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Art of Qi

DR. Amir Farid  

Dr Amir Farid Isahak is a, medical specialist who practises holistic and has been teaching qi gong for more than 10 years. He is the Former president of the Guolin Qigong Association, Malaysia.

Going with the flow (The Star 08-09-2002)

WHAT is qigong? That's a question I'm often asked. Qigong is a special art of exercise done with mental awareness, relaxation and conscious and co-ordinated breathing.

The practice of qigong increases oxygen utilisation, improves blood circulation, and increases the level and flow of qi (internal healing energy). These can help maintain optimum health and encourage healing of diseased cells and organs,

Done regularly, qi gong can be a valuable part of a healthy lifestyle that should include a nutrient-rich diet, physical exercise, sufficient rest and sleep and clean living. There are many styles of qi gong, each with its own set of exercises and special discipline. All are beneficial. Some exercises seem to be especially effective in preventing or reversing certain diseases. For example, Guolin qi gong exercises seem to be very effective in overcoming cancers and many doctors now recommend it to their cancer patients.

However, you should not wait until you are sick before starting to learn and practise qigong. Prevention is always better than cure, especially when finding the cure is not always easy nor successful. Qigong is best to learn from a teacher or master, and not just from books. it is a practical art that is difficult to accurately practise from written words or drawings. But qi gong videotapes or VCDs can be helpful if you cannot learn first-hand from a teacher.

I will now touch on some diseases and how practising qi gong can help.

Cancer - Our lifetime risk of getting cancer is 1-in-4 (1-in-2 in some polluted cities, and predicted to increase to 1-in-1), but it used to be 10 times less frequent a century ago. There are over 40,000 new cases in Malaysia each year and the number is rising. There are nearly 5,000 deaths due to cancer and is the second leading cause of death after heart disease. The leading cancers for both sexes are lung and colorectal cancers. For women, half of the cancers will be breast cancer, but lung cancer is catching up fast in some countries where the women smokers have even outnumbered men. For older men, prostate cancer is also a major problem.

For the Chinese, nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) is unusually high.

The conventional treatment methods (extensive surgery, chemotherapy, radio-therapy) for cancer cause much suffering, and sometimes even death. They have unpleasant and intolerable side-effects and weaken the whole body.

Sometimes we wonder whether the treatment is worse than the cancer. Often patients refuse treatment because of this:

Since modern medicine is not able to provide satisfactory answers for the prevention and treatment of cancers, we have to look to other methods to complement it. One such method is Guolin qigong which has been recommended to cancer patients by several hospitals in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. It is also the official exercise of many Cancer Recovery Clubs in China. Several doctors here are also encouraging their cancer patients to practise qigong.

It was also recently reported that Datin Seri Endon Mahmood, the wife of the Deputy Prime Minister, who is a recovering breast cancer patient, is now practising qigong every day. She was quoted as saying that she feels so much better for it.

Chronic diseases - The leading cause of death is cardiovascular/cerebrovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes). With our unhealthy lifestyle - high fat diet lack of exercise and stressful living - the rates are rising, and occurring at younger ages. Obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which are among the main risk factors, are already present in over 60% of those above 40. About 5% have all four risk factors.

Diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate, again mainly due to poor diet (high carbohydrat) and in some communities, over 10% of adults above 40 years are affectedit is the leading cause of kidney disease and death from kidney failure.

The incidence of asthma also doubled in the last generation. Already 10% of children are affected compared to 5% of adults. More people are suffering from chronic airway (breathing) problems due to prolonged exposure to poor air quality and smoking.

Arthritis and spinal problems are the most common degenerative diseases in most countries. Although not fatal, they cause much discomfort, disability, and cost a lot in work absenteeism and long-term health care. These chronic diseases are already investigated thoroughly but modern medicine still does not have cures for them all. The best drugs can only suppress the problem as long as the drugs are taken. Unfortunately, the disease usually worsens with time and the damage to organs continues in spite of treatment.

Regular practice of Qigong has been found to be beneficial for most chronic diseases and often was the only therapy that improved the condition. However, it should not substitute for proven medical or alternative treatments, rather it is a valuable complementary or additional therapy.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) - This problem became topical recently with the introduction of Viagra, but the problem has been around all the while. In fact, it is a major chronic problem affecting about 40% of males above 40 years (60% in Singapore). In the past, men had to rely on injections, vacuum gadgets and a plethora of traditional medicines whose effectiveness is questionable, Viagra is helpful for about 70% of the cases and it is expensive, Qigong seems to be very effective in preventing and reversing this problem.

in future articles, we will learn about the nature of qi, more about the benefits of qigong, some simple qigong exercises, and heart-warming stories of people who have beaten the odds against cancers.

