September 2006 (Part 1)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu, the Patriarch of Taoism, riding his legendary green buffalo

Question 1

I remember you mentioned in the last Shaolin course I attended about a person named Lao Tzu. I think he was a philosopher. Would you know of any good websites or books that explain best about his thoughts? I am just curious to read up on him. Would it be wise to read up on him and learn what he had written about?

— Chris, Australia

Answer

Lao Tzu was one of the greatest philosopher of China, or of the world. He was the First Patriarch of Taoism. Yes, it is wise tor read up on Lao Tzu. You can get a lot of material on him from the Internet if you make a search in search engines.

Lao Tzu's most important and most representative work is “Tao Te Ching”, which means “The Way of Virtues”. This classic sums up the basic teachings of Lao Tzu, and is very concise. Because it is both profound and arcane, which are characteristics of Taoist writings, this classic can be interpreted in many ways, and each way can be vastly different from another.

The “Tao Te Ching” has been widely translated into English and other languages. You should be able to find the book in its many translations and versions in book shops. However, most writers merely translate the book without giving any explanation, with the result that most readers do not actually know what Lao Tzu's teaching is about. I hope that in future I may write a book explaining and interpreting the “Tao Te Ching”.

The most famous line in “Tao Te Ching” is its first line:

My interpretation is that Cosmic Reality, called the Tao, is undifferentiated, i.e. it is a continuous spread of universal energy or consciousness. But ordinarily we do not see Cosmic Reality as undifferentiated, we see a minute part of it as our phonemeanl world. For example, we may see a moutain and animals and trees on the mountain. We see the animals, trees, the mountain and we ourselves as separate entitites. These animals, trees, the mountain, ourselves and all other countless entities in the world are phenomena, meaning appearances. They are not absolutely real. Other beings, like bacteria or gods, will see them differently.

In absolute reality, called the Tao, there are no entities. There is only one continuous spread of energy or consciousness. Modern science may help us to understand this great truth better. The mountain, trees, animals, ourselves and all other entities are made of atoms. All these atoms are made of sub-atomic particles. But sub-atomic particles actually have no boundaries. They are just concentrations of energy conceptualized as sub-atomic particles. In other words, there is no demarcation line separating one sub-atomic particle from another. This also means that there is no demarcation line separating any one entity, like an animal, from another.

An imperfect but useful analogy is an ocean with countless waves. We see the waves as separate entities, one wave differentiated from another wave. But these are only phoenomena or appearances. Actually there are no separate waves, they are all one continuous ocean.

But when we give a name to an individual wave or any particular entity like a tree or an animal, we differentiate that entity from other entitites. When we give a name to Tao or Cosmic Reality in its transcendental aspect, we isolate ourselves from Tao, thus starting the process of transformation into the phenomenal world.

The word “Tao” in Chinese ordinarily means the “way”. But in this context it means “Cosmic Reality”. In other cultures and languages, it may be translated as “God the Holy Spirit”, “the Spiritual Body of the Boddha”, “Tatagatha”, “Brahman”, “Allah”, “the Supreme Being”, “the undifferentiated spread of energy” or “Home”.

Question 2

During the Shaolin course we went over a few techniques to counter a boxer's punches from closing the attack to also opening. I understand every kungfu pattern we learnt in the course, e.g “Black Tiger Steals Heart” and “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” are effective against those specific kungfu attacks. Can we use these kungfu techniques from the 16 combat sequences against a boxer or a street fighter if we were attacked? Are they effective against those types of attacks?

Answer

Of course, the kungfu techniques can be effectively used against the attacks by a boxer, a street fighter or an opponent using any other martial art. Soon after returning from an Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course, Ronan was attacked in the street by a stranger much taller and bigger than him. Although Ronan pushed the huge man away and tried to avoid a fight, he kept coming at Ronan. Ronan went into a Bow-Arrow Stance and punched out a “Black Tiger Steals Heart”, felling the huge opponent in just one strike. This incident was significant because Ronan was a very good boxer before he learned Shaolin Kungfu from me, yet he chose kungfu techniques rathen than boxing when he was got in a real fight.

