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Martial Arts and Mental Health

My inspiration to enter the Shaolin Temple was anger. I wanted to be a superhero so I could get revenge on the people who had been cruel to me or my family. I know this sounds silly, but there wasn’t enough food in our province at that time, and my family struggled to eat.

When I entered the Shaolin Temple, my anger got me into so much trouble that the abbot sent me to a Zen Temple to learn from a great meditation master. Seeing that I couldn’t do sitting meditation, the meditation master told me to make training my meditation. This is what I’ve dedicated my life to.

The flow of martial arts has a way of effortlessly cutting our thoughts and allowing our true nature to arise. Thoughts, worries, and feelings are impermanent, and they are not us. Telling this to ourselves doesn’t help. It’s like reading a prescription and not taking the medicine. Training is the medicine.

We often avoid suffering as it feels overwhelming which is why martial arts can give us an anchor in the storm of the sea. The movements, which come from nature, are not about fixing. There’s nothing broken. They’re simply about enlarging or uncovering that forest of green in our mind.

In my documentary, I share my grief at losing my mother and how that has continued to shape my martial arts. I live in the UK now, and losing my mother when she was on the other side of the world was particularly hard. 

Perhaps because I’ve had so much suffering in my life, I have many students who train with me when they’re struggling with their mental health. One of my online students, whom I recently had the honour of meeting, told me how Shaolin Martial Arts had supported his well-being. He has kindly given me permission to share his story in the hope it will help others. 

"In January 2021 – my life changed forever. Our son, Cal, took the hardest of decisions to ‘tap out’ of this physical pain. He was 23 years old. At no stage in my life has my reliance on the healing nature of my practices - particularly that of Qi Gong and martial arts fitness training been so crucial in providing me with the strength, fortitude and resilience to stay on my own life’s journey. Only by immersing myself daily in the practice and movement of these various forms – have I been enabled and empowered to navigate through the pain, loss, and profound sadness of Cal’s passing."

Alan Stuart: Co-Founder: The Calzy Foundation C.I.C -established by Cal’s family and friends in 2021. It provides FREE Mental Health First Response training to young adults impacted by peer suicide and campaigns for increased and better mental health support in the UK:

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