August 2006 (Part 1)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Shaolin Kungfu

The Shaolin Kungfu practiced in Shaolin Wahnam is very different from that practiced in most other schools today. One main difference is that we use Shaolin techniques for sparring whereas most other practitioners use Kick-Boxing techniques.

Question 1

I was curious to read in one of your answers that your form of Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung is different from the traditional Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung. Can you please tell me why your chi kung is different and how?

— Lee, Malaysia

Answer

You have mis-understood my answer. What we practice now is genuine Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung as it was practiced at the Shaolin Temple in the past.

Because Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung was an ancient form of chi kung, and has been practiced for a long time in the Shaolin Temple as well as out of it, there have been many versions of Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung. In other words, besides us in Shaolin Wahnam, other people in other schools may also practice Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung. But the version of Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung we practice may not be the same as the versions of Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung practiced by other people.

In my opinion, the main difference between the Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung we practice in Shaolin Wahnam and that practiced by Sifu Yan Xin and Sifu Peng He Ming is that we practice it as Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung whereas the two well-known world masters used it as the base to transmit or teach their own forms of chi kung. Sifu Yan Xin's chi kung is called Yan Xin Qigong, and Sifu Peng He Ming's chi kung is called Chi Neng Qigong.

Another difference is that we practice our chi kung for health, combat efficiency and spiritual cultivation, whereas Yan Xin Qigong and Chi Neng Qigong are mainly practiced to prevent or overcome illness.

One should take note that both Sifu Yan Xin and Sifu Peng He Ming have extremely high spiritual powers (but they are non-religious). Sifu Yan Xin, for example, could change the molecular structure of liquids by distant chi transmission, of which he is best known. But, I believe, because their main aim of teaching chi kung is to help their students overcome illness, and not for combat or spiritual cultivation, most of their students do not normally exhibit internal force or such powerful feats.

There are other versions of Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung, but most of them are practiced as gentle physical exercise.

Although you ask about Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung, I would like to relate the answer to Shaolin Kungfu too because many people would be interested to know why and how the Shaolin Kungfu practiced in Shaolin Wahnam is different from that practiced by most other people today.

With the exception of some opportunists who actually practice Katate or other martial arts but call them Shaolin Kungfu, all those who practice Shaolin Kungfu today in theory can trace their generation lineages back to the Shaolin Temple, even though in practice most of them may not be able to identify some of their generation steps.

Let us take three hypothetical examples. A Shaolin monk in the Ming Dynasty taught a secular disciple who passed down what he had learnt to students outside the Shaolin Temple. After 30 generations the art reached John. But many things had happened in between. One of the masters, for example, had lost the methodology for sparring. As a result this lineage only practiced kungfu forms. Due to the long time between him and the first Shaolin monk who started this lineage, John knows nothing about the lineage. All he knows is that his art is called Shaolin Kungfu.

During the Qing Dynasty (which came after the Ming Dynasty) another Shaolin monk taught another secular disciple who took the art out of the Shaolin Temple. After 20 generations the art reached Smith. Again many things had happened in between. One of the masters, for example, was much influenced by Taekwondo. As a result this lineage used Taekwondo instead of Shaolin techniques for sparring. Also because of the long time in between, Smith does not know much about his lineage.

At the time when the present Chinese government restored the Shaolin Temple, Shaolin Kungfu was not practiced at the temple. Later, modernized wushu, which used genuine kungfu forms but did not involve combat application, was introduced to the modern Shaolin monks. Some of the monks spread this form of Shaolin Kungfu out of China. They also incorporated “san-da”, which consists mainly of Kick-Boxing. After 2 generations this art reached Rob. Rob can trace his lineage easily back to the Shaolin Temple, but he may not know that the wushu practiced by the modern Shaolin monks was different from the Shaolin Kungfu practiced by the Shaolin monks of the past.

The arts practiced by John, Smith and Rob are all called Shaolin Kungfu, and they are all traceable back to the Shaolin Temple. But they are very different from one another.

John's version of Shaolin Kungfu consists mainly of forms meant for demonstration. Smith's version uses Taekwondo for combat. Rob's version is also mainly meant for demonstration, but it is characteristically different from John's. Rob may sometimes spar but he uses Kick-boxing instead of Shaolin techniques, and his sparring is different from Smith's.

