July 2000 (Part 2)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Juan enjoying chi flow

Juan experiencing the subtle joys of chi during an intensive chi kung course in Malaysia with Sifu Wong

Question 1

I'm practising Chi-Kung everyday, and everyday I'm feeling better!! I have no words to thank you. What we've learnt is so beautiful and amazing that I cannot think how it will be when I'll learn some Chi-Kung advanced techniques under your teachings!

— Juan, Argentina

Answer

I am very glad of your progress. I am not surprised at your results; they are expected.

You don't have to come for another intensive course for advanced chi kung. Actually one advances in chi kung and also in kungfu not so much by learning new advanced techniques, but more so by practising and practising over and over again what he has learnt. Appreciating this point will give you the key to becoming a master.

There are of course many differences between a master and a student, but a crucial difference, which few people realize, is that a master practises and practises what he already knows, whereas a student keeps learning more and more techniques which he has insufficient time to practise.

This does not mean that it is useless to learn new techniques. When one is ready, which usually means he has put sufficient practice into his present techniques, learning new and more advanced techniques will promote him to a higher (or deeper) level.

Besides the set of exercises which you have learnt in the intensive course with me, the exercises that generate internal energy flow, there is another set of exercises for massaging internal organs. This set of exercises are of a slightly higher level than the first set, but you do not have to take another special course from me for these new exercises. When you have practised the first set of exercises well, you can pick up the second set quite easily. That is the main reason why I do not offer this set in my intensive chi kung course.

But I offer it in the bigger chi kung classes in the numerous countries I visit, where I offer two courses, "Generating Energy Flow" and "Massaging Internal Organs". The reason is due to different needs and conditions of different types of students. Students in big classes do not have the advantage of individual tuition which you and other students who come to Malaysia for intensive chi kung courses have. Hence it is useful for them to learn more techniques. Most of these bigger-class students take both courses together. In other words, what you gain in quality, they compensate with quantity.

When I go to your country to teach chi kung, I shall offer both sets as Course A: Generating Energy Flow, and Course B: Massaging Internal Organs. You can learn the new exercises then.

A really higher level exercise in our school is the Small Universe, which you should learn if you later have the opportunity. Past masters said that if one has attained the Small Universe, he will have overcome all illness. This statement is not an exaggeration. In fact where our school is concerned, it is actually an understatement. We don't even need the Small Universe to overcome all illness, our exercises of a lower level for generating energy flow are sufficient for this purpose, and more.

There are many benefits from the Small Universe. Significantly the emphasis is on developing internal force for martial art and for spiritual cultivation.

But the problem with learning the Small Universe is that unlike "Generating Energy Flow" and "Massaging Internal Organs" it cannot be taught in a few days. A student learning the Small Universe has to be with me for at least a few months, preferable a few years -- a requirement not easy to fulfill when students live far away from their master. In the Small Universe a student does not merely learn from a master; he has to practise under the master's supervision.

Actually I can teach all the techniques of the Small Universe in fifteen minutes and an intelligent student can learn them well. Still, if he does not practise it under my supervision, he is likely to make serious mistakes (even though he has learnt the techniques well) or he may not practise regularly and adequately. This is the main reason why I do not teach the Small Universe easily, although many people have asked me. I do not want merely to teach the Small Universe; I want my students to have the Small Universe. And there is a big difference between the two.

Indeed many of the students who learned Generating Energy Flow or Massaging Internal Organs from me and subsequently benefited much from them, told me that they already knew the Small Universe, or the Microcosmic Flow as it is called in many other schools. They might know the techniques of the Small Universe, but it was obvious they had not attained the Small Universe, because they were at that time still sickly or weak. Had they attained the Small Universe, they would have no need for those exercises belonging to the Generating Energy Flow and Massaging Internal Organs sets.

Question 2

I have just a little knowledge of karate, and find it tiring with all that conditioning exercise I have to put up before the real teaching commences. I believe that sifu is very wise and understanding and I know that sifu is busy travelling around the world. I have deep interest in Chinese kung-fu, and I feel it is part of our ancestor's heritage.

— Myrine, Malaysia

Answer

Personally I find kungfu far superior to karate, especially for a young woman like you. There are many reasons for my opinion, and here are just some of them. In kungfu there is no need to tire yourself with all those conditioning exercises before the real teaching commences.

The hard conditioning as well as other strenuous exercises in karate make you tough and rough like a man. I don't think you or any normal young woman would like to look or behave like a man. On the other hand, kungfu movements make you agile and elegant, and its chi training makes your eyes sparkle and your complexion rosy.

