September 2003 (Part 1)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Micellaneous Techniques

The way we train at Shaolin Wahnam is very different from what is normally trained in most other kungfu schools. For example, we pay much attention to applying the kungfu techniques we learn in combat, rather than retorting to free-style sparring. One such approach is called “Miscellaneous Techniques” or “san shou”. Here in “Miscellaneous Techniques” training, Sifu Wong demonstrates a Shaolin technique, called “Taming a Tiger with a String of Beads”, against a side kick, called “Happy Bird Hops up a Branch”, executed by Goh Kok Hin.

Question 1

I would like to thank you from the depth of my heart for all the wonderful blessings you have shared and for the spiritual path you have played a major part in putting me firmly onto The question I have is not meant out of any disrespect, but is simply something that has deeply puzzled me and seems in contradiction with all else that you teach. Why do you charge such high fees for your courses?

— Daniel, United Kingdom

Answer

There are many reasons why I charge the fees I charge, and you can read them if you review some past issues of these question-answer series.

But for your purpose here, it suffices to give just one reason. I am a professional, not a missionary. I charge US$1000 for my Intensive Chi Kung Course because both my students and I feel that it is worth at least US$1000. If any student, after taking the course, feels that it is not worth the fee he pays, he needs not pay any fee at all.

There are no contradictions. If a service is worth US$20 per month, like some chi kung teachers charge, students pay US$20 per month. If it is worth US$20,000 per hour, like some entertainers charge, TV producers pay US$20,000 per hour. This applies to professionals. Charlatans and missionaries work differently. A charlatan may charge US$20,000 for a service that is worth US$20, whereas a missionary may charge US$20 for a service that is worth US$20,000.

As you thanked me from the depth of your heart, it is unlikely you think I am a charlatan. Hence, contradictions only arise in you because you mistake me to be a missionary, perhaps thinking I should charge a dollar for a service that is worth more than a thousand dollars.

Question 2

There is little doubt in my mind and I am sure for the majority of your students that the arts you teach are indeed priceless and worth far more than the money you charge for them. Charging high fees may well ensure that students are committed and understand the value of what they are learning before coming on the course, yet this still excludes all those who simply do not have the means.

Answer

Besides being a professional, I am also a traditional master who believes that his art should be taught only to the deserving. Not only a traditional master is not interested in those who do not have the means, financial or otherwise, though he sometimes teach free of charge to deserving students, he often purposely excludes those who have the means if they do not satisfy his conditions.

You seem to think that anyone who wants to learn from a traditional master can do so, whether he has the means or not. This is not the case. A traditional master, especially one from the East, is very different from a modern instructor, especially one from the West. A traditional master, for example, expects his students to follow his teaching without questions, whereas a modern instructor often asks his students for suggestions on how he should teach.

Question 3

Charging as much as you do to me seems to reflect greed which is certainly not in linewith the Damma. Compared to my other two spiritual teachers, one who charges a fraction of what you do, and the other who gives his services freely and relies on voluntary donations for his livelihood, your methods contrast starkly. From all the wisdom you teach I have faith that all the money earned through Shaolin Wahnam contributes to the best possible causes. I simply ask you all this as it is something that worries me as not fully reflecting the highest moral discipline you teach. It is meant as a sincere question that has troubled me and not some grumbling at having to pay so much for courses.

Answer

Talking about Dharma, you may like to know that the followers of the Buddha paid a very high price; they had to leave their families. The followers of Jesus paid a even higher price. Many of them had to pay with their lives at the hands of the prosecuting Romans at that time.

Of course, no one ever suggested that the Buddha or Jesus was greedy. Compared to the benefits their followers got, the price they paid was worth it. The issue is not greed, it is what price you are willing to pay for arts that are, to quote you, “indeed priceless”.

How the Shaolin Wahnam instructors and I use the money we earn is not your business, so this will spare you your unnecessary worries. Nevertheless, if it can be a comfort for you to know, we at Shaolin Wahnam conscientiously abide by the Shaolin teaching that whatever we earn is earned honestly, and whatever we spend is spent wisely.

