June 2002 (Part 3)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Pushing Hands

Arus pushing Valdemaras away in a Taijiquan Pushing Hands session in Lithunia

Question 1

I'm 18 years old,, and I practice North Shaolin Kung Fu. Can you imagine, Sifu, how hard it is to be a teenager in the Western Hemisphere to be more concerned in growing his mind and his spirit through hard training than thinking about being strong, having a lot of money and getting a lot of girls? It is even sad to see my friends and most other people living like this.

— Gabriel, Brazil

Answer

The purpose of training hard in Shaolin Kungfu or any art is to fulfill our needs and actualize our aspirations, and this has to be realized in the context of our culture as well as the culture of the art.. If one's culture and the culture of the art are similar, there will be little or no problems. But if they are dissimilar, then many problems may arise.

Your problem is the result of a conflict between your Western culture where you find yourself in, and the traditional Eastern culture of Shaolin Kungfu. For teenage boys in the West, being muscularly strong and having a lot of money as well as girl friends is the cultural norm, whereas training hard to cultivate mind and spirit is not.

Indeed, since about 300 years ago, Western culture has been denying the existence of mind and spirit. Western science and medicine, for example, pay no attention to mind and spirit. Even western psychology, which was originally the study of the psyche, is now concerned not with mind and spirit but with brain functions.

Differentiating between mind and spirit is a western practice, although some Eastern philosophies like Vedantic philosophy also make this difference. In Shaolin philosophy, which is based on the teaching of the Buddha, mind and spirit are the same, and are referred to in Chinese as “xin” which is usually translated as “heart”. In Taoist philosophy, mind and spirit are referred to as “shen” which is usually translated as “spirit”.

In Chinese philosophy, both “xin” and “shen” include what in the West would be regarded as mind and spirit. Mind is the intellectual aspect, and spirit the feeling aspect of “xin” or “shen”. Another way of saying is that mind is the reasoning and personal part, whereas spirit is the intuitive and cosmic part of “xin” or “shen”. However, one must remember that such dualistic thinking is for convenience of understanding; Chinese thought is often non-dualistic. For example, “xin” can be both intellectual and spiritual, personal and universal at the same time.

Besides “shen” or spirit, another dimension that is very important in Eastern philosophy but neglected in Western culture is “qi” (chi) or energy. In Chinese philosophy, every person is composed of three components, namely “jing”, “qi” and “shen”, or form, energy and spirit.

Westerner pay a heavy price for the denial of “shen” and “qi”, or spirit and energy. Two big problems facing Western societies today are degenerative diseases and psychological disorders. From the traditional Chinese perspective, degenerative diseases are diseases of energy, and psychological disorders are disorders of spirit. As Western culture has no concepts of energy and spirit, but regard these diseases as diseases of the body (or form), it is no wonder that there are no satisfactory ways to overcome or even to understand them.

But Eastern culture is not necessarily better than Western culture, or vice versa. Both cultures have their respective strong points and weaknesses. Many people in the East, for example, are economically poor, whereas many people in the West are depressed.

You are therefore in a very lucky position. Not only you have the benefits of Western culture, you also have access to the great wisdom of the East. But you must remember that you live in Western culture, irrespective of what you may think of it. To imagine that your friends and even your parents will forsake their Western culture to accommodate your Eastern ideals is being both unrealistic and unreasonable.

This of course does not mean you have to forgo your Eastern ideals of developing spirit and energy. But you have to strike a happy balance between cultivating an Eastern art with its Eastern philosophy in a Western cultural environment. If you can do this harmoniously, you can also bring much benefit to your friends and parents.

Question 2

Even today I find difficulty in expressing myself when talking about chi, but I guess something so complex as chi, or even chi kung and kungfu cannot be fully explained by mere mortals.

Answer

Your difficulty in expressing yourself regarding chi is twofold. One, you may not understand it enough to express it clearly. Two, your listeners do not have sufficient conceptual background to understand what you say.

