February 2005 (Part 1)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Golden Bell

Sifu Wong Chun Nga of Malaysia gave an impromptu demonstration of Golden Bell whereby he used internal force to protect himself from injury when Sifu Mark Applieford of Scotlsnd struck him with a chopper and Sifu Wong was not hurt.

Question 1

You stated in Q&A September 2004 (Part 2) Answer 6 : “In fact just a few days ago, Kai Uwe, my senior disciple who is agrandmaster himself, remarked that the combat applications were veryadvanced and I revealle a lot of secrets in the book.”

How or why is it that a grandmaster (Kai Uwe) can also be adisciple of another? Are you his original sifu?

— David, USA

Answer

A grandmaster can also be a disciple of another by learning from the latter and proving himself worthy of the latter's higher, and often secret, teachings. This answers the “how” part of your question. As to “why”, the grandmaster finds that his teacher can, and is willing to, pass on to him teachings that he values highly.

Kai Uwi was already a well-known and accomplished grandmaster with many students who themselves were masters, when he first learned from me. Before that he was already a national champion many times, and an international all-style sparring champion twice.

Kai told my other disciples that he had been searching for high level internal training for a long time. He took leave from his work for many years traveling all over the world, especially in China and Southeast Asia, in his search. When he met me, he found that the Shaolin Kungfu I taught provided the three dimensions of a martial art he was looking for, namely excellent health, combat efficiency and spiritual cultivation.

We in Shaolin Wahnam are very proud of Kai. In September this year (2004) he stopped teaching the various martial arts he had been teaching for 28 years, and handed over his school Bodokan to his master-students so that he could teach only genuine, traditional Shaolin Kungfu, the martial art he believes is the most complete.

Besides Kai, four other grandmasters have learnt from me. All of them were grandmasters before meeting me. The answer to the “how” and “why” they learned from me was the same.

Question 2

Can you also please explain the difference between a “chu jia ren” and“zai jia ren”?

Answer

“Chu jia ren” literally means “one who has left the household” and refers to one who having fulfilled all his family and other obligations, has made the great renunciation to leave worldly life so as to cultivate wholeheartedly for spiritual development.

“Zai jia ren” literally means “one who is still in the household”, and refers to a lay person who may or may not devote some time to spiritual cultivation.

A Buddhist monk is a “chu jia ren”. His renunciation marks one of the highest point of his personal development. He left his family, like the Buddha himself did about 2500 years ago, not because he did not love his family but because he devoted himself to the highest spiritual attainment. Therefore, a Shaolin monk who eats meat and drinks alcohol, or has sex even if it is asked of him, does not know the meaning and purpose of monkhood.

Breaking bricks

A photograph taken about 20 years ago showing a female student of Sifu Wong using internal force to break a brick.

Question 3

I practice Northern Shaolin Mantis and Yin Style Bagua Zhang and some qigong mixedin. I also have been strength training for about the past 5 years. An old Olympic powerlifter generously offers to coach students in our town for free and allow usto use his gym. We do strength lifts such as the bench press, full squatsand deadlifts.

You mentioned in one of your question and answer series that masters of old could be small of size but have tremendous internal power, but that today some masters said one should do external training, so it was obvious to you that internal training had fallen out of practice.

I recently had a reading with a psychic who said she had seen I had been developing my internal energies for a matter of years, but I have only been training in kung fu for a fewmonths. She mentioned that even training in weights would develop internalenergies.

Do you think that such strength training is a waste of time, or even detrimental to my kungfu practice? Does it build internal energy, or just create blockages? Because my coach does tell us of amazing stories of strong men that do seemingly impossible things, and it seems to me that they must have used internal energies to do so.

— Julian, USA

Answer

I shall give my honest answer as it is requested of me. I would also like to emphasize that my answer is from my perspective. From the perspective of a master of external strength training, his answer would be different. You must weigh the different answers before coming to your own conclusion.

From my philosophy and experience, such strength training as described by you is both a waste of time and detrimental to genuine, traditional kungfu practice as well as to your health.

I was in Australia when the World Olympic was held there a few years ago. I happened to view a TV news broadcast where the women weight-lifting champions and runners-up were shown. I cannot remember the details now, but I can clearly remember the champions were Chinese women, and they were not only slender by comparison but even pretty. (I do not mean to be sarcastic, but bulky women with big muscles do not appear pretty to me.)

