March 2005 (Part 1)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Flower Set

An old photograph taken more than 25 years ago showing Sifu Wong applying a pattern from the Shaolin Flower Set in combat training with his student, Wong Weng Tuck.

Question 1

I sent you a mail for a problem that I often experienced at night. Thanks to you I'm Ok now.

I am a Christian. In the past I did not think of the Almighty and Jesus, but now I think of them everyday. I hope you can teach me how to grow spiritually.

I know it is a long path and may need a life time and also one must free himself from all bad habits, bad thinking, etc. I want to feel the presence of Jesus in my everyday life, to strengthen his presence, to love him as much as possible and do as much good as possible.

— Billy, Mauritius

Answer

I am glad you have overcome your problem. Congratulations.

It is wonderful that now you think of the Almighty and Jesus, and want to grow spiritually.

Firstly, you need to know the difference between spirituality and religion. A spiritual person may or may not be religious, though he usually is. Similarly a religious person may or may not be spiritual.

Spiritual means pertaining to the spirit. A spiritual person, therefore, believes he does not merely have a physical body, he also has a spirit. In fact he is the spirit. Spiritual cultivation is cultivation of this spirit.

Methods of spiritual cultivation are not exclusive to a particular religion. In other words, the same methods may be used by Christians, Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus, Muslims or those of any religion or no religion.

Although professing a religion is not an essential requirement for spiritual growth, professing one and understanding it well is a great help. As you are a Christian, you should study the Bible well to better understand the Almighty and Jesus.

An excellent way to feel the presence of Jesus, to strengthen his presence, to love him and to do as much good as possible is to practice his teaching, which may be summed up in two words, faith and love. Have faith in him, trust that by following his teaching you will return to the Kingdom of God. Love God, Jesus, your parents, your teachers, your friends and all people.

Where is the Kingdom of God? Jesus answers clearly in the Bible, “The Kingdom of God is in your heart.” An excellent way to have a glimpse of God's Kingdom is to stand upright, be totally relaxed, close your eyes gently, and smile from your heart. As your heart opens, feel the presence of Jesus with you, and let the Grace of God flow over you. Conclude the session by giving a blessing to whoever you wish.

Practice this every morning. You will grow spiritually, and as a result you will feel free, peaceful and happy.

Question 2

Do you know anything about the following forms and their history?

Lohan Kuen (Lohans Boxing System) Mui Fa Sau (Plum Blossom Hands ) Sap Sei Sau (14 Movement Fist ) Ng Hang Fook Fu Kuen ( Five Element Taming The Tiger Form ) Ye Fu Chut Lam (Night Tiger Comes of Forest ) Meng Fu Ha Shan (Fiercest Tiger Comes Down The mountain) Sang Lung Wood Fu (Lively Dragon Vigorous Tiger).

Answer

All these are Shaolin kungfu sets derived from the southern Shaolin Temple at Jiu Lian San (Nine-Lotus Mountain) in Fujian Province, founded by the Venerable Chee Seen, the First Patriarch of Southern Shaolin. There were two main halls in the temple where monks and secular disciples practiced kungfu. Lohan Kuen (Lohan Kungfu Set) was practiced in the Hall of Lohan. Fa Kuen (Flower Kungfu Set) was practiced in the Wing Choon Hall or Hall of Ever Spring.

Relatively, Lohan Kuen was “hard” and characterized by solid stances and powerful arms, whereas Fa Kuen was “soft” and characterized by agility and flowing movements. Chee Seen's famous disciples like Hoong Hei Khoon and Lok Ah Choy trained in the Hall of Lohans, whereas Foong Sai Yoke and Wu Wei Thien trained in the Hall of Ever Spring.

They were betrayed by the last of Chee Seen's ten great disciples, Ma Ling Yi, who informed Ko Chun Chong, the military governor of the two neighbouring provinces of Kwangtung and Kwangsi. With the help of his master, the kungfu patriarch Pak Mei, Ko Chun Chong led the Qing Army to raze the temple.

Escaping disciples brought Lohan Kuen and Fa Kuen to Kwangtung, where southern Shaolin Kungfu soon spread to the populace. A few kungfu sets developed from these two prototypical sets.