Some karate instructors boast that what a man, or even a brute, can perform (in karate), their female students can perform equally well. Any young woman, if she wants to and is prepared to pay the price, can train herself to be like a man or a brute, but in kungfu philosophy that is both unnecessary and unwise. A young woman can choose those kungfu techniques and skills which are not only congenial to a young woman but also where she has an advantage over a man.

For example, if an opponent pushes at you, instead of resisting head on like what an ox may do, gently step back with one leg, rotate your body to one side and push the opponent to fall sideways. Instead of driving your delicate hand into a sand-bag or a wrapped pole, spend the same time striking a candle flame with your hand in the form of a phoenix-eye, which will cause more damage to an opponent than with a calloused fist.

But of course you have to practise genuine kungfu, which is rare nowadays. If you practise kungfu gymnastics, which is the norm today, you will be less effective in self-defence than those who practise karate

Question 3

I read about an art called chin-na which is very effective but doesn't involve punching or kicking. I desire to learn such an art but because I'm a girl and weak, I am wondering whether it is suitable for me. I know that it takes a long time to study, because it requires knowledge of human's body meridian, bone structure etc. which I know nothing about.

Answer

Chin-na is a unique form of fighting system in kungfu, and is particularly famous in Shaolin Kungfu. As far as I know, no other martial arts other than kungfu have chin-na .

Chin-na may appear like locks and holds, and is sometimes mistaken for them, but it is qualitatively different. When you release your locks or holds on an opponent, he can fight you again. This means that although you lock or hold your opponent, you yourself is also being immobilized.

After you have applied chin-na , you can release your opponent, but he cannot fight you again because your chin-na would have disable his fighting ability, yet you can avoid hurting him seriously.

Yes, to apply chin-na effectively you have to know the meridian system, bone structure, joints and weak spots of the body. In acquiring such knowledge, being a young woman is no disadvantage from being a man.

But a young woman is usually at a disadvantage when considering the force needed for chin-na . This disadvantage can be overcome if you are willing to work a bit harder than a man would, and the force needed in chin-na , which is internal in nature, does not make a young woman muscular and rough like a brute.

Nevertheless I would not recommend chin-na to young women because I would prefer teaching young women kungfu systems where they have a natural advantage over men, such as Flower Style Kungfu and White Crane Kungfu. Great lady kungfu masters like Ng Mui, Miu Chooi Fa and Fong Wing Choon were exponents of these styles.

Yellow Bird Hops up Branch

Instead of blocking Goh's powerful punch, Sifu Wong avoids it by slanting his body backward without moving his feet and simultaneously kicks at Goh's abdominal energy field with a pattern called "Yellow Bird Hops up Branch". This is a useful pattern for a smaller-sized person, like a lady, against a brute. Please see the picture below to see how Goh would counter this kicking attack.

Question 4

Indeed, I wish to learn and I'm prepared to transfer my job to Kedah to learn the art. I realise it might take years to study it, let alone master it. I need your advise. Sacrifices I would sincerely make, though it might take me about a year to make necessary adjustments.

Answer

While I admire your readiness to make sacrifice to learn an art you desire, I would strongly advise you to re-consider carefully before making a definite decision. And once you have made your decision (either way), after very careful consideration and reconsideration (but not hesitation and uncertainty), stick to your decision.

You should consider the following questions. Is your desire to learn the art (or any art) a sincere devotion or a passing fancy? It is easy, especially at your age, to mistake a passing fancy for a sincere devotion. Even if yours is a sincere devotion, reconsider whether it is worth-while for you to make the needed sacrifice.

Remember that today learning kungfu, even very good kungfu, is not a need but a hobby. While good kungfu can give us wonderful benefits, there are also other things that demand your time and attention, such as devotion to your parents, especially if you are so blessed to have them living with you, responsibilities to your job, some play for yourself, and when the time comes finding a good husband and raising happy children.

I would love to teach devoted students, but due to various reasons I do not teach regular classes on a long term basis; at present I only offer intensive courses, and even these are not frequent. If you wish to learn from me, I would suggest that first you learn from local teachers, even if they only teach kungfu gymnastics. When you are quite familiar with kungfu forms, you can see me for refinement.

Also remember that training genuine kungfu is much, much harder than what most people imagine. As I myself have devoted much time to kungfu and sincerely believe in its worth, I do not mean to discourage you but I want to give you a balanced perspective. I also wish to remind you that no matter how much you may be devoted to kungfu, it is meant to enrich your life, and never meant to enslave yourself to it.

