Lotus Nei Gong was established in early 2005 by Damo Mitchell who has studied the martial arts of Asia since he was four years old. Since this time the school has grown and now many dedicated students study the Daoist arts in our various classes and courses which we run in the UK, Sweden and the United States.
Despite this, the training is not as it was. In ancient times the students would live with their teacher and study full-time in secluded areas away from the rest of society. In this way it was ensured that the teachings were passed on correctly and to a high level. It was this style of training that enabled students to reach levels of skill that are almost lost in modern times due to the various distractions which hinder the majority of people.
In order to reach the skill levels of the ancient Daoists we must train as they did. It was this need that led to the concept of the Daoist Retreat Centre. The centre is the realisation of Damo’s vision of a place where the Daoist arts can flourish and dedicated practitioners can work to attain true Gong (skill).
In modern times it is common for styles to be simplified and ‘short-cuts’ into teaching the arts are common-place. This has resulted in the arts being watered down and much of their original depth being lost. Whilst it is true that students studying these systems may still gain health benefits from their practice, the concept of self-cultivation is pretty much lost. If self-cultivation is no longer the underlying philosophy of the arts then they have lost their original purpose.
It is hoped that through the efforts of the students at the Retreat Centre we will be able to work together to bring back the original ideals of martial arts training. Only then will we be able to preserve the teachings of the ancient Daoists for future generations of martial artists.
This is the main website for the centre.Please take some time to look around and find out what we teach and how we teach it. We will also use this site to keep you up to date with developments in the building of the project and eventually the training itself.
Training at the centre will offer students the chance to live in a simple setting with no outside distractions. They will have the opportunity to stay from a single week through to several months at a time. For six and half days a week (with one and half days rest) they will study the three main branches of the Daoist arts (martial arts, medicine and philosophy) with Damo who will oversee the development of each student individually.
Students will live in a small group in the forest and train the full syllabus of their chosen style including basics (Ji Ben Gong), form work (Tao-Lu), body conditioning and partner work. Alongside this they will also study meditation, Qi Gong and medical massage. They will live in accordance with the cycles of nature and the timetable will be dictated to some degree by the movement of energies in the environment. Alchemy practices will follow the phases of the moon so as to match the old ways of training.
The accommodation block is far from the nearest town. It is sat on the edge of the forest next to a river that runs across the retreat centre land. The training hall is sat on a small hill five minutes from the accommodation building. Here will be all of the equipment necessary for studying the Daoist arts and students will spend the majority of their day here.
The timetable places a great deal of emphasis on conditioning and Ji Ben Gong (basics) relevant to the students chosen art. This is where the real skill comes from. It is a modern concept to study only forms, in ancient times the forms contained the information on the styles fighting strategy but the Ji Ben Gong provided the basis for attaining true ability.
There will be no guaranteed timescales for learning a style and no promise of teaching certificates being handed out. The time that it takes to become proficient in a particular style depends entirely upon the amount of effort put in by the individual as well as their amount of previous experience. It is possible to be given permission to teach the style you have studied at the centre but this permission is considered on an individual basis and only goes to those who have reached the required level of skill.
At Lotus Nei Gong we are concerned with developing real skill and self cultivation, not handing out pieces of paper.
The majority of the training at the Lotus Retreat Centre is in traditional Chinese martial arts. The various styles which Damo has studied are offered including Northern Shaolin, Taijiquan, Xingyiquan and Baguazhang as well as elements of other arts such as Yi Quan and Wuyiquan. Students spend their day learning the various forms and sequences of their style as well as the conditioning and partner practices relevant to them. The internal elements of Nei Gong are gradually layered into the arts as students reach the appropriate level.
The martial arts training is very rigorous and as close to traditional training as we can manage without risking the lives of the students staying here! Conditioning includes both internal and external training methods. As students progress the emphasis switches from primarily external to more internal methods culminating in the alchemical Daoist methods of the Quanzhen tradition.
Students are taught in the old way, each learning one movement or principle which they then have the responsibility of practicing until proficiency is achieved. This can sometimes take many days and for those staying for protracted lengths of time there can be much repetition and sweating as the principles are drilled until they become completely natural. This may seem like a slow way to progress but it is, in fact, the only way to truly attain skill. In modern times students are taught too many movements too quickly and so consequently no real level skill is attained.
It must be remembered that the study of martial arts is essentially the study of internal cultivation. Far more than simply fighting styles, traditional Gong Fu systems are a way to transcend the insecurities and acquired aspects of ourselves which enable us to comprehend the nature of existence and Dao. Whilst the retreat centre training is practical and sometimes quite brutal it is important that this concept of spiritual evolution is kept close to our hearts. If this is not the case then there is the risk that Gong Fu training becomes nothing more than an outlet for the competitive and violent sides of our nature. It is for this reason that meditative practices and much self analysis is encouraged at the centre along with a study of the Eastern philosophies which underpin the arts.
