May 2003 (Part 2)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Combat training

Combat application has to be systematically trained.. If students go straight to free sparring after learning some kungfu sets, but without prior systematic training in combat application, they will be unable to use the kungfu techniques they have learnt in solo practice. The inevitable result is that they will spar like Boxers or Kickboxers, or like children.

Question 1

I practice not only ”Lifting The Sky“ but also “Pushing Mountains”, “Carrying The Moon” and “Induced Chi Flow”. These exercises are very enjoyable to practice. When I practise “Big Windmill”, sometimes I feel that my hands are heavy and sometimes very light. When I practise “Carrying The Moon”, chi flows automatically to my hands and I feel refreshes. I am a beginner in traditional wushu at Chin Woo Athletics Association, and I was very surprised when I practise Tan Tui Sequence 4, because some chi shot out from my palm when I did palm strikes.

— Julie, Malaysia

Answer

Congratulations, Julie. You have practiced well. For someone who learns from my books, such results are remarkable. Your achievement is an inspiration to others who wish to benefit from chi kung but may not have the opportunity to learn from me or Shaolin Wahnam instructors personally. It is also a good testimony for those who doubt whether chi exists.

When you practice “Big Windmill”, your hands become heavy because you have successfully generated chi, or energy, at your hands. Later they become light again because the chi has flowed to your body to enhance the natural working of your internal organs, making you refreshed and happy.

This is some useful information for many people to know. When their hands become light again, or sometimes become cold, after being heavy and warm as the result of their chi kung training, they wonder what has happened to the chi they developed earlier. Where has the chi gone to? Has it been wasted?

The chi they have generated has flowed into their body to maintain and enhance life. This is the best use of chi. This is also the most fundamental purpose for practicing chi kung. Spending years to develop chi in the hands to break bricks or someone's bones, or in the muscles to impress others, is in our opinion at Shaolin Wahnam an unwise use of time.

But when you need chi for combat, it can be generated from your dan tian (energy field). Hence, when you performed palm strikes in your Tan Tui, chi shot out from your palms. Many people, including those who teach wushu or kungfu today, may not believe in what you said. Some may accuse you of lying! They think your achievement is too good to be true. They could not bring themselves to accept the fact that somebody like you, whom they regard as their equal, could achieve what they thought only masters in the past could do.

Such situations happen frequently to us in Shaolin Wahnam. But we need not be angry at their unreasonable attitude. Instead we count our blessings that we are so lucky to have such wonderful chi kung benefits — not chi shooting out from palms, which is just a manifestation of our chi kung achieement, but more significantly good health, vitality, mental freshness and inner peace.

“Tan Tui”, or “Springy Leg Kungfu”, is a famous Northern Shaolin style. Comprising twelve sequences, it is the fundamental kungfu set taught at Chin Woo Athletics Association., originally founded by the great Northern Shaolin master Huo Yuan Jia (Fok Yun Kap in Cantonese pronunciation). Huo Yuan Jia's aspiration was not just to teach kungfu, but a cultured way of life based on the scholar-warrior ideal. Unfortunately this noble ideal was not carried on by later leaders of Chin Woo Athletics Association. Kungfu as a fighting art taught by the great master then, eventually degraded into traditional wushu meant for demonstration.

Although Tan Tui is an excellent combat art, most people who practice it today do not know its combat application. I hope that in the near future I shall post a webpage on the combat application of Tan Tui, hoping that this may rekindle glory and greatness pf this Northern Shaolin style. Tan Tui is particularly effective against martial artists who bounce about and fight like Western Boxing exponents.

Question 2

But recently the weather was very hot and I felt tired after practising “Induced Chi Flow”. Should I stop practicing it?

Answer

Your feeling tired is due to the hot weather or other factors, and not due to practicing “Induced Chi Flow”. Indeed, when the weather is hot, practicing “Induced Chi Flow” will cool you down as the chi flow spreads energy all over your body, and when the weather is cold, it will warm you up as the chi flow focuses on your internal organs.

Some people may be surprised at this interesting phenomenon. How can the same exercise achieve totally opposite effects, they may ask. This is an example of dualistic thinking influenced by Western medical perspective.

