December 2000 (Part 1)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Sifu Wong practising kungfu as a small boy

A priceless old photograph showing Sifu Wong (front right) practising Shaolin Kungfu when he was ten years old. The master looking on was Uncle Righteousness.

Question 1

I am not interested in attending a kung fu course, I am interested in finding a master that can instruct me permanently. You see, I wish to become a master like you, someone who uses his spiritual and physical accomplishments for the betterment of mankind, not just the betterment of his own life.

— Jon, UK

Answer

You have to find such a master yourself. My advice is that you have to make sure he is a genuine master and not a bogus one.

Genuine kungfu and chi kung masters seldom claim to save mankind. While they are confident of their own skills and ability, they are also aware of their limitations. Only bogus masters claim to save the world, or make you into a master in three days.

As far as I know, no genuine master will accept as his student someone who is so egoistic as to tell him in essence, even in a polite way, “Train me to be a master or else I will not learn from you”. I am really amazed why so many people, many of whom have no relevant experience, keep telling me they want to be masters even before they have become students.

If you are sincere in wanting to become a master one day and to help others, you will have a much better chance of realizing your ambition if you heel my advice, which is aim to become a good student first, then when you are ready train hard to become a master.

My own experience has shown that ten out of ten of those who wished to learn from me and who did not have any prior kungfu or chi kung experience but who said they wanted to learn the art because they wanted to become a master, did not even have the minimum patience and endurance required of ordinary students!

Most of my beginning students continue to practise regularly what they have learnt at least for many months, and some for many years. Those who wanted to become masters right from the start, could not last even for a few weeks. They had such a shallow, and insulting, concept of the art, but such a bigoted picture of themselves, thinking they could master an ancient, profound art in a few days and start teaching others to save the world.

Question 2

I can be reasonably sure that this was how you found the path you are currently walking. If you could please email me with information regarding where I might go, who I might see, basically the necessary steps to begin my journey, I would greatly appreciate it.

Answer

You are totally mistaken. When I first started to learn kungfu from Uncle Righteousness, it had never crossed my mind that one day I could become a master. I was simply overjoy that I had a chance to be a student, and tried my best to be a good one. I remember my father telling me, “Boy, you are lucky. Now you can learn kungfu.”

Years later, when I was actually quite proficient and was teaching others (not as a master but as an instructor). I learned from other masters, who were all patriarchs in their respective styles since I wanted to learn from the best. I continued my learning from other masters not because I wanted to become a master myself for the betterment of the world, but because I wanted to better myself as I realized my own inadequacy.

Unlike many modern students who often think themselves smarter than their teachers, I came from a time and a tradition when being humble was not only a characteristic of, but actually a requirement for becoming a good student. I am sure that had I been so conceited as to tell any of my teachers the reason I learned from them was because I wanted them to make me into master, theywould have kicked me out or politely told me that they were not good enough for the task and that I had to seek somewhere else.

All genuine masters would feel the same way all my teachers felt. This is only logical and in line with a basic philosophy in all kungfu training that proficiency is possible only when the student is humble enough to listen and learn. When someone already wants to be a master before he is even a student, he simply does not exhibit this humbleness. He is also mistaken to think it is a master's duty or obligation to teach others.

Finding out where you might go, who you might see, basically the necessary steps to begin your journey, are some of the initial tasks you have to do yourself, and they also contribute significantly to your learning experience. If you are lazy to do these basic things yourself and expect someone to spoon-feed you, you probably do not even have the determination and perseverance required of an ordinary kungfu student.

Question 3

My mother who is 73 is blind in her right eye following a long spell of diabetes resulting in pressure in her eyes. At present she has a severe infection of this eye and is undergoing treatment with antibiotics. I would like to ask you if, in your experience with any similar cases, chi kung would help.

— Philip, Malaysia

Answer

Chi kung can help people to improve their eye sight as well as overcome eye problems. I have many successful cases. If you refer to my book, “The Art of Chi Kung”, there is a description of an Australian woman who recovered from impending blindness by practising chi kung.

In your mother's case, the recovery may take a long time because chi kung works holistically. This means it will help her to overcome the most urgent problem first, the next urgent problem next, and so on.

While going blind is urgent from our perspective, it is nevertheless not life threatening, and so from the chi kung perspective it is less important than life sustaining activities. Hence if your mother has problems relating to life sustaining activities, such as weakening of her heart and kidneys, the good effects of her chi kung practice will overcome these problems first.

