March 2002 (Part 1)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Combat application
Combat application

In kungfu, as in Taijiquan shown above, one needs not bounce away from an attack, which is common practice in much of today's sparring. One can use body movement. For example, when Roberto (left) attacks a vital point at Attilio's right shoulder, instead of bouncing away or moving a leg backward, Attilio merely swerves his body backward to avoid the attack.

Question 1

My friend did not have any health problems before. Two months ago she went for a check-up, and the doctors found she had cancer of the ovaries. They took out her ovaries. Then the cancer spread to her womb. They took out her womb.

Next the cancer spread to her spleen and part of her liver and other glands. They took all these out and gave her strong chemotherapy. All these happened within two months.

But her cancer did not stop. It spreads to many parts of her body. Finally the doctors gave her up as loss. Sifu, do you think chi kung can help?

— Nina, Spain

Answer

I am replying to you immediately as your friend's case is urgent.

There are different ways or paradigms of looking at health and medicine. Removing cancerous organs or parts and undergoing chemotherapy is a conventional western way.

According to the chi kung paradigm, this is only treating the symptoms, not the cause. Cancerous tumours at your friend's ovaries, womb, spleen, etc are symptoms indicating that her systems are not working naturally. This failure of her systems to work naturally is the real cause of her illness.

As long as her systems are not rectified, when a tumour is removed surgically or killed by chemotherapy, another tumour would occur elsewhere. The therapeutic approach should not be just removing the tumours, i.e. symptoms, but restoring her systems , i.e. rectifying the cause. Once her systems work naturally, she would overcome her cancer as a matter of course.

To say that her systems are not working naturally, is to say in western terms. In chi kung terms, her energy flow is not harmonious. In other words, the energy that goes to the various parts of her body is not working the various parts the way they should naturally work.

The main task of practising chi kung — genuine chi kung — is to restore harmonious energy flow. Once her energy flow is restored to be harmonious, your friend will recover from cancer.

I cannot guarantee that your friend will surely recover, but I can honestly say she has a good chance. Many former cancer patients, some of whom were terminal cases, recovered from their illness after practising chi kung learnt from me. I would strongly recommend her to attend my

Intensive Chi Kung Course in Malaysia.

Question 2

Usually, in Kung Fu when exponents defend against punches, they are against unrealistic karate-do- shotokan-like punches. What about Taiji defence against realistic “flashy” western boxing

— Dave, Italy

Answer

First I would like to clarify some terms I am using here. By “kungfu” I mean Chinese martial art. Hence, Taijiquan is a form of kungfu, but Taiji dance is not.

I reckon that when you mention “Kung Fu”, you mean Shaolin types of kungfu. That is how most people use the term.

Whether karate-do-shotokan-like punches are realistic, or whether western boxing is flashy is a matter of opinion. But I suppose what you intend to say is that when people fight, they do not normally go down on their stances and punch out from their waist as in karate. Rather they would bounce about and throw punches from their shoulders, leaning their body slightly forward to add weight as in western boxing.

In this context, both Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan are “unrealistic” Bouncing about and throwing the body forward to add weight to the punch are untypical of Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan. Indeed, this “unrealistic” nature of Shaolin Kungfu and Taijquan is a main cause why most of their exponents cannot fight effectively. This is a common opinion of many people.

Consequently some enterprising exponents attempt to improve Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan by bouncing about and throwing their body forward when they punch. As a result they do not use, or are unable to use, any traditional kungfu patterns in their sparring. The celebrated Bruce Lee was a classic example.

My opinions, however, are different. So-called kungfu exponents (including Taijiquan exponents) cannot fight effectively not because kungfu is unrealistic but because they have not practised genuine kungfu, they only practise kungfu forms. That is why I use the term “so-called kungfu”.

In the early days of kungfu development, fighters bounced about and threw their body forward to add weight, like what modern western boxers do. They did that, and modern boxers do that, because that is a natural way of fighting. In other words, if you have not been conditioned by any martial art training, you would fight like that, as you would have an advantage over your untrained opponent who remains stationary at his position and whose punches are not backed by his body weight.

Another natural way of fighting is to go at your opponent's hair or throat. Still another natural way is to grab your opponent or wrestle with him and to throw him onto the ground.

But while the early kungfu exponents discovered that these natural ways of fighting gave them certain advantages over untrained opponents, they also discovered and devised techniques which they could use should their opponents fought them in the same natural ways. This transition from untrained, natural fighting to trained, premeditated fighting marked the transition from brawling to martial art.

