Vol 2, Issue 4/2000
5th Annual Conference of the National Qigong Association of America
Portland, Oregon August 2000
By Ronnie Robinson, secretary of the »Tai Chi Union of Great Britain« and of the »Taijiquan and Qigong Federation for Europe«
Having spent a number of years both organising and attending Taijiquan and Qigong events and conferences in various European locations, I was delighted to be invited to attend the 5th National Qigong Gathering of the National Qigong Association of America in Portland, Oregon. It would also provide me with a much welcome opportunity to re-connect with my good friend Jim MacRitchie who was instrumental in arranging my invite.
James MacRitchie a professional acupuncturist, and author of a number of books on Qigong, was one of the founding members of the National Qigong Association (NQA) of America. For many years he has worked relentlessly, at great personal expense of time, personal energy and resources to promote a cause that he firmly believes is of great benefit to all.
Arriving at the venue, The Living Enrichment Centre, set in the heart of beautiful woodland, I was greeted by the able Secretary, Rebecca who was busy registering the eager attendees. Being one of the first to arrive I wondered for a while around the pleasing and picturesque grounds. Later I came upon two women, Gloria and Joanna who were busy setting up the bookstand. Being an old hand at this I decided to chip in, which gave them an opportunity to get used to my strange accent and peculiar sense of humour. As my accommodation wasn't quite ready Rebecca arranged for me to go back to the local Holiday Inn where the Executive Committee were to stay that night to allow them to have a meeting. This meant that I was unable to attend an evening workshop being led by Anne Chandler.
On Friday morning we arrived back at the venue at 8.00am for breakfast where there was now over 200 people in attendance. Bang on 9.00am the workshops began. The array of material being presented was incredible with 13 highly experienced practitioners from the 95 year old Master Duan Zhi Liang who had travelled specially from China to lead Wuji Hundun Qigong - Self Healing with Joyful Chaos through to Jiani Jiang - Yin/Yang Medical Qigong, Jeff Nagel - Nei Kung Chi Liao, Gasper Garcia - The Hands of 18 Luohans and many more too numerous to list.
As I spent time in the morning in conversation with some Committee members it was after lunch before I was able to actively participate. With these wide choices in front of me it was a difficult decision but I eventually plumped for Gasper Garcia, being someone Jim MacRitchie had told me good things about. The 18 Luohans proved to be very strong and powerful with much stretching and twisting. Gasper had an excellent quality of movement that has obviously come from his many years of martial training. His teaching was clear and precise and delivered with a relaxed, confident manner. The workshop was excellent and did me much good but, unfortunately the blisters which had formed on my feet, from a week of walking the length & breadth of San Francisco, the week prior to the conference, prohibited me from doing more than a couple of hours.
After dinner we gathered to hear the Welcoming Address and Conference Announcements. This was followed by two Keynote Addresses.
Gunther Weil Ph.D., founding Chairman of the Board of the NQA is an internationally recognised organisational consultant in leadership, executive wellness and a teacher of Tai Chi and Qigong of some 25 years standing. He had also been instrumental in helping to establish Mantak Chia's Healing Tao in its early days. His lecture entitled, 'A Western Qigong? The Art and Science of Heartmat'. Acknowledging that Qigong and Oriental Medicine has recognised the psychosomatic implications of an imbalance of Qi in the heart, and its impact on physical and emotional health, Gunther presented the research findings of the Institute of HeartMath's breakthrough discoveries on the psychological mechanisms by which the heart energetically communicates with the brain, and how it influences our perceptions, emotions and health.
Gunther prefaced his talk with a brief introduction to the life journey that had led to his interest in this fascinating work. He had attended Harvard University in the late 50's and early 60's where his professor, Dr Timothy Leary had helped to stimulate his interest in spiritual consciousness through the use of the then new, but not yet illegal, use of the later notoriously mind expanding drug, LSD. Gunther had gone on to study many spiritual practices like Buddhism and the work of Madame Blavatsky and Gurdjieff.
Through the use of scientific experimentation HeartMath had measured and evaluated the activity of both the heart and brain in relation to certain responses. The results seemed to indicate that the heart was far more effective than the brain in receiving and processing information concerning the all-important areas of emotion. He suggested that the heart and brain were in direct communication that enabled the heart to entrain the brain to ultimately create a harmonious internal state that closely resembles inner balance, harmony and well being, which can also be further developed through dedicated practice of Qigong. The lecture was stimulating, thought provoking and enthusiastically received by a riveted audience.