These three versions represent the kinds of Shaolin Kungfu practiced by most people today. Our version of Shaolin Kungfu practiced in Shaolin Wahnam is passed down to us from two Shaolin monks who escaped the burning of the Shaolin Temple during the Qing Dynasty. It is very different from any of the three popular versions. The forms are similar but we emphasize internal force and apply Shaolin techniques for combat, whereas the three popular versions do not.

All available information today clearly indicates that Shaolin Kungfu practitioners in the past emphasized internal force (not muscular strength) and used Shaolin techniques (not Taekwondo or Kick-Boxing techniques). Hence, we sincerely believe that our version of Shaolin Kungfu is much closer to the kind of Shaolin Kungfu practiced in the past than versions that are practiced only for demonstration, or versions that use Taekwondo or Kick-Boxing for sparring, or versions that have no knowledge of internal force.

Understandably, practitioners of these other versions may vehemently disagree, and we regard this as their right and privilege. We do not dispute that their versions originally came from the Shaolin Temple, but we believe they are very different from the original.

The above description explains why and how our Shaolin Kungfu is different from the Shaolin Kungfu practiced by most other people today. To sum up, it is different because most other Shaolin lineages have gone through many generations and their earlier masters made modifications or changes to the original art, whereas our lineage, with only four generations, is very close to the origin and our earlier masters made special effort to keep to the original teaching. On the other hand, lineages from modern Shaolin monks are closer to the origin than ours, but they originated from modernized wushu and not from traditional Shaolin Kungfu. This answers the "why' part.

Regarding the “how” part, we train our Shaolin Kungfu for health, combat efficiency and spiritual cultivation, which we believe were the aims of the Shaolin Kungfu originally practiced in the Shaolin Temple. Many practitioners of other versions train for demonstrations, and many others train only for health, some with an explicit declaration that their “kungfu” is not for fighting.

On the other hand, those who train for combat do not apply Shaolin techniques for combat, they apply Taekwondo, Kick-Boxing or techniques of other martial arts. Some even say that Shaolin techniques cannot be used for fighting. Many of them also routinely hurt themselves in their sparring.

Few practitioners of other versions train internal force or train for spiritual cultivation, although many of them talk about internal force and spirituality in theory. Many of them advocate external methods of training like hitting sandbags and weight lifting, which internal training discourages, and many of them are visibly stressful and aggressive, which indicates a lack of spiritual cultivation.

Question 2

I've heard that Chi gong or Taiji can helphuman to have better eye sight. Is this true?

— Nicholas, Italy

Answer

Yes, it is true that chi kung as well as great kungfu like Shaolin and Taijiquan that incorporate chi kung can help to improve eye-sight.

I am over 60 years old and I work on my computer many hours a day, yet I do not need to wear spectacles. All my children were told by eye specialists who went to their schools to test school children's eye-sight, to wear spectacles, but I objected. My children practiced chi kung, especially the Shaolin Eight Eye Techniques, and all of them do not have to wear spectacles. (The specialists' judgments caused me to suspect whether their “free” service to examine school children's eye-sight was a disguised way to sell spectacles!). Many of my students wore spectacles before they learned chi kung or kungfu from me, and threw away their spectacles after a few months.

But, of course, you have to practice genuine chi kung and genuine kungfu. If you practice gentle exercises that pretends to be chi kung or kungfu, you could not improve your eye-sight.

Question 3

I just took a one day Yiquan workshop. The basic part of this was standing or zhan zhuang. I just found your wonderful website and received your wonderful book, “The Art of Chi Kung”. I see that you have concerns about the safety of doing zhan zhuang for beginners. Is it OK for me to practice it after only one day of lessons?

— Thomas, USA

Answer

Zhan zhuang or stance training is a powerful exercise. This means if it is practiced correctly the benefits are powerful, if it is practiced wrongly, the harmful effects are also powerful.

Before he learned from me, one of my disciples practiced zhan zhuang from a book. He was very dedicated. He practiced “hugging a tree” daily, starting from about a minute to over an hour after a year. He is very intelligent, and he took care to follow the instructions in the book exactly. His objective was to overcome some health problems. But after a year, not only his health problems became worse, he also developed a hump on his back. He could not llie in bed for 15 minutes; he could not even stand upright, and he was constantly in pain.

