Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.


Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Monday, May 25, 2020

Cheng Man Ching, Renaissance Man

Prof Cheng Man Ching was a renaissance man. He was a renown painter, poet, calligrapher, doctor and taijiquan master, as well as a pretty fair bowler and apparently song writer.

Here is a link to a video of his daughter, Katy Ching, performing a song Prof. CMC wrote about the benefits of Taijiquan practice.

Enjoy!




Friday, May 22, 2020

Vintage Judo Video: Kyuzo Mifune as a Young Man

I love vintage martial arts videos.

We're all probably pretty familiar with the video of the Judo great, Kyuzo Mifune as a tiny white haired old man tossing around his black belt students like rag dolls.

This one is new to me. It features him as a much younger man. Enjoy.



Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Dao De Jing, #75: The Reason People Starve

The Dao De Jing is not only one of the world's great classics, it is one of the foundations of Philosophical Daoism. A free online version of the Dao De Jing may be found here. Today we have #75, The Reason People Starve


民之饑、以其上食税之多。是以饑。民之難治、以其上之有爲。是以難治。民之輕死、以其上求生之厚。是以輕死。夫唯無以生爲者、是賢於貴生。
The reason people starve
Is because their rulers tax them excessively.
They are difficult to govern
Because their rulers have their own ends in mind.

The reason people take death lightly
Is because they want life to be rich.
Therefore they take death lightly.
It is only by not living for your own ends
That you can go beyond valuing life.


Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Five Step Path for Taijiquan in Combat

Below is an excerpt from a post written by Ian Cameron, a senior Taijiquan teacher in Scotland. The full post may be read here.

THE FIVE STEP PATH IS TAI CHI CHUAN'S TACTICAL USE OF APPLYING THE PRINCIPLE TO COMBAT.  

Listen

The first step of which is Pushing Hands. Learning to "listen" through touch, to detect the direction of a force and any changes in the opponents intention. If any of the Five Steps are missing, then Tai Chi disappears. None of the five steps are separate from each other, there is a continuous thread running through them.

Adherence

Adherence; One of the characteristics of Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art, is the idea of maintaining contact with an opponent. This requires sensitivity of touch to detect not only an opponents intentions, but also his weaknesses. To adhere is to use the principle of softness. Even when taking hold of an opponents arm, the grip remains soft. This allows you to follow his movements, rather than fight with them, as you would do if you gripped too hard. When there is bodily contact, then the body itself has to be sensitive enough to feel the movements of your opponent. When someone is attempting a hip throw for example, by feeling the intention, a slight shift of weight can neutralize it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Beginner's Mind in Martial Arts and Everything Else

Being about to keep a beginner's mind is essential into making progress in just about any endeavor. Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at The Shotokan Times which discusses this. The full post may be read here.

Shoshin?! The State of Mind for Studying Anything

By Thomas D. McKinnon
‘Shoshin’, (初心), translates to ‘Beginner’s mind’.  To quote the Zen master, Shunryu Suzuki:

‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.  A true beginner’s mind is open and willing to consider all pieces of information, like a child discovering something for the first time.’

Shoshin: The Quintessential Mindset for Learning

Shoshin, simply the best way to approach any learning experience: an attitude of openness, eagerness and lack of preconception. Even when studying at an advanced level just do it as a beginner would.  

 Listen without commenting, regardless of how much you think you know of the subject.  Observe as if you know nothing, learn as a child learns, and get excited about a new discovery.  Shoshin, like all of the concepts you discover on your journey of Karate-do, will help you to lead a more rewarding life.  Shoshin is the quintessential mindset for learning.  

One of the things that we (karateka) do, prior to and on completion of training, is the ritual mokusoMokuso means to “silent thinking”. However, in the dojo it has further connotations: to meditate or contemplate quietly, thus separating your karate training from the outside world.  I give this guiding instruction to beginners for mokuso:

‘Empty your mind… Concentrate on your breathing, think of nothing but slowly filling and emptying your lungs (using diaphragmatic breathing) whilst emptying your mind.’

