Thoughts on my Qigong and Fitness Life: 2023年1月29日

I can only use the same qigong pics until it gets boring. So from here on out: memes!

So here are a bunch of other thoughts on my qigong and fitness in general. Enjoy!

What a Month! What a Crappy Month!

Without getting into too much detail, my month so far was horrible. Part of it was work-related. Hell, one time I had to stay 90 minutes after my shift because the powers that be decided to give me a buttload of things to do 30 minutes right before quitting time.

My family issues also intensified. While the holidays are over for most Westerners, there was Sankranti for us Indians. There was also a birthday in the family. As holidays are taken way too seriously in my home, there was a lot of stress going on.

I say all this because I am glad of the books I have read from David Carradine, especially the one titled “The Tai Chi Workout”. I am glad because Carradine acknowledges that we can’t do a full Taiji or qigong practice everyday, but 5 minutes is good enough to maintain our “shape”.

I also say this because I am glad of the mini qigong practices I finally formalized. On those days I couldn’t do a full qigong practice, at least I get a decent amount done.

There were two days I couldn’t practice at all. The drama went to an all-time high, I got too depressed, and I was not in the right headspace to do anything. Once I got back to practicing through, everything was fine.

The Qigong Set of Theseus

Speaking of David Carradine’s book, Carradine writes about the importance of stance training in Taiji. In fact, that is the first thing one must do in order to excel in both Taiji and Kung-Fu. Looking at my mini qigong exercises, I am already practicing both the horse riding and cat stances. Why not practice the other stances such as the bow-and-arrow stance or the cross stance? There might even be a time I learn how to do the Taiji walking, which is a skill in itself.

There are also two other books I have been reading whenever I have the time. There is the “Kung-Fu Exercise Book” by Michael Minick, which is really a qigong manual, and Master Wong Kiew Kit’s “The Art of Chi Kung”. Both books provide exercises that I am thinking of incorporating into my qigong sessions. Minick has this exercise of shaking one’s body as a way of relaxing and loosening one’s muscles. Master Wong also provides this exercise similar to that of Yoga Nidra, which is visualizing and relaxing each organ and muscle of the body. These two I might use soon enough.

In case you don’t know what I mean by “Theseus”, watch this video on this Greek paradox called “The Ship of Theseus” which is a fascinating question of being and existence.

And One Nice Thing I Noticed

There is the thrift shop I sometimes stop at on the way to work. They sell old appliances, clothes, and even vinyl records and CDs. They also sell books which is where I usually spend my time whenever I go there.

So the other day I went to that store to look at whatever books I might buy. I would then do the usual thing: look at all the books at my eye level standing up and then crouch down to see the other books at the lower shelves. Then I would stand up to go to another shelf, look at those books, and then crouch down. Up and down up and down as I would usually do.

That day I was looking at those books, I noticed how easy it was for me to crouch and stand up. Before then, I would grumbled to myself as I would crouch down to look at the lower shelves. I would grumble to myself as I stood up to look at another shelf.

This time, I did both actions in a very effortless and easy fashion. It’s a nice sign to demonstrate that my health is improving.

The Worst Piece of Advice I Heard about Qi Training

When I was a lot younger, and in China, I was told that I was too young to learn qigong. Granted those people weren’t masters of any art, be it Kung-Fu or qigong. Granted I was really dabbling in it since I prefer something more physical like Taekwondo or Kung-Fu. So whether or not I was told this piece of advice, I would have quit qigong eventually like I did.

That all said, though, I really feel like I need to address this for anyone is who seriously thinking of practicing.

No, you are not too young to learn qigong. If anything, the younger you start the more benefits you will derive.

Most typical exercises, such as running and weightlifting, have a shelf life. Sure you can do those things at any age, but there is a plateau and that plateau depends on your age. Michael Jordan, one of the most famous basketball players of all time, probably isn’t as good as the ones in the NBA today. I am quite sure there are other strongmen that can beat Arnold Schwarzenegger nowadays in certain competitions. My late Tang Soo Do master even told me that whenever he fights younger guys in a tournament, they surpass in terms of speed and strength. The only thing that he had going for him is his experience.

With Taiji, Xingyi, Bagua, and qigong age is not a factor. You won’t get worse as you age. If anything you will get better.

Speaking of myself, I am old enough to remember that payphones existed and probably the last of my generation to know how to use the card catalog. I also remember when the Nintendo Entertainment System was the most popular gaming system in the world.

Also, I just started seriously practicing qigong. This means, according to my life expectancy, by the time I die I will have upwards of 60 years of qigong practice.

Let’s say you are 20 years old and started qigong practice. If you kept up with it by the time you pass away the age 100, you’ll have at least 80 years of practice. I should be jealous as there is no telling what 80 years of practice can bring you.

So if qigong is something you like and want to incorporate into life, there is no need to wait until you are retired and with grandchildren. Start now if possible or soon if you can.

Mini Qigong Practices

Long time ago, I asked my teacher-consultant about practicing qigong in different situations, like while waiting in line or in an elevator to which she encouraged me to do so. In fact, she told me, finding extra time to practice is the secret of increasing one’s power. I haven’t really gotten to formalizing a list of mini qigong practice sessions up until now.

So far, I am liking what I am doing and would like to share them with you, whether you are a serious qigong practitioner or a dabbler like me.

Here are the qigong exercises I do whenever I . . . . .

