The term “internal,” is referring to a type of training that focuses on developing of the life energy called “Qi”. We come across the term life energy in every great and antient culture of the world: “Chi” (Chinese), “Prana” (Hindu). Nowadays researchers and scientist are able to prove the reality of the “Chi” existence, using special technical innovations. The real problem is a subtle nature of “Qi”, so that most people find it really difficult to feel how “Qi” flows inside their bodies and meridians. Our modern lifestyle, which puts an enormous pressure on the nervous system, causes “stiffens” of our feelings. So we can not feel higher vibrations of “Chi”. We miss the “unit with the nature” and natural flow of movements. So the “Tai Chi or Kung Fu retreat” in the natural environment of Tianmeng Shaolin Kung Fu Academy could be a great possibility to “come back to roots”. If the mind becomes less distracted and less stressed, it would allow the body to relax, giving you a possibility to feel deeply and completely. That’s why Tianmeng Shaolin Kung Fu Academy pays so much attention to internal martial arts practicing Qigong (life-energy cultivation practices). Qigong and Tai Chi are best ways of practicing for beginners and older people. It is important to develop the internal power before learning any fighting applications or Kung Fu forms. Additionally we offer Meditation to balance your emotions. A relaxed body works better and is less prone to injuries. So, integrating “internal” rounder and softer movements in the daily practicing routine of every “external” martial artists and athlete is a smart idea to achieve best results. Bruce Lee describes “internal” martial arts as following.
“Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo.”
Well if my last entry was about breakthrough, this was one would have to be about breakdown, but I’ll come to that later. Yesterday was Saturday, a rest day. I had Thai Massage in the morning, not excruciating for the most part this time, but she did discover an area in my shoulder which was pretty crazy to have worked on. I felt great afterwards and went down to the training area for some solo work, practiced staff form then sword, the Tan Dao, Chinese Sabre or Broadsword. After using the stick I got permission to practice with a real sword. I wound up selecting the real, real sword. Let me explain. They have practice swords which are real swords, but with a blunt steel blade and considerably lighter. The real, real sword has an edge which could cut: it isn’t particularly sharp not having been honed for a while but is a serviceable blade. The main thing is the weight; it’s much heavier than the practice sword I’d previously used. Using the real sword is almost as much difference from the practice sword as is the practice sword from the stick; using it very much ground-truthed the whole experience. This applies not just to the matter of strength conditioning but in being able to perform properly the form.
On our day-off we go into the town of Pai for supper (amazing Thai food!!) and eat ourselves silly. Before going down I had a chat with Eddie about teaching and learning dynamics. He shared that he gets concerned when a master doesn’t correct him. “A master won’t correct you for two reasons”, he commented. One is because he doesn’t think it’s worthwhile and the other is because you’ve got it so perfect you don’t need it, “and I know that’s not the case”. So when the Master corrects it’s because he cares, and even more importantly, he thinks you care. This means that you’ve taken the corrections and applied them, so it’s worth correcting again and again, going deeper into whatever you’re learning. There is also the matter of attitude. Some people don’t take well to corrections, or shall I say, the act of being corrected. The process of being corrected is something I’ve experienced many times with Native elders. When they are correcting you, they are doing it because they care and it is a sign that they see you as trainable. Another thing Eddie mentioned was quite interesting to me. He said that, from his perspective, when one comes to Nam Yang you don’t pay for the teaching and the training; you pay for the accommodations, the food and services. The training is always there, it’s part of a way life and it is up to the student to enter in and make the most of it for themselves. The the more you try and the harder you train the more will be given to you and the more you will gain. The onus is on you.
Today was a great day; it was the best day yet! In fact, things just keep getting better here every day. I’ve still got 8 days left and already I’m feeling somewhat apprehensive about leaving. We worked in the group and I worked alone on sword and staff adding to the sequence of moves in my forms. We worked some very cool activities for strengthening and technique development in partners I can’t wait to bring home for Julian and Sarah. We got into practicing the most intense combat moves yet, so much fun!! I love this stuff and always feel especially honoured when Master Iain picks me to demonstrate the move: block me, lock me, throw me to the floor. I was especially honoured today when he cracked me on the nose. It wasn’t really that hard but it was a good square shot which elicited an audible pop. He felt so badly about. We were demonstrating a move which required me to come in with a grapple; Sifu seemed to want me to come in with some energy so I did. Either I came in too hard or he misjudged the distance or perhaps a bit of both but I think he felt worse than I did. I told him it was easy to misjudge the distance of such a target given my nose is probably a little closer than most others, I mean hey, that’s what makes me handsome in Thailand! Sifu asked several times throughout the session if I was ok. I glowed a little like Rudolph for a while but it doesn’t hurt at all anymore. Whenever we sit down for mid-session tea, Sifu pours the tea and asks, “Now, are there any questions about Kung Fu”. It’s really a special time of day. Today our youngest in the group asked about Nam Yang’s code of conduct, or Ethos. It’s a fantastic document and communicates very effectively the principles of loyalty, respect, equality, responsibility, brother/sisterhood, family, diligence and selflessness which distinguish Nam Yang, its Masters and Instructors. Here’s an excerpt, “Joining Nam Yang Pugilistic Association means becoming part of an ancient tradition dating back to Tat Moh (Bodhidharma), the Shaolin Founder, about 1500 years ago.” This brings me to the breakdown I had mentioned at the outset.
