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Qi, focus and injuries

Qi, focus and injuries

In advance of World Tai Chi and Qigong Day (April 24th this year, and, no, Hallmark did not create this as a holiday to sell cards), I pose this question: what are you doing with the pinkie finger on your non-throwing hand when you are bowling?

A long-ago bowling teammate of mine used to ask that question of opposing players. For most, it drew their focus to a part of their anatomy that has absolutely nothing to do with the skill they were trying to execute. The good ones maintained their concentration; since there were very few good ones, most gutter balled their shot.

When and where you put your focus, especially during injuries, is the subject of this post. No answers are presented, just observations, so I would certainly appreciate any feedback. A recurrence of old knee problems and how they’ve affected my activities has led me to re-examine this.

Most everyone remembers the scene in The Karate Kid where Mr. Miyagi places his hands on Daniel-san, healing his injury and allowing him to return to the ring. It makes for good theater, where the Master concentrates his power/chi into another to heal them. But, because of a recurrence of a knee problem, I’m wondering where the person who is injured should put their own focus.

A good part of martial arts is focus with intent, a concept that is mostly unknown to people in their everyday lives. We rarely focus our minds on a particular part of our body unless an external force causes us to, like a bee sting , a scratch or an injury.

If you have an itch, and you think about it, it taunts you and pulls you in to scratch it, i.e., if you focus on it, it becomes more intense. Of course, discipline can hold you back. But if you focus your attention on something else, the itch becomes less of a draw.

Injuries strike me the same way, but that concept is at the same time opposite and congruent to concepts I’ve learned in martial arts. While learning Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan, as students advanced we were trained to narrow our punching focus as our skill improved, narrowing it down from the arm to the hand, to the knuckles and ultimately to the striking surface of the first two knuckles. The idea was obviously that if your focus is exact, your power and accuracy will be more in line (you will actually send energy when, where and in the quantity that your mind intends).

In Qigong meditation, you focus on leading the qi. The overall goal is to have your qi circulation optimized for better health. In Small Circulation practice, the student is asked to focus on leading the qi around the body, with the goal of this practice being turning conscious practice into unconscious habit (i.e., better qi circulation). Dr. Yang, Jwing-ming’s excellent series of books on Qigong Meditation discusses this in detail (and I highly recommend this books as the best I’ve read in getting rid of the mystic mumbo-jumbo that sometimes comes along with these descriptions and gets down to actionable facts). But he only has a small section in the book on Small Circulation concerning injuries (from section 8-9, page 337):

There are a few ancient documents which record how you can use Small Circulation Meditation for effective self-healing. The theory is very simple. Since your mind can feel and focus on the affected area, it can lead the Qi there to improve circulation of Qi and blood. This is no different from physical massage, which also improves the circulation of Qi and blood.

Like any skill, this takes practice and experience. And focused concentration. Dr. Yang’s YMAA has done some studies utilizing Qigong meditation and tai chi for cancer and other patients. YMAA articles can be found here.

But, playing devil’s advocate on myself (those voices in my head again), is this better than concentrating on ignoring the injury?

I’m a part-time runner, not as long distance as my brother and other marathoners that I know. But I’ve gotten into “the zone” late in distance running,  where you are absolutely out of energy but you are focused on the goal so that the nagging pains do not draw your focus away. This has happened late in Rugby games, after 70 minutes of pounding and you focus on pushing for that one last try.

In these cases, you are not “being in the moment” but personally I find myself running longer and easier when not focusing on pain or injury. Undoubtedly, this is not good long term for the injury, but it does beg the question of focus: do you focus on the injury/pain or focus away from it? It would seem one should focus on it for healing (leading the Qi away or toward the pain/injury??) , focus away from it for performance or to carry out an activity in spite of the pain or injury .

I look forward to comments and insights.

docsavageredskull

The Red Skull (Doc Savage #17)

This is the sixth story originally published by docsavageredskullStreet and Smith. The Bantam one I have is in great condition, though it is a 5th printing (August 1977, ten years after the 1st Bantam printing).

The Red Skull has, thus far in my re-read, the absolute least exotic locales. Granted, New York City in the 30s and 40s is great, and it is in almost every story. The Arizona desert is less enthralling, although this story and setting does reflect an old western pulp at times.

The western part starts early, with a man named Bandy Stevens getting into a shoot out on a golf course in New York City as he tried to make his way to see Doc Savage. Bandy is carrying a letter from the three owners of a company building a dam in Arizona that they think is being sabotaged; they want to enlist Doc’s help to find who is behind it. But the saboteur has sent folks to ambush Bandy, and they poison him just as he reaches Doc. The ambushers, afraid Doc will follow up on the lead, try to ambush Doc and the gang. They end up kidnapping Monk’s beautiful blond secretary (of course she is), and, after trying to throw Doc off the scent, take her back to Arizona. Doc and his five follow, where they investigate the three owners, the dam and what someone would want to undermine the project, while trying to “save the girl”.

Johnny, always described as gaunt, gets a few good licks in this one, the first time in the series that I can remember him being singled out in action.

My sortable table of Doc Savage books is here.

  • Written by: Lester Dent
  • Villain: Buttons Zortell (hireling), Nick Clipton (fake name of the man behind the sabotage, obvious early in the story that it is one of the three mine owners)
  • Doc Gadget: the gyro plane, of course (does this mean Dent thought up Harriers?)
  • Doc Feat: getting out of an avalanche using a rope like Spiderman (they probably took this from Doc!);
  • Exotic locale: the Arizona desert
  • By the numbers: originally published August, 1933; Bantam #17 published May 1967; Philip Jose Farmer dated June 1931
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Fiction that interweaves historical fact, especially the World War I or II time periods, are among my favorite reads (and I enjoy writing them as well). Sarah’s Key fits that bill very well, mixing the tragic events of the holocaust in Paris in 1942 with a modern journalist seeking her own truths in the past and present. Yet another excellent choice by my wife who suggested this book.

The titular Sarah was a young girl who was part of the round up of of Jews in Paris in July of 1942 known as the Vel’ d’Hiv (strangely enough, code named Operation Spring Breeze). French policemen were complicit in the round up (later apologized for by French President Jacques Chirac in 1995), where several thousand Jews were kept with no food, water or facilities for days, then shipped to camps outside of Paris, then onto Auschwitz and other concentration camps. As with the Bombing of Bari, Italy, this remains a little known episode of World War II, outside of those it directly affected. (more…)

Marriage is like having a ring in your nose?

Many years (okay, decades) ago, marriages and weddings used to scare me too. Scare and intimidate, and I was loud and vociferous about my objections to them to hide those fears. Every wedding I went to during my days as a young man, I would torment the groom as much as possible with stories of their impending slavery. My tag-line (which I should have made into a t-shirt and sold the rights to Vercie):

Being married is like having a ring in your nose that your wife can use to pull you around by.

There were usually some creative curse words embedded in the phrase, but you get the drift. (more…)

Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

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Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

Software By the Kilo

Software by the Kilo

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