We have a full syllabus which can be seen elsewhere on the site. This syllabus includes empty handed training as well as weaponry which ranges from swords and poles to ranged weaponry such as the longbow. Students study the foundations of their chosen style and then progress naturally through the various layers of the syllabus as is appropriate. It is for this reason that students are able to choose their style of training but not individual sequences and exercises. Everybody starts at the beginning of their chosen style and only learns advanced forms and practices as appropriate. We also encourage those with little or no martial arts experience to avoid more advanced subjects such as weaponry, Xingyiquan and Baguazhang.
Daoism is a multi-faceted tradition including not only martial arts but meditation, medicine, philosophy, music and more. At the retreat centre we teach various aspects of Daoism alongside our martial arts including meditation, Nei Gong and medicine. It is hoped that from this rounded approach each student can more effectively be led into the deeper levels of Daoist training; cultivation can come in many forms.
No internal Daoist training would be complete without the study of Qi Gong. An exploration of the nature of ones own energy system provides the basis for internal strength development (Nei Jin) as well as the evolution of consciousness. Medical, martial and spiritual Qi Gong is studied at the centre whilst more advanced students move deeper into the arcane art of Nei Gong. The retreat centre location is ideal for the study of internal energetic practices as the Qi of the surrounding area supports and nourishes the students who practice in the area. Away from the distractions of outside life we can experience the profound stillness which sits at the very centre of the human soul.
Early each morning students begin with sitting meditation to cultivate the mind. Foundational practices progress into the alchemical Daoist practices which have been practiced high in the mountains of China for hundreds/thousands of years. This practice often continues into the free periods for dedicated students who become absorbed in the oldest form of internal cultivation known top man. At night we often head into the forests high over the nearby lake to continue with our meditation practices and much of this takes place at midnight depending upon the phases of the moon which we utilise within our practices.
Every student studies some aspects of Chinese medicine including massage, acupuncture and energetic medicine as appropriate. The philosophy and Yang Sheng Fa teachings of Chinese medicine are intertwined with all Daoist arts including Gong Fu. Understanding Chinese medicine can lead a practitioner deeper into their martial arts and it was often stated that nobody could ever understand internal martial arts training without also studying Chinese medicinal practices. In order to encompass as much of the Daoist arts as possible Damo and some of his students who are qualified in Chinese medicine run classes throughout the time at the retreat centre.
Damo is a very organic teacher and often completely changes the course of the day to suit the energy of that particular time. It is normal for elements of other Daoist arts to be studied spontaneously including such arts as Feng Shui, Shen Gong and more. These teachings are very much dependant upon the day and the needs/skills of the students present. It is hoped that these studies allow for the rich tradition of Daoism to be studied in as much depth as possible. Visiting instructors may also add to these teachings on occasion.
Living conditions at the retreat centre are comfortable but basic with students living as close to nature as possible. Construction at the retreat centre is ongoing as funds become available. So far we have a temporary covered training area for when the weather is bad, accommodation in Yurts, a covered living area, an outdoor martial arts gym, meditation and medicine rooms and a couple of other rooms as well as showers and toilets.
Future plans include a hilltop training area, more developed accommodation and a sauna. We are hoping to have these completed by the middle of 2014. We will keep those interested updates on this site.
The whole area was designed according to Feng Shui principles and has cultivation at the heart of its design…
Students stay in shared, single sex Yurts with between two and four beds in them. The only exception is a small room for three people which is attached to the meditation block. These are very comfortable and many students who have stayed in them claim to have had the best nights sleep ever! Unlike a brick or wooden house, the Qi is able to move through the walls of the Yurt enabling those living within them to connect with the environment during their sleep practice.
We have two toilets which are ‘drop style’ toilets near to the centre. We also have two cold showers which use water pumped directly from the river which we filter and store in a tank near to the accommodation blocks. It is important to us that we have no electricity at the centre as we wish to live as traditionally as possible and cold showers are a product of this…
Students cook for themselves with food provided by us at the centre. All of the food is healthy and selected especially to ensure good health and enough energy for the practices. Students cook in small teams within the covered area of the retreat centre.
Most training is carried out within the surrounding forests and hills of the area within which the retreat centre sits as well as down in the lake and (during bad weather) in the hall we have in place nearby. We also have the gym area which can be seen in the training video on the homepage of this site.
Be aware that living here is basic with no electricity. This is deliberate. The whole retreat centre is set up with cultivation and ‘retreat’ in mind. At times it can be uncomfortable and so only those wishing to fully embrace traditional living should apply to come to the centre.
Students study 8 hours a day with one and half days rest each week. Training commences early in the morning and sometimes goes on until midnight. During the free periods it is expected that students rest if they need to or else continue with their own personal practice.