Gradually kungfu exponents discovered that natural ways of fighting had certain disadvantages, and that if they trained accordingly before-hand they could apply their trained techniques to exploit their opponent's disadvantages. For example, if you bounce about, not only you become tired more easily but also you are actually slower in your reaction than had you remain in an appropriate stance.

How can that be? Let us take a simple example. Suppose your opponent give you a punch or a kick. You bounce away, regain your balance and bounce back. If your opponent is trained, you would probably bounce into his second punch or kick, especially when his first one was a feign move to trick you.

Now, you stand on your Bow-Arrow Stance. When your opponent punches or kicks you, you merely swerve your body backward without moving your feet, cover his attack with one hand, and as he retreats you follow forward, striking your opponent with the other hand.

Let us compare the two techniques. When you bounce about, you use three movements. Worse, you have to break momentum, i.e. you move backward in one direction, check your direction, and move forward in the reversed direction. When you swerve in your stance, you use only one movement in one smooth momentum, without any break in between.

Secondly, when you bounce, it is difficult for you to differentiate between a real or a feign attack. When you use a stance, not only it is easily to observe your opponent, you may reverse your opponent's use of feign-real attack against himself. How? As he attacks you, you swerve your body backward and simultaneously cover his attack with one hand.

This hand senses his attack. If his is a feint or flashy attack, as in western boxing, you move backward just slightly. And as he retreats his attack, you follow in, covering his retreating and his other hand, and jabbing your other palm into his eyes.

If his is a realistic attack as in karate, you swerve backward more, following his momentum, grip his wrist with one hand and his elbow with your other hand, and pull him to fall facedown onto the ground, or turn his arm and dislocate his elbow.

These moves against realistic karate or flashy western boxing are found in both Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan. The following are two more examples how you can use Taijiquan against flashy western boxing.

As your boxer opponent throws fast punches at you, don't move your feet backward. Stand at your stance but swerve your body accordingly and use your front hand to cover and sense his attacks. If you swerve correctly, his attack cannot reach you no matter how fast they are. The reason is that you have spaced yourself, without moving your feet, away from his reach.

To reach you, he has to move his leg or body far forward. When he does so, cover his two hands with your one hand, and drive a fist into his side ribs, immediately follow up with a knee strike into his groin, using the patterns “Punch Below Sleeves” and “Golden Cockerel Stands Solitarily”.

The next example is as follows. Tempt him to attack you with his flashy punches, but space yourself so that he cannot reach you. Then when throw his body forward to attack you, move slightly to a side and execute a thrust kick to his ribs, using the pattern “Cross-Hands Thrust Kick”. Immediately follow with a palm strike to his throat, with the pattern “White Snake Shoots Venom”.

Question 3

I've been practicing kung fu for a while but I do not have a sifu and I I'm not sure what kung fu style is right for me.

Answer

In my opinion Shaolin Kungfu is best for you, but you have to practise genuine Shaolin Kungfu, which is hard to find today. You should learn from a living instructor, not from books. But if you cannot find a living instructor, and you still want to learn it on your own, my book, “The Art of Shaolin Kung Ku”, will be very useful.

Nevertheless, if you can find a living instructor, even if he teaches modernized wushu or other styles of kungfu and not genuine Shaolin, you will probably get more benefit learning from him than from my book. After you are familiar with wushu or kungfu forms, you can use my book as a guide.

Question 4

I like to practice Yang Style Taijiquan but the only information I have is from a book. Is the long form of Yang Style Taijiquan better than the short form?

Answer

Most books in English on Taijiquan show only external Taiji forms. Hence, if you learn from them, you will probably only learn Taiji dance, and not Taijiquan. I believe for your age at 13, Shaolin styles of kungfu or modernized wushu, even if they are performed as gymnastics, are better than Taiji dance. But if you can practise genuine Yang Style Taijiquan, it is better than kungfu gymnastics or modernized wushu.

Whether it is genuine Taijiquan or Taiji dance, practising the short form is more beneficial for you. When you are proficient in the short form, you can progress to the long form.

Question 5

Is it a good idea to practice hard chi kung? I heard my dad said that if I practice hard chi kung without a good sifu and without proper training I can cause my internal organs not to function rightly because of wrong breathing techniques. Should I practice hard chi kung like iron forearm and shin conditioning of Muay Thai with a wooden stick I'm only 13.