If “Black Tiger Steals Heart”, “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” and other kungfu techniques can be used against another kungfu opponent using kungfu attacks, it will be easier and more advantageous against boxing and street fighting attacks. Why? Because when one uses a kungfu teachnique either in attack or in defence, he has the best advantages in that particular combat situation, but this may not be so in boxing or street fighting techniques.

In other words, if you use “Black Tiger Steals Heart” to strike an opponent, you will have more advantages in both attack and defence than if you use a boxing punch or a street fighting punch. For example, you will have better balance, you are faster and more agile, and you can use internal force. If you use a boxing punch or a street fighting punch, you can be more easily off-balanced, you are actually slower and less agile, and you only use mechanical strength.

Many people may be surprised that I say “Black Tiger Steals Heart” is faster and more agile than a boxing punch or a street fighting punch. Suppose your opponent gives you a kick after you throw a punch. If you use “Black Tiger Steals Heart”, you only need to shift your body backward without moving your feet to avoid the kick, and as the kick passes, you shift forward to punch again. This is faster than bouncing away after striking with a boxer's punch or a street fighting punch, then bouncing into the opponent again to strike.

Suppose your opponent blocks your punch. If you use “Black Tiger Steals Heart” you can grip his blcoking hand and pull him forward and execute another punch, or you can “leak” away from his block and “hang” your knucles on his head. If you use a boxing punch or a street fighting punch, you have first to pull back the punch, and then strike again. In other words, your continuous attacks are in two separate movements, and they issue from your shoulder. In “Black Tiger Steals Heart” your continuous attacks are in one movement, and they issue from your wrist or elbow. Hence, it is faster and more agile.

In fact, kungfu patterns like “Black Tiger Steals Heart” and “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” evolved from techniques like straight-forward punching and blocking used in boxing and street fighting. Long ago when people were untrained, they fought wildly, like what children do nowadays. Later they developed some straight-forward punching and blocking, as in boxing and street fight. Those who fought frequently discovered that certain ways of punching and blocking were more effective. Over many centuries, especially when kungfu had become an institionalized art, these more favorable ways of attacks and defence developed into kungfu patterns.

In the case of a boxing punch, for instance, kungfu masters through the centuries discovered that throwing one's body forward while punching exposed the head to risky counter attacks. Over time they discoverd that using the Box-Arrow Stance, besides other advantages, could overcome this weakness. They discovered that a straight-forward block as in boxing or street fighting expended more energy in its application. It also placed the defender's body to a greater risk of a follow-up attack. Using the pattern “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” overcame these problems.

If kungfu techniques are more combat effective than boxing and street figthting techniques, why do most kungfu practitioners throw these kungfu techniques to the winds and adopt boxing or street fighting techniques when they spar or fight. The answer is straight-forward. They do not know how to use kungfu techniques for combat and have never train to use them, even though they may perform them beautifully in solo performance.

Question 3

Why is it that some people make loud noises during the chi kung course or move about by rolling on the floor or laughing etc? I remember Darryl also from the Shaolin course make loud roaring noises after the “One Finger Shooting Zen” exercise . I am curious to know why does this occur? I myself haven't had that experience as yet. My chi flow has always been just in one area and I don't move about much at all. Why is it that some don't move around and others do or make laughing or loud noises?

Answer

Making loud noises, moving about vigorously and rolling on the floor are some of the ways chi flow enables practitioners to clear blockage and expell negative energy, such as deep-rooted emotions and toxic waste. Energy issuing from different internal organs has certain characteristics.