The runners-ups, if I remember correctly, were Russian women. They were huge with big muscles and towered ironically above the champions. Without a doubt, I concluded that the “tiny” Chinese women could be Olympic weight-lifting champions because they used chi kung.

Some of my students were body-builders and weight-lifters before. But after learning chi kung from me, they stopped going to their gyms. After a few months they went back to meet their friends and to lift some weights for fun. To the surprise of those present, they bettered their own previous performance as well as the performance of their friends who had been training all this while.

Chi kung training takes only about 15 minutes per session in the convenience of your own home, whereas gym training takes one or two hours in a training centre accessible after going through city traffic. To use our imagery, practicing chi kung is enjoying energy flow and expanding our spirit, whereas working in a gym is like a water-buffalo toiling in a field.

In genuine, traditional kungfu training, we cultivate not just our body but also our energy and mind. From our perspective, in external strength training you not only ignore your energy and mind but also abuse your body. You constantly push your organs and systems to do work beyond what they are meant for. Moreover you divert energy that is supposed to maintain life processes to be locked up as muscles. And your organs, which already have less energy, have to do more work due to your increased mass.

The psychic's concept of internal energies may be very different from that of internal force conceptualized by a chi kung master. In chi kung philosophy and methodology, internal force is a function of energy volume and flow. In simple language, it means that the bigger your energy volume, and the smoother its flow, the more internal force you will have.

In your strength training, you divert your existing energy into building muscles which in turn disrupt your energy flow. In other words, you loose both ways in the volume-flow equation.. Hence, in my opinion, such strength training does not build internal energy but build blockages.

Question 4

I am very interested in developing internal strength and practicing internal martialarts. However I am concerned with my sifu's views on the subject. Hetalks of chi, but almost speaks of it skeptically, and at one point said thateveryone had chi but that you wouldn't do “magical and mystical things with it.” Nowthe things that I read from you and your students are certainly in therealm of the magical and mystical to me.

Answer

Many people, including some masters, may talk of chi but not many have real experience of it. Even in the past, chi kung, which was known as nei kung (internal art) then, was also rare. Only top masters had nei kung, most kungfu exponents used external strength.

Today the situation is odd, though the general public may not realize it. Chi kung, especially in the West, is easily available but it is actually not chi kung, it is only gentle physical exercise although the forms are chi kung forms. In other words, most people today practice external chi kung forms as gentle exercise but miss the essence of chi kung.

It is true that everyone has chi. Without chi that person cannot be alive. But most people take chi for granted, and are unaware that it is chi that keeps him alive and enables him to do countless things daily.

Due to various reasons many people have developed blockages, which prevents chi from effectively performing its normal life maintaining functions, such as repairing damages inside the body, overcoming viruses and bacteria, and flushing out negative emotions. As a result these people become physically as well as emotionally sick.

Practicing chi kung is an excellent way to clear these blockages, thus restoring the normal function of chi in maintaining life (which of course includes overcoming sickness). Then chi enhances life, which can be manifested in countless ways, such as having vitality for work and play and being peaceful and happy.

Thirdly, chi in the form of internal force enables us to perform better in whatever we do. Some of these abilities are beyond what ordinary people can do, such as being able to spar for hours without feeling tired, and joyfully expanding into the cosmos. Such abilities are sometimes regarded as magical and mystical.

Question 5

The school is a member of a chain of schools that are in touch with the current successor of a Bagua System. I have so far been taught some basic static postures and the method of circle walking, as well as a few changes of the Lion and Dragon trigams. Do you think this would be an effective start for me to begin building/harnessing internal energies or should I do something else first?

Answer

Besides the style of kungfu you are practicing, the teacher teaching it is crucial. Of course, if you want to build or harness internal energy, you have to practice an internal style of kungfu. Baguazhang is a good choice. The exercises you train, like static postures and circle walking, are excellent for your purposes.

However, you must practice these and other exercises of your style as chi kung. If you practice them as physical exercise you will be unable to build or harness internal energy. If your teacher himself is skeptical about chi, it is unlikely he teaches you the exercises as chi kung.

The best person to verify whether you have developed internal energy is yourself. You do not need a psychic or another master to tell you have or have not internal energy. If you have it, you will know it, just like if you have eaten some food to satisfy your hunger, you will know whether you are hungry. You do not need a psychic to see if there is sufficient food in your stomach.

You will also experience the good effects of having built internal energy. For example, in the past you might find it hard to concentrate on your work, and feel tired easily. Having developed internal energy, you can concentrate better and work longer hours. The difference is obvious enough for you and your friends to notice.

