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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Qi gong master focuses on asthma

By Christine Terada
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hong Liu

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Participants will learn about natural foods and recipes, reflexology points and energy-based exercises that can help relieve the symptoms of asthma, in partnership with traditional medical treatment.

Where: Qi Center, 1110 University Ave., ground floor

When: 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. tomorrow, July 30 and Aug. 19. Participants are encouraged to attend all sessions.

Cost: Free

Registration/information: 947-1333, honolulu@theqicenter.org

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Grand master Hong Liu wraps up a quick lunch with friends as the noon sun pours through the windows of the spacious, circular Qi Center on University Avenue. The room houses the Natural Healing Research Foundation that he established in 2005.

Soft-spoken and smiling, he sports the loose-fitting, plain Chinese-style outfit that he wears each day in a different color, whether or not he is practicing his specialty, qi gong, an Eastern method of physically and mentally engaging the body's healing energy. On this day, it's blue.

He has a down-to-earth demeanor and appears calm, despite a hectic travel schedule that takes him around the world to teach natural-healing techniques.

Most refer to him as "Master Hong," a grand master of qi gong for the past 35 years, an expert in combining Western and Eastern medicine, and a "Living Treasure," as proclaimed by the Hawai'i Legislature and his home country of China in 2004. While friendly, he's determined to avoid talking about himself. It's about the foundation, he said through a translator.

What he does want to talk about is how people can learn to heal themselves in a simple, cost-effective manner. And his emphasis this summer is working with people who suffer from asthma.

This is the third year of his Free Asthma Humanitarian Event. It takes place during what he expects to be the three hottest days of the year, when the practitioner believes that the heat makes the body more receptive to treatment because it facilitates the flow of healing energy.

Hong's specialty trains the body and mind to harness qi the body's essential energy, according to its students in a healing process. The Natural Healing Research Foundation seeks to integrate natural healing practices with modern medicine, combining qi gong exercises, healing foods and recipes, herbal supplements, reflexology, energetic psychology and remote energy work. It offers group lessons throughout the year for a fee, though seniors may participate for free.

Hong received medical training at China's Army Medical Hospital University in the 1970s and spent more than three decades studying under three of China's most well-known medical qi gong masters. As one of China's top cancer specialists, he was the qi gong master for the Chinese National Assembly.

After emigrating to the U.S. in 1990, he conducted experiments on qi energy at the University of Southern California, writing "The Healing Art of Qi Gong" in 1996 and working as a distinguished professor of medical qi gong at Emperor's College of Traditional Oriental Medicine in Santa Monica, Calif., and at Samra University of Oriental Medicine in Los Angeles. He now works as an assistant clinical professor at the University of Hawai'i's John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Hector Venegas is one of Hong's most devoted believers, but it wasn't always that way. "For the longest time, my wife has been trying to get me here, but I didn't take it seriously," said the 67-year-old Manoa resident. He finally sought help before undergoing a quadruple bypass surgery late last year and began studying qi gong at the center.

"It changed my way of life," said Venegas. "I lost 40 pounds, I sleep well and I've done away with foods that were killing me."

With that, Venegas stood up and demonstrated a qi gong exercise. He slowly brought his arms together in front of him, raised them over his head and said he felt a rush through his body as he spread his arms outward.

Many medical practitioners are interested in a possible beneficial relationship between Eastern and Western healing methods, but the science to document the effects of practices such as qi gong is inconclusive.

Rosanne Carol Harrigan, head of Complementary and Alternative Medicine at UH's John A. Burns School of Medicine, said, "There is a need for research that tests the efficacy of complementary care approaches, such as qi gong, in association with standard medical therapy to improve health outcomes. I also believe that our preliminary work documents that these studies will have significant outcomes."

The Free Asthma Humanitarian Event is co-sponsored by the Natural Healing Research Foundation and the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine's Department of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Reach Christine Terada at cterada@honoluluadvertiser.com .