Redwood: How did you train yourself to develop these skills?
Chow: I took many different forms of Qigong and Traditional Chinese Medicine. I spoke about this in my book. I took Shaolin, Wushu, The Five Animals, Daoist Qigong, Eight Brocades, and many more styles, well known and lesser known. What I found was that in our society here in the West, our lifestyles, attitudes, commitment, stress, and tension, are very different from those in China, as are our family relationships. So I extracted some of the best of the different systems and created what I call the Chow Integrated Healing System and Chow Qigong.
I adapted it to a Western lifestyle, without losing the essence of the Chinese classical teachings. I say this because the complex theory is very important, but in the West many people aren't going to want to immediately jump into the Eastern theory, like knowing all about the yin-yang, the Laws of the Five Elements, the philosophy of Dao and of Buddhism. So we extracted some of the easy to understand principles so that people can apply it in their everyday life.
The way people look at life here, they want everything fast. Right? Nobody is going to stand in a certain position for three months and be told, "you will begin to feel the qi when you feel it," without explaining the exact posture and what they can do to their body and mind, how to breathe and so forth. Many of the old masters say, "Maybe after eight months or a year you might begin to feel qi, or know what we're striving for." But right in the beginning, I explain things clearly to the students and clients.
Redwood: You started off in the healing arts as a registered nurse. How did you branch out into acupuncture, Qigong, and other areas?
Chow: Actually, Chinese medicine is my "first culture" exposure. My folks [who immigrated from China to Canada in the early 1900s] used herbs and nutrition as a means of keeping healthy every day. That's much of what Chinese medicine is, using your living habits to keep you in the best of health and prevent you from getting ill. But if you do get ill, there are more drastic means like acupuncture and stronger herbs. So I've grown up with that, and with taiji and Qigong teachers and so forth. I have experienced Chinese medicine being effective where Western medicine had not been. Also, I grew up in the days where different cultures were looked upon as, well, second-rate, and when Chinese medicine was looked upon as superstition.
Redwood: Things have certainly changed.
Chow: So as a nurse I witnessed all these things, and I witnessed family and friends getting better from Chinese medicine when western medicine didn't work. I mentioned in my book a Mr. Wong who got better and lived for 15 years after he had been expected to die. In nursing I saw the revolving door concept, with people coming back in again and again with asthma or pain, while I knew that Chinese medicine had these [beneficial] effects. And my dad died of a prescription drug reaction. That set me thinking, exploring into Chinese medicine seriously.
Redwood: Do you use acupuncture as part of your practice now?
Chow: Oh, yes. But I don't use it as a first measure. I am a nationally and California licensed acupuncturist, but I use Qigong to teach the clients and students to do things on their own because it gives them the power to be independent. They're sick in the first place because they've lost their power. That affects their self-esteem, and so they keep spiraling downward. I teach them to breathe, and about posture and working with their qi. Even though I am working with them, they're also working with me. I generally can get something happening the first time, and they feel that they have accomplished it. This gives them a sense of hope and control and a sense that they can do something for themselves. Using acupuncture alone ties them to the practitioner. So it's almost like another pill. It's important to give them that independence.