ZXD Academic Approach : “Beginner Mind, Zen Mind, Observing Mind”

“Beginner Mind, Zen Mind, Observing Mind”
Certificates of Completion Awarded by Grandmaster Sam F.S. Chin, Honorary Professor Emeritus to students at
Cabrini University / Radnor, PA USA. 12 December 2022

The ZXD Academic Approach Team (Nancy Watterson, Lan Tran, and Rich Kelly) has been busy this academic year 2022-2023!  

On December 12, 2022. Members of Cabrini University’s Balance Learning Community received certificates of successful completion of the global curriculum of the Martial Art of Awareness (Zhong Xin Dao / I Liq Chuan, specifically the new “Beginner’s Mind, Zen Mind, Observing Mind—Entry Level program” developed by Honorary Professor Emeritus: and Grandmaster Sam Chin.  They are the first students to complete this program in a university setting, studying the practice as part of their American Studies class “Conflict and Cooperation” co-taught by Lan Tran and Nancy Watterson, a fully-academic 3-credit course that also fulfills part of the general education core that addresses cultural dimension and civic engagement. Students explore their own values while integrating ZXD’s curriculum and movement-based kinesthetic learning as a tool for learning about awareness and the process of ‘learning how to learn’. in a university setting, in a course that fulfills the  general education requirement.

Inst. Rich Kelly guides students in skills-building activities that offer tangible practices for engaging with others respectfully—foundations for civic consciousness grounded in compassion.


To help the students prepare for the Entry-level program, Instructor Rich Kelly travelled to Cabrini University multiple times to work with first-year students as well as graduate students, faculty, staff and administrators from the Graduate School of Education. The Center for Global Learning, with support from PCCE grant-funding, also sponsored GM Sam Chin’s participation and a community-based workshop “Refining the Balance Point.”

By using martial arts as a tool for awareness, students—including senior citizens— practice simple solo exercises and safe cooperative partner activities.


Then, the team received a 2nd Civic Imagination grant from the PCCE, this one in conjunction with the International I Liq Chuan Association (501c3), collaborating on a series of diverse community-based events with Cabrini University and Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson. In addition to leading a graduate class at Bard, the team also sponsored a Qigong workshop for senior citizens, which was held March 18th at the Living Seed Yoga Center in New Paltz, NY (owned by our own fellow ZXD practitioner and instructor Carisa Borello).

The collaborative project, Applying Embodied Learning and Mindful Movement in Everyday Engagement builds on the initial phase of the project, Embodied Awareness & Cooperative Dialogue: Moving from Self-Observation to Social Compassion. The Academic ZXD Team, led by Master Rich Kelly, held workshops at Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson on using clear references for recognizing how to be in the present moment and deal with changing conditions.  In April, the ZXD Academic Approach team was accepted to present an interactive workshop at Gannon University in early June.

Martial Art of Awareness at Confucius Institute of China in San Marino – Italy!

Thanks to the Confucius Institute of San Marino and University of San Marino, an after school evening course of ZXD / ILC curriculum is now being offered to the first year students at the University!  Presented by instructor Alberto Benedusi, this program started in November and will continue into February of 2023. 

All the lessons are divided in 4 parts
1) Qi gong
2) Biomechanics (13 points.. yin and yang muscles/tissues.. )
3) Philosophy principles applied to life and martial art
4) Martial movements and then the 21 form by meditating the alignment, the 9 solid and 1 empty, the flowing and the movements in the 3 planes.
ZXD / ILC Martial Art of Awareness is an philosophy based art where students are encouraged to reflect within and to observe the self instead of building habits and memorizing certain techniques. 