Question 5

I have studied Shaolin boxing for almost four years. I don't call it Shaolin Kungfu, because it doesn't have all the ingredients that you prescribed Shaolin Kungfu has. My teacher is a disciple of a master from the south of Mainland China. who has transformed his kungfu into a family style based on his experiences in combat throughout China. His qigong and taijiquan are also radically different from the mainstream

— Chris, Australia

Answer

There are countless styles of kungfu and chi kung, and so long as they bring wholesome benefits it does not really matter whether they are mainstream or not. Judging from your description, yours is certainly good kungfu and you have a good, generous master, whom you must treasure

Actually the kungfu I practise and teach, which I sincerely believe is genuine Shaolin Kungfu, is also not mainstream. More than 80% of the kungfu popularly practised today all over the world -- the mainstream -- do not practise things that we value in my school, such as force training, combat efficiency and spiritual cultivation. Even in the past in China, Shaolin Kungfu was not mainstream kungfu -- it was elite; not many people could have the opportunity to practise genuine Shaolin Kungfu.

It is the same with chi kung. Today mainstream chi kung -- using the term as it is popularly used today -- does not talk about energy flow, which was what genuine chi kung in the past was mainly concerned with. Today mainstream chi kung mainly concerns itself with how the forms should be performed gently an elegantly.

Question 6

My teacher's master lives in China, and the last time I trained with him was 2 years ago. I don't get to talk to him because I can't speak his local dialect, or even Mandarin I've tried talking to my teacher, but he can't answer my questions because he is only interested in the fighting side of what his master has taught him, and I am not about to start judging my teacher. I hope you can answer my question.

Answer

Some masters have attained very high levels in their arts although they may not be knowledgable. This in fact was common in China in the past. Masters were, and should be, excellent performers, not scholars. If some masters are also scholars, that is a bonus.

Your teacher is right to believe that kungfu is for fighting. I agree with him, but I would add that besides this fundamental purpose of all kungfu, some styles of kungfu have other purposes too, such as vitality for daily living and spiritual cultivation for those who are ready.

You mentioned your force training, which is of a high standard and which you have benefitted much, but you did not mention sparring. Is your sparring training systematic, and can you effectively apply your kungfu techniques in sparring? Force training and sparring practice are the two essential factors of kungfu as a martial art.

Lohan Striking Drum

Instead of blocking the kicking leg with brutal force (please see the picture above) Goh retreats his front leg to avoid the kick and simultaneously strikes the kicking leg with a "hanging fist", using a pattern called "Lohan Strikes a Drum". This is anoher example of not meeting strength with equal strength.

Question 7

I have been practicing this qigong for almost two and a half years with excellent results. I was taught by the master himself, who said it was a safe because it required no visualization, and that the physical movements and the proper breathing would increase our qi dramatically. In the first year. I got very good results. I could leave a palm print on somebody's abdomen through three telephone books.

Then one day and I am still not sure why, because I know I didn't do anything different, I started to feel a warm prickly sensation on my body. It felt like an internal wind pathogen, but I had no rash on my body. It moved from place to place on my torso, arms and face, but never on my legs. I couldn't get any good answers from my teacher, because he wasn't particularly interested in fully exploring qigong. So I did the only thing I could think of. I didn't do my qigong for 6 months. I hope you can allay my fears as to what I experienced.

Answer

It is difficult to judge from written description whether the effect of your force training is harmful or beneficial, but I shall try my best. Based on what you have written I believe yours is beneficial.

Feeling a warm sensation travelling about in your body is actually a normal development of chi kung training, including force training in kungfu. Many classical kungfu and chi kung texts mentioned such a flow of sensation, and many of my students felt it. Congratulations, it means you have progressed to a more advanced level.

Even if rashes or pimples appear on your skin, you need not worry. It is a sign that your internal energy flow, as a result of your force training, is cleansing out your deep-rooted toxic waste. On the other hand, if you feel deep pain or feverish, it is a warning sign, in which case you should stop your practice for some time and examine what went wrong. You may continue your practice cautiously after the pain or fever has disappeared.

I would suggest you resume your force training which you have stopped for some time. Do not re-start at the point when you left it; start at a lower level so as to give your body some time to adjust. Gradually work back to your former level, then surpass it. You may or may not feel the same sensations or symptoms as before. If you do not experience those remarkable sensations you felt before, or your sensations are less intense, it does not necessarily mean you are not progressing. Usually it is because being more advanced now than before, the sensations are not so obvious compared to the time you first started.

Should you be uncertain whether you are progressing correctly, a good guideline is as follows. If you feel good after your training, you are doing well. If you feel miserable, in pain, nauseous or tired, you have to check your practice.