For example, if a person's lung system is blocked, resulting in him being sad or prone to lung-infested diseases, vigorous chi flow may massage his lungs and clear his lung meridians, making him roar like a ferocious tiger. Another person whose spleen system is blocked, causing him to worry excessively or be prone to diseases related to the spleen and the stomach, vigorous chi flow may massage these organs and clear his spleen meridian, making him act like a monkey.

Why is that one practitioner moves about like a tiger and another moves about like a monkey even when they perform the same chi kung exercise? It is because chi flow works on the lung system of one practitioner but the spleen system of the other. Chi issuing from the lungs and from the spleen has different characterisitics, and are generalized as movements of the tiger and of the monkey respectively. On the other hand, when chi flow opens a person's heart, he often laughs.

Why do some people do not move much or make much noice? It is because chi affects them differently. People who are tensed and people whose meridians are clear usually do not move much. But the quiescent aspect of a tensed person and of a healthy person are quite different. When chi goes deep into a person to clear blockage at his tissue level, he may not move about extensively, but he may shake vigorously.

Shaolin Kungfu

Nikolas from England and Hubert from France engage in sparring in the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course of January 2006. Combat application is an essential aspect of traditional kungfu training

Question 4

Why is it that many high level masters worldwide haven't experienced or don't believe in internal force or chi? Most of the exercises we practice in its entirety are quite simple to learn.

Answer

There are different reasons.

One reason is that their arts are not directly related to internal force or chi. Karate and Taekwondo masters, for example, can attain high levels in their arts without knowledge or experience of internal force and chi.

Another reason is that these masters have no exposure to internal force or chi, although internal force and chi are found in their arts, but they attain their high levels through other means. For example, internal force and chi are found in Hoong Ka Kungfu and Wing Choon Kungfu, but some Hoong Ka masters and Wing Choon masters can attain very high levels by external means like hitting sand bags and striking wooden poles.

A third reason is due to ignorance and mis-representation. This usually occurs in arts where internal force and chi are essential, like Taijiquan and other internal arts. Some world-known Taijiquan masters have no experience of internal force and chi, and have explicitly said that internal force and chi are not real, or at best they are exotic terms to describe mechanical strength and external movements. These master may be powerful but their power comes from muscular strength. They may also be formidable figthers, but they use Kick-Boxing or other external martial arts, but not Taijiquan, for fighting.

It is difficult to imagine how these masters can call themselves Taijiquan masters although they know external Taijiquan forms, because internal force and chi are crucial aspects of Taijiquan. Yet, due to widespread ignorance and mis-representation, today there are actually more Taijiquan (or Taiji dance) practitioners who believe these masters than believe internal force and chi exist.

The chi kung exercises taught and practiced in our school, Shaolin Wahnam, are simple, but they are not necessarily easy for other people. They are easy for us because we have acquired the fundamental skills to practice them well. But they are difficult for most other people because they do not have the required skills. In the first place, they do not even realize the difference between skills and techniques. They make a very common mistake that if they know the techniques they will be able to practice the art correctly to get the benefits.

But this is often not so. Take the exxample of practicing “Lifting the Sky”. It is necessary to be relaxed and to breathe gently. But most other people are tensed, although they think they are relaxed. And they often breathe in and out forcedly, although they theretically know they should breathe gently.

Question 5

I practice the Grand Circulation of Qi and the Small Circulation of Qi. After practicing for a few minutes I sense a very cold movement like a small stream of cold water around my ears. Could you tell me what is this?

— Miguel, Portugal

Answer

This is qi (chi).

A stream of cold water is one of the sensations of chi flow. Other sensations include a stream of warm water, electric current, electric spark, and sneedles pricking

Question 6

I have psoriasis (a skin disease) and after I have started to practice the Small Circulation I see that the creation of skin has diminished. Is it possible to cure all the psoriases with chi kung?

Answer

Yes, it is certainly possible, but whether it is probable will depend on a few factors.

