January 2005 (Part 2)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

One-Finger Shoot Zen

Instead of teaching regular classes, Sifu Wong, now teaches intensive courses where students learn what is normally not taught in most other schools. In the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in Malaysia in November 2004, Mark from England, Simon from Scotland and Gianluca from Italy practiced One-Finger Shooting Zen to develop internal force.

Question 1

Further tests and detail examination have failed to identify a correctable cause for my patient's illness. Sifu's reply is indeed very much welcome and has restored our hope in helping him.

— Dr Lim, Malaysia

Answer

I have many successful cases of helping patients to recover from diseases where conventional medicine could not identify the cause or site. This in fact is common.

If the cause or site of a disease can be identified, and if a remedy is available, conventional medicine is usually more effective, or at least speedier. But when the cause or site is unknown, chi kung provides an excellent alternative.

You would probably have read my explanation on why chi kung can succeed in overcoming such diseases when conventional medicine may not. Nevertheless, I shall explain it again here.

From the Chinese medical perspective, there is only one disease, called yin-yang disharmony. There may be countless symptoms, and conventional medicine names the disease, or its many manifestations, according to its symptoms.

Chinese medicine also names the various manifestations of the one disease, but the names are given not according to its symptoms but to its cause according to Chinese medical philosophy. Hence, while conventional medicine calls such disease manifestations as high blood pressure and bronchitis, traditional Chinese medicine calls them as “rising yang energy from the liver” and “excessive heat in the lungs”.

This difference of perspective gives traditional Chinese medicine a big edge over conventional medicine. When the cause of a disorder cannot be determined, or when there is no known remedy as in the case of viral infections, conventional medicine is quite helpless. It is not a question of conventional medicine being less effective; it is a situation where conventional medicine becomes a victim of its philosophical limitation.

Basically the therapeutic principle in conventional medicine is to define the disorder according to its cause, then prescribe the appropriate remedy. Such a philosophy works well when the cause is known and where a remedy is available. But when the cause is unknown or where a remedy is unavailable, treatment becomes impossible according to this philosophy.

Such problems become irrelevant in traditional Chinese medical philosophy. This is because traditional Chinese medicine (1) defines a disorder by its cause, and (2) all causes are correctable as their reference points involve the known conditions of the patient's body. The following example may make this philosophical discussion clearer.

Suppose a patient suffering from what in conventional medicine would be referred to as high blood pressure, consults a traditional Chinese physician. After a thorough diagnosis, the physician concludes that his patient suffers from “rising yang energy from the liver”.

Why does he call the disorder “rising yang energy from the liver”? The answer is straight-forward. He finds yang energy rising from his patient's liver. Had his finding been different, say excessive dampness in his patient's stomach or insufficient heat in his patient's gall bladder, he would define the disorder as “excessive dampness in the stomach” or “insufficient heat in the gall bladder”.

Now, when a disorder is defined as high blood pressure, a conventional doctor only knows the symptoms of the disorder; he has no clue to what the cause is or what a possible remedy can be. Hence, he does his best according to his philosophy and training, which is to relieve the high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is actually not the disorder, it is only the symptom of the disorder. The patient therefore has to take medication for life.

When a disorder is defined as “rising yang energy from the liver”, or “excessive dampness in the stomach” or “insufficient heat in the gall bladder”, a traditional Chinese physician knows exactly what the cause of the disorder is and how to remedy it. If he can lower his patient's rising yang energy at the liver, or reduce dampness at the patient's stomach, or increase heat at the patient's gall bladder", his patient will recover. The physician can achieve these objectives with the use of herbs, acupuncture, massage, chi kung exercises or other means.

Hence there is no such a thing as an incurable disease in traditional Chinese medical philosophy. One major objective in my writing “The Complete Book of Chinese Medicine” is to convey this philosophy to conventional medical scientists, in the hope that it may help them to overcome their present philosophical limitation.

This point is not generally realized. Most conventional doctors today interested in traditional Chinese medicine, only seek to borrow suitable therapeutic techniques from traditional Chinese medicine, such as what herbs, acupuncture points or chi kung exercises may be useful to overcome what disorders. They do not usually appreciate that major break-throughs in conventional medicine can be made by overcoming their philosophical limitation in viewing disease.

