December 2004 (Part 1)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Intensive Chi Kung Course in Malaysia

Sifu Wong, in a chi kung state of mind, transmitting skills in a specail Intensive Chi Kung Course for Spanish speaking people on Langkawi Island in Malaysia

Question 1

Firstly, thank you very much for allowing me to attend the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in November this year. I have been looking forward to it for a very long time. Sifu, I have noticed in your websites various things mentioned, such as the “Eighteen Lohan Hands”, the “Eight Pieces of Brocade”, the “Small Universe” and also the “Big Universe”, satori, etc.

— Chris, Australia

Answer

I am glad you are coming to Malaysia again for the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course. I am as eager to train you as you are eager to learn from me. Masters are always eager to train deserving students. I hope you will one day become a master yourself and help to spread the wonderful benefits of our Shaolin arts irrespective of race, culture and religion.

The “Eighteen Lohan Hands”, the “Small Universe” and the “Big Universe” are specific chi kung exercises taught by me in our school, Shaolin Wahnam. The “Eight Pieces of Brocade” is a set of eight chi kung exercises widely practiced today. These eight exercises are also the same as the first eight exercises in our version of “Eighteen Lohan Hands”.

A “satori” is a spiritual awakening whereby a practitioner experiences transcendental cosmic reality, often described as a glimpse of the Original Face, of Tao or of God. Such an experience may be manifested in different ways, but it always fills the practitioner tremendously with awe, wonders, gratitude, an outpour of love and joy. In my early years of teaching, satoris were infrequent, but now they occur quite frequently. In today's Advanced Chi Kung Course in Soria, Spain (16th August 2004), for example, many people experienced satoris.

Question 2

I am unaware of what is involved in the complete Chi Kung system that you teach. I attended one course from you in November last year which was the Intensive Chi Kung Course.

Answer

A brief description of the evolution of my chi kung teaching would be illuminating, especially for our Shaolin Wahnam members wishing to know more about our development and underlying philosophy.

The “Eighteen Lohan Hands” was the set of chi kung exercises taught by the great Bodhidharma to the Shaolin monks when this First Patriarch of the Shaolin arts came to China from India in the year 527. Later the Shaolin monks at the Temple, who were kungfu experts as some of them were former army generals, evolved this set of eighteen chi kung exercises into a kungfu set called “Eighteen-Lohan Fist”. This “Eighteen-Lohan Fist”, or Eighteen-Lohan Kungfu Set, was the prototype of Shaolin Kungfu.

The “Eighteen Lohan Hands” was also the set of chi kung exercises I taught when I first taught chi kung to the public as a package for a definite time frame of six months. This was revolutionary in the history of chi kung teaching. As far as I know, I was the first one to do so in the world, even before modern chi kung teachers from mainland China did so.

Before this, chi kung was taught as part of kungfu. Students had to practice kungfu for many years before they could have a chance to practice chi kung, often as a reward for their good conduct as well as high kungfu attainment. At this time chi kung was more widely known as “nei kung” (“noi kung” in Cantonese) or internal art. And there was no time frame. The master would teach his students a chi kung or nei kung exercise whenever he wished. The teaching was usually unsystematic and haphazard. Both the master and the students normally do not know beforehand when and what the next chi kung exercise would be taught.

The main contributing factor why I taught chi kung to the public openly instead of following the tradition of teaching it only to advanced kungfu students was that in my research I read many descriptions of chi kung overcoming a wide range of diseases. As all my kungfu students were already healthy, I thought to myself that if I followed the old tradition, those who were sick and really needed chi kung most, would never have a chance to learn chi kung. So I selected the least martial of Shaolin chi kung, i.e. the “Eighteen Lohan Hands”, and offered it to the public without the condition of the students practicing Shaolin Kungfu first. This was about 20 years ago.

To make my teaching more effective, I set objectives and a time frame to accomplish the objectives so that both my students and I myself were clear of what we wanted to attain and how long we set ourselves to do so. At first many people thought I was crazy (many still do), They laughed at me, saying how could someone ever teach chi kung in six months. A few were angry; they accused me of revealing kungfu secrets to the public.

But the results of my first public chi kung class amazed even me. Even before the completion of the six-month course, many students recovered from a wide range of so-called incurable diseases, like asthma, diabetes, arthritis, peptic ulcers, high blood pressure and heart problems. One night a female student invited me for super after the class. She told me that she suffered from pelvic cancer, but at her last medical check up her doctor were shocked the cancer had disappeared.