In theory, chi kung can cure all diseases, including those regarded as “incurable” by conventional Western medicine, like asthma, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and depression. This is because good health is natural, and it is maintained by harmonious energy flow. In other words, when energy flows harmoniously to all parts of a person (cells, glands, organs, etc) enabling them to work naturally, that person is healthy.

Illness is unnatural. This means if one or more parts of a person are not working naturally (like his blood system not overcoming viruses although it is natural for the blood system to do so, or his glands are not producing the right chemicals although it is natural for the glands to do so), that person becomes ill. As illness is unnatural, it is only temporary and therefore can be rectified.

There may be countless different intermediate causes of illness, like viral attack, physical injury or excessive stress. But in chi kung terms there is only one root cause, and it is disrupted energy flow. In other words, intermediate causes like viral attack, physical injury and excessive stress may interrupt the energy flow, causing one or more parts of that person not working naturally, resulting in illness. If the root cause is rectified, i.e. if the harmonious energy flow is restored, regardless of what the intermediate causes may be, that person will restroe his good health.

However, in practice not all patients who practice chi kung will recover. This is due to a few factors, like the chi kung practiced is not powerful enough, the patient does not practice correctly or sufficient, the illness has gone beyond a threshold, and the patient is continuously exposed.to negative factors that negate the good effect of his practice.

Modernized Wushu

A young woman in China demonstrating a beautiful wushu form. In China today modernized wushu is widely practiced but traditional kungfu is rare

Question 7

I have a question regarding your accepting students, I mean not those at the short intensive courses but those who wish to study the art directly with the master for life-time committment. So how do Sifu Wong accept students? I mean what are the qualification and how much does the student requires for the fees?

— Chew King, Malaysia

Answer

At present I don't teach regular classes, and I don't plan to do so in future.

There are three ways students can learn from me, irrespective of whether it is on an ad-hoc basis or for life-time commitment:

  1. Attend my intensive course
  2. Attend my regional course
  3. Join a regular class taught by one of my certified Shaolin Wahnam instructors

Some of those who attended my intensive courses have continued their training for life-time commitment. Some have given up their high-paid jobs to become Shaolin Wahnam instructors. Their life-time training with me, however, is not on a regular class basis. They attend my courses periodically and train on their own the rest of the time. This way of learning from me is the most cost-effective — for them and for me. Some of them have acheived remarkable results and become very good instructors in just two or three years. They would probably need ten or more years for the same results had they learn in the normal regular class basis.

Question 8

I am planning a year's trip to China and would very much like to study Shaolin Kung Fu in a school while I am there. I was wondering if your school was affiliated with any in China itself that I could make contact with, preferably in the Shaolin region itself. If not, then I would greatly appreciate it if you could recommend to me any other schools that you might know of.

— Duncan, England

Answer

Our school, Shaolin Wahnam, is not affilated with any schools in China.

Many people may not realize that what is generally taught in China today is not kungfu but wushu. The situation is made complicated by the fact that both the terms “kungfu” and “wushu” means martial arts. What overseas Chinese and Westerners call “kungfu”, mainland Chinese call “wushu”. The forms in kungfu and wushu are similar, but the way they are practiced are different.

In China today, wushu is practiced as a sport, and not as a martial art. Wushu practitioners normally do not practice self-defence; they practice their art mainly for demonstration and recreation. However, some wushu practitioners may practice sparring, but what they use to spar is not wushu patterns but techniques borrowed from Kick-Boxing.

Wushu is a magnificient sport. If you wish to learn wushu, there are many schools in China. You can easily check them up on the internet.

Traditional kungfu, including traditional Shaolin Kungfu, is very rare in China today. This is because during the early years of the present Chinese government, practicing any traditional arts was considered bourgoise, often met with ridicue and prosecution. After the Cultural Revolution, there was a change of policies, and traditional arts were re-introduced. However, the government promoted wushu, which is what “kungfu” is called in China, as a sport. Some people still practiced wushu as a martial art, but as they had no support from the government, the number dwindled rapidly..

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