There is, however, a big problem traditional Chinese physicians have to face, that is, their diagnosis must be accurate. If their diagnosis is incorrect, such as mistaking “excessive fire in the liver” to be “rising yang energy from the liver”, their treatment logically would be wrong.

Hence, I believe medicine is more of an art than a science. It is the skill of a doctor or therapist in making right judgment and winning the patient's confidence that are often more crucial than the knowledge of anatomy and pathology he has.

Chi kung does not even have this one big problem. There is no need for diagnosis in chi kung! This is simply because chi kung works on the most fundamental level, the level of energy flow. Other medical or healing systems work on higher levels.

When we define a disorder as high blood pressure or “rising yang energy from the liver”, for example, we operate at the levels of organs or systems. From the chi kung perspective, whatever factors that cause high blood pressure or “rising yang energy from the liver” are intermediate factors. The ultimate factor or cause of disorder is disrupted energy flow.

In other words, to a conventional doctor or a Chinese physician, his patient may have taken too much alcohol or has been exposed to too much anger. Due to his excessive alcohol or anger, he has high blood pressure or “rising yang energy from the liver”.

To a chi kung master, the excessive alcohol or anger may (or may not) have caused the high blood pressure or “rising yang energy from the liver”. But as a result his energy flow is disrupted.

It actually does not matter if the cause of the patient's disorder may not be alcohol or anger but something else. It is also not relevant, according to this chi kung perspective, whether the patient has high blood pressure, “rising yang energy from his liver”, “excessive dampness in his stomach”, viral attack in his spleen, certain chemicals lacking in his system, or other pathogenic factors. All these are intermediate causes. The crucial point is that one, some or all of these intermediate causes result in his energy flow being disrupted.

In other words, a chi kung master has only one consideration, that is, whether the energy flow in his patients or students is harmonious. Harmonious energy flow is a Chinese medical jargon. In simple language it means the energy that flows to all the cells, tissues, organs and systems is making all the cells, tissues, organs and systems working the way they are supposed to work.

This energy flow may be interrupted by intermediate factors like excessive alcohol, anger, virus, inadequate chemical supplies, etc and the disruption or blockage may occur at the liver, blood system, a minute cell deep inside the body, or anywhere else. But irrespective of the intermediate causes and sites, once the energy flow is restored to be harmonious, all the cells, tissues, organs and systems will work the way they are supposed to work, which means the person will regain his good health.

How does the energy flow know the blockage is at the liver and not at the stomach, or in one particular cell or not in another? It is a natural characteristic of energy flow, like water flow, to flow from high levels to low levels. Areas of energy blockage are areas of low or no energy levels. If one practices chi kung sufficiently and regularly, energy flow will clear all areas of blockage, starting with the most serious areas (lowest or no energy levels), then the next, and so on.

This takes time, and the energy flow generated must be adequate. This explains that chi kung is not suitable for acute illness, but excellent for chronic disorders where the cause or sites may not be known.

Question 2

I've wanted to train in Shaolin for a long time now, seriously train, but there are no schools anywhere in my home state. If it's possible and if I show my willingness to go to Malaysia and stay for a few years, are you willing to take a student for that long? How long would it take to train a student in the traditional style enough for him to be able to practice on his own?

— Zachary , USA

Answer

I have not taught regular classes for a few years, but teach intensive courses instead. This is a much better use of my time for myself as well as for my students.

If you are a fresh beginner it is both cheaper and more convenient for you to learn kungfu first from a local kungfu teacher. If there is a certified Shaolin Wahnam kungfu instructor in your area, it is best to learn from him.

Otherwise you can learn from any local kungfu instructor. It does not even matter if you only learn external kungfu forms or gymnastics. When you can perform external kungfu forms reasonably well, you can attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course.

In the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course I do not teach material that can be learnt from other kungfu teachers. Hence, kungfu forms are not taught in the way other teachers normally teach them. Doing so would not be a good use of time in the course. Students attending the course are expected to know and be able to perform reasonably well basic kungfu forms.

The onus of the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course is internal force training and combat application, which are not normally taught in most other kungfu schools. These two aspects are also what many kungfu practitioners have been seeking for years.

All course participants will be able to develop internal force and competently use typical kungfu patterns and skills for combat after the week-long course. They will be able to practice on their own after the course, and if they spend about an hour a day training, they would attain a reasonably high level in a year.

Question 3

If I learn from books, how would I know that I'm doing it right?