Mui Fa Sau (Plum Blossom Set) and Sap Sei Sau (Fourteen-Hand Set) were derived from Fa Kuen (Flower Set). Ng Hang Fook Fu Kuen (Five-Element Taming the Tiger Set) Ye Fu Chut Lam (Night Tiger Emerges from Forest Set) Meng Fu Ha Shan (Fierce Tiger Descends Mountain Set) were derived from Lohan Kuen (Lohan Set). I have not heard of Sang Lung Wood Fu (Lively Dragon Vigorous Tiger Set) but I believe it was derived from the Lohan Set too.

It is interesting to note that many people have the misconception that the classical kungfu sets of Hoong Ka Kungfu are only Taming the Tiger, Tiger-Crane and Iron Wire, which are the three famous sets from the lineage of the great Hoong Ka master, Wong Fei Hoong, who in turn was descended from Loh Ah Choy. Actually there are other classical kungfu sets in Hoong Ka Kungfu from other authentic lineages. Night Tiger Emerges from Forest and Fierce Tiger Descends Mountain are two examples. Other classical Hoong Ka sets are Triple Stretch, Four Gates and Tiger Claws.

Question 3

From what I understand this system came from a monk called Wong Qui or the Hai Fung Monk from the mountain that Lam Yui Kwai learned his Dragon Set from. I understand that Siu Lam Wing Chun was connected to all of this Chi Sim the Hai Fung Monk and Lam Yui Quai the Dragon Style master are said to be the old Gee Sin Yong Chun/Hung Kuen/Huaquan style. I am trying to figure out what all this means.

Answer

Wong Qui and Chi Sim you mentioned should be Wong Thye and Chee Seen respectively. There were actually two southern Shaolin Temples, one at the city of Quanzhou and the other on the Nine-Lotus Mountain. Both were in Fujian Province in South China. The southern Shaolin Temple at Quanzhou was burnt first, directed by the Qing Emperor Yong Jing himself with the help of mercenary Lama kungfu experts from Tibet.

The Venerable Chee Seen escaped from the burning of the first southern temple, and stayed for some time in Kwangtung at Hoi Tong Temple (probably mispronounced in your account as Hai Fung) before moving to Nine-Lotus Mountain in Fujian where he built the second southern Shaolin Temple which was also burnt later on. At Hoi Tong Temple he taught Wong Thye, who was a secular disciple and not a monk.

Another Shaolin monk who escaped was the Venerable Jiang Nan. Both the Venerable Chee Seen and the Venerable Jiang Nan were the first patriarchs in our school, Shaolin Wahnam. Chee Seen started the lineage that leads to my sifu Lai Chin Wah, and Jiang Nan started the lineage that leads to my sifu Ho Fatt Nam.

I cannot remember exactly but I think the Dragon Style master was Lam Yew Kwong, and not Lam Yui Kwai, but Chinese characters when transliterated into English spelling often play havoc. Lam Yew Kwong was a few generations after Chee Seen, but his lineage was not from Chee Seen but from Pak Mei.

Let us now clarify the terms “Gee Sin Yong Chun/Hung Kuen/Huaquan” that you mentioned. “Gee Sin” was the Venerable Chee Seen. “Yong Chun” is the Mandarin pronunciation of “Wing Choon”, which is in Cantonese pronunciation, and refers to the Wing Choon Hall, or the Hall of Ever Spring in the southern Shaolin Temple in Quanzhou. “Hung Kuen” is Hung Gar Kungfu, or Hoong Ka Kungfu as I usually spell it.“Huaquan” is the Mandarin pronunciation of the Cantonese “Fa Kuen” or the Flower Set.

Flower Set

An old photograph taken about 30 years ago showing Sifu Wong applying a Lohan pattern while sparring with his classmate, Ah Huat, who is a Hoong Ka Kungfu master.

Question 4

I would be very interested to know if you know of anywhere it is possible to study Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Kung in its pure form intensively for longer periods of time, months, even years.

— James, UK

Answer

By pure form, I reckon you mean that not only the art has not been adulterated to an extent that it has become quite different from what it looked like as recorded in classical works, but also it maintains its functions.

