Yueya

Martial Arts - Realm of the Insecure

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The current discussions on Tien Shan nei kung reminded me of an essay by Damo Mitchell titled, Martial Arts - Realm of the Insecure, published in the book, Daoist Reflections from Scholar Sage:

 

Let us always be brutally honest with ourselves as to why we started training in the martial arts in the first place. I have spent my life around various forms of martial arts classes and practitioners. When I was younger it was within the Japanese external systems, and as I grew older it was within the Chinese systems. This means that over the years I have grown to know many people who started training in different forms of Gong Fu. Some of those people are still training, whilst the vast majority have since stopped and moved on to other things. One thing that always fascinated me is the common thread that pulled all of those people into martial training, which is both arduous and longwinded. Why would somebody wish to dedicate so much time to painstakingly analysing every little facet of their body movement through the medium of combat? Now, with the exception of those who got into something like Taijiquan for health reasons, I see that the vast majority began training because they were deeply insecure.

 

This insecurity may have come about for various reasons. In many cases a person was bullied or physically threatened in some way, which is one of the most difficult things for the human psyche to ever come to terms with. In some cases, people were insecure because they were physically frail and martial arts seemed like a good way to become strong. I have met some who were insecure because of the way in which they had been brought up by their parents, and even those who felt insecure because they naturally lacked grace and poise. I feel that if the majority of us looked inside we would see that our training also came from a sense of deep insecurity, which was or is leaving a gaping hole in our inner being.

 

If I look at myself as an example, I can understand this situation very well. I began training at age four because I was sent to the classes by my parents. At this age I was blissfully unaware of the stresses of life and so no major insecurities had developed. Consequently, I was not much interested in the arts and so I treated them as a casual hobby, somewhere I went in the evenings to play and throw my arms and legs in the air. This all changed as I got older and began to realise that other people possibly posed a threat. I have always been slight in stature, and as a child and young teen it made me a target for bullying. Here was the seed of insecurity that left its mark and drove me into a serious study of Karate-Do and then the Chinese systems. This insecurity has carried me through years of continuous training, and though I am close to dealing with my inner turmoil it is always a long journey ‚ÄĒ the mind is always reluctant to let go of the deepest injuries. The problem with these kinds of psychological aspects is that they tend to dictate each and every thing that we do. Our inner state becomes the standpoint from which we experience the outside world. It causes us to emotionally distort the way in which we act as our damaged psyche seeks to defend itself from further hurt. The spiritual traditions of the East have long understood this and so developed various systems of self-cultivation, which would enable a person to deal with their own being and so elevate themselves to a higher state. Martial arts was one such tool, or at least it has the potential to be so if used correctly.

 

There is an inherent difficulty within the martial arts world and that is that the most insecure are the people who stay within the arts the longest. They are the ones whose inner nature sees the potential for change, even if they don't consciously understand what this crazy drive is that borders on obsession. This means that, almost inevitably, they become the teachers of the arts ‚ÄĒ those with the most experience and the most years of dedicated effort put into the arts. By the very nature of what it means to be a teacher, students will come to you and then look to you for guidance. On the surface they may be looking to you for martial technique, but subconsciously they are also looking for something else ‚ÄĒ a way to deal with that same insecurity that most likely led their newfound teacher into the arts in the first place. This is a responsibility that all teachers need to recognise and take on board. It was for these reasons that, classically, schools of martial arts, especially internal practices, would teach ethics alongside their arts. The view was basically that a person could be measured by their actions and the state of their Heart-Mind, not by the strength of their punch. Sadly, over the years this message was lost and, in my opinion, the ethics of martial arts are all but dead. Gong Fu has reached an all-time low of morality, etiquette and self-cultivation. Take a journey onto any martial arts forum and see the countless pages of arguments to see how true this is. As practitioners (and certainly as teachers) we need to remember that it was a deep-rooted insecurity that initially led us to these practices and that almost everybody in this community is coming from the same place. At this point maybe your brain is going, 'Rubbish, I am not insecure ‚ÄĒ what is he talking about?' If this is the case I would suggest that maybe you are one of the lucky few who are perfectly balanced or perhaps you need to look a little deeper inside and be a bit more honest with yourself.