Answer

No, you should not practise hard chi kung at your age, unless you learn from a genuine master. Your dad is right, and if you learn hard chi kung from books, you are likely to practise wrongly with harmful side-effects.

Unless your teacher is exceptionally good and gives you remedial or supplementary exercises, practising even correctly hard chi kung like Iron Palm, Iron Arm and conditioning your shin by hitting it with a wooden stick,, may affect their normal growth and lead to deformity.

On the other hand, if you practise correctly certain types of hard chi kung like Golden Bridge and One-Finger Shooting Zen, it can enhance your normal development.

Combat application
Combat application

Here is another example of body movement in kungfu to counter an attack. As Goh Kok Hin (right) executes

Question 6

I have been training kungfu for about 10 years now and for the last 1-2 years I have stopped training like I used to, i.e. many punches and kicks, and many different techniques. Now I train only chi kung, like “Embracing the Tree”, Iron Body postures and different chi kung patterns such as “Lifting the Sky”, and “Nourishing Kidneys”.

— Theo, Cyprus

Answer

In Chinese kungfu terms, for the previous 8 years you practised “chuan fa”, and now since the last 1-2 years you have been training “kung”. The term “kungfu” actually means “kung training”. There is a kungfu saying that “before you practise chuan fa you should train kungfu”. Here “chuan fa” means techniques, and “kungfu” means developing force and skills.

Hence, in the past before a student learned any kungfu patterns or sets, he spent some considerable time on stance training — especially the Horse-Ring Stance in Shaolin, and the Three-Circle Stance in Taijiquan. That was also how I started my kungfu training with three of my four masters, who were patriarch in their respective styles. My fourth master was an exception, because in his characteristic kindness he treated me like an accomplished exponent instead of a student.

Nevertheless, one must realize that in the Chinese language, terms are usually used provisionally and for convenience, and not compartmentalized as in western science. The terms “chuan fa” (or “quanfa” in Romanized spelling) and “kungfu” (“gongfu”) are often used interchangeably. The term “Taijiquan”, for example, is the shortened term for “Taiji Quanfa”, and it means “Taiji Kungfu”, and includes both practising techniques and training force.

This reminds us that whether you call your style of Chinese martial art “chuan fa” or “kungfu”, it should include both aspects, namely practising techniques and training force. In kungfu terminology, “force” constitutes the body, and “techniques” constitute the application, or “kung- yuong” in Chinese. If you focus on only one aspect and neglect the other, your training is incomplete.

“Chuan fa” refers not just to the techniques performed individually as patterns or collectively as sets, but their application in combat. The big trouble facing kungfu students today is that not only they do not train force, but also they do not apply their techniques in combat. They merely perform techniques for demonstration. This was what past masters referred to as “flowery fists and embroidery kicks”.

What you are doing is correct; you rectify the earlier mistake of only practising techniques. But you should not just train force with practising techniques at all. You may spend more time on force training, but you should also spend some time on techniques, not just merely punching and kicking but applying your techniques meaningfully in combat situations.

Question 7

In all this training I have noticed that I have gained tremendous power for my kungfu. It is as if I have been doing modern weight lifting for 10 years, but nei kung is 1 million times better.

Answer

You are right. Force training in kungfu not only gives you tremendous power for combat but also enables you to do better literally anything in your daily life, including mental work. This is one of a few reasons why nei kung, which was the name in the past for chi kung, is superior to weight lifting and all other physical training.

Weight lifting and all other physical training are referred to as external training, whereas nei kung is internal training. There is a limit to the power you can derive from external training, generally limited by the tension your muscles can take. But there is no limit in internal training, where you employ your mind and cosmic energy. Moreover, external power is limited by age, but internal power has no age limit.

More significantly, external power is, in kungfu terminology, “dead”, whereas internal power is alive. For example the power you get from weight lifting is only good for weight lifting, and not much useful for other things. In fact it is bad for your health because it draws away energy which should be used for life maintenance as well as overburdens vital organs. It also actually makes you less agile and more easily tired in combat.

On the other hand, internal power can be used for anything. It breaks through blockage to cure injuries or negative emotions if you have any. It nourishes your organs to make them strong. It flows to your mind to give you mental clarity. It improves your stamina so that you can spar, or work or play longer. It warms you when the weather is cold, and even refreshes you in hot weather!