In contrast, the next lecture, 'Qigong and Chi Healing' was informally presented by the highly respected Chunyi Lin who had practised Qigong for over 20 years. Of Chinese origin, but now a native of the USA Chunyi opened by telling us how important it was for him to retain his Chinese accent. He jokingly related that in teaching Qigong it was important that he not only looked Chinese but also talked with his Chinese accent; this, he assured us, would help him to be taken seriously as a Chinese Master. Through the use of amusing, yet effective demonstrations, (one of which appeared to change the length of our fingers with a shake of his hands) he illustrated the effects of Qi transmission and talked about the various ways it could be used to aid our health & well-being. His parting words encouraged us to keep things simple but work hard.
On Saturday morning there were a number of informal, early morning practice sessions and, after breakfast, we were introduced to the teachers presenting the morning and afternoon workshops. Once this had been done I delivered a presentation that provided an overview of the current situation with Qigong in Europe. About to take the floor at the allotted time slot I was ushered in by the sounds of bagpipes that, unknown to me, Jim MacRitchie had previously arranged. I began my presentation my showing a map of Europe illustrating the many countries, pointed out the British Isles and re-affirmed that, contrary to the information on my name badge, I actually came from a country called Scotland which was not in fact part of England! I then went on to report on regulations, or lack thereof, that governed practice, the amount of teachers and practitioners, styles taught and promoted; media interest and public awareness: and the hopes and aspirations of the respective member countries of the Taijiquan and Qigong Federation for Europe. I concluded by encouraging closer links between the USA and Europe in the interchange of information to promote a worldwide understanding and promotion of Qigong.
As I wanted to prepare for some important meetings in the afternoon I was unable to attend the extremely tempting array of morning workshops of which there were an incredible range of high quality presenters to choose from. These included Jim Concotelli on Qigong Therapy, Roger Jahnke on Vitality Enhancement Method and Bruce Kumar Frantzis on Taoist Breathing for Chi Kung & Meditation together with at least another 10 highly qualified instructors. A woman from Canada, Corrine Mol, who was attending Mr Frantzis' workshop, very kindly arranged to conduct an interview with him, on behalf afterwards.
In the afternoon I attended a number of high-level discussions looking at aspects of Teaching, Instruction and Clinical Treatments. Dialogue focussed on the responsibilities of teaching Qigong with consideration of minimum acceptable standards of competence to ensure that no harm could come to students. The Panel reported that Medical Institutes want to be able to recommend Qigong but are concerned about how they can ensure the quality of instructors. Currently insurance companies in the US are looking for an organisation that is in a position to offer guidelines for qualified practitioners. However, although they are happy to recommend Qigong and Tai Chi, they are not, as yet, willing to pay for it. The Panel differentiated between two levels of classification required; one for teaching Qigong and another for applying Qigong as a healing art. One suggestion for teaching Qigong as a health exercise was a minimum of 2 - 3 years training based on a minimum of 100 hours.
In considering the requirements for applying Qigong as Healing Art (referred to as Medical Qigong for the purpose of those discussions) they considered rules currently being applied by a number of recognised teaching schools of Oriental Medicine. The College of Oriental Medicine of California requires a minimum of 200 hours training or two years experience, whilst another training school required 3 levels of training over 2 - 3 years
The National Qigong Association of America are trying to create an 'Approved Modality,' for practising Qigong as a recognised Clinical treatment. James MacRitchie highlighted the irony that in many states one simply had to register as a 'preacher' to be legally able to heal whom you like in any way you care. Another School of Oriental Medicine, who included Medical Qigong, required 700 hours training for practitioners.
Bruce Kumar Frantzis ran training courses for Qigong teachers that required 2 - 5 years training plus 100 hours teaching. The second level of this teaching programme required 3 - 10 years experience and a further one month training for treating.
Healing Tao required 100 hours training and Gasper Garcia reported that in Spain they applied 120 hours minimum training.
The discussions looked at a number of areas including whether practitioners were dealing with simple or complex systems that could perhaps require a two-tier approach to regulation. Effie Chow, Official Acupuncturist and Qigong Master for the World Corporate Games and one of fifteen representatives for the governing of Alternative Medicine in the USA emphasised that, as well as carefully considering the professional skills of practitioners, one must not lose sight of the fundamental need for caring for the patient.
The next discussion, which was led by Damaris Jarboux of the Body, Mind Centre in Colorado, was an open forum for individual practitioners, teachers and schools to present their work, ideas and proposals of Chi Kung Healing/Medical Qigong. Damaris, who had spent much time in China both visiting and working in hospitals where Clinical Qigong was regularly applied informed the group that it was now becoming a two way exchange of information with Chinese Qigong doctors showing interest in how Qigong and other related methods were being used by Western practitioners.
Jerry Alan Johnson PhD, Director and Founder of the International Institute of Medical Qigong, who had just published the first Western comprehensive training manual on Medical Qigong (coming in at over 1,000 pages!) emphasised the need for thorough, professional training for all practitioners of Medical Qigong.
