I Know Kung Fu.

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Ever since I can remember I have loved kung fu. It is hard to pinpoint where the love came from, but there are a couple of possibilities. I am a child of hippies, and grew up in a house filled with music, ethnic food and martial arts. My parents are martial artists - Aikidoists - and they tried, in vain, to get me into Aikido.

I remember going to class with them and watching the graceful interactions. Students running at each other and, being gracefully flung about and landing, silently rolling out to standing awaiting their next chance to politely attack. It was beautiful to watch, and it looked effortless. The thing that especially impressed me was that strength and size didn't seem to matter. This became even more impressive when I saw my mother, who is five foot four, throw my father who is more than six foot three over her head like he was made of cotton balls. This filled me with delight, and, I suspect, deeply frustrated my father.

Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba. It is translated as "the way of unifying with life energy" or "the way of the harmonious spirit". One of the interesting things about Aikido is that it is purely defensive. There is no way to "attack" someone using Aikido in its true form. It is purely used and was developed as a way to defend oneself, but also to do so while protecting your attacker from harm. What a lovely philosophy. Because there is no way to attack someone using Aikido, what began to happen around our house was that my father, desperate to show me his new moves and joint locks (which hurt like hell) would ask me, in desperation, to grab his wrist. Only then could he throw me around and bend my joints into pretzels. If I was feeling generous I would oblige, but if I was feeling sassy I would refuse and taunt him. Grab my wrist became the most uttered phrase in our house for years.

Morihei Ueshiba

The other wonderful thing about Aikido is that you are using your attackers energy and inertia to either direct them out of the way, or, throw them into the next room depending on how much of their energy you want to use. For this reason, the Aikidoist is using very little of their own energy. It is also incredibly graceful, and does not have any of the hard edged movements of many of the Korean and Chinese martial arts. It is one of the most beautiful martial arts to watch. Here is a video so you can see what I mean.

I have an enormous respect for all the martial arts, and Aikido in particular is so elegant, refined, efficient and beautiful, but it wasn't the one that resonated with me. What I wanted to learn was kung fu. Perhaps it was all those years of kung fu movies, but I decided that this was what I was going to learn. It was my dream to be a doctor of Chinese medicine and a master of kung fu - 2 very complimentary pursuits, I thought.

For years I had been obsessed with kung fu movies and every Friday had gone to Kung Fu Friday's at the Royal cinema where a group of enthusiasts would sit and bask in each others euphoria at watching these ancient movies with elaborate fight scenes and terrible dubbing. The nerd level was through the roof, but it was the best hour and a half of my week. Once I finished college, I was excited to seek out a kung fu school and start my training. I went all over, looking for the right school that was teaching a style that felt right for me. It was a long search, but I knew the right place as soon as I walked in the door. It was a very traditional Chinese kung fu school in Chinatown. On the outside it looked like a small storefront painted red and black with the windows covered. The writing was in Chinese but in English it said Kung Fu. I walked in and it was dark and smelled of sweat. There was a Chinese guy sitting at an old counter reading a Chinese newspaper. He looked up at me surprised.

*Perhaps now is the time to explain something. I, at least on the outside, am not Chinese, but am a tall blonde girl. I do not blend in most places, least of all a kung fu school in the heart of Chinatown. If I thought I had been an outsider before, I was about to receive a rude awakening...

The man looked up and thought I was lost. I said no, I was there to inquire about kung fu. His surprised look remained as he slowly explained what styles the school taught, when their classes were and how much a year membership cost. I nodded and asked if I could return to watch a class. He said sure, the surprised look never leaving his face. I had a good feeling I had found the place. This was the real thing. Old school. I returned to watch a class and fell in love. I bought my uniform and showed up for my first class and managed to hold my own. It was tense, as I was one of a few girls and the only white girl. I could see the smirks on the faces of some of the guys. I found out later that the guys had a running bet on my first day to see how long I would last. Most said I wouldn't last longer than one class. A few said I might make it a week. I stayed 8 years. They all lost that bet.

kung fu

The school taught two styles - Choi Lee Fut  - created by Chan Heung, a disciple of the famed Shaolin Temple, and Do Pi - a Southern style . There are many styles of kung fu, and I think finding the one you like is just like anything else, you have to find the one that resonates with you. These styles really spoke to me because they had large sweeping movements which suited by tall body and long limbs. I later tried Wing Chun - a style that focuses on close range combat. I found it cramped and awkward, like watching a spider monkey fight another spider monkey nose to nose. You have to find the style that is right for you. Classes were 2 nights a week and one Sunday afternoon and were about 4 hours each. They consisted of stances, punches, kicks, stretching, callisthenics and finally, forms - a series of movements that you move through beginning to end. They were the most hard core workouts I had ever had and I had been an athlete all my life. I pushed through. Thankfully, in this case, my stubborn nature probably exceeded my physical abilities, at least at first. No one spoke to me for about 6 months. I think they were all waiting for me to drop out and were confused as to why that hadn't yet happened.