I got up extra early this morning and went to meditate in the Buddha House. It was locked so I set up under the stars between the two Nagas (Dragons) out front (see picture attached). Afterwards I went down to where we begin our day’s activities in the open training area under the stars. We went through all the various Chi Kung exercises and moved into the stepping meditation. Afterwards we entered the Shuan Yang Sun Frost White Crane soft martial art form. I started sinking in to the movements, but of course was making mistakes, and Sifu came to correct me. Each move, of which I believe there are 66 though they all flow together, has a name. To help me understand the move he was correcting Sifu shared its name, “Goddess Pan Gu Opens Heaven: the Beginning of Heaven and Earth”. As I moved into the form it hit me how deep and vast is this tradition; there’s so much here and I’ll never even come close to learning it: 1,500 years of perfecting practice handed down from master to student, layer upon layer upon layer of art and science, technique and form. One must start young to really learn this and practice all your life; here I am almost 53 years old and just beginning with a two week intensive surrounded by these young fellows signed up for weeks and months at a time. What have I been doing with myself all these years? Goddess Pan Gu opened Heaven and I cracked open: I felt like I was falling, being swallowed into an abyss knowledge, wisdom, diligence and subtlety. Under northern Thailand’s pre-dawn light tears streaming down my face, pulling my elbows together, rolling back the shoulders, stretching out my hands until the wrists stabbed with pain, sinking down in the stance, rooting into the earth, drawing up Chi I cracked open, grieved for all the things I’d never know or learn, all the lost opportunity, and opened deeper to the form.
Time for sleep and I wish you all the best,
by David Lertzman
David Lertzman Ph.D. is the Assistant Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainable Development PI: Energy Indigenous Environment Interface Research Program, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary.
This blog entry is part of a series of blogs David Lertzman wrote for StudyMartialArts.Org detailing his experiences training at Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu Retreat. If you’re interested in visiting this school book your place here and get an exclusive discount Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu Retreat.
Stepping of the plane in Chiangmai, I instantly liked the place. The warmth of the air was somewhat different to the dry February cold of Beijing.
Rather unwisely though I failed to print of the directions and contact number for where I would spend the next 3 weeks training. “Mai Pen Rai” with a single step I’d quickly adopted the Thai go with the flow attitude like a natural, after all I was in Thailand and what better why to honor my hosts.
I’d only just touched down in Thailand and the journey was already exceeding my expectations and I felt completely relaxed about the weeks ahead. What I love about traveling is meeting people. My experiences to date have shown me that people vibrate on different frequencies depending on their state of mind. When people are on similar frequencies it’s natural for them to attract and connect. With my mind on exploration, discovery and anticipation for the journey ahead it would be this energetic principle that had drawn me to meet a fellow martial arts traveler.
Energetic principle or fait I met Dr David Lertzman at the boarding gate at Hong Kong international airport heading for Chiangmai. Both of us where surveying the room for a suitable plug socket to charge our respective apple products.
David a professor from Calgary University in Canada was a man who’d spent the last 7 years working with indigenous tribes in the Amazon rainforest. He was traveling to a place called Pai for 3 weeks of Shaolin training in order to follow a passion for martial arts that remained with him from his youth.
We rearranged our seats on the plane and from Hong Kong to Chiangmai the professor and I swapped stories and enjoyed the back and forth of good conversation.
An instantly likeable and approachable man he had a way of making people around him feel comfortable. I pondered the thought of how this character trait would be one that would serve him well in the rain forests of the Amazon where he would have to communicate with numerous indigenous peoples. I pictured him bounding through the rain forests like Sean Connery from the medicine man.
We parted company in Chiang Mai with the intension of staying in touch to share our separate training experiences. He set off for the Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu Retreat in Pi and I to meet and train with Sifu Mark Rasmus.
Arriving late at Susan Pailomn it was dark but with a warm welcome and smile I was greeted by Sifu Rasmus. I could feel I was in a good place geographically, mentally and spiritually. Mark showed me to my chalet and we headed out to grab some food.
