One Shaolin Monk Maintains The Key To Achieving Great Sports Feats Can Be Found In Chi Gong Training
Creating the Super Athlete
By Szilvia Balazs-McCord
So many questions run through my mind when I think about martial arts and internal training. How many things in one's life could be improved with regular practice of chi gong? What else can chi gong do, besides make us pass our own limits over and over again, while practicing martial arts?
I can't stop thinking about how much better professional athletes would be if they practiced martial arts, specifically chi gong. Could Peyton Manning throw better; could Adrian Peterson become more elusive; and could Ed Reed hit any harder than he already does, or simply could their professional longevity be extended. Could LeBron James and Dwayne Wade be even better, or jump even higher? Would we see different things when we look at their blocks, or dunks, three-point shots if they practiced chi gong with their regular training?
Faster and Stronger
Would great boxers like Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, or Evander Holyfield be tougher, faster and more focused then they were? Could they stay longer in the ring or would they retire at later age? If chi gong can help "regular" people, how much would it help athletes who are already in top physical condition? How many lives could be better, easier if more and more of us would find the natural energy with which every living being is born. Would people who suffer from disease recover faster? Could people with good health become even healthier, and prevent sickness in later ages? Could it be the long-sought medicine for slowing down the aging process? Can someone with attention problems become more focused; could people with low self-esteem have confidence for the first time in their life? To answer to these questions, I sought the guidance of an authentic, genuine source. Those familiar with internal training know there are less and less "real" chi gong masters left every day, especially when it comes to the Western world. Fortunately, there are some Shaolin monks from China teaching in America-New York to be exact-so I interviewed one of the best and most respected of them all, Venerable Shi Guolin, abbot of the Shaolin Temple Overseas Headquarters in New York.
INSIDE KUNG-FU: Do you think chi gong practice would benefit professional athletes?
SG: Yes, of course it would improve their performance. There is nothing magical about chi gong practice. Chi gong is one system of training one's breathing. Breathing is the best method to achieve the unification of the internal and the external. That will produce better rhythm. self-control and balance. Chi gong practice allows the body to achieve stability and smoothness during exercise.
IKF: Is that true that some people have natural chi flow even they don't know about it? How can you tell if they have it?
SG: From an Eastern perspective it is qi or chi, and from a Western perspective it is energy. These are limitations of the language. If a person-normal person or athlete-does not have energy (qi or chi), the person is not alive. This is to say, if one is not breathing there must be no chi flow. When it comes to people who participate in sports or martial arts, if they don't have internal training, as they age they become weaker and slower. Someone who practices chi gong becomes stronger as they age.
IKF: Is it because they already build up a huge amount of chi in their body or because they become more experienced?
SG: It is normal for anyone to slow or weaken with age. With the advancement of age, it is not appropriate to practice strenuous or hard exercise. External martial art is an example of strenuous exercise. If you have gone through internal chi gong practice, you will delay the natural age-related atrophy of the body. So, it is not uncommon to see an old master move in ways uncharacteristic of someone at that advanced age.
IKF: Health benefits associated with chi gong are well known. Do you know anyone from your personal life that has become healthy/cured after starting practice chi gong?
SG: Based on many years of teaching experience, any student with internal or external physical ailments has received benefits through the practice of chi gong. In addition, many healthy students experienced what it means to be even healthier after a period of practice. This is the result of increased protection from normal breathing, or an achievement in physical internal and external balance.
IKF: Can chi gong masters cure a patient with his hands by sending energy to the ailing body part?
SG: I do not oppose this, yet I do not support it. I support self healing through the practice of the Shaolin methods.
IKF: Is there a difference between "regular" chi gong and healing chi gong?
SG: Any chi gong is determined by your own mind. Different objectives achieve different results. If the objective of your chi gong practice is the vitality of the body, it is, as you say "health chi gong." If your objective is to be a better martial artist, it is a martial arts chi gong. Chi gong is the practice of breathing per above; it affects and improves every aspect of your life, for breathing is in every part of one's life.
IKF: Some people think that you must start training while you are young and it may be too late to do anything when you get older.
SG: The beautiful thing about chi gong is that you can start it at any age. Those who practice kung-fu regularly know the benefits. They know what chi can do for their body and mind; it becomes second nature in their life. But those who never did any martial arts, but tried chi gong hoping to improve their health, get the biggest surprises when they realize how much better their health becomes. From chronic back pain vanishing to being healed of cancer, the scale is wide. Anything can happen once we accept the fact that chi is real, alive and always there. All we have to do is find it within us.
People who practiced martial arts and chi gong before they started their training in other sports are developing faster and have much more stamina. Research is showing that people who live in the East are less likely to develop life-threatening diseases than those raised in the West, thanks in great part to a combination of a healthier diet and the daily practice of abdominal breathing.
Just think how much better our performance could be become, in martial arts or any sport, if we make internal training a daily ritual. The only ones who can testify to the benefits are those who have felt it in their own skin. How much stress and money could we save on doctors and medical treatments? How many tears could we save by living longer, healthier lives?
"There is nothing magical about chi gong," Sifu Guolin says. It's simply a matter of uniting the internal and the external that produces the ultimate key to success.
STUDENT: HSI-LING CHANG, TRAINING: STARTED AT AGE 39
"People think that when you are 39 you are over the hill. When you start to practice chi gong, you find out there is much more in life than you thought. So even though I started training at 39, I developed so much in a couple of years. I'm in much better shape right now than I was in my 20's. "I think a lot about things we do daily, like walking, running, and what is the natural way to do it. I reach higher levels in training. And all of this makes you feel good, because you didn't win the Lotto or buy it at a store. You earned it yourself."
STUDENT: WONG LEE, TRAINING: 4 YEARS
"When you start training with Western methods, the purpose of your training is to gain something- muscles, biceps, triceps, etc. With the Eastern method training, you get rid of all the bad stuff inside your organs, so your body can be free from diseases. Kids who start chi gong at a young age are so flexible and focused. "It's really unbelievable what chi gong can do. And learning from sifu Guolin is giving us amazing results. So I feel lucky that I can learn from him. It's 1 DO-percent true what he always says: "To get real results, you have to find enjoyment in kung-fu. And that enjoyment comes from wanting to do it every day."
STUDENT: MELANIE LO, TRAINING: 13 YEARS
"I started doing chi gong when sifu Guolin came to America 13 years ago. Since then, I haven't stopped practicing and I don't think I ever will. Chi gong is like a drug, but a good kind of drug. Once you start it, it becomes addictive."
STUDENT: NATALIA REZNIC, TRAINING: 10 YEARS
"When I was looking for a martial art school with my husband, I'd seen so many here in New York, but none impressed me. And when I found Guolin sifu's school, I knew I wanted to learn what they do. They were teaching chi gong and that was very hard to find 10 years ago. What I gained from chi gong was not just physical strength, but a way of life. From changing my diet to changing the way I think, chi gong has turned my life in a whole different direction-a much better one than what I had before."
Szilvia Balazs-McCord is an East Coast-based martial artist and freelance writer.