February 2006 (Part 2)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I am curious about kung fu. Will you explain to me a bit about it?
— Harish, Malaysia
Kungfu is the usual term people refer to Chinese martial art, although in the Chinese language today martial art is referred to as “wushu”. This causes some confusion, compounded by the fact that “wushu” is practiced today generally as a sport and not as a martial art. So, in practical terms “kungfu” means Chinese martial art, and “wushu” means a demonstrative sport where combat is not an essential aspect.
But the confusion does not end here, because most people who practice kungfu today cannot use their kungfu for combat, although some of them are formidable fighters. How is this possible? It is actually straight-forward, although for various reasons some people may not realize it and some do not accept it publicly even though secretly they know this is true.
Most kungfu practitioners practice only kungfu forms, but lack the methodology to practice using these forms for combat. As a result they may perform beautiful kungfu forms in solo demonstration, but if they are attacked they cannot defend themselves. In an attempt to overcome this problem, some borrow sparring methods and techniques from other martial arts, like Karate, Taekwondo, Boxing and Kick-Boxing. Some have been successful in using these borrowed methods and techniques, and become formidable fighters. Bruce Lee was the most celebrated example.
From our perspective, we would not call these arts genuine kungfu. This conclusion is only logical. By definition, kungfu is a martial art. If it cannot be used for fighting, it cannot be called genuine, even though the forms when performed in solo are real kungfu forms.
This is the same in chi kung. Many people practice only chi kung forms but have no experience and benefits of chi kung. From our perspective we would not call these genuine chi kung, because again by definition, chi kung is an art of working on energy.
You may notice that the problems here is that these kungfu and chi kung practitioners confuse the forms with the results, or means with the ends. They call their arts kungfu or chi kung because they practice kungfu or chi kung forms. We do not call them genuine kungfu or genuine chi kung because their practice do not bring the results the arts are purported to give.
We have mentioned a few times that we have no problem with other people practicing only kungfu forms or only chi kung forms. That is their choice and we respect it. In fact an overwhelmingly great majority practice only forms. But when people ask us for our opinion and advice, we give them honestly and generously. Whether they accept our oppinion and advice is also their choice.
Kungfu is an umbrella term. They are many different styles of kungfu. The most wide-spread are Shaolin and Taijiquan. Some well-known styles are Wing Choon, Hoong Ka, Choy-Li-Fatt, Praying Mantis, Baguazhang and Xingyiquan.
I've been learning Ninjitsu for a year and a half but feel I need to learn more forms to truly learn flow.
Different schools and different masters teach differently. In our school it is not necessary to learn a lot of forms to generate flow — irrespective of whether it is chi flow, pattern flow in sparring or real combat, or smooth flow of events in daily life.
In chi kumg, all Shaolin Wahnam chi kung students can generate a successful flow using only three forms, many using only one form and some without using any forms!
In sparring, all those who have attended my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course or Intensive Taijiquan Course can have a smooth flow of appropriate patterns for attack and defence from the combat sequences they learnt at the course. Hence, they are not tired or out of breath even after sparring for an hour or two. They also can generate a chi flow from the forms they learned at the course.
As a result of their chi flow which not only gives good health but also emotional balance and mental clarity, they are able to carry on their daily activities in a smooth flow, which is another way of saying they carry on their daily work and play happily and successfully.
This, in fact, is the aim of practicing chi kung and kungfu. Learning forms is just a mean. You should not make the common mistake of confusing forms and results, or means and ends. Many people only learn chi kung or kungfu forms, but do not have the desired results of their practice.
If I am interested in enrolling in your school would you please provide me some information?
If you wish to learn kungfu from me, the best course of action is to attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course . It is incredible and many skeptics would call me boastful, but it is true that you will learn in five days most other people may not learn in ten or more years.
But one needs to have some kungfu or other martial art experience before he can attend the course, and he has to practice diligently on his own if he wants lasting results. You can view the video clips which show some of the lessons of the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course of September 2005.
During a session of Three-Circle Stance practice, I felt that my shoulder muscles were very much contracted, and I was not able to relax them. Three days later, the muscles were still contracted. I had been very feverish, and had a bad sore throat.
When I went to bed, I managed to relax, and at a certain moment I felt a particular sensation, like something dissolving in my spine, near to the shoulders. The fever then disappeared almost completely. Could the reason of my illness be a chi blockage due to incorrect session of Three-Circle Stance?