BRUSH MY TEETH

Whenever I brush my teeth, I get into what many martial artists called a horse stance. In ballet, it’s known as a plie. Mainly, I stand about shoulder width apart or more and then bend my knees to as close as a 90 degree angle as possible.

This is perfect for those who do Kung-Fu, Taekwondo, and Karate. It’s also perfect for anyone as it helps strengthens the legs and the derriere.

This is a surefire way for someone to come up to you and say, “Nice teeth! And a nice butt, too!”

WAIT FOR COFFEE (or THE MICROWAVE):

I came across this exercise called Four-Directional-Breathing. It’s very simple, yet very involved at the same time. This is a good video explaining how it is done.

Whenever I wake up, the first thing I do is grumble my way to the kitchen and put some water in the microwave for it to get hot enough for me to make instant coffee. I know that it is sacrilege but whatever.

Anyways, I would wait around until the microwave is done, I make my coffee and then I feel better.

For awhile, instead of just waiting for the microwave, I would do the four-directional-breathing several times. Not only does it improve my mood, it gently wakes me up.

AM ABOUT TO DRIVE MY CAR

So I am one of the few people who works at an office in this day and age. Instead of simply going in the car and go for my long commute to work, I first would do the basic qigong practice of zhan zhuang or standing meditation. While most practitioners do about 5 minutes at a time, I usually do about 1-2 minutes. I do this before I drive to work and before I drive home. If I can do this any other time, I would, but only because no one is around to stare and laugh at me.

STAND IN LINE

Standing in line is boring, especially when in a shop and someone at the front would haggle with the poor cashier over 25 cents. True story. Anyways, to make standing in line worth my time, that’s when I would simply the wuji posture. I stand with slightly bent knees, move my shoulders back, and create some space in my arm pits, and then simply watch my breathing.

If I ever get bored doing that, I would practice the cat stance, albeit in a discreet manner. Mainly, I would shift all my weight on one leg while lifting the other for a few centimeters. After that I would switch. Again, I have to be discreet or else people would wonder why I would stand in a very strange fashion.

WAIT FOR COMPUTER STUFF TO LOAD

In my line of work, I have to wait for websites and in-house software to load. Usually, I would tap my finger on the desk saying to myself, “Can’t you load any faster??”

This time, I decided to use a different approach. This is known as Box Breathing in the US Navy and also known as pranayama in traditional Indian yoga.

Basically, what I do is inhale for 4 seconds, hold in the breath for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and then not breathe for another 4.

Then I might switch things up such as: breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, breathe out for 4, and hold for 2.

Another variation is for me to breathe in for 4 seconds, hold in for 6, breathe out for 4, and hold for 6.

This is a way for me to improve my lung functions discreetly. At the moment, I don’t need to be so stealthy in my practice since I am one of the few in my office. However, the powers that be have been trying to get my coworkers back in, which no one wants.

DO ANYTHING ELSE

This is the main qigong routine I want to write about. I got this from this old book called, “The Police Recruit” published in 1923 and written by New York City Police Commissioner Arthur W. Wallander. It’s a pretty interesting book overall. Not only does it provide the breathing exercises I am about to write about, it also has some other workout routines as well as self-defense techniques from boxing, wrestling, Judo (when it was known as Jiu-Jutsu at the time).

This routine is not considered “qigong” in any traditional sense, nor would the NYPD would call it that as well. This is especially the case in which most Westerners didn’t learn any qigong until the 1960s.

That all said, though, this is a decent breathing exercise. This is something I do whenever I feel bored or listless in the office. I do this before I go to the mailbox. I do this before I play a video game or waiting on an email from my boss. I love this routine so much, I want to share it with you for you to incorporate into your daily existence.

Herein lies the exercise from the book. The text is from Commissioner Wallander and the amateur illustrations are mine. I hope they help!

Exercise 1)

1. Inhaling: Raise the arms forward and upward above the head.

2. Exhaling: Lower the arms laterally downward and to the side.

3. Inhaling: Raise the arms sideward and over the head and lock the thumbs.

4. Exhaling: Bend trunk forward from the waist and lower the arms so that the hands touch the floor.

5. Inhaling: Raise trunk and arms to third position.

6. Exhaling: Lower the arms laterally downward and to the side.

(Repeat three times, inhaling and exhaling exclusively through the nose.)

Exercise 2)

1. Inhaling: Raise the arms forward and upward above the head, rise well up on the balls of the feet and reach upward with hands to stretch the walls of the chest and to fill lungs to capacity.

2. Exhaling: Bring the arms forcibly downward and to the side and deflate the lungs quickly.

(Repeat three times, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through mouth.)

An excellent exercise to clear out mucous or germ deposits which may have lodged in the air passages.

Stuff I Like: The Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Systems (5BX/XBX)

 

This is a topic that I haven’t touched upon for a long time. Lately my exercises have simply been focused on qigong and radio calisthenics, but I still think the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 5BX and XBX workouts are superior to the ones I do now. If I were a personal trainer, this workout would be the one I recommend for the most part. I will have to explain why I added the phrase “for the most part”.

What are these systems and why do I have nothing but praise for them?

They were developed by Flight Surgeon Dr. Bill Orban as a way for fighter pilots and flight crew to improve and maintain fitness without a gym or any equipment. In the original book, the author notes that there are bases around remote parts of Canada that lacked the facilities for the pilots to keep themselves in shape. Therefore, Dr. Orban developed the “Five Basic Exercises” for men and “Ten (as in Roman Numeral) Basic Exercises” for women. As a guy, I used the XBX workout which I will explain later.

