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CJ Wiley: The Tao Of The Pool Warrior ~ Patrick Sampey

The Tao flows through all things, and is the underlying current that electrifies CJ Wiley’s pool game — guiding him towards a greater meaning and purpose in life — the life of a consummate martial artist, and professional pool player.

“Lao Tzu, in the Tao Te Ching explains that the Tao is not a ‘name’ for a ‘thing’ but the underlying natural order of the Universe whose ultimate essence is difficult to circumscribe due to it being non conceptual yet evident’ in one’s being of aliveness. The Tao is ‘eternally nameless’ (Tao Te Ching-32. Lao Tzu) and to be distinguished from the countless ‘named’ things which are considered to be its manifestations, the reality of life before its descriptions of it.” —

Born and raised in Green City, Missouri, population 657 as of a 2010 census, about 140 miles from Kansas City — CJ Wiley began shooting pool at age 7, standing on wooden soda cases to reach the shots on the table, at the town’s pool hall.

“I started out at age 7 in a city with a population of 629, called Green City, Missouri in a pool room with three tables. I went in there with a friend from first grade, beat him two games, standing on Pepsi crates to reach the table, and I just had a knack for it from the beginning.” Wiley regales me, of his introduction into pool. “I ran two racks in a row playing 8 ball when I was 11, and a rack of rotation, which is all 15 balls in order when I was 13, and won my first tournament, which was a regional tournament in Missouri when I was 12…I mainly just played in the pool room there in Green City. They didn’t have tournaments there, they just had a lot of players, and it was 10¢ if you lost, so that was basically the bet.” Said Wiley of his youth in the game.

One other aspect of CJ Wiley’s life many may not know of as well is his love and mastery of martial arts — having attained high levels of mastery in many areas of the discipline.

“I started martial arts when I was 23, with a teacher that was a 5th degree black belt, and studied eight different styles, with a foundation being Shaolin Kung Fu. I was a second degree black belt in ‘94, and I never did take the test for third degree, but I’ve been training and practicing for 29 years.” Says Wiley, rapid-fire, and right to the heart of the matter — he is an expert martial Artist, as well as one of the best to ever play the game of pool — as diverse an individual as any I’ve ever encountered.

Also, he tells me he trained with a master in taekwondo in Dallas, Texas, and that he reached the level of black belt, but not tested, as he wasn’t concerned so much with the test, as the ability to be at that level of black-belt mastery is the main thing.

“I learned some of my fundamentals from a guy up in Toronto Canada that trained snooker champions…I changed my stance after I was a champion-level player, got into the fundamentals, that I teach to this day, that are really strong.” — Wiley.

“Do you use a snooker stance then?” I ask Wiley.

“No. It’s a hybrid. It’s a pool stance; it’s the same one that Earl Strickland uses, and Mike Seagal uses, and Efren, and most of the champion players have their left foot parallel to the line of the shot, and their right foot directly behind the line of the shot, and when they go down on a shot, they do it with a hip movement, they move their hips back, so their heads can go down, so they’re not changing their upper-body angles as much as most people do, so they can go down on the ball (the shot) the same every time, so it’s really important to know how to stand, and how to go down on the ball (the shot).” concludes Wiley, with a machine-gun blast of pool-stance mechanics — just as one must have good body mechanics for martial arts.

“I have 7 instructional videos; I just released one called ‘Precision Pool Drills,’ which shows how to put precision, consistency and power into your stroke, with a lot of these drills many people have never seen before… it speeds up the process,and is how I train people. Within a 3 week period of time, practicing an hour a day, you’ll show considerable stroking improvements, because without a good stroke, you can’t move the ball around (the cue).” — Wiley says of his video instruction.

“I used to play Earl Strickland all the time on ESPN,” Wiley explains.

Back in 1996, when pool matches were aired on ESPN more, CJ beat Vivian Villarreal in an epic $60K for first, and $40K for second — and Wiley took it home, collected the cash, having won it all — and defeating Earl Strickland in the semi-finals 7-6. What a win for the money on ESPN; that was the golden age of pool, or a golden age in pool. An estimated 2.8 million viewers watched the match Wiley tells me.

ESPN held the “battle of the sexes” where Vivian Villarreal won the women’s, and CJ Wiley winning the men’s, then pitting Wiley vs Villarreal — on ESPN, and broadcast to millions.

Furthermore, Wiley won $88K as well in mixed doubles in ‘96, Wiley tells me.

What’s CJ Wiley up to these days? He is currently working on creating a new, more strategic game of pool to introduce to the kaleidoscope of games we can currently choose from, and it can only add to the diversity of pool that is — and offers another great game for the pool aficionado to choose from.

“I’m going to introduce that game sometime in the next couple of months,” says CJ.“I have created a game that takes a blend of the existing games.” — Wiley.“It’s a simple game, you can learn it in 10 minutes, but it can take a lifetime to master.” — CJ Wiley.

A new game, and also Wiley is releasing a series on hustling on the road as well.

Wiley is an active force in the game of billiards, martial artist, and all-around pool champion of the highest caliber. He is one of the pool immortals. Game on players!


Author: Patrick Sampey

Editor: Shaylyn Troop

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