After the six month mark I got the occasional smile. I couldn't believe it. Finally, they were accepting me as part of the group. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I was determined to follow my dream of learning kung fu, and I loved it. I am happy to say that after the guys decided I wasn't leaving they accepted my presence and we all became friends. We went to class together and the ritual became to go out to eat Vietnamese afterwards. It became like a family and we had dinners for Chinese New Years and participated in parades through Chinatown in our uniforms, holding banners and doing Lion Dance. It seemed every time a new restaurant opened, our kung fu school would be called upon to do a Lion Dance (a good luck omen for any new business) and I felt like I was always at the school for class or some function. Hanging out with my classmates socially became a window into this culture which had always fascinated me and I felt so comfortable in. We would have big dinners together and spent way too many evenings doing karaoke. I don't think I will ever be able to listen to Hotel California without fondly remembering my tone deaf classmates.

Studying kung fu was an amazing experience. It was not just learning a martial art, but becoming part of a living breathing organism. The school was an integral part of the Chinese community and it was fascinating and wonderful to feel like a part of something that perhaps few people had been able to experience before. I learned so many things. I learned that a martial art is not about just training your body, but training your mind, understanding the mind of your opponent and honing internal skills like Qi Gong to develop your internal power. I was privileged to become immersed in a culture that I have so much respect for, and I think it made me a better person and a better acupuncturist. I learned discipline, and that usually things that are worth learning, take a lifetime to master. I also learned that I love Vietnamese food. I later dabbled in a few more martial arts - Wing Chun, Jeet Kun Do, Muay Thai, Escrima, Kali and Savate (French kick boxing), and although I loved them for what they had to offer, my heart will always belong to kung fu. <3

 

Here are some clips you can watch which demonstrate the awesomeness of kung fu. Many of my favourite movies are too old to find now (I have them all on VHS!!) but these are some of the masters. Enjoy.

Shaolin Kung Fu

Here is a National Geographic Episode on Shaolin Kung Fu which gives some history and shows some of the monks incredible skills.

Bruce Lee - The Chinese Connection

Bruce is, and will always be, my hero. <3

Ip Man - Donny Yuen - Kung Fu Fight Scene

Jet Li - Fist of Legend

Jackie Chan - Drunken Style Kung Fu - Drunken Master

Master Killer / The 36 Chambers of Shaolin - Trailer

My favourite kung fu movie of all time. :)

A clip from Master Killer detailing Kung Fu training at Shaolin.


The Raven's Warrior

Chinese Medicine Living friend and contributor Vincent Pratchett offers a teaser from his new novel - The Raven's Warrior. And we are so happy that this, his debut novel, is getting rave reviews (2 of which are included below) - congratulations Vincent!!!

By Vincent Pratchett - www.vincentpratchett.com

From Wikipedia

The British historian Joseph Needham and the American historian Robert Temple write that the practice of inoculation for smallpox began in China during the 10th century.[6][7] A Song Dynasty (960–1279) chancellor of China, Wang Dan (957–1017), lost his eldest son to smallpox and sought a means to spare the rest of his family from the disease, so he summoned physicians, wise men, and magicians from all across the empire to convene at the capital in Kaifeng and share ideas on how to cure patients of it.[8] From Mount Emei in Sichuan, a Daoist hermit, a nun known as a "numinous old woman" and "holy physician"—who Temple says was associated with the 'school of the ancient immortals' and thus most likely specialized in 'internal alchemy'—introduced the technique of inoculation to the capital.[9] However, the sinologist Joseph Needham states that this information comes from the Zhongdou xinfa (種痘心法) written in 1808 by Zhu Yiliang, centuries after the alleged events.[10]

From The Raven's Warrior

This Chancellor, once the emperor’s most trusted minister, ambled throughout the palace grounds like a wraith. He had always borne the responsibility of his post well, but now it paled by comparison to the weight that pulled him down and slowed his every step. He was without purpose, a man who knew that in reality his life had amounted to nothing. Sorrow was a heavy burden, and the fact that he would never really know his son added to it greatly.

His regrets were many. Their time spent together was as an official with his heir, he wished now it had been much more as a father with his son. There was no comfort and no solution, and for all his worldly influence, he was now utterly powerless. He had steered his boy away from all things frivolous, but would now give anything just to hear that childish laugh once more.

With no real way to escape his pain, he wandered vacantly to the only place that gave him small respite. As he approached this private spot, he froze when he saw another in his place. He stood quietly and watched carefully to see what the boy had come to steal. Instead he saw the page light an offering before the urn that held the ashes of his son. The smoke rose and circled as the boy bowed three times and thrust the incense into the bowl of alter sand.

