It is almost springtime and I am in Barbados with my family getting a jump start on the summer sun. This morning my son and I took to a beach on the West coast scouting for some good photos he could bring back to New York City. That is where we met the man in the aqua blue turban and workout shorts. He had the face of a sage and the body of an 18 year old. He jumped and kicked, fluterred his arms like a crane and stopped regularly in graceful poses against the Bajan blue sea. He saw us looking and smiled.
“What are you doing?” I asked boldly with a smile.
“Freestyle Kung Fu. It keeps me young.”
“How old are you?” I asked knowing it was O.K. in this context.
Honestly, if it were not for the graying beard and wise face, he could pass for someone in his early twenties.
“Where did you learn those moves?” I continued my casual interrogation as my son snapped away with his camera. I recognized many of his postures and movements from what I learned from my teacher in China.
He told me that he has watched martial arts movies most of his life and that, based on what he saw, he made up his own. Every morning for the last ten years he has come to the beach to work out.
I wanted to tell him why his workout kept him so fit. That his crane flutter movements and the way he shook his arms help to move circulation in the organ meridian systems of the lung, large intestine, triple heater, heart and small intestine. And that when he pointed and flexed his legs while balancing that he was helping remove stagnation from the kidney, spleen, liver, stomach, gall bladder and bladder meridians (energy pathways). Of course, I did not.
Most people do not know that kung fu is a form of qigong, which is a branch of Chinese Medicine. Hard qigong is for fighting. Soft qigong is for healing. The moves come from the same source—a medicine that is thousands of years old originating in mountain monasteries where meditation, closeness with nature, artistic endeavors, and exercise formed the daily routine. And today it is the most widely used medicine on the planet.
Qigong is similar to Tai Chi, that graceful movement you see people of all ages practicing in the parks in China. For a good video on soft qigong with detailed explanations of each move demonstrated in breathtaking locations of natural beauty check out Soaring Crane Qigong: The Five Routines on Amazon.