Meet our Qigong Master
Hayo’uFit is aligned to the Long White Cloud Qigong school, founded by acclaimed Qigong master John Munro and rooted in the lineage of the Wah Family System of Qigong, encompassing deep traditional Qigong knowledge alongside modern application and relevance.
Tell us about how you discovered Qigong?
My first exposure to qigong was through my mother. I was about 10 years old at the time, and she was studying naturopathy. As part of the training, the students get exposure to a wide range of different practices and treatment modalities. One day they had a guest come in and teach them some qigong, and of course my mother came back and showed all the family at home what she had been learning. I thought it was fascinating – feeling my own energy and directing it consciously with some simple exercises. To an impressionable young mind I suppose it was a bit like being a real life Jedi using the force. That impression stayed with me and I continued to play with those simple exercises during my formative years.
You have a pretty amazing story about your teacher don’t you?
Yes, my first serious qigong teacher was an interesting fellow, with an interesting background. His initial training was in the 1950’s in the UK, and was very traditional. He learned a complete family system of Qigong, Chinese medicine, and Kung Fu, which was very unusual for a Westerner at the time. Back then, and even until more recently, there was often a lot of secrecy around the teaching of different family’s methods and techniques. They were generally only taught to family members, rarely to outsiders, and almost never to westerners. But his teacher, who was ethnically Chinese, had been living in Burma at the time of the second world war and became involved with training the Ord Wingate troops that were conducting special operations there. While he was away on one of those operations, his whole village was wiped out by the Japanese, including his sons. So after the war, he returned to the UK with the British troops. He didn’t have anyone to pass his family’s practices on to, so he chose two Westerners to train – one of whom was my teacher.
What did you love about it?
I’ve been on a bit of a journey in my own qigong practice. Initially my focus was very much on the health aspect of the practice and using it as a healing modality. Later I explored its application within Kung Fu to broaden my experience and understanding, and I became interested in the high performance aspect of qigong – the way it can be used to develop physical skills and abilities that can seem quite extraordinary compared to more common physical training methodologies. As I have continued, the perspective that qigong gives on life itself keeps me fascinated and engaged. As well as the practical skills that come from qigong practice, qigong provides a lens to see and understand the world in a richer and more coherent way. The flow of energy is often what connects different occurrences that might otherwise seem unrelated. When we focus on the energy we become more aware of these relationships, and this gives us the opportunity to live in more harmony with the flows of life.
What surprised you most about Qigong?
I think one of the things that surprised me the most is that a lot of things that you might think of as figurative expressions within qigong practice are often far more literal than you might expect. Of course qigong makes use of a lot of rich imagery and symbolism within its practices, but there have been a number of occasions when some aspect of practice that I had thought was just described metaphorically has actually turned out to be very real in a tangible way. Early in my practice I heard many stories that I assumed were just myths and legends, but as I have continued to develop in my practice, I have had the opportunity to travel extensively and the privilege of meeting many interesting characters in the world of qigong and kung fu, including some of those who were either the subject of stories, or were physically present when they occurred. It has been interesting to hear their own accounts of what actually happened that led to the story. Many times these have been embellished as they were passed on, but within them was a grain of truth. So between that, and many of my own interesting experiences arising from my qigong practice, I am now slow to completely write something off as just a story or legend. When you dig deeper there is often something valuable to discover there – it sometimes takes an extended period of practice to truly understand it though.
What inspired you to become an instructor?
As mentioned previously, the initial focus of my training was very much around health and healing. I initially studied qigong primarily in the context of its application within Chinese medicine, and used it as a direct form of treatment within my practice. My training also carried some of the vestiges of the old ways of secrecy around the practices, and I was instructed not to teach anyone with the exception of specific exercises as part of a prescription to help them recover from health issues. I respected that instruction and only taught clients within a clinical setting for several years, but always thought it would be useful to teach people more comprehensively in order to give them tools to build their general health and wellbeing more effectively. When my teacher started to teach the general public more openly, and gave me permission to do so as well, that gave me the opportunity to finally do it. I started by teaching just a few classes alongside my clinical practice, but over the years this has switched with the majority of my time spent on teaching, and a much smaller focus on clinical practice.
When did you set up Long White Cloud Qigong?
