This note is partly in response to this very important teaching and to another post in the forum regarding "What is your practice of the Wudang arts? How long have you been practicing and what do you practice?"
As an older practitioner, I can attest that this is true. When one is young, the body is supple and resilient. If care is not taken, as one ages, the body can become weak, stiff, inflexible and lose mobility. When that occurs illness, dis-ease and injury easily develop.
When I was in my teens and twenties, I practiced Chen and Yang style Taijiquan and Daoyin, as well as Japanese martial arts. In my thirties, I let my practices go and my health, flexibility and mobility began to slowly decline. In my late thirties, due to stress and an unhealthy lifestyle, I became very sick and developed many chronic illnesses.
After two years of suffering from illness such as chronic depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic inflammation, digestive problems, insomnia, rising blood pressure, and the like, I decided to begin practicing Yang style Taijiquan, Qigong and Daoist Yoga again. I also adopted a 'Five Elements' diet, incorporated healing herbs into my diet, began to educate myself to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine and life cultivation and worked with a Traditional Chinese Doctor and a massage therapist to rehabilitate and heal my mind and body.
After several years practicing Yang style Taijiquan and Qigong, I also incorporated Chen style Taijiquan back into my practice.
Three years ago, I discovered the Wudang arts and learned a few simple Wudang style Qigong routines and methods. Not long afterward, I began learning the Wudang 108 movement Taijiquan long form, and Ji Ben Quan. Even though, I was now 50 years of age, because of my evolving and deepening practice in Yang and Chen style Taijiquan, I was certain I was up for the challenge of a more physically demanding style of Taijiquan and Gongfu. I immersed myself in the practice and began training and conditioning my body very hard — heavy stretching, endurance training, strength conditioning and some days practicing hundreds of punches and kick combinations.
But my body was not fully prepared for this level of training and I did not heed the warning signs that I was trying to progress to far, too fast. I sustained an injury that has taken more than two years to rehabilitate and heal.
During that time, however, I did not stop training however. I made adjustments as necessary and adapted the postures, movements and exercises as needed to avoid further injury, heal and to continue to make progress.
I worked with a Traditional Chinese Doctor/Acupuncturist and a Therapeutic Massage Therapist and Osteopath to heal the injury and correct the imbalances in my body. I used the opportunity to deepen my understanding — learning about the spirit/mind/body relationship, diet, herbs, herbal salves, acupressure, self massage and myofascial release, body mechanics, functional movement patterns, and how to train more intelligently so as to strengthen and supple the body, develop greater mobility and prevent further injury.
I learned to train "smarter, not harder."
So I have continued to train, learn and grow.
My current practice includes: Ji Ben Gong, Ji Ben Quan, Wudang 108 movement long form, Wudang 13 movement Taijiquan 'Mother Form,' Wudang 28 movement Taijiquan, Wudang Wuxing Daoyin, Wudang Moving Five Animal Qigong, Wudang Ba Duan Jin, Wudang Seated Ba Duan Jin, Wudang Hun Yuan Qigong, Wudang Heaven and Earth Qigong, Iron Shirt Qigong, various forms of Zhan Zhuang, including Wudang Internal Elxir 13 Shi Zhan Zhuang, as well as walking Qigong sets, Jing Gong (seated meditation) as well as other Yang Sheng practices. I also continue to incorporate Yang style 108 long form, Yang style Taijiquan Sabre and Chen style Bang into my practice from time to time.
When one has been injured, it is tempting to become discouraged and quit. When one is an older practitioner, it can be even more discouraging and the temptation to quit even greater, especially when you are told by family, friends and doctors, "As you get older, your body is going to deteriorate and become weak and sick. You probably shouldn't train in martial arts anymore."
This, however, simply is a misconception.
The human body is far more amazing than modern society might realize. Like nature itself, the mind and body have an innate ability and mechanism to continually seek homeostasis — to return to harmony and balance. All we have to do is give the mind and body the right conditions to promote healing, health, life and vitality and it will do what is naturally designed to do.
So, after much patience, diligence and perseverance, at 53 years of age, I am happy to say that my body has healed and my practice is dynamic and evolving. All the illness, diseases and injuries I once suffered from, have now been reconciled and mind and body are in greater health, harmony and balance then at anytime in my life. My partner and my children have all mentioned many times, "While the rest of us are growing older, you seem to be growing younger."
These days, I continue to study and practice the Wudang arts every day, with the help of Master Ziji's teachings and his diligent efforts to offer the Wudang arts to all of us who live far from the Wudang mountains or even far from a teacher of the Wudang arts, for which I am truly grateful.
My mind and body continue to become healthier — more balanced and harmonious — as I walk the Path, learning about life and myself through my practice — learning the 'eternal laws to cultivate Life.'
To all of my fellow practitioners and to all students of Life...