We talked about our respective martial arts journeys, about the training ahead, about life in Chiangmai, places to eat and places to visit. I new I was in the right place studying with the right master. When we finished it was late.
My first night in Chiangmai my plan ahead of arrival had been to make it to base camp familurize myself with the area and get a good nights rest. Mission accomplished.
Nestled among bamboo groves and trees I woke up from my first nights sleep to the morning chants of Buddhist monks and bell chimes, refreshed and ready to begin my training.The days ahead in Chiang Mai would be filled with excellent tuition under the supervision of Sifu Rasmus.
In addition to this there would be amazing temple visits and location based training, delicious local food and one or two healing Thai massages.Each evening as part of my training regime I would journal my progress. Likewise Professor David Lertzman had also been chronicling his training experience in Pai and was emailing the details of what would become a great blog for those thinking about training at Nam Yang Shaolin Kung Fu School. This is a blog I will post at a later date on the SMA bloggers wordpress site.
Before we parted company in Chiangmai I’d told David about the Study Martial Arts project, about our mission statement and company ethos. I also explained how I was always on the lookout for quality schools and masters to work with, so any insight he had about the school would be much appreciated.
With David’s regular up dates and emails filling my inbox with detailed accounts of his experience I knew that if an opportunity presented itself I would head to Pai, visit the school and catch up with my fellow martial arts adventurer.
On the second week of training a Thai national holiday fell on the Friday. Intuitively, Sifu Rasmus a keen motorcyclist proposed the idea of a road trip to Pai. With his help I rented a scotter and followed Sifu Rasmus along the beautiful, and somewhat infamous winding road from Chiangmai to Pai. We arrived in Pai dropped off our bags then headed out to explore Walking Street.
Walking Street Market in Pai is located on Rungsiyanon Road. It is a shopper’s paradise offering a wide range of souvenirs big and small, unique handicrafts, lacquerware and hand-made clothes some of which come direct from highland villages or local artists. Along with these gift stalls and shops I delighted in the sights smells and tastes of the authentic street food. Thai, Chinese, Western in such variety all fresh and delicious. The Thai street food experience was living up to the hype. The following day a Saturday would be a day off from training for the students at Nam Yang, so I explored Pai a little soaking in the Friday night before returning to my hotel. After breakfast I headed out to the school to meet David and also one of the instructors Eddie.
The school a ten minute bike ride away from my hotel is on the outskirts of Pai close to its small airport. David met me and showed me around the school and introduced me to some of his fellow students.
Some of these students were beginners studying martial arts for the first time, others had been students who had studied in China and were somewhat jaded of the experience and some were seasoned and experienced martial artists. After David showed me around he demonstrated one of the forms he’d been working on, then we sat and took tea with Eddie who at the time was one of the schools instructors.”Out door training areas”Normally the journey from Chiangmai to Pai takes 3-5 hours depending on your pace. I’d recommend taking it slow and taking in the scenery. The road itself is super fun but beware, those that get carried away and go to fast might end up as one of the roads numerous casualties. Both experienced and inexperienced drivers have cut short their holiday on this road which snakes it’s way up and over the mountains to Pai.
We stopped midway for lunch on the journey up and on the return I cooled down with a swim at this amazing waterfall at Mork Fa. For more information on martial arts training at this school or training experiences throughout China and Thailand visit the http://www.StudyMartialArts.Org website.
The StudyMartialArts.Org website has discounts on martial arts training and travel experiences as well as exclusive offers only available to those who book through SMA.
When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world. When we exhale, the air goes out to the outer world. The inner world is limitless, and the outer world is also limitless. We say “inner world” or “outer world,” but actually there is just one whole world. In this limitless world, our throat is like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes out like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door. If you think, “I breathe,” the “I” is extra. There is no you to say “I.” What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no “I,” no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door….
Tozan, a famous Zen master, said,
“The blue mountain is the father of the white cloud. The white cloud is the son of the blue mountain. All day long they depend on each other, without being dependent on each other. The white cloud is always the white cloud. The blue mountain is always the blue mountain.”
This is a pure, clear interpretation of life. There may be many things like the white cloud and blue mountain: man and woman, teacher and disciple. They depend on each other. But the white cloud should not be bothered by the blue mountain. The blue mountain should not be bothered by the white cloud. They are quite independent, but yet dependent. This is how we live….
When we become truly ourselves, we just become a swinging door, and we are purely independent of, and at the same time, dependent upon everything. Without air, we cannot breathe. Each of us is in the midst of myriads of worlds. We are in the center of the world always, moment after moment. So we are completely dependent and independent. If you have this kind of experience, this kind of existence, you have absolute independence; you will not be bothered by anything.