koga really was as person and his method. I invite Thong to met my mentor in California.
After meeting Thong I realize how different he was as person and Martial Artist. His way of teaching and interact was a demonstration of REAL Martial Arts.
After this meeting I have the honor to visit him in Washington and he open the door to me to discover a lot of things that he mention I already have, but not have a clear idea of how to approach them. After that, my MA journey have improve 1000%. I thank Thong for this gift.
I recommend anyone who really want to learn about MA and have the discipline, the basic MA education and good manners, to approach Thong and learn from him.
Thank you Thong for your teachings and your brotherhood.
~ Josafath Herrera
Founder and Director of Spiral Academy and Inkoga. Systema, Self-Defence, Security Consultant, Trainer of Law Enforcement, Bodyguards and Military in Mexico.
Joining KaizenTao is a life changing event. In retrospect, I was like a frog living in a well and thought that the sky was this BIG, only as big as the size of my place. Now though I am still the frog but I have come to learn that the world is really much bigger than the size of my well. Thong, Thanks for your insightful teachings, which helps me connect the dots from my past; Thanks for your guidance, which helps me on my soul searching and become more self-disciplined; Thanks for being exemplary of highest standard of conducts and Thanks for you passions and love to all of us!
~ Mitchell Wu
Tai Chi Practitioner 40+ years
The longer I train with Mr. Thong Nguyen the broader and deeper the ramifications of his teaching. The training has had a major impact in all areas of my life, affecting not only my other martial training and teaching, but also my work, sense of self and, especially, ability to deal with stress. Many teachers say all the right things regarding martial arts training, but I’ve never met a teacher as deeply committed as Mr. Nguyen to his student’s actual growth. The magic of Mr. Nguyen’s classes is not so much his martial arts and movement skills, though they are prodigious, but his commitment and ability to transmit his knowledge to every student in class. In my 27 years in martial arts training, I have never seen this unique quality in any other martial arts master.
~ Nick Kiritz
Chief Instructor Georgetown Aikikai, Godan Aikido Schools of Ueshiba, DC Impact/Model Mugging Self-Defense National Trainer
Being a teacher of mathematics I’m well-aware of the challenges faced in teaching a powerful tool grounded in fundamentals which must be practiced until they are mastered. The teacher must be knowledgeable and capable at all levels and must be able to communicate the ideas, methods and results, all clearly and effectively. Thong has this ability more than any other martial-arts teacher I have known. He is clear about the goal of training both physically and mentally and he intuitively understands which methods will effectively pass that training information on to his students so that we too can easily see where we are going and how we will get there. Moreover he does this sincerely and honestly and with an open heart, holding back nothing. His interest is in mutual respect, understanding and sharing of the methods and goals. This is precisely how teaching should be.
~ Dr. Justin Wyss-Gallifent
Senior Lecturer, Mathematics UMCP, Contact Improv Dancer, Shodan Aikido Schools of Ueshiba
I trained with Thong in May 2014, during a three-day seminar near Sacramento, California. Thong taught how to stayed connected and relaxed while under stress…. then freedom and ki emerges. His beautiful martial arts style is soft, yet very powerful. However, even with his intense martial skills, I always felt safe training with Thong, because he always displayed respect and humility during the seminar.
And his personal behavior is consistent with his seminar teachings. Since that seminar, I’ve continued to communicate with Thong. He always shares the importance of honesty, integrity, and discipline, as he continues to be very supportive of who I am and my aikido path.
Thong’s path is much more than a martial art….it’s the true budo path of continuous evolution – Kaizen Tao.
Thanks for being who you are, Thong!
~ Clifford Bernstein, PhD
Trained Aikido since 1978 under Frank Doran Sensei and Robert Nadeau Sensei, Tom Gambell Sensei.
It is an honor to have begun the path of “Continual Progress” with Thong as my teacher. His generosity in sharing precise and expert knowledge, and his ability to crystallize a group of conscientious people around him is extraordinary. I immediately felt as part of the group, learning an amalgamation of many arts and seeing them applied first hand in a practical and devastating way. I find Thong’s explanations and personal attention very helpful. His awareness of what is happening around the room and his expectation of excellence generates the best from everyone and brings out hard and honest training. I am truly thankful to him for sharing his wonderful art.
