Dr. E. Paul Zehr: Neuroscientist, author, & martial artist

My NativeAdVantage:


E. Paul Zehr, PhD, is neuroscientist, author, martial artist. His innovative scientific work as head of the Rehabilitation Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Victoria focuses on the recovery of walking after stroke and spinal cord injury. He is passionate about the popularization of science using superheroes as foils for human achievement and ability. His recent pop-sci books include BECOMING BATMAN: THE POSSIBILITY OF A SUPERHERO (2008), INVENTING IRON MAN: THE POSSIBILITY OF A HUMAN MACHINE (2011), PROJECT SUPERHERO (2014), and CHASING CAPTAIN AMERICA: HOW ADVANCES IN SCIENCE, ENGINEERING, and BIOTECHNOLOGY WILL PRODUCE A SUPERHUMAN (2018). Paul is a regular speaker at conferences and conventions including San-Diego International Comic Con and New York Comic Con. In 2012 he received the Craigdarroch award for research communication and in 2015 the Science Educator Award from the Society for Neuroscience. Project Superhero won the 2015 Silver Medal for Juvenile fiction from the Independent Book Sellers of North America. Paul blogs at Psychology Today in "Black Belt Brain", guest blogs at Scientific American, and serves as a consultant for major multinational corporations.

What do I do best?

My forte is empathizing, synthesizing, translating and sharing knowledge in comprehensive ways with diverse groups of people.

What makes me the best version of myself?

Authentic Zen focus on being in each moment and striving to do the best I can. This is grounded in a belief that following my vision—despite the occasional “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”—is the only true way for me to live.

What are my aspirations?

To make a genuine difference in the world by helping others achieve their best version of themselves all the while becoming a better person, bit by bit, day by day.

My Biggest Success?

Empowering others through knowledge sharing—in my talks, writing, and physical training in martial arts and self-defense. To see when people “get it”—touch some deeper truth about nature, themselves, and their capacity—is my greatest indicator of success. Whether that’s from emails, letters, calls or tweets from my readers, from folks who’ve participated in rehabilitation interventions based on my research, or from guiding someone through a complex martial arts drill or pattern, it’s always a rush to know you’ve connected with someone on a deep level. There’s a legacy moment there, one that engenders deep respect and honor, where you can have a profound and lasting impact in the life of someone else.

My Most Challenging Moment?

Being a neuroscientist dealing with the effects arising from a brain injury after a car crash. Facing my own limitations and accepting them—while still striving to be my best authentic self—is my most challenging moment in every minute of every day. To meet this challenge I think about the Japanese expression “nana korobi ya oki”=fall down 7 times, get up 8, which is also well captured in the lyrics in the Chumbawamba song “I get knocked down but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.”

My Motto & role models?

My personal mantra is that we all have a bit of Bat(wo)man inside. It’s up to each of us to find that bit and put it to good use. This motto is heavy grounded in influences from my favorite role models so I guess maybe I have one motto that is influenced by 4 main mantras that combine together to influence my perspective and actions. I like to riff on Muhammed Ali that “your will must be greater than your skill”. No matter who you are, what your capacity is, or what has come before, for each challenge you’ve got to give it your best shot with your best effort. Stan Lee’s famous “Spider-Man” line from Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962: “With great power there must also come—great responsibility!” We all have our own abilities that can be best applied by sharing with others. That’s a responsibility not to be shirked. I live my life by connecting my activities in synergistic ways according to this quote from Miyamoto Musashi: “The true science of martial arts means practicing them in such a way that they will be useful at any time, and to teach them in such a way that they will be useful in all things.” Everything is connected and steady, diligent effort leads to success. This is reinforced by a major personal role model for me, my martial arts teacher Kisho Inoue. From a lifetime career in martial arts, he has an extremely effective and kind way to encourage the best performance and efforts from everyone he works with. Always he says “gambatte kudasai”—please do your best. It’s grounded in the reality that all we can really do is our best effort and make what we can with it in each moment.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Japan, Hawaii, and the Okanagan Valley in BC are my favorite travel destinations. My favorite place to be is on the water.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

Books. Because they represent empowering repositories of knowledge and, occasionally, wisdom.

My Current Passions?

Since I began walking the path in my early teen years, martial arts training has remained my passion and permeates every aspect of who I am and how I see myself and my place in the world.