For example, you wish to explain that chi training can develop a person's spirit. You may have read about this possibility in some chi kung books, but you may not fully comprehend what the words in those books really mean. Or you may wish to say that by managing chi, a kungfu master can have tremendous internal force, but you do not know how this can be done or why it is so. Your listeners, who are Western cultured, will be more puzzled. They do not even know what you are talking about because they have no concept at all whenever you mention chi (qi), spirit or internal force.

But chi is not complex, and chi kung and kungfu are meant for mortals, and can be as well as have been clearly explained by mortals.

“Chi” is simply the Chinese term for energy. There is nothing mystical or mysterious about it. People in both the East and the West have knowledge of energy, except that the knowledge in the East is more profound. This does not contradict my earlier statement that if you tried to explain chi to your friends, they would not understand you. The problem lies not with the complexity of chi, but with your friends' lack of understanding.

If you tell your friends that chi is necessary for life, they would not understand you because they do not know what chi is. But if you tell them that energy is necessary for life, they would have no difficulty understanding.

Yet, if you tell them that it is more important to develop your energy or your spirit, than to be physically strong or to have money, they would not understand you, not because energy or spirit is complex, but because they do not understand why developing energy or spirit is more important.

Shaolin Chi Kung and Shaolin Kungfu are simple, and they are also very profound. In fact many of my students have told me they are amazed how simple our chi kung exercises are, yet they produce such profound effects. I am now in Lithuania, a beautiful eastern European country. After flicking her hands in a Sinew Metamorphosis exercise, Danuta (a company director) told the class that she felt her arms were not her arms as they seemed to have grown much bigger. Valdemaras (the director of a sport complex) told the class that he felt his legs were made of steel inside but were soft and gentle outside. The exercise was simple, i.e. without complicated movements, but the results would be unbelievable to many people.

Question 3

I remember as a child when I told my mother that God, as the Catholic Church shows Him, didn't exist, and that God is actually the whole Universe, and that we are part of God too, or pieces of Him. Since my mother is a Catholic person she was quite disturbed, but she never seriously reprimanded me, although even today she finds my ideas a bit strange.

Answer

It is really amazing that you understood such cosmic truth and had the courage to say it even when you were a child. A reasonable conclusion is that you had been highly cultivated in your past lives. This also explains that even now as a teenager you find spiritual cultivation more rewarding than having more girl friends.

But God also exists in the form the Catholic Church shows Him. God exists in three main forms — as the Holy Spirit, as the Father, and as the Son. God as the whole Universe as you told your mother when you were a child, is God the Holy Spirit, i.e. everything there is from time eternal is God the Holy Spirit. God the Father is the form that the Church normally shows him to be. It is the majestic divine form in all His glory that some pious Christians may actually see. God the Son is manifested in Jesus Christ, as well as in all of us. It is the form you mean when you say we are part of God or pieces of Him.

Question 4

Only when I turned fifteen I started relating everything I believed with the concept of chi, and consequently with chi kung and kungfu through books. Finally I started training kungfu, and I can say that nothing in the world makes me happier and more complete than training kungfu, even though I wished I could do it more. I study at a University, so time, unfortunately, is short. But one day, and that's a promise, I will try to be honoured enough to train at the Shaolin Temple.

Answer

You are right in saying that everything — be it a tadpole or a star, answering an exam question or digesting your food — is related with chi. Our own being as well as the whole universe is made of chi. Every process in the world or in the cosmos is a process of chi.

Chi kung is the art of managing chi or energy. But chi kung as well as kungfu should be practised for their practical benefits, not just studied for their knowledge. This does not mean that reading about chi kung and kungfu from books is not useful, but we must remember that this knowledge, no matter how beautiful and profound, is only useful when it helps us to get practical benefits. It is like a map, it shows us not only the routes but also what the destination is like when we have successfully arrived. Without this map, people waste a lot of time and effort. But we do not merely hold the map in our hands, we must do the travelling.