~ Matt Hiller
Visuo-Cognitive Therapist, Aikido Schools of Ueshiba
I first met Mr. Thong Nguyen when I was trying to learn to dance Salsa. I was fascinated by the beauty of his movements and the ease of his lead with a beginner as myself. Coincidentally, I was considering enrolling in a self-defense course because of a recent break-in where I came face to face with the burglar. Thong was kind enough to invite me to take his class instead, and thus began my journey with KaizenTao.
In three years of KaizenTao training, I have learned much about myself and my interactions with others. Through the study of movement, I am beginning to take control of my thoughts and actions by being more present and aware of my surroundings. I have also learned to be more accountable by doing away with my ego and better recognizing my mistakes in order to fix them. With every class, we explore situational scenarios to unlock new possibilities. KaizenTao, is more than a study of Martial Arts or Movement; it is a Way of Life.
Thank you very much Thong for all your guidance and giving me the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful family.
~ Vanessa M. D. Vargas
BS in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, MS in Marine Science, MS in Marine, Esturarine and Environmental Science Major: Environmental Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.
I have learned from Thong that the manner in which we train is as important as the manner in which we approach training. Everyone in his class shows up each week with a spirit of both self and group improvement. Our success is measured by the growth of the group as a whole as much as it is by the destruction of personal barriers, such as tension or weakness. Such a supportive, non-competitive training environment is a rare gift, and one which continues to impress, improve, and deliver results to the whole group, and not simply individuals within it. I have learned so much from Thong, and from everyone he welcomes in his class, and have learned it in such a way that it is a small step to apply it to the non-martial areas of everyday life, whether this means stress management, awareness in the workplace, or even physical health. The applications of KaizenTao are as diverse as its origins, and I am honored by the privilege to train it.
~ Kevin Boyd
International Relations Analyst, Aikido Schools of Ueshiba
The martial arts training I’ve received under Mr. Thong Nguyen is the best combatives training program I’ve ever seen. I’ve never found any martial art this complete. As a Marine we need to be both physically fit and ready for combat at any moment and KaizenTao helps to accomplish these goals. Combatives aside, I’ve been able to heal my mind and body and through specialized drills and exercises. A severe shoulder injury I have is progressively healing through this training. This martial art is for everyone whether you need to get in shape, heal your body, relax, learn self-defense or just have a good time. It has improved the quality of my life in every aspect. Semper FI
~ Lance Corporal Jon Skeens
USMC, Muay Thai, Shodan Aikido Schools of Ueshiba
I discovered Mr. Thong Nguyen’s teachings only 8 months ago, and in that time I have grown very much as a martial artist and a person. Coming from a boxing background, I expected simply a different flavor of what I already knew, and a few cool tricks. What I found, however, has been a system of studying the body and its movements which has changed the way I interact with the world around me in a very positive direction. Instead of tricks, Thong has shared unique principles which have helped me to handle physical challenges and has strengthened my body better than anything I have ever trained in commercial gyms. Additionally, all of this is taught in a safe, helpful, and learning environment. There are no ranks or belts. The sincerity and dedication from Thong and all my classmates has allowed for realistic training without hesitation, because we know that everyone will leave uninjured.
~ Langston Clarke
Army Boxer, USMA West Point
Thong Nguyen is the premier martial arts teacher. He is truly a master at his craft and has helped me become more than I’ve ever expected as a person and a martial artist. His teachings are applicable for combat as they are in the business world and daily life.
It was not until I met my KaizenTao teacher Thong Nguyen that I could see clearly the “art” in the “martial arts”. He opened a whole new world for me, and helped me better understand myself and true purpose of martial art training— he is a true master of his art. Thong’s lessons provide inspiration and direction, he teaches with love and care and he gives his all to his students — as a student one can’t ask for more than that from his teacher.
