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I remember watching a demonstration near the world-famous Shaolin Temple in China. After gasping at some amazing athletes a little old man, easily in his seventies, and wearing loose, faded, blue clothing walked out onto the carpet. He saluted the audience then began to show off a classical Shaolin form. His movements were precise and compact demonstrating something he had practiced for decades. Suddenly, he bent one leg while keeping the other out straight and touched the ground with his elbow. Then, still in that low stance position, he moved his elbow along the ground like a snake. That was just the beginning: high kicks followed, punches, turns and twists. I found myself thinking, “This is like Yoga only he’s moving through all those postures, not posing in them, and he’s got power, too.”
The Chinese believe that family happiness is “Five generations under one roof.” Unlike modern people they don’t hide their old folk away and, consequently, observe just what aging really is. Over the centuries they built all that into their Kung Fu because- frankly – what is the point of beating opponents but losing to nature? The Kung Fu masters discovered some simple but amazing principles for getting Nature on your side. Here are a few of them…
Bend Your Knees. Trainers always say that an athlete loses his legs first. Walking is, of course, great but it neglects one thing: balance. But if we bend our knees we have to balance at a lower level. In Kung Fu we practice the Horse Stance. Keep your feet parallel a little farther apart than shoulder width, flex your knees a little, then count to ten. Don’t do it for too long. True, people training in Kung Fu keep this position for twenty minutes and more but you don’t need that. Remain motionless for the whole count. In this case the lack of movement prevents you twisting your knees in the wrong direction or some other such liability.
Drop your breathing. When we watch older people we notice that their breath is often very high in the chest. When you go down into your Horse Stance, hold the position but don’t hold your breath. Stand there and breath the air down, imagining it going into your stomach. Instead of the upper chest try to make the air move to your tummy. Practicing this way with bent legs and low breathing, you’ll never look like a bird walking around.
Keep a Lively Waist. Once you are in the Horse Stance put your hands on your hips and turn your upper body a little gently from left to right and back. This addresses the third criterion of fighting age: keep the lower back limber and flexible. This method assures you–without straining–the ability to do just that. Relax your waist to turn and your back will naturally get the benefits of the gentle wringing actions. Kung Fu is over 3000 years old. It is highly esteemed by the Chinese as not only a good way to deal with aging but also something INTERESTING enough to keep you practicing (another big concern). Try these exercises and introduce yourself to Kung Fu’s famous benefits.
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