 

Why this is important is because if you constantly trash others and attack them either physically or verbally you are essentially damaging the other person's inner nature. Their insecurity is likely to become deeper no matter how hard they try to shake off what has been said or done. Each step towards weakening that person's inner nature is taking away from their development. Two people will enter into a conflict because one or both is trying to come to terms with their own insecurity. In order to validate their own stance and thus defend their fragile ego, they will argue until one is the perceived victor and one the loser. The 'winner' has confirmed the distorted viewpoint of his own nature in his own mind, whilst the 'loser' has been damaged even more deeply. This is certainly not an effective method of inner growth for either party. In modern times this is made even worse by the internet and martial arts forums. Here, insecure people can shout at others and try to validate their position whilst gathering around them other insecure people to prop up their fragile egos. A gathering of wounded egos attacking each other through typed words should be avoided at all costs lest the inner-growth aspect of martial arts be lost forever.

 

This is why I never support martial arts competitions. In each case there must always be a 'winner' and a 'loser'. If, in a perfect world, competitions or challenges were between two people who mutually accepted that they were there to better their arts and themselves then competition could be a good thing. After a couple of years of taking part in martial arts tournaments I realised that this was sadly not the case. With each win my ego validated my own standpoint whether I was in the right or the wrong, and with each loss my sense of insecurity was etched more deeply into my being. With each competition I see, I witness the same process going on whether the participants are aware of this or not. Martial arts should abhor this kind of practice. In life you should never compete, but, at the same time, if you must fight you should not lose. Not losing and being competitive are not the same thing, and I believe more martial artists should spend time contemplating the differences between these two. This is the heart of the study that we undertake. I don't write this as a rant or an attack but as a thought process that I have been through lately after reading a few martial arts forums and seeing the processes taking place there. A martial arts forum is not somewhere you will ever see me contributing in any great length simply because I find the dynamics of what is taking place in these communities counter-productive to what I am seeking ‚ÄĒ inner development through the medium of martial arts study. I would urge sincere practitioners of a like mind to question themselves and their motives before getting involved in such places, as the ethical side of study needs to come back lest martial arts become a pale shadow of what they once were. Let us work together to further ourselves and our arts, not fight over things that really bear no importance to the nature of our inner development. A sense of insecurity can become the greatest fuel for a lifetime journey of self-cultivation and development or it can, sadly, lead us onto a path of egoistic distortion that helps nobody. That choice is ultimately ours alone.

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Posted (edited)

Although the above essay is written from the perspective of martial arts, it could equally apply to many of us involved with dedicated spiritual practice. Insecurity and low self-esteem are certainly labels which now in retrospect I can accept about myself, although years ago I would have vehemently denied it. It takes a degree of inner security, of strength, to be able to admit weakness. And that’s what my multifaceted journey of inner cultivation has given me.  I know for myself, admitting such weakness, though unpleasant, is a major step towards liberation. Specifically, it allows a deeply felt sense of compassion and humility both for myself and for other people. And without that my heart cannot begin to fully open.   

 

Damo wrote: ‚ÄúA sense of insecurity can become the greatest fuel for a lifetime journey of self-cultivation and development or it can, sadly, lead us onto a path of egoistic distortion that helps nobody. That choice is ultimately ours alone.‚ÄĚ I would make one small change to this, namely change ‚Äėself-cultivation‚Äô to ‚ÄėSelf-cultivation‚Äô. It‚Äôs definitely healthier to feel and acknowledge low self-esteem when one does not feel conscious connection with Self than to create a false sense of self based on, in Damo‚Äôs words, egoistic distortion. That merely gives a false sense of strength. Alas, such ego inflation is all too common; perhaps a necessary stage to pass through. ¬†It has been for me. Now I can smile in wry acknowledgement at the aptness of the imagery Western alchemists of old used to describe this stage of inner transformation. They called it their descension, their cineration, their pulverization, their death. That‚Äôs how it felt to me at the time. And that time went on for over a decade. Hence I can understand the massive shields our ego constructs to try to prevent what feels to the ego like a terrible calamity, something to be defended against at all costs.¬† But true inner cultivation is all about gaining the strength to face this ordeal.¬†¬†
 

Edited by Yueya
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Posted (edited)

Thanks for those insightful, rather piercing observations Yueya.

