May 2002 (Part 3)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Chinese medicine

”The Complete Book of Chinese Medicine”, a newly published book by Sifu Wong Kiew Kit, giving a comprehensive explanation of the philosophy and practice that have maintained the health and sanity of the largest population of the world for the longest period of known history. For more details, please contact

Question 1

Can you please tell me some information on Labyrinth Style Kungfu? Is it also called “Mai Zhong Khuen” of Fok Gar Kungfu?

— Julie, Malaysia

Answer

Labyrinth Style Kungfu, or “Mai Zhong Khuen” in Chinese (Cantonese) pronunciation, is the famous style of kungfu of the Fok family. It is therefore also known as Fok Ka Kungfu, or Fok Family Kungfu. In Romanized Chinese which follows the Madrine pronunciation, “Mai Zhong Khuen” is spelt as “Mizhoongquan”.

In the past, “Mizhongquan” was better known as “Mizhoongyi”, which literally means the “Art of Deceptive Ways”. Mai Zhong Khuen, therefore, can also be translated as Deception Kungfu, as the hand movements and footwork of the exponent are meant to deceive the opponent.

The first patriarch of Mai Zhong Khuen was Yin Cheng the Wanderer (Long Tzi Yin Cheng), who lived during the Sung Dynasty in China. “Yin Cheng” is in Cantonese pronunciation, in Mandarin it is Yan Qing.

Yin Cheng was one of the 108 heroes in the legends of the Water Marches, who were kungfu experts who robbed the rich to help the poor. Yin Cheng was an expert in the Monkey Style Kungfu, which was famous for its kicks and felling techniques. The particular type of Monkey Style Kungfu practiced by Yin Cheng is known as Yin Cheng Kungfu.

Yin Cheng Kungfu is famous for its felling techniques. The set of kungfu techniques known as “Yin Cheng Sap Pat Tik”, or the “Eighteen Felling Techniques of Yin Cheng”, was well respected among kungfu masters in the past, though today not many people know them. Many of these felling techniques were later incorporated by another famous kungfu master, Wang Lang, who lived later in the Ming Dynasty, into Praying Mantis Kungfu he founded.

Yin Cheng was also an expert in using the Single Knife, or broadsword. The set called “Yin Cheng Single Knife”, or “Yin Cheng Tan Tou” in Chinese, is now an established set in Praying Mantis Kungfu.

One day in winter Yin Cheng was ambushed by a large group of police, but he escaped. The police followed his footprints in the snow. But the footprints were deceptive like a labyrinth, and the police could not trace him. This gave rise to Mizhoongyi, which resulted in Mai Zhong Khuen. Later, Mizhoongyi, including Mai Zhong Khuen and Yin Cheng Tan Tou, became the hereditary kungfu of the Fok family.

A distinguished kungfu master of the Fok family in recent times was Fok Yun Kap, who was nick-named “Yellow-Face Tiger”. Lamenting that the Chinese at that time were weak both physically and morally, he founded in the 1920s the Ching Woo Athletic Association in Shanghai to promote kungfu and high moral values.

At that time foreign powers wanted to open China for trade, and many foreign martial art masters gathered in Shanghai, often resulting in challenges. Fok Yun Kap defeated many foreign masters, especially budo (martial art) masters from Japan. It was believed that after defeating a famous Japanese master, FokYun Kap was poisoned by his own cook, who betrayed him as the cook's family was under threat. Fok Yun Kap later died in a Japanese hospital in Shaoghai.

In the 1960s the popular kungfu movie from Hong Kong, “Fist of Fury”, which shot Bruce Lee to world fame, used a story of Fok Yun Kap's disciple, acted by Bruce Lee, returning to avenge his master's death. Unfortunately, the martial art shown in the movie was not Fok Ka Kungfu but Bruce Lee's Jeet Kwon Do.

Ching Woo Athletic Association, which inherited Mai Zhong Khuen of Fok Ka Kungfu, today has many branches in the world. But, again unfortunately, much of the kungfu practiced in these branches today is for demonstration, and has lost the essence for which their great founder, Fok Yun Kap, had dedicated his life to promote.

Question 2

I have been doing Tibetan Tai Chi for about 7 years now. About two years ago, I started working at nights, three to four times per week. I work on a 12- hour-compressed work schedule. On those days, I do my Tai Chi and qigong exercises around 3:00 in the afternoon. It has always given me enough energy to get me through the nights. Lately though, I have not felt as strong physically and have started getting sick. This is very strange because my ability to absorb energy over time has become stronger.

