Craig Kiessling - Northern Shaolin Kung Fu and Tai Chi Instructor

Sifu Craig Kiessling brings over 20 years experience as a Northern Shaolin Kung Fu teacher to PATHS Atlanta, as well as his learnings in various other styles throughout the years.

He also lends his experience and expertise in SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Online Marketing (Social Media, Analytics, etc.), WordPress, Web Development and more as our resident Webmaster (he did the same thing for Hiyaa – the Martial Arts Podcast, his "day-job," his personal website and other side projects as well).

Martial Arts History

Sifu Craig has enjoyed the martial arts since early childhood. After a brief stint in Japanese Karate, Craig quickly realized that he was addicted to the martial arts, and later, Qigong as well.

Craig has given various lectures at UGA (The University of Georgia), appeared on Channel 11’s Noonday program and in various print articles, and has given many demonstrations around the state of Georgia. As a practitioner himself, he has competed, placed and judged in various martial arts tournaments.

As a lifetime student, Craig has devoted time in Atlanta and South East Asia, (living in 大巴窯 Toa Payoh, Singapore for over five years) to gain exposure and experience in various martial arts, such as:

External to PATHS Atlanta Kung Fu, Craig has a fulltime SEO job and a couple of similar freelance gigs. He is also father to his daughter (and cat) and husband.

Currently he is also working on a few other Kung Fu – related projects like:

  • Building a fairly comprehensive online Student Center for his Kung Fu students, that would include things like:
    • Student Courses, matched to student rank, drip-fed, with multimedia, quizzes and resources to learn more
    • Administrative Tasks for Sifu of Tuition, Student Management, Online Course Management, Attendance, Lesson Planner, Event Creation, etc., all tied-in to individual logins
    • Gamification – earning points, ranks, levels, etc. for accomplishing certain online tasks
    • Trivia Games
    • Social Network
    • Events
    • News feeds featuring content on issues we all seem to have in common
    • Interactive Playlists for students to suggest, vote up / down specific tracks in playlists we listen to during class
    • …And much more, if you can believe it!
  • Constantly researching and writing new informative documents for my students
  • Tweaking the very website you are on right now
  • And still others. Yes – a full plate!

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Teaching Style and Philosophy

Sifu Craig absolutely loves teaching.

"Every time I see that light-bulb moment in a student, I’m rewarded for my teaching."

He is passionate about teaching and it shows.

"Everybody gets personal attention and instruction. It’s all about personal progress – not some sort of competition, nor is adversely a group-progression kind of thing."

One of the ways he brings his Kung Fu training to his teaching is by using peripheral vision. Often, while pacing among the students, giving corrections or more material here and there, he will stop, point to someone he’s not looking at and say "Lower your right heel," or some other such advice. Not a boasting of skill, but rather an every-class admittance to his care for every student to make progress.

What can you expect in a Sifu Craig Class?

Every class has tradition. It has physical exercises. It has Qigong. Principles and Theories. Hands-on Applications. Philosophy. Chinese Language.

And yes even more.

Sifu Craig likes to help his students develop what he calls "Physical Intelligence."

He does this by promoting a fine-level of detailed awareness; ensuring that the body is just so; proper structure and alignment of the physical anatomy helping balance, strength and so much more.

Aside from that, he does not support the idea of buying rank. "Instead," he says, "everyone moves at his or her own pace. If they believe they are ready for the next material, I’ll check and see that they truly are."

"And, on the flip side," he continues, "communication is a two-way street. If they are starting to feel a little overwhelmed, I need to know to back off a little bit. And then we will simplify and establish focal points of drilling for that individual student. It’s great to have a lot of cool Kung Fu stuff to practice, but if you don’t really know what to focus on, it’s easy to get lost."

A small listing of some of Sifu Craig’s quotes and focal points in his teaching:

  • Principle over Technique
  • Almost everything we do has Martial Application, from warm-up exercises and bows, to the more obvious combative tactics
  • Relax
  • Use your own body as a measuring apparatus
  • Harmonize. As above, so Below (Hands and Feet)
  • Harmonize. Breath with Movement.
  • Philosophical Theories must be understood, tested and applied. Martially and elsewhere.
  • Root. Center. Relax. Structure. Awareness.

But, like most people, there is more to Sifu Craig Kiessling’s life than just these things…

Outside of the Martial Arts

"Like most people, I imagine," he says, "I had to pare down my side-interests as I got older. There just isn’t enough time to get into all of the interesting things life has to offer. But I’ve gotten into a lot over the years."

When not actively engaged in martial arts or related activities, Sifu Craig enjoys reading both fiction and non-fiction. He enjoys music. "Although my genres of music-interest are fairly wide, I’m not much of a concert person. For that kind of thing, I prefer small, intimate settings of acoustic."

A subscriber of Netflix, he also enjoys a wide variety of TV Shows, movies and Documentaries – both foreign and domestic. "But," he says, "I just recently bought us a Roku TV…And WOW!"

Aside from work and teaching – related activities online, Sifu Craig says he wouldn’t call himself "a legit gamer, really. But I do play a lot of online games. I’m just not that very good at them. They’re fun though."

When asked what types of games he enjoys, Sifu Craig says "mainly MMORPG (Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Games). I played DnD (Dungeons and Dragons) as a kid and MUDs (Multi-User Dungeon) in junior college, so I guess it grew from that nerd side in me. Some FPS (First-Person Shooter) I play as well, from time to time. I have quite a few games on my computer; it just depends on what I feel like playing at the time."

"Although," he admits, "I do have an iPhone, so I have a few casual games I play as well. Come to think of it…I actually wrote the questions and answers for a Martial Arts category on a popular trivia / quiz app-game. But the developers mis-typed some of them. Grumble Grumble."

He also enjoys physical games like Mahjong. "I learned to play it when I lived in Singapore and when I came back, I ended up teaching quite a few people how to play. It kinda grew into a thing; we were hosting Mahjong parties several times a month, with attendees numbering close to 30. We taught. We played. We held challenges. Just pretty great times. I was even in the midst of building a local organization, but that kinda fell through. But I still love the game."

He clarifies that the Mahjong game "is not the online or computer solitaire tile-matching game. No, this is where that game was inspired by. It’s a 4-person (although fewer can play – it’s just not as fun) table game. Like martial arts, there are a variety of styles. Although I know a few, I usually end up playing HKOS (Hong Kong Old Style) or a Singaporean variant."

Sifu Craig is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, having been born and raised in the North Atlanta areas of Roswell, Alpharetta and Dunwoody. "Yeah, those places are very different today than when I grew up there. If you look at the Wikipedia entry for Roswell, Georgia, and scroll through – I’ve got a personal story about each and every place shown in the photographs. Lot’s of memories…"

There is a lot to Sifu Craig. "The rest, and probably more interesting bits," he says, "they’ll have to learn in person. We often hang out socially after class, have some drinks and share stories. They can get a lot from that."

Here’s a few interesting tidbits:

Fast Facts about Sifu Craig

  • Lived in a VW Bug
  • Lived in New Orleans
  • Came close to getting a Series 63 license, before the company was brought down by the SEC
  • Use to shoot pool fairly regularly
  • Was once a regular on the dance floor
  • Worked as a shoe-shine boy

Sifu Craig currently lives near downtown Decatur with his wife, daughter and cat.

For a more personal look, check out the Hiyaa Martial Arts Podcast Interview with Craig, or visit his personal website at www.craigkiessling.com.

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