The basic premise is that you have a set of exercises to do for a certain number of repetitions that you do for a certain number of days. After you do them for a certain number of days, you increase the reps and do those for a certain number of days. You keep on increasing those reps for those set time periods until you reach the maximum repetitions. Then you graduate to a more challenging version of the same set of exercises and do those for a certain number of reps for certain days. You keep on doing that until you reach the recommended level (or at least the level you feel most comfortable in) and then just do the workout three times a week to maintain that fitness level.

By the way, each fitness session should take no more than 15 minutes a day.

The two pictures above should demonstrate what I mean.

I think this program is way ahead of its time. I also think this program is way ahead of our time.

As High Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT) is considered the best way to improve health and fitness, this program helps one develop that capacity to do such exercises in a very orderly and straightforward manner. In a sense both the 5BX and XBX routines are the grandparents of this concept.

It’s also perfect for beginners. The programs help a person transition from a sedentary to a more active lifestyle. When you get started on either programs, you would hardly break a sweat. However, as you keep on going, it gets a little more challenging each time. What I also love is that it becomes challenging enough to give your body a workout, but not too challenging that you will get exhausted.

Another reason why I like both regimens is because all the exercises are intuitive and easy to learn. Not only that, but both programs are well-rounded in improving strength, cardio-vascular endurance, and flexibility. However the 5BX is more for strength and cardio and XBX focuses more on flexibility. Of course, this is based on 1950s standards on fitness for men and women. That all said, I prefer the XBX program over the 5BX for the exact reason that it helps with limbering one’s physique. After all, as a mediocre Taekwondo guy, I need a high amount of flexibility as well as strength.

Now for the drawbacks.

The Canadian government has disavowed both programs. I find this a shame since these programs can benefit everyone, military or civilian. However, I understand why. Some of the exercises past the first charts are dangerous to do and need supervision. That all said, though, I think is the case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. All that is needed to do is to modify the exercises to make them safer. For example one exercise involves doing sit ups with the legs flat on the ground, which is dangerous. You just need to simply bend the legs so that you can make your sit-ups a lot safer. Either way, though, if you plan to take up this regimen it is good to consult a personal trainer to see which exercises should be changed or which ones would serve as a decent substitute.

Also, you won’t get fast results unlike most modern routines. I remember reading someone wrote, “You won’t be able to run marathons anytime soon.” I agree, you won’t be able to run a marathon anytime soon but you can run them later. Also, you will see some incremental results as you continue, such as little fat lost in some areas or muscles developing in others. It just takes patience.

It is a program that must be daily, as well. Thankfully it’s only less than 15 minutes a day, but it is important to not skip or come with a contingency on when you might need to do so. That is why I cannot do this program due to my current lifestyle.

The biggest drawback, in my opinion, is that the cardio portion of the programs are NOT apartment-friendly. The cardio is basically running in place for a certain number of steps and then doing some jumping. If you live in an apartment this might not be practicable since you don’t want to annoy your neighbors. In my case, that is why I replaced the running with martial art moves for my own training. One of these days I plan to write and publish my own modifications for free distribution, but I have been too busy lately.

Either way, if you are interested in trying one of those programs out, you can download a pdf copy of the original manual here.

You can also go to this guy’s site where he uploads the 5BX and XBX plans as well as his yoga routine.

Another fitness routine to explore is one from Henry Wittenberg in his book, Isometrics. It is similar to the 5BX and XBX but a lot more focused on strength-training.

Also, just for the hell of it, here’s an old Canadian government video basically saying the same thing I just wrote.

Stuff that I like: Maison Ikkoku

Stuff that I like: Maison Ikkoku

It might seem like I have a one-dimensional personality over the things I like as in they mainly revolve around science fiction. Yes, it is my favorite genre, but I branch out to other genres as well like mystery and espionage fiction. Sometimes I get into things that I never thought I would get into such as romance.

And Maison Ikkoku is that, a romantic comedy. Of course it was a series of comic books before it became an anime series but I cannot write of the comic books since I have yet to read them.

Maison Ikkoku, created by Rumiko Takahashi, is about a guy named Yusaku Godai who has been trying and failing to get into a university. He lives in this boarding house in a residential area in Tokyo that is populated by a lot of crazy characters. One day, out of frustration, Godai tried to move out until laid eyes on this new building manager: Kyoko Otonashi. He fell madly in love with her.

Rumiko Takahashi is quite famous for her creations. She created Ranma ½, Urusei Yatsura, and Inuyashi to name a few. Many people enjoy her work and is quite popular. For me, though, I am not the biggest fan. I’ve watched some of Ranma and Urusei and can’t get into her humor. I also find her use of running gags a little too obnoxious and lazy. I can take it or leave it with her drawing style.

All that said, though, I remember a friend recommending me this series long time ago and I am glad I finally got around to watching it.

With most romantic TV series and films I have seen, what little of it I confess, there is that meet up. There is that passion, then the conflict, the proposal in front of some beautiful scenery, and then the sappy music. If it takes a more comedic route, there are the arguments, the innuendo-filled humor, and maybe a few jealous moments thrown in here or there. Next thing you know it, the guy and the girl finally end up as a loving couple within a few weeks and then happily ever after.