An image of chopsticks stuck in a rice bowl came to mind. He walked forward, and at the sound of his closing footsteps, the page’s tear-wet face turned suddenly in his direction. The frightened boy stood clumsily and prepared to flee. “Stay,” the minister bid, and reluctantly but without choice the boy sat once more. “Why are you here?” the chancellor asked, and when the page answered, “I came to visit my friend,” his eyes could not hide their surprise.

He raked through memory for anything his son may have told him about this friendship, but there was nothing. He did remember the distain his boy had of the rough commander, and what once he thought irrational now began to make more sense. Their status was as opposite as night and day, but their ages were similar. In the adult realm of the palace, the minister was starting to believe that his son may have had a secret friend. The Chancellor asked bluntly, “What besides your years could you two possibly have had in common?”

The page responded with an unwavering stare, and with an answer that took the emperor’s highest official completely off guard, “Horses, Sir. Your son loved horses.” There was a time his boy walked into the palace smelling like the stable, and the memory of how he had rebuked his child now scalded him like bitter tears.

Over the course of the afternoon he gleaned many details from the page about a boy that he didn’t know. The minister heard about his son’s dreams of one day joining the military. Proudly he heard that his son was kind to the page and the animals that he tended. In a short time the minister realized that this boy knew his son much better than he did, and he took delight in every hidden detail.

The page eventually apologized but explained that he had his duties to attend to, and that any slip would bring harsh retribution. The minister did not want him to go but understood the workings of the palace. He felt much lighter as he stood to face the page whose position now grew more desperate with every passing moment.

"Sir,” the page intoned with one final recollection, “It was your son’s strongest desire to rid the land of the sickness that came in time to claim him.” With an awkward and uncustomary embrace the minister said, “Goodbye.

The minister walked with new direction, grateful for the gift the young page had given him.  He was clearer in thought and lighter in spirit than he had been since his son’s departure. Once inside his private chamber, he took his position behind his desk. He sat straight and breathed deeply as he looked at the blank silk paper that lay before him. Gathering in mind the spirit of his boy, he dipped the brush and began to write in his beautiful cursive script.

Before assigning his seal, he examined carefully his first official decree since the death of his son, and was well satisfied. The minister had written a summons to physicians, wise men, and magicians from all over the empire, to come to the capital and try to find some remedy.

The official proclamation was sent out across the entire kingdom. It went out over the land like the smoke of the many funeral pyres, and touched the furthest corners of the realm. 

The Raven's Warrior by Vincent Pratchett

Reviews of The Raven's Warrior

The Raven's Warrior is a most fascinating and splendid read! The marvelous Vincent Pratchett has fashioned one of those great adventure novels that literally grab you with the first sentence and never lets go. What a truly wonderful literary ride it is!

The attention to detail, the sense of history and fantasy, the vivid characters who leap off the pages, are all seamlessly integrated to produce a most memorable read. Mr. Pratchett has a magnificent way with a sentence.It is as if there is not a single superfluous word..every word is integral to the whole.

The Raven's Warrior combines so many terrific elements..Celtic history, Arthurian Legend, the supernatural..and all fit in so well in the overall narrative. The adventures and startling life of Arkthar, from kidnapping by Viken raiders and descent into the Baghdad slave market is brought so vividly to life. When Arkthar arrives in the Middle Kingdom..the reader feels as if they have accompanied him on the remarkable journey. Everything a great book should be!

I must also applaud Mr. Pratchett for the immense amount of research that has obviously gone into THE RAVEN'S WARRIOR..there is quite a bit of fact mixed with fiction..together producing a rollicking adventure..and a must read!

AN OFFICIAL JAMES MASON COMMUNITY BOOK CLUB MUST READ

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FOUNDER
THE JAMES MASON COMMUNITY BOOK CLUB - 7,150 MEMBERS

 

ForeWord Review

Original review here - The Raven's Warrior - ForeWord Review

Terry Pratchett’s kin crafts a smooth, new branch of the Arthurian legend.

Debut novelist Vincent Pratchett takes readers from Celtic Europe to China’s Middle Kingdom in a fantasy tale that commingles Western European, Northern European, Middle Eastern and Chinese landscapes and cultures. The result is a novel full of spiritual growth, rousing fight scenes, and a respectful use of martial arts in both their philosophical and martial aspects.

Celtic warrior Vincent is taken by Norse raiders to a slave market far from his homeland. Dusty, weak, wounded, and near death, he is bought by a man and his female servant and settled into a wagon. The pair, whose names he mispronounces as Merlin and Sea Lass, are actually Mah Lin, a former Buddhist monk, and his daughter, Selah, a healer and herbalist. Vincent mistakes them for wizard and sorceress on first meeting. As Selah tends his wounds, she reveals their true callings. Vincent has also gained a guardian, of sorts: a raven has followed him since his Norse captors wended their way to that slave market.

