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 Taijiquan short and long forms, the Jian (Taijiquan sword), Nei Gong and Nei Dan (Meditation), Hunyuan Taijiquan 24 form, and finally Karate-do, although in a much softer relaxed way than I practiced it years ago. In 2019 I completed a three-year dipolma in Chinese Medicine, Acupunture and Tuina massage with Xian Tian College.
I see myself always as the perpetual student, you should never stop learning always setting your next goal just out of reach. As a teacher my role is to help develop my students and pass on this information to the best of my ability, it’s not about me and my ego but about their development, and that should never be forgotten.
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.