City Woman: Tap into power of your own energyBy Leigh Mencarini
August 13, 2010
Little has been left unsaid about the need to save the earth’s energy. But are we aware of the energy within ourselves?
I’m talking about qi – the flow of energy present in living things, according to ancient Chinese culture. A little lost? So was I.
But Gerry O’Connor, a qi gong healer, reiki master and British tai chi champion, explains you needn’t believe in it to feel the benefits.
“It all works on a holistic principle,” says Gerry, 59.
“It can work for anyone – although it might take a bit longer if people don’t believe because they put a barrier up. It is easier if you can relax.”
I met Gerry at his home in Mayfield Road, Caversham, to find out more about his “ancient cures for modern problems” – which he attributes to the qi “not flowing properly”.
Gerry combines martial, healing and spiritual arts to provide his unique form of therapy, Bud-Tao Energy Arts.
These are taken from the systems used by Buddhist or Taoist practitioners, although there is no religious bias in how he teaches or works.
Most of us are aware of at least two of the four main traditional Chinese medicinal practices; acupuncture and herbal. However, Gerry offers the lesser known two; tui na massage – a therapeutic, remedial and sports massage, and qi gong (or chi kung), which is energy healing and exercise.
He says these can help treat joint or muscle problems, and physical pain such as migraine, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or menstrual problems.
It can also treat mental or emotional problems as well as help with general wellness by balancing the yin and yang energies of the body.
But how does he harness, use or master this energy?
Having practised martial arts since the late 80s, Gerry was quick to demonstrate – with an egg from the fridge.
“Qi gong teaches us how to use energy, not just force,” he says, kneeling on the floor with a leather sports cushion at his knees. With his hand empty, he wallops it with incredible power.
“When you hit with power, your muscles tense,” he explains, “but when you hit with energy, they don’t.”
Then with the egg sat loosely in his palm, Gerry raises his arm above his head, and – bam! – whacks down his fist on the cushion. The egg is intact.
“The energy used for fighting is the same as is used for healing. It’s just a different way of using it.”
Gerry focuses his energy on unblocking the 12 meridians; points along the arms and legs where qi flows. Blockages are said to cause physiological and emotional disharmony. Massage, or focusing energy or pressure on the area, can help.
It’s something Gerry has benefited from himself, after suffering a sports injury – so much so, he then went to Malaysia in 1993 to train for six months in energy arts.
“It changed my life and I have to say it needed to change,” he explains.
“I’d had an operation on my leg and two major operations on my shoulder. I was told my active sporting career was over.
“So I drank, and I got fatter, and I drank some more, and then I decided it wasn’t on. So I found a tai chi class and it all started from there.”
Dad-of-four Gerry ended his lucrative 20-year career in IT to pursue energy arts. His teaching has taken him all over the world, to Europe, the Far East and Australasia.
“My kids say that even though I’m earning less money, I smile more now than ever before,” he says.
“Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I have the odd day. But most of the time I feel like I’m in my 40s.”
Gerry also uses energy arts as part of his volunteer work for Sue Ryder, and he takes it to corporate environments, helping office workers relax before they start their day.
“It is changing people’s attitudes,” he says.
“If someone gets 15 minutes to relax, they feel like they’re getting something from the company, they are more focused and more connected and they work better.”
But he admits people can struggle to believe in the power of energy – the western world especially demands “proof” of the benefits.
“A lot of the proof is how the people themselves feel afterwards,” he tells me.
“People tend to think good health is all about fitness and muscles – it’s not, that’s just one part of it.
“In the west, people want it ‘fixed now’. But you have to be patient and you have to work at it.
“It’s not a one-stop cure. If something has taken you 20 years to block up, you can’t expect it to be fixed in five minutes.”
So when a problem manifests itself physically, Gerry sees it as the body’s way of saying it is the “last chance” to deal with it.
“It has to get more aggressive for you to notice it,” he says. “So you have to acknowledge problems, then work on them.
“What Bud-Dao Energy Arts does is allow you to accept the fact it’s not going to be fixed overnight, work on it, and then go off and look after yourself.
“It’s about creating proactive healthcare.”