Kungfu And Massage – Opposite Sides Of The Same Coin

It has been quite a momentous week for me. I have been getting out more as they say and my writer’s life has gone public too – first with my first poetry reading last week and now I hear that I am having three poems published in America by that excellent journal The Blotter – look out for it in early November.

As a parallel line to my increased activities I have also been trying to control my life and not let it slow down my recovery from that boring brain haemorrhage. So, last week, I also returned to my masseur.

I read somewhere once that if you do martial arts then sooner or later you will find out that there are a number of pressure point massages which really make a difference to your body when you have been training for some time.

I wasn’t at all sure about this until I tried it.

It was four or five years ago when I finally braved this treatment which is, let’s be honest, pretty painful and not at all like the kind of massage that people search for in “parlours” or, for that matter the kind of massage that is associated with relaxation, sweet smelling oils and hot stones.

In other words, it hurts.

A deceptively gentle-looking Mauritian introduced me to this whole new world and his conclusion that doing it to me was like opening one of those old-fashioned leather suitcases that had been forgotten in the loft for decades. Thanks, I thought, but I knew what he meant.

By applying no little pressure to the same points that an acupuncture practitioner uses which are also, of course, the same points that a martial artist aims for to defeat his opponent. Acupressure massage releases all that built up tension in muscles which can accumulate through years of pretty rigorous practise. It is also supposed to release any blocked Chi, that mysterious life force respected in the East but little understood here. It was a revelation to me whilst teaching me a lot about the body and which bits I should aim at in combat. I kept it going on a regular basis until my brain haemorrhage last October stopped me in my tracks.

I returned last week and my masseur who hadn’t seen me for over a year was, he said, amazed that I was not as frail or as wasted as he had imagined I would have been after the brain injury and the fractured spine that it had caused. In fact he said that I looked fit and that my skeletal frame was straight and in perfect alignment so that it would be difficult to tell that I had had that fractured spine and the various other torn muscles and injuries that had occurred when I had those violent brain seizures that accompanied the haemorrhage.

He was gentler than usual of course because I still mustn’t raise my heart rate too much but I was far from feeling like an invalid and now I feel “opened out” in the time honoured way in Asian massage systems.

I told him that I had had no physiotherapy for my injuries because the doctors were so impressed by my taichi practise on the ward even though they had thought I was crazy when the first caught sight of it. I have continued to do my style of Kungfu under the supervision of my kungfu instructor ever since.

The masseur’s opinion on the straightness of my spine is ample proof of the beneficial powers of taichi and kungfu. Without that fascinated martial arts regime, which has also kept me intrigued, challenged and amused all year, I would not be anything like as fit or as recovered as I am now and I would not have survived the initial haemorrhage, in my neurologist’s opinion, if I had not been as fit as my kungfu had made me.

So thank you to my present teacher, to past and present Asian style masseurs and to all those martial artists who for over a thousand years have developed an understanding of the human body and its capabilities that has kept me not just alive but kicking.

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