My Story - Chapter 5: Health Benefits - My Personal Experience.Although I did not begin learning this art for health reasons, I have certainly gained so many health benefits that I've forgotten most of them. Let's face it, most of us take good health for granted and so don't realise what we have until we lose it. I personally have never accepted the neurological problems that were plaguing me, so each time I recover a lost skill, I don't seem to notice it until someone points it out to me, at which point in time it becomes newly amazing. Let me give you some examples.
Many years before I had even heard of Baguazhang, I went to see a doctor about a tremor I had developed. This was eventually diagnosed as an "essential tremor" - which means the doctors don't know why I have it, it's not related to any horrid terminal or other disease, and it will probably be mine for the rest of my life. Oh and by the way, I've also got a "nystagmus" which is unrelated to the tremor (also neurological, also not a major problem), and that means that my eyes vibrate very rapidly in an up-and-down motion, most noticeable when I look from side to side.
Hmmm. I was prescribed medication to control the tremor, but stopped taking it after an aerobics class incident where I'd forgotten that I had taken a pill. What I had done, was taken a pill whose function was to decrease the heart rate, and followed that by an activity intended to increase the heart rate. I left the class mid-way feeling rather ill and vowed never to take medication to control the tremor ever again and decided instead to "live with it".
A few years later, while working in an office, I noticed that I was beginning to have difficulties in typing on my computer keyboard. Since this was about the time that knowledge of "repetitive strain injuries" was becoming common, I assumed that rest would cure the problem.
It didn't. After a month's holiday in Germany, it became apparent that rest had no effect on my weakened hands, and so I went back to the doctors, the hospitals, and a number of neurologists who tested reflexes, sensation, poked needles in my hands and arms and sent electric currents down them, sent me for MRI scans, and finally displayed me to students and sent me to more doctors. Although I thankfully did not have ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig's Disease) or any other horrid disease, I had enough muscular-neurological problems to be classed as "interesting". Finally, one doctor decided to test not only my hands, but also other areas of my body and discovered that, although I only had a noticeable problem with my hands, the actual area affected was my entire body - not a single muscle tested emerged as normal. Next, this same doctor asked if he could test my parents. It turns out that my father has the same "muscular neuropathy".
To obtain an understanding of the seriousness of the situation, I required a medical notice in order to write my exams. Without a "rest break" over the course of a 3-hour written examination, my hands would cramp painfully and prevent any further writing for a quarter of an hour at a time, several times during the session. As anyone who has taken a professional or Accountancy examination can attest, there is no extra time. Fortunately I was able to make arrangements to rest my hand and was therefore able to complete my qualification. A few years later my ability to write deteriorated severely and I am only beginning to regain it now.
However, as mentioned before, my father, at the age of 70+, does not have a tremor, nor a nystagmus, nor does he feel any weakness in his hands or anywhere else. In other words, the exact same affliction has no noticeable effect on my father, but does show up in me. This revelation was good news for me. It meant that there must be a way, even if the doctors didn't know it, that I could control this myself. Unfortunately, I didn't know what that might be, but decided to never accept that I'd have to continue to live with this problem forever. Despite not being able to open jars, I always made several attempts. Despite not being able to hit all the keys properly, when the mood took me, I tried to play piano. I don't care if my handwriting is awful, what the heck - I never had beautiful penmanship to start. Damnit, but if this didn't affect my dad I was not going to give in to it!
It never did occur to me that Jiulong Baguazhang™ might help me, although Neil confessed later that he had thought of it, but wisely kept silent.
What has improved then? Not only the problem areas I have, but also my general health. To give you a better idea, the following summary lists my health improvements in the order in which I noticed them:
And, just in case you were wondering and had heard of it, yes, this "healing" part of the art is Qigong and is becoming more well-known... as evidenced by the publication of a story in the August 29, 2000 issue of The Toronto Star titled "Chinese master teaches secrets of old healing art" (by Nicholas Keung) referring to a 93-year-old Duan Zhi-liang who, according to the article, " ...retains a firm handshake and a sharp sense of what goes wrong in others' bodies. ... "
But on to what drew me to this art in the first place, the martial applications...
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