For example, much of kungfu today where one can find many unmistakable Taekwondo or Kickboxing techniques, is not in its pure form by the first criterion. Much of Taiji practiced today, where the forms are similar to those found in classical Taijiquan works but their practitioners have no internal force and cannot defend themselves, is not in its pure form by the second criterion, though it might be in its pure form by only the first criterion.

If you take only the first criterion of external forms, many Shaolin schools and most Taiji and chi kung schools today teach their arts in their pure forms, and you can learn them for long periods. You can find out their addresses readily from directories and the internet. But personally I would not consider these arts “genuine”, although their external forms are genuine. It is because they have missed the essence. In my opinion, students who cannot use their Shaolin or Taiji forms for combat, or cannot use their chi kung forms to generate an energy flow, do not practice a genuine art.

On the other hands, there are many schools today that teach you how to fight, and some schools that teach you energy flow, but if the forms they use to achieve these results are not traditional Shaolin, Taijiquan or chi kung forms, their arts are also not in their pure form by the first criterion.

If you take the criteria of both forms and functions, there are only a few schools today teaching these arts in their pure form. As it is generally not our policy to name other schools openly, you would have to look for them yourself. I would advice that you have to have patience and search hard, but the effort is worth it.

But if you wish to learn for a long period of time from our school, Shaolin Wahnam, which teaches Shaolin Kungfu, Taijiquan and chi kung in their pure forms by both criteria, please check our List of Certified Instructors .

Question 5

For someone who would like to devote all of his time to learning the arts with a view to teaching them in the future, what do you think is the best way for him to learn?

Answer

The best way is to learn from a genuine master who is also willing to teach him. The student should learn and practice the art the way the master has asked him to, and not according to the way he likes.

This is logical, but all too often many students, consciously or unwittingly, think that they are smarter than the master or that the master delays their progress. Hence, they often add other techniques into their art to improve it when the master has taught them all they need, or they start to teach others after three months when the master has asked them to practice as a good student for three years.

The advice requires that the master is genuine and that the student knows what he is doing. Genuine masters are rare today, so you may not find it easy to meet this requirement.

The second requirement appears easy as it depends on you as a student. But in reality it may also not be easy. Many people mistake fancy for devotion. They think they are devoted to practicing an art when in reality they merely fancy to become a master to save the world, and in an easy way. In my experience, those who think of teaching others even before they have learnt the art they want to teach, usually fall into this category.

So if you really want to devote yourself to an art with a view of teaching it to others in future, it is advisable, paradoxically, to forget about becoming a master now, but focusing on becoming a good student. If you can become a master so easily, the art is nothing great for you to devote your time practicing it.

Question 6

Do you know anything about Pek Kua (not Ta Shing Pek Kua)? Is it from Shaolin? I like to know the characteristic and history of this style.

— Rodrigo, Brazil

Answer

Pek Kua Kungfu is a Northern Shaolin style. It was established in the Sung Dynasty (9th to 14th century), and was mentioned in the “Kungfu Classic” written by the famous Ming Dynasty general, Qi Ji Kuang.

Pek Kua Kungfu drives its name from its two characteristic techniques, “pek” (“chop”) and “kua” (“reversed hanging fist”). The pronunciation is in Cantonese. A typical movement of “pek” and of “kua” are as follows. Swing your right out-stretched arm from your top right fast and hard to your bottlm left side — “pek”. Then, continuing the “pek” movement in circular momentum, swing the same right out-stretched arm from your left top to your right bottom — “kua”.

Traditionally there are four fundamental kungfu sets of Pek Kua, namely “Pek Kua”, “Green Dragon”, “Flying Tiger” and “Big Form”. Good body work and good footwork are necessary for effective application of the “pek” and “kua” techniques. The swinging arms, which can be used for attack and defence, must of course be powerful and fast.

The famous “Twelve Sequences of Tan Thui” (”Spring Kicks”) of Northern Shaolin makes use of Pek Kua hand forms. Ta Shing Pek Kua is a combination of Monkey Style and Pek Kua Kungfu.

