Kai is a massage therapist, body & energy healer who came with his family to London from Vietnam as one of the refugee boat people after the war ended in 1975. Here he talks about how his work is still inspired by his ancestors and family tradition of health and healing and the fulfilment he gets from helping his clients regain optimum health from his treatments and movement classes.
Kai You Arrived in The UK as a refugee from Vietnam aged 3 were you brought up in London or another part of the country? Do you have any early memories? Sisters, brothers?
We came to the UK from a refugee camp in Hong Kong and were referred to as the “Vietnamese Boat People.” Most of my family, who are Chinese descendants fled Vietnam. We fled on a little fishing boats towards anywhere – fortunately, we made it to Hong Kong which at the time was a part of the British Common Wealth and found refuge. As a child during family meals, my parents and grandfather would often reminisce of the journey and there was always a moral of being good, having faith, helping others, staying positive and optimistic and “getting on with it.” I am always grateful for my life for many reasons but the story of our voyage has always helped me to push on through no matter what life throws at me. We are a family of grit. I like to describe us as like being honey badgers or the underdogs. We are survivors.
Is it true that health and healing has been part of your family tradition for hundreds of years?
Yes, but not everyone in my family practices or has the ability to intuitively manipulate chi flow in themselves or others. It depends on the individual. I am not certain how long as a family tradition we have been practicing. We never force anyone to learn. This is not the way but it has been said within my family that we have been practicing since the Ly Dynasty that ruled in Vietnam from 1009–1225ad. There were a few times in Vietnam’s political history like in China when it was forbidden to practice martial arts or any kind of internal healing arts so I believe it was during these times when much knowledge was either killed off or lost to the world forever. As a family, we never openly talked about our practices because of this I believe and my father always forbid us to practice outside the home. I never knew why and I remember having resentment towards him because of this. Now I have the utmost respect and love for my father because he is a wise man of not many words. His actions always speak louder than words.
How old were you when you started practicing Ly Chi Gung who taught you? Did your whole family practice together?
I think I was about six or seven years old when my father first bought out the bamboo stick to teach me. Before this I remember waking up to find my father and grandfather practicing in the garden and I would try to climb up my father or grandfather’s leg but it did not stop them from practicing. They would continue as though I was a part of the wind flowing around them. I smiled and my heart warmed when my son was doing this when he first learned to stand up. What’s up with the bamboo stick?! Traditionally, we do not talk while we “teach” because talking and listening uses “thinking” which hampers one’s own internal dialogue with one self when we are practicing. Chi Gung or Tai Chi, or any thing where one has their complete attention to the present moment – which encompasses acknowledging of both our internal being and our environment is Moving Meditation. Athletes, dancers, chefs, singers, even yourself when you are just in “the flow” of something is moving meditation. You are not thinking about what you are doing, you are just doing it and every action you make is perfect and in harmony with your being and your environment in the forever unfolding present. The bamboo stick is used to push or direct your limbs or dantiens. A teacher holds the bamboo stick as though it is an extension of his self. So in the beginning we teach by “monkey see, monkey do”. Just mimic the movements until eventually you are moving on your own accord and only directed every now and then by the bamboo stick. In time, we would all practice together but everyone is moving in their own flow. Like a flock of geese flying all in their own individual way but all going with the natural ebb and flow of life.
Can you say a bit more about the benefits of Ly Chi Gung and how it differs from other Chi Gung practices?
Ly Chi Gung is my family tradition chi gung. Each practitioner has their own unique flow and essence that they add to the fundamental building blocks and compass paved way by The First who conceived and revealed it to the world. The First is felt yet never known. In my family we say that we are all the first because ultimately, we must walk our own paths together. There are no leaders or followers in my family tradition Ly Chi Gung. We inspire each other to continue on with our own practices diligently but we always pay homage and respect to The First when we burn incense and give offerings of remembrance. I cannot really comment much about how my family tradition chi gung differs from others but from my observations of watching practitioners and teachers here in this land I behold that they have not yet internalised or grasped the essence of chi gung and in many ways they have turned it into something too text-book. I have met many people who speak about chi and meditation but the way they conduct themselves and the way their body moves tell a different story. Actions speak louder than words. The same is also in the martial arts arena in this country. There is too much emphasis on competition, offensive collision and destruction which for me, is completely the opposite of the true nature of martial arts. In my family tradition Ly Chi Gung, we are fundamentally practicing be more natural and harmonious within our being and our environment with this noble truth in mind and heart: “All things are equal and interconnected.” When a tiger attacks and kills its prey it is doing so because of its nature. A dove fights for its life because of its will to live. When humans attack or kill each other or other beings it is because we are not in harmony of heart and mind. We are unwell. Even as a sport when we want to defeat someone in competition it is a revealing reflection of our inner landscape.
