The Art Of Kung Fu Meditation
When you hear about martial arts, the first thing you think of is probably a blazing fast flurry of fists and kicks, or maybe a pair of nunchuks flying through the air. But one of the largest aspects of the entire culture of martial arts has much more to do with the mind than with the body that holds it – and it’s arguably one of the most important skills to master. We are, of course, talking about meditation.
At its core, meditation is the art of shutting out distractions and focusing intensely on what your body is telling you: breathing, heartbeat, temperature, sensations, and all the minute details that are all too often overlooked. While it is normally associated with “clearing your mind” and thinking of nothing in particular, the actual emphasis of meditation is quite the opposite. You want to reflect on yourself, and connect the deep, innate parts of your consciousness with the chaotic and complex side that interacts with the everyday world. By bridging the two together, and strengthening the bond over time, you gain a better understanding of who you are, your place in the world, and how you can live the best life for you.
Research shows that even small amounts of meditation has beneficial effects for practitioners. Even five minutes a day can bring noticeable improvements! Regular meditators see benefits to their blood pressure, stress levels, focus and attention, productivity, sleeping patterns, emotional health, social interactions, immune systems, and so much more – but don’t just take our word for it; here’s an article from Psychology Today that links off to study after study discussing this very topic. Experienced meditators, who have dedicated thousands of hours to this activity, have even been shown to use every region of their brain at the same time when they are in a full meditative state – a phenomenon that cannot occur without practice and discipline.
While it’s an excellent idea to unwind and reflect at home – before bed or in the morning are perfect times for it – if you really want to get the most out of your meditations, having a guide to help you along is essential. When you meditate with us here during class at Kung Fu for Life, you engage not only with your mind, but also the rest of you – body, breathing, and chi. An active relationship with chi, (instead of the inactive, passive approach that we usually have) is the key to true self-discovery, and when you do our meditation, your brain is 100% engaged with the motions of timing and breathing, repeating full and satisfying breaths, over and over again. This can be hard to do on your own, especially if you are new to the process.
The original creator of the Shaolin martial arts is said to have spent seven whole years meditating in a cave by the first Shaolin temples, and for much of it simply sat in place – eventually developing the stretching and movement exercises that allowed him to recover afterwards. These exercises are still used today to maintain continuity between the mental meditative state, and the physical motion afterward, because martial arts are all about bridging the gap between not only conscious and subconscious, but mental and physical. As you develop the connections between both sides, they will become more synchronized – and it follows that your “intuitions” will get better, your “instincts” will improve, and your awareness of yourself and the world around you will sharpen. This is because your subconscious mind will be able to more easily express itself to your conscious mind, and vice versa. Experienced meditators can even use their conscious mind to tell their subconscious self how to deal with bodily problems or injuries, and see results by bringing the two into alignment over time. It all comes down to communicating within yourself, and trusting that you can overcome problems together!
If you’ve always wanted to try meditating, but feel like you don’t have the time, or that you aren’t sure what to do, there are some excellent apps like HeadSpace to get you started. Remember, even a few minutes a day is better than none at all, and the science backs that up. As the saying goes, “If you can’t fit five minutes of meditation into your day, you should do 20!”
Learning how to meditate is one of the most important life skills we teach at Kung Fu for Life. Meditation is the focus of one’s own mind in order control oneself, build confidence and increase mental strength. After all, how does a monk stand in the cold for hours, or sit in a horse stance far longer than should be possible? It all comes down to mental strength – a mental strength gained through hours of meditation and disciplined, regular practice.
When you think about it, great achievements of the body are really just great achievements of the mind, and dedicated minds can achieve what others think is impossible.
Kung Fu For Healing
It’s a story that’s common all over the world: disease or disability can, at times, strike any of us without warning or even an apparent cause. Most of us know someone that has struggled with cancer, arthritis, joint degradation, or another condition that has greatly reduced their quality of life. Often these people are told that there isn’t anything that can be done for them. But is it as simple as that?