 

I just finished watching an episode of RuPaul¬īs Drag Race, a surprising source of life wisdom.¬† One of the contestants stood before the judges panel visibly distraught after having received low marks.¬† A guest judge offered this excellent advice:¬†you¬īve gotta separate your worth as a person from your craft.¬† How often do we believe we are what we do?¬† Overidentification with a given art -- or career or sport or social position¬†-- is a pitfall for many.¬† I am not the tropies I win or lose.¬† I am not the physical beauty (or lack thereof) of my body.¬† I am not the people who like or dislike me on Daobums.¬† Especially not that.

Edited by liminal_luke
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I’ve found most of what’s been written to be true for me, in my little journey.
 

A wonderful thing happens if we can step out of the way, so to speak and see the patterns emerge, enmesh with each other and evolve.

 

At the root of these ‚Äúpathologies‚ÄĚ is the fear of death. Death manifests in different ways ‚ÄĒ as death of a persona we uphold in our minds, as death of ideas and beliefs, death of our physical abilities, death of older pathologies that drive us towards ‚Äúself-improvement‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúcultivation‚ÄĚ. ¬†


All these fears are essentially rooted in the fear of non-existence, that one day we will be gone, and that we will cease to be. But nothing is farther from that ‚ÄĒ the ‚Äúwe‚ÄĚ that we are, is indestructible, incorruptible, impossible to vanquish and will never cease to be. But the martial arts which we use as shields and weapons to avoid the seeming inevitability of our demise, also can become the tools for liberation ‚ÄĒ we can transcend the obsession with methods and our craving for more (and more). They can help us transcend fear, little by little, take us into direct presence of our inner/true¬†nature and pull the proverbial rug of opposition from under our feet!¬†

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Let's not forget that all people are insecure.  It's just that different people find different ways to feel more secure.  Some discover martial arts as a means to that end, others might resort to something entirely else...  money, status, belonging to a group, religion, education, sports, cosmetics, fashion, plastic surgery, eating "healthy" rather than whatever they want, preparing for SHTF scenarios, the list is endless.  Our insecurities are not all the same, and remedies we find are also not all the same.  

 

 

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And then there are some of us who just do these things, longevity or martial, for fun. Narf. 

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What is said in this essay is probably true. But let state something, insecurity comes mainly from the mind, not from the body. So something more than martial arts is needed to overcome it.

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5 hours ago, Toni said:

What is said in this essay is probably true. But let state something, insecurity comes mainly from the mind, not from the body. So something more than martial arts is needed to overcome it.

The martial arts aren't just for the body...they are also for the mind. 

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Taomeow said:

Let's not forget that all people are insecure.  It's just that different people find different ways to feel more secure.  Some discover martial arts as a means to that end, others might resort to something entirely else...  money, status, belonging to a group, religion, education, sports, cosmetics, fashion, plastic surgery, eating "healthy" rather than whatever they want, preparing for SHTF scenarios, the list is endless.  Our insecurities are not all the same, and remedies we find are also not all the same.  

 

 

 

Like I always say, why express insecurity beating people up when I can do so much more comfortably seated on a faux-leather couch, latte in hand, writing quippy posts on Daobums?

Edited by liminal_luke
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2 hours ago, liminal_luke said:

 

Like I always say, why express insecurity beating people up when I can do so much more comfortably seated on a faux-leather couch, latte in hand, writing quippy posts on Daobums?

