While many people think of martial arts as focused on physical fighting, the techniques in the Hanthawaddy Bando system as taught by Grandmaster (GM) Dr. Gyi can support three main objectives: Hurting, Healing, or Harmonizing.
In this model, hurting, of course, is related to inflicting pain and or damage, whether it be physical or spiritual. Healing involves both the restoration of health and preventative actions that maintain health or reduce the likelihood of injury. Harmonizing is the process of maintaining (or regaining) an inner balance in light of conflicts and difficulties that are encountered. Insight meditation, for example, is one technique used by many for maintaining inner harmony.
On March 2nd and 3rd, Jim Sheeran and I had the honor of hosting a seminar with Dr. Gyi, focusing on the Healing Arts. Bando Healing Arts covers a wide range of practices; our goal for this weekend was to give participants an opportunity to be exposed to several aspects of the Healing Arts.
There are six main components of the Bando Healing Arts:
- Min Zin: These are internal energy practices that can be used for self-healing and for promoting healing of others
- Monk System: Overall martial system focusing on non-violent response to conflict
- Meditation: This involves two major practices: concentration and insight meditation to understand, without reactivity, the internal workings of the mind.
- Mudras: These are symbolic hand positions and sequences that promote healing and harmonization. Mudras can be static or can involve movement.
- Bando Yoga: Practices that focus on body suppleness, strength, and stamina, that enable martial movement or physical labor.
- Bando Sasana: The overall teachings of Healing Arts practices and philosophy.
“Light” is an important concept across many traditions, and in the Seminar, we practiced “Light Min Zin” taught by Dr. Gyi. The goal of the meditation is to bring light into the body, creating an internal radiance. Concentrating on a light source (we used bright lanterns), the practice included the gesture of gathering the light and bringing it up to the face, and then bringing hands down in front of the torso as if spreading the light throughout the body.
GM Dr. Duvon Winborne, director of the Bando Monk System, shared and taught the Gathering Min Zin form. The Gathering Form facilitates the acknowledging and internalizing of various types of energies. A different set of movements in the form symbolize the energies of Society, Seasons, Sun, Earth, Water, and Air. Each movement set was concluded with the Circling Energy Mudra that gathers the energy and concentrates it within the body.
GM Wakeel Abdullah, led an extended Bando Meditation session for the Seminar with an emphasis on breathing and visualization of the movement of energy in and out of the body’s energy zones and to influence the movement of Healing and Harmony Energy throughout our bodies.
The Longji Yoga session was led by GM Gary Layton, head of the Bando Yoga system. The longji rope is used in a way similar to the way a strap is used as a prop in yoga. But instead of being an accessory, the Longji rope is integrated into every movement, assisting with suppleness and mobility.
With the theme of the seminar being on Healing Arts, perhaps some of the greatest healing that occurred during the seminar itself was experienced by Dr. Gyi. Still recovering from a stroke that he experienced six months ago in September, Dr. Gyi shared his experience with prayer to help regain his ability to speak clearly. Over much of the seminar, he shared some of the traumatic stories of his experiences as a boy soldier in Burma, serving as a medic to rescue injured American servicemen during WWII. Very few, if any of those soldiers survived their injuries, and he expressed his lingering sense of guilt at not being able to help more. For some in the audience, it was inspiring to hear from a WWII Veteran, for others it was difficult to listen to and hard to reconcile with the overall theme of the seminar. Yet by the end of the seminar, it seems that a weight was lifted off of his spirit and his darker-themed comments were replaced with light-hearted ribbing of some of the participants and a greater level of energy.
There was more that we wanted to teach, and I’ll be planning a follow-up Seminar that adds some of the content we didn’t get to fully address. Our plan to share a session on Letha Yoga (a Bando yoga discipline involving a partner to assist in postures) had to be postponed, and while I was able to introduce some Pranayama (breath exercises) and the Atman Min Zin Mudra, there are many more mudras that are very helpful for healing and harmonizing.
Some of the lecture topics that we didn’t get time to practice included Min Zin and other energy practices of Eastern cultures. Dr. Gyi spoke of visualizing disease or illness as a tangible entity that is drawn out of the body, both in the Min Zin tradition and in other shamanistic practices. He also demonstrated on Mark Sollinger, the laying of hands to use Min Zin energy for healing. Two specific positions were shown: 1, holding the hands on the temples and 2, holding one hand on the forehead and the other at the base of the skull (corresponding to Zones 2 & 9 of the Min Zin energy zone system). The concept of energy in Min Zin involves collecting, storing, and transmitting energy, and so practices such as the Light Min Zin are necessary before one can use this healing energy to share with others.
Putting on an event is never a solitary endeavor, and Jim and I would like to thank the many people who helped make this possible. Our volunteers were Worth Kirkman, Tristan Kirkman, and Suzy Snow – they helped make the event run smoothly. Randy Webb helped Dr. Gyi in traveling and was essential in assisting Dr. Gyi over the weekend. In addition to the instruction by GMs Dr. Gyi, Dr. Winborne, Wakeel Abdullah, and Gary Layton, we’d like to thank Soozan Palsa and Vicki Lamson, who were ready to share the Letha Yoga practices. And the seminar would not have been possible without the beautiful Vienna Community Center, where the seminar was held, and the staff who helped us with all of the logistics. Thank you!