~ Bojan Valovic
Painter/Graphic Designer, DC. Aikido, Michael Veltri Shodan
KaizenTao, as taught by Mr. Thong Nguyen, is magical, joyous and astonishing indeed. Thong assures your safety first, then opens up your abilities in multiplicitous ways you would never have even conceived. Gentle, precise and self-effacing, Thong’s personal touch transforms your perceptions and leads you into a realm of infinite possibilities. Meanwhile, like true masters (who are rare), he denies his own mastery.
~ Dr. Percy Walcott
Master Taijiquan, Tae Kwon Do, Judo Master Yang, Sandan Aikido Schools of Ueshiba
I’ve trained in various martial arts since I was eight years old; however, I almost always felt as if tradition, secrecy, and closed minds obscured the fundamental value and true application of the techniques. When I was fortunate enough to find Mr. Thong Nguyen’s KaizenTao classes, I was astonished and humbled at the value of his teachings, and the honorable humanity that he and his group of students display. The training approaches combat in a realistic, natural manner. Moreover, Thong is a teacher in the truest sense; he genuinely cares about the well-being and progress of his students. Training at KaizenTao has not only vastly expanded my understanding of combative arts, but has also greatly improved my character, discipline, and mindset. I cannot begin to adequately describe the tremendous benefits Thong has imparted upon myself and all of his students through his exemplary teachings.
~ Thomas Brennan
Phd Candidate in Neuro-psychology, American University
Shaolin Hung Fut, Tae Kwon Do, Shackle Hands, Kupigana Ngumi, Tai Chi Chuan
While my association with KaizenTao began only recently, I can attest that its principles are immediately transferable to all other areas of study, sport, work, and life, generally. For me, it is as much an awakening of the mind and body and their collective ability as it is effective self-defense training. Thong Nguyen is a masterful and generous instructor who is both willing and eminently able to share a lifetime of training and experiences in art (martial and otherwise) and sport to ensure that his very effective method of training can be learned and applied in a safe, honest, and non-competitive environment. The very intentionally-developed culture of KaizenTao is perceptible – literally – within seconds. In short, the art of KaizenTao reflects the teaching methodology of Thong Nguyen and vice versa – both are pure, honest, effective and contain nothing superfluous.
~ Michael Haley
EVP – Finance, MASN (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network)
Whilst recently recording in DC, I was privileged enough to attend some KaizenTao classes. I was blown away. Thong is quite simply one the most interesting and brilliant people I’ve ever met. It was an inspiration to be in the presence of someone so clearly in love with his art form, and so passionately committed to executing it with brilliance. Although Thong personally rejects the term “Master” in regards to himself, one cant help but observe that he is a true, great master of the Martial Arts, and that it’s a privilege to be learning from him.
Whilst in class I felt myself, and fellow students, giving a 110% to each lesson, such is the feeling Thong inspires in his students. I found his commitment, his concern for the safety of his students and his open, friendly and generous teaching style, a humbling and memorable experience. In conclusion, for me Thong is a great artist, and a huge inspiration. I feel privileged to have met him and studied in his class. Thank you Thong. …. (p.s… he’s also privy as to where to find some fantastic restaurants in the DC area. Ask him nicely and he’ll let you know. :0)
~ Jack Rubinacci
Songwriter, International Recording Artist
My journey in KaizenTao began in 2006 when I started training with Mr. Nguyen as a dance student. Although I had trained several forms of dance ranging from Ballet to Ballroom Dancing for nearly 20 years, I had never realized how disconnected I was from my mind and body and how much excessive tension was hindering my performance. KaizenTao allowed me to release these tension and provided me with the tools to locate my “brakes.” The more I trained with Mr. Nguyen, the more I’d realized how superficial my knowledge really was. My rapid transformation naturally sparked an interest for the martial arts, perfection of motion and self-awareness training. This training has helped me to see that most of my weaknesses stemmed from an overall attitude I had towards life. KaizenTao has really changed my life!