Shoshin: Make Room for Learning

By emptying your mind you are making room for learning, or absorbing, like a child or a complete beginner.  Shoshin is a concept far less literal than it is metaphorical, not to be confused with simply forgetting everything.  As we develop knowledge and expertise the tendency is to narrow our focus, filtering out the things we think we already know, concentrating on details we consider we don’t know.  The danger here is that we may block out information that disagrees with what, we consider, we already know. Unconsciously we sifting out any conflicting ideas in favor of information which confirms our previous experience or philosophical standpoint.

Entering the dojo for the very first time students, from varying demographics – age, sex, socio-economic, body composition, up-bringing, life skills and experience – begin with shoshin… more or less.  



Sunday, May 10, 2020

PSTD and Martial Arts Training

Below is a post that appeared at Shotokan Times regarding karate training as a therapy for PSTD. The full post may be read here.

In recent years karate has proven to be an effective and useful part of the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But what is PTSD? It has been known by many names for centuries: nostalgia, battle fatigue and shell shock and more recently, a mental disorder.  But today it is classified as a trauma and stressors-related disorder.

....

Shotokan Karate as a Treatment of PTSD

The treatment of PTSD varies with the underlying trauma of the disorder.  Success also varies, depending on its severity.  Health professionals try to deal with both the underlying cause(s) and the specific symptoms.


PTSD and Shotokan Karate: A Personal Journey

By François Lavigne
In recent years karate has proven to be an effective and useful part of the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But what is PTSD? It has been known by many names for centuries: nostalgia, battle fatigue and shell shock and more recently, a mental disorder.  But today it is classified as a trauma and stressors-related disorder.

The exposure to situation of death or the fear of death cause it.  Its effects last long.  In some cases, becomes chronic (C-PTSD). Patients who suffers from the chronic version of the disorder may experience serious symptoms daily and often for the rest of their life.  A person with PTSD re-experiences the trauma through intrusive and recurring memories, vivid images and nightmares. Those memories cause intense reactions, such as fear, panic, heart palpitations, sweating, hyper vigilance and many other symptoms.  Moreover, it results in certain behavior traits:
  • over alertness,
  • insomnia,
  • easily irritation,
  • unable to concentrate,
  • easily startled,
  • constant lookout for possible danger, and
  • avoidance of activities, places, people and thoughts that remind him or her of the trauma.
In the case of C-PTSD, it can lead to a feeling of emotional numbness, loss of interest in day-to-day activities and social detachment. PTSD sufferers often develop other problems, such as
  • drug addiction,
  • alcohol abuse,
  • severe anxiety,
  • depression, and
  • engagement in high-risk behaviors.
As a result, PTSD creates a state of living in a near-perpetual state of fight or flight. 

Shotokan Karate as a Treatment of PTSD

The treatment of PTSD varies with the underlying trauma of the disorder.  Success also varies, depending on its severity.  Health professionals try to deal with both the underlying cause(s) and the specific symptoms. 

Here: karate comes in.  It has been shown to be quite effective in dealing with some of the most debilitating symptoms of PTSD, such as inability to concentrate, recurring memories, intrusive thoughts, anxiety and difficult sleeping.  In fact, health professionals include more often some form of martial arts as part of the management of these symptoms.  Traditional Shotokan karate, because of its emphasis on the “spirit” or “do” aspect of the discipline, suits very well to help people with PTSD.  Despite that, PTSD sufferers still face a number of challenges during training, difficulties that can undoubtedly be overcome through more awareness and dialogue within the greater Shotokan karate community. 

My Journey With PTSD

I decided to learn karate as a young man. At the time I did not know I had PTSD.  This was the 1980s and PTSD was still, for the most part, viewed as a condition affecting people who serve in the military. Not even police and other first-responders universally fit the definition yet. I suffered severe and prolonged physical abuse from early childhood into my late teens. It only stopped when I left home. I joined Minoru Saeki Sensei’s JKA Dojo in Ottawa when I was in my early twenties.  The abuse had severely impacted my self-esteem. I believed that if I learned karate I wouldn’t feel scared and a coward anymore.

I had just joined Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).  Karate fit naturally, since I worked in law-enforcement. I worked in counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism. I quickly found that Shotokan karate offered more than just learning to punch and kick.  The spiritual side to Shotokan, the Dōjō kun struck a chord with me and the camaraderie inside the dojo, these things taught me to look inward, to nurture inner peace. 

