November 2002 (Part 3)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Shaolin Kungfu

Dan and Ronan strike a Shaolin pose during a visit to the famous Temple of Eternal Bliss in Penang, Malaysia while undergoing an Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course. On the left is Dan at the Golden Bridge, while on the right is Ronan at White Crane Flaps Wings.

Question 1

I have always had great interest in martial arts and practised Tae Kwon Do for several years. My readings made me aware that I was merely doing physical exercise and that there was more to the training than what I was learning.

— Serge, USA

Answer

Martial arts may be classified into three levels. Martial arts of the lowest level are those that are practiced only for fighting, and usually are detrimental to health. Those of the second level are practiced for fighting as well as for health. Those of the highest level are practiced for fighting, health and spiritual cultivation.

The progression in the above classification is obvious. The second level is higher than the lowest level because the former provides for fighting and health, whereas the latter provides for fighting only. Besides providing for fighting and health, the highest level also provides for spiritual cultivation.

If we accept this classification we would place Taekwondo, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Karate, Western Boxing and Wrestling at the lowest level of martial arts; Aikido, Jujitsu, Wing Choon Kungfu, Hoong Ka Kungfu, Choy-Li-Fatt Kungfu, Baguazhang and Hsing Yi Kungfu at the second level; and Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan at the highest level. Taiji and Wushu could not even qualify for placing at the lowest level because they are not practiced for fighting; they are dance and gymnastics.

The above opinion, though given honestly, is controversial. Many practitioners of Taekwondo, Kickboxing, etc would vehemently object, saying that their arts also provide for health and spiritual cultivation. Many Taiji and Wushu practitioners would also object, saying that their arts could be used for fighting but they are not interested in this aspect, and that their arts make them healthy and spiritual.

Others may not agree to the classification. They regard the highest level of martial arts to be those that knock out their opponents in the most effective, even brutal, way, forgetting about health and spirituality.

Nevertheless, the three-level classification mentioned above provides us with a useful conceptual framework to evaluate martial arts, if we are willing to put aside irrationalism and prejudice. It will enable you to see more clearly what is lacking in Taekwondo.

You are right in saying that you have been merely doing physical exercise. Those practicing Jujitsu or Wing Choon Kungfu are also doing physical exercise, but why are they at the second level whereas Taekwondo practitioners are at the third? The reason is that Jujitsu and Wing Choon Kungfu contribute to health, whereas Taekwondo practitioners sustain much internal injury in their training.

Baguazhang or Hsing Yi exponents train internal force, whereas Jujitsu and Wing Choon exponents generally do not. Then, why are these arts classified at the same level? It is because the classification is based on result, and not on approach.

Yet, when we examine why Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan are classified at the highest level, we find out it is because these arts employ internal force for spiritual cultivation. This suggests that while Jujitsu and Wing Choon Kungfu on one hand, and Baguazhang and Hsing Yi Kungfu on the other hand are at the same level, the former are at the lower range and the latter at the higher range of the second level.

It is the philosophy of the respective arts which influences their placing at the second or the highest level. Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan purposefully aim at spiritual cultivation whereas Baguazhang and Hsing Yi Kungfu generally do not.

Now, having understood this conceptual framework for classifying martial arts, and having understood that what you lack in your Taekwondo training are internal force and spiritual cultivation, would you be able to raise a third level art to become a first level art? You would not be able to, because even if you borrow the methods of internal force training and spiritual cultivation from other arts, the basic approach and philosophy of your art will negate your effort.

I would like to add that I do not mean any disrespect to Taekwondo and the other martial arts which I would place at the thrid level. This way of classifying martial arts is based on certain values, which may vary from persons to persons. When values change, the mode of classification would change. Those who value physical prowess and vigorous movements, for example, may place Taekwondo and Kickboxing above Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan.

Question 2

I became more interested in vital energy chandelling and discovered the existence of chi kung. I have so far not been able to afford any courses.

Answer

If you have the chance to practice genuine chi kung, which is rare today though practicing external chi kung forms is common, you will find it one of the best things you have ever done.

If you want good result, not only you have to learn personally from a master, but from a good master. And good masters usually charge high fees. But if you compare the fees with the results you get, the fees are actually very cheap. It is more expensive when you pay low fees to bogus teachers who only teach you external chi kung forms.

The issue is really not whether you can afford, but whether you are willing to pay. If you cannot afford the fees, or unwilling to pay, you may try learning chi kung from my books. Many people have done so and derived much benefit. They thought the chi kung exercises they had learnt from my books were fantastic — until they attended my intensive chi kung courses in Malaysia. Then they found there was no comparison between learning from my books and learning from me personally, and realized what I meant when I said the high fees were actually very cheap. Many have told me that chi kung has changed their lives in ways they could never thought possible before.