~ Krystel G. Armand
C.P.A. KPMG, Ballet, Latin, Champion Ballroom Dancer
Mr. Thong Nguyen has a unique ability to teach a very diverse group of students – from beginners to accomplished martial artists and security professionals – in such a way that each student is appropriately challenged and none is overwhelmed or left behind. The students are a remarkably warm and considerate group, and Mr. Nguyen’s absolute emphasis on safety allows them to move beyond their comfort zone and explore their limits without fear of injury. Rather than achieving rank through the memorization of techniques, classes teach the practical fundamentals that underlie all effective martial arts.
~ Julia Blue
Portfolio Analyst US African Development Foundation, Silat, Aikido Schools of Ueshiba
Thong is fond of saying, what he teaches is movement. When I joined this class several months ago, I was stiff and brittle–almost as if my joints had ossified. If you had told me then that I would be dodging knife attacks, rolling backwards over a floor without pads, and taking un-gloved strikes to the face–all without suffering injury–I would have said you were crazy. Yet here I am. I have no prior extended experience with martial arts and was never particularly athletic, but, in what feels like no time at all, Thong now has me moving in ways I never thought possible. He is truly a gifted teacher. Coupling his profound understanding of the body with his uncanny ability to instantly read an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, Thong has created an environment where progress is especially quick and injury especially rare. His classes are challenging, energizing, relaxing and fun. I have never experienced anything like this. KaizenTao is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
~ Danny Kampf
BA Political Science, George Washington University
I have been with Thong for about a three and a half years now and am very proud to be under his guidance. It has been the best of pleasures to learn under his translucent belt. As a young eager martial artist, I have been in a lot of different schools (dojo, dojang, studio), but being in KaizenTao is a whole different experience. The attitude and sincerity in class is a whole new aura that is difficult to grasp. When in class not only do we learn the martial arts, but also about life in a primal way. Everyone works to not only improve themselves but to help one another in a non-egotistical way which makes the class so very genuine. Thong is truly the master teacher.
~ Theerasak Punngam
Photographer, Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, Aikido Schools of Ueshiba
What People Say…
To all the faithful followers of Sensei Thong Nguyen,
I have been fortunate in my life to have had the opportunities to travel to many parts of the world and see life from numerous perspectives. (more…)
Robert Koga SenseiFounder of Koga Institute, Chief DT Instructor LAPD 25 yrs.
If I were going to try and encapsulate the meaning and implications of KaizenTao, it would be to be perfectly human.
Introspection and accurate self-evaluation is required for constant growth, improvement, and specific skill building. (more…)
Classically, the “scientist” seeks to reveal and understand relationships that exist within the natural world and the “artist” forms and expresses new relationships from previously existing ones. It is rare that you find a person who demonstrates both (more…)
In my years of martial arts training, I have learned from a lot of different teachers, from a lot of different styles. Most of these teachers only demonstrate the physical level of the techniques. Training with Thong, I immediately noticed that he teaches from the inside out. (more…)
Yoshi Shibata SenseiAikido, Karate, Ogawa ryu, Yawara, Judo, Jujitsu, Aikijujitsu
Please allow me to share something that touches me very much. I’m writing this with a mind that is still racing, but in a very positive way. This morning at around 3am, I came home from a two day seminar with Thong Sensei. (more…)
Norbert G. MatauschKyokushinkai Karate, Wing Tsun, Systema, Senshido
I have been around martial arts for a few decades. After a decade in Asian Arts, including a good amount of Aikido, I spent a decade playing Capoeira. Then most recent decade was training in Systema (more…)
I started Systema in 2005 at a seminar of Mikhail Ryabko in Augsburg, which impressed me very much. After that, I learned with a small Systema group in Munich and took seminars and occasional private lessons from Andreas Weitzel. I had a feeling I’d learned a lot during these last couple of years and built up some very solid skills and knowledge… Until I got in contact with KaizenTao. (more…)