How Shotokan Karate Helps Me to Cope With PTSD

When I train, I leave the world behind. The voices in my head become silent and I think only about the training. It works like closing a door to a noisy room and embracing that serene feeling that follows. Over time, I came to view the dojo and my fellow karatekas as a refuge and a family. Karate wasn’t just a sport or an activity.  It was a way of life. We trained hard. Saeki Sensei has high standards and high expectations. Tanaka Sensei came every year.  Training with Tanaka Sensei was intense. Saeki Sensei and Tanaka Sensei pushed us to learn all the essential components of karate, including clarity and peace of mind.  I learnt to control my mind and my body in ways that brought relief to the chaos of my life. 

Karate never came as easily to me as it comes to some others. But then, I did not understand then that PTSD was the cause. I always felt inadequate. When Sensei looked my way, I felt overwhelming anxiety. I still often do. Examinations challenged me in particular. The stress triggers my lack of self-confidence. During regular training I did well enough but I couldn’t focus during examinations. My progress through the Kyu´s therefore was slow.  I trained for a number of years, reaching fifth kyu. 


Thursday, May 07, 2020

The Importance of Stance Training in Martial Arts

Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at Kenshi 24/7, on the importance of stance training in Kendo, which in my opinion extends to every martial arts practice. The full post may be read here.


A few weeks ago, a guest of one of the young kendo teachers at my workplace was standing in front of the dojo mirror kamae-ing and looking at himself from different angles. I guess it is quite a common scene in many dojo with a mirror, be it Japan or elsewhere, but what got me interested was that this particular guest – already a quite young 5th dan – was someone who I had already read to be more serious than most are for his age kendo-wise. My interest piqued, I asked him what he was working on.

He admitted that he was having doubts about the super-straight kamae that he had been taught since he was a primary school student, and had decided to change it to a more “open” type, the type – which just so happens – I changed to myself a good 15-or-so years ago.

This topic, one I have briefly chatted about before, is about to get more detailed.

Yamaoka Tesshu (1836-88), was a kind of rennaisance man during his short lifetime: samurai, revolutionary, stateseman, artist, and of-course, swordsman… he was a man of many skills. Many books have been written about him and I am sure he needs no in-depth introduction here.


Kempo Sankaku-ku

Sankaku-ku, the triangular  relationship between the eyes, stomach, and sword-tip,  is something that must be studied.

Swords should measure ten fist widths in length. Ten fist widths is about half of your height.  This is also about half of the distance between your hands when you extend both of your arms out to the sides, therefore, be sure to stretch out your entire body (and kamae) when facing an enemy.  In ancient times this teaching was called “Tenshin-shoden.” Sankaku-ku is based on this.

The eyes, stomach, and sword-tip should work in unison when squaring up to an enemy. This is the teaching of Sankaku-ku.

Anybody who wishes to learn our style (Itto-Shoden Muto-ryu) must first study this teaching as the base princple above all else. Skill in swordsmanship, as with all things, begins first by obeying the principles. Only by doing so you will learn the underlying theory. It is essential to faithfully study sankaku-ku. You cannot discover the deepest secrets (of swordsmanship) without doing so. Effort… effort….

– Yamaoka Tesshu, March 30th Meiji 16 (1883)


Monday, May 04, 2020

The History and Global Transmission of Wing Chun

Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at Kung Fu Tea. The full post may be read here.

Introduction
Originally practiced by the Cantonese speaking population of the Pearl River Delta region, Wing Chun is a concept-based fighting system known for its distinct high stances, triangular footwork, short-range boxing and trapping techniques, emphasis on relaxation and preference for low kicks.[i]  

