Jonathan Klemens, FSA Scot


Writer & Antiquarian

Historical Fiction and Creative Nonfiction

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        Contents (Page 2)              

  • Just for the Zen of it!
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture
  • Kettlebell Weight Training

                                          

JUST FOR THE ZEN OF IT !                                 
Integrating Oriental Medicine and Western Medicine                                                         

I've always had a penchant for the Orient ever since my days of adolescence when my beloved grandmother, an antique collector, presented to me a unique glass paperweight containing the image of a mandarin official. I was captivated by this noble, but cryptic figure, in full robes from half way around the globe! From then on, I was hooked on the mysterious Far East. My interest grew over the years as I studied various oriental cultures, including their philosophies, martial arts and healing arts.

All oriental medicine is rooted in the ancient concept of Yin and Yang, most often represented by two rain drop, or fish-like, shapes that form a circle. These two opposing and cyclic forces are regulated by the flow of "Chi" (Ki, Qi, Prana) or vital energy though the body along specific meridians. The body is healthy when Yin and Yang are in balance. The goal of oriental medicine is to ensure good health and promote longevity by affecting the flow of Chi energy to harmonize Yin and Yang.

There are several choices of oriental alternative medicine to seriously consider:
Acupuncture/Acupressure, Chinese herbal therapy, Japanese massage (Shiatsu, Kiatsu), Ayuveda, Yoga, Reiki and Qi Gong (Chi Kung). All of these can be beneficial to help prevent and treat injuries and as an aid in maintaining good health.

Acupuncture and acupressure are well proven methods to relieve pain and promote healing. Specific points along meridians are stimulated with very thin needles (with or without heat), or applied pressure, resulting in a regulation of the Chi energy flow through the body.

Chinese herbal therapy is one of the most refined and complex herbal system in the world. It includes plants, minerals and animal sources. Medicinal substances are classified by their activity or energetics in conjunction with Yin and Yang, the eight principles, the five phases and the six layers.

If you've ever experienced the trained hands of a masseuse or athletic trainer, you are somewhat familiar with the basics of Shiatsu and Kiatsu, two of the prominent therapeutic Japanese massage schools. Shiatsu massage uses finger, hand, arm and knee pressure for its therapeutic effect. Kiatsu, developed by Master Koichi Tohei, uses Ki (Chi) energy as a healing power in conjunction with therapeutic massage. In Kiatsu, only the fingertips and hands are used to extend Ki into the tissues.

Ayurveda (recently becoming popular in West) is a 5,000 year old healing and rejuvenating art of India. According to Dr. Vasant Lad, Director of The Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Ayurveda is based on Hindu texts which prescribe proper breathing, nutrition, meditation and aromatherapy in a manner that involving the interrelationship of the mind, body and spirit. Disease occurs from uncorrected imbalances caused by stress, poor lifestyle choices and poor diet.

Yoga is a sister science to Ayurveda and includes natural preventive measures to help ensure good health, happiness and longevity. The eight limbs of yogic practice include: regulation of the nervous system, discipline, cleansing, postures, concentration, contemplation, the awakening of awareness, and the state of perfect equilibrium. Yogic practice allows optimum energy flow that has preventive and curative value.

Reiki is a ancient Tibetan Buddhist healing art using the "laying on of the hands" that claims incomparable simplicity and powerful results. Reiki (Japanese for "Universal Life-Force-Energy") was re-discovered and proselytized by Buddhist Mikao Usui in the 1800's. Reiki practitioners must receive the "attunements" directly from a teacher who has also received the "attunements" and training. A Reiki healer uses touch to convey warmth, serenity and healing through the flow of Chi (Prana) energy. According to Diane Stein, Reiki Master/Teacher, Reiki energy is holistic claiming to heal the body physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Qi Gong (Chi Kung) is a general term for a system of Qi cultivation that has been used for thousands of years by the Chinese people to improve and maintain health. Methods include proper breathing, stretching and bending, special movements and concentration. Tai Chi Chuan (when properly practiced) and is a form of Qi Gong.

If you are contemplating alternative choices to integrate with your current sports medicine, consider the oriental healing arts. Consult with your physician, do your homework and select a trained, certified practitioner to treat, train and assist. You are in great company; these preventive and healing methods have been used successfully for thousands of years! 
 1999 J Klemens            

     

                                      Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture

Within our system of explanation there is no reason why the needleprick should be followed by an improvement of the liver function. Therefore we say it cannot happen....as a matter of empirical fact, it does happen. Inserted at precisely the right point, a needle in the foot affects the functions of the liver.
- Aldous Huxley


Most of us can relate to the above quotation by the famous author of Brave New World. Acupuncture is, to most people, their only exposure to what we call "Oriental Medicine." Acupuncture is actually only one of the eight branches of traditional Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine, in turn, vastly influenced the development of traditional medicine in 
Korea, Japan and Viet Nam. Each of the eight branches is basically the study and application of Chi to balance and harmonize the three realms of HEAVEN-HUMAN-EARTH.
ORIGINAL EIGHT BRANCHES OF CHINESE MEDICINE ( Tao Healing Arts )
Acupuncture
Herbal Therapy
Diet / Five Phase Nutrition
Massage / Manipulation /Bone-Setting
Exercise / Chi Kung / Tai Chi Chuan / Internal Kung Fu
Meditation / Self-Cultivation
Cosmology / Ba Kua / I Ching
Feng Shui / Natural Arrangement

Oriental medicine is a 5,000+ year old system based on the holistic bioenergetic concepts of Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang represent the balance of energy in nature. Yin represents soft, light, expanding, feminine qualities - Yang represents hard, dark, contracting, masculine qualities. Disease occurs when our bodies are out of equilibrium - the Yin and Yang aspects are out of balance.

