Robert Gott took up martial arts in his youth as a way to improve his health.
“I had a lot of physical challenges as a young man, mostly stress-related,” said Gott, of Eden. “ I knew that martial arts was going to take care of that.”
What started out as a healthy hobby blossomed into a career and a way of life. Nearly 40 years later, Gott is now the owner and instructor of Red Dragon School of Martial Arts in Hamburg. He recently returned from China, where he took home two gold medals and one silver in an international tai chi competition.
Sifu Robert Gott practices one of his 67 movements in the straight sword form in his studio at Red Dragon School of Martial Arts, located in the McKinley Mall.
Gott participated in the Traditional Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Fourth International Invitational Tournament, which is held every five years in China’s Shanxi Province.
“Most people in the tai chi world know that Shanxi Province in China is like the mecca of tai chi,” Gott said. “It pulls players from all over the world.”
Gott competed against over 50 people in his division in three events. He took home gold for the 49 Movement Hand Form and the 67 Movement Straight Sword Form.
“You are imagining you are with another person, you are blocking, striking and countering, implementing martial applications in a series,” he said when describing the nature of the events.
He earned silver in the Saber Form. “The Saber is a faster, more dynamic movement. Most people see tai chi practiced slowly,” said Gott. “The saber shows the quality of tai chi at more fighting speed.”
Gott was also awarded two golds and one silver in the same events when the previous tournament was held in 2007.
Though he was up against talented opponents, Gott believes he came out on top because of his spirited performance.
“When most people do tai chi, they look pretty calm and almost like they’re meditating. But one of the measurable qualities that people — especially judges in a competition — want to see is the spirit of the movement,” Gott explained. “I tend to practice tai chi with a higher level of spirit than most do, and that’s my edge.
“You have to put your mind in the moment....I imagine that I am working with my perceived opponent.”
Representing the U.S. in the international tournament was a “very proud moment” for Gott.
“I am immersed in Chinese arts, but through and through I’m American,” he said. “It was such a great honor to represent the U.S. in such a prestigious event.”
Yet perhaps more exciting than Gott’s success in the tournament was the chance to immerse himself in different cultures.
“It was so cool, you sit down at dinnertime in between events and you are sitting across from someone from Madagascar or Australia, or New Zealand,” Gott said.
He added that he relished the chance to sightsee during his stay. “I have seen and practiced in many temples in China. I have been to the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square,” he said.
Above all, Gott said the best reward the competition offered was good health.
“The real true benefit shows up after (the tournament), the health benefit you get from all the extra work you did. That’s way more valuable than the medals,” he said.
Gott said tai chi helps maintain a “vibrant, youthful vigor,” as well as balances the body’s blood circulation.
“You can’t be afraid to commit to your health. It’s worth it,” he said.
At his school, Gott teaches classes for all levels of health and expertise. The Red Dragon School of Martial arts offers tai chi, Hung Gar kung fu as well as lessons in chi-kung, which means “energy work.”
“These are simplified exercises where you can stand still and push your blood around and it would improve your circulation. Anybody can do that, no matter what your medical condition is,” Gott said. The school also offers free lessons to children with autism.
For anyone interested in martial arts, Gott encourages them to stop by for a free trial lesson at the Red Dragon School at 3701 McKinley Parkway, Suite 832 (inside the McKinley Mall).
For more information, visit their website at www.reddragonschool.com.