Maison Ikkoku takes a more mature, for lack of a better word, approach to romance. There is a hardly a rush of passion or hot and heavy action. It’s about two people trying to find themselves in each other and grow in the process. Godai starts out as a never-do-well failure yet tries to apply himself as a student and later a man in order to win Kyoko’s love. Kyoko has to reconcile with her past as well as her trepidation in order to open her heart to a man that she wants to love. Unlike other movies or series, this love takes years to build, with lots of obstacles and slip-ups on the way.

Takahashi does inject some zaniness in this series, especially with Godai and his neighbors. The zany comedy elements, though, gives balance to the sober tone of the episodes. You have these moments when Godai wistfully thinks about Kyoko and then it gets interrupted by this creepy neighbor who slips in his apartment to surprise him. Kyoko might be involved in thinking about her own feelings and then her dog starts trouble with the other boarders or the other way around. It is a good way from the series from falling into an overly dramatic and sappy tone.

Again, as this love took years to build, we get to see many obstacles and events that strengthen the love between Godai and Kyoko. There was the college exam Godai finally takes. There was this new guy who also vies for Kyoko’s love. Actually, there is also this new girl who also really had a thing for Godai. There was even a time when Godai was about to loaf his life away which got Kyoko very angry.

When Godai and Kyoko finally decided to become a couple and later marry, everything just felt right. It felt like a calm sunny day after a storm in which everything and that destiny has finally brought about a serene happiness that everyone was searching for, even if they did not want they wanted it.

It became the first new day of a beautiful life.

As of this writing, you should be able to find the entire series on Youtube.

Thoughts on my Qigong and Fitness Life: 2023年1月2日

I am resurrecting this again, especially since I am more serious in mastering qigong and whatever that means. Here are some of the sundry thoughts that have been coming to mind since I restarted my practice.

Turning Poison Into Medicine (again):

Last year, I felt I was serious about qigong and then depression hit me in which I felt too sad to get back into qigong training. Now, I feel like I won’t quit from now on.

What changed? Simply holding grudges and ruminating about the past.

And it’s not what you think.

I have written this before but I will repeat this again: those who read my blog know that I used to teach English in Asia. During those times, I would encounter these controlling personalities who try to get me involved in their crazy. There was even one period in which I was involved in huge “controversies” over a language exchange club! The most disappointing about my time in Asia, especially in my second time in Korea, is that I wanted to focus on studying Zen and martial arts and couldn’t do so thanks to all the useless drama.

In a sense, this is also why I cannot study Zen now since drama is an issue in my home and politics at work.

Since I have been more serious about studying qigong and seen the benefits, I look back in how I could have simply done qigong in those situations I have faced in Asia and lived a better life now. Sure I would still deal with petty drama and get a headache over said language exchange BS, but I would be a lot healthier today had I started qigong practice years ago.

Now this does thought has some regret, but there is a saying: “The best time to grow a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

And now I am having less free time but dealing with twice the drama. So if I start today practicing qigong today, who knows what will happen by next year? As Vizzini from “The Princess Bride” said, “It’s inconceivable!”

I love qigong and it has been a game changer in my life. That all said, it’s not really “fun” for me. With video games, the internet, and even my smartphone it is hard for me to actually do the routine when I can lay about and numb my mind. Therefore, whenever I feel like skipping qigong practice I think about my frustrating and horrible past which then strengthens my resolve.

The Sound (and Timing) of Music:

Another part of my struggle with qigong is that, even though my sessions take 5-15 minutes, it feels soooooo long. It’s like holding a plank. Sure I am glad I did it, but there are times I get a bit too bored while doing qigong (or the plank).

Of course when it comes to Taiji and qigong, one form of music that people associate the two with is classical Chinese music. New Age music with an Asian influence is another form you hear while people are doing Taiji-qigong. I can appreciate classical Chinese music, but I am not into New Age. This is why I normally don’t play music during my qigong sessions.

One day I wanted to change things and do qigong with music. So I played an old guzheng song called “Flowing Water”. The song itself was about 6 minutes long. When that song was finished, I realized I went through a good chunk of my qigong routine and realized that my qigong sessions were not as long as I imagined!

I am reminded of a video I watched long long time ago of a famous American Karate teacher, and whose name I don’t remember, who also taught a little Taiji. In that one video of his Taiji class, everyone was listening to old 50s rock music. In particular everyone was doing Taiji to “Oh Donna” by Ritchie Valens. Being an idiot, I thought what the Karate master was doing was stupid. Now I realized I was being the idiot and thought to myself, “Why not try what he did?” One of these days, I might compile a list of soft rock or jazz songs and try doing qigong to them. I might use John Coltrane. I might use Little River Band. Nick Drake sounds like a good idea. I definitely will use Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas”.

My Thoughts on the Inner Smile and Doing Qigong when Angry:

I have read a lot of books on qigong warning the student that qigong should never be done when angry. Qigong master Anthony Korahis vehemently disagrees and I take his side. Life sucks and there are times things can’t go our way. Some people can switch off their anger and others can’t, so we need as many strategies as possible to overcome it. Qigong, especially the routines that are widely available, really help out with that.

Speaking for myself, I hate my job. The work is tolerable enough but the people there really get on my nerves. Most of the time said coworkers spend more time playing political games than actually getting anything done. Whenever I steal time to do qigong, though, I feel a lot better and happier. Last week, after a qigong session, I finished my shift in a very happy mood.