On the way to the Middle Kingdom, Mah Lin teaches Vincent the way of the warrior priest and Selah educates him on nature’s warning signals and herbs’ efficacy. Another case of mispronunciation leads Selah to call him Arkthar, which is approved by the raven’s raspy repetition of his new name. His healing way and physical education are, however, in danger: an imperial commander seeks Mah Lin to revenge himself for a long-ago event.

Thus the mystical circle that began with Mah Lin/Merlin finds and joins with Vincent/Arkthar, the connection is made, and the readers know that The Raven’s Warrior is another branch on the tree of Arthurian legend.

Finishing a novel is a challenge; being first cousin to Terry Pratchett, one of the most beloved fantasy writers alive, might add even more reason to expect a well-written debut. Readers are in luck: Pratchett is a natural storyteller and he knows how to structure a fantasy novel that’s much more than that.

Pratchett’s approach to the Arthurian legend is rare if not unique. Katy Moran’s 2010 novel Spirit Hunter has several similarities toThe Raven’s Warrior. Pratchett’s addition of a might-have-been China, an imperial ruler, and the deep knowledge of a martial artist cause a reader to pay closer attention to the story and how it unfolds. A ribbon of concern for the loss of old ways and skills (and their rescue) weaves through the novel as well. This is not your grandma’s Arthurian saga.

From his personal experiences as a traveler across Asia via ancient roadways (the routes of Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, and Marco Polo), a martial artist and instructor, firefighting and teaching, Pratchett has indeed crafted a new branch of the Arthurian saga. The novel flows smooth as silk, the characters are as real as your next-door neighbor, and the setting and pacing are spot-on.

The Raven’s Warrior reads like the work of a mature writer well seasoned with much background material on which to draw. It will be interesting if Pratchett returns to this world for more of his vision of Arthur—the quality of this first foray into novel-length fiction bodes well for such ventures.

Janine Stinson


The Raven's Warrior - Martial Arts Meets Chinese Medicine

The Writing of The Raven’s Warrior—A Novel

By Vincent Pratchett

Many people have an interest in martial arts. That interest however, is as unique as every individual who has trained and sweated through any art pursued. We bring a modern western perspective to an ancient eastern discipline. For me, the very first time I entered the dojo a new world opened up. The bowing, the white gi and the white belt I tied it with, the foreign names of the martial technique I learned, all took me to a place far different from the neighborhood I grew up in. Almost inevitably, the student at some point will turn their attention to the origins of their endeavor, both personally and historically. It is this understanding that provides the strongest foundation of who we are, and what we do.

At the University of Guelph I took a course in Chinese history, and felt once again that sense of wonder. In the library I poured over volumes of books on the science and technology of ancient China. This vast empire, isolated from the rest of humanity, developed and produced inventions and innovations that made the rest of the known world seem a very primitive place. The European world of A.D. 900 was a harsh environment. Ireland was regularly besieged by Viking raiders. Life in many places was as simple as defend or die. In contrast, China at this time was flourishing.

Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist doctrine formed the basis of their unified society. The Chinese had weapons of steel, while the rest of the world wielded iron. They had the compass while all others navigated by wind and star. Theirs was a working cosmic understanding of the earth and the universe, while for the rest of humanity the world was still quite flat. Advances in medical theory, arts and literature, paper and printing set them apart. It was here that the discovery of the destructive power of a volatile black powder would change the nature of war for centuries to come.

I have always been a writer. I was born with an Irish soul. Inherent in this culture is a deep love and respect for both the written and spoken word. How these words come together to form stories is really the heart of the magic and the enigmatic beauty of creation. Within my family I was taught that stories surround the tellers silently like the air that they breathe. Their gift is to listen and to record, to bring tales from the ether, and give them voice. As one raised in Canada I was skeptical, but now that The Raven’s Warrior is finished, I don’t think that this explanation is without merit.

The stage was set.

In my mind’s eye I could see and hear the savage warrior of my ancestral land dropped into the advanced civilization that was theirs. The writing of the novel began with the first sentence. It came to me as soon as I sat with pen and paper. With the first complete thought inked onto paper, the process of listening and recording was underway. Like the successful application of a martial technique, writing this novel was simply creativity drawn from the heart of chaos.

A man sees the world through the eyes he has been given. The wounded Celtic prisoner of war ripped from his homeland, is liberated by a priest and his daughter in the land called China. For him, hazy images of silk, steel, herbal potions, and healing needles, can lead to only one conclusion, he has fallen into the hands of a wizard and his witch, and Arkthar fears for his very soul. Although the grueling physical journey is over, his spiritual journey has just begun. Under Death’s plotting eye, a warrior, a priest, and a healer embark on a quest to save a kingdom. I hope that you will enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 11.22.49 AM

Every man’s life story begins at first breath, but this is not my story alone, and so it begins much closer to my last.