Answer

In theory it is easy. If you follow the instructions you should be practicing correctly. But in real life if you have no prior kungfu experience, it is very difficult. Worse, you may follow the instructions exactly and think you have practiced correctly, but in fact you may be doing all wrong.

For example, in executing a pattern called “Black Tiger Steals Heart”, you may follow the instructions in adopting a left Bow-Arrow Stance and thrusting out a right level punch. But in real life, you may be leaning too far forward in your stance, raising your right shoulder, lifting your right heel, and tensing many muscles.

Actually, a great majority of people practicing kungfu today may not be doing it right even though they learn from living instructors. How could they say they are doing kungfu right when they cannot use their kungfu for combat? Many of them do not even have the intelligence to realize this fact nor the courage to admit it.

Combat Skills

Developing combat skills is another important aspect of the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course. Here, Dr Damian Kissey of Malaysia demonstrated right spacing and right timing on Markus Kahila of Finland, while Sifu Wong and other students looked on.

Question 4

I am a practitioner of Tai Chi since 1994. My master calls it the Xin Yi form of Tai Chi (Nei Kung) with 24 and 78 movements, and 48 sword movements. He refers the origin of this style to Bodhidharma in 495 at the Shaolin Temple. He also says that he is the 13th generation of this style and his master was called Taiji Zhen Ren. But I have not found any information about this. I have heard that you met my master sometime in Spain. I would be very pleased if you could give me any information about him or the Xin Yi style.

— Rafael, Spain

Answer

I met your master many years ago but I do not know much about him nor his Xin Yi Style of Taijiquan (Tai Chi). Actually I was quite surprised when he told me he learned Taijiquan at the Shaolin Temple when he was young.

As far as I know, neither Taijiquan nor traditional Shaolin Kungfu was taught at the modern Shaolin Temple in China. Even modernized wushu was not taught there. The temple was full of tourists everyday, and there would not be any space for kungfu training.

But many wushu schools were established around the temple, often taught by instructors wearing monks' robes. In fact, when westerners said that they had learned kungfu at the Shaolin Temple, what actually happened was they learned modernized wushu at one of these numerous wushu schools.

Taijiquan originated from Zhang San Feng, and not from Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma lived about 1500 years from us. Giving 30 years for a generation, 13 generations take about 400 years, which is still far off from Bodhidharma.

Xin Yi Kungfu originated from Yue Fei, a famous army marshal and Shaolin master, who lived before Zhang San Feng. It was also called Liu He Xin Yi Quan, or “Six-Harmonies-Mind-Intention Kungfu”, which was later called Xingyiquan or Hsing Yi Kungfu. I do not know whether your Yin Yi Style of Taijiquan has anything to do with Xin Yi Kungfu, or whether it is new style of Taijiquan developed by a master using inspiration from the dimension of “xin-yi” or mind.

Literally translated, “Taiji Zhen Ren” means “Cosmos-Real-Person”, but figuratively “zhen ren” is a title referring to a high ranking Taoist priest. It strikes me as odd that a high ranking Taoist priest taught Taijquan at the modern Shaolin Temple, which is Buddhist, at a time when the Communist government discouraged spiritual cultivation and other traditional arts.

Question 5

What are Iron Shirt kung fu and Five-Poison Hand kung fu? I was told that they are Shaolin arts, but I can not find any information on them. Also, what are some training methods and techniques used to gain effectiveness with theses arts?

— Antonio, USA

Answer

Iron Shirt Kungfu is one of the traditional Seven Two Specialized Shaolin Arts where a practitioner can take armed and unarmed attacks on his body without sustaining injury. It is also found in other styles of kungfu besides Shaolin.

Five-Poison Hand Kungfu is mentioned in some kungfu stories, but I do not think it is a true art. The practitioner's hands are so poisonous that they pass on the deadly poison to an opponent on contact.

You and other people are strongly advised not to attempt self training on these arts. So the description of their training methods below is strictly for academic information and curiosity.

In Iron Shirt training, the practitioner hits himself systematically and progressively with bean bags, sand bags, hard wooden batons and granules. Medication and remedial chi kung are essential. Obviously, incorrect training will result in serious internal injuries.

In Five-Poison Hand training, the practitioner systematically and progressively submits himself to be bitten by five types of poisonous creatures, namely wasps, poisonous spiders, centipedes, scorpions and poisonous snakes, so that the deadly poisons remain in his hands to be passed on to an opponent.