It is the philosophy of Ly Chi Gung to practice diligently for inner peace and harmony within one self and the natural ebb and flow of nature so that one is able and ready for any possible event great or small.
We are peaceful and wholesome but we will retaliate or defend ourselves like a tiger, snake, crane, monkey, dragon or any other sentient being that has the same and equal right as everything else to live.
What was your experience of school like, did you feel you were learning what you needed to, to fulfil your destiny as a healer?
To be honest, my school life was not a great experience. I enjoyed gymnastics, sports and particularly basketball and hanging out with my school friends. I was never really academically inclined and it did not help that I am dyslexic. I did not know when I was younger that I would be a healer but I have always had an inherent nurturing and deeply caring side to me. I believe that we are all healers. We just need to be open and honest within ourselves, so we can heal ourselves first because ultimately we can only heal ourselves. I do not like to call myself healer or teacher, I often try to avoid those labels. I see myself as someone who is willing to walk with you through your own internal landscape and help you to recognise and behold how beautiful it can be.
Who or what is the greatest influence in your life?
First and for most, it would be my immediate family. My mother and father are both very loving and compassionate human beings who would not hesitate to help anyone in any situation, great or small. My grandparents who have all passed on and all my ancestors who paved way for me to be here.
I behold everyone and every situation I encounter day to day as my teacher for I believe that this helps me to be lucid and dynamic within myself and all that I can accomplish or will to do.
In our family philosophy, this is called The Middle Way. It is the way of least resistance and in flow of The Tao. We do not need recognition or acknowledgement of our accomplishments or failures. The most important thing to know is that all of life is an experience from which we are an embodiment of. Live life honestly and truly with no regrets.
You are a massage therapist, body worker, and energetic healer, what sort of troubles or conditions do people seek you out for?
My client base is broad and varied and consists of any age group – everyone, especially those who live busy lives need some kind of help with either relaxing or stress management. Within my Vietnamese community, I am known as the person to come for spiritual and energy healing. I can be called to help a child that is having problems with eating or sleeping, elderly people who are finding it difficult to breath or swallow, people who have had strokes and need help to un-coil and re-establish their physiology. I have helped people with scoliosis, lack of self-esteem and depression or other forms of emotional imbalance and there are also occasions when I am called to help loved ones pass-over.
My western clients generally come to me for shoulder, neck, lumbar, or general RSI (repetitive strain injury) related ailments. I have always been recommended through word of mouth and I feel this is more in line with my family tradition and philosophy as we do not like to sugar-coat or sell our gifts and abilities. On a personal note, I strongly believe that we can only help those that want and will help themselves too. The healing, happens at the meeting point and that is why it is very important that healer and recipient have a mutual duty to be present and committed during the healing process. My Ly Chi Gung students at one time or another have had treatment from me to aid in their diligent practices and it is with these students that I see the most positive change. I am very proud of their devotion, courage and steadfastness in reflection to my mutual devotional servitude.
What makes you optimistic in the world?
I have come a long way to how I used to be. Like any other, I have had my low and high points throughout my life but what reminds me every day of how blessed life can be is that I can wake up and continue on with my experience in this life.
I live life with no regrets knowing that everything was here before I entered and everything will still be here when I go. I have faith that the world is perfect the way it is and that peace within the individual will inspire and be example for the whole.
A day never goes by without…
Laughing at my thoughts! I am aware that I can come across as being serious and thoughtful but what most people who do not know me personally, is that I have a great sense of humour and optimism! A fundamental practice in my family tradition Ly Chi Gung, is the diligent practice of lotus and river meditation and as a result we are able to watch our thoughts from a perspective that is not within them. Almost like Deadpool from the Marvel comic universe. We are aware that we are just playing a character within“““ our own imagination.
I am constantly laughing at the nattering of my “monkey mind” or laughing inwardly at the nattering or actions of other monkey minds. Humans are a very funny bunch indeed!
Do you have a favourite part of London and why?
I am very fond of Hampstead Heath Park and Epping Forest because these places can take me away from the hustle and bustle of city life. I have always had a love for nature and especially forests and particularly love open spaces where our view of the horizon is unhampered by straight lines, right angles, mirrors and signs.
You Can Contact Kai to enquire about a treatment or classes through his Facebook page Riding The Wave of Love