This was actually a blessing in disguise for him, as it led him to learn Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung from me. He overcame all his health problems, including the hump on his back, and progressed to a very high level, including tremendous internal force and attaining satori.

Other people may not be so lucky. In my disciple's case, his harmful side-effects were so severe that they “forced” him to seek remedy. Most other people would not persist for over a year; they would give up earlier. Their side-effects would not be so severe but could still be very harmful. Worse, they might not even realize the harm they had done on themselves.

What harm wrong practice of powerful chi kung could bring? Basically, it is energy blockage. But it has various and far-reaching manifestations. If the blockage occurs along nerves, for example, the organs or glands served by the nerves would be affected. If the blocked nerves go to the liver, for instance, the liver would perform below par. As the liver is instrumental in regulating blood supply, that person would be more prone to infectious diseases. If the blocked nerves go to some glands, production of essential chemicals would be affected, resulting in disorders like asthma, diabetes or kidney stones. And the disturning fact is that these patients as well as their doctors would not be able to trace the root cause to energy blockage due to wrong chi kung practice. Worse, and more insidious, choked organs due to energy blockage would not last as long as they were supposed to, even though the person involved might not suffer from any clinical illness.

The two main causes of energy blockage are mental stress and physical tension. The nature of zhan zhuang is such that practitioners often develop mental stress and physical tension. Hence, it is utmostly important that one must be physically, emotionally and mentally relaxed when practicing zhan zhuang. He must guard against the very common mistake of making zhan zhaung an endurance test.

It is OK for you to practice zhan zhuang after only one day of instruction. Zhan zhuang is easy to learn. One can learn it in five minutes. But it is difficult to practice it correctly. A very good piece of advice is to enjoy your zhan zhuang. Don't ever adopt the attitude of “no pain no gain”. In fact, pain indicates energy blockage. This does not mean that no effort is needed. Persistent effort is essential for success in any art. But your persistent effort should be guided by joy, and not by pain, and the halmark of your training should be realxation, and not endurance.

Stance Training

Zhan zhuang or stance training is an effective way to train internal force. Stance training should be practiced as a relaxation exercise and not as an endurance test. The picture above shows participants of an intensive Shaolin Kungfu course practicing stance training.

Question 4

I sometimes get a severe neck ache or head ache in the back of my head before orgasm, so much so that I lose interest in sex at that moment. About 20 years ago I had a fall on a sailboat that might have slightly twisted one of my neck vertebrae. Could this be blocking chi and causing pain?

About fifteen years ago I tried to do the microcosmic orbit from a book. I became very dizzy after a few days. The floor would wobble and spin and I would have to get down on my knees until it passed.

I found it was unwise of me to do something like this from a book. Experience teaches one amazing things! I wonder if this was the result of the neck injury, at least partially?

Answer

Yes, your severe neck ache, head ache and dizziness are due to energy blockage, which in turn was likely to be caused by your twisted neck vertebra as a result of your fall twenty years ago. Your problems will persist unless you have cleared the energy blockage. It is worthy of note that it is your energy blockage rather than your twisted neck vertebra that causes your problems. Even if your vertebra has been set right, but if your energy blockage is not cleared, you will still have your problems. Conventional doctors would be unable to overcome the problems for you because energy blockage is not in their paradigm.

Luckily, your problems can be easily overcome — if you meet the right therapost. Any high level chi kung that channel energy flow along your spine would clear the blockage and overcome your problems. Alternatively, you can seek the help of a good acupuncturist. I would stress that you need high level chi kung or a good acupuncturist, and they are quite rare today, while mediorcre chi kung and mediocre acupunturists are plentiful.

The microcosmic flow, or the small universal flow, is excellent in overcoming your problems. But you practiced wrongly, even though you might have followed the instructions exactly from the book. The crucial point in correct practice is not so much as what you do but how you do it. In other words, it is the skills rather than the techniques that are crucial. You performed the techniques correctly and builded up some energy, but you did not have the skills to use the energy to break through the blockage. As a result you had adversed effects instead of benefits, because the added energy pressed harder against the blockage at your neck.

Question 5

I have begun “Lifting the Sky” and “Carrying the Moon” from your book. Will these help my headaches? I feel wonderful during and after completing them — 10 times twice a day. Thank you so much for sharing them with me and the world!