My teacher believes that my working nights is creating my problems. He has told me that spiritual re-charging is between the hours of 12 midnight and 6:00 a.m.. He has suggested that I get off night shifts but unfortunately, for now, I cannot. Is there anything I could do that would help me until I can?

— Clyde, USA

Answer

I do not know there is such a style called Tibetan Tai Chi. It could be a modern innovation.

Nowadays there are a lot of innovations which sometimes deviate from established traditions. For example, a student recently told me that in his country there was a TV program showing some Tai Chi Chi Kung where the master told the audience to imagine chi of different colours streaming into their body from the ground. This is a deviation from established chi kung wisdom, and may cause serious problems.

There are a few possible reasons for your becoming sick despite your Tai Chi and qigong exercises. One very likely possibility is that you have over-trained. Your training has increased your energy, which is “increasing yang” in Chinese philosophy. But your constant night shifts have worn down your body, which is “depleting yin”.

In other words, you have come to a point where your weakening physical body cannot sustain the added energy put in by your training. As a result, instead of attaining yin-yang harmony, which means good health, you aggravate your yin-yang disharmony. This can be dangerous.

As it is not feasible for you to stop working night shifts, the remedy is for you to rest instead of to train. Sufficient rest is important in any training, even if one does not work at night. Rest allows the body to recuperate as well as to absorb the new energy taken in through training. Your various internal organs and glands need time to adjust to an increase in energy level.

You should also take good food to replenish the wear of your body through work. If you have access to a good Chinese medical herbal supply shop, ask the herbalist or shopkeeper to sell you herbs that “open your spleen”, which is a Chinese medical jargon meaning to increase the functioning of your spleen and stomach. This will increase your appetite. Then you should eat whatever you feel like eating, which is nature's way of choosing appropriate food for your body's need.

Otherwise, take a lot of fruit. This may also “open your spleen” and enable you to enjoy your meals.

In addition, every morning around 6 or 7 o'clock go into the open and slowly and deeply breathe inand out about 20 times. Then close your eyes and be totally relaxed for about 5 minutes.

Your teacher is right in suggesting that re-charging is best accomplished at night. The quality of rest and re-charging when you sleep in the day-time is inferior to that at night. But if you have to sleep in the day time, you can enhance its quality by having a shower before and after your afternoon nap.

Other possible reasons for your weakening are that you have trained wrongly, or there are other negative factors effecting you. These reasons, however, are not likely unless you have lately changed your training methods or your life style.

Question 3

I would like to thank you for your recent spiritual topics in your “Questions and Answers” section. Because of my deteriorating health, I originally thought my spiritual commitment or desire was not enough to satisfy my spiritual helpers. I believed I went into some form of “spiritual depression”. Your words helped remove my concerns. You also helped me in another way. I realize now that I should have asked my teacher for guidance. He is a very good man and I am blessed to have him for my teacher.

Answer

I am glad you have found my “questions and answers” helpful.

Before you can help others effectively, you must prepare yourself. First of all you yourself must be healthy and have the means to help others. Otherwise, not only your desire to help is futile, you also ruin yourself, which means you may not even be able to help others in future. In Western terms, this teaching is expressed as “God helps those who help themselves.”

You should not feel depressed if you cannot help others. Helping others is an obligation, not a responsibility. Even if, for some legitimate reasons, you cannot repay your debts or fulfill your responsibilities now, you need not feel depressed. Instead you should make use of any current inability as motivation to better yourself in honest and honorable ways, so that when you are able you can be charitable, including to those unknown to you. Poverty, financially or otherwise, is not a sin, but knowing one is poor yet make no attempt to improve himself is deplorable.

Besides yourself, the very first persons you should help are your parents, if you are so blessed to have them still with you, and your wife and children if you have a family. You must repay the “debt” you owe your parents, and fulfill your responsibilities as a husband and father before you take on the obligations of helping others. Repaying debts and responsibilities take priority over obligations, otherwise the desire to help others may be an unconscious camouflage to flatter one's ego.

Yes, having a good teacher is a great blessing. We must always respect and honour our teachers.