Question 3

All I have experienced is endless amount of videos and readings.

Answer

If you have no experience of chi kung, you may learn external chi kung forms from videos and readings, but it is unlikely you will practice real chi kung. Later you may teach such external forms to others, thinking that you are sharing a great art. This is one main way how genuine chi kung debases into dance.

Question 4

I would really like to be able to direct or channel chi within myself and help others to do so if possible. I would also like very much to be able to learn the force and finger techniques as well, as what they call “tim mark” in the videos.

Answer

You do not want to be a proper student first, yet you want to teach others. You are unwilling to pay fees to learn from a living instructor, yet you want to perform feats like channelling chi and “tim mark” (an advanced art of striking an opponent's vital points) which most instructors themselves cannot do.

Taijiquan combat

Jeffrey and Roberto practicing Taijiquan combat during their Special Taijiquan Course in Malaysia in July 2002. Jeffrey attempts to throw Roberto by using the Taijiquan pattern called “Carry Tiger Back to Mountain”. If Roberto could not respond effectively, he would be thrown onto the ground.

Question 5

As I cannot afford to come and see you, do you have any suggestions or exercises I could do at home?

Answer

The first choice in your situation is to learn from a living instructor in your area. The second choice is to learn “Lifting the Sky” from my books.

“Lifting the Sky” is one of the best exercises in all chi kung. If you can perform well for six months what I have clearly explained in my books, you would derive much benefit.

Question 6

You mentioned in one of your articles that you could send chi over long distances to heal people. I am curious how much you charge for this service? I would like to overcome my myopia, but currently cannot find the time to attend your intensive course, although I definitely plan to in the future.

— TJ, USA

Answer

I send chi over great distance to help people in urgent need, and it is usually performed free. In this way I saved a few people from dying. But I do not send chi for normal healing; as it is too draining on my energy.

Question 7

I have read your books and I am amazed. I am also doing an exercise for my eyes that you describe in your Kungfu book. I am short -sighted and I wear glasses. Will this exercise help me to cure my problem. After doing the exercise I can see brighter and better.

— Nicolas, Greece

Answer

If you practice correctly and consistently, you have a good chance to overcome your short- sightedness, and be able to see normally without glasses. Many of my students threw away their glasses after practicing my chi kung for a few months. You already have good result. Continue your practice regularly.

Question 8

I have been doing kungfu for 8 years. Is there a Shaolin Monastery where I can be a Shaolin monk. I am serious. Even all my friends and family say that this is crazy.

Answer

I do not think the Shaolin Monastery in China today accept foreign monks. Even the Chinese monks there, including the abbot, do not stay in the monastery like monks did in the past. They go to work in the monastery in the morning and return to their homes in the evening. I am not sure how true it is, but it is said that some “monks” have families.

Some of these modern Shaolin “monks” have established Shaolin Temples overseas to teach Chan, or Zen, and wushu. I use inverted commas for “monks” because although they wear monks' robes and present themselves as monks, they openly eat meat and drink alcohol. Eating meat and drinking alcohol are cardinal sins in Mahayana Buddhism. Any Mahayana monk found eating meat or drinking alcohol would be expelled from the monastic order. Most Chinese monasteries, including the Shaolin Monastery, practice Mahayana Buddhism.

In Theravada Buddhism and Vajrayana Buddhism there are no rules against monks eating meat, but they are forbidden to drink alcohol, because alcohol intoxicates the mind. Nevertheless, the Buddha and famous Buddhist masters encouraged monks to be vegetarian.

Theravada monks may eat meat because it is their tradition to accept food given by their followers, and their followers may sometimes give them meat. Vajrayana monks may eat meat because Vajrayana Buddhism incorporated many Tibetan practices, and as vegetables were rare in Tibet, Tibetans ate a lot of meat. On the other hand, Mahayana Buddhism flourished in China, where Mahayana monks grew their own food and were strict vegetarians.

Different people may have different views regarding modern Shaolin “monks” eating meat and drinking alcohol. Personally I feel that as eating meat and drinking alcohol are cardinal sins in Mahayana Buddhism, and if they are Mahayana monks, they would be blatantly disrespecting their sacred monastic order by openly flouting its rules. If a monk cannot resist worldly temptations like eating meat and drinking alcohol, he should leave his monkhood.