Basically kungfu is a martial art. There are many types of kungfu, varying in purpose, method and achievement. Good kungfu not only enables you to fight well, but also contributes to your health and vitality, whereas great kungfu besides giving you combat efficiency, good health and vitality, expands your mind and leads you to high spiritual development. You must also realize that the same type of kungfu may be taught and practised in countless different ways. Hence, even if your type of kungfu is great, but if it is taught or practised badly you will not get good results.

The above paragraph is a very concise map giving you all the basic information you need to have for a fruitful journey in kungfu. It is obvious that you are sincere and dedicated in your kungfu training. You should therefore review your training with the help of the map to ensure that your time is well spent.

First you should find out whether you are really practising kungfu. This is quite easy. Spar with some friends to see if you can defend yourself with what you have been practising. If you can, then you are practising kungfu, and you can proceed to find out whether yours is good or great kungfu. If you can't defend yourself, then yours is not even mediocre kungfu. But this does not mean you should automatically discard what you have been practising. If it has made you happy, you should continue its training, but you may at the same time look elsewhere to fulfill your kungfu needs.

If yours is kungfu, you should find out whether it is good kungfu or only mediocre. Find out whether you have been healthier and have more vitality as the result of your training. But if you feel painful and angry often after your training, then yours is mediocre kungfu.

If yours is good kungfu, you should next find out whether yours is great kungfu. Is your mind clearer and fresher? Do you feel inner peace? Do you find it a joy to be alive, irrespective of your financial and environmental conditions? If you answer yes to these questions, then you are very lucky. Nowadays, even to practice mediocre kungfu is not easy, but you have such a rare opportunity to practice great kungfu.

You probably do not know that traditional Shaolin Kungfu is not taught in the Shaolin Temple in China today. Around the Shaolin Temple, there are many schools teaching modernized wushu. But modernized wushu, even if it is taught by modern Shaolin monks, is different from traditional kungfu.

Although the word “wushu” actually means martial art, I would not consider it kungfu because wushu students do not learn self defence. Wushu training will make you fit, but mind expansion and spiritual cultivation are not its training objectives. If you like modernized wushu, which will give you elegance and agility as well as chances to take part in international competitions, the wushu schools around the Shaolin Temple are a good choice. But if you are looking for traditional kungfu, you would have to search elsewhere.

Throws in Taijiquan

Women routinely throw hefty men to the ground in Sifu Wong's Taijiquan classes

Question 5

Although I train a lot, I always have the feeling that I'm growing more physically than mentally and spiritually I know, and I believe in this more than anything, that human capacity is beyond, very beyond physical strength. I look to those people who have gigantic muscles and I know they are not strong, and I think it is even pathetic to even assume that that is the limit of human capacity. After all, the mind controls the body, and for the mind, nothing is impossible, and there are no limits.

Answer

If you are practising kungfu, yours is mediocre or good kungfu but not great kungfu, because all great kungfu develops you mentally and spiritually right from the start.

If one has to ask, “How do I know my kungfu training is developing me mentally and spiritually?”, it is an indication that he has not undergone mental and spiritual development. It is like asking, “How do I know I am eating or I am talking?” The answer is that one knows from direct experience. If you have undergone mental or spiritual training, you will know it as clearly as you know you are eating or talking.

It is interesting to note that while mental and spiritual development is an important part of my teaching, none among those who attended my intensive courses asked what mental and spiritual development was. Instead they said they felt their mind very fresh and clear, their spirit expanding, that they had no physical body, that their energy inside was merging with the cosmos outside, and that they were extremely happy, free and peaceful.

It is easy to realize that the human capacity is far beyond physical strength. It is common for students in my chi kung classes to express amazement at the tremendous internal force they can develop through chi kung exercises without using muscular strength. Women routinely throw bigger-sized men onto the ground in my Taijiquan classes. This afternoon during a Taijiquan Pushing Hands class in Lithuania, Arus pushed Valdemaras many feet away many times. Arus is only twelve years old and weighs about 40 kilos, whereas Valdemaras who is a sport complex director and weight-lifting instructor weighs about 100 kilos. Valdemaras said it was a fantastic experience for him.

