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
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
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.
Malik Lawrence is a teacher at the Florida
School of Massage and is working on integrating Chi Kung
therapy. The Florida School of Massage is located in Gainesville,
Florida and offers massage therapy sessions, workshops, and
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