— Pietro, Italy
From your description it appears that your illness was caused by a chi blockage due to incorrect stance training. The germs that caused your fever and sore throat were already in your body but were kept under check by your natural chi flow.
In modern language, “chi flow” here may be read as “the natural flow of energy of our immune system”. This actually happens all the time though most people may not be aware of it. At any moment, there are literally millions and millions of germs inside our body, but our immune system, or “chi flow” in chi kung terminology, keeps them under control.
A common side-effect of incorrect Three-Circle Stance practice is blockage of energy at the shoulders and the back, which may cause energy blockage along the spine. As the spine houses the central nervous system, an energy blockage there may affect the immune system.
As you relaxed when you went to bed, the accumulated energy blocked by your earlier tensed muscles managed to flow through, thereby restoring your immune system.
Your experience is a good warning to those who practice zhan zhuang or stance training on their own. I have mentioned many times in this Question-Answer Series that zhan zhuang is a very powerful exercise. Although it looks simple, it is easy to practice it wrongly. And a very common mistake is to tense the muscles in an attempt to last longer in the training. This is a big mistake. Zhan zhuang should be performed as a relaxation exercise, and never as an endurance test, which is exactly many people training on their own do.
How can I correct my stance? I tried to lower my shoulders, but with no effect. When I felt tension in my shoulders, I returned to Wuji Zhuang, and then stopped. Is this correct, or are there some particular actions to do in a situation like this?
There are three golden rules to follow once you have your posture correct in stance training. The first rule is to relax. The second rule is to relax. And the third rule, of course, is to relax. If you can follow these three golden rules, you will not only avoid harmful side effects but also gain many benefits from your stance training.
You must relax physically as well as mentally. Basically, you will relax physically if you do not tense any muscles, and you will relax mentally if you do not think of anything.
No one says that it is easy to relax while performing your stance, but it can be done. Once you can relax in your stance training, you can relax in anything you do, which means whatever you do you will do better.
You could not lower your shoulders because you were not relax. You should not try to lower your shoulders; just lower them as best as you comfortably can without fuss and without questions.
What you did was correct. But there are other, and often better, ways to deal with your problems. Instead of going to the Wuji Stance when you feel tension in your shoulders or anywhere, just throw out the tension and relax. Or, if you have returned to the Wuji Stance, don't stop your session immediately but stand upright and be relaxed. If you do it correctly you may find your chi flowing inside you. Go along with your chi flow and enjoy yourself.
About 3 years ago I began study with a well known master. I was taught the Microcosmic Orbit on the first course, taught to add sexual energy on the second course, and taught the “Fusion of the Five Elements” practice where negative emotions are drawn from the organs into the dan tien to turn into pure energy, before running it in the Microcosmic Orbit.
After about 6 months, I became very emotionally unbalanced. I woke one night in great fear and anger, and it took hours for the feeling to fade. Ever since, I have been very afraid, and very depressed. I cannot recover from the experience.
I have constant tightness in ms stomach. I get panic attacks. I cannot sleep very well. It is affecting my life, as I no longer can relax, or ever seem to have fun. I cannot control my thoughts. I am afraid.
How can I cure this problem? I wish this experience to end, so I can get my life back again.
— Barry, USA
Most probably you have practiced your chi kung exercises wrongly. You should consult your sifu about your problems.
If this is not feasible, you should attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course . The Self-Manifested Chi Movement exercise you will learn from the course will help you to overcome your problems. You will not only get back your life, you will also find it a joy to be alive.
Your problems are serious, and will affect your life badly. You should do something quickly.
I had the opportunity to attend the classes you held in Toronto this past fall. It was a wonderful experience and I have questions about the Dan Tian Breathing. How does Dan Tian Breathing differ from Abdominal Breathing? It seems that one does not need to foucs on the breath in Dan Tian Bbreathing as one would in Abdominal Breathing.
— Dominik, Canada
It is nice to hear from you and to know that you are progressing in your practice.
Chi kung terms are not specific or rigid like scientific terms. Hence, the terms “Dan Tan Breathing” and “Abdominal Breathing” may have different meanings in different schools, or even in the same school at different time.
In many schools “Dan Tian Breathing” is another name for “Abdominal Breathing”. Practitioners breath chi into their abdominal energy field, i.e. their dan tian located at their abdominal. This, n fact, was also the case in my early years of teaching.
