Kung Fu/Are Southern Mantis Breathing exercises unhealthy?
I'm a 46 year old guy in Chicago interested in learning kung-fu for health and self-defense. Also it just looks interesting. I've found a Chow Gar school that looks promising but I've been reading on the web that SPM does some kind of dangerous reverse breathing techniques that are dangerous to long term health because they damage the organs and raise blood pressure. Can you shed any light on this? Thank you.
Sorry for the delay in answering this. Reverse breathing is not at all unique to SPM or Chow Gar, it is ubiquitous in kung fu and Taoist practice. In moderation I am sure it is fine and I've done it off and on for years. I've heard stories about internal organs becoming compressed from it and other problems but I have not experienced problems nor do I know anyone that has. I think many of the stories you hear will be hard to substantiate one way or the other. SPM, for some odd reason, is particularly prone to story tellers. Kung fu/martial arts is full of stories and mythologies of which most are just fabrications. I've spent over forty years in the arts and am always amazed at the proliferation of bad information and odd religious beliefs of practioners based on some 'secret knowledge' that was passed on to them. There is little room for empirical evidence in the arts so the arts become more like religious practice then evidence based exercise. Quite a bit of internal practice is based on superstition and mythology. I personally have trained with two well known qigong masters and they contradict each other. I like Mantak Chia's training techniques and found him to be practical when I studied with him years ago. All in all just use your head and if something causes you harm don't do it. Your best training tool is intelligence and inquiry, not faith.
I think before anyone enters any art they should read "The Sword Polisher's Record" by Adam Hsu. He really cuts through the nonsense that surrounds the arts.
I hope this has helped you. Take care,