What if you could improve your health and vitality simply through the control of breath and energy? Qigong aims to accomplish that formidable task naturally and noninvasively.
The following DVD was sent to me for review and analysis from a martial perspective. I may technically be a "hard stylist" as a karateka, but I am frequently amazed at how much internal energy and technique is required to achieve higher levels of karate effectiveness. The history of karate itself is laden with Chinese influence. That's why I came to this video happily, looking forward to any insight it might be able to provide both in terms of healing and to the instrinsic aspects of training.
What is Qigong For Healing?
Qigong (chee-gung) is a Chinese healing art that focuses on the energy and breath circulations within the body. Much like Kyusho of Okinawa, Qigong operates using the Meridian Theory and TCM (traditional Chinese medicine).
This video, hosted by Lisa B. O'Shea, guides the viewer through some of the fundamental concepts and forms used in Qigong practice. O'Shea is a direct student of renowned Gongfu and Taijiquan practitioner Yang Jwing Ming.
What's In The Video?
This DVD provides a significant amount of content, and is broken up in the following manner:
- Introduction to Qigong and the idea of energy
- Sensing qi (chi, aka energy) in the body
- Utilizing breathing and visualization to promote healthy energy storage and flow
- Assessing qi blockage and removing flow interference
- Dantian meditation (siphoning energy into the core)
- Rising lotus meditative forms
- Self Healing practices
- Partner healing practices
With over three hours of instruction, the viewer gets a thorough explanation and demonstration of each concept. O'Shea gears her discussions toward the lay person, not becoming too wrapped up in the idea of meridian points and cycle details. She utilizes common metaphors and examples to explain what the body should be feeling as healing is promoted.
How Did The Video Stack Up?
All in all, I enjoyed the in-depth discussion of how energy can be used to heal the body. In the martial arts we spend a significant amount of time looking at the destruction of the body and can neglect building it back up. The result is often injury and early retirement.
That being said, there are a few caveats that you should be aware of before launching into this kind of video. First, the host takes her time with explanations. This is especially true in the introduction. If you are pumped to get to the meat of the matter, you'll find the pace a little slow. Of course, that's probably valuable since the introspective body analysis of Qigong requires quiet and patience.
Furthermore, you'll want to assess your level of comfort with the idea of "chi". I tend to frame my own martial study in the context of psychology and physics. When talking about energy transmission I generally refer to the kind of energy the body can produce and transmit into a target via mass and acceleration. However, O'Shea discusses a more universal kind of energy; the kind you can pull in from the air around you and sink into your tanden. She discusses ways you can use your hands, posture, and mind to move energy around the body, and even extract bad energy when it is stagnant.
To some of you, this will be old hat. To others, it may be the kind of Eastern thinking you're interested in. Yet others will be turned off by the esoterica. That's all fine; assess your likely compatibility with Qigong accordingly.
Qigong for Healing is something I'm pleased to have in my library. It's a friendly and pleasant approach to the internal side of training. I think practitioners of all skill levels can approach this DVD and get value out of it. If you think it might be right for you, check it out here.
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Hey everyone! The end of our most recent giveaway has arrived. Today I'll be reaching out to the three randomly selected winners for the IkigaiWay and NaturalKarate T Shirts.
I'd like to extend a special thanks to everyone who was able to participate. Should any of the winners not respond I will redraw and select a new winner. If you were unable to participate in this giveaway, don't worry – I hope to offer many more in the future.
About the Winners
Two individuals will be drawn randomly from the pool of link submissions. One subscriber to the new Natural Karate project will also be drawn. These individuals will be contacted privately in order to protect their personal information.
Special Thanks to Fibers
This event was made possible by Fibers Custom T Shirts. They have been kind enough to work with me and provide the prize materials.
My experience with the Fibers process was very enjoyable. Their site demonstrates a focus on fun and quirky shirt ideas, and the business aspect of their company helps support small enterprises such as this one.
When designing the shirts, I felt completely at ease with the process. The technology in place to import personal images (jpeg, png, etc) was very intuitive, as was resizing and placement. They even had a ton of stock images and color options to help enhance the on-shirt creatives. Had I wanted to, I could have designed shirts right from their stock material.
Placing and arranging the visuals was done by drag and drop, allowing for quick maneuvering. This was useful in that I could get a sense for which placement I liked and which I didn't, and make adjustments accordingly. In addition, I was able to save each project for later review and easy access.
Quality End Result
Fibers was gracious enough to provide me with a sample shirt. I'm very pleased with the end result. As you can see, the fit and quality of the print is excellent (click to enlarge):
Should you need custom printing I would definitely suggest giving Fibers T Shirts some consideration. This positive review has been an honest opinion of my experience and was not required as part of the giveaway.
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Okinawa is beautiful and it's people well-mannered, but even they are not protected from the realities of violence.
Throughout it's history Okinawa has been the stage for many conflicts and power plays, the two most notable being the Satsuma Invasion of 1609 and the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. During those times a great amount of combat went on, but what about the rest of Okinawa's history? What was it like day-to-day on the island?