The following analogy will make the situation clear. When a nation is low in fund, money from outlying districts will be called back to the central government to maintain the government machinery. When the nation has excess fund, money will be channelled to outlying districts for development. This is possible when the government has good management of cash flow.

The same principle applies to the natural working of our body. When we have good management of energy flow, in times of need energy will be recalled from our extremities to our body to maintain life. When energy is abundant, it will be channelled to our extremities for more even distribution.

Question 3

I do not understand Buddhism but my aunt has always told me knowledge and stories of Buddhism since I was young. I feel confused when I read books on Buddhism. But recently, I always think of entering a monastery to practice Buddhism and it will be very meaningful.

Answer

Buddhism is simple and profound at the same time. There are three traditions in Buddhism, namely Threavada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Most Chinese Buddhists belong to the Mahayana tradition.

Although the rituals, practices and emphasis of the different Buddhist traditions may be different, the basic teachings are the same, and can be summed up in the Buddha's own words:

  1. Avoid all evil.
  2. Do good.
  3. Cultivate the mind.

Why do we practice Buddhism, i.e. why do we avoid all evil, do good and cultivate our mind? The answer can be summed up as follows: to cultivate blessings and to cultivate wisdom. We cultivate blessings by avoiding evil and doing good, and we cultivate wisdom by cultivating our mind.

Why do we cultivate blessings? To have good karma, which can be translated as living a happy, peaceful life here and now, as well as in future in this world, other worlds or heavens. Why do we cultivate wisdom? To know what reality is and to attainment enlightenment.

Entering a monastery or a nunnery to become a monk or nun to cultivate, signifies one of the highest point of a person's spiritual development. Nevertheless, one can also cultivate and attain a very high level without becoming a monk or nun.

Combat training

Here is another picture showing a kungfu class at Shaolin Wahanam United Kingdom in London taught by Sifu Dan Hartwright and Sifu Ronan Sexton. The students are practicing combat application systematically. This is a beginners' class, although some of the students have many years of prior kungfu experience elsewhere.

Question 4

I have changed a lot. I am not interested in doing anything else except practising chi kung. My friends study very hard and they want to find a good job to earn a lot of money. But I do not have ambitions. I do not study hard, I just want to be a simple person and have a simple life. I do not chase for material wealth now or in the future. I always think that money and other material things do not exist and I could not find any reason to chase for them. My parents always say that I am silly. But actually I am contented with what I have now, and getting wealthy and famous is meaningless to me. My life is simple and I feel much more happier than before.

Answer

Whether you devote yourself to spiritual cultivation or are still involved in worldly life, practicing chi kung helps greatly in your spiritual or worldly endeavour.

Chi kung should enrich your life; it should not take over your life. In other words, because you practice chi kung, no matter what you do, you can do better. Irrespective of whether you cultivate spiritually, study hard, or lead a simple life, you would attain higher and better iesults. But it should not be a situation whereby you do nothing else except practicing chi kung.

Being contented with what you have, and finding happiness in a simple life are accomplishments not many people are capable of. They call for wisdom and courage. You need to be wise to see through the impermanence of worldly fame and pleasure, and to be courageous to live the kind of life you like best.

Question 5

I said to my parents that I wanted to enter a monastery but they felt disappointed and sad. I will not do this now because I love my parents. I will wait for another suitable time. May be I should attend classes and activities held by the Buddhist Society in my college. Thank you for taking time to read my e-mail. Thank you again for kindly replying my e-mail.

Answer

I suppose you meant entering a nunnery to cultivate. Monasteries are for monks, whereas nunneries are for nuns. Although in Malaysia there are monasteries where nuns are also found, I believe this is not proper and against the teaching of the Buddha. Considering that according to monastic rules, monks are not even allowed to look directly at a female when talking to her, it does not make sense that they stay together.

Becoming a nun and entering a nunnery to devote oneself to spiritual cultivation marks one of the highest points in a woman's spiritual life. But she should do this only after much deep though and consideration, and when the time is ripe to do so.

You are right not to do this now. And it is admirable that you love your parents. Before one becomes a nun, she must fulfil her duties and obligations. First of all, you have to fulfil your duties to your parents, to repay the extreme kindness and love they have bestowed on you ever since you were born. If you make no effort to fulfil these duties to your parents but run away from these duties to become a nun to satisfy your own aspirations, you would be selfish. This will defeat the main purpose of becoming a nun, which is cultivating to be selfless.

