COVID-19 and Solo Practice
Is there any internal training that could help combat COVID-19? Dr. Yang was quick to suggest, Qigong and Tai Chi Quan as well as Girdle Vessel Breathing. (You can visit the link at the end of the article to find the seminar.) It makes sense that the well-known methods for improving overall health should help with our current challenges as well.
Lockdowns and social distancing have increased our need to find solitary practice methods. With so many people studying alone, what can we do to make our practice more productive? Two words: solo drills. Although I had heard of the 80/20 rule for practice, Dr. Yang stresses practicing even more, "For traditional arts it should be 10% learning 90% training…it is the opposite today." We can make the most of our time away by pulling out those forms, techniques, and strength training exercises that we learned long ago, and keep telling ourselves that we will get to them eventually. Eventually is here.
We miss our group classes though, don't we? It is not only the fellowship of being with like-minded people but as Dr. Yang pointed out, we gain a lot from being in a group, as we adhere to a group discipline and the group can inspire you to do your best. If you hear a compliment to a classmate from your teacher, don't you try a little harder when it is your turn? So what specifically can we do on our own? "Now is the time to study books and theory, and also watch videos. This is the best time to train your self-discipline." Practice, study, refine. As he learned from his first teacher, to be successful in martial arts: "The first important thing is to conquer yourself."
Aging and Health
Martial arts are a lifelong pursuit for most students, but should we change our training as we age? Yes. Let's face it, not accounting for the reality of our changing bodies is unwise in all aspects of life. Change is natural. "The human body is like a machine. Because it is an old machine, you have to train like an old machine." The things we did at 18, are likely to be more difficult at 48. Dr. Yang suggests that we adopt some internal training like Tai Chi Quan and Qigong as we get older. He practices what he preaches as health concerns are what brought Dr. Yang to start studying Tai Chi Quan and Qigong as a young man, and it has complemented his training ever since. Viewing recent videos and pictures, he is a testament to his methods.
For my own selfish reasons, as a middle-aged man, I wanted to know: is there a secret to great health? A secret exercise? Something found only in a scroll rolled up in a dusty box in a cave somewhere? I know that if there is one, I am talking to the man that will know. Unfortunately, it's not so mysterious, but rather simple and uncomplicated. Dr. Yang advised, "There is no secret exercise." Darn! So how do we address the issues of aging? Dr. Yang diagnosed the problem and provided the solution. "We don't move! One of the simplest things to do is to just move your arms and legs 5-6 minutes a day." If readers are looking for a deeper exercise try Dr. Yang's book on the set of timeless health set 8 Pieces of Brocade.
Most readers will automatically know Dr. Yang as the author of many of the best martial art books ever published, so like me, they may be taken aback by the novels to his credit. At first, I was confused when I saw the novel The Secrecy online and thought that maybe there were two Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming's. Did the guy that wrote the book on White Crane Kung Fu write a cold war era spy novel? When I asked, Dr. Yang nodded with a smile and said, "The stories are from my life experience. The novels are my autobiography. They are based on true stories." After decades of non-fiction what brought on the new challenge of writing fiction? Dr. Yang explained the books are stories weaved through a narrative based on his life experiences. "I write the books for myself." Still, as a master of martial arts, with so many incredible stories to tell, I wanted to know: will there be an autobiography coming? "Read my novels, that is my story."