October 2005 (Part 1)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Wahnam Taijiquan

Combat Application is an essential aspect of Wahnam Taijiquan. During a regional Wahnam Taijiquan class in Spain in August 2004, students practiced a felling technique and its counter.

Question 1

I was trained in a style of zhan zhuang where the legs were held in the Horse-Riding Stance (although not quite as low as in Hoong Ka), and the arms were extended forward with the hands in the sword-finger form pointing forwards. The purpose was to learn to send qi to the fingers for healing and point-hitting.

There was also an accompanying visualization, where we visualized qi entering through the “bai hui” and “yong quan” towards the “dan tian” on inhale, and along the arms to the fingers on exhale. Eventually we learned to do this with reverse breathing, and followed stance training (usually 30 minutes) with a sort of “slapping massage", ranging from the top of the head to the bottom of the legs.

— Jeff, USA

Answer

The force-training stance you described is called “Immortal Pointing the Way” {“Seen Yein Chi Lou” in Cantonese pronunciation). It is an advanced training method used in some internal kungfu styles, like Wudang Kungfu and some Taoist Kungfu.

It is normally attempted after the practitioner has spent some time on the Horse-Riding Stance where the hands are held in fists at the waist. (In internal styles the Horse-Riding Stance is generally higher than that practiced in Shaolin Kungfu.) The “some time” requirement was normally a few years in the past, but today when the standard aimed at is much lower, it can be a few months. The purpose of the prelinminary Horse-Riding Stance training is to accumulate sufficient internal force at the dan tian for the “shooting” requirement of “Immortal Pointing the Way”.

As you have rightly said, the main objective of this training method is to develop the required force for “dim mark” (“dian xue” in Mandarin pronunciation), or “the art of dotting vital points”. “Reversed breathing” is preferred because it provides a stronger “shoot”.

In the past it was unlikely to be used for healing because the force was too powerful. But even today when the standard is lower, personally I would not favour this method of training for healing, because the basic skill of this method is “shooting”, whereas in healing the onus is on “stimulating”.

In the past, “Immortal Pointing the Way” was often trained in conjunction with the “Small Universe”. As “Immortal Pointing the Way” conditioned energy flow in a partiular manner for “shooting” vital points of opponents as well as draining the energy reserve of the practitioner, “Small Universe” would rectify these setbacks by recirculating energy flow for normal heealthy living as well as replensihing energy spent. The “Small Universe” could be performed in “reserved breathing”, “abdominal breathing” or other modes of breathing.

Your teacher may have good reasons for the “slapping massage”, but personally I find this inclusion odd. “Immortal Pointing the Way” is a very advanced art, whereas “slapping massage” is elementary. The principal objective of “slapping massage” is to prevent energy being stagnated during training, and is usually employed by those who practice low level chi kung. A practitioner of “Immortal Pointing the Way” would have good control of his chi flow, making “slapping massage” redundant. Nevertheless, if one does not practice the “Small Universe” or have other chi kung skills of energy flow such as self-manifested chi movement, “slapping massage” would be a useful precaution.

Question 2

I would like to know your opinion on how this zhan zhuang rates compared to Golden Bridge and Three-Circle Stance, especially since you stated that visualization was generally not used. I have practiced and enjoyed Golden Bridge and Three-Circle Stance in addition to this Sword-Finger form that I have described. However, you have stated that Golden Bridge and Three-Circle Stance may cancel each other out in terms of good effects. Also, that it is better to focus intensely on fewer forms, rather than many, so I am considering dropping two forms and only focusing on one.

Answer

Comparatively “Immortal Pointing the Way” is of a higher level than “Golden Bridge” and “Three-Circle Stance”. This does not mean that a practitioner of “Immortal Pointing the Way” is necessarily more powerful than a practitioner of “Golden Bridge” or “Three-Circle Stance”. But it means that in the hierachy of training mehods, one would practice “Golden Bridge” or “Three-Circle Stance” first, then “Immortal Pointing the Way”. “Golden Bridge” and “Three-Circle Stance” build the internal force for “Immortal Pointing the Way” to shoot.

