by John Crescione
First, I would like to thank everybody for calling or writing me with comments, questions, praise and some criticism on the article [about Wing Chun Dit Da Jow]. The biggest problem most Westerners have with Oriental martial arts is a lack of being able to read, write or understand the language. It can be very frustrating trying to make sense out of a flowery concept like “Beauty plays the flute.” And then, trying to apply that to fighting is harder still because it is open to so much interpretation. With that in mind, how do you decipher Oriental medicine? “Can’t read the writing, don’t know what the heck is in those jars, and they don’t look like anything that can be good for me – sea horses, deer antler, seal penis and something that looks like wood!” Then, is it (the problem) caused by dampness or wind, excess yin or deficient yang? HEEEEEELP MEEEEEEEEE SIFUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yes, at that point I too went running to sifu for help and guidance. At the end of the last article I mentioned an American Jow. Why? For many reasons. Purists will argue it’s not the same – maybe so, or maybe not. Do the purists make their own rice wine before they add the herbs? Do you know what a pain it is to try and make rice wine? Where can you get the herbs, and how do you really know if they’re fresh (the most common question I got asked). Most people don’t live near a Chinatown and have to do mail-order, and that can be expensive. Look, we’re doing a Chinese martial art (most of us) and we should have some knowledge of it. However, the concept is more important, “Why are you making what you’re making?” Because of necessity. Like the barefoot doctors did hundreds of years ago. FOLKS – THIS IS THE 90’S. A Ferrari is a heck of a lot better than that Model T of Granddad’s if you’re not talking about nostalgia and history. As a martial artist it becomes important to know how to make a jow recipe from the land, not the herb store. Here are two stories to help me explain myself.
A Chinese master was giving a demonstration on Hard Chi Gung. He had four slabs placed on his head, and then a trusty student smashed the slabs with a sledge hammer. The master was unharmed, happy and smiling. Applause, Applause!! When he sat down next to me after the demonstration I asked him, “Sifu, with all due respect, doesn’t that hurt??” He said, “Yeah, it hurts like hell!!” So I proceed to adjust his neck and head. After, he said to me, “That was very good, but I have something at home that works just as good. Come drive me home and I will share it with you.” Now here I am, I’m going to this Sifu’s house to be revealed a secret Chinese magic herbal preparation. How would you feel? So I drive him home, and we go upstairs into his apartment. “You wait here, I’ll be right back.” He goes into another room and returns. “Here, this is very good for head pain.” And lo and behold the magic herbal is … Tylenol. This is the 90’s, folks.
I once had a kung fu student from a different Wing Chun school visit me and my class (same lineage, different branch). After class, one of my student’s was complaining of ankle pain. So I checked his ankle and foot and found that he had moved two bones in his arch and one bone in his ankle. I proceeded to adjust the ankle while the visiting student watched. After I was done he asked me why I didn’t use meridian/acupuncture point therapy on him? “Because this works faster and better.” He looked at me, puzzled and confused. Did I want to spend 15 minutes doing meridian work on a structural fault, and let the body’s own innate energy move the bones themselves and then heal the tissue? Or, would it be simpler and faster to move the bones and then let the body heal itself? This is the 90’s, folks – and we do Wing Chun, not Tai Chi (that’s not a shot.)
Even in the old KUNG FU television series Caine took American herbs from the Indians, because he was unfamiliar with them, and added them to his healing pouch (Just how many herbs did he have in there anyway – kind of like Batman’s utility belt, huh?).
We are American martial artists, and our knowledge needs to be as broad as possible when it comes to the healing part of this thing we do, even if it’s just for ourselves. Whether you like it or not, today’s Ben Gay is ancient Tiger Balm.
I will give you two recipes, simple to make, easy to get the herbs in most good health food stores or grocery store AND you won’t have to wait 6 weeks to 6 months for the stuff to be usable.
No claims made, this is for educational purposes only. Consult your Sifu, Medical Doctor, or knowledgeable health care practitioner for further use or injuries.
When trying to make an herbal preparation you must keep in mind what the preparation is suppose to be doing, what qualities do you want in the jow? If you’re making an Iron Palm jow then you need to keep in mind bone healing as well as circulation. Following are some guidelines:
- Reduce pain
- Stimulate blood flow
- Break blood clots
- Strengthen tissue
- Increase tissue healing and immune system response
- Strengthen muscle (and bone – if your training iron palm)
- Eliminate heat, swelling, dampness or cold
- Have an anti-spasmodic effect
- Stop internal bleeding
These are the basic qualities you are looking to have in your jow formula. For an all purpose jow the above should be evenly balanced, to a little on the tissue-healing side for sprains and bruises. For iron palm – bone healing, strengthening, etc. However, if you know about herbs, then you know that certain ones work better together than others, and a sprain injury will require different herbs than a bone bruise. That’s why you have to do some homework if you’re going to do it yourself. Then call somebody to check your work!
All Purpose Jow
- Alcohol (Vodka, Gin, Brandy – even Rubbing Alcohol) 1 or 2 quarts
- Calendula (Marigold)
- Comfrey (if you can still get it – you may have to grow your own if you want to add this)
- Common Club Moss
- Cow slip
- Shepherd’s Purse
- Stinging Nettle
- St. John’s Wort
- Wintergreen oil (Many times this comes together with rubbing alcohol, either way is fine – obviously if you’re going to use rubbing alcohol you won’t need the vodka, gin, etc. Remember, boxers and other athletes have been using it for hundreds of years and they get abused a lot more on a daily basis than most of us.)
Use 1 oz. of each herb, pour the alcohol into a glass jar (or back into the alcohol bottle – all the herbs should have been ground or are small enough to funnel in). Leave it in a dark place for a week, shaking occasionally and you’re ready to roll (figuratively speaking, no pun intended). True, the longer it keeps the better it will be, but you can use it in about an hour or two if necessary.
Iron Palm Jow
Use the above formula but you MUST ADD THE FOLLOWING:
- Horestail [horsetail?]
- Cow parsnip
- Yellow dead Nettle
Have fun with these. I have used both with excellent results. Many of you may not be able to get all the herbs. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can tell you what you can leave out or substitute if necessary. In the future I will discuss Wing Chun and how it relates to both point hitting and chi gung. Good Training!!