For about as long as our records can tell, Okinawa has utilized a rudimentary class system. In it's early days the Ryukyu island chain (Okinawa being the largest of the islands) was split amongst a variety of chieftains. These small lords feuded in a constant tug of war for land and resources. Each ruler had a fighting class to battle for them and a working class to do the heavy lifting.
Eventually Okinawa conjealed into three main sects (known as the Sanzan period). A powerful ruler named Hashi (1422-1439) from middle Chuzan united all three territories after an extended military campaign. Years later, in the second Sho dynasty, Sho Shin (1477–1526) organized the local rulers in a unique way, pulling the leaders into a concentrated area in Shuri. He was also responsible for the first edict on the island banning the wearing and ownership of traditional weapons such as swords, firearms, spears, etc.
Weapons ban or not, the Okinawans had to deal with plenty of conflict in their normal lives. Territorial feudings persisted, rogue bandits known as wako scoured nearby islands (including Okinawa), and standard rabble-rousing was a stark reality.
What could be done?
Enter The Police
Sho Shin favored a Confucian method of societal order, and as such established very distinguished classes amongst his people. Along with the local lords (anji) who were now under his watchful eye in Shuri, Sho Shin designated multiple levels of Pechin. Pechin could range from the lofty Oyakata who were officials from important families, to the rather pedestrian Chikudun who came from non-noble and even common families.
Among the lower ranks sat the Shikusaji Pechin who were responsible for day-to-day law and order. These men of action were based out of an administrative building known as hirajo and operated within the Okumiza Bureau in Shuri itself1. Branching out from this main department were lesser kogumiza organizations operating via hirajo found in each of the outlying provinces.
Rank Amongst the Police
Inside the Shikusaji Pechin class were even more delineations. The most important inspectors or police chiefs were referred to as Ufuchiku, while lesser inspectors held the title Wakichiku. Beneath the inspectors sat the "beat cops" who held the titles of Ufusaji (senior cop) and Wakisaji (junior cop)2.
As you can see, the rank and file were well established and even resembled the organizational structure of modern law enforcement.
Luckily for lower class Okinawans, the order of society under Sho Shin was a mix of familial inheretence as well as meritocracy, meaning that individuals had some room to improve their station in life.These external motivations helped keep people deligent and operating at their maximum effort.
The Tools at Hand
The first tool of the Shikusaji Pechin was authority. Sho Shin's class development wasn't just on paper – each class could be distinguished by the flair and color of their garb. For example, Pechin could wear yellow or red hachimaki3 (headgear) depending on their rank.
Of course, eye catching dress wasn't enough on it's own; Shikusaji Pechin realized they needed a wide variety of public deterrents. Their duties ranged from corralling local drunks to engaging deadly wako, which required a diverse arsenal.
The two main weapons the Shikusaji Pechin adopted, especially after the weapons ban, were the sai and bo. The sai offered an exceptional ability to trap, ensnare, and deflect weapons. Sai were frequently unsharpened which meant they could break and bludgeon without killing.
Bo on the other hand offered a distinct length advantage along with clubbing capability. This allowed Shikusaji to control and dissuade perpetrators without resorting to lethal force. When combined, the distance and prodding of the bos along with the pinning and striking of the sai made for an effective system.
The sai itself was constructed out of high quality metal, something rather rare on Okinawa (remember the island was never rich with natural ore). Therefore seeing a sturdy pair of sai on the hip of a policeman was akin to seeing a well polished badge.
Naturally, the Shikusaji Pechin also took interest in weapons that would always be available – fists and feet. As such, they became active players in the importation and integration of empty hand technique.
Direct Impact on Karate and Kobudo
The impact of Shikusaji Pechin on karate and kobudo is not theoretical; there are multiple examples of it's influence. One of the most important men in this realm was the police chief of Shuri itself. This powerful man went by multiple names (as was common at the time), including Kinjo Sanda, Kinjo Daichiku, Ufuchiku Kanegushiku, Masanra Kanagusuku, and Usumei Kani. Whatever he was called, he was to be feared and respected.
One of his more well known names, Ufuchiku Kanegushiku, offers insight into his rank. Ufuchiku was the title reserved for high inspectors, and being the high inspector in Shuri was a big deal. Ufuchiku Kanegushiku's duties varied from crowd control to specific guard duty to the king himself.
Kanegushiku was said to be a rather private man but in his later years chose to pass on some of his learning, even developing his own sai kata4.
Since Kanegushiku's time law enforcement on Okinawa has had a constant impact on the direction and mindset of karate and kobudo.
1. McCarthy, Patrick. Bubishi. North Clarendon: Tuttle, 2008. pg. 83.
2. Swift, Joe. “The Roots of Ryukyu Kobujutsu.” Meibukan 10 July 2008: 2-4.
4. Alexander, George. Okinawa: Island of Karate. Lake Worth: Yamazato, 1991. pg. 49.
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