For one Concordia University Chicago graduate, completing the Master of Science in Applied Exercise Science program in the Human Movement Science concentration meant becoming a published author.
Tsz Chiu (Andy) Chan recently published his book, “Dynamic Balance: Integrating Principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine into Strength and Conditioning,” which aims to demystify traditional Chinese medicine.
In writing the book, Chan enlisted the help of co-author Yat Kwan (Stella) Wong, who has her PhD in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) from the University of Hong Kong.
Initially, Chan had become interested in diving into traditional Chinese medicine once certain techniques were brought into the spotlight by pro athletes. In 2016, Olympic swimmer Micheal Phelps was spotted with marks on his back from cupping, a traditional Chinese medicine method meant to improve performance.
“At the time, I was interested in the efficacy of cupping, because in the fitness industry a lot of people are introducing methods like cupping, gua sha, and scraping,” Chan said. “I wanted to understand different ideas on the topic.”
In exploring research papers and materials, Chan discovered two perspectives.
“One was the exercise science perspective from the West, that focused on the soft tissue or the fascia that wraps around the muscles. Yet if you look at the Chinese perspective, this is where things get a bit mystical,” Chan said. “Chinese medicine practitioners in the US usually use language that people wouldn’t understand, and I think that put a seed in me. Because moving forward, if I could produce something that would unpack and demystify traditional Chinese medicine language, I think it would help out the fitness community in understanding the original mindset or thought behind using these methods, so people can utilize these modalities.”
As his final project in the master’s program, he developed a pitch for a book that would dive into TCM, and submitted the pitch to three different publishers. They all accepted.
Chan said the book is meant to be used as a starter kit into the field, as traditional Chinese medicine is an ancient practice with a vast amount of information. Because of its long history, a different approach from traditional Western research methods have to be accounted for.
“That’s one thing I have to keep in mind, that you can’t always just look at the research because research in itself, we learned in my statistics class, can be biased. I think if you just look at Chinese medicine from this perspective, then the current conception is that it’s kind of weird and mystical, but it also presents a great opportunity,” Chan said. “A lot of it is presentation in my opinion. I realized if I present this topic as a weird energy balancing act, then it could be a weird energy balancing act. But if I present it as looking at homeostasis, like we do in exercise physiology, but different modalities and language explaining ways that get me to homeostasis, and instead of using words like ATP I use Qi, it’s just a different language that we use. At the end of the day, I realized there’s nothing weird about it.”
Chan said a big difference between Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine is the way problems in the body are viewed and treated: while Western medicine tends to treat body parts in isolation from one another, traditional Chinese medicine takes a more holistic approach, treating the whole body altogether.
“There’s nothing catchy about it,” Chan explains. “Back then, they didn’t have labs. They did not conduct any expensive studies. I think a lot of things are based on reasoning.”
According to Chan, “the cool thing and most complicated thing in Chinese medicine is that a lot of words have a functional meaning and a philosophical meaning,”
Chan said that one of the biggest misconceptions is that Chinese medicine is a spiritual alternative health practice.
“At the end of the day, we want athletes to perform at their optimum level, which means that their body is being balanced. Unfortunately, the way that it’s presented, a lot of people think that in Chinese medicine, you just have to incorporate meditation or you have to do all this funky stuff to balance your energy,” he said. “But really in the whole medicine system there’s the important premise that different areas of your lifestyle have to be in harmony. It’s more of a lifestyle thing than something that you do spiritually to get your energy balanced.”
Chan’s book is intended for fitness enthusiasts, coaches, and athletes alike.
“I always think we have to be open minded. We now live in a day and age where information is in abundance, and for us athletes and coaches, it never hurts to learn another perspective,” he said. “Why not consider a perspective that’s been around for thousands of years and is time tested, and we know it does your body no harm. I think it’s good to explore different perspectives out there, and in the end, it’s only through experimenting and exploring that you know what’s actually best.”
Chan said that in addition to having the book pitch be a final project in earning his master’s degree, the program also helped him produce his book in that it encouraged frequent writing and helped him develop a sense of self discipline.
“I think it’s the mindset of having that discipline. In an online program, realistically, no one is there to ensure that I’m making progress, and I have to set up a fixed time to do my homework,” he said. “That helps, because when you have a project like writing a book, there’s no clear deadline, and you manage your own schedule.”
Interested in learning more about our master’s program? Check out our webinar hosted by program director Dr. Theresa Miyashita, that goes over everything you need to know about our Master’s in Applied Exercise Science.