February 2007 (Part 1)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Grandmaster Ho Fatt Nam

An old invaluable photograph showing Grnadmaster Ho Fatt Nam, the Third Generation Successor from the the Venerable Jiang Nam of the Southern Shaolin Monastery at Quanzhou

Question 1

I would ask Sifu to share some nice inspirational spiritual stories with us.

— Mike, Malta

Answer

This was what my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, personally told me. When he was young, he did not believe in gods. He thought such beliefs were superstitious.

But, unknown to him at that time, he was intimately linked to the great Bodhisattva Guan Yin, and also to the Monkey God, the Great Sage Equal to Heaven.

He was chosen by the Monkey God to be the god's medium. The Monkey God would enter my sifu's body to help people. When this was about to happen, my sifu would shake involuntarily. Soon my sifu knew the divine signals, so he would run to the opposite direction of the temple where divine help would be given to people.

But somehow, for reasons unknown to him, he would find himself back at the temple where people in need of help were waiting for him. This happened every time he tried to run away.

So he made special effort to go to opposite directions. He marked the routes where he should go. He made doubly sure the marks led away from the temple. When the divine signals came, he followed the marks clearly and exactly. He was fully conscious of what he was doing. A few times he said to himself, “Now the Monkey God could not get me.” Then he entered a door and found himself in the temple!

My sifu told the Monkey God that he knew his chosen task was most noble and honorable, but he begged the Monkey God to release him from this task. My sifu wanted to lead a normal life. The Monkey God replied that was his good karma, and he could not escape even though he might not want it.

Finally my sifu accepted his destiny. He helped and saved many people.

Like my sifu, I thought beliefs in spirits were superstitious, though somehow inside me I had great respect for higher gods. When I first went to my sifu's house, which also acted as a temple, for Shaolin training, I was concerned to see statues of gods and Buddhas on the altar. I clearly remember I said to myself that I went there to practice kungfu, not learn religion.

At that time the Monkey God no longer visited the temple regularly. But Immortal Li, one of the eight Taoist immortals, did. Once, I had some personal problems, and my siheng, Ah Heng, who learned Taoist cultivation from my sifu, requested Immortal Li to help me.

Immortal Li had a look at me and told my siheng, “He is a non-believer.” But my siheng persisted. The immortal said, “If you don't believe me, ask him”, referring to me. My siheng became flabbergasted, and apologized, but he still asked, “Why does Immortal say that he is a non-believer?”

The immortal said, “He has never offered a joss stick at the altar since he came here.” This really shocked me. How did the immortal know? I had been to my sifu's house for kungfu training many, many times, and each time no one ever observed whether I made offering at the altar.

But my siheng grasped the opportunity. He politely asked the immortal whether he would help me if I offered a joss stick. I notice a smile washed across the face of the immortal, showing that he was kind though he pretended to be tough. I offered my first joss stick at the altar, and since then I never failed to do so whenever I arrived at the temple.

And since then Immortal Li has been extremely kind and helpful to me and my family, for which I am forever grateful. We all have Immortal Li to thank as the foundation of Shaolin Wahnam was hinted by Immortal Li.

Question 2

I would be interested to hear Sigung´s hopes and aspirations for the future, concerning not only the Shaolin Wahnam Institute, but himself personally and the Shaolin arts worldwide.

— Dave. Spain

Answer

My hope and aspiration was to set up a respectable school to pass on the wonderful arts of Shaolin Kungfu and Cosmos Chi Kung to deserving students irrespective of race, culture and religion. I named the school “Shaolin Wahnam” in honour of my two masters who had taught me most in these arts, namely Sifu Lai Chin Wah and Sifu Ho Fatt Nam. Later, Wahnam Taijiquan was added to the programme.

I am happy to say that this vision has been realized. Thanks to our many certified instructors, we now can bring the great benefits of Shaolin Kungfu, Chi Kung and Wahnam Taijiquan to many people in many parts of the world. I am proud to say that even if I were to retire now, these great arts will carry on, being successfully taught by our certified instructors.

Nevertheless, it is logical to bring this hope and aspiration further. While we continue to expand our school internationally, sharing the wonderful benefits of our arts with more and more deserving people, we also hope and aspire to help other kungfu practitioners to restore the glory and greatness of their own arts if they wish to benefit from our philosophy and experience.

Our philosophy is that Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan are not just for fighting or just for demonstration, and that Chi Kung is not just for overcoming illness or just relaxation exercise. They are great arts of the highest personal development in all its physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects.

Our experience has shown that these beliefs are not just philosophical ideals, but we have translated these ideals into practical benefits that have enriched our lives as well as the lives of others.