Chapter 1 – The Beginning

I soar in effortless circles around the plodding caravan far below me, gently riding the desert winds. It is not the glitter of sunlight on jewels that attracts me, for I do not covet the spoils of war, but crave only my humble share of war’s terrible outcome. The hot rising air is cradled beneath the feathers of my outstretched wings, and carries with it the tantalizing odor of sand and blood. I fly on, driven by primordial hunger and beckoned by the smell of death. Drawn closer now, I am intrigued, for I have found its source.

I can see him clearly. He is chained behind the cart laden with plunder and pulled by great horned oxen. He jerks and stumbles forward at every tug of the cattle’s methodical steps. Blood is the clothing that covers his body. Wounded and tortured, decay did not wait politely for death’s cue, and the flies have already joined the feast.

My spirit knows that this cruelty is the work of men, nature is much more merciful. I can see that the dying captive is mad. He raves with agony and fever at every near fall. Nature mercifully has removed mind from body, so his mind knows nothing of its body’s plight or pain, and by nature’s mercy I sense his journey will soon be over.

But that time has not yet come, and I fly upwards towards the heavens to banish my gloom. As clouds part and early stars move slowly before my eyes, I bite and savor simple concepts, tasting the timeless comfort of universal truths. With pain and blood they are born, they live, create life and take life, and then with blood and pain they leave through Death’s cold gateway. It is Death’s black finger that puts the final punctuation at the end of every man’s life sentence.

It was then that I heard Death laughing, and when he had finished his chuckle he began to speak. “I have heard the delirious ramblings of countless dying minds. I am amused by yours. Heavy philosophy to hapless metaphor, ‘my black finger puts the final punctuation at the end of every man’s life sentence?’ That is very funny given your circumstance. Fly down with me to see the wretch again.” As we flew lower Death continued to speak.

“Many times in many battles I came to take him, but he was elusive and agile. Even though I couldn’t reach him, he did my work well and sent me many. Did you know I have whispered to him every step of his journey and still he will not come? Yet even if he does not die along the way, he knows I wait to embrace him at the executioner’s block. Why does he resist?”

We angled closer to the man as he continued. “I know this unreasonable tenacity is testimony to the power of life and creation, and to feel life’s pulsing strength is a new experience for me, an experience for which I will always be grateful.” We flew closer still, and hovered. The stench was intoxicating. I saw the war prisoner’s wild eyes, and in a heartbeat ravenous euphoria was replaced by terror.

I saw and understood that this smell of what was once a man was me, and in panic I began falling from the sky. Death steadied me, “Do not be afraid,” he said as I plummeted towards myself. “I came once more to take you, but I am in your debt. You have challenged me, aided me, helped me hear life’s song, and finally you have even made me laugh. ‘My black finger puts the final punctuation at the end of every man’s life sentence,’” and his laughter began all over again.

We had begun the final dive of a bird of prey. There was no turning back. We were very close and flew very fast, faster than the speed of reflex. For me there could and would be no stopping. A wing tip away from impact, he flashed his final words. “No punctuation yet, your life sentence has just begun.”

Instantly my world blazed white. Like the coals of a forge it cooled, sinking steadily through a sea of red and orange. Finally it settled into the black cold depths of the night, from where I emerged and moved as a man once more.

The fever had broken. The heat and redness around the wound still remained, but my arm no longer ached at every passing heartbeat. The blood that had seemed unstoppable had slowed to a trickle and had cleaned the wound as best it could. Dead flesh was gone, and the children of the flies had also vanished. A mind forced away by the body’s anguish has returned to its temple to worship at its altar of bearable suffering once again.

I had survived, I had begun to heal, and I had forgotten everything that Death had said to me.


Why We Should All Do Qi Gong

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I suspect we have all seen the groups of elderly Chinese in parks, moving gracefully in unison, seeming to be listening to something that cannot be heard by the rest of us. I have this memory as a child, living across from a huge park I would go out to walk the dog and sit in the grass, watching them. They were so beautiful, moving all together, like a flock of birds, communicating by some unseen force, many individuals, moving as one.

I later would discover that this was Qi Gong.

A Brief History of Qi Gong

Qi Gong has been practiced in China for thousands of years. Its purpose was to build the body’s internal energy or qi to promote health and fight disease. In 1122BC the I-Ching or book of changes was one of the first books to introduce the idea of qi. People used the concept of the universe to explain the laws of nature which was seen to be an integration of three fundamental energies - heaven above, earth below and man between them, joining the two. Studying the relationship between the three was the first step in the development of Qi Gong. During the Zhou Dynasty (1100-221BC), Lau Tzu, founder of Taoism, wrote about breathing techniques in his famous book the Tao De Jing. Interest in qi was heightened, and Qi Gong became an integral part of the development of traditional Chinese medicine along with concepts like yin and yang and the theory of the five elements.