As explained in the August 2005 Part 3 of my question-answer series, my advice to keep “Golden Bridge” and “Three-Circle Stance” separate is for those who have experience only of a “hard” art or a “soft” art. If you are familar with an art that is both “hard” and “soft”, you may practice “Golden Bridge” and “Three-Circle Stance” together.

Although certain arts are generally “harder” or “softer' than others, whether the aspect is ”hard“ or ”soft“ also depends on how the art is practiced. For example, although ”Golden Bridge" is generally “harder” than "Three-Circle Stance“, a skilful ”Golden Bridge“ practitioner may be ”softer“ (and more powerful) than a ”Three-Circle Stance" practitioner.

If your training of “Immortal Pointing the Way” involves both the “hard” and “soft” aspects, you could also consolidate your “jing” while you practice shooting chi. But if yours involves only the “soft” aspect, then you need not worry about consolidating jing. In fact, if you practice “Golden Bridge” to consolidate jing, this would detract you from your “Immortal Pointing the Way” practice.

Question 3

Am I undoing my jing-consolidation by using the sword-finger form? Does this form render the Three-Circle Stance redundant? I would really like to hear from you as I highly value your opinion.

Answer

Generally it is better to focus on one training method rather than spreading your time over many. Your choice of the training method to focus on, will depend much on your philosophy and purpose. Why do you want to practice “Golden Bridge”, “Three-Circle Stance” or “Immortal Pointing the Way”? Is it to help you to become a formidable fighter or to enhance your health?

Unless you have good reasons to practice “Immortal Pointing the Way”, I would suggest that you change to “Three-Circle Stance”. If you practice “Immortal Pointing the Way” wrongly, it may drain much of your energy away. If you do not learn from a master, the chance of wrong practice can be high.

But even if you practice correctly, the main use of this art is to hurt people by dotting their vital points. This was very useful in the past, but its use today is much limited.

On the other hands, the benefits from practicing the “Three-Circle Stance” are holistic and meaningful to our modern world. It gives you good health and vitality to enjoy your daily life. While it is not as destrutive to opponents as the internal force derived from “Immortal Pointing the Way”, the internal force derived from the “Three-Circle Stance” is sufficient for effective combat today.

Wahnam Taijiquan

Wahnam Taijiquan is always practiced as chi kung. Students at a regional Wahnam Taijiquan course in Spain in August 2005 enjoyed a chi flow after performing some Taijiquan movements.

Question 4

I have read on your site and other Shaolin Wahnam websites that qigong can cure a wide variety of “incurable” diseases. I was wondering if there was a type of qigong that can cure nearsightedness or myopia.

When I first needed glasses, I was only slightly near sited and could still see pretty well. But, as time went by and I got new prescriptions my vision steadily became worse. Now, objects are blurry at a distance of only a few feet. It seems to me that glasses have made my vision worse. I would like to know if it is possible to correct this nearsightedness and gradually improve my vision so that I will have 20/20 vision again. I would like to be able to improve my vision naturally without the aid of laser surgery or having to wear contact lenses.

— James, USA

Answer

Yes, chi kung can overcome nearsightedness. And in this case you don't even have to learn from an instructor, you can learn the method from my description. The method is safe for practicing on your own.

The method is called “Shaolin Eight Exercises for the Eyes”. The eight exercises are:

  1. Counting Leaves.
  2. Rolling Stars.
  3. Far and Near.
  4. Angry Eyes.
  5. Focusing on One.
  6. Nourishing Spirit.
  7. Point Massage.
  8. Heavenly Drum.

These eight exercises have helped many people to have good eyesight, including myself and my children, who might have to wear glasses if not for these wonderful exercises.

I have given a lengthy description of these exercises in one of my question-answer series. Please use the search engine on my website to search for the description.

Yes, if you practice the exercises daily, you will be able to improve your vision naturally without the aid of laser surgery or having to wear contact lenses.

Question 5

What is the difference between Yang-style Tai Chi and Wahnamstyle Tai Chi?

— Yap, Malaysia

Answer

Yang Style Taijiquan is generally practiced slowly for health whereas Wahnam Taijiquan is often fast with emphasis on martial application. When someone sees a performance of Wahnam Taijiquan, he may mistake it for Shaolin Kungfu, although the performer does not use muscular strength and is flowing in his movement. On the other hand, few people would mistake Yang Style Taijiquan as Shaolin Kungfu due to its soft, graceful forms.

