August 2005 (Part 3)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Bow-Arrow Stance

The Bow-Arrow Stance practiced in Shaolin Wahnam is quite different from that practiced in many other schools. In Shaolin Wahnam the Bow-Arrow Stance is formed with the two feet in line and turned inwards about 45 degrees.

Question 1

The change in my wife has been quite remarkable, although it is of course notsurprising to you. From being permanently lethargic, she now has energy to walk long distances whereas she would collapse of fatigue after 200 metres. There is a fair bit of cleansing going on, but she is much happier as a whole. I find it very surprising that her qi movements now mirror mine to a great extent (or vice versa). Considering we practice at different times, it is strange that the movements are so similar. I wonder if it is a result of our relationship as spouses or just coincidence.

— Zhang Wuji, Singapore

Answer

I am glad that your wife is progressing well in her chi kung practice.Yes, husband and wife often have much resonance between themselves whenpracticing chi kung. This is a good sign that both of you are very closetogether in spirit.

Question 2

Sifu, you had earlier told me to practice either the Horse-Riding Stance or the Three- Circle Stance prior to coming for the Shaolinquan intensive course.But in the question-answer series of August 1999 Part 2 you mention that generally the Horse-Riding Stance and the Three-Circle Stance “should be kept separate because their good effects may negate each other.”

While my Taijiquan lineage does not practice the Three-Circle Stance, we have stances quite like it, with rounded arms and higher leg positions. I was wondering if I could practice the Horse-Riding Stance and these Taiji stances at different times of the day. But if the effects of both types of stances would cancel each other out, would it be better for me to drop the Taiji stances for now?

However, as the Horse-Riding Stance is the mother stance for Shaolinquan and which I will be using for Golden Bridge and One Finger Zen in future, would this mean I could never be able to practice the Taiji stances?

Answer

In kungfu training, as well as in many aspects of life, answers are given provisionally, i.e. they are provided for the situation connected with the particular question.

When I mentioned that the Three-Circle Stance and theHorse-Riding Stance should be practiced apart, I was referring to theparticular situation for which the question was asked. The enquirer was already practicing the Three-Circle Stance on a regular basis. In his case it was not necessary or advisable to supplement it with Golden Bridge. Your case is quite different although you also have been practicing a version of the Three-Circle Stance.

As you intend to change your foucs on Shaolin Kungfu later on, it would be a good idea to practice the Horse-Riding Stance because this stance lays the foundation of your future Shaolin kungfu development. The Three-Circl;e Stance or its variation is also found in Shaolin Kungfu. For example, the Iron Wire Set of Hoong Ka Kungfu, and the Siew Lin Tau of Wing Choon Kungfu are practiced on the Goat Stance, which is the foundation for the Three-Circle Stance.

Then, why do I advise people who practice Taijiquan and who write to me for advice to practice only the Three-Circle Stance and leave out Golden Bridge or the Horse-Riding Stance, whereas I teach both the Three-Circle Stance as well as the Horse-Riding Stance to both Shaolin and Taijiquan students of Shaolin Wahnam? It is because I want all to have the best benefits from my advice.

Speaking generally, those who do not learn from me or any of our Shaolin Wahnam instructors but write to me for advice, practice Taijiquan for fun. The main purpose of their Taijiquan training is for recreation and general well-being. Usually they do not have the endurance or interest to practice Taijiquan as a serious internal, martial art where much dedication and effort is needed. Had they the endurance and interest, they would have learnt from me or our certified instructors. For them, practicing only the Three-Circle Stance will serve their purpose best.

Even if some of them are dedicated martial artists, they are likely to fall into two main categories — external martial artists who hope (but usually cannot find) Taijiquan could give them internal force or at least “soften” their hard, aggressive styles, or Taijiquan practitioner who apply their Taijiquan for combat. The Taijiquan practiced by these two categories of people is usually “soft” — in contrast to Wahnam Taijiquan which can be both “soft” and very “hard”.