On the other hand, we realize that these arts are elite, and that not everyone can, or even wants to, aspire to them. Hence, we respect the right of others who prefer to practice kungfu or chi kung the way they think it is best for them.

In line with our expansion, we have some developmental plans. We hope to have a Standardized Test to be held at different places annually for students of different countries to be tested by independent examiners. We also plan to have a Scholar Project to compliment our current successful Warrior Project to better realize our aim of training our students to be scholar-warriors.

We also hope to have permanent Shaolin Wahnam centres in various parts of the world teaching our arts. We now have one on the Blue Mountain in Costa Rica under Sifu Rama Roberto. Presently, Sifu Joan and her students are thinking of building another one in Ireland.

On a personal note, I would like to retire early. While I greatly enjoy traveling and teaching nine months a year away from home, I would prefer to spend more time with my family. But in our philosophy, obligations come before personal preferences. When instructors have sacrificed their time and opportunity cost to further the cause of our Shaolin Wahnam ideals, I feel duty-bound to support them until they become independent. This explains why I have been thinking of retirement but still have not retired.

Even when I have retired, I shall still teach privately, especially to inner-chamber disciples. I would also like to visit our Shaolin Wahnam centres all over the world periodically.

Question 3

I have breathing problems every day. I have had these problems for about 18 years. I am 29 years old. I lift weights 3 times a week. I use Tai Chi chin-na blocking techniques and I'm now training Shaolin Iron Palm. I have studied the locations of pressure points. One day I want to combine pressure points with Iron Fist for emergencies only. The meditation path I have chosen is the Tai Chi meditation. I have a book on native AmAmericann Indian medicine, but the herbs are very hard to find.

— Jeremah, USA

Answer

You may not realize it but breathing is the most important thing you have to do everyday in your life. Your breathing is your life. How well or badly you breathe affects the quality of your life.

You have breathing problems everyday for 18 years! And you are only 29.

Your priority now is not to lift weights, use Tai Chi chin-na techniques for blocking, train Shaolin Iron Palm, study locations of pressure points, practice Tai Chi Chuan meditation, or learn Native Indian medicine, but to overcome your breathing problems. It is actually not difficult if you practice genuine chi kung.

I would recommend that you attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course. Please see http://shaolinwahnamsabah.com/IKFC.htm . Or learn from one of our certified chi kung masters. Please see /general/instructors-list.html . Or learn from any other good chi kung masters. Make sure that you learn genuine chi kung, not just some gentle physical exercise.

If you do not want to learn personally from a master, you can practice the following chi kung exercise. This is the least powerful of my recommendations, but as I said earlier, your breathing problems are not difficult to be overcome, and I believe even practicing a chi kung exercise correctly from an e-mail can overcome it.

Stand upright and be relaxed with your arms at your sides. Smile from your heart. Breathe in gently through your nose, simultaneously raising your arms up from your sides with your palms facing downward. Then breathe out gently through your mouth, simultaneously lowering your arms to their original positions at the sides of your body. Repeat this procedure daily about 50 times once in the morning and once in the evening or at night.

It is important that your breathing must be gentle and your mouth must be open when your breathe out. Do not think of anything. And do not add anything extra to this simple but effective exercise, which is called “Flying Bird”.

Shaolin Kung Fu

Sifu Marcus Santer, the Chief Instructor of Shaolin Wahnam UK, demonstrates a counter to a kicking attack from Sifu Simon Brooks who teaches in London

Question 4

The doctors say I have asthma andbronchitis. The medicine that the doctors prescribe to me, only works some of the time. A lot of X-rays have been taken of mychest and there is nothing wrong with my lungs.

Answer

Doctors did not find anything wrong with your lungs because yours is an energy problem, and not a physical problem. At this stage of its development, Western medicine has little or no concept of energy problems.

The medicine you took could work only some of the time because it only relieves your symptoms but does not remove the cause of the disorder.

It is obvious that the various arts you practice have not helped you to overcome your breathing problems. Some of them might even have aggravated your problems. You should examine why you practice these exercises, and what benefits they have brought you. If they have brought you other benefits even though they have not solved your health problems, you should continue practicing them. Otherwise, you should think of other fruitful ways to pass your time.

Question 5

I have been looking for a Shaolin master for some time but have not had much luck

— Matt, UK

Answer

Perhaps you are not aware that we have a lot of certified Shaolin Wahnam instructors in UK teaching Shaolin Kungfu. You can find them at our List of Certified Instructors .