Over the last six years, our Grandmaster has begun training people on how to heal themselves, and how to take proper care of their body – a method that, when combined with the right professional medical advice, can make great progress in a fight against disease. For example, one student, who was diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live, began to train in kung fu with meditation, breathing exercises, and a new diet. He is still going strong, years later! He is not the only one, either: another student, suffering from COPD, prostate cancer, and borderline diabetes just a few years ago, now says: “…my physical health is increased exponentially….In conjunction with the western medicine, it has made a huge difference.
By following the Grandmaster’s teachings, these and other students have made noticeable positive impacts on their health. But it does require commitment and willpower as well: just like when a doctor tells you that you need to take pills three times a day for a month, you have to follow the Grandmaster’s instructions equally diligently! If you follow the instructions persistently with faith, the benefits will come. Everything we teach is like a prescription for success, if you follow it correctly.
The Grandmaster has taught people who were headed for dialysis, and helped to improve the condition to the point where they only have to see a doctor once a year about it. He has had students with arthritis and helped them work through the condition, by using the chi and meditative methods
Like all people, the Grandmaster himself has to go to the doctor and have regular medical checkups. If something’s wrong, he uses the diagnosis to target the pain and cure himself with chi and deep mental focus. This speeds up the healing process and in his case prevents the need to take any drugs. Commitment and dedication are absolutely necessary in order for him to overcome any ailments. The same is expected of you if you want to be successful.
So if you have joint, muscle, nerve, breathing, or organ issues – or any other health problems that don’t require a quarantine – why not see what proper training and meditation can do for you? If your current treatment does not seem to be as effective as you like, or isn’t meeting your expectations, give us a call to see how we can help. Just ask for the Grandmaster directly, or leave a message for him and he will contact you himself to discuss the matter further. Don’t even worry about pricing – if you are in need of health assistance, we would simply like to meet and see what we can do. As with anything, we cannot promise results, but our track record is extremely good on the matter.
We want to see you be the best and healthiest you can be! Working alongside your doctors and medical professionals, we can help train your mind and body to perform at their best level. At Kung Fu for Life, we are all about living our best possible lives – so find out how we can help you today!
Kung Fu Competition Training vs. Self-defense Training
It is important to understand that you don’t have to compete in order to learn self-defense. The origin of our system, shaolin, was never meant for competition. It was designed to create good health, focus of mind and body, and of course learning to defend oneself.
Sometimes what you might think looks barbaric in the fighting ring, is actually civilized when compared to advance self-defense training. Ring fighting contains only a portion of true Kung Fu/ martial arts.
Let us start by saying, there is only one true competitor in your life and that is the person looking back at you in the mirror. We will explain in point-form the main differences of self-defense and competition training.
So let’s address each one for now - competition versus self-defense.
1. Limited space, this is also often the case in self-defense as a matter of fact, much less space is usually available compared to the ring. So close-quarters fighting techniques is an absolute must. Sometimes there is much more space than you would ever find in a ring. Remember that the only thing that matters in self-defense is self-preservation, you must do whatever it takes, including running away. There’s no rules, no competition, no crowd to impress, just defending yourself! True self-defense has a foundation in both common sense and ethics. Before you ever lift your hand to hurt another human being, it must be warranted.
2. A referee is there to ensure that no competitor gets out of hand, gets severely injured or killed. He is the calming agent between the two fighters, reminding them at all times to follow the rules.
In self –defense, of course, there is no such person mediating anything or protecting you from what your assailant is going to do to you, it is just you and your attacker. There is only one outcome and it must be that you survive. You aren’t a winner or victor but rather the survivor for life not glory.