Had their Taijiquan been “hard” too, they would not have asked me the question; they would have known the answer from direct experience. For them, who do not have the experience of an art that is both “hard” and “soft” (this is different from practicing a “soft” art besides a “hard” art, or hoping to make a “soft” art hard by introducing hard conditioning), mixing the Three-Circle Stance with Golden Bridge or the Horse-Riding Stance may negate each other's benefits.

But your situation and that of other Shaolin Wahnam members are different. Shaolin Wahnam students are exposed to and have direct experience of arts that are both “soft” and “hard”. (Many Shaolin and Taijiquan practitioners of other schools think our Shaolin Kungfu is too “soft”, and our Taijiquan too “hard”.)

Moreover, Shaolin Wahnam students aspire to the best benefits the arts can give, and are ready to work hard for the best benefits, as evident from their willingness to pay training fees that are higher than average fees by many times, and to travel over great distance to learn from us. Because of our ability to manifest both the “softness” and the “hardness” of an art or exercise, practicing the Three-Circle Stance and the Horse-Riding Stance at the same period of time not only would not negate each other's effect but also could enhance each other.

In the same way, for a chi kung practitioner who only knows how to build energy, practicing Abdominal Breathing and Self-Manifested Chi Movement at the same time would negatethe benefits of the two arts. But for us who can build as well as circulate energy, practicing these two arts together may enhance their effect.

For those who may not have expereicne of Abdominal Breathing and Self-Manifested Chi Movement, or of Three-Circle Stance and Horse-Riding Stance, a rough analogy may make my point clearer.

Suppose a mediocre student and a first-class honous student ask a university professor whether they should just read the prescribed texts or the presecribed texts as well as other texts for preparation of a coming examination. To the mediocre student the professor would advise him to read only the prescribed texts, because reading other texts too may confuse him. But to the first class honours student, the professor would advice him to read as many other texts as possible besides the prescribed texts, because this would enhance his understanding.

Question 3

I think I am being dualistic here; to someone more experienced, this is surely not an issue. But currently I am not sure how to proceed in my daily training

Answer

To be exact, yours is not a dualistic but an academic issue.

Yes, someone who has direct experience will not need to ask the question. If he has experience only of a “soft” art, he will discover from direct experience that practicing the Horse-Riding Stance in addition to the Three-Circle Stance distracts his progress. If he has experience of an art that is both “hard” and “soft” (like our Shaolin Kungfu and Wahnam Taijiquan) he will discover from direct experience that practicng both exercises enhances their results.

If he has no experience of stance training as chi kung, and hence perform them as physical exercise, he will discover from direct experience that practicing both exercises at the same time distracts his progress too, but in a different way — he is likely to cause more blockage.

Shaolin Kungfu sparring

Because we emphasize energy flow and internal force and are relaxed even during sparring, many Shaolin practitioners who are used to hard training, think our Shaolin Kungfu “soft”.

Question 4

Sifu, I also have some difficulty with the Horse-Riding Stance. Each time I practice the stance, my left knee hurts although I am very sure my posture is correct. I have avoided going too low and made sure my feet form a pyramid. I have therefore reluctantly stopped training this stance for now, and I beg Sifu's pardon for this.

I wonder if this is God's way of solving my dilemma above - of how to practice my Horse-Riding Stance (for building) and the Taiji stances (for circulation). Having stopped practicing the Horse-Riding Stance for a week, the pain has gone away. But I would like to seek Sifu's advice as I understand for Shaolinquan training it is critical to first build energy in the dantian .

Answer

There are four possible reasons for the pain:

  1. Your training is wrong.
  2. You have over-trained.
  3. The pain is due to an old injury.
  4. The pain is due to cleansing.

Even when your physical form is correct, but if you are tensed, emotionally stressed or have wandering thoughts, the training is incorrect.

If you have been training correctly, pain is usually a signal for you to rest.

If you have an old injury, which you may have forgotten, correct training may result in pain.

Correct training will result in cleansing, which may sometimes be painful.

