The Dao

© Dennis Gray
Daoist on Dou Tuan Shan mountain, China
© Dennis Gray
The accompanying photograph to these words was taken on the Dou Tuan Shan mountain in North Sichuan (People's Republic of China).

(Sorry this is the only pic I have got! However it does show that the guy is hanging only by his feet. My Canon with the zoom packed in, and it was taken on my pocket Ricoh.)

This peak is a major religious site for Daoists and has several temples situated on its flanks. At the summit of the mountain are three eighty metre high conglomerate pinnacles, on top of each of which, is a small temple. The monks used to get from one of these to the other by sliding along cables.

The guy in the picture is a martial artist and he does many such feats to raise money for local good causes, persuading pilgrims to donate money for the upkeep of the temples or to educate local children.

The north of Sichuan has many martial art temples; the most famous of which is the Hai Dang Gong Fu (Kung Fu) Si in nearby Jiangyu City. Hai Deng was a Buddhist monk, and well known for his amazing physical feats. He could hand stand on a single finger, and when he was eighty repeated this feat, but on that occasion he had to use two fingers! He died in 1989.

I believe that any climber, who wishes to gain an edge, should look into the martial arts of China. In March this year I spent some time at the Hai Deng Temple, and the feats that the Masters are capable of are truly impressive. There are two styles of Gong Fu (meaning skill), internal (neijia) and external (waijia). The internal schools were mainly developed by Daoist monks, and the external by Buddhist. The latter rely on strength and power, whilst the internal styles use the power of Qi and include Tai Ji Quan (Tai Chi) which is practised by millions of Chinese every day.

Qi Gong is another kind of training which has been developed in China over the millennia. I spent ten days last year at a Qi Gong Centre on Hainan Island and it is a discipline using exercise and meditation skills, which harness the power of Qi - both one's own and that of a Master. It is used very much now to combat serious disease and I personally met two invalids who had been cured by following Qi Gong. In the climbing context though, what might interest is that Qi Gong, has been evaluated by the Chinese Olympic Association and has been recommended to be used in the preparation training for their athletes.

Note that Qi is seen as the vital life force of living things, circulating in the body through a network of channels or meridians. Both acupressure and acupuncture rely on this concept. And the Kung Fu artists in the movies have no standing in centres such as the Hai Deng Si. They are seen as stunt men/women!

Read more about Taoism (or Daoism) at wiki/Taoism

Dennis Gray
© Dennis Gray, Nov 2005
I was born in Leeds and began to climb at Ilkley in the Autumn of 1947 as an eleven year old. Subsequently I have climbed in many locations and countries, including eight trips to the Himalaya. I was the first ever professional officer of the BMC, the first National Officer and General Secretary. My climbing companions over the years have included; Dolphin, Greenwood, Brown, Whillans, Scott, Boysen, Crew, Clough, Haston, Boardman and many others.

I took early retirement from the BMC to travel, write and climb. Unfortunately an accident soloing on the Grit in 2000 led on to me needing an operation last year, including a hip replacement. I am slowly recovering and have started doing some easy climbing again.

I have written six books in all, including two autobiographies (Rope Boy,Mountain Lover), two books of anecdotes (Tightrope and Slack) a volume of poetry and a novel (Todhra). Another enthusiasm is music and last year I issued a CD of climbing songs- The Legend of Joe Brown- which has sold out! I am now working on a book of travel stories set in China (I have been there over 30 times) and another CD, The Bar Room Mountaineer.

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16 Dec, 2007
Oh dear, oh dear.
18 Dec, 2007
There doesn't seem to be much in the way of content in that article; it doesn't even say why climbers should look to martial arts. I did read something, I'm not sure where, that mentioned the similarities between learning movements in martial arts and climbing, where moves had to be practiced hundreds of times before they could be relied upon under stressful conditions.
21 Dec, 2007
wow, who told you to think that!
21 Dec, 2007
Yes, I think the feats the masters at the Hai Deng Temple are capable of is because they practice lots, not because of some mysterious Qi force.
21 Dec, 2007
OK then Dennis, how do we use it then exactly? How does it stop me getting pumped, and how does it helped me dyno further? To get better at these, might I simply practise each discipline? There's still a bottom line in (external) martial arts (or did we learn nothing from Bruce Lee?) that you test your abilities and there's always been this disagreement betwene Chinese and Japanese martial arts over Qi, before someone lumps all the Eastern `mysticisms' together. A particular Tai Chi (sp?) master on Mind Body and Kick Ass moves (together with Wikipedia and Kung Fu films the sources of all my information on this) could make himself `Light' using soft Qi, (sounds great for lcimbing,you catch my drift) and redirecting forces to make yourself `heavy' or immovable to your opponent is also a part of Tai Chi and other martial arts, in particular someJapanese ones which use Ki, which can be explained with less religious mumbo jumbo (albeit still in a way that is hard to understand in terms of `Western' science). Also not all Chinese people buy all this Qi shit, at least not the one I live with, but then like me he is a mathematician. I'm not saying there is or there isn't anything to this. But at some point there's an onus on the protaganist (you DG) to explain just WTF they're on about more clearly, which in the north where I come from is called `Calling Bullshit'. Am I about to dedicate my life to firstly mastering a martial art and secondly working out how it applies to climbing, when I'm a coward and I already don't have enough time and weather to climb all the routes I want to do let alone train for them? I think you can guess. But if you work this out Dennis, I'm there. Might I ask how it's affected your climbing?
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