Taijiquan Combat

As we at Shaolin Wahnam always regard Taijiquan as an internal martial art, applying Taijiquan techniques in combat is also an essential aspect in our Taijiquan training. The above photograph captured the moment during a free sparring session at an Intensive Taijiquan Course in Malaysia, when Jeffrey was about to execute a side kick, which is a typical kicking attack in our Wahnam Taijiquan, and is also found in Chen Style Taijiquan, and Sifu Wong was about to counter with the Taijiquan technique “Carrying a Tiger Back to the Mountain”, which is similar to the “lu” technique in Yang Style Taijiquan.

Question 4

I hope to be able to attend your intensive Kung Fu course. However, the fact remains that I feel uncomfortable at making such a great payment to your school when there are others teaching genuine spiritual cultivation and healing arts who are genuinely in greater need of the money to continue offering the generous service they do.

Answer

Please do not attend my kungfu course, or any courses offered by me or any of our Shaolin Wahnam instructors. We sincerely want our students to learn from us only when they are happy to do so. If they have any reservations or doubt, they should not learn from us. This is for their interest as well as ours.

Even if they apply, we would not accept them. This is our policy. Others may disagree with our policy; that is their business. But anyone who wishes to learn from us, has to follow our policy; that is common sense.

At present Shaolin Wahnam offers two kinds of kungfu courses, Shaolin Kungfu and Wahnam Taijiquan. While spiritual cultivation is an integral part of our training, they are not courses teaching spiritual cultivation and healing arts; they are Shaolin Kungfu courses and Wahnam Taijiquan courses.

Question 5

I would sincerely like to be involved in helping Shaolin Wahnam in any way I can and will certainly be willing to help with instruction etc whenever the time is right.

Answer

What makes you think that just because you want to help and willing to instruct, you will be accepted into Shaolin Wahnam as a helper or instructor? We are not interested in those who want to be teachers even before they become good students.

While your intentions may be good and sincere, you certainly have grossly overrated yourself and underrated the Shaolin arts. You have no idea of their scope and depth as well as their culture and philosophy.

For example, you probably are unaware that the Shaolin arts are elite; it has never been the intention of traditional Shaolin masters to teach the arts to any Tom, Dick and Harry just because they want to learn — least, to make any Tom, Dick and Harry instructors just because they want to teach.

This elite dimension comes from both sides, the master as well as the student. The master is selective in accepting students and in choosing what to teach his students. The criteria he uses for his selection are his privilege, though they generally follow established principles. You have no right, for example, to ask why he does not accept you as his student though you are willing to pay his fees, or why he does not teach you a certain skill though he teaches it to other students.

On the other hand, not everyone can learn the Shaolin arts even though he may be accepted to be a student. Shaolin training calls for great effort, perseverance and sacrifice. If you questions the fees a master charges, are suspicious of how he spends his money, and teaches him how to conduct himself, you are not the type to succeed in the Shaolin arts.

Question 6

Years ago (about 30-50) a scientist named Raymond Rife spent a significant part of his life studying bio-electricity. He made a device called a 'Rife Machine, which is supposed to use bio-electricity and cure cancer! 'Invented in the 1940's by Royal Raymond Rife but suppressed by medical authorities, this technology has been known to cure: cancer, AIDS, MS, diabetes, arthritis, and other diseases. He has been suppressed for reasons of large companies being money hungry. I would love to hear your honorable reply, please!

— Tom, USA

Answer

Bio-electricity or bio-energy is chi. It has been studied by peoples of different great civilizations since ancient times, but for various reasons these studies have been generally kept secret as arcane arts.

However, the Chinese, whose studies of bio-energy or chi are the most sophisticated, have recorded their discoveries in classics, and have successfully applied bio-energy to cure illness for centuries, though this knowledge and technology, while freely available, were and are elite because the majority of the Chinese in the past were illiterate, and at present are exposed to modern western medical paradigm, instead of their own traditional Chinese paradigm.

Hence, although bio-energy had been successfully used in the past in China and many other Eastern countries like Japan, Korea, Vietnam, India and Tibet to overcome illness, due to the process of Westernization in the past three centuries which brought the benefits of modern education, science and medicine to the whole world, most people in the world today, including those in Eastern countries, have unwittingly regarded the conventional Western paradigm as the only paradigm to view health and illness.