So while I think it is okay to do qigong when angry, it is ideal that we are in a good mood. I remember hearing about this concept of the “Inner Smile” from this Kung-Fu fanatic I met in university. I asked him how to do this Inner Smile to which he just said, “Argh! Just do it!” Years later, I came to realize that he didn’t know how to do it either or else he would not be so pissy.

Basically, to do the Inner Smile you just have to be in a good mood. Once you are in a good mood, qigong becomes a lot more enjoyable.

Lately, I have been watching this cat video and that gives me that Inner Smile.

Another Thing I Need to Do:

Some time ago I wrote about compiling a list of qigong moves that I can do outside of my training session. For example, doing the wuji position while waiting line or simply doing 10 rounds of deep breathing before or after answering an email.

I am going to get on to that and hopefully will write about it soon enough.

Last Post of 2022

It’s been a hell of a month but thankfully there is a lull in which I can rethink my 2023, especially in regards to self-cultivation which is what I am all about. Sure it will be a new year but I doubt much will change. My family will still erupt over petty issues, my work and coworkers will try to enslave me for as much as legally as possible, and my sleeping pattern will still be as erratic as ever.

Yet I must improve myself if I am to make any changes in my life. If I sit around and do nothing, I can’t expect anything to change. Now the question is: how?

Well first things first, my physical and mental fitness regimen which is as follows:

  1. This Korean radio calisthenics workout

  2. Qigong

  3. This sitting stretch routine

  4. 5 minutes of meditation

  5. Basic Ninjutsu moves

  6. A simple liturgy involving the Heart Sutra and chanting Om Mani Padme Hum

The first 5 things I plan to do only once a day. If I am lucky, I will try to do them twice. After all, there is no telling what my day will be when I can’t sleep well or if I get stuck in a useless fight. If I can do those things, then I should be satisfied enough. The only thing I will do twice day, however, is the liturgy.

The next item I want to address is actual self-cultivation in terms of philosophy. About a year ago when I was trying to learn the Greatest Salesman in the World, I was doing well until a lot of things threw me off . . . . mainly a wedding that I didn’t want to attend and the anxieties that I had up to that day. I also think part of the problem was that it became a chore to read the scrolls mainly because there were times I was too exhausted to do so. In my job, there is the drudgery of the daily tasks with also a helping of petty office politics. By the time I get home, I don’t want to cultivate at all. I want to watch movies or play video games or anything to get myself to unplug. I also want to sleep.

Also, in the same vein, I remember when I was still working this job but I had the whole house to myself as my family visited relatives in India. Yes, my job was still full of its pettiness and annoyances, but I was able to exercise, meditate, and do some qigong. I was even able to read a novel if you can believe that.

Then there was the 2020 lockdown. Sure my family still were full of drama, but I wasn’t working. I was still able to do everything I wanted from meditation, qigong, and exercise. Funny enough, that was when I actually started and completed The Master Key System!

Thinking about all of these factors, it has become apparent to me that I really need to move out. It will be difficult since there are those who don’t want that to happen, but it is the struggle I must face again. I might get called the Black Sheep and a loser, but I would rather be a loser on my own terms rather than a winner on other people’s.

Speaking of which . . . .

A couple of years ago I would write about some individuals I met abroad in Korea, China, and Thailand. Many of them happen to be foreign English teachers and the biggest problem I had with them was their obsession to micro-manage and/or ruin my life. Some of them loved to harass me on Facebook, texts, Line, Kakao, and so on. I understand somewhat the pathology behind their actions. Part of it is culture shock, other parts self-esteem issues, and also racism to a degree.

I bring all this up as I always question, if I choose to leave the US again, how would I deal with those kinds of people I might encounter. I have come to terms that if I move to China, Indonesia, or any other country that I will meet with someone who thinks my life belongs to him or her. S/he will probably think of themselves as my superior and that I must accommodate myself to their every whim. This becomes a distraction from my cultivation efforts as those same people would endeavor to pull me away from self-improvement and into their drama as a way to deal with their problems. They are the type of people who like to verbally abuse others because others verbally abuse them.

In this case, I feel like I am prepared. I would simply stick to qigong and qigong only. After all, I can practice this routine in any place and in any form of clothing for 5 to 15 minutes a day. That way, I can “allow” for those other people to channel their hate and anger towards me in any which way they wish without harming my mental health. That way, I won’t feel so frustrated in not being able to create happiness for myself and also astonishing those same people for becoming better each day. It would be a great form of revenge.

Now to address what I will do first to make sure I move out. I plan to use this method both propagated by Earl Nightingale in his work, “The Strangest Secret”, and R. H. Jarrett in his work, “It Works”. I took out a note card and wrote my main desire, which is a job in Asia. On the other side, and this is my idea, I wrote “I will persist until I succeed. If I persist, if I continue to try, if I continue to charge forward, I will succeed. If I must, I shall work in despair until I reach my goal.”

With that card, I plan to look at it several times a day, especially upon waking up and before going to sleep.

This way I am getting rid of all extraneous desires. Sure I want to work out more, study more on philosophy, and even do more martial arts but they will be more distractions from my ultimate goal of independence. Once I have my own place to live and a better job, then I can think about these other wants.

To a better 2023.

PS I am still going to write about “Stuff I like”. As self-absorbed as it can be, I enjoy it.