What you can expect?  (The Star 22-09-2002)  

For you learn qigong exercises correctly and practise enough, you are sure to feel the benefits within the first week. You will feel healthier, more energetic, and most noticeable will be the improved stamina.

If you are already healthy and practise qigong an hour a day, you should not have a major illness. An hour of qigong is sufficient to charge your healthy cells for about 24 hours. Even if you practise two to three times per week, you can still expect to remain healthy. But if you practise only once a week, it is insufficient to protect you against illnesses.

If you already suffer from a serious or chronic disease, then you need to do more. For Guolin qigong, those who suffer from cancer and wish to benefit should do four hours every day (two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening, with enough rest in between the exercises). Of course, many are too sick or too tired to do that much exercise. So they start with whatever they can cope first. If they are bed-ridden, then they can visualise the exercises in their mind and do only the movements that are possible. As they improve, they do more movements until they are able to walk and go outdoor.

In doing the exercises, they should rest as soon as they feel tired, because the whole purpose is to feed the cells with qi and oxygen, not to tire out the body, which indicates that the cells are starved of energy and oxygen. They resume the exercises only after adequate rest.

Once they have improved, they can reduce to three hours daily. if after several months their health still improves, they can reduce further to two hours daily, and finally to one hour daily. This should be carried out every day for the rest of their lives without fail. At anytime if their health deteriorates after the reduction, they have to revert to the earlier, longer duration.

Those with other chronic diseases can also follow the same schedule. The starting duration depends on the seriousness of the disease. The actual exercises are slightly different for each disease.

Since not everyone is committed enough to follow the above programme, we cannot promise benefit for all. Besides, there are other variables that influence the outcome, including severity of disease, general state of health, diet and lifestyle, concurrent diseases, concurrent therapies and most importantly, the person's attitude and determination to fight and recover from the illness.

Many of our members have defied the odds and lived long fruitful lives despite suffering from advanced stages of cancer. With Guolin qigong, some are even healthier than before the cancer, a testimony to the effectiveness of this ancient art

Emphasis has been placed on cancer because it is potentially a devastating disease, and the incidence of most types is on the rise.

However, it must be noted that the beneficial effects of qi gong are not restricted to cancer only, but can be applied to all diseases. For some, it may be the only effective therapy, while for others it may complement other treatments.

If practising qigong can help practitioners who suffer from such chronic and debilitating diseases, it surely means that those who are already healthy will maintain and improve their health if they adoprt Guolin qigong. Indeed, it should be practised as a preventive measure. Remember, prevention is always better than cure.

We believe that it is possible to improve the -health of most, if not all individuals who practise qigong as adjuvant therapy, especially if it is part of a holistic approach that includes counselling, motivation, dietary and nutritional advice and traditional Chinese medicine in addition to modern medical treatment.

We have seen this happening to many of our Masters and members. They have recovered fully with combined therapy and are living their lives in full again.

This applies to different types of disorders. We believe that the body can heal itself provided that it gets all that it needs - good food, fresh air, clean water, sufficient physical exercise and sufficient qi (through mind-body exercises like qigong).

The body should also be prevented from being poisoned by all the things it does not need - polluted air and water, unhealthy food, carcinogens, toxic chemicals and drugs. These are present in thousands of sources in the present environment. In addition, unprotected sun exposure and excessive mental and physical stress add to the burden. It is no wonder that we are getting sick so often. .

We have come a long way in terms of advances in nutritional, exercise and medical sciences. However, the results are far from ideal. Although these advances in health and medical technology have allowed us to overcome many plagues and diseases, we are still far short of living to our full potential.

But it is well known that those who practise the qi-enriching exercises like yoga, tai chi and qigong are healthier and live longer than others. Perhaps the answer to a healthy long life lies in understanding qi and qigong.

(in future articles, we will learn about the nature of qi, the benefits of qigong, some simple qi gong exercises and inspirational stories from people who have beaten the odds.

Guolin roots  (The Star 06-10-2002)

Have received many inquiries about the different styles of qi gong. Like other exercises and martial art forms, many different styles .have evolved as practitioners and Masters revised what they have learned or devised their own moves that they found to be effective. So new styles emerge and there are probably hundreds of different styles spread over the world (including several in Malaysia),

I was first trained in Tang Ping Gong (Islamic qigong) by Grandmaster Yusuf Yang Hua Xiang, who first came to KL from Ningxia, China, over 10 years ago.

