Mindful Connectivity is a way to introduce yourself to body energy, meditation and mindfulness in a straightforward and accessible manner. It will also open your mind to some other approaches that are not generally accessible, and you will learn to feel energy and move it around your body at will. And at the end of the day, your energy is the essence of your life. This is the story (and an extract from my book) of my voyage of discovery. It is difficult, if not impossible, to put everything into words. But, I hope these words do convey the profound effect that understanding Mindful Connectivity has had on me and the many others that have come to understand it.
How did it all begin? My introduction to health exercises came via the Martial Arts route. When I was 17 and visiting a friend’s school – a couple of guys were drunk – yep in school and drunk – and decided I had a face that needed some altering. I just wasn’t prepared for the assault and had no idea what to do to defend myself.
Thankfully, other than a bloody nose and some bad bruising to my face and ribs I escaped relatively unscathed.
40 Years of Discovery and Learning
But that incident started me off on a journey and a philosophy that has significantly helped and steered me for over 40 years. I thought it was normal, but apparently it isn’t.
Karate and Aikido
I enrolled in a Karate school shortly after my beating and learned how to get really beaten up. I had my jaw split open and broke three ribs. But I persevered, for another 5 years or so, and by that time I could take care of myself, or at least thought I could. So rather than going to classes anymore and picking up more body altering injuries, I just trained on my own and kept fit and supple – just enough to keep me out of trouble with a really good false sense of security. But Karate had given me a taste of the Eastern Arts. So when a friend invited me to an Aikido class, I went along and trained with them for a year or so. I didn’t really understand the ethos and so I decided to park it for a while … for about ten years actually!
In the meantime, I was getting on with my career and enjoying a fantastic business stint in Switzerland. But the work was getting to me and I wasn’t sleeping very well. To cut a long story short, I found a book on self-hypnosis and that helped me sort myself out. I could now sleep like a baby. The really interesting bit though was that the exercises for prepping yourself for self-hypnosis were muscle contraction-release waves up and down your body together with some coordinated breathing. Something my background in Karate and swimming helped with enormously. This was really the beginning of my conscious acknowledgment of the feeling of being able to move energy around my body at will.
Coordination and Discipline
When my youngest son was around 5 years old – I decided he needed to get more coordinated and get some more discipline – so I took him along to a local Karate class and trained with him for the first lesson. My years of non-training were very evident – although I thought I still had it, nothing could have been further from the truth – I was unfit, uncoordinated and unwilling to go through the Karate proving ground again at the age of forty plus.
Over My Peak Fitness Levels
I would count myself as having been fit and healthy and looked it for many years. But at around 45, I had definitely passed my peak level of fitness, I was getting slower at skiing, slower at swimming and it seemed as though everything was creaking; my back hurt, my neck hurt, my knees hurt, my wrist hurt, my head hurt and I kept getting sinusitis – I couldn’t sleep properly again (I even woke myself up with my own snoring) and I was bad tempered – you know – the sort of guy that is an absolute pleasure to live with.
I remembered the Aikido and thought now would be the time to find out what that was really all about. So I enrolled in an Aikido class – which actually turned out to be an Aikido/ Aiki Jujutsu class – a mixed bag of Martial Arts but extremely interesting and a fantastic introduction into the nuances of body energy and control. I got a lot leaner, a lot fitter and felt a lot better. So much so that after 3 months of training, a fellow London commuter commented on how much fitter I looked and asked what I was doing. My Aiki-Jujutsu instructor gave me a fantastic apprenticeship but also sowed the seeds of discontent. I wanted to learn more. I wanted the secrets. I had also started to train with my kids in Karate, mostly to keep them company and to get even fitter … and also to feel a bit macho. But there were no hints and tips. Just keep practising and all would become clear. Yeah right … in about 20 years!
The real turning point came for me when one of my Aiki-Jujutsu colleagues said that he also did Karate and that he was going to start classes that would be a mix of Karate and Aiki-Jujutsu. I went along to his class and we got into a discussion about the nuances of blocking/ striking. He showed me his version and I showed him mine!
Well … he was surprised to say the least. My blocks were more like getting struck with a cattle-prod than blocks and were extremely painful – for him. From my side of things, I was just doing my normal block, but with what turned out to be a special twist, literally. I didn’t know it then but I had learned how to apply a mix of external, indirect and internal power that was extremely disruptive to an opponent … and it got me thinking. My friend was a 4th Dan Karateka and he’d never come across the stuff I was doing in any of the Karate seminars or classes he’d ever been to.
In Search of the Secrets to Whole Body Power
I was intrigued. I wanted to find out more about internal energy, a lot more. I studied some traditional Aikido. It was evident that the senior instructors had internal energy and power, but if they knew how to teach it explicitly and directly they certainly weren’t letting on. So I looked further, I researched a lot and I went to classes and seminars in Ninjutsu, Tai Chi, Qigong, and Bagua, and guess what? They all used internal energy explicitly! I found some direct, open and expert guidance from my Tai Chi, Qigong and Bagua teachers.
What I learned, I brought back into the Karate classes and looked for tell-tale signs of what moves were really internal energy moves in Karate. And there are a lot that are or should be. It turns out that external energy generation is just far easier to see, learn and teach. So much so that a lot of the internal energy stuff has been lost over the years.
I got introduced to the Russian Martial Art, Systema a few years ago by an old Aiki Jujutsu colleague who I now train regularly with, but it was the re-introduction by a progressive Aikido instructor that made the penny drop. Why would a top Aikido instructor wholeheartedly take up Systema? It turned out to have a wonderfully intuitive mix of internal, indirect and external energy control.
At this point it’s probably worth explaining some more about what I found out about internal, indirect and external energy.
Direct, Indirect and Internal Energy
External energy is the energy that is most obvious to most people – you move your arms and your arm muscles contract to make this happen, you move your legs and your leg muscles make this happen. There may be other muscles involved in the movement but the directly connected muscles produce the majority of the movement. The bigger you can make those direct (external) muscles the more power you can generate from and with them.
Indirect energy is when the muscles you use for a movement are not those directly involved in the part of your body that moves. For example, when you twist your hips fast, keeping your arms loose, your arms move indirectly as a result of your hip movements. So if you improve your leg and hip muscles you could spin your arms out with more force.
With indirect muscles the effect of leverage and timing can also be used to enhance the effect of the energy you produce. What also comes into play are not just the indirect muscles: inside your body there are some powerful internal muscles that get brought into action (for example the psoas) – and as well as muscles there are other energy generating and storage structures in your body that utilize a mix of hydraulic (moving fluids) and kinetic (stored energy) mechanisms. Again all of these can be enhanced with exercise. The term whole body power is often used to describe internal and indirect power as it can, and does, bring more of your body into action than just the directly associated muscles.
I’ve been taught many things over my years of practice, and some I have even learned! But writing this book has been a wonderful experience because I had a number of eureka moments when I thought back to what my teachers have said and realized. Aha, that’s what they meant!
So that brings me to now and wanting to share the benefits of internal and indirect energy explained in as simple a way as possible – so that you can use them for whatever you want to use them for. The biggest and most meaningful benefit is for health: better structure, better breathing, better movement, better circulation and being more aware, more present … more mindful.
In other words, better energy. Better life!
I hope you enjoy these treasures: they took decades to find and understand.