Later I introduced the “Small Universe” for those who successfully completed the “Eighteen Lohan Hands”, and then the “Big Universe” for those who successfully completed the “Small Universe”. Each of these courses took six months. It was quite remarkable that our students could attain the “Small Universe” and even the “big Universe” in six months. Indeed for many years the “Small Universe” was the hallmark of Shaolin Wahnam chi kung.

As my teaching methodology improved, I was able to shorten the “Eighteen Lohan Hands” course from six months to three months. When I was invited to Australia to teach, I further shortened my chi kung course to 10 days, but I taught 10 exercises instead of 18. Later I shortened it to 6 days and taught only 6 of the Eighteen Lohan Hands.

As my teaching became even better, my focus shifted from teaching techniques to transmitting skills. So when I was first invited to Spain to teach, I selected three of the best chi kung exercises from “Eighteen Lohan Hands”, namely “Lifting the Sky”, “Pushing Mountains” and “Carrying the Moon” as means to transmit fundamental chi kung skills. I named my course “Generating Energy Flow” as that was the main skill I transmitted, and I could do so in 2 days, and later in just 1 day! This was revolutionary in the history of chi kung teaching. Honestly, I do not know of any other teacher who could help his students acquire the skill of generating energy flow in just one day.

Eventually senior students requested me to offer more advanced courses. Gradually “Massaging Internal Organs”, “Developing Internal Force”, “Abdominal Brathing” (later upgraded to “Dan Tian Breathing”), and “Sinew Metamorphosis” were added. Each of these courses took only one day.

Meanwhile I offered the “Intensive Chi Kung Course” in Malaysia, which covered 5 days. This is the highest level of the various chi kung courses I teach. In this course, as in all my other courses now, the emphasis is on transmitting skills. The skills students acquire in the “Intensive Chi Kung Course” are fantastic, and include attaining a one-pointed mind, tapping energy from the Cosmos, generating energy flow, directing energy to wherever parts of their bodies the student want, building energy at the dan tian, expanding the mind, and, for those who are ready, having a glimpse of cosmic reality. I am very proud to say that now my students in the “Intensive Chi Kung Course” attain (nor merely learn) in three days what it took me many years to attain. Ten years ago I myself would not believe such attainment was possible.

Question 3

I would very much like to eventually be able to learn your complete Shaolin Kungfu and Chi Kung systems. I would love to be able to pass on the tradition in many years to come to my future family to enrich their lives as well as mine.

Answer

My revolutionary way of teaching chi kung gave me inspiration to revolutionize my kungfu teaching too. Now, instead of teaching kungfu in regular classes, like most kungfu teachers do, I offer package courses, such as the “Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course” and the “Intensive Taijiquan Course”. The difference is that students wishing to attend my intensive kungfu courses need to have prior experience, whereas this condition is not required in my intensive chi kung course.

The onus of my “Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course” and my “Intensive Taijiquan Course” is on developing internal force and combat application (using typical kungfu skills and techniques). You can have an idea of our Shaolin Kungfu Training Programme and Taijiquan Training Programme by logging into /review/shaolin.html and /review/taijiquan.html respectively.

Some students who have successfully completed the intensive kungfu courses are selected to attend my “Special Shaolin Kungfu Course” or “Special Taijiquan Course”, which are not open to the public but by invitation only. Participants to these special courses are usually Shaolin Wahnam instructors.

Responding to requests, I sometimes offer package kungfu courses in various countries. These regional kungfu courses follow the format of the intensive kungfu courses in Malaysia but of a much lower level

Yet, the results of these regional kungfu courses are quite remarkable. For example I just returned from teaching the first day of a three-day regional Taijiquan course in Soria, Spain (17th Aug 2004). In just two 3-hour sessions, students learn and attain reasonable standard in basic Taijiquan movements following important principles like “differentiating yin-yang” and “rotating from the waist”, fundamental stances and footwork, generating energy flow from Taijiquan movements, building energy at the dan tian, three effective Taijiquan methods to develop internal force, and a 24-pattern Taijiquan set.

Over the years we at Shaolin Wahnam have worked out comprehensive and systematic programmes for our training. I am happy to accept you as my student and hope that one day you will become a real master, teaching our arts and tradition not only to your family but other deserving students irrespective or race, culture and religion to enrich their lives.

If I am not mistaken, you wrote to me a few years ago, saying that you had saved about 10-20,000 dollars to be used for a long term training with me. I advised you against such an action then, and asked you to learn from local teachers first, then attend my intensive course when you were ready. You attended my Intensive Chi Kung Course last year and obtained very good results. I am glad that, after another year of preparation at home, ycu are now coming to my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course. You are on a right path.