Question 8

I talked to an acupuncturist who had done qigong, and he said maybe I have to start learning to move it, because it may be stuck in the yang meridians.

Answer

I disagree with the acupuncturist. When you are unsure, learning to move a huge volume of chi or energy in your body unsupervised by a master, can be dangerous. But your chi is not stuck; it is moving and it has not given you any trouble.

Just continue with your normal chi kung practice. Let the chi flow spontaneously without undue interruption from you. This is what Taoist masters call "wu wei", which actually means spontaneity but is often translated as "don't do anything, and everything will be done for you". When you let chi flow spontaneously after you have generated a good flow, it will always work for your best benefits.

Question 9

Since I was little, my health always has been poor. My parents took me to see many doctors and they all said that I would grow stronger as I grew older. However, ever since my family and I moved to the United States when I was twelve, I had more problems than before. I had a lung operation when I was fifteen, and while the surgeons did fix the problem they couldn't figure out what had caused my lung to collapse all of a sudden.

— Yu, USA

Answer

It is not uncommon nowadays that sometimes western trained doctors cannot find out what is wrong with their patients although both they and the patients know something is wrong. This is because the doctors look at health and illness only from the dimension of the physical body. From the perspective of chi kung, which uses the traditional Chinese medical philosophy, we look at health and illness from all the three dimensions of the physical, the energetic and the spiritual.

In Chinese philosophy every person is made up of three "elements", namely jing , qi and shen , which are his physical body, his energy and his spirit. Many types of illness are caused not by disorder of the physical body, but by the disorder of energy or of spirit. The whole range of organic diseases, for example, is caused by disorder of the energy of the respective organs, and the whole range of psychological diseases by the disorder of the spirit. Western readers will probably feel more at home if they substitute "energy" and "spirit" above with the western equivalent terms of "function" and "consciousness".

Your lung and other problems are probably disorders of energy. In other words, although there may be nothing wrong with the physical structure of your lungs, the energy flow of your lung system is disrupted, resulting in mal-function.

In some cases, prolonged mal-function may produce physical defects. For example, in hypertension patients, the prolonged mal-function of certain parts of the body results in the body not producing the right types and amounts of chemicals to dissolve cholesterol at the blood vessels. This causes the blood vessels to thicker and hardened walls, which is a discernable physical defect. Dilating the blood vessels with drugs is only treating the symptom. The root cause, i.e. the failure of the body to produce the right chemicals is unattended to. In Chinese jargon, this functional failure is referred to as disrupted qi flow.

Question 10

Sometime after the surgery I found out that there was a blind spot in each of my eye. I went to see an eye doctor but he couldm't do anything about it or tell me why they were there.

Answer

This is also an energy problem, and not a physical problem. Your eye doctor could not find anything wrong, although he knows there is something wrong, because energy is still not in the vocabulary of western medicine.

Chi kung masters also do not know, in details, why there was a blind spot in your eyes. All they know is that energy flow is disrupted. But the big difference is that they do not have to know the details, yet they can help you to overcome your eye problem! Of course this is ridiculous if seen from the perspective of western medical philosophy, but from the perspective if chi kung, this is perfectly logical and scientific.

Since your problem is caused by disrupted energy flow, restoring harmonious energy flow will overcome your problem. It is therefore not necessary to know what caused the disrupted energy flow. As an analogy, suppose someone broke his arm. It is not necessary to know what caused his arm to be broken. What is needed is to set his arm right and restore its function.

Question 11

Since I am already twenty one I doubt that my problems will just go away as I grow older. I personally think that they will actually grow worse.

Answer

If you do nothing about it, your problem will grow worse. This is inevitable because since your problem is that of disrupted energy, as time goes by more and more toxic waste will accumulate at the site.

But if you do something about it, you have a good chance to overcome your problem. Practising chi kung is probably your best choice as the forte of chi kung is restoring harmonious energy flow.

chi kung in Ireland

Practicing chi kung is an excellent way to be healthy and elegant

Question 12

After I have read your website, I really would like to go to Malaysia and see how I can improve my health by learning chi gong. However, since I am still a student taking classes all year long and I doubt I will get the permission from my parents, I cannot make that journey in the near future.

Answer

Your thinking is dualistic, i.e. you assume there are only two possibilities -- yes or no -- and nothing more. For example, you assume that you only learn from me in Malaysia or not at all. You have ignored other possibilities. You assume that you are a student taking classes all year long or you cannot be a student. You forget that a student can take leave if he has urgent business to attend to.

You assume that your parents will either give you permission to travel or they don't, and you are prejudiced to think they don't, ignoring the high likelihood that if the travel is important enough for you they will let you travel, even if it costs them much money.

