On the top shelf of a poked Swansea High Street newsagents on a wet December day near Christmas 1990 was the face of Master Lau peeping out from behind a copy of “Men Only”, on the one side, and “Hi – Fi Monthly” and “Gardeners Weekly” on the other. To say the least, it was an incongruous sight.
It was by sheer chance that I happened to be in Swansea that day and sheer chance that I happened to glance through the rain and condensation into the shop window to catch a fleeting glimpse of this little scene as I walked past.
A few years before, I had trained in Wing Chun at Master Lau’s Kwoon in Albany Street, Regent Park, and so enthral was I by the speed, power, subtlety and beauty of the art, and by the possibilities of personal development that it offered, I had decided that, come what may, I was going to dedicate myself to achieving as high a standard as possible in Wing Chun. Unfortunately, after only 15 months, I was forced to give up Wing Chun Kung Fu partly due to a long standing knee injury, but mainly because of a serious illness compounded by a severe depression which lasted over 18 months.
Walking down that street in Swansea I realised that despite trying a number of complementary therapies, and that despite having worked abroad in a deliberate attempt to make some fresh start I was still no nearer to resolving my problems and, therefore, no nearer to my goal of devoting myself to Wing Chun Art. I felt disconsolate and at an emotional dead end.
It was in this context that, happening to come across the magazine article Qigong, seemed like jute; a lifeline heaven-sent. However, despite having read the article, despite having seen and heard a little about Qigong, and despite the few private lessons I had before joining the course in August 1991, I was totally unprepared for what was to come.
During the first few months the effects of the training, and the continuing cycle of changes in those effects, were quite dramatic. At first, I was astonished to feel a gentle, yet quite district, invisible force coax my hands, arms, hips and head into gentle movement. The movements gradually become stronger and more pronounced and I noticed that one of the consistent features of the Ji Fa Gong was extremely precise jolting movement centred on the injured knee which I could not reproduce outside of the training. (In later months, other precise, powerful movements and manipulations centred on the knee made me feel as if I was performing osteopathy with my eyes closed). Then on one particular evening the Ji Fa Gong exploded – it was as if all hell had been let loose in my living room. Sifu (teacher) had warned us that very day the Ji Fa Gong would soon become more violent but, although I believed him, like an turbulent road accident, I could not quite envisage it happening to me. If did and with a vengeance. It felt as if the whole body was bout to explode, my head which was whipping around in a frenzy seemed set to rip off the shoulders and rocket into orbit and all the while I moved around the room dribbling, panting and fighting an imaginary opponent. In short I must have resembled a drug – crazed, evangelical epileptic.
However, for me, far more incredible than all this was the feeling that I’d stepped outside time: The whole episode last 45 minutes yet I would have bet my mother’s life that it all took place in no more than 10.
Thereafter, the Ji Fa Gong went through various distinctive phases but with the movements always very powerful and precise leaving me each time with the sensation that I’d been cleaned out from the inside and ripped apart from the outside to be reassembled.
After each session I continued to feel an incredible sense of well-being and contentment: I felt like the boy with the red glow around him in the old Ready Break Ad.
The knee became a lot better for a couple of months and the deep-seated emotional upset seemed far more distant: There was also a corresponding improvement in a deep-seated stomach condition. I would wake in the morning happy and full of energy and I noticed that I was not half so worried about the future: Rather more calm and trusting in that respect.
In the last 3 months, either because it has been impossible to train regularly, or, more probably, because it is part of the healing process that takes place around this time all my particular problems seen worse. However, I’ve simply accepted this state of affairs and am looking forward to September when I’ll be able to train properly.
Training in Qigong has started to change my outlook on life in ways I never imagined a year ago. It is giving me a new perspective and a clearer understanding of myself and past problems. For instance I can clearly see how time and health was wasted by the same stable group of obsessive thoughts going round and round in my head; and I can see that despite a high level of fitness my energy level and health has always been very poor.
In fact, training in Qigong has changed my view on health. I now feel actively responsible for the maintenance of my health and well-being. Before, I considered myself a passive recipient of inconvenient viruses, even more inconvenient medication: an innocent “victim” of illness – a view which now seems ridiculous.
As regards Qigong (as well as Wing Chun) I feel as if I have stumbled across something I have been looking for a long time without realising it, something which will help in many ways simply by helping me to enjoy life.
It is already pointing me in a direction I never expected. That Christmas day in Swansea seems a long time ago.