Question 6

Unfortunately every time I ask my master to be trained or to be at least helped in order to expand my mind and my spirit, he seems not to be willing to do it. Not that I don't appreciate my master, he is a great man and a great master, but sometimes I get the impression that he doesn't have the answers to my questions or he doesn't want to give them to me. That really scares me, because if my master can't or won't help me, who else will?

Answer

There must be good reasons why your master did not teach you how to expand your mind or spirit. And you need not be scared at all. You can help yourself to expand your mind and spirit using the following simple and safe method.

Perform “Lifting the Sky” about 20 times. If you do not know how to perform this exercise, read my chi kung books to find out. Then, continue to stand upright and be relaxed with your eyes gently close and your mouth gently open. Smile from your heart. Don't worry about how to do it, just do it. Remain standing upright and relaxed, and think of nothing for about 5 to 10 minutes. Practice twice everyday, once in the morning and once in the evening or at night, for six months.

In six months' time you will have expanded your mind and spirit. How will you know? As mentioned above, you will know from direct experience. Some manifestations of your expanded mind and spirit are that you can comprehend what you read more easily, you can work mentally for longer hours, you become more tolerable, and you find yourself happier and more peaceful.

Question 7

So, every day I keep training kungfu and chi kung harder and harder, trying to overcome my limits, because that's what I want — to overcome myself, not other people. But the sensation of only growing physically keeps showing on. I want to expand my body but also my mind and my spirit. After all, the body is only a prison; you can make a prison as beautiful as you want, but it will still be a prison. And I don''t and I can't believe that we are restricted to our bodies. Aren't we part of the Universe, the same as everything that exists?

Answer

Training hard, while admirable, is not sufficient; you also have to train smart, otherwise you may waste a lot of time and effort.

Indeed, in kungfu and chi kung, a lot of people have wasted their time and effort. After practising kungfu for many years, they still do not know how to defend themselves. After practising chi kung for many years, they still do not know what chi is. My rough estimation is that more than 80 per cent of those who think they practice kungfu (or wushu) and chi kung, fall into this category.

The main reason for their wasting time and effort is that they do not have a map like the one I mentioned above. They do not really know their destination, and consequently their travelling is without purpose nor direction.

Beside a map, the following procedure is very helpful.

  1. Have a clear idea of the scope and depth of the art you are going to dedicate yourself to.
  2. Define your aims and objectives in practising the art.
  3. Seek a master or at least a competent instructor who is able and willing to help you realize your aims and objectives.
  4. Train diligently according to the teacher's instructions.
  5. Access your progress or otherwise with reference to your aims and objectives.

It may be better to view your body as a vehicle to take you to your destination, rather than a prison to restrict you. You must therefore ensure that your vehicle is fit and reliable. Kungfu training will take good care of that. You must also ensure you have sufficient fuel. That can be taken care of with chi kung training. You, the driver, must also have clear vision. Zen training provides the answer.

We are certainly not restricted to our bodies. Our bodies are only our vehicles. We are part of the Universe when we still remain inside our vehicles. When we have arrived at our supreme destination, which may be countless lifetimes or just an instant away, our vehicles will cosmically dissolve and we will realize and experience that we are actually the Universe.

Question 8

Could you help me, Sifu, teaching me some ways to grow and overcome my limits, or at least giving me some ideas on where to start looking for answers? I know it is rather complicated to do so without seeing you personally, but one day I hope I can be honoured enough to do so. I am really sorry for writing so much and taking you time, but even so, writing to you, Sifu, was the greatest honour I ever had. It is really good to talk about my beliefs without being called “crazy”. And forgive me if I was, in any part of this letter, disrespectful to you Sifu, because I have never addressed myself to such a great master before.

Answer

Yes, it is my privilege as well as pleasure to help deserving students attain their potential. The best way for you is to attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course held in Malaysia. You will be amazed at what you will learn in this course in a very short time. For example, in an earlier answer I describe how you can expand your mind and spirit in six months. You will obtain similar or better results in one or two days when you learn from me personally! This is unbelievable and many people may think I am boasting, but it is true. Otherwise it is unjustifiable to charge US$1500 for the course.