As you are still studying in a college, you have obligations to be a good student. You must also fulfil these obligations before you can seriously consider whether you should become a nun. Fulfilling these obligations means that you must not only study well but also participate in wholesome activities in your college, especially those organized by the Buddhist Society.

Most important of all, you have obligations to yourself. Because of the abundant blessings cultivated by you in your countless past lives, you have the very rare opportunity to be born as a wholesome human in a peaceful society exposed to the teaching of the Buddha. You are obliged to use this life the best you can. If you are fully aware what becoming a nun means, then entering a nunnery after you have fulfilled all your duties and obligations will mark a high point in your spiritual development. But if you become a nun due to your fancy and later discover that becoming a nun is actually not what you want, then you would have mess up your life.

It is advisable for you to spend part of your college holidays in a nunnery, not as a nun but as a lay follower, to find out at first hand what the life of a nun is like. You should do so only with your parents' permission. Tell you parents that you are not sure whether the austere life of a nun is what you want, and you wish to find out. Assure them that even if you find a nun's life desirable, you would not become a nun against their wish. You must also learn more about Buddhism from good books and classes organized by Buddhist societies.

Actually you need not become a nun to cultivate spiritually. Some lay persons have higher spiritual attainments than many monks and nuns. You can, and should, cultivate at home.

Question 6

I'm suffering from a disease called retinopathy pigmentoza It is a disease in eyes that leads to blindness. Have you ever heard of it or have you ever cured a disease like this? Now I have already lost 95% of my vision. I'm a mother of 47 years old

— Liana, Greece

Answer

I am sorry to hear that you have lost much of your vision.

I have not heard of the name of this disease, and hence I do not know if I have cured someone with such a disease, though I think I might have. Such an answer may seem odd but it is actually not uncommon in my situation.

The fantastic thing about my chi kung teaching is that students need not tell me what diseases they suffer from, but if they continue to practice consistently and regularly on their on what they have learnt from me in my intensive courses or regional classes, moist of them will be cured of their diseases! It is understandable if most people do not believe this claim, but it is unreasonable, and in some cases unfortunate, that many people dismiss it as bullshit without first checking if it is true.

Literally thousands of people have learnt from me, and it is probable that some of them cured themselves of an eye disease like yours, though their case might not be as serious.

But I am sure that practicing genuine chi kung improves eyesight and overcome eye diseases. Recently at a regional chi kung class in Barcelona, a student asked me whether practicing chi kung could overcome short-sightedness.. Yes, I replied and added that a few students threw away their glasses. To prove my point I asked those in the class who actually threw away their glasses to put up their hands. I myself was surprised. I thought there would be two or three cases out of a class of about forty students, but about eight persons put up their hands.

Many years ago a student in Australia told me that her eye specialists pronounced she would be blind.in a few weeks, but after practicing the chi kung she had learnt from me, she recovered her eyesight totally!

I would recommend that you attend my Personalized Chi Kung Course, or learn from any master who has confidence in helping you to recover your eyesight — not just any instructor or even master who teaches chi kung.

Meanwhile practice the following exercises at least three times a day. Count green leaves with your eyes. Start with 50 leaves, then increase the number to 100 after a few days. At first stand close enough so that you can see the leaves. Count each leaf individually with your eyes. As you progress, move further and further from the leaves each day.

After counting leaves, roll your eyes in big circles 10 times one side, and then 10 times the other side. Next, widen your eyes as large as possible as if you were angry, then close them as tight as you can. Repeat for about 20 times. Then stand upright and be relaxed. Close your eyes gently and let chi nourish your eyes. If you practice diligently and consistently you will gradually increase the percentage of your vision.

When you have recovered enough vision to be able to move about on your own, attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course if you have not attended my Personalized Chi Kung Course earlier, or join a regional chi kung class taught by a certified Shaolin Wahnam instructor, or learn genuine chi kung from any master or competent instructor.

Combat training

Free sparring comes at the end, not at the beginning, of .a combat training programme. It is not meant to train combat efficiency, but to test it.