Pushing Hands

Taijiquan Pushing Hands. Front row: Francis and Manolo. Middle row: Laura and Carlos. Back row: Riccard and Attilio.

Question 4

How does one learn the complete Shaolin system you teach? Do I repeat the intensive courses? Do you offer such teaching? I just hope I am going in the right direction to achieve this goal.

Answer

There are different ways to learn the system I teach.

An effective way is as follows. Attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course. Return home to practice my chi kung consciously, and also learn Shaolin Kungfu or Taijiquan (even Shaolin gymnastics or Taiji dance) from local teachers. Then attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu or Taijiquan Course. Return home to practice what has been learnt.

Attend my regional classes if appropriate. Repeat the intensive courses if feasible. Yes, I offer such teaching, as well as special teaching for selected disciples.

When ready and if qualified, set up a school and teach as a Shaolin Wahnam instructor, or organize regional courses for me or Shaolin Wahnam instructors to teach. This is a good way to be in contact with our international Shaolin Wahnam Family. Continue to receive advanced teaching from me while being an instructor or organizer.

Yes, you are going in the right direction to acheive your goal. Be clear about your vision and steadfast in your direction. You must, however, not neglect other duties and obligations, such as excelling in your ocupation and getting a good wife, as well as allowing yourself some time to enjoy yourself wholesomely.

Question 5

I would like to know more about “Lohan”. Is it a name? What or who is exactly “Lohan”?

— Fernandes, Brazil

Answer

“Lohan” is the Chinese word for the Sanskrit word “Arahan”. An Arahan or Lohan is one who has attained Enlightenment, especially (but not necessarily) by following the Noble Eightfold Path taught by the Buddha.

The Noble Eightfold Path consists of Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Concentration and Right Contemplation. This Noble Eightfold Path is generally practiced in Theravada Buddhism, one of the three main traditions of Buddhism. In Pali, the main language of Theravada Buddhism, an Arahan is called an Arahat.

The other two Buddhist traditions are Mahayana Buddhism and Vajrayana Buddhism, which generally practice the Six Paramitas. The Six Paramitas, or the Six Perfections, are Charity, Tolerance, Compassion, Effort, Meditation and Wisdom.

By practicing the Six Paramitas, one may be Enlightened, i.e. become a Buddha. However, due to his great compassion, an Enlightened Mahayanist or Vajrayanist may choose to reincarnate again. He (or she) is called a Bodhisattva, or Bodh Satt in Chinese.

Amongst the Buddha's countless disciples, including gods and dragon kings who existed in dimensions different from that of humans, 500 Arahans were of particular importance. After the Buddha had left this world as Sidhatha Guatama, these 500 Arahans gathered together in a grand council over many months to review the Buddha's teachings word by word. These teachings were faithfully recited, and were recorded about four hundred years later as sutras, or suttas in Pali.

When Buddhism spread from India to China, 18 of the 500 Arahans were specially honoured. Their statues are often found in Buddhist temples today.

When the great Bodhidharma was at the Shaolin Temple in China in the year 527, he taught the Shaolin monks a set of chi kung exercises. To honour the 18 Lohans, these exercises were called “Eighteen Lohan Hands”. “Hands” here in the Chinese language refer to techniques or patterns.

Gradually these Eighteen Lohan Hands, which were a set of eighteen chi kung exercises, evolved into a kungfu set called Eighteen Lohan Fist. “Fist” here refers to a kungfu set. Although it is called Eighteen Lohan Fist, it does not consist of only eighteen patterns. There are many versions of the Eighteen Lohan Fist, and they usually consist of 108 patterns. The Lohan Fist was the prototype of Shaolin Kungfu.

There are also kungfu styles that specialize on the Lohan Fist. These styles are also called Lohan Fist. In other words, the term Lohan Fist, which is “Lohan Khuen” in Cantonese or “Luo Han Quan” in Mandarin, can refer to a Lohan kungfu set or a Lohan kungfu style. Lohan Kungfu (set as well as style) is characterized by wide stances and long-range strikes.

Pushing Hands

Sifu Wong leading a Shaolin Kungfu class in Soria, Spain in August 2004

Question 6

I am only 16 but I have been training since I was 8 years old. I practice 6 days a week 1-2 hours everyday with devotion and refine techniques to my knowledge's limit, but now for the first time I think my techniques are useless. I come to you because I believe you can help me with this block. I was training so hard for a few months then when I needed the techniques I failed to apply them, causing myself injury and now I am scared to train again.