As I began teaching qigong more and more I established Long White Cloud Qigong in 2010. Through Long White Cloud Qigong I hope to help people all over the world to discover both the breadth and depth of qigong. There is so much value and benefit people can get from qigong, it is unfortunate that until recently qigong has not been well known in much of the world. I think the history of secrecy around the practices hasn’t helped with that. Even when people have heard of it, and maybe have even practiced some qigong, there are often many misconceptions about what qigong is. Because historically access to good information about qigong has been somewhat restricted, people often assume that the small part of qigong that they have been exposed to – maybe even just a single set or type of practice, is the entirety of qigong. They don’t realise just how diverse the practices are and how they can be tailored to be applicable in so many different situations, and to meet so many different needs. But that is changing quite quickly now as people all over the world are starting to hear about qigong and experience the benefits for themselves, and there is a growing international qigong community with many different practices being shared and taught more openly. The approach at Long White Cloud Qigong is to teach from both a traditional and modern perspective, so that we can benefit from the best of both to deepen and enhance our practice and best apply it in our modern lives and environment. We are currently in the process of restructuring our courses, so there are only a limited number of offerings available at the moment, but as we continue with this process there will be a wide range of practices available to help people really grasp and experience the many different facets of qigong and the richness it can bring to our lives.
What’s your favourite thing about teaching?
One of the things I enjoy most about teaching is seeing people gain their own experience and understanding of their energy, and the energy that flows through all of life around us. Taking it beyond just theory (or myth and legend), and really starting to have a practical understanding of energy flow in their lives. It is also rewarding to hear about the sometimes profound benefits students gain from their practice. I frequently receive messages from people about how qigong has helped them with their health, their mental state, or to cope with challenging situations in their lives.
And about Hayo’uFit?
I really love the way that Hayo’uFit is making qigong accessible to a wide audience of the general public. So many people are hearing about and trying qigong because of the dedication and enthusiasm of the Hayo’uFit instructors and the rest of the team behind them that makes everything work, so that it is easy for such a large audience to bring the benefits of qigong into their lives. Hayo’uFit is getting qigong right out there in front of people, so that people who otherwise may have never heard of it are now practicing qigong regularly and gradually deepening their experience of their own energy, and learning to flow harmoniously with life.
What is your favourite sequence and why?
I wouldn’t say that I have a favourite sequence, which sequences I enjoy most changes according to what is going on in my life and the needs that I have at the time, and so my personal practice changes around this. Part of the ebb and flow of life really. There are many old favourites that crop up regularly though: Twelve Rivers, Between Heaven and Earth, Wild Animal Play, Waking the Qi, each feature regularly in my personal practice.
Tell us something about you we didn’t know?
I was a sculptor for many years, and it actually came out of my qigong practice. Not long after I began my in depth study and practice of qigong, a few things came together spontaneously which led to me starting to sculpt – primarily in stone, but also sometimes using other materials. I later discovered that a common side effect of in depth qigong practice is increased creativity. For me this was expressed through sculpture, but it can take any form – music, writing, acting, cooking and so on. I exhibited regularly and also took commissions. I haven’t had the opportunity to do much sculpting recently, but expect that at some point in the future when conditions are right, I will revisit this form of creative expression.
What would you say to someone who is considering giving Qigong a try?
Just do it, you’ll be amazed what you discover. It might be that the easiest thing is to follow along with a video to begin with, and doing this will start to give you some glimpses of what it is all about, and how you can use your body, mind, and breath to direct and harmonize your energy. When you are ready to go further, find a good instructor that can help you to explore the practices safely and in more detail. Hayo’uFit is a good place to take that next step and get the guidance you need as you start to deepen your practice. As you become in tune with your energy, and the energy around you, this will open up a whole new world of experience and understanding. There are a few different aspects to the meaning of the name ‘Long White Cloud Qigong’ part of it refers to our experience of our qigong journey. You can think of your journey a little bit like climbing a mountain. Often the mountain is shrouded in cloud. The cloud is filled with vitality, but also mystery. As we set out on our path we can’t always see what exactly is ahead of us, but with the help of experienced guides, we can enjoy our journey and make our way safely up the mountain. When we finally make it to the peak of the mountain above the clouds, the vista is spectacular!