My name is Neil Lodge and my fascination with the Martial Arts began when I was a boy in the early 1970's. My Father had taken up Shotokai Karate and I remember watching him practise his Kata at home, all those strange moves and kicks, they looked so magnificent, but what were they all for?
I didn't start learning Karate until I was about nineteen. When I was younger there was not much available for kids only Judo, and I wanted to do Karate, the style I studied was Shotokan and I became totally absorbed by it. Over the years I studied with some fine teachers from the Japan Karate Association and the Karate Union of Great Britain, but the person who had the greatest influence was my Sensei, Owen Sumner, who invested his time and patience to passing on his knowledge.
I took my Shodan or first degree black belt with Kenosuke Enoeda in 1994 and continued to study for my next belt, Nidan. In order to understand my Karate better, I decided to cross-train in other Martial Arts. As I researched, I slowly realised that the Martial Arts were not just about fighting, we need to cultivate our most important gifts, our health and spirit, without which we have nothing. I had always found it difficult to totally relax, in Karate or for that matter life in general, especially with work deadlines, so I decided to study Buddhist meditation for a while, this helped me focus my mind and relax me to a point but I was still searching for something more, I had reached a crossroads and I had new questions I needed the answer to.
Years ago I had watched a TV documentary called 'The Way of the Warrior' which showed masters in the Asian Martial Arts, I partically remember the Internal Arts of China and especially Tai Chi. This stayed with me so I began reading about the masters of the past with their amazing abilities, and this mysterious 'Qi', but was it really a Martial Art? I naïvely thought how could these slow moving movements work in a fighting situation, or was it just for health, it was so confusing, but the more I researched the more I wanted to learn this strange Art. I read that the famous Karate Instructor Sensei Hirokazu Kanazawa practised Taijiquan alongside his Karate, so I thought there must be something in this.
I had long conversations with a good friend who taught Aikido, so I decided to have a go. It was quite different from Karate-do much more relaxed and softer but devastating, I studied it briefly and it helped me to relax even more, but it still wasn't quite what I was looking for although it was a stepping stone to the Internal Arts and it gave me more answers. I also did some Taijiquan and Qi Gong locally but again it didn't feel right for me, not deep enough, I was still looking.
Then one fortuitous day my friend and Aikido teacher introduced me to Laoshr Damo Mitchell who was opening a class in Cardiff, I went along and this is when I really began my journey into the Internal Arts. I studied Taijiquan, Nei Gong and for a short while Xingyiquan and Baguazhang with Damo and Taijiquan and Nei Gong his Father Paul Mitchell. Over the coming months my body began to slowly change, the small muscles and tissues softened up and I began to fully relax which carried through into my daily life, I knew I had found what I was looking for.
Over the next couple of years I found myself on a life changing course where my health got even better, I became more sensitive to the movement of energy or Qi moving through me and I was beginning the long process of becoming a conduit for this universal life force. I remember the first time I experienced my lower Dan Tien (energy centre) turning, it was a very strange sensation, something it's hard to believe until you feel it for yourself.
Eventually Damo left Cardiff to travel to China and trusted the class he had built up to me. Lotus Nei Gong as an organisation has grown and Damo now teaches in many countries around the world. I can not thank Damo enough for his generousity by showing me this path to follow.
My personal training mainly consists of Huang and Yang style Taijiquan plus the Jian (Taijiquan sword) but also Nei Gong and Nei Dan (Meditation). My other training consists of Hunyuan Taijiquan, Cheng style Baguazhang, Qi Xing Dao (Seven Stars Sabre) and finally Karate-do, although in a much softer relaxed way. In 2016 I started a three-year dipolma in Chinese Medicine, Acupunture and Tuina massage.
Laoshi Damo (Damien) Mitchell was born into a family of martial artists in UK. He began his studies in 1984 under his mother and father who instructed him in traditional Shotokan Karate and Hatha Yoga. As well as the empty hand, Damo studied the Bo staff and various combative techniques with his father and other teachers including Yoshinobu Ohta and Kenosuke Enoeda. These studies continued into his late teens and branched out into various other Japanese systems including Kendo and Iaido under Sensei Yamada and two different schools of Aikido.
