Ed Coughlin is one of the key elements of the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation’s core teaching philosophy, and who is busy this year spreading the awareness and uses of Qigong for practitioners of the Kettlebell Sport . I had the great pleasure of studying with him earlier this month in Malaysia at the IKFF CKT Level 1 & 2 Teacher’s training, and asked him at that time if I could interview him for Gaijin Kettlebell . Here is the start of what I hope to be a regular spot here at Gaijin Kettlebell on Qigong.
GKJ-Thank you Ed for taking the time to speak with us today. Could you start with telling us a little bit about your long and diverse background. You have been a long time friend and associate with Steve Cotter, to the extent that he often refers to you as his brother.
What led you to Qigong initially? And what is it?
I began studying martial arts 30 years ago beginning with Uechi Ryu karate, I achieved 4th dan and received my teaching certificate after training in that style for 18 years. In the late 80’s I began studying Tai chi and qi gong with various teachers. About 15 years ago I was introduced to my current teacher Master Kao by a friend and fellow student. After being introduced to Master Kao I gave up everything else I was doing at the time to devote myself to his teachings. Master Kao is a Master of Chinese Internal Martial arts including Xing Yi Quan, Bagua Zhang, Tai Ji Quan and the rare Taoist System called Xiao jiu tian or “Little Nine Heaven” which includes martial arts , qi gong and Chinese sword. He is also an excellent traditional healer. In 2001 I was made a 35th generation disciple in the Little Nine Heaven system, one of only four of master Kao’s students to be made disciples. My friend and Kung Fu brother Steve Cotter is also a close student of Master Kao. In 1996 I graduated the Florida Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine and now work as a doctor of oriental medicine, I also teach martial arts and qigong to a small group of students at my home. For the last decade I have been practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism as a student of H.H. Penor rinpoche.
I had been introduced to qi gong at various times , first in the mid 80’s with tai chi and a few years later with a number of teachers. Later in Chinese medicine school , qigong was taught as an element of the curriculum. But my real serious training has been with Master Kao. Qigong is an important element of both Chinese internal martial arts and Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Briefly qigong means to exercise the qi . Qi can be defined as the vital energy of the body and qigong is a method of exercise to preserve , strengthen and circulate this vital energy in the body to promote health and vitality.
GKJ- Tai Chi Chuan is quite well known in the west, but Qigong has appeared relatively recently in the common consciousness. What does Qigong have to offer the average person and why is it important?
Tai chi chuan Or tai ji quan is a system of Chinese internal martial arts related to qigong in that they both relay on a cultivation and understanding of qi. Whereas traditionally tai chi was taught as a fighting art and only recently is done primarily for health. Qigong is a health promotion and rehabilitative regime.
For the average practioner qigong offers a simple method to promote health and energy and as a way to repair the body from stress and overuse. While traditional methods of exercise focus on the building physical strength , speed and endurance, the focus of qigong is on the subtle energetic network of the body and the internal organs. Ordinary exercise can be damaging to the body which is in fact why it works by causing the body to adapt to stress, qigong can repair the body by reducing tension, regulating breathing ,improving circulation and strengthen the internal organs and endocrine system.
The combination of physical exercise such as kettlebells, bodyweight conditioning or martial arts with a consistent practice of simple qigong is an ideal method to promote health , relieve stress and increase longevity. Continuous vigorous exercise without a rehabilitative component to it is a recipe for injuries and a short athletic career with a lot of chronic pain. I believe adding a simple qigong routine to your exercise or just on its own can greatly improve performance , reduce or correct injury and promote overall health.
GKJ.- I have read and heard that it is very important in Qigong to have proper instruction from a teacher. Why is that so? Are there any Qigong practices that a person can try if they are interested in exploring Qigong?
There are many systems or methods of qigong training , primarily what I’m talking about here is qigong for health and longevity . but there are also qigong methods for martial arts to strengthen and harden the body, medical qigong to cure disease and religious or philosophical qigong done as a spiritual practice. Some systems of qigong are very complicated and involve holding the breath for extended periods , directing the energy(qi) with the mind or the breath or the use of weights or other equipment. The more complicated the method the greater the possibility of side effects .
Therefore complicated qigong systems require instruction and monitoring by a competent teacher to avoid pitfalls, however there are very simple and effective qigong systems that can be practiced on your own once the basic principles are understood. A good example is the level one qi gong that can be found on the IKFF YouTube channel. (Link to the clip here) This is a good introductory qi gong exercise that can be done by anyone and has no side effects, yet is very effective for promoting circulation and reducing stress among other benefits.
GKJ.- In my own short time experience, I have experienced Qi as a form of energy that resides in the body and the atmosphere around us. Doing Qigong practice brings an awareness of this energy that exists around us every day. What is Qi? It is often left as a mystery. Also, this energy awareness comes and goes- is this natural?
“QI” basically means energy and exists all around us and in us . there are many types of qi. In the human body Qi can be thought of as the body’s vital energy . our body has an energetic system related to but apart from our nervous and circulatory systems.
It is this energetic network that is manipulated in the practice of acupuncture and some types of Asian body work. In traditional oriental medical theory , the energy aspect of this network is called “qi”. Qi is the body’s motivating force, it is the “stuff” that animates our body. Every living organism has Qi. With conscious training this vital energy can be strengthened and controlled to promote health and longevity, this is the practice of qigong or “working the qi”. Similar ideas of this energy exist in other cultures like the “prana” of yoga. Bio electricity is also a comparable term.
GKJ.- It is also said that Qigong is very effective at relieving stress, and also making the body stronger. How does it do this? Here in Japan, the average office worker deals with low energy levels constantly, due to a fairly intense working environment, non natural light environment and long working hours. Most people feel incredibly lethargic, especially during the hot and rainy seasons. Can Qigong help them?
Through a combination of breathing , movement and posture qi gong practice can increase oxygen uptake , relax the nervous system , increase the circulation of blood and lymph through the activity of propulsion. through breathing combined with right and left movement brain hemisphere and wave frequencies can be normalized. The endocrine structures of the brain can be stimulated by intention , meditation and visualization which are all elements of qigong practice. Increased immune function can be stimulated by breathing ,relaxation and meditation . all of these things have been observed in clinical settings related to the consistent practice of qigong along with other wonderful effects. For people who are high stressed, with long work secludes , sedentary work conditions and who have low energy or only short periods of time for activity or exercise , qigong is the ideal method of training to promote their health and longevity and eliminate stress and tension .
GKJ.- It seems that from now on, Qigong will feature more prominently in IKFF seminars and activities. What are your own personal aspirations with the spreading of knowledge of Qigong? Can we look forward to having you touring around teaching about Qi?
Steve Cotter and the IKFF are at the cutting edge of fitness and as I noted above the combination of kettlebell training, body weight conditioning and qigong are an ideal health promoting exercise and fitness combination. I look forward to traveling to and teaching qigong at the various level 2 certifications. In the future we hope to be putting out a book and DVD on qi gong and to doing qigong workshops around the globe.
GKJ.-Thank you for your time and I hope to have you hear regularly answering questions about Qigong. It was certainly an honor for me meeting you in Malaysia earlier this month.