Although weakening of vital organs may threaten life, most elderly people are generally not immediately aware of the problem. Hence, even if your mother practises chi kung diligently, and experiences an improvement in her quality of life, she may complain that chi kung has not benefited her much as it has not overcome her eye problem — when in fact chi kung may have saved her life.

Secondly chi kung works at the root cause instead of at the symptoms. Her eye problem is the result of pressure on her eyes due to her long spell of diabetes. The eye problem is a symptom. The root cause is her inability to cope with sugar level, which leads to diabetes.

Removing the eye problem, like infection, is removing the symptom. Relief is only temporary. Her eye problem may recur — with the same symptom as infection. or with other systems. Our aim should remove the root cause, that is her inability to adjust to sugar level, which in Chinese medical jargon is generalized as yin-yang disharmony.

The forte of chi kung is to restore yin-yang harmony. When her yin-yang harmony is restored, her diabetes will be overcome, the pressure on her eyes will be gone, and her eye problem will inevitably disappear. This will take time — one or two years, or may be more, depending on other factors like how handicapped are her other life sustaining systems.

The germs infecting her eyes may not wait that long to cause damage. There are a few ways to overcome this enigma. One is to use the thematic approach in chi kung, like channelling chi directly to her eyes to flush out the germs. This also means that some of the chi that would otherwise work on her life threatening problems is diverted to her eye problem.

Another way is to use other healing systems like acupuncture and herbalism.. A third, and probably the fastest way, is to use antibiotics of western medicine.

I would suggest your mother consult a good eye specialist to treat her eye infection with antibiotics. At the same time she should practise chi kung — genuine chi kung, not just chi kung dance. Her regular chi kung practice will overcome the side-effects of antibiotics, remove the root cause of her health problems, and give her a better quality of life.

Shaolin Chi Kung

Practicing high-level chi kung is an excellent way to overcome any illness!

Question 4

I totally agree with you that many kungfu practitioners today fight with karate or taekwando techniques, and some went to the extent of fighting like children. This has caused people from other styles to smear the name of kungfu by saying that it is not effective or practically useless. It hurts me deeply whenever they do that. Fortunately we still have the Shaolin monks and a few genuine kungfu masters like you to defend the respect for Kungfu. Anyhow, I feel that something has to be done about this problem.

— Song, Australia

Answer

It is indeed shameful that kungfu is becoming a laughing stock amongst some martial artists. Nevertheless, I am not sure whether modern Shaolin monks practise traditional Shaolin Kungfu which is a very effective martial art, or modern wushu which is mainly meant for demonstration.

Genuine kungfu is not only very rare today, it was also very rare in the past. The big difference is that today there is a lot of kungfu dance and gymnastics, whereas in the past such pretensions were absent.

Nevertheless genuine kungfu masters did not practise their art for the purpose of showing the world or for correcting the problem of kungfu dancers fighting like children. Some of them do not even want to be known to be masters. If they do something to solve the problem it is their contribution; if they don't it is not for lack of responsibility. One should not forget that for centuries, especially when efficient combat was often a matter of life and death, keeping their fighting secrets was their right and an established tradition.

Question 5

In a kungfu school I was learning mostly forms and some breathing exercise. One day I overheard another student asking the Chinese master if he knew Drunken Fist. He said that he knew but he would never teach that. It really saddened me because it implied that he would rather die with the skill than to pass it on to the next generation.

Answer

It was unfair to judge that master this way. There could be many possible reasons, and one possibility which might or might not be true was that his Drunken Fist, like all the other kungfu sets he taught, was only for demonstration and was ineffective for self defence, which could be inferred from his teaching mainly forms and no combat application. If he was skilful in fighting, he could teach his students effective self defence irrespective of what kungfu sets he might use as his teaching vehicle.

Question 6

Perhaps he was afraid that one day his students would be better than him. This is probably one of the reasons why Westerners are getting better and better at Kungfu, because most Chinese themselves are not willing to put in quality effort to produce good students.

Answer

I don't know whether Westerners are getting better and better than Chinese at kungfu, but whoever are getting better it is not because most Chinese themselves are not willing to put in quality effort to produce good students, but that the better students, Westerners or Chinese, are willing to put in effort in their training. The onus is on the students, not on the teachers.

No matter how little your teacher may have taught you, if you are ready to train for ten years — punching at a sandbag, for example — you would be a master of what you have trained. If you have practised punching a sandbag for ten years, which by itself is an inferior technique, you would have acquired a mastery punch that could fell most opponents in just one strike. Although a powerful punch by itself is insufficient to enable you to fight well, it exemplifies that in the making of a kungfu master, the crucial factors are persistent practice and force development, and not extensive learning and exotic techniques.