Among other things, you will learn as well as actually achieve the skills to generate energy flow and develop internal force, and to use typical Shaolin principles and techniques in combat as well as everyday application — abilities which many martial artists have chased after for life but which you will attain in a week.

But you must be ready to work very hard. I am a slave-driver in the course. You will be pushed to your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits so that after the course, having surpassed your limits, you will emerge as a better person in all aspects. This is probably the best part of the course — not the parts where you learn how to fight effectively or even where you find yourself blissfully in tune with the cosmos.

For example, after the first day all you want to do when you return to your room after the training is to sleep. Then, you find that you can spar continuously for two hours without feeling tired and without even drinking a drop of water despite in the tropical climate of Malaysia. You have surpassed your physical limit. At first the other course participants are strangers to you, but after training intensively for two days you treat them with loving kindness like your brothers and sisters. You have surpassed your emotional limit.

At some point in the training you may be so confused that when I ask you to move forward your right leg, you may not know what to do — a situation not uncommon even among the most brilliant of the participants; they have been pushed to a point of mental blankness. The next day everything is so crystal clear. You have surpassed your mental limit. Before the course you only have an intellectual understanding of spiritual cultivation, but you may not know what the words really mean. During the course you have direct experiences of your spirit expanding, free and happy. You have surpassed your spiritual limit.

You have taken much trouble to write clearly and respectfully, and your questions will also be helpful to many other people. It is a joy to answer them.

Question 9

Following the programme laid out in your books, “Chi Kung for health and Vitality” and “the Art of Chi Kung”, I practice the sets as recommended for a person doing martial arts, i.e. with emphasis on “Pushing Mountains” and “Big Windmill”. Here are some effects I have noticed after one month's training with one session a day for approximately half an hour.

In “Big Windmill”, my hands are heavy and I feel the “heaviness” move from my wrist to my palm and fingers. I experience side to side swaying while practising induced chi flow. This has also happened spontaneously while in standing meditation recently. I noticed I was beginning to sway, then I just forgot about it and “let go”.

Even though the swaying is sometimes quite energetic, my feet feel quite “rooted” to the ground, and although I have my eyes closed I am not afraid I will fall. Afterwards when I open my eyes (after I have told myself to stop) I see my surroundings as if new, more detailed, and more colourful. It's a good feeling of well-being and I thank you for the excellent way the techniques are presented in the books.

— Kevin, Finland

Answer

Congratulations Kevin, you have done extremely well, especially that you only learned from my books and have not previously learnt from me in person..

“Pushing Mountains” and “Big Windmill” are two powerful exercises but they are relatively safe if one follows the instructions respectfully. This makes them quite special. Powerful exercises are usually unsafe to be performed without a master's supervision; “Pushing Mountains” and “Big Windmill” are therefore exceptions. As a comparison, “Golden Bridge” and “Three-Circle Stance” — two of the most famous zhan zhuang exercises — are also powerful, but although they look simple, they are likely to bring adverse side-effects to someone practising on his own.

Feeling of “heaviness” at your palms is a normal result of practising “Big Windmill” correctly; it is an indication of your having developed internal force. It is your great achievement that you can experience internal force in one month when many external martial art masters have chased after it to no avail for years, and when some think that internal force is a myth.

Your internal force is the result of energy flowing from your dan tian through your shoulders, through your elbows, and through your wrists to your fingers. In kungfu terminology this is referred to as “king thow ng kwan” (Cantonese pronunciation), which means “internal force going through five hurdles”. The “five hurdles” — which may also be translated as “five gates” — are the dan tian, the shoulders, the elbows, the wrists and the palms or fingers. They are regarded as “hurdles” because in an untrained person, energy flow is often locked at these places. Many external martial artists, for example, lock their energy at their shoulders or elbows.