This Western medical paradigm was established and reinforced in the 18th and 19th centuries when Western medical science successfully eliminated previously world killers like plague and cholera. However, since the later part of the 20th century, Western medicine has shown inadequacy in dealing with degenerative and psychiatric disorders. It is precisely these kinds of disorders that a medical system based on bio-energy is effective against.

Theoretically, combining the Western medical system and a bio-energy based system like chi kung, is ideal, but in practice, unfortunately, this is not feasible, at least at present, because these two medical systems use totally different paradigms, and it is extremely difficult for most people to make a paradigm shift. For example, from the chi kung paradigm it is not necessary to measure a patient's temperature and blood pressure, not even necessary to know the cause and site of his illness, yet by practicing chi kung the patient can recover. This is ridiculous to those who are used to the Western medical paradigm.

There are also other detrimental factors, one of which as you have mentioned is the tremendous influence and interference of powerful bodies with vested interest. This is understandable, though it may not be morally justified. If you have invested millions of dollars into your business, or making millions of dollars from it, you would not want an invention or technology that seriously affects your gains.

There is another serious detrimental factor coming from bio-energy practitioners themselves. Because there is no proper control and regulation, most of such practitioners today are inadequately trained. Some of them turn to energy work because they cannot find any other jobs! Some fancy themselves as saviors of the world but are unwilling to spend time and money for proper training. These bogus practitioners, more than the above mentioned organizations with vested interests, are more damaging to the awareness and eventual acceptance of bio-energy treatment by the general public.

I do not know about the Rife Machine, but in the late 20th century some companies in China and Japan produced instruments called “chi kung lamps” that emitted bio-electricity. They were very popular for some time, and were particularly effective in overcoming ailments like rheumatism and chronic pain.

The benefits derived from them are vastly different from the benefits of practicing chi kung, or even from the benefits of chi emitted from a living chi kung therapist. Practicing chi kung does not merely overcome illness, it promotes health, vitality, longevity, mind expansion and spiritual joy.

Even in the very limited area of overcoming illness, the chi emitted by a chi kung therapist is “alive' whereas that from a machine or an instrument is inorganic (despite the term “bio-electricity”). Moreover, as these instruments were recently invented, we are not sure of their long term effects, whereas the wonderful effects of chi kung have been time-tested for centuries.

Nevertheless, this should not deter us from their usefulness. While we need to be cautious if they have adverse side effects — an ethical responsibility any healer should always bear in mind, though modern Western doctors seem to enjoy immunity from this responsibility, especially when prescribing powerful drugs or irreversible surgical operations — these bio-electricity instruments are a handy, albeit poor, replacement of genuine bio-energy therapists.

From the chi kung paradigm, it is no surprise at all that these bio-electricity instruments can overcome all the diseases you have mentioned, including cancer and AIDS. In chi kung philosophy, there is only one illness, though there are countless manifestations, each with a different name by conventional Western medicine. That one illness is yin-yang disharmony, and is caused by disharmonious energy flow. If the energy flow can be restored to be harmonious — by the patient himself practicing chi kung, by a chi kung therapist working on him, by using a bio-electricity instrument, or by any other means including medical drugs and surgical operations — yin-yang harmony is restored and the patient recovers his good health.

One must remember that the above is theory, or science. While the theory or science of chi kung or any bio-energy treatment of illness has been proven valid for centuries, and is actually simple, the actual practice or art may not be easy, and may not necessarily be successful. In other words, while in theory bio-energy treatment can overcome cancer or any disease, in practice it may not be so, because other factors are involved, such as the efficiency of the therapist and the seriousness of the disease. This situation happens often in Western medicine. A cruel joke among some surgeons is that the operation was technically successful but the patient died.

Weapon training is another aspect of our Shaolin Wahnam kungfu programme.. Here Sifu Wong demonstrates a technique from the “Flowing Water Staff”. As Goh Kok Him attacks with “Phoenix Dots Head”, Sifu Wong dodges to his side and simultaneous counter-attack with “Tai Kung Angling Fish”, striking Goh's wrist.

Question 7

Is there a way a student should be taught in the beginning of his kungfu career? . For example, should he begin kungfu forms first, then chi kung exercises, then combat application etc? Is there a certain order students should be taught?