Most branches of the art feature three unarmed forms, Siu Lim Tao (the Little Idea, or Little Thought Form), Chum Kiu (Seeking Bridges) and Biu Ji (Thrusting Fingers).  The most commonly encountered weapons are the Baat Jaam Do (Eight Directional Chopping/Slashing Knives, Wing Chun’s version of the hudiedao) and a single tailed fighting pole typically over three meters in length.[ii]  These same weapons are often among the first taught in other regional Kung Fu styles, and were mainstays of the area’s 19th century militia system.[iii]  Wing Chun is also known for its emphasis on wooden dummy (muk yan jong) training.
Distinctions in stance and technique are often noted between this system and the other arts which were popular in its hometown of Foshan including Choy Li Fut (the most popular art in the region through the late 1920s) and Hung Gar (also an important style in both Foshan and Guangzhou).[iv]  It seems likely that Wing Chun developed in dialogue with these other modes of hand combat. It’s characteristic stances and triangular footwork bear a distinct resemblance to certain regional Hakka boxing styles and the arts of Fujian province.
This is not surprising as demographic pressures and market trends led to the emigration of large numbers of people (including many professional martial artists) from coastal Fujian to Guangdong throughout the 19th century.  The market town of Foshan (a regionally critical trade center holding the imperial iron monopoly and known of its exports of silk, fine ceramics and a wide variety of handicraft goods)[v] was a popular destination for such immigrants.  Foshan’s vibrant and quickly growing economy required security guards, civilian martial arts instructors, militia officers and popular entertainers.  As such, the market town became a greenhouse nurturing the development of multiple martial arts styles.[vi]

The region’s contentious politics, including the Red Turban Revolt (1854-1856) and the First and Second Opium Wars (1839-1842, 1856-1860) meant that much of the male population was forced into militia service (or swept up in bandit armies) during the middle years of the 19th century. In this environment there was a great demand for skilled martial artists who could act as military trainers in the gentry led militia units, or who might be hired as mercenaries to stiffen the ranks of the imperial Green Standard Army which local officials viewed as understaffed and unreliable.[vii]
Following the end of these hostilities we see a period of innovation as martial artists sought to digest the lessons of the past and rebuild their lives.  Douglas Wile has noted that the setbacks that China suffered at the hand of Western powers unleashed powerful internal discourses within the country as reformers sought for ways to preserve what was important within Chinese culture in an era characterized by rapid reform.  Many of the Chinese martial arts most commonly seen today actually emerged, or were fundamentally reformulated, during this period of “self-strengthening.”[viii] This includes Wing Chun.
While many modern students attempt to parse it’s often fantastic folklore in an attempt to rediscover the ancient origins of the art, connecting the practice to migrants from Northern China (such as the Shaolin Monks) or regionally important culture heroes (including Cheung Ng),[ix] all of this ignores a fairly obvious point.  The Wing Chun that is widely known and practiced today is not a particularly ancient practice.  There is no reliable documentation of its existence, or that of any practitioners, prior to the mid 19th century.  The art was not practiced widely until the Republic period (1910s-1940s), and many of the most popular schools today are reliant on changes made to the style’s pedagogy and presentation by Ip Man in the 1950s and 1960s.  Wing Chun, like most Chinese martial arts, is a fundamentally modern practice and its nature can best be understood by examining the social history of Southern China between the closing years of the 19thcentury and the present.[x]
This does not suggest, however, that we can simply ignore the creation myths or oral history of the art.  These texts are important as they provide us with insights into the social position and function of Wing Chun within a rapidly modernizing environment.  Perhaps the oldest and most complete written version of the Wing Chun mythos was recorded by Ip Man in the 1960s for the creation of a proposed association that never came about.  This account was found in his papers following his death and has subsequently been disseminated by the Hong Kong Ving Tsun Athletic Association (VTAA).[xi]
Briefly, Wing Chun, which might best be translated as ‘Beautiful Springtime’, was named not for its creator, the famous Shaolin nun Ng Moy, but rather its first student.  After being forced to flee the provincial capital into the far West due to false accusations against her father, the teenaged Yim Wing Chun found herself the victim of unwanted marital advances by a local marketplace bully.  Learning of the girls plight the nun Ng Moy (who had previously befriended the refugee family) revealed herself to be one of the five mythical survivors of the destruction of the Shaolin temple by the hated Qing.
Taking Wing Chun into the mountains, she trained her student in the Shaolin arts for a year.  This allowed her young charge to defend her honor and defeat an individual who had terrorized the community.  Leaving to resume her wandering, Ng Moy declared that this new art (which allowed the weak to defeat the strong) should be known by her student’s name.  Yim Wing Chun was given the charge of passing on what she had learned, as well as resisting the Qing and working to restore the Ming.
Following that the myth becomes more genealogical in nature.  It records that the art was transmitted to, and preserved by, a company of Cantonese opera performers in Foshan.  Foshan was the home of the Cantonese Opera Guild prior to the Red Turban Revolt when the practice was officially suppressed.  Eventually two of these individuals, Wong Wah Bo and Leung Yee Tai, would pass the art to a pharmacist in Foshan named Leung Jan.  He would teach it to his children and a single student named Chan Wah Shun.  Chan’s final disciple was the son of his landlord, a young Ip Man.
This entire account has a somewhat hybrid nature.  Leung Jan, Chan Wah Shun and Ip Man are all known historical figures whose existence can be independently verified.[xii]  However, the story’s opening acts are clearly fictional.  All traditional Cantonese arts trace their origins to the survivors of the destruction of the Shaolin temple (a myth complex shared with the region’s Triads).  However, historians have known for some time that the Qing never destroyed the Shaolin temple in Henan, and the Southern Shaolin temple (despite being “rediscovered” by multiple competing local governments) is more the product of literary creation than actual history.[xiii]  Both Ng Moy and Yim Wing Chun seem to bear more than a passing resemblance to important female figures in the origin stories of certain branches of Fujianese White Crane.  Indeed, it seems that this folklore impacted the development of Wing Chun, along with certain footwork patterns and stances.[xiv]
Christopher Hamm has published studies of the evolution of Southern China’s martial arts fiction during the late Qing and Republic period which can also help to date the Wing Chun myth.  The story retold by Ip Man appears to be dependent on an anonymous novel, Shengchao Ding Sheng Wannian Qing (Everlasting), first published in 1893.  This was one of the most popular martial arts novels sold in the region and it saw many reprinting and pirate editions.  That is particularly important as in the original version of the story Ng Moy (who makes her first ever named appearance in these books) was not a hero.  Rather she was an antagonist who conspired to bring down the Shaolin monks.  She was not reimagined as a hero and friend of Shaolin until a pirate edition with an alternate ending titled Shaolin Xiao Yingxiong (Young Heroes from Shaolin) was published in the 1930s.[xv]  The Wing Chun creation myth as related in the Ip Man lineage seems to be dependent on that relatively late edition.
Indeed, the openly revolutionary ideology of the story would also have been much more popular with readers in Republican China than with the subjects of the Qing dynasty who had to be quite careful about how they discussed the government.  Yim Wing Chun is also interesting as she seems to act as a bridge pointing back to the possible influence of Fujianese boxing styles, while also connecting the art to popular trends in Republic era fiction that focused on stories of the amazing feats of female heroines.  In short, while not a historical document, this story likely served an important role in explaining the nature and purpose of the art to Republic era students.  It also supports the view that Wing Chun is a relatively recent art which may have first developed in the middle or later years of the 19th century (likely following the opera ban), before being popularized among Foshan’s middle class and bourgeois martial artists in the Republic period.