3. Rules. There are all kinds of rules in competition, and you can thank civilized man for that. Just remember there’s no rules in self-defense, except maybe the law and that’s only after the fact, unless you’re very lucky. In Roman times, the spectators were the true barbarians and they promoted the violence. Unfortunately, you still see some of that today, not just in martial arts but in many sports, more blood, more cheering, lots of big mouths calling out for more violence… it’s easy when it’s not their own blood.
4. Prearranged time in competition, this allows many variables to be somewhat predictable within reason, good fighters know this and plan a couple surprises for their opponents. Self-defense situations always have an element of surprise which causes confusion, fear, hesitation, and sometimes locking of the body (also known as freezing). Which is natural but nonetheless can be very irritating and restricting. Examples of this are, you can be carrying your groceries to your car, riding on the bus, sitting at a donut shop, or any number of tasks we do every day when an attacker comes at you. One of the best ways to avoid these predicaments is to remain aware of your surroundings at all times which allows you more options than just self-defense. This could include calling 9-1-1, avoiding the potential danger by exiting, or finding another way around it. Good teaching promotes the understanding of self-defense is far more than just hand to hand combat.
5. Know your opponent. For competition there are many ways to study the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent. For example, watching recordings of past fights, physically seeing their fights, watching old interviews, and yet there are still many other ways. In self-defense, obviously, there are no such observations possible. There is little to no idea of your attacker’s skill or intentions, other than obvious postures. How do you compensate for this? There are numerous ways, but no matter which you choose, you are forced to react (after exhausting all non-violent measures). You have to use any techniques that will work and must exert 100% effort until the threat is gone. When the attacker has forced you to the point of no return... fight for your life!
6. Rounds. There are 2-3 minute rounds with rest in-between. In Self-defense there is no rest, as I mentioned before no referee, no choice, and no rules.
Most self-defense if properly taught will only last a couple of seconds, maximum a minute, any self-defense that lasts longer is considered a very long time. The energy used during that minute is equivalent to over half an hour of an intense work out, depending on the intensity used. As well, you are dealing with other energy draining problems such as nervous tension, possible lock up, anxiety, maybe fear (which is totally okay). Remember hurting others is not normal or natural, even in our own self-defense. Like we said before you must defend yourself!
7. You get time to prepare for the fight, sometimes months. Pre-fight warm up in competition is also possible. As a matter of fact, it is absolutely necessary in order to prevent injury and have better reflexes and movement. Self-defense must include cold response training methods. This can be very difficult to do because the lack of a warmup that may cause injuries to occur. We don’t do it all the time, but often enough to make it work. However, our students always step into the martial arts hall with a certain state of readiness. Because of this our main teaching methods always include situational awareness training, which is an important tool for self-preservation. Obviously you can’t know when a self-defense situation will occur so there is no chance for a warm up. The main tools of mental preparation for this case are conscious and subconscious recall.
8. In competition there are two people who want to fight, both want to win but only one will. Both are already warmed up, they have been training for months and have done their homework beforehand. In Self-defense there is at least one aggressor and one defender who does not want to be in the situation at all. An attacker usually makes the first move and has the element of surprise. If you have no inclination of the attack and get surprised, being aware of your surroundings beforehand and having proper training can put the advantage back in your corner.
9. No exit strategy. In the ring, no one wants out. However in self-defense there are many exit strategies. A good martial arts teacher will show you the way to leave a situation or at least come up with a non-violent solution. Peace should always be the top priority.
10. Your trainer is right there with you in the corner of the ring. This is an amazing advantage. If you could have your teacher right there telling you what to do when you get attacked it would seem 10x easier. Unfortunately there is no chance of this ever happening. The best you can hope for is that you listened so carefully to your teacher that the master’s words flow to you like water; as if they were right there with you, telling you what to do, while you’re getting attacked. Otherwise (and for the most part this is always true), you’re on your own and every move is your call. Whether it’s the right or wrong move it’s totally up to you.
Training for competition is good for health and self-defense, but you DO NOT NEED to compete in order to learn excellent self-defense, because there is only one true competitor in your life, and that’s the person looking back at you in the mirror.