Qigong Without the Qi

Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev on Pexels.com

This title is can be seen as a silly one, mainly because the word “qi” literally means gas. Gas also implies air and we need to breathe in that air in order to live. How can we have qigong without qi? Or weight-training? Or living in general? We don’t breathe, we die!

However there is this other definition that qi is a type of breath-based energy. This is the energy that moves through certain meridians. It’s that energy we channel to help us break bricks with our bare hands or prevent a blade from breaking our skin. It’s that same energy that is said to help us levitate or shoot fireballs. We should visualize that energy as it leaves from our lower abdomen to other parts of the body. We might have to be mindful of certain acupuncture points.

This almost implies that we need to believe in the existence of qi in order to benefit from qigong practice.

Again, while qigong and Taiji have been proven to be beneficial according to scientific studies, qi hasn’t been proven to exist. There is no reason for us to believe in its existence, according to current science anyways. Therefore, can we benefit from qigong if one doesn’t believe in qi?

Speaking as a guy who is a rank beginner in the practice and not a personal trainer, I say yes. I am also agnostic on the subject as well. I cannot say qi exists, but I cannot it doesn’t. I hardly do any visualization of qi movement and yet I am still benefiting from the practice.

How does one benefit from qigong practice if one doesn’t have the belief of qi?

Well, first of all, we exercise our breath. Many of us, out of habit, tend to be shallow-breathers and only breathe with our chest. Therefore by taking a few minutes a day practicing qigong we can devote that time to breathing fully through our diaphragm. We can mindfully get ourselves to fill in our lungs with as much air as possible. Even if we cannot breathe deeply throughout the rest of the day, our physical and mental health will benefit through this deep breathing alone. Of course, let’s not forget, qi literally means gas/air and that is the main focus on qigong.

Then there is the meditative aspect. Many of us are overly stressed and overworked to a point we need vacations almost every week of the year. Now we cannot afford to take so many of them, but we can at least relax and recharge ourselves through gentle movement and breathing. I am of the opinion that stress is the number one cause of aging and the best way to slow that process is through deep relaxation. Qigong is perfect in getting ourselves relaxed through mindful breathing and movement. It’s also great for those who don’t like to or can’t meditate as it doesn’t require so much in suppression of movement or concentration.

Last, but not least, even if you don’t visualize qi flowing through your body and meridians you can still get a decent isometric workout standing in a bent leg pose aka a horse stance. You can get a decent stretch when you do the “Lifting the Sky” exercise. You can even get a light cardio workout doing the “Swinging arms” or “Cloud Hands” movement. Of course this also depends on which routine you take up, such as “Ba Duan Jin” or “18 Arhat Hands”, but there are fitness benefits that you can acquire without even understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine.

If you don’t like to sweat or strain, want to spend 5-15 minutes of exercise, and want to be able exercise every where including your workplace, give qigong a try. Try it for a month and see if it works for you. You don’t need to understand Traditional Chinese Medicine nor need to believe in qi and you would still benefit from it.

Some of you might say, “Why do I need to do qigong?” My answer is, “Because you don’t have to do it.” Just like any other exercise, it is an option for you to try out. You might not like following an aerobics video but you might like running. You might not like using the bench press at a gym, but you might like doing push-ups. When you have more options, you can get more done.

Why not make qigong another option?

In transition

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So I haven’t written much about my cultivation efforts for mainly one reason: I am in transition. I am trying to figure out and experiment what kind of cultivation I can do with the current obstacles I am facing. Many, if not all forms, of cultivation do work but they are useless if they can’t be practiced on a regular basis.

Take push-ups for example. If you do only 10 push ups for a single day, you’re off to a great start in fitness but it doesn’t affect anything. You got to keep doing those push-ups everyday and even increase your reps in order to see any results.

The same with cultivation. If you meditate once for five minutes or meditate sporadically every couple of days or so then nothing is going to happen. And that is how my cultivation journey has been. I would be able to get started on something only to be pulled away.

Also . . . .

I thought I was going to stick to Nichiren Buddhism. For sometime I getting back into it and was hoping to report positive changes through this practice. However, and I cannot get into too many details, I felt that my Nichiren practice betrayed me. I used this practice to overcome one issue, which made me happy. I was so happy that I was willing to be patient for any other progress. One day, this problem resurfaced again and I was, “WTF?”

My relationship to Nichiren Buddhism feels eerily similar to my relationship with toxic “friends”. I would always treat them with common courtesy and respect. I would keep my promises. I would try to act in good faith towards said person. However, said “friends” would stab me in the back, break promises, and even yell at or insult me in front of other people.

Now of course Nichiren Buddhism is not a person. It’s a philosophy. It’s a religion. All said, though, even though I put the time to do the liturgy and figure out ways to study the Lotus Sutra I always end up feeling worse for the wear. There is something about the practice, something that draws me back and “forgive” the bad experiences only to be reminded again why I stopped.

So I am making sure that this time I am not going back to Nichiren Buddhism. I will read the Lotus Sutra, that much I will do, but no more “Nam(u)-Myoho-Renge-Kyo” for me.

At the moment I am doing qigong and some basic Ninjutsu techniques. I am also experimenting with meditation and radio calisthenics, mainly both the North and South Korean ones. I am also trying to figure out what to study in terms of scriptures or self-help books. So far I am listening to the Enchiridion by Epictetus, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, and The Greatest Secret by Earl Nightingale.