Meeting with GM Fredia Gibbs – the “Cheetah”

Cabrini University Students Using GM Sam Chin’s ZXD “Beginner Mind, Zen Mind, Observer Mind” Curriculum Meet GM Fredia Gibbs, Hearing Her Story First-hand

Grandmaster Fredia “Cheetah” Gibbs (a Cabrini alumna) met with students in Dr. Nancy Watterson and Lan Tran’s “BALANCE Learning Community” on Wed. Sept. 28, 2022, before the celebrations honoring her life contributions with a bronze statute unveiling at Cabrini University. The Balance LC students are part of the full 3-credit academic class “Conflict & Cooperation” that integrates GM Sam Chin’s Zhong Xin Dao curriculum, specifically the inaugural version of the Beginner Mind, Zen Mind, Observer Mind lesson plan that incorporates the ZXD entry level track) The course also fulfills the University’s Ethics & the Common Good general education core curriculum requirement, so learning first-hand from Ms. Gibbs about her life-story, struggles, successes, and mindset offered a wonderful example of direct experiential learning in action—the cornerstone of Zhong Xin Dao / I Liq Chuan.


Photo credit: Emily Rowan
Balance Learning Community 

Academic Approach Updates – Oct 2019

Lan Tran and Nancy Watterson, Co-directors of the ZXD Academic Approach, will make their 3rd appearance this November (2019) at the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE) annual conference held at UMASS-Amherst.

This year is the 2nd cohort of the BALANCE Learning Community of 18 incoming first-year students who take Lan and Nancy’s 3-credit academic course, “Conflict and Cooperation,” in the fall. The Zhong Xin Dao / I Liq Chuan curriculum stands at the heart of this course, which is part seminar and part movement-lab.

Lan and Nancy are also happy to announce that one of the newest students from their ZXD Philadelphia group, Henry Pitcairn (student level 1), who moved to Denver, Colorado end of August to go to college, is starting the official student organization: The Community College of Denver (CCD) ZXD ILC Club. While the organization will initially exist only as a CCD organization, students from two other nearby universities will be able to join as they all share a campus at Auraria: University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) and Metropolitan State University (MSU). The club is also open to community members.

Even though he has only been in Denver a couple of months, Henry has made fast work of building on his enthusiasm for Zhong Xin Dao I Liq Chuan. He sought out ZXD instructor Ken Forsythe in Fort Collins, CO when his dad, Jeremy Pitcairn (student level 2) helped him move westward from Philadelphia, and Ken soon put him in touch with his ZXD student and new group leader in Denver, Eric Campbell (student level 3). Henry is enlisting the help of two fellow CCD student leaders, Dee Garcia and Mary Sawyer as well as economics professor Dr. Scott Brocket in the role of faculty adviser. We’re looking forward to Henry visiting the East Coast over the Thanksgiving holiday and training in Philly and NYC.

New Advancements The Zhong Xin Dao Academic Approach Program – DEC 2018

ZXD ILC Philadelphia, PA (USA)
Nancy Watterson and Lan Tran, in their role as Co-Directors of the ZXD Academic Approach, have been
busy in 2018 with various academic initiatives. Their proposal, “Stillness and Motion: Using Body
Mindfulness to Observe and Connect” has been accepted for the University of Pennsylvania’s
Ethnography in Education Research Forum (Feb. 2019 with Rich Kelly and Ezekiel Mathur assisting in the
presentation). In October, Nancy and Lan presented at another scholarly, peer-reviewed conference as
part of the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE) Conference held at the
University of Massachussetts (Amherst).
On Cabrini University’s campus, Nancy and Lan piloted the inaugural cohort of the “Balance Learning
Community” for 18 first-year students enrolled in “Conflict & Cooperation,” a full-credit academic
course which revolves around Zhong Xin Dao; the course also fulfills the Values Core Curriculum
requirement for the University. Nancy and Lan received a small grant from the 1976 Foundation to
travel to the instructors’ retreat in Oregon, offered several on-campus ZXD mini-workshops to faculty
and staff across the disciplines, conducted an on-line session for graduate students in the Masters of
Education program, and gave short interviews for the campus radio station and student newspaper.
Beyond these academic endeavors, the Philly group traveled to Baltimore, MD for the Taiwan / US Tai
Chi Cultural Exchange in May (with Lan and Inari gave a demo), gained some new members and
welcomed returnees: Lan and Nancy became disciples of GM Sam Chin at the Fishkill Intensive (Feb.
2018), 4 members (Lan Tran, Nancy Watterson, Raj Singh and Ezekiel Mathur) graded for level 4 and
Ezekiel also joined them in completing his Instructor level 1; two students (Dwight Epps and Bruce
Tomascik) recently graded for student level