 

I've had an on-again, off-again relationship with martial arts. I was always drawn by the promise of fitness, self-defense, and spirituality, but for me I have found they tend to fail on all counts. There seems to be a triangle here--- the more you focus on one dimension, the others tend to suffer. So for self-defense, the best would likely be some MMA training, but there is no spirituality there. The more spiritual arts strike me as useless for other aspects. 

 

The main issue I have with MA though is the violent/aggressive mentality. I have a hard time avoiding that, and judging by my other students, so do most of them. For me, it usually shows up in how I handle conflicts in dreams. 

 

 

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6 minutes ago, forestofemptiness said:

The main issue I have with MA though is the violent/aggressive mentality. I have a hard time avoiding that, and judging by my other students, so do most of them

 

Depends on the art, and the teacher. Also greatly depends on the student. ;) 

 

Aikido: not the same mentality as Krav Maga. Iaido: not the same as Eskrima.

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Growing up in a fairly deprived, working class area of the UK, I was hugely insecure as a teenager.

 

Everyone else around me was into football, and it was sometimes the sole topic of conversation at the pub.

 

I always felt like I was perhaps less of a man, because I wasnt interested in it, and couldn't play it. My hobbies were probably a bit suspect to others, I played an instrument, and painted wargaming figurines. So I kept them to myself. 

 

Martial arts became a way to overcome the threat I felt from deviating from the mainstream. I was stronger, fitter and more able than those around me, so no one could say I was less of a man.

 

Its been nearly 30 years since I started martial arts, and my body is starting to complain from the training. I recently switched to internal martial arts.

 

I thought at first I'd feel some vulnerability from the change, but it was pretty natural. I realised that I had stopped caring about fitting in with those around me some time ago. I guess age sometimes brings maturity. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, forestofemptiness said:

For me, it usually shows up in how I handle conflicts in dreams.

Care to share more on that? I've had similar "revelations" in dreams, maybe we can exchange notes (also wondering if our shared lineage has some role in this)...

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2 hours ago, dwai said:

Care to share more on that? I've had similar "revelations" in dreams, maybe we can exchange notes (also wondering if our shared lineage has some role in this)...

 

Sure. Let's take a recurring dream pattern for me--- the many vs. the few. I am alone, or with a few other people facing an opposing group of some sort--- it can be a group of criminals, aliens, zombies, a Nazi/fascist government, whatever. My old habits, especially when I was a kid, would be to run and hide. 

 

When I take up a martial art, there is less running and hiding. As I practice more, and it steeps into my mind/body, the practices start to show up in dreams. Maybe I'll fight one or two of the "enemies." Over time, as I continue to do MA, I eventually stop running and fight, sometimes an entire group. It can get so intense that I will wake myself up. 

 

Now in other circumstances, when I'm working on bodhicitta or compassion, the whole tenor of the dream changes. The opposing group is often an apparent enemy, but I don't see them as a threat. The threat level is usually tied directly to my resistance. If I am afraid or resisting them in some way, they usually become scary and violent. But if I am more open and accepting, they tend to become either friendly or they don't engage at all. 

 

So usually my dreams manifest in some way according to the habits I am building during the day. 

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2 hours ago, forestofemptiness said:

 

Sure. Let's take a recurring dream pattern for me--- the many vs. the few. I am alone, or with a few other people facing an opposing group of some sort--- it can be a group of criminals, aliens, zombies, a Nazi/fascist government, whatever. My old habits, especially when I was a kid, would be to run and hide. 

 

When I take up a martial art, there is less running and hiding. As I practice more, and it steeps into my mind/body, the practices start to show up in dreams. Maybe I'll fight one or two of the "enemies." Over time, as I continue to do MA, I eventually stop running and fight, sometimes an entire group. It can get so intense that I will wake myself up. 