Question 7

I'm very keen on learning the ways of Shaolin! I recently bought a manual on Animal Iron Shirt, which I believe to be a Chi Kung practice. Is this safe for me to practice alone or is it advisable to start classes in order to build up to these powerful exercises? I also have recently undergone knee surgery. Would the practice of Shaolin kung fu strengthen my knee eventually?

— Gareth , USA

Answer

“Iron Shirt” is an advanced chi kung exercise whereby the practitioner can withstand punches and kicks, and even armed attacks without sustaining injury. But I d not know about Animal Iron Shirt.

“Iron Shirt” and any advanced chi kung should be practiced under the supervision of a master or a competent instructor. Self training is likely to cause injury, and sometimes the student may not even know he has injured himself.

It is advisable for you to start classes to learn basic kungfu skills and techniques from a living instructor. It is also advisable for you to spend some time searching fro a good instructor.

Practicing any kungfu will strengthen your knees. But unfortunately many kungfu students and even instructors today injure their knees even when they had healthy knees to start with. This is due to incorrect kungfu training.

A public survey in the United States showed that the majority of Tai Chi practitioners, including instructors, had knee injuries. This is incredible but true. You can read more details in my book, “The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chuan”, pages 60-63.

Immortal Pounds Mortar

Sifu Wong applies a Taijiquan pattern, “Immortal Pounds Mortar”, to counter a kick from his disciple Goh Kok Hin during combat application training

Question 8

In 1993 I met a fellow who had been a practitioner of chi kung for many years. He was then attending a school of hsing yi, tai chi, and ba gua and encouraged me to attend as well. I was unable to attend the classes so he introduced me to chi kung.

I am not sure of the name of the style but it was a seated position form, seated or kneelingactually. I was provided with a hand written set of notes and given the times during which I should practice this meditation. (As a side note I will add here that the form in question was developed for rupturing an opponents' innards from a distance. I felt that this form could be successfully applied to the Swedish style massage I was learning at the time.)

I began practicing and within a few days my eating and sleeping habits had changed considerably. I could not eat things that were “bad” for my body, I could not smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or sleep past 6 am. That made me feel great. I was doing something that really worked. However things started to get pretty strange shortly thereafter.

I began seeing silhouettes, or spirits, or something. Things started to happen in my presence that were quite disquieting, lights flickering on and off, strange odors in rooms where they had not been before. I could wake my cat up from across the room, and humorously I got quite good at games like rummy in which I could suggest internally that my opponent overlook or skip cards that he or she clearly needed.

The last day of my practice was announced when riding in my car with a friend of mine. She patted my knee and when I reached out to pat her hand she recoiled with a verbal “ow!” I had left a quarter sized bruise on her hand.

So, those are the more outstanding things in my memory. I have been feeling the call to start meditating again. However there are no instructors here. I humbly ask for direction. I was 19 or 20 then, I am 30 now.

— Christopher, USA

Answer

It is obvious that yours is a powerful type of chi kung. And powerful chi kung needs to be treated with care and respect, and to be practiced under the supervision of a competent instructor.

The chance of practicing wrongly is high if you practice on your own without any prior chi kung experience. Even if your practice is correct, you may be unable to handle the powerful results on your own. And you have encountered numerous examples.

Spirit are actually everywhere around us. But people normaears lly do not see them, nor they see us, because they exist in different frequencies from us. However, your chi kung training has enhanced your psychic abilities, enabling you to see, smell or do htings that ordinary people cannot.

With increased abilities come increased responsibilities. Ordinary people might welcome the ability to influence the cards their opponents hold in rummy or other card games. This ability could enable them to win a lot of money. But you must resist this temptation. Falling into such a temptation is an example of failing to assume increased responsibilities with increased abilities.

Most significantly, you don't seem to have any clear idea of why you practice chi kung. Surely your purposes of practicing chi kung are not to see spirits, smell strange odors, wake cats from their sleep, or rupture opponents' innards from a distance. You are also not sure of what results your chi kung training will bring. Such training, therefore, is not cost-effective.

It is good to start chi kung training again. But I would not recommend you to resume the powerful chi kung which you did 10 years ago and which you do not understand. You should preferably learn personally from a real master or at least a competent instructor.

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