As you progress, you may later feel as if the heaviness at your palms has disappeared. This may make you wonder whether you are getting any benefits from your training, or whether your energy has drained away from your fingers. The fact is that you still continue to develop internal force but you do not feel the heaviness even your internal force is stronger because you are now more used to the sensation of internal force. Secondly, your energy has not drained away, but some of it has flowed into your body for more important tasks, like maintaining life and enhancing both your physical as well as mental functioning.

The side to side swaying during induced chi flow is due to energy concentrating at your arms and palms. Letting go to allow your chi to flow wherever it wants, is the right thing to do. This is known as “wu-wei” (Mandarin pronunciation) in Taoist philosophy. “Wu-wei” is often translated as “non-action”, which can be misleading. A better translation is “spontaneity”.

Being rooted to the ground while your body and hands may be swaying vigorously, is a manifestation of an important skill in Shaolin Kungfu known as “yew foong pai lau” (Cantonese pronunciation), which may be expressed as “a sturdy tree swaying in the breeze”. This skill enables you to be very fast and agile while solid and powerful at the same time.

Induced chi flow is both a cleansing and a strengthening process, and it involves both your physical and spiritual being. As a result you see things and relationships more beautiful. The external world and other people have not changed, but you have. You have undergone a spiritual purification and strengthening. As your spirit is stronger, you become more confident; as your spirit is purer, you find the world more beautiful. These are some of the wonderful benefits in Shaolin training not found in most other martial arts.

Pushing Mountain

Pushing Mountain

Question 10

I would like to ask Sifu some questions if I may: In order to relax my abdomen as much as possible and improve abdominal breathing, I cut out training sit-ups from my training routine. This has had the effect that I have a rounded belly. Is such an exercise detrimental to muscle relaxation? I do not train with weights, but I normally do sit-ups and push-ups to keep in shape. Also, to maintain aerobic fitness, I usually jog for 30-50 minutes every second day. So, are such exercises diametrically opposed to chi kung training ?

Answer

Chi kung training gives us the best weight and shape, but the point of reference is life performance and not cultural taste. A rounded belly, which functions excellently as an energy bank, enables you to perform life activities effectively. Gradually your arms and legs will also be smooth and rounded, instead of muscular. Muscular arms and legs are actually detrimental to work efficiency because much energy which could be used for doing work is locked up in the muscles, and the muscular mass slows down speed. Rounded arms and legs promotes energy flow, which enhances both internal force and speed.

Eastern and Western societies have different cultural taste. Rounded belly is considered healthy and beautiful for both men and women in the East (but young Eastern men trained in Western culture may think otherwise), whereas Western societies prefer flat belly, especially for women. As a person's vital energy is stored in his abdominal dan tian, a person with a flat belly is considered lacking in vitality. If you observe kungfu masters, you will notice that they have rounded bellies. In traditional Eastern societies, when a mother chose a wife for his son, she would not want her future daughter-in-law with a flat belly, for it would signify that she lacked not only vitality but also “later-life prosperity”.

From the chi kung perspective, sit-ups and push-ups when performed as physical exercise are detrimental to relaxation because they build up tough muscles, and therefore detrimental to speed and application of internal force. Nevertheless, the adverse effects can be neutralized if they are performed as chi kung exercises. For example, in Shaolin Kungfu the leg stretching exercise called “Immortal Takes Off Shoes” is similar to sit-ups, and the arm-strengthening exercise called “Taming Tigers” is similar to push-ups.

They are performed as chi kung exercises as follows. In “Immortal Takes Off Shoes”, breathe out through the mouth as you bend forward to touch your toes, and breathe in through the nose as you sit upright. In “Taming Tigers”, breathe in through your nose as you bend your arms to lower your body to the ground, and breathe out through your mouth as you straighten your arms to raise you body. Both exercises must be performed in a relaxed manner, without the use of muscular strength.