The basis of acupuncture is a belief that the insertion of acupuncture needles stimulates or regulates the flow of Chi (Ki) energy through key points on a series of twelve major meridians that channel this energy. Acupressure utilizes the same points but with a lesser effect. Historically, the number of recognized points has varied from 365-763 but modern medical devices have been able to locate more than 2,000 acupuncture points! This bodily flow of Chi pulsates with a fifteen minute cycle overlapping a larger twenty-four cycle. By regulating the flow of Chi energy, using one or more of the eight branches of the Tao healing arts, a practitioner can balance Yin and Yang and restore health. Diseases and conditions responding to acupuncture include: Respiratory, upper respiratory, vision disorders, mouth disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, and neurologic and musculoskeletal disorders.

A certified oriental medical doctor (OMD) is trained to detect "patterns of disharmony" and then choose the appropriate therapy. A complete exam is lengthy and includes a complete medical history, called the "four examinations" (looking, listening and smelling, asking, touching), using the energetic parameters of Yin and Yang, the twelve meridians, the eight therapeutic principles, the five phases and the six energetic layers. These practitioners can treat most sport injuries, strengthen the body and restore health. Acupuncture, massage, nutrition, herbal therapy and meditation are most commonly used.

Traditional Chinese medicine is an excellent health choice when an alternative form of medicine is desired. Do your homework and locate a certified oriental medical doctor or someone skilled in acupuncture/acupressure, oriental herbal therapy and oriental massage therapy. 

 

Kettlebell Weight Training

Kettlebells are simply cannonballs with handles. But, they are hot! They are a fast growing choice for weight training, conditioning, and physical rehab. The Net is replete with numerous sites and blogs offering kettlebell information, training tips, books, and training DVDs.

Kettlebells have been used for centuries, but the origin is obscure. Many assume that this popular form of esoteric weight training developed in Mother Russia. Over the years, Russian athletes and trainers have popularized kettlebells because they produce results and also because they were readily available being less expensive and easier for blacksmiths to produce than traditional dumbbells. Many believe the use of heavy round weights actually originated as part of the Scottish Highland sporting culture using curling stones as the principal model.

Curling involves the use of birch brooms to guide heavy gliding round stones on frozen lakes and rivers. In glacial temperatures, picking up heavy round stones covered in ice was problematic. Therefore, cast iron handles were attached to the stones to make them easier to handle. These enhanced stones were now easy to use for pressing and swinging motions. Consequently, Highland and famed Cumberland wrestlers (North-West England) began using these "handled" stones during their spring training sessions in preparation for the Highland Games.

Close relationships between Scotland and Russia date back to the Middle Ages. Multitudes of Scots flocked to the vast Russian Motherland that was ripe with opportunity and potential for a better life. Could this be the missing link in kettlebell lore? Perhaps kettlebell advocates and trainees should all don the traditional time-honored kilt! However, this would make many swinging movements considerably humorous and somewhat hazardous!

Kettlebells are traditionally just cast-iron balls with attached handles. Variations include a flat bottom or an overall "padlock" shape. Most are plain black iron, but some are painted in a variety of colors (often each weight is a different color) and some are even plastic coated. But, I have yet to see a Scottish tartan motif!

Weight training and conditioning with kettlebells works many muscle groups and stretches the body across a wide range of motion. They can work well with any regimen, but these weights are more awkward than traditional dumbbells and are more difficult to control. This takes practice. Remember that you are working with a weight as it moves. If you are concerned about banging your forearms, special forearm protectors are available.

Most often a single kettlebell is used, but for certain exercises two may be used. A good workout can be aerobic, intense, and ballistic. They are not suitable for those beginning weight training or conditioning program. Gradual weight increases with proper control, technique, and form must be mastered in due time. Improper use can damage wrists, arms, elbows, shoulders, and back. Perfect technique and form is essential to safe workouts. Exercises include the same basic routines used with a dumbbell plus special exercises that include various one and two-arm swings, finger presses, and unique combined moves like the "Turkish Getups."

Kettlebells generally come in a variety of defined weights. Traditionally, Men usually start with a 35lb (16kg) weight and women usually start with an 18lb (8kg) weight. If you are an experienced overhead lifter, these might be increased to 44lb (20kg) for men and 26lb (12kg) for women. In the U.S. sporting good stores may stock kettlebells in 5-lb increments (15lb, 20lb, 25lb, 30lb ... 45lb etc.). Russian weights are traditionally measured in "poods" with one pood equal to 36lbs.

It is always safer to error on the lighter side when starting out. Those with previous, but recovered, muscle or connective tissue damage should definitely start with lighter weights and then gradually increase. Selecting versatile plate-loaded kettlebells may be another choice as gradual increments can be made when you are ready for increased resistance. Generally kettlebells cost more than equivalent weight dumbbells, but prices vary greatly.

Everyone has their own favorite training methods that they hold dear. These are the routines that hold your interest and show results. Stick with what works for you. Kettlebells may not be the best weight training equipment for your needs. As a martial artist, I personally use kettlebells, whatever their arcane origin, as part of my weight training to supplement traditional conditioning routines. Not that I'm weary of kettlebell training, but sometimes plain cast-iron is somewhat lackluster - needs a little color. Perhaps I'll have to spend the weekend painting my kettlebells in the traditional Clan Gregor tartan!

© Copyright 2008 J Klemens

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