I went through a phase in my life where I would frequently face multiple opponents in dreams -- initially in physical confrontations, and after I started my spiritual practices, in psychic confrontations. The multiple opponents could be due to the fact that I was attacked by about sixteen guys (from a rival school) when I was in high school -- ambushed one evening while I was walking home on a desolate little side-road -- it was a most traumatic event -- I was helpless -- there was no way I could fight off those many guys...so a cycle of shame, guilt, self-loathing (eventually) started. That led to all sorts of psychological and physiological problems for me, that took more than 20 years to resolve...

 

After I started my spiritual practices, I was going through an especially difficult period, when a yogi visited me in a dream, and told me to practice a mantra. I woke up chanting the mantra under my breath, and I practiced it daily, as he told me to -- the problems started resolving themselves within 2 weeks -- I mean serious existential ones. And then, I somehow knew how to use the mantra in my dreams to deal with troubles (especially psychic ones) -- when I'd find certain unsavory characters come at me, I'd form the "sword finger" in my dream, say the mantra mentally and the characters would literally disappear into a puff of smoke.  This became a specific pattern for many years -- often these types of characters would appear (sometimes in the form of loved ones, family members, etc) -- and the mantra would make them disappear. 

 

When I started doing Aikido, I'd have dreams where these "enemies" would attack me, and I'd do the aikido techniques on them, but they'd just roll and jump right back....so frustrating.  :D

 

2 hours ago, forestofemptiness said:

 

Now in other circumstances, when I'm working on bodhicitta or compassion, the whole tenor of the dream changes. The opposing group is often an apparent enemy, but I don't see them as a threat. The threat level is usually tied directly to my resistance. If I am afraid or resisting them in some way, they usually become scary and violent. But if I am more open and accepting, they tend to become either friendly or they don't engage at all. 

 

So usually my dreams manifest in some way according to the habits I am building during the day. 

After I had the realization one day, the next few times these dream "enemies" stopped by, instead of fighting them or vanquishing them, I decided to lovingly hug them, knowing them to be my own Self, and lo and behold! they merged into me. There is no longer the "forgetting" my 'Self' in dreams...

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We have a Shaolin kungfu center a few blocks down with a well-respected Sifu, many students looking up to him as a father figure. A few years back,  a lot of skeletons came tumbling out of the closet; messy relationships and a murder. Most of those involved have been training for around 15 years. Was something wrong in the kungfu training or was it not enough for the mind and just dealt with the body?

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8 hours ago, Bhathen said:

We have a Shaolin kungfu center a few blocks down with a well-respected Sifu, many students looking up to him as a father figure. A few years back,  a lot of skeletons came tumbling out of the closet; messy relationships and a murder. Most of those involved have been training for around 15 years. Was something wrong in the kungfu training or was it not enough for the mind and just dealt with the body?

 

Is that Juan Carlos Aguilar's place?

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In our school , we say that whatever your reason for starting practice, it's generally not a good reason. However, it's what got you practicing so...

 

My teacher has referred to martial arts as the 'Royal road'. It develops and strengthens your physical body (yin) and gives you plenty of opportunities for exchange with others (which helps avoid some of the delusions which might arise from solitary practices). It gives you a chance to directly work with fear and other confronting emotions. It gives you the confidence to occupy your own space and to remain relaxed in complicated situations. It also enables you to crush your enemies, drive them before you and hear the lamentation of their women. 10/10 would recommend.

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If it were not for the mighty martial art of Bagua Quan (Taoist circle walking + direct connection to ancient Chinese Medical Theory + connection to Spirit (Mind-Body paradigm), I would wear a mask today fearful of coronavirus like many humans are, eating bad food, having succulent dinners, getting drunk every now and then, enjoying casual sex, hating society and being rude...etc. you name it. 

 

From a sinner to a saint, this is what my teacher told me once.

 

There is a book that goes deep into this written by another Bagua practitioner, Dr. Michael Guen:

 

https://www.amazon.com/Way-Saint-Michael-Guen/dp/0976384973

 

Big Thank You to ancient China and the Bagua masters of old (Dong Haichuan the modern founder of this  Chinese internal martial art, Yin Fu, Ma Gui, Cheng Tinghua and Liang Zhenpu) and my teachers Geoff Sweeting and He Jinghan.