Later, duning the Han Dynasty (206BC - 220AD) Buddhist meditation techniques arrived in China from India, integrating meditation with Qi Gong practice. Buddhist practitioners worked to cultivate their qi, strengthen their internal organs and control mind, body and spirit to achieve enlightenment and avoid the cycle of reincarnation.

It was during the Liang dynasty (502 - 577AD) qi gong was integrated into martial arts. This was a powerful union, as external martial arts like kung fu with its quick, explosive movements with an emphasis on strength, power, agility and flexibility, joined with the internal art of Qi Gong which focusses on using mindful breathing to strengthen the body, cultivate the mind and spirit, prevent and cure disease and increase longevity. Qi Gong practices were also introduced from other countries including Japan, India and Korea as information passed more freely from country to country.

Qi Gong developed into many traditions, each having its own purpose and methods. Below is a brief description of each.

Buddhist Qi Gong

Aims to liberate the mind, cultivate virtue and to obtain enlightening wisdom. The human body is considered a tool for attaining enlightenment. (84000 approaches mentioned in history; most popular type of Qi Gong.)

Taoist Qi Gong

Stresses preservation of the physical body and high virtue. Many Taoist Qi Gong masters enjoyed long lives. (3600 approaches are mentioned throughout its history.)

Confucian Qi Gong

Aims to promote high moral character and intelligence

Medical Qi Gong

Medical Qi Gong emphasizes the free flow and balance of qi (vital energy) in the body. The primary purpose is to treat illness or cure a disease. Medical practitioners learn how to use the inner qi for diagnosis and healing.

Martial Arts Qi Gong

Trains the body for protection from cuts by weapons or attacks using the four limbs. It also trains the body to deliver fatal blows enhanced with qi.

There are basically two ways to practice Qi Gong. One is with a series of gentle movements, or sets, where one moves systematically through the set, smoothly transitioning from one movement to the next, concentrating on the breathing and mindful awareness. The other is to practice Qi Gong by standing, sitting or lying  also paying close attention to the breath. This focus on breathing is to strengthen the immune, digestive and circulatory systems as well as strengthening qi and gaining an awareness of what is happening inside the body and mind. It is most effective when practiced outside, being connected to nature and the cosmos, which  is why it is so common to see groups of people practicing it in parks and outdoor spaces.

The doctor of Chinese medicine learns these practices so that he may cultivate his qi, developing an awareness of both his qi and the qi in everything around him. This leads to the ability to diagnose and restore balance in his patients using all of the tools in his Chinese medicine toolkit, including acupuncture, Chinese herbs, cupping, tuina and guasha.

Qi Gong is an excellent way to develop an awareness of your own internal energy and become more sensitive to that energy if it becomes unbalanced. It is also an avenue to restore that balance when it should arise. It is a practice that emcompasses all parts of our being, helping us to become more aware and with skill, to maintain a healthy body, mind and spirit.  


Healing the Gallbladder with Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The Gallbladder in Chinese Medicine

In Chinese medicine, the Gallbladder has many important functions. Firstly, it has a very close relationship to the Liver. The Gallbladder is a Yang organ and the Liver is its Yin organ partner. The Gallbladder stores and excretes bile governs decision making and planning, controls the sinews and effects dreams. On a deeper emotional level, the Gallbladder is responsible for our passion for life, inspiration, action, and assertiveness. When we are having problems being assertive, making decisions or following through, are lacking passion, feeling timid or uninspired, we are experiencing an imbalance of the Gallbladder. When the Gallbladder is balanced and its energy is flowing freely, we are happy, healthy, assertive and passionate.

In TCM, organs are categorized as either Yin or Yang. Yin organs are defined as organs that produce, transform, regulate and store fundamental substances, such as Qi, Blood and body fluids, and in general, the Yin organs are not empty cavities. They are function versus form. The Yin organs in TCM are the Heart, Liver, Spleen, Lungs, and Kidneys. The Yang organs are organs that are mainly responsible for digestion and for transmitting nutrients to the rest of the body. Usually, they are organs with empty cavities and have a connection to the outside of the body. The Yang organs in TCM are the Gallbladder, Stomach, Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Bladder and San Jiao (Triple Burner).

The Gallbladder is unusual in the sense that it is the only Yang organ that does not have direct contact with food and drink or a direct connection to the outside of the body. Because of this, it is also considered an extraordinary organ.

