Throughout the course of history, there has long been a connection between martial artists and medicine. Traditionally, it was not uncommon to find a martial arts master who was also a physician or, at the very least, a highly-skilled healer. The reason behind this is simple being that by understanding how to control the mind and body in either role, one can also understand how the mind and body control an individual.
Probably one of the most famous martial arts masters was Huang (Wong) Feihong who "developed a reputation as a peerless fighter and skilled physician". He also "founded a clinic known as Po Chi Lam, 'Precious Iris Woods', [which was] a reference to his skill with herbal medicine". Another notably skilled martial artist and physician was Hua Tuo, who was arguably the most famous doctor to have lived during the period of the Han Dynasty in China (206 BC-220 AD). As a physician, Hua Tuo would perform surgeries using anesthetics made for herbs. Additionally, he was renowned for his development of a series of health exercises that are based on the movements of animals and the principles found in martial arts traditions (Wu Qin Xi Qi Gong or Five Animal Play Qigong). Marshal Yue Fei, a famous military leader, is another perfect example of martial artist/physician who created the famous Eight Brocades Qigong Exercise.
Learn these two famous Qigong forms online via the Personal Mastery and Growth Academy (Contact me for purchase details)
Like most things over time, these arts transformed into new styles adapting to the changes of society and the invention of new types of weaponry, e.g. firearms. These transformations, together with the secrecy of familial styles of martial arts, the illiteracy of legendary masters, as well as the Cultural Revolution, slowly divorced these two arts that were once seen as inseparable.
In today's society, there is a clear disconnect between martial arts and medicine in both education and in practice. I can recall learning, as part of the curriculum, Tai Chi and Qigong when I attended Oriental Medicine school. At the time, with a background of over a decade of practice in these arts, I entered the classroom with a sense of humility together with an old phrase I heard repeatedly during my training, "Any three people walking, [at least] one of them is your teacher." Needless to say, I was ready and willing to learn. Much to my surprise, upon the completion of the first set of classes, I can still recall the speed at which my jaw hit the floor. I was absolutely dumbfounded by how superficial and dissociated the information was from medicine, let alone martial arts. What happened to the knowledge that had been so powerfully transmitted through the ages of military warfare and medicinal advancement? Given this experience, I unfortunately have anything but high hopes for the remaining programs across the country. Even if the programs are strong in terms of the quality of information being disseminated, there is still an absence of knowledgeable Oriental Medicine practitioners being produced who can utilize martial arts and its principles with a medicinal approach.
All disappointment aside, I do have faith that there still exists a strong connection between both martial arts and medicine. How? Simply because when people practice, they notice positive changes in their bodies and their minds. Additionally, the two arts themselves are based in theories and principles that align perfectly together. And personally, as an acupuncturist and a seasoned martial artist, I can see a clear connection between these two and apply them accordingly in my practice.
Simply put, martial arts is an exchange between two or more people when being applied, whether fighting or "playing". It is also an exchange between one's external environment and internal environment. Medicine is the art that facilitates these exchanges by correcting them when they cannot be completed innately on their own. The natural laws of these exchanges were discovered through the observation and understanding of nature's affect on the health of living beings. Therefore, by expanding upon this knowledge and applying it, martial artists and physicians can potentially marry these two art forms once again.
I suppose the title of this blog could also be reversed: Acupuncturists were also born to practice martial arts. For from the branches of the tree where martial arts and medicine coexist, they feed from the same root, bear the same fruit, and nourish all those who consume it. We as martial artists and Oriental Medicine practitioners are their gardeners as well as their guardians, and their survival depends solely upon us to keep them together.
If you would like to learn more about how to use martial arts together with Oriental Medicine, you can contact me anytime via email or social media.
You can also join our Tai Chi class on Saturdays or send you kids to our Martial Arts class on Sundays.
Reference: Bisio, Tom. A Tooth From the Tiger's Mouth. New York, NY: Fireside, 2004.
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inspirational ideas on healthy living through eastern medicine, optimism, and possibility through empowerment.