Archive: Docos and Ch’i

Source: Gisoku no Jutsu
Original post date: 6 March 2007

Two blogs over two successive days! Crazy stuff. This one’s in response to a doco I caught over the weekend that got me thinking about, well, stuff. It was on one of the Discovery channels, and was about this guy who was a double amputee, above knee, and paralysed from below the waist. I missed the first 10 mins or so, which I’m assuming it explained how he came to his condition in that time. They showed some early shots of him when he was a kid, so I’m under the impression that it was something he’d had since birth, or happened shortly thereafter (kinda like how my leg was amputated shortly after birth – see my previous blog for the full story); I’d say it’s more likely the former though. Anywho, it was really cool – this guy had this crazy enthusiastic attitude and he just went for everything. He tried using this crazy prosthesis setup that really wasn’t working when he was a kid, so he adapted so that he got around purely using his arms. This guy was awesome! It was really cool watching how he got around the place, how he adapted his life to his situation and the dexterity he had with his arms. Was very cool. Maybe its something about having reddish hair – we’re all a little crazy maybe. I think it was called ‘Half body, Full Life’, maybe something like that.

But the clincher was when they were talking about the wear and tear on the joints in his arms – at the age of thirty, the joints in his arms were like someone of 50… which got me to thinking about my situation. I like to think I push my body pretty hard (though not stupidly hard – I realise I still have to work and don’t want to render myself incapable of walking through my own rampant enthusiasm if possible :P), and I only have one leg taking the brunt of everything, and have been doing as much since I was a kid. It kinda hit home that I should be starting to look at ways to keep the stress off my leg, particularly my knee, if I want to be able to keep mobile when I’m older. I know it probably sounds stupid for someone my age to be already thinking that, but I want to keep moving as much as possible, and if that means starting to take precautions now to look after my remaining leg, that’s what I have to do.

By extension, it also got me thinking about those crazy martial artists in Japan/China/Korea, the ones who have been considered masters for years, and even in their 60 and 70s, have this incredible control over their bodies. Well, I might be generalising, but at least that’s the impression I have – these guys have built up this incredible control, strength and mastery over their bodies, so that even into old age, they’re doing really well. It’s a combination of physical and mental/internal martial arts training (and probably a balanced diet – the Japanese in particular have one of the longest lifespans in the world), and its this internal training that has just hit me as possibly being the missing piece, or being so essential. I know it probably sounds hyperbolic, but developing and utilising one’s ch’i/ki (depending on if you’re going for the Chinese/Japanese term) as this wellspring of energy seems like such an important part of true or in-depth martial arts training. I’ve recently finished up the section of the (excellent) book, “Secrets of the Samurai: The Martial Arts of Feudal Japan”, on the internal factors of Japanese martial arts (and by natural extension, of Chinese martial arts, given its tremendous influence thereon), and it was really interesting to read. I think it helps explain the divide between developing just physical prowess, or training the internal (mental, ch’i) and external (physical) factors of martial arts. I feel that learning this is essential to (a) becoming a better martial artist in general, and (b) overcoming any shortcomings I have physically so that I’m not at as much of a disadvantage against other able-bodied people; and (c) discovering the hidden aspect of martial arts. I also think that learning this will help keep my body in really good order when I’m older, and hope it helps compensate for the rought treatment I’ve given my leg, hips and back over the years 😉

So, last night after I did a good round of leg stretches, I tried to settle into at least the right position so I kinda looked like I was meditating. Well, not meditating – that last sentence brought up flashbacks of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which while awesome, is probably not the yardstick I should be throwing up there to achieve 😛 More like, in a position where I could concentrate on my breathing and focus.

I always misinterpreted where to concentrate my breathing when trying to develop ch’i before – for some stupid reason, I didn’t realise it sits an inch or two below the navel (aka bellybutton, but the books always say naval, which isn’t anywhere near as funny as the word ‘bellybutton’ ;)). So yeah, I spent some time just concentrating on my breathing and focusing and stuff. Writing this out makes it sound a bit silly, and doesn’t really convey all the random snippets of information I’ve accrued over time about it. I mean, am I getting suckered into something? Is this concept generally abandoned amongst serious martial artists today? Are people out there reading this and laughing at the concepts I’m trying to write down?

I don’t know. What I do know is that after I spent a little time practicing deep breathing and focusing, when I went out the back yard to let our dog Baxter (BTW, that’s no pseudonym – that’s his real name ^_^) out to do his business before going to bed, I threw a few focused punches at my boxing bag… and the thing flew further back than I’ve been able to push it before with a single strike. I was a bit surprised, so I tried a few more times, and the result was the same. Some could argue this is a result of my weight training, but I’ve thrown the odd punch here and there since starting up weights and while I hit it harder than pre-weights, it didn’t throw the bag like my strikes did last night.

So, it might just be mind over matter, or fluke, or coincidence. Still, with some many classical texts referring to the development of ch’i, maybe there’s something in it. I’ll continue to work on it and see if it makes a difference over time. It could all be in my head, but ultimately if it results in something positive, I’ll stick with it.

… and thus ends my first [quasi] deep and meaningful blog. If it didn’t bore that shatner out of everyone, I’ll throw a few more in over time 😛


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