I am also thinking of restarting the Greatest Salesman in the World, but nothing definite. After all, I have to think of whether or not I can do this or anything else.

This week is an example of challenges I have and will be facing in terms of self-cultivation. Monday some guy decided to take the day off out of the blue and I had to do his work at the last minute. There is the other coworker who technically is in charge of the work I do. She never helps in my work, but she tries to make it difficult for me to get it done even though my getting it done is in her best interests. Also Christmas is coming up and that usually makes things go wayward, especially in my job.

So I will say by December 31st I will try to make things more definite and then get things started on January 1, 2023.

Gassho.

PS I wrote in this post about this wedding I was to attend and how it made me panic. It turned out well and in fact I had fun.

PPS I had fun writing about “Things I like” and I am going to do more and still in a sporadic fashion.

Stuff that I like: EGA Trek

My upbringing has coincided with the development of video games. I have witnessed how video games used to be nothing more than blips and dots on a screen to more developed, but quaint sprite characters to what are basically interactive movies of today. Of course, I have played a lot of games in my life and still do, although not as much due to my current job and vagabond lifestyle. If I ever stay in one area for more than 4 years, I would probably get myself the latest game system.

Still, despite all of the developments and advances, the one game I always find myself going back to is EGA Trek. I have probably played and beaten this game thousands of times and yet I find myself going back to it again and again.

EGA Trek is an unofficial non-Star Trek game developed by Nels Anderson. What I mean by that was originally the game made Star Trek references but Anderson changed it in order to avoid a lawsuit. The Federation became the Union, Klingons became the Mongols, and the Enterprise became the Lexington. Still, despite these changes this is perhaps the best Star Trek-but-not-really-Star Trek game I have ever played.

Most actual Star Trek games, at least when I was a lot younger, seemed to miss the point about what makes Star Trek “Star Trek”. Many use arcade game play like moving the Starship Enterprise with a controller and then pressing buttons to shoot enemy ships or asteroids. Some use other arcade mechanisms such as a little sprite that you move around objects almost similar to Pac-Man. The only official Star Trek game that I think captures the TV series the best is the one for the Nintendo Entertainment System, where not only you can navigate the ship but also land on alien planets. Even then, that game could use some improvements.

EGA Trek, however, really captures the spirit of Star Trek. The Starship Enterprise is not a tank or fighter jet one maneuvers. It’s basically a battleship in space, where it moves in a slower pace and more emphasis is on strategy and less on reflexes. Captain Kirk is more like a sea captain like Jack Aubrey from Master and Commander and less like a fighter pilot like Maverick Mitchell of Top Gun.

The premise of the game is that an interstellar war broke out between the Union (Federation) and the Mongols (Klingons) and your job is to travel all over the galaxy to get rid of the enemy ships. As you are traveling out in your search-and-destroy mission, you also have other decisions to make as a commander. You have to decide which parts of the ship needs repairs, if you should send a detachment in planets, how to rescue star bases and colonists under siege, and of course how to engage the enemy in combat. Once you rid the galaxy of all enemies, you complete the game.

If you take a look at the picture above, this is mainly what you see while playing the game which is the command center. Sure the colors are nice, but the graphics are simple compared to what we have today in the video game market. There are not even cut scenes that make up many games that people play today. A lot more action is done in text than in animation.

So why is it that I go back to this one every so often?

The first replay value is in its randomness. The locations of the enemy ships, planets, and star bases always change with each game play. Sometimes you can start the game and there is nothing in your sector of the galaxy. Sometimes you start the game and you already are pushed into combat.

The other replay value is in its scoring. The more people and star bases you rescue, for example, the higher your score. The longer you take finishing the game or the more causalities you take the lower the score. So there is an incentive to improve your strategy in order to get a higher score than before.

Last, but not least, there is the difference in difficulty. If you play in the easiest mode, you can always win without breaking a sweat and is perfect for trying to learn the game. The normal mode is winnable, but there is a challenge. The most difficult mode is almost impossible to beat. Any Trekkie who plays that mode would refer to it as the “Kobayashi Maru.”

There are a couple of drawbacks to the game, but everything must be in context. First this game was created in the 1980s and by only one guy alone, so got to give him a break here.

First drawback, especially compared to games of today, is that the graphics are almost minimal. Sure there are some animations here and there, but most of the action is text so your imagination is needed for this.

Second drawback is that there is a learning curve. You need to almost memorize list of commands in order to play the game. There is a somewhat thorough tutorial at the title screen (known as the “briefing”) that will help out. Otherwise, you can always access the help screen for a quick list of what commands you can type and what they do. Still, I learned how to play this game as a kid and back then the Nintendo Entertainment System was already widespread so it should not be that big of a deal.

Still, though, if you are into Star Trek or strategy games in general, check it out.

The best place I know where you can play the game is on this website. 

You can download the actual game to save on your computer, but you would need to install and know how to use DOSBOX

However, if you are not too computer-savvy, especially with how computers used to be back in the 80s and early 90s, you can simply click the icon on that same page and play the entire game online without any download. 

And Mr. Nels Anderson, if you are reading this: Thank you very much for making such a program. It’s more than a game, it’s an experience.

