Lately, I have often wondered whether or not to add my voice to the B.Y.T.C. blog. Should I contribute my thoughts alongside those of my friends who have already articulated well (I hope they still do) on the practice of Qigong, Yi Quan, or other Chinese internal styles? The reason why I pondered this is quite simple: how could I not speak highly of something I have been practicing for years? Most likely, I would end up stating many things already known to many or, worse, I might slip into stating the obvious.
In the end, I decided to contribute with my own simple reflection, which will not delve into any cherished topics of martial artists nor attempt to explain the transformations that Qigong brings to the entirety of the human being (body, mind, and spirit). The sole objective is to try to understand why many people, although attracted to these disciplines, remain outside or, to put it bluntly, keep their distance. I present my thoughts with full respect for all positions, both within and outside our school.
Certainly, a significant, albeit unconfessed and unconscious, fear is determined by the deep Christian religious roots and, in particular, by the Catholic religion. It is pointless to deny it, the Taoist (or Buddhist) foundation of these disciplines is intimidating, especially in a historical context that does not shine for interreligious dialogue. Nevertheless, it is not my intention to delve into a lesson on Taoism, especially because I am not qualified. What I can say with certainty is that one does not need to become a Taoist to practice Qigong at B.Y.T.C.; here, the utmost respect for the individual prevails, and no one judges another person’s personal beliefs. No one asks you to perform the exercises dressed as a monk or a bonze. And if this freedom is Taoism, then count me in.
Another unedifying aspect relates to the realm of the martial and, therefore, combat and Kung Fu. I believe I can safely state that the martial aspect has been literally massacred by the undergrowth of cinema and culture, gradually occurring over the years. These pseudo post-modern warriors are joined by all those ‘jugglers’ who tour theaters to demonstrate how they break piles of bricks or lie on sharp spears without sustaining any harm. Again, like Taoism, it is not my intention to further explore this point, at least not now. Nonetheless, it cannot be overlooked that this type of violence can only push away people with sound principles.
What can be said about this? In this regard, I recall the words once spoken by Master De Santis, “The mistake we make is to take only a slice of the cake, the one that suits us best at the moment. Once it may be Tao sex, another time combat, and yet another time meditation. We must take the whole cake!” Exactly, he said that we must take the whole cake, and that’s what we do at B.Y.T.C.; we nurture all the conscious aspects that “the other slices of cake” compensate, integrate, and complete what we are doing at that moment. At B.Y.T.C., violence doesn’t even cast a shadow. Yes, it’s true, we take the whole cake.
Overcoming the religious barrier and putting aside the idea of becoming part of the cast of a future sequel to “House of Flying Daggers,” one could suppose that the obstacles on the path of Qigong have been overcome. However, that’s not the case, nothing could be further from the truth! How do I find the right center? How much will it cost me? Will they really be skilled? And above all, what they teach, will it be the true Qigong, the best
These are, more or less, the questions you ask yourself if you decide to approach this art and don’t know anyone who practices it, I know it very well, I’ve experienced it firsthand. So what should you do? The contemporary and modern man relies on Google or any other search engine available on the Internet. Once the word “Qi Gong” is typed and the search button is pressed, you get about 17,000,000 results, don’t smile, it’s true. The aspiring student, overwhelmed by despair, begins to filter the results, first looking for those in their own city, then the most visually appealing ones, and finally, those that are most compatible with their taste and personal culture. Goodness, they certainly can’t visit them all! Unfortunately, the majority of the visited websites reflect, exalt, and amplify all the negative connotations listed so far, and often they are saturated with pseudo-new age religions and shopping mall mysticism. The photos show practitioners and instructors dressed in outfits reminiscent of monks and mystics from the collective imagination, and some even promise the awakening of siddhis and magical powers. Overwhelmed by despair, the aspiring student abandons the search and quickly forgets about it. This is in the best case scenario, because sometimes, in order to give it a try, they rely on incompetent or even malicious individuals.
Well, let’s say that the brief analysis of why many people don’t approach this discipline could end here. What a pity, what a waste of human capital!
It is my personal belief, instead, that the Western man now more than ever seeks with great desire to understand these disciplines and this ancient knowledge. He understands that beneath all this magma of culture, history, and different styles, there is something worth seeking.
Fortunately, amidst this vast sea, there are associations and schools that skillfully disseminate this knowledge, and there are people who dedicate their lives to the spread and teaching of these disciplines. I have been fortunate enough to find all these things, and I hope the same happens to our friendly aspiring student.
At the B.Y.T.C., you learn “simply” because the Master of the school has the knowledge of what he teaches, and all the instructors strictly adhere to tradition. No one invents anything, no one improvises. There are no instructors extolling the magnificent sensation you should feel while performing a certain exercise, simply everything happens if the exercise is performed correctly and with perseverance, what you are meant to feel will be felt spontaneously. Each of us explores ourselves, everything happens and flows naturally, fully respecting our limits and aspirations.
At a certain point, it happens that slowly your whole being begins to change, to transform. It happens that you start to understand that the movement, so light yet so full of strength, works and shakes you from within, that the movement that repeats itself like the seasons, like them, is never the same. It happens that all your senses become sharper, expand. It happens that you feel that sense of euphoria, yes, the one you felt as a child for anything and had forgotten.
This is the Alchemy of Qi Gong, this is the transformation.
I take this opportunity to thank the entire B.Y.T.C. and in particular:
Master Davide De Santis;
My teacher Diego Beni;
Master Giuseppe Consenti and all the other friends of the school with whom I share this magnificent adventure.
By Gaspare Ribaudo (B.Y.T.C. instructor)