Question 5

I recently read one of Master Lam Kam Chuen's books on Dachengquan (“The Way of Power”) and I was pleased to find that he describes the Bow-Arrow Stance we use inShaolin Wahnam, that is, the heels are in line with each other in a long deep stance. In his book, he calls it the “Dragon at Ease” stance, and this stance is used for the most advanced force training. But we use it as a standard stance in our school! It is no wonder that we reap so many benefits in our daily practice.

Answer

Many things we consider basic in our training, and which we learn at the start of our Shaolin or Taijiquan programme, are considered advanced in most other schools. Some examples include entering Zen or Tao, or going into a chi kung state of mind, generating energy flow, developing internal force, exploding force, and regulating our breath.

Question 6

However, the difference is that the front foot and toes are pointed straight ahead, and the back foot is at 90 degrees. I think the reason is that this stance is used for force training so tactical combat considerations like protection of the groin may not be as important.

Answer

There are two crucial differences regarding the Bow-Arrow Stance practiced in Shaolin Wahnam and that practiced in many other schools. One, our front and back feet are in line, whereas in many other schools they are about half to one shoulder's width apart. Two, both our front and back feet are hooked in about 45 degrees, whereas in many other schools the front leg points directly in front and the back leg points horizontally to the side.

We have found from direct experience that performing rhe Bow-Arrow Stance the way we do in Shaolin Wahnam enhances not just our combat application but also our force training as well as other aspects like stability, agility, waist flexibility and co-ordination between our upper and lower body.

Wahnam Taijiquan sparring

Sifu Wong uses “Striking Tiger Poise” to avoid a “Side Kick” from Wong Chun Nga. Both are typical Wahnam Taijiquan patterns. Because we practice both the “hard” and the “soft” aspects of Shaolin Kungfu and Wahnam Taijiquan, many Shaolin practitioners of other schools think our Shaolin Kungfu “soft” whereas many Taijiquan practitioners think our Taijiquan “hard”. Some may say that the above techniques are not Taijiquan patterns.

Question 7

This stance is used in the most advanced set in my Taiji school (the Fast Small Frame Form) and I've noticed that the front foot is turned in, just like our Shaolin Wahnam stance. This must be a concession to the realities of combat as it appears the most idealposition for force training is for the front leg to be pointing straight.

Answer

Your conclusion is incorrect. While pointing the front foot inward does help in combat apllication, by comparision with its enhancement in force training this effect is neglible. Even when the foot is turned inward to protect the groin, a skillful exponent can still manuvore his kick past the protective knee to reach the opponent's groin. Moreoever, instead of kicking the groin, the exponent can kick the shin, knee, dan tian or side ribs instead, and the injury can be damaging too.

But, according to our Shaolin Wahnam methodolgy, pointing the front foot forward instead of inward would cause a disconnection between our upper and lower body, which will result in our energy being dissipated instead of being focussed at the dan tian. This unfavorably affect internal force training.

Actually you can feel the effect quite readily if you are relaxed and listen to your body and energy. First, perform the Bow-Arrow Stance with the front foot pointing directly forward and back foot pointing directly sideway. Drop your two arms effortlessly at your sides. Relax and listen to your body and energy. It is very important to be relaxed. What do you feel? Don't you feel that one part of your body is directed to the front and another part of your body to a side, your upper and lower body are not co-ordinated, you are floating and your energy is difussing outward?

Now perform the stance the way we do in Shaolin Wahnam, i.e. the feet are in line, and both the front and the back feet are turned inwards. Drop your two arms effortlessly at your sides. Relax and listen to your body and energy. What do you feel? Don't you feel that your body like a pyramid is rooted, your upper and lower body are connected, you are solid and your energy is focussed at your dan tian?

Zhang Wuji's other questions will be continued in the next question-answer series of September 2005 Part 1.

Question 8

My brother attended your intensive course and he suggested to me to contact you.Since almost four years ago I have a hair-illness. At first there was one bald spot. Very soon there was another and then everywhere. Within 3 months I was bald and had lost al my hair. (Also all my other hair) I was diagnosed by a doctor as alopecia areata (alopecia universalis). They say there is no cure. Do you know if there is something I can do to cure this.