Many masters — including myself and my own teachers — want their students to be better than them. I do not merely talk about this philosophy; I manifest it in my teaching. For example, typically my students learn in one year what it took me ten years to learn. But the crucial point to mastery of an art is not learning, but practising. I have practised for more than thirty years; for my students to be near my standard they have to practise at least for ten.

If you hope to become a master one day, you must first of all be a good student. This is only logical, but it really amazes me that today so many people think they can become masters without first becoming good students.

A good student does not demand that the effort comes from the master, he knows the effort has to come from him himself. A good student does not tell his master what, when and how to teach him; he trusts his master's teaching and most importantly he practises regularly and devotedly, and usually practises more than what is required from him.

Not many masters want to teach. Teaching others is not their duty, and often not their interest. If you are lucky enough to find a master willing to teach you, you have to learn according to his terms, not according to yours. Some people asked me to teach them for a few years to train them to be masters, housing and feeding them during their training, in return they helped me to teach other students, forgetting that they hadn't even learnt what they proposed to teach.

I sincerely believe I am offering serious kungfu students a chance to learn high-quality kungfu from my intensive kungfu course, where they can learn techniques and skills that masters in the past might not exchange for a fortune. If students tell me they have no time or cannot afford the fee, that is their choice, but they cannot say they have no opportunity.

Actually, saying they have no time or no money is saying they would learn from me if it is convenient for them. Such persons will never become masters even if the courses were offered them free, because they simply do not have the mind frame of an aspiring student and are not willing to put in the required effort.

combat application

Sifu Wong demonstrating a combat application in a kungfu class in Servilla, Spain

Question 7

Why are there so many commercialized schools out there? What happen to the true spirit of teaching and producing a good student? I am depressed, and perhaps confused.

Answer

You have no justification to be depressed just because kungfu schools charge money. You are free to choose learning from them or not.

I myself charge a lot of money, easily ten or even a hundred times more than what an average kungfu or chi kung teacher charges. My intensive kungfu course costs US$1500 per person for a week, whereas some teachers charge as little as US$15 per person a month. But in terms of value for money, I sincerely believe my kungfu course is ten times or even a hundred times more cost-effective than the $15-courses.

For example, my students actually develop internal force on the very first day of training, whereas even some “masters” chase futilely after internal force for decades. My students know combat principles and application after seven days, whereas many other students do not know what combat principles and application are even if they learn for their whole life.

Yet, some people who have said they would dedicate their life to teaching kungfu to others, as well as some who have said they would sacrifice anything to learn genuine kungfu, expressed shock that my fees were so expensive, or that I charged money. A few people explicitly asked me to teach them free, and also to house and feed them while they were training from me.

In my early years I taught some students free, though I did not house and feed them. They were amongst those who wanted to dedicate themselves to kungfu. But when it rained they did not turn up for training, and when training became demanding they dropped out altogether. They not only wasted my time, they mocked my sincerity in passing on genuine kungfu.

It is unreasonable and unrealistic to imagine that kungfu masters exist just to teach you and others simply because you want to learn. Masters, who have spent some ten or twenty years at least on their art, have no obligations to produce students. Even if you were to pay them a lot of money they may not teach you. It is ridiculous to think that masters must teach freely whoever expresses a desire to learn.

Question 8

Can you give me advice on how to practice Tai Chi Chuan and chi kung on my own without hurting myself? I try to be gentle in my thoughts and movements and have already been able to feel my chi (the descriptions in your book describe it).

— Phillip, USA

Answer

What you have been practising is correct; carry on. A good advice given by masters throughout the centuries are to be gentle and to be natural. If you stick to this, you are quite safe. For example, if you force your breathing, or twist yourself into some unnatural position, you may invite trouble.

Another advice is to leave out visualization if you are a beginner practising without guidance. Your result will of course not be as powerful as another student using visualization under the supervision of a master. This is logical; he has a master to guide him, you don't have. But if you attempt visualization without guidance, you may develop serious harmful side effects. Even without visualization, if you can practise genuine Tai Chi Chuan or chi kung correctly, you can still derive wonderful results.

Question 9

Also, I play college baseball and would like to enhance my mental and physical performance. I train everyday by lifting weights and doing strenuous exercises, but in your book “The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chuan” it says that these types of exercise are not needed. Couldn't the slow movements of Tai Chi and the hefty and fast movements of exercise be used in unison? Is there any exercise that I could do that would increase my ability to throw a ball harder?

