Tulsa isn't exactly the epicenter of Eastern culture in the West. A few ethnic groceries here, a karate studio or two -- or five -- sprinkled there over the city. Most of us, at least those of us culturally of Western descent, still don't understand anything beyond passing the soy sauce. This hole in our understanding may turn out also to be a hole in our overall health.
Tom Bowman, director of the Yang's Martial Arts Association Qigong School of Tulsa, 3355 S. Jamestown Ave., has been bridging that gap one student at a time since 2001. The Qigong School of Tulsa has been bringing together people from all walks of life since its inception. Master Bowman studied for six years under Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming who was himself the founder of the Yang's Martial Arts Association (YMAA).
Jwing-Ming focuses his teachings on the concept of "chi," or roughly, natural bioelectricity.
Anyone who has suffered through an anatomy class knows that in addition to the varying types of tissue that compose our body deep down to the cellular level, we are also governed by electrical impulses. The synapses that trigger thought and govern the relaxation and contraction of muscles fire in response to the opening and closing of ion channels, ions being simply electrically charged atoms.
However much Western medicine is concerned with the human body and its functions, there is little mention of the role of our bioelectricity beyond the extent to which it excites or inhibits other portions of our anatomy. Most traditional healthcare theory and practice in the West has concentrated on other paths. Somehow along its road to scientific enlightenment, China chose to pursue the alternative course.
According to legend, this point directly coincides with the ascent of Qigong to become the premier fitness regimen of the Chinese people. As the story goes, some 4,500 years ago an errant monk came to a monastery seeking shelter, and finding his inhabitants slightly more abundant of flesh than their ascetics prescribed, gifted to them an exercise regimen composed of two elements: one martial for protection, the other geared towards the healing of the body. The martial aspect became Kung Fu, the gentler, Qigong.
Nothing goes unchanged, however, and upon his ascent to power China's premier Communist leader, Mao Tse Tung, sought to abolish this ancient art. The Qigong schools were disbanded and their teaching forbidden. His order being tall, but not tall enough, bloody conflict ensued.
Particularly feared by The Party was Falun Gong, the religious practice of Qigong. As recent as 1992 Chinese courts have attempted to outlaw the practice of Qigong, and have labeled Falun Gong as a threat to the state. Yet somehow, despite the pain that is legally perpetrated at random upon its followers, both Falun Gong and Qigong continue to be practiced and taught.
With 70 million followers globally, Qigong continues to grow both in regions where it has been banned such as China as well as in the United States. With good reason. Its goal is not to usurp Western methods of treatment, but to aid them. The YMAA alone has united not only the Qigong School of Tulsa with the other communities in Oklahoma, but also with those around the nation and abroad.
Bowman and his associates at Qigong School of Tulsa find themselves on the forefront of Tulsa's battle for choice when it comes to health. "My goal is for Qigong to become mainstream -- mainstream in the way that it works alongside of Western medicine," Bowman said. Considering the copious quantities of treatment options available within all 183.5 square miles of land area that is the city of Tulsa, there is plenty for it to work alongside.
The reality of the bigger picture is not so much about our choices, but the direct impact which our willingness to try something new will have upon the future of health in our city. With things trending back to nature, Tulsa could become part of the leading edge. "That's the kicker right now," Bowman said. "It's the acceptance by Western medicine of Eastern medicine's means and ways of doing things."
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