As it is, you are doubtful. This means you have not built or harnessed internal energy.

Inner Joy

Internal force is not just for martial arts. An important function of internal force is to enhance life. During Standing Zen at the same Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in Malaysia in November 2004, the internal force developed by Marko Ham of Slovenia opened his heart and gave him inner joy.

Question 6

I am not sure if I am doing some of the static postures correctly, because I run into some problems when doing them...For example, while doing the Lion posture I am told tostretch my arms out, but if I hold this for any length of time my fingers begin tofeel tingly as if they are losing blood circulation, and sometimes I experiencepain in my other shoulder that is stretched up across my body.

I guess these are not good things. I have asked my instructors but they just tell me torelax my shoulder more, but I find it impossible to relax the shoulder and tohold and stretch it out at the same time? Any insight is appreciated.

Answer

If you have built some internal energy at your fingers, you may feel some tingling sensations at your finger tips. But these tingling sensations are pleasant and you feel your fingers are charged with blood and energy.

You will not feel pain in your other shoulder, unless the chi developed is flowing to that other shoulder to break through some blockage, which is a good thing. In this case, it is what we call “good pain”, which is even quite “pleasant”. But if you feel uncomfortable, it is likely to be bad pain.

Your instructor is right to ask you to relax your shoulder more. But besides this he could look at how you performed the exercise and decide whether you were practicing correctly or wrongly, and whether the pain was “good” or “bad”.

In any internal art training, it is essential for you to relax, not just your shoulder but your whole body. Besides, you must also be emotionally, mentally and spiritually relaxed. If you cannot relax, then you cannot practice an internal art. It is as straight-forward as if you cannot kick a football, then you cannot play football.

A competent instructor, therefore, has to use various ways to make you relax. This is one main reason why one should learn an internal art not from a book or video, and not from any instructor, but from a competent instructor or better still a master.

Question 7

I was very excited when I found you because you seemed to be exactly what I was looking for in a teacher and best of all you answer questions and I have a million of them, but the rest will just have to wait. Thank you very much for any response, and you will probably see me at a chi kung intensive course at some point.

Answer

When you attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course, the first thing you will learn is to be relaxed and focused at the same time. Then you will enter into a chi kung state of mind, and usually experience energy flow. Then you will build internal energy at your dan tian. You will acquire all these fundamental skills within the first half an hour of my course.

It is unlikely you will feel the internal energy built at the dan tian in the first half hour, but you will certainly be able to relax physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, and almost certainly know what chi or internal energy is from direct personal experience. It is not without good reasons why the fees for my courses are many times higher than what other teachers normally charge.

Since you already practice Baguazhang, it may be better for you to attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course instead of my Intensive Chi Kung Course. Ideally one will benefit most if he first attends my chi kung course, and later attends my kungfu course, but because of time or financial constraints, he can skip the chi kung course because chi kung is already incorporated in my kungfu course.

Although you do not practice Shaolin Kungfu, the skills and techniques learnt in my kungfu course can be rewardingly applied in your Baguazhang training. You will, for example, be able to practice as chi kung your static postures and circle walking learnt in your Baguazhang classes, and build internal energy as well as gain other wonderful benefits of internal art training.

Question 8

I'm looking for someone capable of teaching me the medium or even better the Yang Taichi small frame in order to improve my combat skills. I take in great consideration your advice. I've bought and read your excellent book on Tai Chi Chuan. Do you know someone capable of teaching me the above forms? Thank you very much.

— Almeida, Italy

Answer

I am sorry it is not our policy to make public recommendations of schools or teachers to intending students. You would have to search for the teacher or school yourself.

Nevertheless, we can give guidelines on how you may find a teacher or school suitable to your needs and aspirations.

As you mention combat skills, you should look for a teacher who teaches Tai Chi Chuan as an internal martial art. Schools teaching Tai Chi as a dance are plentiful, but those teaching Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art are rare.

You should also beware of those schools that teach external Tai Chi forms and use Kickboxing or Taekwondo for free sparring. This is not Tai Chi Chuan as an internal martial art.

It may be a matter of semantics (as you are polite in your e-mail) but the way you wrote gave an impression that you were doing a teacher a favour by learning from him. Such an attitude might attract teachers teaching Tai Chi dance, but if you wish to learn from a genuine Tai Chi Chuan master, you chances would be better if you adopt the attitude that if he accepts you as a student, he is doing you a big favour.

LINKS

Overview of the Questions-Answers Series

Selected Reading

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