Answer

No, the gentle, graceful movements in Tai Chi Chuan and the hefty, fast movements in conventional western exercise should not be used in unison. Some bogus Tai Chi instructors may attempt to “improve” their Tai Chi by incorporating conventional western exercise, but this only indicates their lack of genuine Tai Chi Chuan knowledge.

Conventional western exercise and Tai Chi Chuan employ different principles in their respective force development. Conventional western exercise depends on muscles and speed in producing mechanical strength, whereas Tai Chi Chuan depends on energy and mind in producing internal force.

In the development and application of internal force, you have to relax both your muscles and your mind. If you are mentally or physically tensed, such as intellectualizing on your techniques or tensing your muscles, the flow of your internal force will be interrupted. “Do not use strength and you can develop tremendous amount of internal force” is a kungfu tenet that has puzzled many external martial artists, but students experience its validity on their very first day in my intensive chi kung, Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan courses.

When you have internal force, which is an inevitable result of genuine chi kung, Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan training, you can perform any physical and mental activity better, including throwing a ball harder. There are many exercises to develop internal force. “Grasping Sparrow's Tail” and “Lifting Water” are two examples.

Question 10

I was impressed about your website and I would like to start practicing the Lohan exercise but only seeing the figures I can't get the movement and breathing sequence. Could you send me some textual description of the movements?

— Radu, Japan

Answer

One can only learn external chi kung forms from a book, video, textual description or pictures. If you wish to learn the essence of chi kung, which includes the training of mind and energy, you need to learn personally from a master. It is a great pity that most people today miss the essence of chi kung and practise only its outward forms like dance or gymnastics.

You can take my intensive chi kung course. Many people may wonder what they can learn in a few days, but you will be really surprised. You may read some of the comments past participants to the courses have made in the Comments section of my website

In the course you will learn, amongst other things, how to go into a chi kung state of mind, tap energy from the cosmos and generate an internal energy flow. These are the essence of chi kung. Chi kung patterns, like the Eighteen Lohan Hands, are just techniques to develop such essence.

Taijiquan Tai Chi Chuan

Taijiquan is an internal martial art

Question 11

I' ve just started learning qigong and taijiquan for a little over 3 months. .Recently I started to feel certain parts of my body begin to vibrate on its own. .This initially happens quite frequently just next to the eyebrow. But more recently it has began to move down to just below my shoulder and on my thigh next to the knee cap.

I've consulted my master and he said that it was because I did not rub my whole body properly after finishing my qigong practice. The qi had accumulated at these point and it tried to force its way out .I listened to his advice and gave a good rubdown all over my body after every qigong session but this thing still happened. Any idea why this happens and what should I do?

— Leong, Singapore

Answer

The vibration you felt was the result of chi accumulating there and attempting to break through some blockage. When your mind and body are quiet, you will be able to notice the vibration more discernable. This is what past masters referred to as “jing ji sheng dong”, or “extreme quietness generates motion”.

If you rub your body or that relevant part, you may, or may not, spread the chi elsewhere, and thus the vibration may disappear. But this is not necessarily a wise thing to do, because you would then deny yourself an opportunity to have the chi breaking through your blockage. What you should do is “wu wei”, an important Taoist concept often described as “don't do anything and everything will be done for you”, which is a correct literally translation although usually both the writers themselves and the readers do not actually know what it means.

Here you should practise “wu wei”, i.e. do nothing about the vibration, and the chi accumulated there will break through your energy blockage for your benefit.

It is a natural characteristic of chi to flow to where it is needed most. This explains why even you rubbed your body, you still had the vibration, because when you let go, chi flowed to your blockage to clear it.

This is a fantastic benefit and has helped many people who practise genuine chi kung (which generates harmonious chi flow) to overcome so-called incurable diseases. According to Chinese medical philosophy there is no such a thing as an incurable disease, but some diseases like asthma, high blood pressure and cancer, are considered by some people as incurable because doctors using conventional western medical philosophy do not know what exactly to cure.

Here is where practising genuine chi kung is a great help. Get the chi flowing , then go to “wu wei”, and the chi or energy will flow to the site and cause of the so-called incurable diseases to overcome the problems. The fantastic advantage is the patient does not even need to know where and what the site and cause of his disease are!

This is a good example of “do nothing, and everything will be done for you”. Those who think that the western medical paradigm is the only correct one, will think this chi kung concept crazy, but it is true that chi kung has helped many people to overcome so-called incurable diseases, and this is the gist of how chi kung healing works.

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