Friday, May 01, 2020

Light You on Fire

I was approached for a guess post for Cook Ding's Kitchen by Kellman Heinz. He proposed a relevant chapter from his book, I Will Light You on Fire. 

The book is about getting out of your intellectual understanding of things and to feel them directly instead. 

The sample chapter is below. The book is a brain burner. I think you'd like it. Enjoy.


We are not lumps of coal. The body is in constant movement. Blood flows through veins and arteries. Capillaries mere molecules thick feed every cell in our body. Those same cells bustle in constant commerce with their neighbors. Bile, lymph, and digestive fluids slosh around haphazardly. Even our atoms and electrons pulse in unceasing activity.  One could say that we are the sum total of our internal movement.
Western people feel skeptical about words like “qi, flow, prana, energy”, because, in our minds, it translates into “that cheesy stuff?”. But “qi” is just a Chinese word that describes internal flow. How easily is the blood flowing? Is the digestion moving smoothly? How about oxygen transfer in the lungs? Are you hydrated? Mentally relaxed? All these things become the feeling of “qi”.
In fact, “qi” is a brilliant concept, for which we have no equivalent (though Energy sometimes comes close). In order to get the idea across in Western terms I have to write a long, explanatory paragraph full of large vocabulary words.
Bile, artery, veins, blood pressure, atp, systolic, ribonucleic acid, lymph, ect ect.
The reason scientists scoff at “qi” is because it’s not anatomy. It’s a feeling. You can dissect as many corpses as you want and you’ll never find any qi. The same way you wont find any love particles.

