June 2007 (Part 1)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Grandmaster Wong and Sifu Riccardo Salvatore

Grandmaster Wong, Sifu Wong Chun Nga and Sifu Riccardo Salvatore posing for a photo before some delicious grilled prawns

Question 1

I would like to know what is sigung's favourite food, wine, and music. If I can squeeze one more in, what is his favourite kung fu story.

— Martin, UK

Answer

I am very fortunate to have the chance to take delicious food all over the world. Amongst the best I have taken are grilled fish from Portugal, jarmon (or ham) from Spain, mixed grilled from a small Mediterranean resort in northern Spain, seafood rice from Ecuador, roast pork from Chinatown in London, seafood spaghetti from Sifu Attilio's hotel in Italy, grilled meat by Sifu Eugene in his parent's resort in the U.S., grilled meat by Sifu Piti in a small house on the Blue Mountain, mixed grill in an Argentinean restaurant in Lisbon, roast lamb in a student's house in Adelaide, and beef rending from Malaysia.

But the best is the fabulous grilled prawns from Lisbon, introduced to me by our gourmet, Sifu Riccardo Salvetore. You can have a view of delicious grilled prawns, fish and meat from Lisbon at /general-2/portugal01.html . How much effort Sifu Riccardo would put in to get the finest food available can be suggested by the fact that he often would drive me for more than 30 kilometres one way just to have a nice meal.

I am not particularly fond of wine, but the wine recommended to me by connoisseurs like Sifu Attilio and Sifu Rama was excellent. I am more familiar with tea. The best I like is called “Drifting Fragrance”, often regarded as the “tea king”.

I like Spanish, Italian and Chinese music. The songs I like best are Solamente Una Vez (Spanish), “Santa Lucia” (Italian) and “Autumn Moon on Placid Lake” (Chinese). I remember fondly that when Sifu Rama and I were in Venice, a gondola floated along with the boatman singing “Solamente Una Vez”, which means “Only One Time”. Mistakenly thinking that the song meant a lover made love to his beloved only once, then they separated, I lamented what a pity that such a lovely tune had a disappointing meaning to it. Happily, Sifu Rama corrected me, saying that the song actually celebrates loving only once and forever.

I have heard and read many kungfu stories, but my favorite is the real-life story told to me personally by my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, about our Shaolin lineage. Briefly, when the southern Shaolin Monastery at Quanzhou was razed by the Qing Army, the Venerable Jiang Nan escaped. After spending about 50 years searching for a successor, he saw for many nights my sigung Yang Fatt Khun demonstrating kungfu near the present Thai-Malaysia border and receiving loud applause from spectators. After the crowd had dispersed, the Venerable Jiang Nan, who was about 80 years old then, told Sigung Yang Fatt Khun, a young man about 30, that his was not kungfu but flowery fists and embroidery kicks.

A sparring resulted where the Venerable Jiang Nan convincingly and continually beat the young man, and playing about with him like a young child. Finally Sigung Yang Fatt Khun begged the Shaolin monk to accept him as a student.

About 40 years later, my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, who had learned from many other masters and was a professional Muay Thai fighter earning his living in the rings, tried his best to learn from Sigung Yang Fatt Khun, who had retired from public teaching. Every time my sifu begged my sigung, my sigung rejected him. Impressed by my sifu's perseverance, a senior classmate helped him. He told my sifu their secret training place.

During training, my sigung locked all doors, and no outsiders were allowed. The senior classmate secretly unlocked the backdoor. In the midst of their training, my sifu sneaked in, bringing with him the traditional gifts for a master. My sigung was then sitting at the altar supervising the training. My sifu went straight to the master, knelt down and offered the traditional gifts. My sigung took the gifts and placed them at the altar, and sighed, saying “This is heaven's wish”, which meant it was destined that he had the unenviable duty to pass the Shaolin arts to my sifu.

Question 2

What is the technique called “Mo Poun Paau Cheui” (please see “Tiger and Crane” manual, figure 14) please?

— Sifu Pavel, Czech Republic

Answer

Literally, “Mo Poun Paau Cheui” means “Turning Millstone Leopard Punch”. It is a technique or tactic where you move your leopard fists in front of your body in circles, and thrust them out at your opponent when an opening occurs.

It makes use of the tactic “huein chik peng yong”, or “circular and straight are mutually used”. “Turning Millstone” makes use of circular movements, whereas “Leopard Punch” is straight and fast.

To understand the application of “Turning Millstone Leopard Punch” as explained in “Double Lifting the Sun and Moon” (Pattern 14 of the Tiger-Crane Set), one must first of all realize that descriptions in kungfu context are not rigid. The pattern illustrated in the classic shows Grandmaster Lam at a Horse-Riding Stance with his two bent arms in front holding two fists pointing skyward. One should not presume that in combat application the pattern is used exactly as shown; he must be prepared for modification.

In fact, Grandmaster Lam himself describes the modification in his explanation on combat application. He says that another name for “Double Lifting the Sun and Moon” is “Technique of Fist to the Sky”. You can find it illustrated at Patterns 53 and 54, where it is called “Pattern of Fist to the Sky” and “Continuous Fist to the Sky”. Here, Grandmaster Lam is at a Bow-Arrow Stance swinging one “skyward-fist” (like an upper-cut in Boxing) after another.

