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Tuesday, March 1

Part 2 Haywire ki, haywire societies. Reversing the trend.

Part 1

Many people have come to rely hugely on intellectual and emotional intelligence. In doing so they not only neglect their primal (instinctive) intelligence, they unconsciously steal from it, redirecting much of its energy to the brain and heart centers.  

The trend continues to increase as societies around the world shift toward occupations that place big demands on brain-based intelligence, and as modern communications allow people to become aware of many situations they find very upsetting but can't influence.

This is creating societies that are greatly off balance because it's the instinctive energy that keeps a person balanced and protects him from overly emotional and intellectualized reactions to challenges. It manifests in what is known the world over in many languages as common sense. 

This balance is not only figurative it's also literal, according to practices that work directly with the subtle life force. Belief that such a force exists, and that it can be subject to the human will, was widespread in ancient times. From Wikipedia's article on qi (the Chinese version of the Japanese word ki):
Concepts similar to qi can be found in many cultures; for example, prana in the Hindu religion, chi in the Igbo religion, pneuma in ancient Greece, mana in Hawaiian culture, lüng in Tibetan Buddhism, ruah in Hebrew culture, and vital energy in Western philosophy.
In the West the most well-known demonstrations of this force are in Japanese and Chinese martial arts and health exercises such as QiGong and Tai Chi. Well into his 80s Morihei Ueshiba, the Japanese credited with establishing Aikido ("the way of unifying with life energy"), routinely gave public demonstrations of the power of the life force directed to personal self defense.

There are many 'schools' in East Asia that work with the life force as a self-defense and healing/exercise method or all three -- and there are so many schools in India connected with various yogas that I doubt they could be counted.

A huge body of doctrine has grown up around the various practices connected with the life force, which range from the religious/spiritual or mystical to medical and combat. The cross-pollination of ideas in the modern era has greatly expanded the number of doctrines and their interpretations.

Additionally the Western New Age movement is grounded in 'holistic' healing methods that synthesize the entire known range of practices and philosophies connected with the subtle life force -- from cutting edge medical technologies to visualization, breathing, physical exercises, etc., many of which taken from ancient healing practices and religious doctrines the world over, and from philosophies going back in the West at least as early as the Greek Pythagorean school.

In short, the entire topic of the subtle life force has become greatly intellectualized. Which is to say that today one can find as many haywire people in these various schools as anywhere else. When you consider that the whole point of working with ki is to restore and maintain balance among the most powerful centers in the human body -- brain, heart, intuition -- this is counterproductive.

And not only counterproductive if there is anything to this ki business, and obviously I believe there is. Bringing the action of ki in one's body under conscious control can be as harmful to a person's mental and physical health as bringing his breathing under his conscious control if he abuses his knowledge or isn't very skilled at the methods. 

Although working consciously with the ki (and the breath) is considered a kind of science or inner alchemy, fooling around with that particular science can be almost as dangerous as fooling around in a chemistry lab.

So for all but the most dedicated -- those willing to make it a serious study -- the idea is to find a means to restore the ki balance in one's psyche that doesn't depend on highly precise knowledge and methods. Given that Nature itself seems to be one big balancing act, and that human societies have been around a very long time and gone through countless upheavals, it's likely that many simple and intuitive means evolved to restore the energy balance in a person.

What would be a simple means? How about trying to keep physical balance? It doesn't get less complicated.

Study the Japanese woman in the following video of the 85th birthday celebration for the Senegalese drummer Doudou N'Diaye Rose, which took place last year about three weeks before he died. He was a master of the sabar drum, native to Senegal, and sabar drumming, which combines hitting the drum head with the palm of one hand and a stick with the other.

The birthday celebration revolved around drumming, during which some of the celebrants gave brief dancing demonstrations in time to the drumming.

