Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Martial Arts and Massage Therapy?

Chi Kung, which is also sometimes written Qigong, is an ancient Chinese practice for harmonizing the subtle energies through balancing the breath within the body. Chi means breath and/or energy, and Kung means ability or process of development. So Chi Kung can be loosely translated as "breath and/or energy development". And, though there are countless styles and variations of Chi Kung practices, the main categories are lying, sitting, standing or moving Chi Kung. The practices vary from very passive and internal meditative styles in a lying or sitting position, to very dynamic and active movement.

Martial Arts and Massage?

Tai Chi Chuan is one of the most well known styles of moving Chi Kung. The word "chuan" denotes a fighting art and Tai Chi Chuan is a martial style where the principles of Chi Kung have been applied to martial movements and the developing of fighting ability.

However, there is much Chi Kung that is not connected to martial arts. In Buddhist and Taoist circles Chi Kung was used to help attune the adept to the subtle energies, and thus support their spiritual development.

Chi Kung was also used by traditional Chinese doctors for healing and rehabilitation. And this is what Chi Kung is mostly known for today.

Some of China's most ancient medical texts refer to breath and movement exercises. And, in recent times, studies have been done in universities and hospitals, as well as by independent doctors, validating and exploring the healing qualities of various Chi Kung principles. These studies have documented the profound effects that Chi Kung can have on balancing, harmonizing, and energizing every system of the body: the circulatory system, endocrine system, immune system, and so on.

The Chi Kung that I study comes from a traditional martial arts context, with a strong emphasis on building bodily health and vitality as the foundation for further practice. The classes that I teach are based on a process of structural rebalancing. Using various exercises, from lying down to moving, students learn to soften the tissues and loosen the joints, freeing up the breath wave. Through an increasing proprioceptive and kinesthetic awareness one becomes more conscious of what is going on in ones own body. This is a powerful neuromuscular reeducation. And when a person gets the "knack", it becomes an ongoing activity. Going through this process while standing and moving within the gravitational field makes it a very real experience that is directly applicable to everything one does.

Another aspect of the structural rebalancing is based on "softening the tissue". With a focus on relaxation and rhythmic movement, the student is able to release tensions and restrictions within the soft tissues. This helps to develop a fluid quality to ones movements, which literally "flushes" the tissue, having a profound effect on the immune system.

I feel that this is the basis for the healing qualities of Chi Kung. This flushing process can affect the entire body, all the organs and tissues, with a profound physiological effect. And, when the body is vitalized, the subtle energies become free flowing, allowing the whole body-mind being to experience a sense of freedom and harmony.

Integrating Chi Kung with massage therapy is a main focus of mine. And teaching classes at FSM with the students has been a great inspiration for me. I'm starting to do workshops in Chi Kung, and I invited my teacher, Wei Lun Huang, to Gainesville this past October. If you would like information about workshops, or Chi Kung in general, you can contact me through the Florida School of Massage.

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