Just as in Western medicine, the Gallbladder receives bile from the Liver which it stores until it is needed in the digestive process. When the Gallbladder releases bile, it is considered to be regulated by the energy of the Liver, or Liver Qi. When digestion is smooth, so is the Liver Qi. The Gallbladder also needs the Liver Qi to be able to release its bile smoothly. If this relationship is impaired, it can adversely affect digestion and cause problems like vomiting, regurgitation, belching and hiccups, which are all symptoms of rebellious Stomach Qi.

It is common in the modern age to see many patients who have had their Gallbladders removed because of gallstones and other problems. In ancient China, the organs were never removed. That has remained the thinking in Traditional Chinese Medicine today, and if a patient is having problems with their Gallbladder, the practitioner of TCM would always explore dietary options, herbs and acupuncture, and possibly cleanses before considering surgery as a last resort.

Why Do So Many People Have Problems With Their Gallbladders?

So, why do so many people have problems with their Gallbladders? It is a good question. I believe that one reason is diet, and the other is stress. These are 2 of the things that affect the gallbladder the most. Another, in Chinese medicine, is the emotions. Each organ in TCM is associated with an emotion. And the Liver/Gallbladder’s emotion is anger. Now, experiencing emotions is a healthy part of life and one of the things that make us human. But in TCM, the philosophy is that having a healthy emotional life is just as important to our health as eating well, getting enough sleep and keeping your Qi strong (your immune system) so that you can fight off pathogens. The effect of anger on the Liver/Gallbladder works 2 ways.

1. If you repress anger, hold it in and never express it, it will eventually hurt the Liver/Gallbladder and cause imbalance, which will lead to disease.

2. If you are experiencing unusual levels of stress because of things going on in your life (a traumatic event, death, an illness, breakup of a relationship), or stress at work, and/or are eating badly (lots of greasy, fatty, rich or spicy foods), then eventually, the Liver/Gallbladder will become impaired and can cause an excess of anger which can manifest in symptoms like red face & eyes, irritability, angry outbursts, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and migraines. These are symptoms of Liver Fire (excess heat in the Liver).

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So, How Can You Take Care of Your Gallbladder?

Here are some things that you can do to keep your Gallbladder healthy and happy.

1. Avoid Greasy, Fatty, Rich or Spicy Foods

Sharp abdominal pains after eating these types of foods point to Gallbladder stones and other problems. Because the Gallbladder is responsible for releasing bile which helps break down fats, you want to keep intake of these foods to a minimum and not overload your Gallbladder.


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2. Express Emotions Freely

This may be easier said than done, but any stagnation or blockage in TCM is what causes disease and pain. This includes emotions, so it is important to have a healthy emotional life, and always try to express what you are feeling instead of allowing it to build up. Emotions specific to Gallbladder are anger (frustration, resentment, etc..) associated with its partner, the Liver. Emotional changes such as depression (which is considered anger turned inward) can also point to a Gallbladder imbalance.

3. Eat Foods Grown Locally and in Season

This is a big one in Chinese Medicine, and, if you look at history, it is the way we are designed to eat. Our digestive systems have evolved to digest the foods that people were able to grow once we were able to leave our nomadic roots and start farming. People only ate foods that were available to them and grew in the present season. With the recent proliferation of air travel, we have been spoiled by being able to have whatever foods we want, any time of the year (strawberries in winter, blueberries in the tropics, mangoes in the far North...). And although this is wonderful, it is not the way our digestive systems were designed, so we are overloading them with too many kinds of foods at all times of the year. To be kind to your gallbladder, try to eat foods that grow locally and are available in the season you are presently in.

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In Chinese Medicine, nutritional therapy is a huge aspect of the medicine. What better way to heal the body than to use the food that we eat 3 times a day? In TCM, every food has a temperature, that interacts with your body, adding heat, cold, or keeping it neutral. Foods also all have healing properties, so the Chinese felt it very important to eat the proper foods when they became sick to help rebalance them so they could recover. I will include a list of some foods beneficial for the Gallbladder at the end of this article.

4. Exercise. Keep Moving!

The Gallbladder meridian runs bilaterally along the body starting at the outside corner of the eye (at the end of the eyebrow) and runs along the side of the body, ending at the corner of the nail bed of the 4th toe. Therefore, any exercise that stimulates the sides of the body are beneficial for the flow of Qi and to help remove any blockages in the Gallbladder organ and meridian. Side stretches are ideal. There are many Chinese internal as well as external martial arts that are excellent for mind, body, and spirit. Tai Chi and Qi Gong are 2 examples of internal martial arts that are beneficial for moving Qi in all of the meridians, as well as strengthening the body and the mind. Kung Fu is a bit more rigorous, but has an emphasis is circulating Qi throughout the body to maintain physical and mental health. Movement is the most important aspect for keeping your Qi from stagnating, so if Tai Chi, Qi Gong or Kung Fu are a bit more physical activity than you are used to, just simple things like walking are a wonderful way to keep Qi moving.

