My name is Thomas Jahn. My interest in Asian culture began at a young age. From the time I was living in Japan with my parents to when I lived in the United States and now China I have exposed myself to a variety of martial arts, including Kempo,Taiji,Xingyi,Bagua,Changquan,Hung Kuen,Praying Mantis. Originally it was the colorful movements that attracted me, the attempt to learn how to coordinate my body in different ways, but especially to develop discipline. After completing my studies in the United States and subsequently taking my acupuncture licensing examination, I relocated to Beijing, China in January of 2003.Towards the end of my first year there a friend introduced me to one of his doctor colleagues who in turn introduced me to my next teacher of Chinese Medicine, Dr. Xu Wen-Bing, head of the Hope Institute of Chinese Medicine Beijing. Dr. Xu is a very tradition-oriented individual who, having grown up with Chinese Medicine appreciates and emphasizes its fundamental concepts when teaching and treating. It was on the first day of classes with Dr. Xu that he introduced me to my new Qigong teacher, Mr. MA Shi-Qi,who studied Shang-style Xing Yi Quan under Mr. Wen Zhao-Nan and Mr. Guan Bing-Gong. Each time I had classes with Dr. Xu, the first two hours would always be spent learning Qigong exercises with Mr. Ma. This was for the purpose of gradually developing an awareness of and sensitivity to the internal dynamic within my own body and then apply this understanding to the practice of Chinese Medicine.
The core exercises of this style of Qigong are comprised of eight standing exercises to develop proper postural assignment, breath control and focus of one’s attention, and also eight dynamic exercises to develop coordinated whole-body movement. According to 61 year-old Mr. Ma, who has dedicated over 50 years to self-cultivation and over 40 years to teaching, these exercises practiced in combination are the necessary elements to developing one’s true potential power on the foundation of a healthy body.
During the time I would practice Qigong at the Hope Institute, Mr. Ma would regularly expose me to his level of development by engaging me in a partner exercise Known as “single pushing hands” where one learns to utilize the sensitivity that develops during the sole exercise to interact with the force applied by another person to one’s body. One of the forearms of the same side of the two people pushing maintain continuous contact at the wrists to always sense any change in degree and direction of force applied by the other.
What makes this exercise very interesting is that one quickly realizes that using pure muscular force to control the other person will have the exact opposite effect, namely making it easier to be controlled and thereby becoming very vulnerable to losing one’s balance. With all can readily say that I have been unable to put any of that experience to any use during this seemingly simple exercise of pushing. Not only was I never able to push Mr. Ma off balance, but I was never even able to move him at all, period-much like pushing against a big tree, except that in this case the ‘tree’ is alive and freely able to either send me flying across the room or just have me scrambling to try and keep my balance, much like a puppeteer manipulating a marionette, with him exerting any apparent effort at all. Mr. Ma would demonstrate this time and time again with whoever was in the class, regardless whether having a muscular build or martial arts background or neither, the result would always be the same. This is a direct manifestation of Mr. Ma having internalized the principles he teaches, what he refers to as ‘real Gongfu’.
From the moment I realized Mr. Ma’s high level of development, I have become very passionate about practicing these exercises on a daily basis, and in the meantime can say that I have undergone some very noticeable changes, both physically and mentally, which also show in my treatment result As when using acupressure and acupuncture. While practicing Qigong at the Hope Institute I was able to witness positive changes in all of my fellow classmates exercising together with me, including an improved sense of well-being, release of physical and emotional tensions, relief of pain, improvement in digestion and sleep, etc.
In the future I plan to return to South Africa to promote the practice and education of Traditional Chinese medicine, with a strong emphasis on the Qigong exercises as taught by Mr. Ma, since the costs of modern medicine cannot be afforded by the majority of people who need it. Because of his rich experience, ongoing guidance and encouragement, Mr. Ma has given me the confidence to already start introducing this form of exercise to others, allowing me to gain invaluable experience in light of the positive results gained, quite similar to those I observed in myself and follow classmates. Most recently, whilst visiting family in South Africa, I had the opportunity to teach the first standing and dynamic exercise to a lady who is HIV+ and also lives with high blood pressure, arthritis, gout chronic pain dizziness and restless sleep. After practicing with her several times she was able to get up and walk about for extended periods of time, pain-free-something she had not been able to do for a long time, as well as being able to get more restful sleep, but most importantly she was left with the impression that she is in fact in a position to actively contribute to her own health.
I feel very fortunate to have met Mr. Ma and an honoured to be able to expose more and more people to this very accessible form of self-health-care.