Good Save

In my trips to China with my Qi Gong master, I’ve been able to visit places even many Chinese have not, although these places are right in their backyard. For the most part, we’re not there to play tourists, although we do our share of that. More importantly, we’re there to explore different spiritual places, searching for areas that represent positive energetic centers at the time of our visit. These energetic centers in China, and everywhere else in the world, are constantly shifting over time, and when he plans our trips, our master determines where the good energy centers will be when we travel there.

One of the activities we enjoy most is visiting various religious temples. These temples are often associated with monasteries, and it is not unusual to find monks actively engaged in their daily rituals at these locations. In some of these places, we stop to visit with these monks, learn from them, eat with them, and so on.

On this particular night, we have not gone to a monastery, the monastery has come to us. This, in the form of a monk. We sit in our hotel lobby with an interpreter waiting for him to arrive. When he does, he makes quite an entrance, tall, thin, dressed in a flow white robe, long black hair tied in a ponytail, and most impressive, carrying a long sword. I guess that he’s in his late 30s, and I’m curious about whatever is in the small bag he carries,

The monk bows to all of us, the interpreter relays his hello and welcome to us, and then gives our back to him. My master takes us down a hallway where we can find a private space big enough for the monk to do what he is there to do, and we find out that this will be a demonstration of his particular style of martial art.

Here in Hawai‘i, we call it ‘kung fu,’ and that’s a catch-all for many different styles of Chinese martial arts. For instance, one branch of Qi Gong is itself a kung fu style, and many people have heard of the very popular Shaolin style.

But let me tell you. I’ve come to think that all monks everywhere in China practice some form of kung fu, or the catch-all term over there, Wushu. This particular monk is Taoist, and he is a 37th-generation grandmaster of his monastery, at late 30-something, mind you, of this particular style, the name of which flies past us with the speed of the man’s speech. He is the ‘chosen one’ at his temple, the one with ‘the shining.’ Before us stands the very best of the best in this line of dangerously skilled priests stretching back 37 generations.

The monk lays his sword and bag on a nearby table and comes to stand before us. Via the interpreter, we learn that he will demonstrate a ‘form,’ that is a single exercise routine, in this case lasting about five minutes. It is grueling, by most people’s exercise standards, yet when he finishes with a final flying roundhouse kick, he lands softly, smiles and bows slightly, and is neither winded nor exuding even a single drop of perspiration.

While he turns to retrieve his sword, we give him a round of applause, although I’m not sure we’re supposed to do that. Now he stands before us, sword in hand, and, we learn via the interpreter, will demonstrate a form using the weapon. This form too is lengthy, and at the end, again, there is no sucking of wind and no sweating. Just the smile and bow.

The interpreter tells us the monk speaks about energy, the generating of it, and the moving of it. Then the monk says he wants a volunteer from the audience to come on up for a demonstration.

Whenever I’m with my master, I always jump at the chance to be the guinea pig for whatever, so, of course, my hand shoots into the air. The monk smiles and gestures me forward, then has me turn to face him. He takes my hands and places them against his chest. The interpreter tells me, I am to push as hard as I can against him to see if I can move him. I try. Hard. I cannot. He’s smiling, not even straining, not a tense muscle in his body. And I am giving this push so much energy that I begin to breathe hard and drops of perspiration dribble down my forehead. Still he smiles at me.

So after my miserable demonstration of strength, the monk turns to the rest and talks about how he controls his energy versus how most of us control, or don’t control, ours.

Turning to me again, he has me face all my friends. He is telling me then, says the interpreter, to try, with all my strength to resist his pushing against me.

So, standing there trying to be my mightiest rock-solid self, I wait, turning my head to the right to watch him. He takes only his index finger and places it against my shoulder. Then, almost imperceptibly, he gives me a small prod with that single finger and I go staggering to my left. Amazingly, even though I know I’ve gone a good couple of feet, he moves so quickly that he grabs my arm before I fall over.

Afterward, as we all drink beer with him, he further discusses the need to find harmony and balance, and this, he says, all begins with understanding and controlling our internal energy.

He goes off to change into his street clothes – they were in the bag, and with this man, perhaps potential weapons in a pinch. Just before he walks to his car, sword in hand, bag over his shoulder, he smiles at me and bows, again thanking me, according to the interpreter, for volunteering.

Well, for saving me from breaking my neck, or at least for keeping me from falling over and fracturing a bone or two, I smile and bow as well.

It feels as if we’ve instantly become friends.

As the monk strides away, I have to wonder if any fool has ever tried to mess with him. He drives out of the parking lot, and smiling, I imagine the very momentary altercation happening in a road-rage incident. The monk calmly exits his car as someone runs screaming at him, and, well, that’s the end of the story.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s