 

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5. Be Kind to Your Gallbladder in Spring

Spring is the season related to the Gallbladder, and its partner the Liver.
The Spring element is wood, the taste, sour and the colour is green. So you can imagine after a lengthy winter, the new bright green shoots of plants breaking through the ground representing new life after a long, cold slumber. This is the reason that it is especially important to give the Gallbladder and the Liver a rest from things like caffeine, alcohol and other intoxicants during this time. It is also beneficial to cleanse these organs by drinking lots of water and eating things like fresh greens to nourish the Gallbladder and Liver, especially in the spring.

6. Know What Time It Is

In Chinese medicine, every organ is seen to have 2 hours out of every 12 where its Qi is at its peak. The time when the Gallbladder’s energy is it's most abundant is between 11pm-1am. During these 2 hours, it is helpful if you can refrain from drinking alcohol or other intoxicants, as they place unnecessary stress on the Gallbladder. It also helps the Gallbladder if you can rest the body as much as possible in these 2 hours.

Foods that are beneficial to the Gallbladder

  • Broccoli
  • Rocket
  • Beetroot
  • Oranges
  • Jasmine tea
  • Green tea
  • Radishes
  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Cayenne (this may seem contradictory, but Cayenne is very moving for qi. Just remember moderation!)
  • Dill
  • Chive
  • Cardamom
  • Lemon
  • Dandelion root
  • Licorice root
  • Cumquat
  • Grapefruit
  • Kale
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Peppermint tea
  • Chrysanthemum tea
  • Tea with orange peel

 

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Foods that hurt the Gallbladder

  • Deep fried food - (Greasy)
  • Alcohol - (Damp)
  • Spicy foods - (remember moderation is important!)
  • Hot foods - Foods that are considered “Hot” in TCM are:
    • Lamb
    • Beef
    • Curry

If you are experiencing any Gallbladder symptoms, or have been told by your doctor that you should consider surgery, I encourage you to seek out a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine and explore the non-surgical options to rebalance your body and heal your Gallbladder.

The wonderful thing about Chinese medicine is that it was developed to be a system that focuses on prevention. That is why, it is not only the oldest medical system on earth, but it teaches an entire way of life, teaching how to live in harmony with nature, eating with the seasons, moderation in work and play, exercise and emotional wellness. By practicing these basic principles, Chinese medicine teaches that you can maintain optimum health so that illness never has a chance to develop.

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If you suspect you are having problems with your gallbladder and would like an expert opinion, Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP offers skype consultations. For more information and pricing, see our Skype Consult Page.


Kung Fu Style: Choy Li Fut

Choy Li Fut (Cantonese), 蔡李佛, or Cai Li Fo (Mandarin) Kung Fu is a traditional martial arts system based on Shaolin martial arts from the Shaolin Temple.

It combines the agile footwork of Northern Chinese Martial Arts with the intricate Hand Techniques of the Southern Kung Fu styles, making Choy Li Fut one of the most complete and effective styles for health and self-defense.

Choy Li Fut , 蔡李佛, emphasizes relaxed, internal power rather than stiff, muscular force. This is not only more effective in combat, giving the smaller person an advantage, but is also better for the practitioner’s health as it develops the entire body.

Choy Li Fut forms are circular, powerful, and as beautiful to watch as they are effective in combat. They often contain over 150 individual movements, each having a practical application in self-defense. Done at full speed, forms provide an excellent cardiovascular workout.

Unlike many other martial arts, Choy Li Fut contains a wide variety of techniques, including long and short range punches, devastating kicks, deadly sweeps and takedowns, lethal pressure point attacks, joint locks, and grappling, making it one of the most well rounded and versatile fighting systems. Each set covers many aspects and concepts of the martial arts and even provides dynamic 2 and even 3 person combat sets, giving the student the ability to develop a real time sense of the techniques in combat application.

Choy Li Fut also has forms teaching the use of a large arsenal of traditional kung fu weapons, 53 to be exact, divided into long, short, twin, and flexible categories with the Nine Dragon Trident as the symbol of the Choy Li Fut system. There are even 2 and 3 person weapon combat sets to develop the full range and abilities of the practitioners with their weapons. Finally, it includes internal training such as meditation and breathing exercises unifying the body and mind with traditional Chinese Martial Arts.

Choy Li Fut has proven itself effective through it’s conception during revolutionary times to the modern days of combat sports, and is still one of the worlds most popular Chinese Kung Fu systems. Famed for it’s effectiveness in the Chinese underground full contact martial arts tournaments, it’s traditional values and self-discipline and self-protection attitude provides Choy Li Fut as the perfect martial arts base for anyone looking to better themselves.