Alexander SchilgenJudo, Karate, Wing Chun, Latosa Escrima, Systema
I’m a VP at a very large US Defense Contractor. My job is extremely stressful, and takes me to very austere environments around the globe. I originally came to Thong seeking to gain more confidence in my abilities to protect myself and loved ones. (more…)
The mental aspects of human conflict permeate all components of class and lay the foundation for the lessons learned during each session. Thong has a fun and genuine group of people spanning a wide spectrum from professionals at the forefront (more…)
Major Matt Van EchoBattalion Cmdr. Instructor Basic School USMC, Quantico VA
I began training with Mr. Thong Nguyen three years ago and in that time it’s been an excellent journey of discovery, not only of martial arts, but of concepts that are applicable to daily life.Thong’s teaching style is (more…)
Scott KelleyChief Warrant Officer 4, U.S. Army
I have had the pleasure of training with Mr. Thong Nguyen both as part of a group and on an individual basis. Mr. Nguyen’s extensive martial arts background combined with his other athletic pursuits (dance, cycling, rock climbing) creates a unique learning (more…)
Lieutenant D.GPolice Officer, DC Metro Area
I am most fortunate to have studied several martial arts under the direction of tremendous instructors. However, until happening upon Mr. Thong Nguyen, I never felt any single art addressed all aspects of self-awareness or self-defense. (more…)
Brian SchmidtBJJ Instructor Criminal Justice Academy, Fairfax, VA
I just met Thong at the “Three Paths One Journey” seminar hosted by Aikido of Roseville. To prepare for the workshop I took a tour of you tube to view as many videos as I could find.Although Thong’s approach is not “traditional Aikido” (more…)
I live in Buenos Aires, Argentine, where I work as psychiatrist. I found KaizenTao website by chance, around 2010, during my pursuit of further instruction. I´ve been into Aikido (Tohei Style, then Yoshigasaki Sensei Organization) for decades,actually holding 3rd degree black belt. (more…)
Dr. Adrian KerteszSandan under Koichi Tohei Shihan, Ki Society, Tai Chi Wang
I am from Mexico City. I started training PHYSICALY MA 35 years ago. 15 years ago in 1999 my REAL MA training started when I met my mentor Robert Koga, this was precisely the reason I met Thong. (more…)
Josafath HerreraTrainer of LE, Bodyguards and Military in Mexico
Joining KaizenTao is a life changing event. In retrospect, I was like a frog living in a well and thought that the sky was this BIG, only as big as the size of my place. Now though I am still the frog but I have come to learn (more…)
Mitchell WuTai Chi Practitioner 40+ years
The longer I train with Mr. Thong Nguyen the broader and deeper the ramifications of his teaching. The training has had a major impact in all areas of my life, affecting not only my other martial training and teaching, but also my work, sense of self (more…)
Nick KiritzChief Instructor Georgetown Aikikai, Godan ASU
Being a teacher of mathematics I’m well-aware of the challenges faced in teaching a powerful tool grounded in fundamentals which must be practiced until they are mastered.The teacher must be knowledgeable and capable at all levels (more…)
Dr. Justin Wyss-GallifentSenior Lecturer, Mathematics UMCP, Contact Improv Dancer
The martial arts training I’ve received under Mr. Thong Nguyen is the best combativestraining program I’ve ever seen. I’ve never found any martial art this complete. As a Marine we need to be both physically fit and ready for combat at any moment and KaizenTao helps (more…)
Lance Corporal Jon SkeensUSMC, Muay Thai, Shodan Aikido Schools of Ueshiba
KaizenTao, as taught by Mr. Thong Nguyen, is magical, joyous and astonishing indeed. Thong assures your safety first, then opens up your abilities in multiplicitous ways you would never have even conceived.Gentle, precise and self-effacing, Thong’s personal touch
Dr. Percy WalcottMaster Taiji, Tae Kwon Do, Judo Master Yang, Sandan ASU
I’ve trained in various martial arts since I was eight years old; however, I almost always felt as if tradition, secrecy, and closed minds obscured the fundamental value and true application of the techniques. When I was fortunate enough to find Mr. Thong Nguyen’s KaizenTao classes, (more…)
Thomas BrennanShaolin Hung Fut, TKD, Shackle Hands, Kupigana Ngumi
I trained with Thong in May 2014, during a three-day seminar near Sacramento, California. Thong taught how to stayed connected and relaxed while under stress…. then freedom and ki emerges. His beautiful martial arts style is soft, yet very powerful.
Cliff BernsteinTrained Aikido since 1978 under Frank Doran Sensei