Soon after that I learned Guolin qigong (Walking qigong) from Master Ho Peng, Master Chan, Master Siew and several other local Masters. I also learned Xiang Gong (Fragrant qigong) and finally Shaolin qigong, which is probably the most well-known due to the fame of Shaolin monks and the popular martial arts shows they perform around the world.

There are many other styles being practised here in Malaysia. All qigong styles are effective in promoting health, and in preventing and even healing many diseases. Some styles are known for being very effective for certain illnesses.

I have chosen to devote myself to teaching Guolin qigong because of the amazing recoveries I have seen in patients suffering from terminal diseases, many of whom were told by their doctors they had no hope what- soever. The exercises are also very easy and fun to learn and practise. The main exercise (walking exercise) is very enjoyable when done among the trees and fresh air in the park or by the lake. I can walk for hours without getting bored or getting tired.

Let me tell you the life-story of the founder herself.

Madam Guolin, a teacher of traditional painting, had uterine cancer at age 43 and had her womb removed (in 1949 in Shanghai, China). In 1960, the cancer was found to have spread to her bladder, so the doctors removed half her bladder. However, the cancer remained and after four other operations, the doctors gave up and in 1964, told her she had only six months to live.

She did not give up hope, but instead started practising qigong. Unfortunately there was no improvement. Convinced that there must be qigong exercises that could help her, she studied the ancient qi gong texts left to her by her late grandfather (a Taoist priest) and devised her own exercises,

which she found to be very effective. After six months, she found that her cancer had gone into remission.

From 1970 she started teaching others in the parks of Beijing. Her style was called New Qigong Therapy and word was spreading fast that many of her students were benefiting from this "new" qigong. By 1977 she had gained national prominence and was teaching about 400 students daily in Beijing. She worked tirelessly until her death in 1984 at age 78, after having survived cancer for over 34 years and after helping thousands recover from the pain and suffering of various ailments. She had travelled throughout China to lecture, teach and demonstrate.

Now her qigong style is affectionately named in her honour, and it has spread to many countries around the world.

Guolin qigong was popularised in Malaysia by Master Ho Peng, who devotes his life to teaching Guolin qigong to Malaysians.

If Guolin qigong is so good, why is it not recommended by doctors to all their patients? Doctors demand proper scientific studies before they accept any claims. Unfortunately, although studies have been done (mostly in China) to investigate the nature of qi and the healing effects of qigong in general, no large-scale scientifically valid studies have been done on Guolin qigong and its effects.

Unlike pharmaceutical companies with drugs to sell, we do not have the budget to carry out such studies. However, it will be good if a medical faculty of any of our universities can do the research.

Fortunately, there are doctors who are recommending it after seeing the remarkable improvements in their patients who are practising Guolin qigong. One such doctor is a gynaecologist colleague of mine whose patient had advanced uterine cancer. The patient had been referred to Singapore for treatment but was sent back because her cancer was too advanced to be treated. So the patient was advised to prepare for her death. Although she distributed her properties to her children, she decided to try something else. She started practising Guolin qigong, and to the doctor's surprise, recovered fully within one year!

I met her about three years ago. Although she was a happy and healthy 70 year-old, she complained to me that none of her children wanted to give back her properties! Her doctor is now one of our most ardent supporters.

For thousands of years, the Chinese have been using acupuncture for healing but Western science looked upon it as another "placebo-thing". Then several decades ago scientific studies were done and it was found that endorphins were released and other neurochemical reactions occurred when needles were placed at the correct meridian points. Thus science found an explanation for how acupuncture could work, and so accepted it. Now we find specialist neurologists practising acupuncture all over the world.

But acupuncture did not start working only AFTER scientists confirmed it. It was already working for thousands of years just as the Chinese said it did. So we cannot wait for confirmation from science (though it will help the sooner somebody decides to do the study) before we teach qigong, especially to those who are in dire need because the doctors have exhausted their treatments.

I invite everyone to try qigong and be your own judge as to whether it is beneficial or otherwise. Our association does not even insist that you pay anything or become members to learn from us. If you feel your health has improved after learning and practising, then you are most welcome to become members. You may even be sufficiently impressed to continue to instructor level and start helping others by teaching it.

Qi in integrated therapy  (The Star 20-10-2002)  

SINCE the publication of this series of articles, I have received overwhelming response, not only from the public, but also from doctors and the Health Ministry.

The Health Ministry has invited me to brief some of its officials of the possibility of encouraging senior citizens to take up qi gong as a health-promoting activity.

The Health Ministry should be congratulated for a very positive attitude towards traditional/complementary medicine, (T/CM).