— Chris, Australia

Answer

No, there is no definite way a kungfu student should be taught. Different teachers teach differently, and the same teacher also teaches differently in different situations, and at different stages of his teaching career.

Most schools and teachers today teach in one way as follows. First a teacher shows his students some stances, then he teaches them an unarmed kungfu set. When the students can perform the set well, generally after a few months, he teaches them another unarmed kungfu set. When they can perform the second set well, the teacher teaches a third kungfu set, this time it is likely to be a weapon set. When they can perform the third set well, the teacher teaches them the fourth set, which may be an unarmed set or a weapon set. This goes on and on.

Although this is the most common way of teaching in kungfu today, we at Shaolin Wahnam believe this is not a right way. What the students can achieve after many years of dedicated training is an ability to perform kungfu sets beautifully. They cannot defend themselves even against beginners in Karate, Taekwondo, Kickboxing, Wrestling, Judo or any other martial arts. When students suggest sparring practice, they are often reprimanded by their teacher, who is often an elderly Chinese, saying that kungfu is too dangerous for sparring.

The students are generally healthy, but they usually lack vitality. They may, for example, not have the energy and stamina to play a game of football. They are usually nice people, especially those who practice Taiji dance, but they may become very defensive or even aggressive if someone asks if they could defend themselves. They may talk about internal force, but have no experience of it. They also have little or no idea and experience of spiritual cultivation.

The second most common way is actually a modification of, or a reaction against, the first. After students can perform one or two kungfu sets well, they are provided with boxing gloves to free spar. Their free sparring resembles that in Karate, Taekwondo or Kickboxing, and there are no kungfu techniques used. Weight-lifting and running are often used in their training, and they seldom learn weapon sets.

These students are fit, but may not be healthy. They often sustain internal injuries from their free sparring, and are often aggressive in behaviour. They may talk about spiritual cultivation in their training, but they actually do not know what they talk about. They usually do not believe in internal force.

We at Shaolin Wahnam also believe this is not a right way to train kungfu. These students may be good fighters, but what they use in their sparring is not kungfu.

The way we train at Shaolin Wahnam is very different. We start our very first kungfu lesson with chi kung and meditation, then focus on force training. These three aspects, introduced right at the very beginning of our students' kungfu career, form the basics of our training.

For example, in our Shaolin Kungfu, we start with “Lifting the Sky” and Standing Meditation, followed by stance training and footwork, and “One Finger Shooting Zen”. In our Wahnam Taijiquan, we start with “Flowing in Wuji” and “Entering Silence”, followed by stance training and footwork, and “Lifting Water”.

Then we learn basic kungfu patterns, followed by their combat application in Miscellaneous Techniques training, paying attention to develop combat skills like correct timing, correct spacing, fluidity of movement, quick decision, and instant changes.

Next we practice sequences of attack and defence in our Combat Sequence training, which consists of many levels. We also learn and put into practice combat principles like “safety first”, “three arrivals” and “avoiding the opponent's strong points and attacking his weakness”, and tactics like “flowing with the opponent”, “defence cum attack” and “starting later but arriving earlier”

Then we link our combat sequences into kungfu sets. Hence, while kungfu sets are taught at the beginning in most other kungfu schools, in Shaoln Wahnam they are taught much later, often at the completion of a particular training stage.

Also, while kungfu sets are ends themselves in most other schools, in Shaolin Wahnam they are means. For example, we may practice a kungfu set as a means to regulate breathing to enhance speed, force and stamina, or to implement certain combat tactics, such as a pressing attack or an opening for kicks.

We believe the way we train is similar to what was trained at the southern Shaolin Temple in the past. We are able to confirm our belief from numerous established sources.

Question 8

I hope I can attend your courses in the future. I am in the process of remembering the Ten Shaolin Laws to become well aware of what is required.

Answer

Following and practicing the Ten Shaolin Laws is the essential requirement for learning from Shaolin Wahnam. Besides remembering them, which is an excellent start, it is even more important to practice them in our daily life.

The Ten Shaolin Laws are never meant to be restrictive or punitive, but are a practical guide to help us realize our goal in making our lives and other people's lives meaningful and rewarding. The Shaolin arts provide us with the practical means, the Shaolin Laws provide us with the moral foundation.

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