Question 8

However about 1 week ago, I lost all interest in doing my moving chi kung and my Taiji form. All I want to do is practise my stance training and meditate on the dan tian. I feel that the energy generated from my dan tian covers the whole body so I don't need to do “Lifting the Sky”. Am I mistaken? Is it OK to spend 5 times the amount I currently spend meditating on the dan tian and doing stance training, and stop practising moving chi kung?

Answer

You are not mistaken. Yours is a normal developmental process; it shows your force training has progressed to an advanced level. Generally speaking, but not always, force training progresses from movement to stillness. Most masters spend much more time on quiescent chi kung like stance training and meditation, than on dynamic chi kung like Eighteen Lohan Hands and generating energy flow through Taijiquan movements. Why? Because not only quiescent chi kung can generate more power than dynamic chi kung (this would be a surprise to many people), but also it places more emphasis on mind training.

You can spend 5 times the amount on stance training and meditating on your dan tian, but you should not totally stop practising your moving chi kung. You should remember yin-yang harmony in your training. This means while you may focus on force training, you should also practise your techniques at least once a while; while you employ internal training, you should also do some external training like stretching your muscles and loosening your joints; and while you have progressed to quiescent chi kung, you should also review your moving chi kung.

More importantly, yin-yang harmony reminds us that while we devote our time and effort to kungfu training, we must not be so involved that we forget about our other duties as well as wholesome pleasures in life, such as fulfilling the responsibilities of our profession as well as spending time with our family and friends.

Question 9

Also, Sifu, I need another small piece of advice. I know chi kung does everything: relaxes the body, heals the body, makes the body very powerful and very resilient, and it has even made my body much faster. But despite all this I do not have blindingly fast speed.

Answer

This is because you did not specifically trained for blindingly fast speed. Whether you should, would be guided by your needs and aspirations. Personally I don't think it is necessary. Masters in the past needed blindingly fast speed because the standard of combat was very high then. But today fighting is uncommon, and if you are reasonably fast it would be sufficient to meet almost all combat situations. The time you would spend on developing blindingly fast speed would be better spent on developing other benefits, like good health and mental freshness.

Question 10

When I was younger I practised Wing Chun and for about 4 years we used to do 1000 punches every day. This made my hands very fast but it was not true speed. It was fake muscular speed that was very empty.

Answer

You were fast in Wing Choon because you specifically spent time developing speed in your punches. Such muscular speed was not fake, and not empty if you could back it up with mechanical strength. You could strike an opponent readily, and such strikes could hurt badly. It would be empty only if there was speed but no strength.

There are different ways to develop speed. Using muscles is one way, and one should not belittle such speed. Many martial arts, such as western boxing, karate and taekwondo, use muscular speed. Their experts, combining fast momentum and muscular mass, can deliver devastating blows.

Question 11

1 have read about Wong Fei Hung's no-shadow-kick, and I actually have felt something like this in real life, a strike which is so fast that it hits you before you actually see it. I believe this is accomplished only through chi kung. How is it possible to accomplish this?

Answer

While I would not under-estimate speed and force developed by external means, like you I prefer internal training. Speed, force and other combative factors like stamina, endurance, judgement and movement can be trained by external or internal means. The main internal means are through chi kung and meditation to train energy and mind.

The principle involved in developing speed internally is simple, but the methods are many and not necessarily easy. It is to relax all muscles and let energy flow. This is accomplished by a one- pointed mind. If you can do this, your movements in attack and defence can be very fast and powerful.

It is difficult for many people, especially in the West, to believe this is true. It is because they have no idea and experience of energy flow. They are only accustomed to physical strength and mechanical speed, where power is the result of momentum and mass.

Throwing a punch or making any movement with tensed muscles is slower than doing so with the muscles relaxed. This is not difficult for people to understand and experience. In most cases such a punch or movement lacks power. This is what you refer to as empty speed. It lacks power because in such cases the power comes from tensing the muscles.

Herein lies an innate negation. To have power you have to tense your muscles which results in slower speed, but to increase speed you have to relax your muscles which results in less power.

But the situation is different if the power comes not from muscular strength but from internal force, which results from energy flow. The more your relax your muscles, the better your energy flow; the more your energy flow, the better your internal force. Indeed, if you tense your muscles, you slow down the energy flow and result in less power.

A rough analogy may make this clear. Using mechanical force to strike your opponent is like moving a mass of iron towards him. The bigger the mass, the slower will be the movement. If you wish to increase the speed, you have to reduce the mass. On the other hand using internal force to strike an opponent is like using electricity. The lesser the interference in the flow of electricity, the faster and more powerful it is.

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