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.
Laoshr Damo (Damien) Mitchell was born into a family of martial artists in the 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 and uncle, a long time student of Shen Hongxun. Damo has continued to develop, practice and teach this system of Taijiquan since this time and also studied with Shen as well as his daughter Shen Jin. Here 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.
Whilst 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.
Damo's travels in search of authentic teachings have taken him across the East where he returns regularly. His studies have taken him to Shandong province where he studied the Hunyuan system of grandmaster Feng over a period of several years. He lived and studied with master Ni when in Northern China and also studied the system with other teachers such as Qi Zhaoling and Chen Xiu. Whilst 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 and 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 South East Asia where he studied Theravadan Buddhism in various monasteries. The monks of South East Asia base much of their teachings around breath control and these practices can be directly transferred into Daoist internal exercises. Various trips to South East Asia (including a nine month stay in Thailand) 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 South East Asian Buddhism.
Alongside his studies in the Martial Arts of Asia, Damo also explores Western Hermetecism which he finds a useful complement to Daoism. These studies are under Sifu Mark Rasmus who has accredited him to teach this system.
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 Lotus Nei Gong's syllabus. Damo is an advanced level instructor member of the Tai Chi Union of Great Britain.
He has written several books on the internal arts with his publisher Singing Dragon. He has also written several articles for internal arts magazines and has been featured on the cover of the Tai Chi Chuan and Oriental Arts Magazine.
Damo has taught classes and courses in many countries including; UK, Sweden, USA, Canada, China, Turkey, Thailand. In 2012 Damo established the Lotus Nei Gong Retreat Centre in Sweden which enabled 3 month long intensive retreats to be carried out with students living together in the forests of Sweden studying the Daoist arts. Students study in a classical manner from dawn until nightfall in very basic conditions and no outside distractions.
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.