Fu Zhong Wen, Yang Chen Fu, Yang Shao Hao, Sun Lu Tang, Wu Chien Quan, Ma Yueh Liang, Tung Ji Yieh, Chen Wei Ming (below Sun Lu Tang)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Walking for health: Eastern and Western approaches


There are many styles of walking a person can work with for health. Walking is classified as low-impact and one of the best exercises a person can do. I will cover many styles of walking that are done for health and wholeness and discuss some of the benefits.

Regular walking and hiking:
When I talk about regular walking, I am talking about walking with the body in a normal non-focused matter. Normal regular walking is natural, body is held in its natural posture. It is up to the individual if they want to step with a normal pace or bring it up a notch into a hefty stride. I believe that walking a few miles is best. I'm going to categorize hiking here if you go up hills, or walking through mountains, parks, and other off road places. Walking in nature is very good for the mind and body. Nature gives back fresh oxygen is good for the cells. Old school bare knuckle boxers fought at a walking pace and were known to do walks up to 10 miles in training. Walking has a great effect on the heart, lungs, and helping stamina and endurance. Get a pedometer to measure your steps- 10,000 steps a day lead to a long life according to Chinese medicine.

Speed or Race walking:
Speed walking is a pace just below jogging and to me actually looks pretty funny. It is still good for you, I prefer not to use speed walking since I would rather jog or run, but speed walking is an Olympic sport where they walk 20 km and should be mentioned here. Race walking is a competition so it involves athletic minded training and concentration. Your heart and cardiovascular health would improve with the type of training.

Zen walking:
Zen walking was brought to my attention when studying Japanese Renzai school of Zen. Here walking is done after about 25 minutes of Zazen or quiet sitting meditation. The approach is simple: 'kensho' or "seeing one's true nature" while walking slowly and meditatively. The approach is to not think about “this or that” while walking but take life in and be in the present moment. This can bring your mind into a quiet and peaceful state, it can clear agitation and remove stress.

Goulin Medical Qigong walking:
Goulin or Koulin medical Qigong (breathing exercise) walking was designed by Madame Goulin in Mainland China. She was the daughter of a Qigong master and she got Cancer and healed it with diet and the healing qigong walking exercises. Qi is the healing energy used in traditional Chinese medicine including acupuncture, massage, and herbology. This style of walking is inspired by Hua To's Animal Frolics and comes in two types: an aggressive walking to expel toxins, and “walking with wind respiration” which has a more flow to nourish the body. In China, it is common to see a group of Cancer patients practicing the walking in a park. It is used for many illnesses besides Cancer such as liver illnesses, heart and blood pressure problems, arthritis, and many other diseases.

Martial walking:
Martial walking is another Qigong from China that is part of a Taoist Yoga system. It is basically marching strong and tall ‘in place’ visualizing the ability to walk through all obstructions that are hindering and hold you back. My teacher who taught this would say to “walk through walls” and “break down barriers”. This visualization is meant to help you psychologically.

Baguazhang’s* “Walking the circle”:
Baguazhang (8 diagram palm)is a Chinese martial art based on an ancient Taoist practice of walking in circle around trees. Some also believe it has influences from India as many of the postures resemble Shiva’s dance. Dong Hai Chuan, a martial artist demonstrated the art to the Beijing Imperial Guards and showed many palm striking techniques that can be used when circling , dodging, spiraling, and turning vs. an opponent. This walking of the circle practice is performed with the practitioner crouching in a fighting guard stance and twisting the body toward the center of a circle while performing a variety of calisthenic stretches and other agile movements that are also attack and defense combination's. These coordinated activities stimulate health by walking that opens and closes the hip joint, makes waist flexible, and opens up the spinal joints and nerves.

'Short flat walk' of Xingyiquan*:
Xingyiquan (Mind and Intent boxing),is another type of Chinese martial art has a set of fast walking with combined hand movements using striking attack and defense type movements. The hand movements are coordinated with the turning of the hips and waist. There is a saying, "hands with feet, elbow with knees, shoulder with hips." aka the "6 harmonies". Please note that Xingyiquan has many types of stepping and the ‘short flat’ walking is only a small part but is a walking exercise indeed. For example: Xingyi's beng fist (Crushing fist), when done correctly, is very similar to cross country skiing's motion. This benefits the waist line, and massages the internal organs.

Taijiquan* walking:
Taijiquan (Grand Ultimate boxing), is probably China’s most famous style of martial art known by millions around the world. It is often thought of a what the old people do in the park for exercise, however, it is much more than that as a very powerful martial art. In its basic practice many of the movements can be done walking forward, backward, and even sideways stepping. For instance: Brush knee, Part horse mane, Grasp Bird Tail, and Fair maiden plays can be repeated many times moving forwards. Step back and Repulse monkey can repeated going backward, and wave hands like clouds, can be repeated going sideways. This type of deep martial walking is very good to develop a root to the ground and harmonize with gravity. It will increase balance and strengthen the legs and the lymph pump that is stimulated when weight continually transfers when walking slow.

*Taijiquan, Baguazhang, and Xingyiquan are considered dynamic martial qigongs, often classified as ‘Nei gong’ or Internal martial arts. That is because they stress not gaining strength through “Li” or muscular force, but the adaptation of a softer pliable strength of the tendons that use ‘Qi’ or internal energy guided by ‘Yi’ or mind.

Boxing walking:
You can walk at a brisk pace and practice timing various western boxing moves: like slipping, ducking, weaving, jab, cross, hooks, uppercuts. I often do that on the treadmill or elliptical machines at the gym so as to not look so crazy on the walking path, but it gives me some time to shadow box. I also do this at a jogging and running pace, but starting with walking is good to coordinate the fists with the feet. It is very similar to Xingyiquan as well. Add some elbows and knees and make it like Thai boxing! This is great for developing confidence to deal with tough situations and protecting your self with a strong defense that has a strong offense.

Combination walking:

There is using several of these walking styles simultaneously: for instance, Zen walking can be fused with normal walking. Zen walking and Qigong walking, Boxing walking combined with Xingyiquan walking. Taijiquan walking combined with Baguazhang walking. the possibilities are infinite. Combining Zen walking with all three: Taijiquan, Baguazhang, and Xingyiquan.

Enjoy a good walk in life!

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