“If you can’t find it in a corpse, it’s not real.” - Leonardo da Vinci

Qi/Prana/Energy are just words to describe a feeling. Feelings are hard to define scientifically, but useful when it comes to actually “doing” things. For example, you can listen to Miles Davis play music, and describe what’s happening using all sorts of complex music terminology, but if you want to actually play like him, you got to have the “feeling”. You feel the music, and it comes out. When playing ping pong I don’t think about vectors and angles, I just feel the game.
When talking about “qi”, you’re talking about a special feeling. This is a feeling that people use to help them practice health care and martial arts, though really it’s useful for everything. Perhaps you could describe it as the feeling of deliberate body awareness.
The classic QiGong (“Energy Work”) exercise is to “focus the qi in the hand”. Let’s translate this into Western terms. Bring your awareness into the hand. You will feel a lot of things: your blood flow, the state of muscular tension, how strong or hot or cold or wet your hand is. All the emotions and ideas you have about your hand: I’m a musician, my hand creates beautiful sounds, or, I’m a worker, this hand is my livelihood. I was burned here once; my fingertips have memories they can’t forget the curves of your body. All of these things come together to create a general feeling - a sort of hand energy that we can call “qi”. The important factor is the awareness. When we bring in awareness, all those other details come together into a feeling that we can work with.
You also might hear “qi” used in a more general way for energy. Such as the energy you get from eating, or the energy that comes from the sun, or the energy that it takes to lift your arm up.  The body is an organized system that constantly moves energy around in a deliberate way. Energy is directed into the digestive tract to digest food, and then the energy that comes out is directed all over the body. The nerves send electrical energy down the spine to release chemical energy needed for movement.
In Eastern Medicine that’s all called qi.
Talking about nerves and atp and blood pressure is all well and good when you’re designing chemicals or writing papers, but for practical, everyday purposes, qi is much more useful. You can use the feeling of qi to help relax when stressed, or to lift something heavy, or to improve your digestion. Doctors use it to heal, martial artists use it to turn themselves into ass-kicking machines. Monks use it to perform all sorts of bizarre physical feats and reach altered states of consciousness.  And perhaps most important of all, it can be used to "feel good". Somewhat of a lost art, it seems.
The Western approach to healthcare sounds like this: “Hmm, what should I eat for lunch? Well, my bile seems to be flowing strongly. This morning I evacuated my lower colon successfully. My machine tells me my blood sugar is a little low, but my systolic has been a bit high recently, soooooo… let’s crunch some numbers here… OK, 470 calories of lean chicken.”
Intellectual and ineffectual!
Compared to: “I’m listening to what my body is saying. Digestion seems slow this morning. My gut instinct says I should eat a little chicken.”
When feeding the guts, listen to the gut instinct!

Science is intellectual. The issue scientists have with Eastern medicine is that it relegates the intellect to the back seat, and makes the body the focus. The arrogant mind refuses to play second fiddle to a lousy meat-block! Can the kidney write a sonnet?
I don’t think so!
Can a liver solve algebraic equations?
Like hell it can! I, the mind, am king! Mwahahaha!

When you use qi, you base your actions off of feelings and intuition. Because that’s the language the body speaks. It's bad for rocket design, but perfect for health-care. Ever wonder why we can send a man to the moon, but are totally stumped by weight-loss?
The abstract mind and mute body, unable to communicate, start to work against each other. The mind wants to work, but the body wants to sleep. The mind wants to eat, but the body wants to fast. The end result is suffering. Qi is a conceptual tool for communication between the mind and the body, so that we can unify ourselves and become a more whole person. The mind wants to sleep, and so does the body. The mind wants to eat and so does the body. In fact, there is no mind AND body, it is now one harmonious you.
So instead of throwing away Eastern concepts, because they don’t fit neatly into our cultural sphere, let’s use what they have to offer. We are in an excellent place to have the best of both East and West.