I live near Boston and would have the chance to perhaps take a Tai Chi at Dr. Yang Zwing-Ming's school. He seems to include the martial aspects. Would this be good for me? I am 58 and have taken his beginning qiqong workshop. A right shoulder injury prevents me from doing the Eight Brocades.

Answer

“Lifting the Sky” and “Carrying the Moon” are excellent for your condition. “Carrying the Moon” especially will help to clear the energy blockage at your neck. Proceed slowly and enjoy your practice.

Dr Yang Jwing Ming is a world famous master who has contributed greatly to kungfu and chi kung. Of course Dr Yang would include martial aspects in the Taijiquan he teaches, as Taijiquan is an internal martial art. Most Taiji teachers today, however, teach it as an external dance.

You are lucky to be close to where Dr Yang is teaching. You should not miss this opportunity. Taijiquan is very good for you.

Both Taijiquan and Eight Pieces of Brocade are suitable for people at 58. If you practice any one of these two arts daily and correctly, you may find yourself growing younger and younger each day.

Question 6

I just finished reading your book “Chi Kung for Health & Vitality”. My brother passed through some problems, and now he hears voices in his mind, These voices are disturbing him and he tried to commit suicide some months ago, and since them, he is taking medication. I wish to know what exercises he could do to solve this trouble.

Yesterday I made a test, and the chi started to flow through my body in a very good way. I don't know how to explain, I just felt good. Do you have some schools here in Brazil.

— Germano, Brazil

Answer

I am sorry to hear of your brother's problem. “Lifting the Sky” and “Nourishing Kidneys” may help him to overcome his problem. Ask your brother to read about these two exercises from my book, and practice them once in the morning and once in the evening.

Each practice session would take about 15 to 30 minutes. Practice “Lifting the Sky” about 30 to 40 times, followed by “Nourishing Kidneys” about 10 to 20 times. (Shaolin Wahnam students please note that you need to perform less repetitions and practice for only about 15 minutes.) Then stand upright and be relaxed. If chi moves the body, follow the chi flow and enjoy it.

I am glad you have enjoyed and benefited from practicing the exercises from my book.

We do not have any Shaolin Wahnam centres in Brazil at present, but hope to have some in future. You can contact our Chief Instroctor for Latin America, Sifu Rama, at robertolamberti@libero.it . His website is http://www.shaolin-wahnam-center.org .

Wahnam Taijiquan

Sifu Wong leads participants in Wahnam Taijiquan training during a regional class in Spain

Question 7

So many of the questions you respond to are similar. It appears to me that some people don't respect the privilege of being able to ask you questions. You have said that experience is the best way to learn, but it appears to me that many have no intentions of applying the answer, only satisfying their curiosity. My western attitude can only see the time you're loosing responding to them. (as you may well do responding to this email). Why give valuable answers to such questions? I'm hoping your response to this question might help me see some value in this practice for my own life.

— Andrew, Australia

Answer

Our training in Shaolin Wahnam has given use many benefits, one of which is the realization that different people have different needs and aspiration as well as different levels of attainment. This is particularly important when we teach our students.

Inexperienced instructors teach at their own level, which is often beyond the reach of their students. Experienced teachers teach at the students' level. Great teachers go one step further. They teach slightly above their students' level, but within their reach, while encouraging them to ask questions as well as creating opportunities for them to discover new things for themselves.

A student, of course, does not have the wide knowledge and experience of his teacher, and he often is unaware that his questions have been asked by other students many times before. The teacher, however, will still answer the questions each time they are asked, relating the naswers to the particular student's needs and level of attainment. The same question, therefore, may call for different answers.

It is with the same philosophy that I answer questions in my question-answer series, and that our certified instructors answer questions in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum (please see http://wongkiewkit.com/forum/ .) Are we bored with repeated questions? No, we are not. We enjoy doing it. This is mainly due to our training which enables us to enjoy whatever we do. If you take a look at our Discussion Forum, you will find that “enjoy your practice” is a very common advice we give to our students.

We often answer the same questions from different angles and at different levels. It is our philosophy that if someone asks us sincerely and respectfully, we shall answer honestly and generously. We also learn from answering questions, such as it enables us to organize our thoughts and present them clearly and coherently.

Question 8

Is it possible to be proficient in Taiji, especially self defence, if there is little to no possibility of ever having regular sparing practice or even contact with other practitioners? This is my remaining doubt regarding your intensive courses. I'm assuming a regular training partner is necessary to develop skills such as timing and spacing. It's unlikely that will be possible in my case. I'm trying to deal with the picture of spending time and money on practicing something where I've been handicapped from the start. I don't want to be a football player with no ball.