The final discussion of the day was a panel presentation on Medical Qigong, Chi Kung Healing, Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine that was facilitated by Malvin Finkelstein co-chairperson of the Medical Qigong sub-committee of the NQA and member of the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners Acupuncture Committee. The panel included representatives of the NQA the American Association of Oriental Medicine, the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance, the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the World Academic Society of Medical Qigong (Beijing) and my good self - representing the situation in Europe on behalf of the Taijiquan and Qigong Federation for Europe. Each panellist presented a brief report of the criteria applied by their respective organisations and questions were taken from the assembled group. This was a very fruitful discussion facilitating a lively exchange of interesting information.
Over the course of four hours in which the presentations and discussions took place many views were expressed and many different ideas of how Medical Qigong could be taught and practised as well as lengths of training, supervision and prospective governing rules. Whilst at times challenging and demand
ing the debates were conducted in an open, healthy and creative atmosphere. Each participant seriously considered the many points of view and the Qigong world would surely stand to greatly benefit from the subsequent results of these stimulating discussions.
On Saturday evening we were treated to a number of demonstrations: David Leung who started his Tai Chi training at the age of nine (40 years ago) performed a very interesting composite form which included aspects of a number of styles, Lyudnila Belova from Russia displayed an exotically flamboyant Qigong form, Gary Clyman of Chicago showed his unique Temple Style Tai Chi and some very intensive Nei Gung exercises, Jill Heath from Canada did a very polished performance of a Fan Form, yours truly did Dayan Qigong and, the highlight of the evening for all was the 95 year old Master Duan's very unusual sword form which culminated in him virtually break-dancing on the floor with the sword being passed under his astonishingly lithe body The remainder of the evening featured a concert of Karma Moffet's Tibetan Bell Experience. This involved a unique collection of instruments: Tibetan Bowls, Bells, Tingsha, Longhorn, and conches. For many it provided an enthralling experience but I ended up indulging in some welcome push hands practice.
On Sunday morning I attended Dr Jerry Alan Johnson's Healing Qi Deviations seminar. Jerry is one of the USA foremost practitioners and educator on Oriental Medicine. His style of delivery was amusing, self-assured and thoroughly entertaining. He looked at how practitioners of Healing Qigong can be prone to picking up negative energy from patients, often accumulating aspects of the problems they are treating in their own bodies. He went on to demonstrate and teach a number of dynamic exercises for expelling negative energies.
On Sunday afternoon I was teaching and in the evening I went out for dinner with James MacRitchie, his partner Damaris Jarboux, Gunther Weil and Gasper Garcia. This time together, away from the conference helped to develop closer relationships between, not only us as individuals but I'm sure, also to the mutual benefit of our respective orgasnisations and bodies which we represented.
Monday morning Jim MacRitchie and I attended Li Jun Fung's Turning Inner Alchemy and Kwan Yin Standing Qigong Meditation workshop. Li, who had spent 15 years as Head Coach of the Beijing and China National Wushu teams paid close attention to detail when teaching and moved with the fluidity of water.
Later I dropped in on Gunther's Psychic-Intuitive Qigong workshop. This involved exercises where, working with a partner, we considered some concerns we may have had in our lives, focussed on our hearts and evaluated the effect. The group reported some very interesting and encouraging results.
Because of the distance between the UK and USA and because of our respective busy lives, Jim MacRitchie persuaded be to extend my stay in the US by three days to enable us to spend some more time together along with his wife and the newly-elected President of the NQA Solala Towler. We were very graciously accommodated by Sololala and his wife Christine, at their home in Eugene, Oregon.
Solala is editor of Empty Vessel magazine that focuses on aspects of the Tao. As we had much in common the two days flew by with discussions on the tehnicalities and logistics of magazine production. In the evening we all traded stories regarding our recent visits to various parts of China. On the final evening we all attended Solala's regular Wuji Qigong class where the evening began with Damaris leading a powerful meditation session. I was the lucky recipient of the extra energy that abounded having spent my nights sleeping in the wonderful little temple located in his back yard.
The morning of my departure Jim very kindly gave me an Acupuncture treatment working with the little known 8 Extra Meridians. For me the energy went directly to where it was needed and re-affirmed my faith that I was lucky to be associated with some very special people.
Attending the NQA Conference was a wonderful experience for me. I met some interesting, some entertaining and some very inspiring people. The event was professionally organised and had a varied and stimulating programme that included over 35 Instructor/Presenters. Everybody was keen nd willing to exchange information with no fear of that much-vaunted western quality of competitiveness. The NQA actively encourages links between not only China where they are helping to keep some Qigong Hospitals viable, but also between themselves, the UK and Europe.
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