Question 7

I have been practising Hung Gar Kungfu for the past one year, admittedly on-and-off. One of the possible reasons that my enthusiasm has not been as great as I would like it to be is because so far I have been practising little else other than the first set, i.e. the “Mui Fah Kuen” or Plum-Flower Fist set. I have seen no demonstrations so far of actual Hung Gar applied in real combat, even in pre-arranged two-men sets. I know that Hung Gar is supposed to be really formiddable as a fighting style, but my training so far has not shown this aspect of the art. I am quite demoralised. Can you please comment?

— Yong, Malaysia

Answer

What you experience is the norm of kungfu training all today over the world, including in China. Indeed, the situation in China, where many people believe the epitome of kungfu is found, is even worse. At least outside China kungfu exponents make an attempt to use kungfu for sparring, though they often do so badly. But in China, wushu or kungfu exponents do not believe their art can be used for fighting!

The wushu/kungfu situation in China is rather complex to the uninitiated. What we call “kungfu” in English is called “wushu” in Chinese. There are two types of wushu in China, namely modernized wushu where all traditional kungfu forms are stylized into seven categories, and traditional wushu. where traditional kungfu forms are still practiced. Both modernized wushu and traditional wushu are practiced as a demonstrative sport, and not as a martial art.

Some sparring, however, is attempted, especially by those who practiced traditional wushu, and it is called “san da”. But their exponents do not use the wushu techniques they have learnt in solo practice. Instead they use Boxing or Kickboxing techniques.

We at Shaolin Wahnam are amongst the very few in the whole world today who believe that kungfu is not only capable for combat but is exceedingly effective for combat. With due respect to martial artists of other styles, we also believe that kungfu, especially great kungfu like Shaolin and Taijiquan, is superior to other martial arts, because, amongst other reasons, it contributes to health and leads to spiritual development. This is our personal conviction, otherwise we would not practice our art, and should not be taken as a slight to other arts.

Hung Gar Kungfu is indeed a formidable fighting style. It is the direct descendent of Southern Shaolin Kungfu. It is also elegant and beautiful to watch. “Mui Fa Kuen”, often shortened to “Fa Kuen” or Flower Set, is a famous Southern Shaolin kungfu set, and was practiced by great masters in the past like Mg Mui and Fong Sai Yoke.

Question 8

It may interest you to know that I have purchased a copy of your book, "The Complete Book of Shaolin”.

Answer

This book will give you a sound philosophical knowledge of the Shaolin arts, namely kungfu, chi kung and Zen. It will show that Shaolin training is not just learning how to fight, but more importantly how to develop ourselves in all our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions.

The four aspects of kungfu — form, force, application and philosophy — give you a good guideline as to how you can approach your training. For example, if you learn only kungfu forms, like what you did in your Hung Gar training, you will at your best get only 25% of the potential kungfu training will give.

Combat training

Here is another free sparring session between Sifu Darryl Collette (on the left) of Scotland and Sifu Dan Hartwright of England. With his left tiger-claw, Sifu Hartwright grips Sifu Collette's right hand, and simultaneously strikes Sifu Collette's face with his right tiger-claw using the Shaolin pattern called “Night Tiger Emerges from Forest”.

Question 9

I find that one of the things that prevents me from performing well in my sparring sessions at my Hung Gar academy (apart from the fact that I really have been practising little else other than the horse-riding stance, the Plum-Flower Fist set and my own self-training on the sandbag), is my fear of pain/internal injury from getting hit. Is it attributed to lack of self-confidence in a fight, lack of training in what you rightfully call “real kungfu vs. flowery fists and embroidery legs” or something else?

Answer

The answer to your question is a bit of everything you suggested. But the most important factor is your lack of systematic training for combat. Your training at the Horse-Riding Stance, Plum flower Set, and hitting a sandbag constitutes the foundation, contributing to your developing some force and knowing some kungfu patterns. But you have never undergone any combat training. Logically this leads to lack of confidence, which in turn leads to fear.

This is a typical situation in most kungfu schools today. It is also an issue of real kungfu verses “flowery fists and embroidery legs”. Students are never taught how to sparr, mainly because their instructors themselves do not know how to spar effectively with kungfu techniques. Mistakenly thinking that free sparring is the way to develop combat efficiency, both instructors and students engage in free sparring without any prior training or preparation. The result is disgraceful. They fight like boxers or kick-boxers, or like children.