Is The Canadian Government Being Unfair?
When it comes to weapons in society and how people should be able to use them, it’s hard to settle on an answer that suits everyone. It seems that the only thing that everyone involved agrees on is that all weapons, no matter how large or small, should only be wielded by those with the training and knowledge necessary to use them properly. Today we want to discuss some of the restrictions on martial arts weapons that you may not even know exist.
Many of the weapons that you might think of when you hear the words “martial arts”, such as nun-chuks, bo staffs, sais, and small clubs, originated as farming equipment in China. In the 1600s, the Chinese government outlawed weaponry for civilians, but also required that they were able to defend themselves and the country if needed. Due to this, they created new techniques with the objects they had on hand, and many of the modern symbols of martial arts were born.
Just like many other household items, like kitchen knives or construction tools, the danger of these weapons depends on who is wielding them. Yet, strangely, while you can own as many knives, chainsaws, nail guns, sledgehammers, baseball bats, and shovels as you want, you cannot own – or even carry! – nun-chuks, three-sectioned staffs, self-opening blades, or ninja stars in Canada. It’s illegal for you to own them, or even transport them for the sole purpose of training somewhere else!
This can be disappointing for martial artists, as it’s a double standard: we trust carpenters, arborists, and chefs with their tools, which are all equally lethal. We allow hunters to bring guns and crossbows into the wilderness, once they’ve shown that they know what they’re doing with them – and if someone gets hurt, we hold them responsible. Why is it not the same with martial arts weapons?
Now, we are not advocating that our students should be able to carry around potentially lethal objects and wave them around for fun – far from it. What we do want is for our students to be able to become familiar with, respect, and transport these traditional martial arts tools to a safe training session without fear of breaking the law, just like plenty of other people do with the tools of their trade. After all, why would a disciplined and knowledgeable martial artist be any more likely to cause trouble than anyone else, who could simply walk into any hardware store and choose from hundreds of potential weapons available? How dangerous is a chainsaw or a set of bolt cutters compared a sai or a set of nun-chuks?
There is a necessary and implicit trust present in many places of society. Just because someone wants to learn how to use a traditional martial arts weapon effectively does not mean that they will have any desire to hurt anyone, or ever use them beyond the walls of the gym. For example, we don’t assume that every gun owner is angry or maniacal – why would we treat martial artists any differently?
So what do you think? Would you like to see reform in the laws, and allow qualified martial artists to own and transport these weapons? Or do you think the risks are too high for the relatively small amount of people that would benefit from such a change?
Kung Fu Retreat
With the cold weather of the last few weeks, many people in Calgary are daydreaming about getting away in the summer and taking some time to escape the stresses of life in the city. If you’re already looking forward to long, hot days, mountain air, exercise, and the peace and quiet of meditation, then we have the perfect opportunity for you!
Kung Fu For Life is now accepting registrations for our summer seminar, which runs for your choice of 3-5 days on the shores of the beautiful and warm Christina Lake, BC. Your accommodations with the Grand Master, a simple one-minute walk from the beach, will be your home base during your stay, and the solitude and peace will allow you to practice meditating on the three levels that you will learn while you are there. However, the retreat is also aimed at building up physical skills as well, and the rugged landscape allows for in-depth training of both self-defence and endurance training.
The entire seminar is designed in such a way as to accommodate the level of fitness you are currently at, while enhancing each individual during the sessions of direct kung fu training with the Grand Master. Feel your energy return as you cleanse pollutants from your body and mind – all the smog, chemicals, distractions, light and sound interference of the city will be removed, allowing your mind to soar. Liberate your inner strength, cultivate your inner chi to a higher level, and develop a better insight into yourself and how you fit into this world. The structure of the days-long events is like a year’s worth of training all at once, since the direct lessons and knowledge from the Grand Master gives you the ability to streamline your skills and become your best “you”, and improve more quickly.