Lately, many of its congresses and' seminars have included T/CM as topics of discussion. In fact, its 4th International T/CM conference and exhibition has just concluded. The theme was The Paradigm Shift Towards Integrated Medicine, and there was a special request for our members to demonstrate qigong at the event.

Indeed there is now a paradigm shift in the attitude of mainstream medical doctors worldwide towards embracing T/CM into integrated medicine. In the US, complementary medicine has become part of the medical curriculum for many years in many universities. Here in Malaysia, at least two medical faculties have it as an introductory subject, but the older practising doctors have largely resisted this trend. , However, the shift is inevitable.

T/CM is one of the subjects to be discussed in a major national medical conference on cancer next year. The National Cancer Society is about to launch its Resource and Wellness Centre at its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur and will be offering Guolin Qigong lessons to its members, together with several other complementary therapies, So it seems that T/CM, including qi gong, is slowly but surely being accepted as possible contributors to the treatment-and well-being of patients in an integrative approach to therapy.

I have always believed that patients will benefit most if the best of modern, natural and complementary therapies can be integrated and offered to them. However, T/CM has to improve the validation of the claimed effectiveness of the. different therapies for it to be more widely accepted by mainstream medicine. In other words, T/CM must move towards evidence-based practice just as modern medicine is.

I would like to invite all senior citizens to learn and practise qigong because it is ideal for them. Most of the exercises are "soft" and can be easily performed by older persons. Although all exercises, even plain walking, are beneficial, there is much to be gained by practising qigong.

The number-one killer in Malaysia is still heart disease, and this can be avoided with a healthy diet, maintaining ideal weight, controlling cholesterol and sugar levels, avoiding smoking and stress, and most importantly, regular aerobic exercise. All of the above can also prevent stroke and cancer.

In fact the four main risk factors for these diseases are collectively called Syndrome X or chronic disease risk-factor syndrome. These risk factors are hypertension, hyperglycemia/diabetes, dyslipidemia (abnormal lipid levels) and overweight/obesity. These are usually associated with hyperinsulinemia (abnormally high insulin level due to the body's resistance to its effects).

When present, they increase the likelihood of developing fatal and debilitating major chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, kidney failure and others. A survey done In Malaysia in 1999 among adults 40 years and above showed that 61% had one or more of these risk factors, and 1% actually had all four risk factors.

Physical fitness through regular aerobic exercise is the strongest determinant of health and longevity. Everyone should participate in at least 20-30 minutes Of aerobic exercise three times per week. Brisk walking is perhaps the easiest to comply with to achieve the desired health effects.

If you know qigong, you can incorporate qi-enriching modifications to your exercises so that you will get both benefits. You will increase your cardiovascular health through improved aerobic capacity, as well as improve muscular tone and strength. You can also increase the health enriching life-force or qi.

Ordinary qigong-walk is slow and relaxing. It increases qi, improves oxygen utilisation, and calms the mind.

Aerobic exercises like brisk walking increase physical endurance, increase oxygen intake, and also give you a good, relaxed feeling after the exercise. if you do brisk, qigong-walk, you will get the 'combined benefits. I even do the qi gong-walk on the treadmill whenever I am in the gym. The benefit is tremendous. Together, qigong and aerobics can definitely help avoid Syndrome X.

So qigong, in combination with aerobic exercises and other good health practices, is ideal for senior citizens who need extra protection from most of the serious illnesses that are most likely to manifest when we age. In fact, those who are 40 and above should consider it in view of the high prevalence of Syndrome X.

Better still, start when you are younger and preserve good, vibrant health and avoid cancers and other diseases when you grow old. You are really never too young or too old to exercise or practise qigong.

The Force within you  (The Star 02-11-2002)

New Star Wars, the Jedi Masters owe their powers to the Force that they acquire through years of training. In the universe of Star Wars, this Force is all-pervasive, yet elusive, and the Jedi Masters hold the secret to harnessing and utilising the Force for good.

in Chinese philosophy, the whole Universe and its contents are interconnected by qi ( chi, ki, prana, life force, tenaga hayat). It sustains every creature and every plant in the web of life, and is responsible for our every action. The more qi we have flowing uninterrupted in us, the healthier we are. It gives us life and vitality.

Conversely, when qi levels are depleted or its flow blocked, health is compromised and diseases may ensue. Death ensues, When qi is depleted to below a critical level.

In the scientific Universe, there are three known forces. These fundamental forces are:

Gravitational force

This allows us to function as we do on this Earth, gives weight to everything, and makes things fall down. It exists between all mater that have masses, but is evident to us only when the masses are huge, such as the celestial bodies - moons, planets and stars.