If you practice combat application systematically and also develop force, you will not be afraid of pain or internal injury due to being hit. The reason is simply because with systematic training and with force, you will not have pain and not be hit.

From our Shaolin Wahnam perspective, the manner students and instructors free spar today is ridiculous. They just go in and hit each other, with total disregard for their own health and safety. Although they may have learnt defend techniques in their solo practice, they do not how how to use them in their free sparring. They are so used to being hit and kicked that they take such beating for granted! It is indeed amazing why they have never asked themselves for what purpose they regularly take such punishment in their martial art classes.

Question 10

I had a couple of sparring sessions with one of my seniors, and the result was laughable, to say the least. He has a background in tournament kickboxing, and one of his specialities is his roundhouse kick, in which his primary weapon is his shins. He has hardened them to the point of his being able to break 2 or 3 baseball bats with a single roundhouse kick, His target is the opponent's thigh or ribs.

I recently read from a book which says that one of the only sure-fire ways to block such a kick is to use either the shins or the forearms. Going back to my point above on my fear of pain, I have resorted to doing my own forearm and shin hardening exercises (hitting my forearms against trees, hitting my shins with a bundle of canes), so that I can confidently block the strikes without fear of pain or fracture! Do I really have to do this?

Answer

No, you don't have to do this. The advice given by the book you mentioned, is both unwise and incorrect. You must use appropriate medication in the way you harden your forearms and shins, otherwise you may have adverse effects.

Your senior's dedication to his training is admirable, and his ability to break two or three baseball bats with a single roundhouse kick is remarkable. Nevertheless convey to him my advice that he should apply some medication, such as “tit da jow”, or medicated wine, nightly to his injured shins. A better alternative if for him to train chi kung to clear away blockage at his legs. Otherwise the sustained injuries in his legs will affect his health in later life.

Using your shin or forearm to block a roundhouse kick that can break two or three baseball bats executed by someone who specializes in such a kick, is to offer your bones to be broken. If you wish to block the kick, use an iron bar. Hold the upper end of the iron bar with your right hand, with the right thumb below, and the lower end with your left hand, with your left thumb above.

As the attacker kicks at you with a right roundhouse kick, thrust out the vertically held iron bar to meet the kicking leg — and hope that the iron bar is stronger than three baseball bats. Immediately, let go of your left hand, and with your right hand swing the iron bar downward onto the attacker's right collar-bone. Make sure you do not hit his head with the iron bar, otherwise you may kill him.

But when you spar with your senior, you would not want to break his leg or collar bone with the iron bar. Then, how are you going to block his roundhouse kicks. Don't block them! As he kicks, squat down low, use one hand to “float” the kicjing leg, and with the other hand, drive a leopard punch into the knee of his standing leg. Despite his powerful shins, one leopard punch strike at the knee may dislocate it and put him out of action. So be careful not to hurt him; just give him a gentle tap.

Alternatively, as his roundhouse kick approaches, shift your body backward into the Front-Arrow Stance to avoid the kick. Then, brushing away the kicking leg, shift your body forward into a Bow-Arrow Stance, and drive a leopard punch into his ribs. Of course, in reality you will stop your punch an inch from his body.

Thirdly, as the roundhouse kick approaches, move a small step diagonally forward on the other side, and execute a thrust kick at his abdomen.

It is important to realize that merely knowing these techniques is insufficient. You must have correct timing and spacing, and be able to execute the techniques smoothly and with some force. This comes from systematic training.

Nevertheless, in your case where you may not have a living instructor to teach you these skills, the following procedure may be helpful. First, practice the techniques on your own, paying attention to correct forms, especially the stances. Practice each technique at least 30 times a day, everyday for about z month. Then ask someone to attack you with a roundhouse kick — slowly and gently at first, then fast and with force later on — for you to apply these techniques on him. Of course you must not hurt him.

Then continue to practice on your own but with an imaginary opponent for another two months. You will then be quite competent in handling roundhouse kicks.

You can apply the same procedure to other types of attacks, like Boxing jabs, Karate punches, and Judo throws. Such type of combat training is called “san-shou” or “miscellaneous techniques” in kungfu terminology.

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