Six years ago, I began planting bamboo around the house. I planted in the back and front yard, as well as along the sides.
Most of my neighbors loved the idea, but some balked, as all they’ve ever heard about bamboo is that it’s invasive and unmanageable.
I told these people that there are more than 1,400 species of bamboo in the world, and almost all of them grow in clumps or clusters. And almost all bamboo is relatively easy to manage and control.
But some people prefer to believe the stories playing inside their minds; stories that are based on zero experience.
Several months ago, a tai chi friend acquired a plot of land that had bamboo growing. What’d he do with it? He removed it.
I wrote him the following: “One of the universal symbols of tai chi is the bamboo tree, and you’re removing it?”
I told him he ought to pull up a chair and watch the bamboo as it moves to and fro with the wind. Study how it moves with the wind, bending in any direction, but never breaking.
One of the practices of many internal martial arts students is called “Stand Like a Tree.”
Students are taught to stand as still as they can for long periods of time, working on relaxing their bodies, freeing it of tension as they sink their energy.
This is a practice I engaged in long ago. Every evening I would stand still for an hour or more.
Then one day one of my teachers told me not to stand this way for so long. Instead, he encouraged me to stand for a much shorter period of time.. and to move the way a tree branch and its leaves move. He demonstrated what he meant by this and I took notes.
At first I didn’t want to believe this instructor as I had invested a lot of time and energy in this method of standing still. But as I practiced the movements he taught I noted that I became more flexible, more mobile, more energetic and more powerful. I developed an uncanny snappiness and springiness that I never had before.
I was moving like bamboo.
Then one day, as I was taking a look at the bamboo trees in my yard, I noted that they were doing what my instructor told me to do. The bamboo would be still for short periods of time, then it would move with the gentlest breeze.
The branches and leaves of the bamboo tree moved – and so did the culm.
The bamboo tree, which is really a type of grass, moves its entire body as one unit, something that high-level athletes and martial artists are continually working on. Many still can’t do it as they’ve become de-naturalized with the way they are taught to train.
I mentioned earlier that bamboo comes from the grass family. This is good news for you because it means that bamboo renews itself. You can chop it down if you wish, but so long as the roots (rhizomes) are still there, it will grow back.
Renewing yourself is what you are doing when you practice the Power Postures – Tiger Tendons exercises I teach.
But you’re doing more than that. What you are doing is recharging your brain and nervous system and bringing healing energy to the joints and muscles.
In short, you are giving your body precisely what it needs to recover from the pangs of heavy exercise or stressful life conditions.
You don’t need to give up other forms of exercise to enjoy the benefits of this type of training. And you will most definitely enhance whatever practice you engage in.
For those who are “banged up,” this type of training can serve as ALL you need.
Stand and move the way bamboo moves, and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in your life.
Be the Bamboo.
Here endeth the lesson.