QiGong
Reading the above essay, I realize that I just explained energy in a very analytical manner. Maybe that’s necessary for the Western reader to take it seriously, but now I’d like to explain it in the way that it was meant to be understood.
Let’s feel it.
Move your awareness to your hand. What does it feel like? Keep the awareness in the hand and notice how the feeling changes. Does it grow or decrease in strength?
Move the feeling around - focus it on a specific finger and then move it to the next. Try and increase and decrease the intensity at will.
For many people it feels like a sort of heat or tingling, not unlike the feeling you get when you leg goes to sleep and you straighten it out, or when you finally warm up a freezing hand. In fact, those are perfect examples of really obvious qi. Your frozen foot has been denied the blood and energy it needs to work, so when it finally heats up, all the blood/qi comes rushing back in, and it creates an obvious sensation.
It feels different for everyone - the important thing is getting a handle on it. Let me emphasize that you’re not imagining some celestial force here, you are simply feeling a sensation. It’s a sensation that exists in your hand at all times, but that goes unnoticed. When you bring your awareness into the sensation, the two combine into something new.
It’s a dance between the sensation and your awareness of the sensation. The awareness sometimes follows the sensation and sometimes guides it - usually a bit of both.
Now bring the awareness into both hands. Shift the focus of intensity from one hand to the other and back. Move the awareness back and forth rhythmically until you feel the qi begin to flow between the two hands. Visualize the process if that helps you. Feel it growing stronger as the awareness of one hand reflects and merges into the other.
Don’t try and explain it; just take the feeling as significant in itself. A waltz ends when one partner goes into the corner to think about how its going.
Now relax and let the feeling go.
After a little rest, build the feeling up again and move it up your arm. Pay attention to the way it feels as it moves.
Bring a general awareness to the body without focusing on any one spot. You’ll notice different sensation popping up all over the place. Remember the feeling of energy moving and see if you can feel it happening spontaneously elsewhere. Perhaps you’re tired and you feel the energy sinking down and making you slump, or you just ate and you can feel energy moving into your guts to begin the digestive process. If you play an instrument, the feeling of energy moving into your hands is really obvious.
I expect you will find that energy and awareness move together. Many generations of smart people have dedicated their lives to exploring the interaction between body and consciousness - you can access some of their wisdom by getting involved in Tai Qi, Qigong, or Yoga.
If, despite this explanation, the Eastern mindset turns you off, you can check out Feldenkrais, Rolfing, Somatotherapy, and the Alexander Technique for some Western equivalents.

I got into Tai Qi a few years back. I was living in Mexico and had a lot of time on my hands. A friend and I spent most of our time messing around and trying out new things. One day we decided to learn some Tai Qi from an online video. I was doing it as a sort of joke, because I thought the whole thing was cheesy, but followed the online lesson anyway. Afterwards, I felt relaxed yet energized. I felt like I was flowing around the room in easy contentment. I tried it out again and again, and sure enough, felt fantastic every time.
It became clear that even if it sounded cheesy to my scientific ears, it was obviously very functional, and I decided to take it seriously. At nights, I’d go up to the rooftop terrace and look out onto the lights of Guadalajara, wondering who else was staring into the distance. After practicing the Tai Qi forms, the normally unfriendly cat that co-inhabited with us would come up and want to play with me. The only other time this cat was friendly was the day I broke up with my girlfriend.
Over time, I began to decode the mysterious-sounding Eastern terms in a way that made sense. The ideas I found gave me an entirely new way of feeling the body. The Western mindset views movement as puppetry; you arrange your limbs like this or that, and what’s going on inside is none of your business.
In Tai Qi, the focus is on internal movement; arranging the insides perfectly, so that the outside does exactly what you want. If you don’t think the insides are moving much, you’ve clearly never put a sound-amplifying microphone next to your abdominal cavity. Or laid your ear on your friend’s belly after dinner. 