Some of the patterns are also named differently. “Grasping Sparrow's Tail” is usually regarded as one pattern in Yang Style Taijiquan, though five techniques are found in it, namely “peng” or warding off, “lu” or rolling back, “li” or pressing, “cheng” or sinking, and “an” or pushing.

In Wahnam Taijiquan there is a separate name for each of the five techniques which are regarded as patterns themselves. They are respectively “Immortal Waves Sleeves”, “Two Dragons Play with Pearl”, “Pushing Boat Along with Water Flow”, “Black Bear Sinks Hips” and “Opening Window to Look at Moon”. These patterns may not be performed in the order in “Grasping Sparrow's Tail”, and may be performed individually.

Today Yang Style Taijiquan is usually peformed as gentle physical exercise, but Wahnam Taijiquan is always performed as chi kung. It may not be easy for the uninitiated to understand this difference. An explanation may be as follows.

When one performs a Yang Style Taijiquan movement he moves his muscles, although his movement may be so gentle that there is not much muscular tension. Thus, he usually moves slowly and does not have much strength. If he needs to move fast or be forceful, he has to use muscular tension. When one performs a Wahnam Taijiquan movement he generates his energy flow. Thus he can be very fast and forceful, yet he has no muscular tension.

When a Yang Style Taijiquan practitioner has performed all the patterns in a set, he completes the session. When a Wahnam Taijiquan practitioner has performed some or all the patterns in a set, he goes into some chi flow movements which are poetically described as “flowing breeze and swaying willows” if the chi movements are gentle, or as “flowing water and floating clouds” if the chi movements are more vigorous. Then he goes into standing meditation known in Taijiquan terms as “Entering Tao”.

These energy and mind aspects of Taijiquan are usually not known to Yang Style Taijiquan practitioners. Some advanced Yang Style practitioners may have heard of these terms, but they do not have any experience of them. But in Wahnam Taijiquan, these energy and mind aspects are basic, experienced by both beginners and advanced practitioners.

Question 6

Is practising Tai Chi in itself sufficient for achieving the effect of both aerobic and anaerobic exercise? Or should I also include jogging and weight lifting as part of my exercise routine? If yes, how often?

Answer

I do not understand what you mean by aerobic and anaerobic exercise, so I shall relate your question to jogging, weight lifting as well as other forms of physical exercise where muscular tension is not emphasized.

If you practice Taijiquan, including Yang Style, as gentle physical exercise as it is normally practiced today, it is sufficient only for achieving the effects of exercise where muscular tension is not emphasized, like stretching and bending, but it is insufficient for acheiving the effect of vigorous exercise like jogging and weighting.

For example, by practicing modern Yang Sty;e Taijiquan, you may be flexible and graceful in your movements, just as one who often stretches and bends his body is. But you may not have enough stamina to play a game of football, or enough force to strike down an assailant. To do so you have to supplement you practice of modern Yang Style Taijiquan with jogging and weight lifting. Supplementing your daily practice of modern Taijiquan with jogging and weight lifting twice a week would be recommendable.

But if you practice Taijiquan, including Yang Style, as chi kung as it was practiced in the past, by itself without having to include any other exercises such as stretching and bending, or jogging and weight lifting, you will be both flexible and graceful, as well as having stamina and force to play football or strike down an assailant.

In fact you would be able to jog better than an average jogger, and strike down an assailant better than an average weight lifter. It is because as a jogger uses muscular movement to jog, he would become tired after jogging for some time. A weight lifter may be able to lift heavy weights but may not strike well, because lifting weights and striking an opponent involve different skills. On the other hand, if you practice Taijiquan as chi kung, you would be more efficient in regulating your breathing so that you would not be tired, and channel your energy flow to your strike so that it would be more powerful.

As we practice Wahnam Taijiquan as chi kung, we can achieve these abilities — without having to incorporate any other exercises, and usually more efficiently than those who stretch and bend their body, or those who jog and lift weights. Some people may not believe this, but if you look at our discussion forum and video clips , you can find ample evidence to substantiate it.