— Ben, USA

Answer

There is no doubt that you are dedicated to your training, but it is indeed a pity that your training has been futile. Yours is what we endearingly call “water-buffalo training”. Yours is also a good example to warn others that training on your own without proper guidance can be very expensive in terms of effort and time.

You have not described what your training was, and how or why you could not use your techniques when you needed them, nor how you injured yourself. Hence, I could not offer specific advice, but I shall give you general guidelines which can be very helpful.

But first, be comforted that your training was not necessarily wasted if you can convert what was futile training to something useful. Let us say you had been training kungfu forms, thinking that they were great kungfu, but when someone attacked you, you could not defend yourself. Or suppose you had been training Iron Palm for many years, but when you tried to break a brick you broke your hand instead. If you just stop your training now, then all the years of previous training would be wasted. But if you can learn from a real master who is willing to teach you how to apply your forms for combat, or how to develop internal force in your Iron Palm, your earlier training would be useful.

If you or anyone wishes to obtain the best benefits from their training, the following 5-step approach will be very helpful.

  1. Have a sound understanding of the scope and depth of the art you are going to devote yourself to.
  2. Define your objectives and aims in training the art.
  3. Find the best available teacher you can afford and learn from him.
  4. Practice, practice and practice what your teacher asks you to, and not what you yourself think the training should be.
  5. Periodically access how well, or badly, your training helps you to realize your objectives and aims.

Question 7

I have 3 of your books, "The Complete book of Zen”, “The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu” and “The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chaun'. I have studied the Shaolin arts to a limited extent but I love its philosophy and history and fables and folklore.

Answer

If you have read and understood my three books, and if the training you referred to is in Shaolin Kungfu, Tai Chi Chuan or even another martial art, you should have sufficient theoretical knowledge enabling you to avoid wasting the time you did. The fact that you found your training useless despite having spent 1 or 2 hours every day for 8 years suggested that you did not put into practice what I had advised, or you obtained my books only recently.

Nevertheless, your main problem was the lack of a competent teacher guiding you. If you meet a good teacher he may help you to convert what you thought was futile to something useful.

I would recommend you attend my regional Shaolin Kungfu or Tai Chi Chuan courses. If you find them useful, attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course or Intensive Tai Chi Chuan Course in Malaysia.

The Shaolin philosophy has enriched my life as well the lives of my many students. We do not merely practice kungfu, but the benefits we derive from our Shaolin training, such as good health, abandon energy and mental freshness as well as confidence, perseverance and righteousness enable us to enjoy our work and play every day of our life.

Question 8

I am planning to travel to the Shaolin Temple when I am older but for now I am limited to Shotokan Karate. I have also trained a bit in Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan, Chow Family Praying Mantis and Tae Kwon Do. I want to devote myself to martial arts for life, and travel to the East and learn from the best. It's my dream but I'm discouraged because I feel this way. My dream in life is to visit the Southern Shaolin Temple and Mount.Wudang and train there. Have you any words of wisdom for me to continue my dream and training?

Answer

If you have read the question-answer series in my website http://shaolin.org you would have discovered that traditional Shaolin Kungfu is no longer taught in the Shaolin Temple today. There used to be a lot of wushu schools teaching modernized wushu, often by instructors wearing monks' robes. But these wushu schools have been demolished. I am also not sure if any kungfu is taught on Mount Wudang.

Before you decide to devote yourself to martial arts, or anything for that matter, for life, you must have a very clear idea of what your intended devotion has in store for you, and what sacrifice you have to make to attain your goal. In the case of martial arts, you have to know exactly what the life of a professional martial artist is like, and how you can become one. From your e-mail, it is quite obvious that your idealistic concept of a marital artist's life is very different from one in real life. It is also obvious that you have no idea how to become one.

My intention, of course, is not to discourage you, but help you to avoid another, bigger disappointment. I would advise that at present you devote yourself to your studies in school or university, or to your profession if you are already working, but take up martial arts as a hobby. Personally I would advise you to choose genuine, traditional Shaolin Kungfu, which, unfortunately, is not easily found today.

Having made up your mind on what style of martial art you wish to pursue, you should learn from the best available teacher you can find. Don't expect that he will come to your house to teach you free. He may stay far away, and his fees may be high. If you cannot even do this, then you should not say that you want to devote yourself to martial arts for life.

But after having successfully learnt from the best available teacher in your chosen martial art, you are still in time to make it your life-long devotion if you still want to.

LINKS

Overview of the Questions-Answers Series

Selected Reading

Courses and Classes