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Warrior to Wizard to Monk
The Enlightened Journey of Dr. Maung Gyi
Continued:

Maung Gyi's biological family flourished in the fertile grounds of Athens, and there was comparable growth in his Bando family, as well. The hills and forests in the region created an exceptional training environment for Bando practitioners. Gyi was able to capture and share the rugged Gurkha discipline with his students during seminars and camps. Running, crawling, climbing, swimming, and hiking were all requirements for advancement in the Bando system. The pragmatics of physical conditioning were reinforced through day-long sessions, where practitioners were expected to endure extreme weather conditions as they learned fighting techniques. Combat skills were frequently tested during 'war games' and night maneuvers. Also, there were innumerable backyard and basement sessions with Maung Gyi, where select students were able to refine their skills under his careful scrutiny.
. . . . . . the 'wizard' shares the secrets and spreads his magic with others . . . . . .

Amazingly, Maung Gyi imparted the knowledge of Bando's nine animal systems with his students.8 Practitioners learned the power and aggression of the Bull, Boar, and Tiger Styles. Stealth and flexibility were engendered in many who devoted themselves to learning the Panther, Python, and Eagle Styles. As well, there was the poison and precision of the Cobra, Viper, and Scorpion Styles. With the combined talents of an Animist sage and Shaman adept, Dr. Gyi embodied each of the animals as he shared the secrets of these Burmese fighting traditions.

Techniques for edge weapons and staffs were not limited to mere combat drills, but the wizardry of Maung Gyi was also reflected in certain exotic methods. Medium and short staff approaches found their way into the Bando dialectic, where hidden draws and trapping skills were shared. Methods for edge weapons ranged from spears and three-foot swords to daggers and folding knives. Too much information for any one student to ingest, yet all this knowledge emitted from one source-Grandmaster Gyi.

The long journey from Southeast Asia to southeastern Ohio represented far more than time and space for Maung Gyi, rather it ostensibly represented a spiritual transformation. Consider the campus legend at Ohio University that there was an Asian professor who possessed the power to eradicate evil spirits and demons from a dormitory that was believed to be haunted. The plausibility of his legendary act of exorcism is not as important as Dr. Gyi's increasing spiritual connectedness. From the late 1980s to the present date, he has delved increasingly deeper into Bando's spiritual dimension, reflected in the Monk System.
. . . . . . the 'monk' reveals himself as the grandmaster ascends . . . . . .

Essentially, the Monk System of ancient Burma with its non-aggressive techniques and wellness elements constitutes the 'high style' of Bando, integrating the body, mind, and spirit to achieve harmony with self and others.9 This system is not a religion, a doctrine, or a dogma, even though it is based on ancient Hindu and Buddhist principals of non-violence. Instead, it is a guide for improving one's health, cultivating energy and developing both physical and mental discipline. Origins of the system are suggested by historians and archaeologists to date back more than 3,000 years to Brahmin tribes that migrated from India and settled in the Irrawaddy River valley in Burma. By the 3rd Century, a highly advanced culture known as the Pyu Kingdom developed in the north-central region. The Pyu Kingdom maintained a peaceful society and embraced high spiritual ideals. Pyu people were known to practice various types of yoga, such as Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Tantric Yoga and Hatha Yoga.

The Pyu Kingdom ultimately succumbed to warrior tribes that invaded from the north, resulting in the destruction of many writings and symbols. Nevertheless, the Pyu are credited with creating the elements of Bando's Monk System. Formal organization of the Monk System occurred centuries later during the Great Pagan Era [12th Century] in Burmese history. The Venerable Monk Oopali [also spelled Upali] is credited with bringing together ancient yogic and defense practices to formalize the Monk System practices.10 As a result of successive tribal conflicts, many temples and orders of the system disappeared. Only a handful of organizations in Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos still practice the system. However, teachings of the Monk System have been honored and preserved through the teachings of Maung Gyi in America.

Dr. Gyi has formally retired as chief instructor of the ABA as of 2005, and has pledged to preserve Oopali's valuable legacy. He now conducts classes with a cross section of health-care professionals and martial artists, including physicians, therapists, alternative healers, and practitioners of internal martial-arts systems. Dr. Gyi focuses on physical restoration and healing; internal energy management; and spiritual fulfillment through meditation and yoga. Fasting, vegetarian diets, and non-violence are key principles to be followed by Monk System adherents-all practices that Maung Gyi has grown to embrace.

More often than not, Dr. Gyi can be found trekking through the forests of Athens County, where he will meditate and commune with nature. Students are learning Dhanda Yoga, Letha Yoga, Min Zin, and other self-healing techniques from the emerging monk. The hard combat practices of past years have given way to 'soft' defensive methods designed to discourage aggression and to subdue an opponent without injury. In a manner of speaking, his childhood dream of becoming a physician has been achieved. Albeit from an alternative perspective, Maung Gyi has become a healer as his methods are now being taught at Colleges of Medicine throughout Ohio.
. . . . . . the enlightened journey leads to the humbles work of a 'monk' . . . . . .

The Legacy
More than 40 years have passed since Maung Gyi began sharing the philosophy, principles, and practices of Bando with his students in America. He journeyed from his birthplace of Mandalay, Burma across several continents and through many phases of personal development to become a major influence on martial arts in the West. Throughout this 'enlightened journey,' Maung Gyi never lost perspective regarding the legacy passed down by his father, Ba Than Gyi. The elder Gyi reconstituted the ancient fighting methods and strands during the pre-World War II years in Burma, and imposed a mission on his son to continue Bando's development.
. . . . . . no one nation or system has a monopoly on truth . . . . . .

Ba Than Gyi believed in seeking techniques that worked and discarded any martial elements that were not practical. The elder Gyi likened the modernized version of Hanthaway Bando to a dump truck. This description was offered as a contrast to many other martial arts styles with highly complex and sophisticated movements. These other styles were viewed by Ba Than Gyi as analogous to a fine sports car, such as a Maserati or Lamborgini. In contrast, he explained Bando as a utility-oriented vehicle that would be "durable under stress like a dump truck." By the start of World War II, the Bando System had been structured into a set of functional methods, which were adopted and codified from many sources throughout Southeast Asia.

Maung Gyi has extended this legacy of pragmatics well into the 21st Century. Moreover, Bando in America has not stagnated under his leadership. Dr. Gyi has emphasized diversity in both substance and structure within the organization that he founded during the 1960s-the American Bando Association (ABA). ABA membership has always been open and unrestrictive, reflecting the social landscape of the United States. In fact, practitioners within this organization encompass a broad range of economic, ethnic, educational, and religious backgrounds. Community service is required for promotion to the instructor level (i.e., black belt rank) and beyond in order to sensitize practitioners to social differences. To extend this ideal, ABA members are required to provide volunteer services for veterans groups, senior facilities, hospitals, and public schools.
. . . . . . pride, fear, and arrogance hinder the learning process . . . . . .

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