Such training shows that the practitioner is not only psychiatrically sick but also a moron. If this art were true, it is certainly not a Shaolin art. Not only it goes against Shaolin teaching, it is an insult to Shaolin intelligence. Even if one leaves aside moral consideration, hurting an opponent with a weapon in his hands is easier and more effectively than with hands soaked in poison.

While combat efficiency is an essential aspect of kungfu, we devote ourselves to its training so as to enrich our lives and the lives of other people. Hurting oneself physically or psychiatrically in his training for months if not years even before he meets his first opponent if ever, is very silly.

Question 6

I'm wondering how easy it is to go to China for a Westerner. I would like to search for nei kung practitioners there someday when I have some money. Any information you are willing to share would be much appreciated.

— Sean, USA

Answer

It is now very easy for a Westerner to go to China. Get a visa, buy a return air ticket, make sure you have enough money, and fly there. It will be made much easier if you go through your local travel agency.

But finding genuine nei kung practioners in China today is very difficult. It is even more difficult to find one willing to teach you.

It would be advisable for you to read up what nei kung is and what it can do for you. It is also more beneficial for you to practice nei kung from some genuine local instructors first, before you see your travel agent for the China trip.

Nevertheless, if you are not worried about not meeting nei kung practitioners, and just want to see beautiful places and experience a different culture, China is an ideal country to visit.

Sparring

Combat skills are put into sparring practice. Sifu Andrew Barnett showed right spacing and right timing as he applied the pattern “Lohan Strikes Drum" to his son's side kick

Question 7

I am 14 years old. In August this year I began to suffer from chronic mild weakness (before the summer, I would dance extensively for around 8 hours a week), and acute sudden weakness, in which I simply fall to the ground. I have undergone many tests, yet the doctors do not know what this is. Can bad karma be the reason, and will Qiqong be able to help me?

— Hadas, Israel

Answer

Yes, bad karma is the reason for your unknown illness. But take comfort that you can change previously bad karma to future good karma if you avoid evil and do good. One sure way to do good is to be kind and loving to your parents.

Qigong (chi kung) certainly can help, but you have to practice genuine qigong and not just gentle physical exercise mistaken to be qigong. The main difference is that in qigong you work on energy, whereas in physical exercise you only work on your physical body.

How do you know whether you are working on energy? This is like asking how you know whether you are eating an orange. When you are eating an orange, you know it. Similarly if you work on energy, you know it. If you do not know what working on energy is, then you are not practicing qigong.

Conventional doctors may not know what your illness is, but that does not matter if you practice genuine qigong! Qigong and conventional medicine look at illness differently. From the qigong viewpoint, if your energy flow is harmonious, you will be healthy. My question-answer series of January 2005 Part 1 and Part 2 give some detailed explanation of the different viewpoints between qigong and conventional medicine.

Question 8

I have read Sifu Wong's book. Can the ''Wisdom Art'' be harmful if you do it wrongly. And are there any chi-kung exercises for memory and logic developing?

— Gasham, Azerhajan

Answer

Any chi kung exercise if done wrongly can be harmful. The “Wisdom Art” is an advanced chi kung exercise, and as such it can be very harmful if practiced incorrectly. It is not advisable to practice any advanced chi kung exercise on your own.

All genuine chi kung concerns mind, besides the physical body and energy. In Chinese, the physical body, mind and energy are called “jing”, “shen” and “qi”. Hence, all genuine chi kung exercises train the mind and therefore promote mental clarity. This means all chi kung exercises improve memory and logical thinking.

But chi kung forms that are performed as gentle exercises, do not train the mind; they only train the physical body. This is actually common today although the practitioners themselves may not realize it and honestly think they practice chi kung.

Logically the effect of mind training in low level chi kung is little, whereas that in high level chi kung is great. Generally speaking, dynamic patterns like the Eight Pieces of Brocade have less effect on memory and logical thinking than meditative postures like Golden Bridge and Three-Circle Stance.

However, when a skilful practitioner performs a dynamic pattern at a high chi kung level (like performing it in a meditative state of mind), his effects on memory, logical thinking as well as other benefits are far greater than those of a mediocre practitioner performing stances in a mechanical manner.

LINKS

Overview of the Questions-Answers Series

Selected Reading

Courses and Classes