Big Bank Hank

Back when I was a teenager one song that still sticks in my mind is Rappers Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang. I particularly remember the line in it that says “ after school, I take a dip in the pool”….. It conjured up images of how great it must be to go to school in America ( I’m talking here about in the late 70s ), come home and take a dip in the pool! Whether or not I would have been a better student if I lived in America is probably highly unlikely but- it would serve as a nice distraction to know that someone somewhere could do this as I sweated over my textbooks to pass my GCSE’s and O levels. (For your information- I successfully failed quite a few of them but managed to be one of the very few students who left school at 16 to go to work. I literally walked into a job in a law firm after my first ever job interview. I was shining that day)

I read recently that Big Bank Hank sadly passed away from complications with cancer. I thought I would like to pen this in his honour and, as a homage to the Sugar Hill Gang, I would like to explain how Sugar is viewed in the context of oriental medicine.

Sugar has a very expansive quality. It gives you a fix energy wise but in this context is very warming for the body. Organs that get too hot can fail to function well. In particular, a hot spleen-pancreas won’t deliver insulin as well as it should.

In oriental medicine, we tend to look more at the source of the problem and it’s always best to understand something from the general principle. I am writing this to help you make a change based on the sound principles of Eastern philosophy and medicine.

腎臓

The Kidney is represented by the following Kanji 腎. I would like to break it down for you. There are three images in this kanji.T he top of this Kanji literally has the image of an eye on the left臣. On the right in an image of a person hitting someone with a stick又. On its own, these two images have the idea of being strict or firm with something- a bit like keeping an eye on someone. The correct interpretation is to be firm. The character below this image is the kanji that means flesh肉, so the literal meaning of the kanji for Kidney means firm flesh. You can see this idea makes sense, as any kind of oedema that occurs with kidney problems is usually firm upon pressure. (Think of swollen legs, knees and ankles).

The energetic quality of the kidney is to keep the fluids in the correct place- i.e., in the kidneys themselves. A healthy person with good kidney function usually has a fleshy yet firm lower back. It’s particularly noticeable in good martial artists.

We can further say that the contracting yin energy is important in life, it’s the energy behind every expansive yang action. It’s the driving force behind how you go out and present yourself in the world. In other words, something must go in before it goes out. Try holding your arm up at full length as if pointing to something. A few muscles will need to contract to do this. If you start mucking about with the contractive energy, then it will have results that will affect the efficiency of your everyday expansive function.

There is always a balance in life. You don’t want things to be too contracted and at the same time, not too loose either. Sugar is one of the main ingredients that affect this contractive function and it’s actually quite difficult to avoid.

The body naturally wants to be a little tight (firm). If it wasn’t -then we would collapse into one fleshy heap*  ( click here to see what I mean )

Sugar is very relaxing, if you eat it you can feel your body relax, particularly if you’re a bit tired or stressed. Of course, we can’t avoid sugar but we can certainly consciously reduce it. If the body is too relaxed or overheating, the kidneys will be working hard to cool and firm the body. This is why, as you get older, you tend to put on weight easily and if you’re not careful- will suffer type 2 diabetes and all the unhealthy trimmings that come with it such as high blood pressure/ poor circulation/ cardiovascular disease…NICE!

To improve the contractile function- as well as reducing your sugar intake, you can also think about doing some appropriate exercise. Particularly work on the lower legs (click here for the previous blog on exercise). Standing Yi Quan meditation practice is very good for this as is generally working on the legs.

As we have mentioned diabetes – it’s no mistake that the flesh肉(form) and the Spleen-pancreas are directly related in Oriental medicine. Exercise is one of the key factors in preventing diabetes type 2!

Finally, the ability to relax naturally requires energy. We can say this is the “Yin within the Yang”. It’s not easy finding this “balance” but- more importantly- the beauty of oriental medicine is its ability to add and improve health by small increments. This means that the good can get better and surely if you can get better then it must be good!

Enjoy your day!

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Illustration by Etsuko Nagahama // Photos by Harumi Urano
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