For example, a main principle of Tai Qi is sinking the energy into the legs and then the ground (also called “grounding”). When standing, the body has to exert enough force to resist the pull of gravity. Typically, the force/tension is widely distributed throughout the body. The legs hold the abdomen up and the abdomen supports the neck and the neck supports the head. In an ideal posture, the muscles exert just enough tension to keep the weight perfectly balanced over the bones, so that the bones and then the ground take most of the weight. But when those supporting muscles get tired the body moves out of alignment - the bones take less of the weight and the muscles and joints have to pick up the slack. Like when slumping after a long day of work. Slumping is a wildly inefficient way to move, but it may feel easier if the correct supporting muscles are worn out.
The idea in Tai Qi is that tension in the body impedes flow (just like how the blood flows out of a clenched fist). This is especially important in the upper body where most of the organs are. So in Tai Qi we try to eliminate all unnecessary tension, and if the tension is necessary we want to relegate it to the lower body, where the tension wont impede the flow of our organs.
By necessary tension, I mean the tension needed to keep your body balanced over the bones in a given pose. You could eliminate all tension, and just crash into a puddle, but what we’re looking for is total efficiency of practical movement. The efficiency is meant to be applied to normal, external goals. Tai Qi (or Taijiquan) actually translates into “Supreme Ultimate Fist”, though nowadays it’s mostly practiced by old people, it was originally designed to make you into an asskicking badass asskicker.

Taoist Conception of Science
We’ve been talking about Eastern philosophy in Western terms. It seems only fair to imagine the opposite.
Just the other day I was rummaging through the Akashic Records and I came across an old scroll. Though its text was faded, I could clearly make out that it was a transcription of a conversation between some Taoist monks. Upon further scrutiny, I unraveled the following text:
“My Brothers, how glad I am to see you all again! You all look so healthy and strong! Da Jiji, how is your mother doing? And Xiao RouBang, my how you’ve grown! My brothers, I have seen marvelous things in my travels. The Great Ocean expanded endlessly before me, but after some interminable time floating in the emptiness I passed into another world.
The people of these lands are like us in many ways, but they practice a strange QiGong. From childhood they rigorously discipline their qi, but if our qi flows like a river, theirs is a reservoir!
By intensive manipulation of words and numbers they direct all of their qi up into the head. By enforcing immobility they build a Jade Dam in the neck so that the qi cannot descend. It pools ever deeper upon the mind and forms strange currents. Their attentions depart from the sensational manifestations of the world and the mind focuses in upon itself.
As their mind qi deepens they accomplish incredible things: they can see the inner workings of complex tools, they travel great distances on horses of fire, and to them, words and numbers are as real as oxen and trees! In their great reservoirs, they store unbelievable quantities of knowledge and build things beyond my wildest dreams. I was often awe-struck by their abilities.
And yet, they are foolish in the simplest ways. With the qi blocked in the head their bodies become weak and frail. They build more and more machines to help, but become weaker and weaker. The most brilliant among them could not climb a mountain or plow a field. Nor would they see a reason to. They don’t know how much to eat, or when to sleep, or how to enjoy a quiet morning.
They drown in their own stagnated qi. They cannot feel the wind or see the sunset. The words and numbers are too real and cloud out those simple visions. They are a land of foolish geniuses, brilliant imbeciles. No doubt we have much to learn from each other.”


5 Easy Ways to Tell if You Are a Taoist Master
1. You are over 200 years old!
2. You find yourself spontaneously levitating.
3. You can hear the sound of one hand clapping
4. The rain falling and the sun shining fit perfectly into the grand mosaic of all creation that lies so clearly before you. Patterns weave and unravel in infinite crystalline majesty.
5. You no longer recognize the duality between self and world, making it very difficult to answer the previous 4 questions. In fact, if you answered “No” to the previous 4 questions, you may still be a Taoist master, though it’s impossible to say. If you answered “Yes”, then you are definitely not a Taoist master, though congratulations on the big 2-0-0!

By Kellman Heinz
Excerpted from: I Will Light You On Fire - Live Forever or Your Money Back


About Kellman Heinz:

Growing up feral I never thought I would be able to communicate clearly with my ferret brothers, let alone write an entire book for humans.
But look at me now! Published by the most illustrious and exclusive publishing house in the entire world: Amazon.
The book began humbly, of course. The very first chapter was written entirely with raccoon dung upon the walls of my cave. But over many moons it evolved into something greater: a wide-ranging treatise on vitality, sensitivity, pain, pleasure, butt-sniffing, fire-building, metabolic design, merging the subconscious, dietary therapy, synesthodomes, cummerbunds, comparative theology, and at least one erotic sonnet!
By engaging with our innate sensuality, we can live longer and, dare I say it, better.
To check out the book, go to: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086BJK368
Or, you can come to my website at http://www.LightYouOnFire.com
Also, don't forget to come back to this blog too. This guy is a frickin' genius.