Answer

This question calls for answers at different levels. In theory it is possible but in practice it is improbable for most people. Nevertheless, it is possible in practice for those who learn Wahnam Taijiquan from us. Understandably, this statement appears boastful or offensive to many people, but it is true. As said earlier, when asked sincerely and respectfully, we give our answsers honestly and generously.

The main reason why it is highly improbable a student can be proficient in Taijiquan, especially in self defence, is simply because the great majority of Taiji teachers today teach only external Taiji forms, without internal force and without combat application. Even if you learn from them personally you would not be proficient in Taijiquan (as an internal, martial art).

Amongst those who teach sparring in their Taiji classes, many of them use Kick-Boxing instead of Taijiquan for combat. If you practice on your own even without a sparring partner, you can still be proficient in fighting using Kick-Boxing, but you won't be proficient in Taijiquan. On the other hand, the few genuine Taijiquan masters who use internal force and Taijiquan techniques for combat, are generally conservative in their teaching methods. The nature of their training is such that a student is unlikely to be proficient in Taijiquan if he does not train personally and regularly with the master

Our Wahnam Taijiquan training methodology is very different. Our students learn in a few days what other students, if they are lucky, may take more than 10 years to learn elsewhere. Again, this statement sounds boastful, but if you take some time to read my website and our Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum with an open mind, you should have no difficulty to find evidence verifying the statement.

Take my webpage on Basic Wahnam Taijiquan Training at as an example. How many Taijiquan practitioners with more than 10 years' experience you know who can enter Tao, generate an internal chi flow, differentiate between yin and yang in their movement, appreciate six harmonies, develop internal force, explode force, sense their opponent's movement, and use the opponent's force against himself. We teach all these within a few days even to beginners!

Look at my webpage on Taijiquan Sparring as another example. The video clips show students, most of whom are beginners, using Taijiquan in free sparring after a three-day course. How many Taiji practitioners, including instructors, with more than 10 years of experience you know who could spar using Taijiquan techniuqes?

Sifu Rama is an inspiring example. Indeed, he was one of my disciples who persuaded me to teach Taijiquan. Before that I only taught Shaolin Kungfu.

At that time Rama was a wandering Taoist, travelling all over the world with only two bags of his worldly belongings. (Now Rama is happily settled down with his wondeful wife, Adeliada, on the Blue Mountain.) He faced the same problem as you mention in your question. How could he be proficient in Taijiquan combat if he did not have a sparring partner to train with? I told him to train zhan zhuang, perfect his forms and practice with an iaginary opponent the Taijiquan combat sequences he had learnt from me.

His real test came about a year later. In Colombia a modern Shaolin monk insisted to have a free sparring session with Rama. The monk initiated with a ferocious whirlwind kick. “Without knowing what actually happened but reacting spontaneously” (Rama's own words), Rama responded with “Immortal Waves Sleeves”, sending the monk flying many feet away. The monk was surprised; Rama was more surprised.

The second test came shortly in Ecuador. A high-ranking martial art master, who taught combat application to commandoes, invited Rama to have some Pushing Hands. The master attacked Rama many times but to no avail. On the other hand, it was obvious to me (I was present to witness their sparring) that Rama could have hit that master a few times, but as it was in his school with a lot of his students present, Rama did not do so.

Later when we were alone, Rama confided in me that he was confident of hitting the master a few times. I told him that I saw it, and complimented him for not doing so. The amazing thing was that the master obviously was unaware Rama purposely missed hitting him.

By the way, holding Intensive Taijiquan Courses is currently low in my priority. The main reason is that as not many people are interested in these courses, I would have better use of my time holding courses where a lot of people have requested. But you can learn from Rama at the Blue Mountain in Costa Rica. Please see his website at http://www.shaolin-wahnam-center.org/ . If you read Spanish, you should also read “La Fuerza Serena”, which is beautifully and poetically written by Adeliada about Rama's experience and teaching. Or you can learn from Sifu Jeffrey Segal who teaches in Australia. His website is at http://www.wahnamaustralia.com/index.htm. . Both Sifu Rama and Sifu Jeffrey are excellent teachers.

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