— Angelique, Netherlands

Answer

I am sorry to hear of your hair loss. But you can do something positive about it. Attend my regional chi kung courses in Switzerland to be held in August. Please refer to http://www.shaolin-wahnam.ch/ for details.

If you find my chi kung useful, then attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course in Malaysia. You have to check my website at to find out when my next Intensive Chi Kung Course will be held.

Chi kung uses a paradigm different from that of conventional Western medicine. In the chi kung paradigm your hair loss is due to a disruption of your harmonious energy flow. “Disruption of harmonious energy flow” is a Chinese medical jargon. In simple language it means that the energy that works all your body systems is blocked from doing its work. In your immediate case, the energy that regulates your hair growth is blocked from doing so.

The wonderful fact about this paradigm is that you do not even need to know what blocks the energy from doing its work, or where the blockage is. So long as you restore your energy flow, the energy will work your body systems normally. In your case it means you will have normal hair growth. You will also have all other normal functioning of your body systems.

An analogy may make this point clearer. Suppose you want to buy a new refrigerator, but you cannot do so because your cash flow is blocked. There may be many intermediate factors that block your cash flow. Your boss may not have given you the bonus that he promised, you may have used the money for something else, or there may be countless other reasons. But actually you do not have to worry about these intermediate causes. So long as you can restore your cash flow, you can buy the refrigerator. You can also buy other things. It is the same with energy flow.

High level chi kung, like what we practice in Shaolin Wahnam, is excellent for restoring energy flow.

Question 9

I saw a program about meditation on television and I found your web site “Wong Kiew kit's Home page Question and answer”. When I lied in bed at night my feet would become very cold in winter no matter how many blankets I had, so I began a breathing exercise that would bring warmth to that region. With each deep breath, I imagined a metallic ball in the center of my chest that would heat up and I would store that heat with each breath until I let the energy go, seeing the heat travel towards my feet. It sounds ridiculous, but most of the time, my feet would significantly heat up! After practicing that technique one night, I awoke the next day with a collapsed lung. I took three separate surgeries to fix the lung. Is it really possible that I hurt myself by doing these exercises?

— Bryan, Neitherland

Answer

Thank you for your question. Your experience will benefit may other people. Genuine chi kung masters have warned that one must learn advanced chi kung from a master, or at least a competent instructor, but many people disregard the warning, thinking the masters keep the advanced arts to themselves or their students. The type of chi kung you describe which involves visualization is high level chi kung.

Yes, you hurt yourself practicing the high level chi kung on your own. Worse, not only the harm is insidious until your lungs collapsed, you were misled to think that you were practicing correctly because it overcame the problem for which you practiced the exercise.

Ironically, your practice was “technically correct”, otherwise you would not have warmed your feet. This reminds me of a cruel joke among surgenos who tell their colleagues or the patient's family members that “the operation was technically successful but the patient dies.” Such unfortunate situations are expressed in Chinese philosophy as “knowing the superficial but not the depth”.

You successfully accumulated heat at your chest and channel it to your feet. However, you did not know that this excessive accumulation of heat at your chest harmed your lungs, cauing them to collapse eventually.

Actually you need not have to worry about your feet being cold in winter. This is a natural process of energy distribution. Your feet are cold in winter because Mother Nature channels energy from your limbs to your trunk to maintain the functioning of your internal organs. Even if your lungs did not collapse, redirecting energy from your trunk to your feet, which is a result of “knowing the superficial but not the depth”, is unhealthy as it diverts energy from a more importnat task of maintaining the working of your internal organs to a less important task of keeping your feet warm.

Although the surgeries have fixed your lungs, they are still weak. It is advisable to practice “Lifting the Sky” to strengthen them. It is best if you can learn it from me or one of our certified Shaolin Wahnam instructors . If this is not feasible, you can learn it from one of my books. It is a wonderful exercise and is very safe if you follow the instructions respectfully, which include not adding anything not mentioned in the instructions.

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