Shaolin Kungfu sparring

This photograph captures the instant of Sifu Anon of Canada using the pattern “Hungry Tiger Snatches Goat” from the “Five-Animal Set” against Dr Damian of Malaysia in a free sparring session during the Advanced Combined Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan Course held in July 2005 in Malaysia.

Question 7

I have been practicing a system of Kung Fu that we believe is either some form of southern mantis or it comes from it and I am trying to find out more about its origins. When my teacher asked my grandmaster, Grandmaster Chen, what style of Kung Fu he was being taught he would get a response like “family style”.

According to the stories I have been told the “family style” has been around for years, but the grandfather of Grandmaster Chen had either his sons or brothers study Wing Chun and Hung Gar and added forms from these to the "family style”. There are also Bak Mei forms in the “family style”, but I am not sure when they were added.

After researching into different types of Kung Fu we are almost positive that the “family style” has origins in southern mantis. Currently we refer to our system as Chen Family Phoenix Eye Fist Kung Fu, but would like to know what we really are. I hope that you can help us.

— Dale, USA

Answer

Yours is quite typical of many family styles of kungfu. Calling your style “Chen Family Phoenix Eye Kungfu” is appropriate.

From the information you have supplied, it is most likely that your kungfu style originated from the southern Shaolin Temple built by the Venerable Chee Seen at the Nine-Lotus Mountain in Fujian Province. After the burning of the temple, Chee Seen's outstanding disciple Hoong Hei Khoon escaped to Guangdong Province where he taught Southern Shaolin Kungfu, which people later refered to as Hoong Ka (Hung Gar).

One of Hoong Hei Khoon's disciple and adopted son was Wu Ah Phew, who was the son of Wu Wei Tien, a junior classmate of Hoong Hei Khoon at the Shaolin Temple. During a journey Wu Ah Phiew stayed for a while in a Chow family and taught Southern Shaolin Kungfu there. This style kept within the Chow Family was known as Chow Ka Kungfu (Chow Family Kungfu).

One of the Chow masters, whose name I cannot remember, was fond of praying mantis, and incorporated the mantis-grip into his kungfu in place of the Hoong Ka tiger-claw. Consequently this style came to be known as Chow Family Praying Mantis Kungfu, or Southern Praying Mantis Kungfu.

Later the phoenix-eye fist, which was a specialty of another family style called Choo Ka Kungfu, was also added. What you thought as Bak Mei forms are probably phoenix-eye forms from Choo Ka Kungfu, which is quite different from Bak Mei Kungfu although both use the phoenix-eye fist extensively. Choo Ka Kungfu also originated from Southern Shaolin.

Chow Family Praying Mantis is not related to and is quite different from the Praying Mantis Kungfu developed by another Shaolin master, Wang Lang, a few centuries earlier. While Praying Mantis Kungfu (sometimes called Northern Praying Mantis, to differentiate it from Southern Praying Mantis) is noted for its kicks and agile footwork, Chow Family Praying Mantis mainly uses the mantis-grip, the phoenix-eye fist and the stable stances of Hoong Ka Kungfu. It is likely that one of the early Chen masters of your family style learned Chow Family Praying Mantis.

Neverthelss, while it is satisfying to know one's family style history, it really does not matter much whether your style came from Chow Family Praying Mantis or from elsewhere so long as you find practicing it gives you much benefit.

Question 8

I am interested in what the names for the many patterns you mention in the book, “The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu”, are in Chinese. Such Chinese names flow better. If you can provide the characters, it would be the best, but pinyin would be great as well

— Grant, USA

Answer

It would not be feasible to provide all the Chinese names here, so I would just provide two names for each of the “five animals”. You can find many other terms and their Chinese characters if you refer to the Chinese Terminology section, kindly provided by Michael Chow in our Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum. You can also find the Chinese characters of the kungfu patterns in another of my Shaolin Kungfu book, “Introduction to Shaolin Kungfu”.

The following names are given in Cantonese pinyin (transliteration).

In Chinese the names of kungfu patterns flow like poetry. Hopefully, this may inspire kungfu practitioners to perform their movements like poetry too.

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