Becoming a monk marks one of the highest points in a person's life. It calls for great sacrifice and dedication, and should be undertaken only after very serious and thorough consideration. You are not ready for such a drastic action. You wanted to become a monk not because of spiritual cultivation but because you wanted to learn Shaolin Kungfu. But today Shaolin Kungfu is not taught in the Shaolin Monastery in China or by modern Shaolin “monks” elsewhere. What is taught is modernized wushu, which is different from traditional kungfu.

Question 9

Does your teaching of kungfu have anything to do with religion?

— Yusen, Malaysia

Answer

My teaching of kungfu does not have anything to do with religion, but it has a lot to do with spiritual cultivation, besides good health and combat efficiency.

This does not mean that my students and I do not believe in religion. My students follow different religions, and some of them are very pious. But one's religious beliefs do not interfere with our kungfu training, nor our kungfu training interferes with one's religion.

While our kungfu training is not religious, it is highly spiritual. In other words, we do not preach religion but we cultivate our spirit. And our spiritual cultivation is experiential, not merely intellectual. In other words, we do not merely talk about inner peace and liberating our spirit, but actually feel inner peace and actually liberate our spirit.

How does one know he has inner peace and is liberating his spirit? Asking such a question is an indication that he does not have such a spiitual experience. It is like asking how does one know he is happy and is free from hunger. When he is happy and is not hungry, he knows it from direct experience. It is the same with inner peace and spiritual liberation.

Taijiquan combat

To counter Jeffrey's throwing attack (please see photograph above), Roberto shifts his right leg and immediately kicks at Jeffrey's ribs, using a Taijiquan pattern called “Golden Cockerel Stands Alone” Jeffrey neutralizes the attack by moving his right leg diagonally backward.

Question 10

What is the best way to use the mind to mobilise chi, i.e. is it best to put the mind ahead of where you want the chi to go or is it better just to imagine/visualise it moving, or does it not matter? I guess I'm asking what is the nature of chi and its relationship to the mind?

— Jane, Australia

Answer

It does not matter to chi or to the chi kung master who uses his mind to mobilize chi, but it matters a lot to you. If you try doing what you described, or even just intellectualizing it, you will get a headache if you are lucky. If you are unlucky, you may end up with serious mental disorder.

Not necessary a master but even an ordinary student who can mobilize chi, does not worry about all those questions you have asked. If he wishes to send chi to his left hand, he just sends chi to his left hand. If he wishes to send chi to his right ankle, he just sends chi to his right ankle. It is really as simple as that. But those who do not have the skill, would be unable to do so even if they ask a lot of academic questions like you did, and obtain a lot of intellectual answers.

An analogy will make this issue clearer. If a skilful footballer wishes to kick a ball into a goal, he just kicks the ball into the goal. He does not ask whether he should put his mind ahead of the ball, or put his mind after the ball, or use his mind to move the ball.

Similarly when you eat your breakfast, you do not have to worry whether you should put your teeth to your bread, or put your bread to your teeth, or move your teeth and your bread towards each other at equal speed. You just eat your bread and enjoy it.

You also have guessed wrongly. What you are asking is not the nature of chi nor its relationship to mind? To put it crudely, you are asking for unnecessary trouble.

Question 11

What approach should you have with your mind in regards to moving chi? I have heard you are not supposed to try to force chi to move, that you should just use intent. I was wondering if there was a bit more to it, i.e. I have noticed that you can feel the build up of chi around you more whenyou have managed to reach a more meditative state of mind while you are doing chi kung. I am just wondering if this is also the best state to be in to mobilise chi and transfer it into and around the body?

Answer

First I shall give you intellectual answers to satisfy your curiosity. Then I shall give you a practical answer which will be most useful to you.

I can use many approaches, but the best is simplicity. You can force chi to move, but you should do so gently. You may or may not use intent. For example, you may not have any specific intent, but by merely breathing you have forced chi to move.

There is a lot more to what you have said. What you have felt about chi build-up is true, and it shows the importance of a meditative state of mind. But it is also true that without going into a meditative state of mind but by holding your breath or tensing your muscles, you too can feel chi build-up.

Whether a meditative state of mind is the best state to be in when mobilizing chi, depends on numerous factors, like the practitioner's ability, needs and methods. Ideally, a meditative state of mind is the best state, but in practice for most people the best way, i.e. one that produces result most effectively, is to use muscles. It is not because using muscles is superior to using a chi kung state of mind; in fact the reverse is true. The reason is that most people is unable to use a chi kung state of mind.

Now the practical answer. Forget about all these questions and answers. Just practice your chi kung and enjoy it.

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