From the chi kung perspective, jogging is bad for health! It overworks internal organs, bounces them about inside the body, and the constant jabbing of the feet onto the ground sends shock waves to the internal organs. There is a Shaolin art called “Thousand Steps” which looks like, but is not jogging. Here the practitioner controls his breathing in various ways in running to train speed and stamina.

I would suggest that you drop sit-ups, push-ups and jogging in your training programme. You can achieve what these exercises provide, like developing force, speed and stamina, more effectively and without their adverse effects by practising “Pushing Mountains”, “Big Windmill” and other chi kung exercises.

Question 11

Are you planning to give workshops in Europe this year? Although I feel that I have had good success with my chi kung training so far, I would naturally like to maximise and improve techniques, which can only be learnt directly from a master.

Answer

Yes, I shall conduct an Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in Frankfurt, Germany from 15th to 21st October 2002. This course is requested by Grandmaster Kai Uwe Jettkandt, who is a very accomplished master of many different martial arts, a former international sparring champion, and a former national coach for Germany. More significantly he is a soft-spoken, lovable person.

Kai made the request last year, but although I love very much to conduct this course in his school, due to my tight schedule I have to wait till October this year. Hence I would strongly recommend that you must not miss this opportunity. Because of Kai's world-wide contact, you are likely to train with martial artists from various parts of the world.

You will learn some simple yet very useful techniques in this course. More than this, you will learn some amazing skills, like “Golden Bridge”, “One-Finger Shooting Zen” and “Flowing Breeze and Swaying Trees” — skills that you cannot learn from books or videos. You will also experience first-hand during the course itself some of the things many people have read about but would not believe could be true, like not using strength yet being powerful, overcoming your opponent by flowing with him, not being tired after sparring for an hour, and finding spiritual joy in martial art. Please contact Grandmaster Kai Uwe Jettkandt at

for details.

If you wish to enjoy these experiences earlier, you can attend a similar course conducted by me in Toronto, Canada from 9th to 12th, 15th to 17th July 2002. For information please contact Mr Anthony Korahais at anthony@korahais.com .

Question 12

Finally, Sifu, I would like to add a comment and a question on the matter of whether or why genuine kungfu is “better” than other styles. (I have noticed this “debate” in previous posts.) I am an exponent of karate, and in my experience I have to agree that little or no emphasis is placed on chi, its concept, its development or cultivation. This can be seen quite evident in the number of karateka who are aggressive and, frankly, violent. Such an attitude seems also common in other styles as well.

My comment is that it is perhaps not the fault of the style but the people who practice it, and I believe chi kung training incorporated into karate could only help and improve upon it. Whether it would allow karate to achieve the profundity of genuine kungfu would then depend, among other things, on the karateka and the fullness of time.

Answer

Thank you for your observation reported sincerely and in good faith, which I am sure will be useful and much appreciated by many people.

Nevertheless I disagree with your opinion that the fault lies not with the style but the people who practice it. My opinion is that the nature of the style as well as its philosophy and methodology of training make the people aggressive. I believe that the karateka, before they started karate, were not aggressive, but their training made them so.

I am sorry (but not in the sense of being apologetic) that I make this statement, which may be sensitive to karateka. I honestly do not mean to belittle karate or any martial art. I just want to express an honest opinion like you, and hope that it may prove to be useful to some people.

Briefly, the philosophy of karate is to win at all cost. The nature of the art is using force against force, with the onus on attack. The methodology is to employ mechanical strength and hard conditioning. Someone undergoing training with such a philosophy and methodology would be aggressive.

Incorporating chi kung into karate would minimize the adverse effects an aggressive training programme may make on the psyche and physique of the karate trainee. But due to the very different nature of the two arts, it would not be easy, even impossible.

For example, in making a defensive or an attacking move, a karateka has to tense his muscles, otherwise he would be unable to achieve satisfactory effect. This essential condition in karate is exactly what a chi kung practitioner seeks to avoid. In other words, the two arts are incompatible.

Hence, it would not be possible to use chi kung in karate. But a karateka, when not performing typical karate movements, can use chi kung as a separate, supplementary exercise, and this will be beneficial to him.

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