Actually Taijiquan is a style of wushu, which is the current official Chinese term for “martial art”. In the photograph above, taken during an Intensive Taijiquan Course in Malaysia in February 2002, Raul Lopez, a well known Taijiquan master from Panama, and Sifu Wong's son, Wong Chun Nga, engaged in sparring. But today much of Taijiquan, commonly shortened to Taiji, as well as wushu in general are practiced for sport and not as martial art.

Question 4

I don't wish to offend. but I believe that nothing is based on luck or coincidence. To me, this world is like one big school yard, with lessons to be learned and choices to be made. A few times you have used the term “luck” to describe your good fortune in finding your teachers or in receiving your gifts. Wouldn't you be more correct in calling them “blessings”?

Answer

Yes, “blessings” is a more exact term. “Luck” here is not “mere chance” but “good fortune as a result of previous good thoughts, words or deeds”.

You are right to say that nothing is based on chance. Everything is based on cause and effect, called karma in Buddhist terms. Basically, good cause begets good effect, and evil cause begets evil effect. This is a great cosmic truth, so simple that many people find it hard to believe. The principle is simple but the workings and manifestations can be very far-reaching and profound.

Question 5

I practiced wushu under a very qualified sifu for about a year until I experienced knee problems. Then I started doing Tai Chi. I also have many other problems like chronic prostatitis, sinus problems, geographic tongue, and painful neck and bone spurs on the bottom of my foot.

— Jason, USA

Answer

You may have other reasons for practicing wushu and Tai Chi, but if it is for health, you have not achieved your purpose. Interestingly, many people today may not realize that practicing wushu and Tai Chi does not actually give them good health.

This was different in the past. When a person practiced Taijiquan or any other form of kungfu, he would be healthy and fit.

Question 6

I went to see a doctor who diagnosed me with Tension Myositis Syndrome, which basically states that most of my conditions are caused by repressed emotions and personality traits, but mostly that my mind is creating these disorders to avoid internal conflict, and by keeping me focused on physical dilemmas instead of mental ones.

Answer

This is an interesting situation. Many people say that western conventional medicine is scientific and objective, and traditional Chinese medicine is primitive. Yet, in such cases like yours, doctors who diagnose patients to be suffering from Tension Myositis Syndrome are subjective in their judgment, and therefore unscientific. There are no objective facts to link Tension Myositis Syndrome to repressed emotions and personality traits. They only think that repressed emotions and personality traits cause Tension Myositis Syndrome.

On the other hand, traditional Chinese physicians who diagnose patients with similar symptoms are objective in their judgement. They will not call the disease Tension Myositis Syndrome. Then, what will they call it? They will call the disease according the causes of the disease based on their diagnosis. Although the symptoms may be similar, the causes can be different.

For example, if by examining a patient thoroughly, they find that his lung energy is weak and his kidney energy is blocked, they will call the disease just that, namely “weak lung energy and blocked kidney”. In Chinese the term can be concise and poetic.

Examining another patient with similar symptoms, the Chinese physicians may find that he has “wind” in his kidney system, and and insufficient “fire” in his stomach. They will then call his disease “wind in the kidney, insufficient fire in the stomach”.

The crucial difference is that while conventional doctors base their diagnosis on subjective judgment, traditional Chinese physicians base their diagnosis on objective facts derived from thorough examination of the patient's actual conditions. And as the conventional doctors do not know what the illness is, they resort to relieving the symptoms. Western medicine becomes a management of disease.

On the other hand, as the Chinese physicians know what the causes are, their objective is to remove the causes. If they succeed in doing so — in the examples above, if they succeed in strengthening the patient's lung energy and clearing his blocked kidney, or removing wind in the patient's kidney and increasing fire in his stomach, the patient recovers. If their diagnosis is accurate, recovery is a matter of course. Chinese medicine becomes a restoration of health.

Because they use different paradigms, western doctors and Chinese physicians look at the causes differently. Western doctors usually regard the causes as external, such as bacteria and negative emotions. Chinese doctors regard the causes as internal, as a failure of certain natural functions which result in the patient's inability to adjust to changing environment inside and outside his body, such as energy blockage and internal “wind”.

If you do not understand Chinese medicine, logically you would not know what “energy blockage” and “internal wind” are — just as a person who does not understand Western medicine would not know how or why bacteria and negative emotions could cause diseases.

Some people are so used to the western medical paradigm that they think the causes of diseases can only be described by factors like bacteria and negative emotions, and that it is ridiculous to describe causes by such factors like energy blockage and internal wind.