Question 13

Recently my state of health is really taking a toll on me. I feel angry, frustrated, and scared sometimes because I feel that there is nothing I can do to make myself well and I will always be weak and sick. So this is why I seek your advice, Shifu Wong. What should I do?

Answer

Here you are not only dualistic but also pessimistic. But it is not unreasonable for you to feel the way you felt. Although conventional western medical thought says nothing about the direct relationship between feelings and physical illness, traditional Chinese medical thought does. Your energy network has been distorted, and this affects your emotions unfavourably.

A person whose lung system is clogged, would feel depressed and frustrated. A person whose liver system is clogged would feel angry, and one whose kidney system is clogged would feel scared. Psychologists may persuade him by various means that he should not be depressed, angry and scared, but he still is even though he may intellectually know he shouldn't. In your case it is worse because intellectually you assume there is nothing much you could do and yet you are so young.

Here is hope. Your case is helpless only if you view it from the conventional western perspective which, at its present stage of development, has no concept nor vocabulary for energy network. But from the perspective of traditional Chinese medical thought your case is simple! It is due to distorted or disrupted energy flow. By simple is meant that the concept is not complicated; it does not mean that recovery is easy. But at least you know what is wrong with you, and this can give you much comfort.

Besides comfort, knowing what is wrong will give you direction. What you need to do is to remedy the root problem, i.e. restoring your harmonious energy flow. As your problem concerns energy, obviously you need a healing system that deals with energy.

At present there are many New Age therapies dealing with energy. But, and this is my personal opinion, their philosophy is not deep enough and most of the practitioners are not professionally trained. For example, when asked the relationship between energy and physical or emotional disorders, most of them cannot give a satisfactory answer, and many of them start to practise on patients after attending only a few weekend seminars. But, I wish to repeat, this is only my opinion; it is only fair that you speak to some New Age therapists to make your own judgement.

The whole range of traditional Chinese medical practice deals with energy. You can therefore seek the advice of good herbalists, acupuncturists or massage therapies. You must seek the really good ones, and the best place to seek is China. It is worth spending some time to seek the masters, for even in China as in elsewhere there are many mediocre practitioners.

Personally I feel the best choice for overcoming your problem is to practise genuine chi kung. One great advantage chi kung has over other therapies is that in chi kung you do not even have to worry where the sites of disrupted energy are. In Chinese herbalism, acupuncture or massage therapy, for example, the therapist has to find out what organs, meridians and sub-meridians are involved, and to what depth and extent, so that he can prescribe the appropriate treatment. But this is not even necessary in chi kung! What you need to do is to clear your energy blockage holistically and enhance the momentum of flow, and this is exactly what genuine chi kung does.

I have to warn again, as I have done so many times, you have to learn from a genuine master. If you learn from mediocre instructors who merely teach gentle exercise, or who treat chi kung which is centuries old like a New Age therapy, you will be again frustrated. Mediocre instructors are plentiful but real masters are rare like gems.

Question 14

I have never attended chi kung classes, and I haven't practiced chi kung before, so will three days teach me anything? Thank you very much.

— Tamin, USA

For me myself, it took me about ten years to acquire the kind of wonderful effects my students get in my intensive course. This was certainly not because my teachers were ineffective or because I was a poor student. In fact I had some of the best teachers in the world, and in my young days I was known to be a superb student. I could, for example, learned a kungfu set by watching it performed thrice.

Then, why it took me ten years when my students need only three days? Because many things are different. For example, the approaches, methods, traditions, needs and aspirations are different. Hence, the comparison is not accurate, but it does give an idea of the value and cost-effectiveness of the intensive course.

Mine was the age-old, conservative way, geared towards the training of a true Shaolin disciple following the best Shaolin traditions. For example, I could, but I would not, break someone's arm as easily as I would break a stick, or take a chopper attack on my body without sustaining serious injury.

These abilities are not what I teach in my intensive courses. What I teach is geared towards the needs and aspirations of modern men and women, and not of classical kungfu knights. In the three days my students learn how to be focused and relaxed, to go into a chi kung state of mind, to tap cosmic energy and to generate an internal energy flow. These abilities will enable them to have good health, vitality, mental freshness and inner peace.

The best part of the course, as reported by many students, is direct personal experience. We do not just talk about focusing and relaxing, energy flow and inner peace, but actually experiencing these effects -- not many years later, but immediately during the course itself. It is certainly not without good reasons why so far no one has taken advantage of the satisfaction-guarantee to avoid paying the fee. On the other hand, I have asked a few unworthy students to leave the course, with a full refund.

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