The dance the Japanese woman is doing is the highly improvisational one called simply Sabar, which came to be associated in Senegal with a celebration of female sexuality through dance -- until men got in the act in the modern era and worked out their own improvisations on the dance. But while her costume and a few gestures are nods to the female sexuality angle, she is doing an asexual version of the Sabar that could be called a rag-doll dance -- like an animated rag doll trying to keep on its feet.

It's as if she's trying to throw her body off balance to the point where she almost falls then keeps catching herself.

At one point she loses her nerve or flags -- what she's doing is very demanding physically and even emotionally because if there's one thing human adults hate it's falling down. N'Diaye Rose walks over to her to encourage her to keep going. Thus inspired, she battles it out with the force of gravity with a smile, but you can see her expression when it's over. It was like running the one-minute mile.
Her dance starts at the 4 minute mark of the video.

She's kicking her legs out from under her; there's a lot of knee work -- deep bending at the knees -- and pitching forward then the arms pumping counter-clockwise to regain balance.

I didn't make a big project of watching videos of Sabar dance events, which are numerous at YouTube, but I reviewed videos to find other instances of this kind of Sabar dance. Not all involved strenuous moves. I saw one version that was graceful, almost languorous, but with the same basic moves used by the Japanese dancer.

Another of the dancers at the birthday celebration, an African man (or of African descent; the celebrants were an international crowd) works himself up to giving a demonstration, a vigorous one, of the rag-doll version of the Sabar -- although at one point he throws himself on the floor, either as part of his dance routine or to cover up that he was completely losing his balance. His dance starts at the 2:08 minute mark in the birthday video; he's wearing a blue T-shirt.

From all this, it's possible that the original Sabar was an exercise, set to drumming, to help young male adults learn to regain their balance when they're starting to fall. That would be a crucial survival skill when tribes depended on the hunt for food. If a hunter fell while running from a predator he was dead. So even to overcome fear of just that situation, a balancing exercise that mimics a stumble and near-fall would have been valuable.  

In any case the rag-doll dance would naturally direct more ki to the body's intuitive intelligence, which seems to have its corresponding physical locus in the solar plexus region. There are surely differing views on the topic; teachers of practices that work directly with the life force (e.g., Aikido, QiGong, Yoga) and even gymnastic teachers might put the point for balancing the body at the navel-abdomen region or in the entire region from the solar plexus to the abdomen.

Lu Zijian at some point past his 100th year
"Wisdom support without being overbearing"

But to get an idea of well-balanced ki in an individual, watch the video I featured in the first part of this writing. It's unclear from this description whether this was in 1985 or 1986 but in either year the Chinese martial arts and QiGong Grandmaster Lu Zijian, who was reportedly 92-93 years old at the time, participated in the Chinese National Championship of Chinese Martial Arts as a member of the Sichuan Province Team. He won a gold medal with his demonstration of 'forms' in the Baguazhang school, which according to Wikipedia:
... is one of the three main Chinese martial arts of the Wudang school, the other two being Taijiquan and Xingyiquan. It is more broadly grouped as an internal practice (or neijia gong). Bāguà zhǎng literally means "eight trigram palm," referring to the trigrams of the I Ching (Yijing), one of the canons of Taoism.
The practice of circle walking, or "turning the circle", as it is sometimes called, is Baguazhang's characteristic method of stance and movement training. All forms of Baguazhang utilize circle walking prevalently as an integral part of training. Practitioners walk around the edge of the circle in various low stances, facing the center, and periodically change direction as they execute forms
So it's somewhat like figure skating, which traces the circle in various forms on ice.

By playing two videos at the same time, I superimposed a randomly (almost accidentally) chosen portion of music by N'Diaye Rose's drumming orchestra on Lu's demonstration. The uncanny result makes it seem that Lu was moving to the drumming rhythms. This raises the question of whether Doudou N'Diaye Rose, who was called a mathematician of music, could 'hear' the movement of ki as it interacts with different natural phenomena.

Maybe it was something like that. N'Diaye Rose was credited with developing 500 new rhythms -- rhythms not previously known to musicologists.


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