 

Taoism and the Five Arts:

 

1. Divination. The art of obtaining answers from Heaven to your queries about the future. Techniques abound, from the prehistoric way of divining the future with the help of oracle bones to numeric exercises, often based on Book of Changes (I-Ching).

 

2. Destiny. The art of knowing your fate through your horoscope; Ba Zi and Purple Star Astrology are the most typical ways of analyzing and predicting your fate.

 

3. Physiognomy. Study of forms or appearances. Feng Shui, as well as Palm and Face Reading all fall under this category.

 

4. Medicine. The art of healing. It includes all forms of traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and herbal prescriptions.

 

5. Mountain/Warriorship. It is the philosophical art. It is about elevating yourself above the mundane through asceticism, martial arts, meditation and self-healing. 

 

................

 

I liked the quote from the movie

Conan the Barbarian (1982). :)

 

Conan got strong by doing circle walking too! ;) 

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6 hours ago, Gerard said:

If it were not for the mighty martial art of Bagua Quan (Taoist circle walking + direct connection to ancient Chinese Medical Theory + connection to Spirit (Mind-Body paradigm), I would wear a mask today fearful of coronavirus like many humans are, eating bad food, having succulent dinners, getting drunk every now and then, enjoying casual sex, hating society and being rude...etc. you name it. 

 

From a sinner to a saint, this is what my teacher told me once.

 

There is a book that goes deep into this written by another Bagua practitioner, Dr. Michael Guen:

 

https://www.amazon.com/Way-Saint-Michael-Guen/dp/0976384973

 

Big Thank You to ancient China and the Bagua masters of old (Dong Haichuan the modern founder of this  Chinese internal martial art, Yin Fu, Ma Gui, Cheng Tinghua and Liang Zhenpu) and my teachers Geoff Sweeting and He Jinghan.

 

Taoism and the Five Arts:

 

1. Divination. The art of obtaining answers from Heaven to your queries about the future. Techniques abound, from the prehistoric way of divining the future with the help of oracle bones to numeric exercises, often based on Book of Changes (I-Ching).

 

2. Destiny. The art of knowing your fate through your horoscope; Ba Zi and Purple Star Astrology are the most typical ways of analyzing and predicting your fate.

 

3. Physiognomy. Study of forms or appearances. Feng Shui, as well as Palm and Face Reading all fall under this category.

 

4. Medicine. The art of healing. It includes all forms of traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and herbal prescriptions.

 

5. Mountain/Warriorship. It is the philosophical art. It is about elevating yourself above the mundane through asceticism, martial arts, meditation and self-healing. 

 

................

 

I liked the quote from the movie

Conan the Barbarian (1982). :)

 

Conan got strong by doing circle walking too! ;) 

so you are not enjoying casual sex now? :(

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4 hours ago, Toni said:

so you are not enjoying casual sex now? :(

 

Is that a pickup line? :wub: 

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Toni said:

so you are not enjoying casual sex now? :(

 

Serious answer this time: moderation, not suppression or repression. 

 

Meaningful relationships, adult decisions for sex, not "Wham, bam, thank you ma'am". 

 

It's not just jing loss from ejaculation, it's absorbing more than you bargain for when touching another person. 

 

I know people who are cautious about whom they have sex with and whom they spar with, and hate massages because of the sensitivity to energy exchange they have. So they only spar with their students or friends after vetting. 

 

If you're not picky about whom you have sex with, you have more than just STIs to worry about. Likewise, even for sensing hands, you may pick things up from your opponent as a lot of energy exchange is happening for those with deeper understanding of tuishou and alchemical cultivation. 

Edited by Earl Grey

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I agree with "moderation, not supression", although it may necessarily mean some repression after all. But without this moderation you can lose your mind. And believe me, I know this well

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