But over the years I discovered that as I improved in my teaching methods, my students could achieve more result with less effort. While this may seem odd to other people, especially those who believe in the philosophy of “no pain, no gain”, we in Shaolin Wahnam are deriving a lot of benefit from this development. Hence, in our school we sometimes hear the expression “less is more”.
You would probably recall that at the courses in Toronto I told the class that “Generating Energy Flow” class that practicing one pattern for fifteen minutes was better than practicing three patterns for fifteen minutes, or one pattern for forty five minutes, or three patterns for forty five minutes.
As we become more efficient, we can minimize not only the time of training but also the effort put in, and yet we get more benefit. In my “Abdominal Breathing” classes I had to help students overcome two main problems, namely mental stress and incorrect breathing.
I discovered that by doing away with visualization, I help the students not only to avoid mental stress as well as possible side effects that they might develop if they practiced wrongly on their own later on, they could also get better result. Interestingly, some students taught I kept some secrets from them, and those who tried to be smarter than the master by adding visualization on their own sometimes developed problems.
The next logical step in the improvement of my teaching methodology was to do way with regulated breathing. This is the most important hurdle for most students. In my own case, it took me more than a year to overcome this hurdle. Hence, I often told my students that they were luckier than me, which I am proud of — they took only a few hours to have the desired results of Abdominal Breathing whereas i took more than a year!
But their result was even more surprising. Not only they had more energy, many of them experienced tremendous joy and peace and found themselves expanding into the Cosmos. Many had satoris during the class itself. I call this “Dan Tian Breathing” or “Cosmic Breathing”, to differentiate it from the earlier “Abdominal Breathing” as the two arts are now quite different in methods as well as results.
Jeffrey Segal was one of the first to notice the amazing profundity in simplicity in Dan Tian Breathing. He expressed amazement that without using visualization and breathing, but just by pressing on the dan tian, one could achieve such wonderful results.
It should be noted that it is not the technique of Dan Tian Breathing that produces the amazing results. It is the skills involved, and these have to be learnt and supervised by a master.
Also, does Dan Tian Breathing fit along the continuum of Abdominal Breathing, Submerged Breathing, Long Breathing and Small Universe?Sifu, thank you for your teaching. I is a very important part of my life and I am very fortunate to be able to practice such a precious art.
In our school, Dan Tian Breathing or Cosmic Breathing is different from Abdominal Breathing, and does not follow the continuum leading to the Small Universe.
Graphically speaking, in Abdominal Breathing, energy (not air) flows in from the Cosmos down from the nose to the abdominal energy field along the Ren or Conceptual Meridian, and up from the abdominal energy field along the Ren Meridian out of the mouth back to the Cosmos.
In the Small Universe, energy flows in from the Cosmos through the nose down the Ren Meridian, past the abdominal energy field, and continues to go up the Du or Governing Meridian, round the head and flows out to the Cosmos through the mouth.
In Dan Tian Breathing, the Small Universal Chi Flow may or may not be present. Fundamentally, it involves energy from the Cosmos coming into the abdominal energy field, and going back, or more precisely expanding into, the Cosmos. When you practice Dan Tian Breathing, you are literally pulsating with the Cosmos. Thus, we also call it Cosmic Breathing.
If I am not mistaken, it is similar to the Big Universe practiced by Taoist masters, or Zen meditation practiced by Zen masters. The effect of our Cosmic Breathing, though fantastic by ordinary standard, is nothing compared to the effect attained by the Taoist and Zen masters, but the principles and ultiamat aim are the same.
Hence, Dan Tain Breathing as practiced in Shaolin Wahnam, is of a higher level than Small Universe. But this does not necessarily mean it is more powerful, or even more useful. It depends on various factors.
While both are excellent art with excellent results, one may be relatively more effective than the other in producing particular results. If you desire radiant health and abundant energy to spar for hours or to work endlessly without being tired, the Small Universe is excellent. But if you wish to surpass the phenomenal into the transcendental, Cosmic Breathing is more effective.
- Great Kungfu is a Process of Spiritual Cultivation
- Secrets of Sparring Methodology
- What is Wahnam Taijiquan?
- Shaolin Monkey Set in Picture Series
- Flowing Water Floating Clouds in Picture Series
- Shaolin Dragon-Tiger Set in Picture Series