In his early teens, Damo began to study the Chinese systems and in particular the Zhen Manqing system of Yang-family Taijiquan. These studies were again within his family under Paul Mitchell (his father) and Phil James, his uncle (a long-time student of Shen Hongxun). Damo has continued to develop, practise and teach this system of Taijiquan since this time and also studied with Shen as well as his daughter Shen Jin. Then, he began to delve deeper into the various aspects of the internal arts and he continued in this manner for several years until he had gained a sufficient understanding of the nature of the human energy system. Alongside the Zhen Manqing system of Taijiquan, Damo has also studied extensively within the Huang Xingxian and Yang-family systems in Europe, China and Southeast Asia. These studies have been with various Asian masters as well as 'Western' adepts such as Sifu Mark Rasmus.
While studying at university, Damo began to learn from various other teachers and gained a thorough grounding in Chang Quan and Tang Lang Quan as well as San Da and various other aspects of the external Chinese styles. From Wang Haitao & Hao Nanren, Damo learnt the Hebei system of Xingyiquan as well as various aspects of Baguazhang. This system of Xingyiquan is based around the development of Jin through consistent practice of the Wu Xing Quan and places less emphasis on the twelve-animal techniques than some other Xingyi systems. Surprisingly, it was Xingyiquan rather than Taijiquan which helped Damo to repair a badly-damaged shoulder which had been causing him a lot of pain for some time.
Damo's travels in search of authentic teachings have taken him across the East where he returns regularly. His studies have taken him to the Shandong province, where he studied the Hunyuan system of grandmaster Feng over a period of several years. He lived and studied with master Ni in Northern China and also studied the system with other teachers such as Qi Zhaoling and Chen Xiu. While staying on Zitong Shan, Damo also studied various forms of Wushu and Chinese wrestling with the excellent coach Peng.
By this time, Damo had been studying various forms of meditation, both Daoist and Buddhist, for many years. It was the logical step to go in search of an authentic master teacher: this is what initially brought Damo to Wudang Shan and the school of Hu Xuezhi. Since this time, Damo has regularly revisited Wudang Shan as well as countless other Daoist mountains and monasteries across China researching their arts. He has studied various martial styles from different Daoist sects.
Damo's travels have taken him across Southeast Asia, where he studied Theravadan Buddhism in various monasteries. The monks of Southeast Asia base much of their teachings around breath control and these practices can be directly transferred into Daoist internal exercises. Various trips to Southeast Asia (which resulted in Thailand being Damo's main home base for many years) enabled Damo to further his studies of meditation and various forms of Yoga. Many teachings of Buddhism are directly transferable into the Daoist arts, and so Lotus Nei Gong includes many practices and principles from Southeast Asian Buddhism.
Alongside his studies in the martial arts of Asia, Damo has also explored Western Hermeticism, which he finds a useful complement to Daoism. These studies were under Sifu Mark Rasmus, who has accredited him to teach this system. Mark has also been a great influence on Damo's Taijiquan training and the Nei Jia taught within Lotus Nei Gong.
There are also a great number of other teachers of the arts across both the east and the west who were a direct influence on Damo Mitchell's practice. These teachers have generally taught arts which Damo does not teach as a part of the Lotus Nei Gong school and, as such, they have not been listed on here as they not directly responsible for the teachings being given. Damo keeps his current teachers in Asia to himself and does not bring them into the public eye as this is their wish. He is a member of two key lines which he continues to research and study within. If his teachers permit him to in the future, he will also include them as a part of his training biography.
As well as his martial arts, Yoga and meditation, Damo has also studied various forms of energetic medicine, Qi Gong therapy, Anmo, Tui-Na and Chinese medicine which he has studied under classical masters in the far East as well as at University level in the UK, where he acquired a BSC (Hons) degree in Acupuncture. Damo is also qualified to teach Wing Chun boxing, although it does not form part of the Lotus Nei Gong syllabus.
Damo has studied a great spectrum of martial-art styles but now focuses almost entirely on the arts of Yang Taijiquan, Cheng Baguazhang and Hebei Xingyiquan. Alongside this, he has his regular alchemical meditation practice and Nei Gong training, which he primarily applies within a medical setting.
He continues to study with three key teachers within two lines of internal training, though at the current time he does not wish to make their names public. These studies take Damo into Southeast Asia and parts of Europe regularly, where he trains for several weeks each year. These names will be given publicly in the future but for now he wishes to quietly continue studying with his teachers in an attempt to understand the complex material they are presenting him with!
Visit Lotus Nei Gong School of Daoist Arts main website on www.lotusneigong.org
Main image; Pracitising Snake Creeps Down at the retreat centre in Sweden. Top left; Practising Kanku Dai kata in Karate. Top right; Damo and myself. Middle left; Practising Zhan Zhuang in Sweden. Middle right; Practising Bagua Qigong. Bottom; Damo practising the Dragon Daoyins on a beach in the USA.