But the fact is that while many patients undergoing western medical treatment for degenerative and chronic diseases have to take medication for life, many of those undergoing traditional Chinese medical treatment to have the causes removed — like clearing energy blockage and internal wind — recover from their illness.

Chi Kung

Shaolin Wahnam students in Ireland practicing chi kung

Question 7

I have noticed at times that the pain in my knee shift from one side to the other and travel to different parts of my leg. Normally this would scare me, but now it makes me feel like I am gaining insight, since the doctor told me that my pain might shift, and it has somewhat.

Answer

The insight derived from western medical philosophy here is not very deep. It only describes or predict the symptom, but does not tell much about its cause or treatment. Hence, typical western treatment is taking in or injecting pain killer, which only remove the symptom temporarily.

In Chinese medical term, this condition of shifting pain is referred to as “wind”. Those unfamiliar with Chinese medical philosophy may laugh when they hear that Chinese physicians describe the cause of your problem as “wind”, but when they succeed in eliminating the “wind”, you would no longer have pain.

There are many ways to remove “wond.”, such as massage therapy, acupuncture and taking in herbal concoction. If your “wind” is not strong, you may remove it by taking food with a lot of ginger, or taking a light alcoholic drink like wine before going to bed. Nevertheless, the best method to remove wind is by practicing chi kung.

Question 8

I try to open myself to new perspectives, and feel that this can be tied to chi kung. Do you have any opinions on this type of treatment?

Answer

I have a lot to say about overcoming your problems through chi kung. What I am going to say is based not just on philosophical knowledge recorded in Chinese medical classics, but also on my own track records on helping many, many people overcoming health problems like yours.

From the western medical perspective, your various health problems appear unrelated. Each one of your problem may be treated by a specialist separately. The nose specialist treating your sinus problem, for example, may not be interested in your bone problem treated by your orthopedic surgeon, who in turn may not be interested in the Tension Myositis Syndrome diagnosed by your psychiatrist.

But from the Chinese medical perspective, all your problems are inter-related. Chinese physicians therefore do not treat your separate diseases, but treat you holistically. Their task actually is not to cure diseases! The task is to restore your health. Once you are healthy, all your diseases will have disappeared.

To many people, “curing diseases” and “restoring health” are the same thing said in different ways. In fact they are different. Many patients may have their diseases cured, yet they are not healthy. For example, they may be unable to eat what they like to eat, or sleep soundly at night.

Nowadays western doctors go one step further — or, depending on your perspective, one step backward. Many western doctors today regard medicine not as a cure, but as a management of diseases.

How do traditional Chinese physicians help their patients to restore health? Generally this is accomplished not by removing external causes that cause diseases, like injecting chemicals that kill bacteria or surgically removing damaged tissues; but by restoring temporarily failed functions that maintain life, like clearing energy blockage and removing “wind”.

Indeed, this change of philosophical perspective may bring far-reaching consequences to the future development of western medicine. If western medical scientists and researchers can shift their perspective from overcoming diseases at specific parts of the body, to restoring the health and vitality of the whole person, they may make some break-through in their present impasse concerning chronic, degenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders. They can find a lot of ancient wisdom discovered by traditional Chinese medical scientists in my newly published book, “The Complete Book of Chinese Medicine”.

The Chinese paradigm has a big advantage over the western one. As restoring health involves internal body systems which Chinese physicians know very well, they deal with known factors in their diagnosis. Basically their task is to find out which of the known systems are not working naturally, then restore their functions.

In the western paradigm, as curing diseases involves external factors which are myriad, western doctors have a more daunting task. If they could not find out the causes they could not define the disease, and therefore would not know what to cure. This is a big problem facing western medicine today. In such situations, western doctors retort to relieving the symptoms.

Chinese physicians, therefore. have a big advantage over western doctors because in their diagnosis they deal with known factors whereas their western counterparts often have to deal with the unknown. Chi kung masters have a even bigger advantage. They do not have to deal with diagnosis! This is incredible, but it is true. While both Chinese medicine and western medicine operate at higher hierarchies of organs and systems, chi kung operates at the most fundamental level — the level of energy.

At this level there is only one problem, i.e. whether chi is flowing harmonious or not. If chi is not flowing harmoniously, there will be disorder, if it is flowing harmoniously there will be health. It is bafflingly simple, yet the manifestations and consequences are very profound. Basically, all the chi kung masters need to do is to help his patients or students to have harmonious chi flow!

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