You will learn how to take energy from within in order to go beyond what you think you can do – what you believe you are limited to, based on your physical strength. Feel the pure joy of training on mountain edges, near waterfalls, and out in the beauty of nature, and appreciate the cleansing rush of vitality that comes over you as the days go on. As you meditate, you will learn how to push yourself to the limit – and learn much more about you in the process!
The price of the seminar includes training and accommodation, but please plan for your own travel arrangements and food for the duration of your stay. For more information, you can contact us by email or call us at 403-243-5433. And if you’re already hooked, simply fill out the attached form and get ready to have one of the greatest self-discovery experiences of your entire life!
How is Kung Fu different from other Martial Arts?
When you hear the words “kung fu”, your first thought might be about a series of movies featuring a fighting panda – but many people assume that kung fu is interchangeable with all the other fighting styles you hear about. While these styles are all related, the differences actually go much further than that!
Kung fu, as we think of it today, began more than 1,500 years ago in China as a method of training, in honour of the Buddha, designed to strengthen the connection between the body and the mind. To the monks who created it, this connection between the spirit and the physical body was the most important part of the entire practice, and they developed exercises over the years, decades, and centuries that enhanced this aspect – noticing the many health benefits in the process.
Focusing on meaningful actions that trained the body and the mind to work together, and to improve reactions and perception, the martial art of kung fu emerged over time, but that was only one expression of the discipline – and not even the main one, at that! The emphasis on unity and feeling “at one” with oneself was, and still is, the underlying goal, and following meditative physical techniques bridges that gap. As the fighting form developed, the organized system created many off-shoot versions as well, which you have more than likely heard of: tae kwon do, karate, jujitsu, judo, wing chun, and many others. That means that kung fu is the ancestor of all of these, which focused on and tweaked specific philosophies of movement and attacking/defending to form the new styles.
Kung fu, which can be roughly translated as “skill and art”, is a term that describes a dedication to doing something to the very best of your ability. In fact, this doesn’t even have to be fighting at all – if you engage your whole body and mind towards any art form, be it painting, writing, or anything else, you can confidently say that this, too, is kung fu. The self-defense version that most people envision with these words is, more specifically, “wushu kung fu”, or “military skills and art”. Beyond that, our training style is what’s called “Moh Pai”, a.k.a Shaolin Kempo – an ancient Eastern self-defense philosophy that has been tailored to a North American lifestyle. (One such change is the coloured belt system as you progress in skill, which in its original Chinese form is a new sash every ten years!)
So why is the fighting style still called “kung fu” if it has all these other aspects? Well, it comes down to the healthy mind/body connection and expression. You must use and practice with your body, and be well in control of it in order to have a strong spiritual connection to it. You must be able to defend it against harm, and that is where the self-defense comes in. It is hard to explain, but kung fu is even more so about being ready – physically and mentally – for every situation, than it is about actually fighting.
Our main goal at Kung Fu for Life is not to create fighters that can deal out excessive damage. It is to foster awareness of one’s self, to improve the health of each of our students, and to individually work with them one-on-one so that they get a personalized path to success as they learn more about our techniques. We give our students confidence in every situation – not simply physical confrontations – because they know and trust themselves and their instincts. Even when things escalate, our primary ideal is to defend rather than attack, to protect ourselves rather than harm others. That is the true spirit of kung fu: to highlight how everything is connected and that we should all work towards being better, together.
When it comes to martial arts, there’s no such thing as “the best”: they are, after all, art forms, and those are always subjective, like a painting or a poem. As long as they are done safely and to the very best of one’s ability, that is all that matters – and at Kung Fu for Life, that is what our tenets are based on.
If you are interested in learning more about our kung fu classes, don’t be afraid to ask! You can contact us through our site or even visit our studio, conveniently located beside the 39 Ave C-Train station. We look forward to meeting you!