Do what? I’m not sure exactly what I have done to my foot, but I decided not to run this weekend. Instead, after dropping in to see Kurt at Run yesterday to buy some warmer gloves, my exercise consisted of attending a Chi-Kung (or Qigong) course with Kim.
Chi-Kung (pronounced jee-gung) is a combination of simple motion and gentle breathing, performed in a meditative state of mind. It is hard to imagine it being prescribed as a restorative by a UK doctor, which is a great shame, but in China it has been a key part of medicine for the last 5000 years.
If you’re wondering why western doctors might tend to be dismissive of Chinese medicine, I have just formed a (clearly over-simplistic) hypothesis:
From my personal experience, western medicine seems to be based loosely on cure, whereas eastern medicine appears to focus more on prevention.
This may be because, historically, Europe and north America have been comparatively wealthy for the size of population and thus able to afford to develop a good ‘health system’, seeking to ease the symptoms or eradicate specific diseases and creating a range of drugs to this end.
In China by comparison, with traditionally difficult terrain, poor infrastructure and 20% of the global population to look after on a relatively shoestring budget, a system of self-help augmented by locally available herbal remedies makes much greater economic and political sense.
As a result of its focus on cure, western medicine now often involves some kind of medical distress purchase whereas eastern medicine focuses more on promoting the health of the mind and body on a daily basis.
Since a higher price can be charged for a distress purchase, western medicine has more budget not only to spend on the research of new compounds, enabling it to make technological advances, but on PR, which enables it to undermine its less costly competition. Furthermore, since revenues can be taxed, it is presumably likely to find strong advocates in government.
In case anyone finds this even remotely contentious, please excuse me and remember it is only a humble hypothesis… said he, quickly returning to the chi-kung lesson.
Sifu Robin Gamble, our tutor, was English and younger than I had expected, but also had far more vitality than I generally see in the people I meet. Bearing in mind the number of highly competent business people and talented entrepreneurs I mix with from around the globe, this is genuine praise. His earnest approach quickly drew the students together, despite their different skills and levels of experience.
He had chosen some simple, memorable aspects of Chi-Kung to teach us in this introductory session, aiming to send us away more interested in the art and with the ability to replicate the patterns and derive genuine benefit from only a short intervention.
He showed us how to achieve Standing Zen and Swaying Willows Floating Clouds and the forms of Lifting the Sky, Pushing Mountains and Holding the Moon. He also mixed in Punching with Wide Eyes and some other elements to add some fun and interest.
Held in the calm of the studio at the Acupuncture Clinic in Hove, the session was refreshing and energising, both for body and mind. I don’t want to gush about it, but if you’re looking for a great way to spend a grey Saturday afternoon, it doesn’t get much better. Or more restorative.