Electromagnetic force

We are most aware of this force because our lifestyle is dependent on it. Electromagnetism is the force behind electricity, magnets, sound, heat, light, radiowaves, TV signals, handphone signals, X-rays, etc. In fact what the human senses can detect is only a narrow range of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Nuclear force

This could either be weak or strong. Weak nuclear force is the energy released during slow radioactive decay. Strong nuclear force is the immense energy released during nuclear fusion and fission. Our solar energy is largely this energy, and nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs also utilise either of these sub-atomic reactions.

According to science, all the known forces and energies in the Universe can be Explained in physics by the properties or behaviour of the above three fundamental forces.

However, when qi is studied, only part of its behaviour can be explained by physics. For example, qi does not follow physical laws when it is transmitted from one person to another,

A qigong master can send his qi to anyone or any object or instrument) without possible obstacle, whereas electromagnetic waves follow known physical laws and can be blocked or deflected. For example your handphone signals are often cut off in certain areas, and your satellite TV signals are blocked by bad weather. Even X-rays can be blocked by lead barriers.

Scientific studies on qi have revealed it to have, among others, infrared and infra sound characteristics, but it certainly has any other physical and metaphysical properties. Some believe it is the bio-electric impulse transferred between nerve cells or the bio-electric discharge detectable at the body's surfaces.

Attempts to detect qi with scientific instruments and ingenious gadgets like Kirlian photography, Aura photography id high-voltage photography (which detects bio-electric corona discharge) have detected different energy forms emanating from living organisms. All have claimed that what they detect is qi. They are only partially correct. Qi is all these and more.

The most fascinating property of qi is that it is "intelligent", that is, when circulating in the body, it goes to where it is needed most, and when transferred from a healer to a patient, it knows where the diseased areas are.

The Master can control its flow by his thought-commands, Some qigong masters can perform incredible feats as demonstrated by the Shaolin Masters and others. Some can generate enough heat from their hands to start a fire.

However, the true benefit of having qi is not in performing incredible feats, but in ensuring excellent health, preventing disease, and healing others. There was a report recently that a qi gong exponent had to be operated upon to remove nails from his stomach after he had eaten them to prove his invincibility. What he did proved nothing other than how silly he was.

In Chinese medical theory, qi has many unique properties, most of which are complementary. For instance, it has Yin (female, soft) and Yang (male, hard) characters. External qi is transmitted out (as in starting a fire), while internal qi is essential for healing.

There are negative and positive qi with opposing effects, most studied in Feng Shui. Many people have described qi in so many different ways. In fact, there are over 32 different descriptions of qi, applicable to different aspects of our lives. Qi is best experienced rather than described.

Qi flows through meridians or energy channels in our bodies. These are the same meridians used in acupuncture, along with the hundreds of acupuncture points, There are 12 major meridians that correspond to the "internal organs" which they are connected to.

Another eight secondary meridians complete the network. The meridians channel energy to and from the energy centres called Dan Tien (pronounced tan tien) and chakras. This fascinating subject is common to many other energy-healing methods such as Colour Therapy, Crystal Healing, Energy works, Pranic Healing, Reiki, Tai Chi and Yoga.

Scientists have studied the acupuncture points along such meridians. Dr Daniel Kirsch, dean of the Graduate School of Electromedical Science at City University, Los Angeles, US, found that these points have high conductivity and act as "windows to the body". Dr Robert O. Becker, author of The Body Electric, actually detected current flows along the meridians by using various instruments.

Thousands of scientific studies on qi and qigong have been done and are being made available to the Western world (see However, there are also many sceptics who will always regard qi as mumbo-jumbo rather than science.

In practising qi gong and similar exercises, you will build up your qi level and ensure its efficient flow. This will charge-up your cells to perform all their functions efficiently.

Together with good nutrition, watching your weight, sufficient aerobic exercise and a healthy lifestyle, you can expect to live a long, active and productive life,

One such person who benefited from qigong is a friend of mine who suffered from severe premature osteoporosis due to hormonal disorders that the best doctors in Europe and the US could not solve. She finally met a qigong master in Hong Kong who taught her very simple qigong exercises that solved he problem. She is row a robust, active lady enjoying life to the fullest.

The greatest qigong masters are those who are most disciplined and dedicated to its practice and philosophy. This explains why qigong started in the monasteries and the earliest exponents were all monks. Now qigong is very simplified in its practice so that all can learn, and acquire its health benefits.

The parallel between qi and the Jedi's Force is so obvious. No wonder Obiwan Kenobi's master was called Quigong Jin. They were all actually qigong masters!

Butterworth Kwang Hwa Guolin Qigong Copyright@2005