As Sifu Torres explains it, “Qi gong literally means “breath exercises” and is an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chinese martial arts and spirituality. Its primary driving force was the search for health and longevity.”
In the style I learned–and I see from browsing around on the internet that there are a good number of styles–there are six sets of six exercises. Each set focuses on a different part of the body, the back, the knees, and so on. All are a triple combination of breathing, stretching, and balancing. Each set starts with fairly simple movements and progresses to increasingly more complex movements, many with subtle variations on the initial exercise’s theme.
I like the meditative aspect of the exercises, which require a combination of breathing and mental focus. Indeed, they are mental as well as physical exercises, for I found that it takes brain work to remember the moves and notice the subtleties of movement.
I am not the most coordinated person on the planet, and to remember movements with my arms and legs going in different and not especially common directions while focusing on my breath isn’t easy. But the pain in my lower back and stiffness and numbness in my leg is considerably less.
My desk was across the wall from Sifu Yamel’s studio, and I would hear him working the teacher he trains hard. I started working with him finally on the more gentle Qu Gong exercises to gain flexibility, reduce back pain and stress, and increase my level of energy. So far, so good.
The story of how Yamel met a Chinese martial arts master, became his student, and decided to carry on his legacy is both inspiring and moving. Ready Yamel’s discovery of the Seven Star Praying Mantis style of kung fu in tribute to Master Raymond Ly (Ming Loy) .