The first and most important requirement to be a student of our school is to uphold and practice the Ten Shaolin Laws . Our instructors not only teach but more importantly are living examples for their students to follow, both in kungfu and in practicing the Ten Shaolin Laws.

For example, we teach that by developing internal force we can have vitality to enjoy our daily work and play. If a person has no internal force, or even if he is forceful but he has no vitality to enjoy his work and play, then he cannot be our certified instructor. One of our Shaolin Laws prescribes that a Shaolin disciple should be chivalrous and generous. If a person is mean or petty, he cannot be our certified instructor. We practice what we teach.

While most kungfu practitioners talk about “wu de” or “martial virtues”, it is a sad fact that not many really practice what they preach. Kungfu practitioners who are very skillful in their art as well as hold high moral values are rare now as they were rare in the past.

Question 6

Some people in the UK who know Kung Fu seem to be very skilled but do not uphold the Shaolin Laws and do not have the morals that I would expect from a master, using their abilities in a way that I think shows an abuse of power.

Answer

From the romantic stories and movies they have read or viewed, many modern students may think that kungfu masters in the past were knights with high moral values. This unfortunately was not true. Many past kungfu masters, who were great fighters, were actually crude and rough.

This does not mean that there were no great kungfu masters who were also highly cultured, but they were rare and highly respected. In the Chinese language, they were said to be “wen wu zhuang quan”, which means “perfect in both scholarly and martial cultivation”. It is this scholar-warrior ideal that we in Shaolin Wahnam aspire to.

Chi Kung Qigong

Participants at an Intensive Chi Kung Course in Malaysia enjoying Standing Meditation while Grandmaster Wong looks on from behind

Question 7

Do you think this is a Western trait?

Answer

I don't think that abuse of power or any lacking of moral cultivation is a Western trait. In fact there are many traits in Western culture that are highly admirable and which the East should emulate.

For example, the English is well known for their gentlemanly culture. No matter how powerful a gentleman is, he will no beat a woman or a child, whereas in some Easten culture beating a woman is quite normal.

The Spaniards are warm and friendly. Even when strangers meet, they greet each other, whereas in some Eastern culture greeting a stranger would be odd.

The Americans are known to be liberal and even children may criticize their paretns, whereas such behaviour would be untinkable in Eastern culture.

Of course when anything is carried to an extreme, even when it was initially good, it may become detrimental. In Western culture today, liberalism is sometimes carried to an extreme. Children or juniors, for example, not just express views different from those of their parents or seniors, but become disrespectful and rude. Today it is not uncommon in some martial schools that beginning young students question or even ridicule the advice of their teachers.

Fortunately, such disrespectful behavior has no place in our school, Shaolin Wahnam. If a student questions his teacher, the student will be asked to leave. Others may accuse us for being authoritarian. We believe this is for the best interest of that student himself as well as the class. Of course a teacher is an authority — both in the material he teaches as well as his control of the class. Otherwise, he is not fit to be a teacher.

One should not confuse respect for the teacher with freedom of expression. In fact we in Shaolin Wahnam value freedom of expression. But questioning a teacher's authority and freedom of expression are different issues.

Question 8

I have been learning Shaolin for a short time but do try to uphold the laws and whole heartedly agree with the morals of Shaolin.

Answer

From our perspective in Shaolin Wahnam, learning our Ten Shaolin Laws and practicing them in our daily life is more important than learning the Shaolin techniques and applying them in combat. It is also more rewarding.

The Shaolin Laws are meant for the student's interest — a fact not many people may appreciate. Following the Ten Shaolin Laws is an excellent and practical way to help him in his cultivation — irrespective of whether the cultivation is for health, combat efficiency, daily performance as well as spiritual development.

Take, for example, the first Shaolin Law, which many kungfu practitioners regard as the most important, and which is respecting the master and the moral way.

Some students practice an exercise not according to what the master has instructed but according to what they themselves think is right. This is being disrespectful to the master, tacitly implying that he is not as smart as they themselves. Not only they may not get any benefits from the exercise, they may get harmful side-effects.

“The moral way” here is “wu de”, or high moral virtues traditionally accepted by great warriors. If a student goes against the moral way, like cheating and being brutal to others, he will inevitably bring harm to himself. This is not superstitious belief but a great cosmic truth.

Basically, any actions that go against the moral way, start with evil thoughts. In other words, he has sown the seeds of bad karma. Our phenomenal world is a function of thought.

The evil thoughts of that student, irrespective of whether he is consciously aware of them or not, and irrespective of the length of time involved, will generate events that will be evil to him — just as a film that has been imprinted with ugly images will result in pictures that are ugly when the film is developed. On the other hand, noble thoughts will always generate noble events.

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