 

My critique on Physical Education in the United States

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A long time ago, I was part of this Thai retiree expat group on Facebook mostly populated by OK-Boomers. Many of them were military vets and even fought in Vietnam. One day someone posted an article about how the US military is lowering its standards to attract recruits and many vets were decrying this. A lot of them even blamed the decline of US physical education.

On that note, I agree, but not for the reasons most people might think. Herein lies my opinion.

First and foremost, I do have to admit some sort of bias. I was in school from the 90s up until the early 2000s. I wasn’t a good gym student, but I just went along with the class because I had to do so. In high school I got into Taekwondo and really went overboard with it in college. Since graduation, I could practice Taekwondo here and there, but I mostly not.

For many years I had ill-luck in starting and maintaining a fitness program. I would get hired to work this office job where the hours are long and volatile, which means I don’t have time to go to the gym or even do a workout at home. When I lived overseas teaching English, I worked with bored expats who would constantly harass me into their drama which also took time away from my exercising. One time, a head teacher in this Thai school I was working at basically twisted my arm to teach her kids after school. I couldn’t say no because she would see to it that I cannot get work after my contract expires.

I lost my job to the pandemic and basically had to move back with my parents during the lockdown. The one good thing about this was that I was able to research and experiment with different types of workout routines. That was when I tried radio calisthenics routines from various Asian countries, learned about Walter Camp’s daily dozen, and even learned similar at-home workouts that can be done in 10 minutes or less.

In the end, though, I have been able to find different workout programs that anyone can do regardless of age or fitness level. Also, these workout programs can be done any where and are really apartment friendly plus there is no need for equipment such as dumbbells or pulleys. It feels great that I have the knowledge that I needed to get myself back into shape without too many obstacles and can be done in a little amount of time.

Thinking about all the research and experimentation I have done since 2020, I wish I never had to do all of that to be honest. I wish I had easier access to a ready-made routine that fits all lifestyles. I wish I didn’t have to do months and years of research to get to this point. I wish I knew of radio calisthenics or Walter Camp’s Daily Dozen years and years ago.

That was why I was thinking, why don’t gym or P.E. classes teach on that end? If schools are meant to enable the students to live a better life in the future, why not give students a decent education on personal fitness that would last beyond their school years?

My biggest problem with Physical Education classes in America, at least when I was a student during that time, was that it focused too much on sports. I understand why most gym classes incorporate sports. It’s a good social outlet. It is a good way to gamify physical fitness. It’s also a good way to relieve stress.

However, I find that solely focusing on sports is not practical. First of all, not many people play sports once they graduate high school. Most sports require special equipment and a designated space in order to play them. Plus, most sports require a group of people.

Furthermore, especially in a school setting, sports can destroy a young person’s self-esteem in a gym class. As sports are competitive in nature, the least athletic students gets picked last for the team, gets teased for not being so athletic, and is even stuck warming the benches during the game. I know this because I have personal experience.

Ultimately, what happens when we graduate school? When we are out working, earning money, and caring for our families? Is there a guarantee that we can continue playing sports? For the most part, no. Again sports require a special place to play, special equipment, and also other people. One has to be lucky in order to access all three.

Speaking for myself, I work a night job which means I generally sleep in the mornings to early afternoon and go to my office in the evenings. By the time I get out of the office, everyone is asleep and all fitness centers and parks are closed. Also, due to my circadian rhythm, there is no way I can wake up early enough to join in on a basketball game at the Y or even be part of some amateur team on the weekends.

This is where I ask, why don’t schools focus more on individual fitness? Why don’t they focus on a way for anyone with any ability to exercise, regardless of any and all circumstances?

I often think about how schools in Asia teach a nationalized workout routine for every student. Japan has their “Radio Taiso Series”. China has the “Broadcast Exercises.” South Korea has their “National Calisthenics”. So does North Korea and Taiwan.

Will practicing these routines help you get into the Olympics? No. However, they are a good way to maintain the bare minimum level of fitness that everyone needs. So if one wants to practice other forms of exercise or sports or martial arts, then great! However, if one isn’t able to do so or might be too out of shape, one can actually fall back on those routines.

By the way, all of those radio calisthenic routines were originally from the United States. The Japanese acknowledge that their “Radio Taiso” exercises were formed after government officials visited the US in the 1920s.

Even if there is no agreed upon routine for all citizens and school children to learn, at the very least I think most schools should mainly focus on different forms of individual fitness. Maybe for one month they could focus on aerobics and cardio, the next on body weight calisthenics, the next on using household objects such as cans of soup or a broom as exercise equipment. Maybe teachers could even teach yoga or qigong. Sports can be included but they should be an ancillary part of physical education in my opinion.

American fitness culture is all about reaching our ideal; our ideal weight, our ideal muscle mass, our ideal body shape, and even our ideal athleticism. It works to a degree, especially in how American athletes are famous for excelling in many sports. However, this approach only works well for those who are in physically intense jobs and not meant for anyone else like the office worker or truck driver. Furthermore, we also have to remember that the US ranks in the top 20 countries in the world for obesity and that it might even move up the rankings over the years. So I think it is also important to set up a minimum standard of fitness that we all can achieve so that we can mitigate this problem.

I think this is doable. After all, President John F. Kennedy helped bring about a pamphlet that is accessible for everyone for his fitness program. While Walter Camp’s Daily Dozen was a private venture, it was promoted by the US government and utilized in the military during World War I.

So why not create an updated new fitness program that anyone can do in little time and have that taught in public schools?