Hence, what Grandmaster Lam means is that when you use continuous skyward-fists (or upper-cuts) to attack an opponent, he may counter with “Turning Millstone Leopard Punch”. Suppose you are at a right Bow-Arrow Stance and swing a right skyward-fist at your opponent, as shown in Pattern 53. Your opponent may use a left Bow-Arrow Stance, shifts his body backward without moving his feet and simultaneously uses his left hand in a circular motion to sweep your skyward-fist away, and immediately drives his right leopard punch straight at your ribs or solar plexus.

Without moving your feet, you shift your body backward to avoid the full force of his leopard punch and simultaneously sweep it away with your right forearm, and immediately swing your left sky-ward fist at him, as in Pattern 54. Your opponent retreats his front left leg into a left False-Leg Stance and simultaneously sweep away you left skyward-fist with his right hand, then immediately moves forward into a left Bow-Arrow Stance again and drives his left leopard punch into you.

You may then respond with “Chat Sing Lin Wan Khuen”, or “Seven Stars Continuous Fists”). Please see the answer below.

Shaolin Kung Fu

This Shaolin pattern “Hungry Tiger Snatches Goat” demonstrated by Sifu Andrew Barnett is an example of “descending-mountain tiger” used to subdue an opponent with superior force

Question 3

Grandmaster Lam Saiwing often mentions in his books about “Chat Sing Llin Waan Kyun” (Seven Stars Continuous Fists). Can you please reveal what are those techniques?

Answer

I learned “Chat Sing Lin Wan Khuen”, or “Seven Stars Continuous Fists”, from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, but I am not sure if this was the same set that Grandmaster Lam Sei Weng referred to.

This “Seven Stars” set was not from Southern Shaolin, but from Northern. My sifu learned it from his simu when his sifu (but not from the Venerable Jiang Nan lineage) stopped teaching him “Hing Kung” or the Art of Lightness.

This “Seven Stars” is excellent for small-sized persons against bigger and physically stronger opponents. It is famous for its agile footwork, “liu yam theui” or “organ-seeking kick”, “chuin cheong” or “threading palm”, and “lin wan khow” or “continuous locks” which use the eagle claw.

The set is called “Seven Stars” because it often uses the Seven-Star Stance. Some important techniques and tactics in the combat sequences of Shaolin Wahnam are taken from this set.

In the pattern you mentioned, Pattern 14 of Tiger-Crane Set, Grandmaster Lam refers to the “seven-star continuous fists” as “earth fist”, “water fist”, continuous “wood fists”, “throw fist”, “charge fist” and “fire fist”. “Metal fist” is not mentioned but I believe it is included to make seven fists in all.

In this system, “earth fist” is one that goes downward, as in “Continuously Smashing Down” (Pattern 87); ”water fist” is a swinging fist as in “One Star Swing Fist” (Pattern 85), “wood fist” is where two arms or fists come together as in “Continuous Lock and Strike” (Pattern 88); “throw fist” is a “skyward-fist” as in “Pattern of Fist to the Sky” (Pattern 53); “charge fist” is a thrusting level fist as in “Forward Stance Charging Punch” (Pattern 48), “fire fist” is a thrusting vertical fist as in “Eighth Ten Arrow Punch” (Pattern 55); and “metal fist” is where one or two fists separate as in “Cross-Roads Separate Gold” (Pattern 96). One must remember that such a classification is arbitrary, and for convenience only.

When an opponent uses the tactic of “Turn Millstone Leopard Punch” to counter your “Pattern of Fist to the Sky”, you can respond with any one of the seven-star fists, and continue to press him with some or all of the seven-star fists!

In the example given earlier, as your opponent drives a leopard punch at you, you can respond with any one of the following, and continue with one, more or all of the following.

Question 4

Grandmaster Lam Saiwing mentions the following tiger techniques in his book on “Tiger and Crane Set”: wui tau fu; jak min fu; che ma fu; cheut san fu; ha saan fu; hoi saan fu (please see the last figure in the “Tiger and Crane” classical manual). Can you please reveal what are those techniques?

Answer

These are colloquial expressions to describe certain situations.

“Wui tou fu” literally means “return-head-tiger”. It describes a situation when you turn around to attack or defend against an opponent behind with any tiger technique. Suppose you are engaged with an opponent in front. Another opponent comes close behind. You turn around, ward of his attack with a tiger-claw and strike him with “Black Tiger Steals Heart”. This is “wui tau fu”, or tiger turning around.

“Jak min fu” literally means “sideway-face-tiger”. It describes a situation when you tilt your head or body sideway for attack or defence using any tiger techniques. Suppose you are facing your opponent squarely. As he attacks you, you tilt your body to one side and strike his face with a tiger-claw, using “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave”. This is “jak min fu” or “tiger facing an opponent sideway”.

“Che ma fu” literally means “carriage-horse-tiger”. It refers to a comfortable situation when you can use any tiger techniques without having to make ad-hoc modification in your posture. It is like sitting comfortably in a carriage or riding a horse. An opponent attacks you with a mid-level punch. You retreat your front leg into a left False-Leg Stance and ward off his attack with a left tiger-claw, then you move forward into a left Bow-Arrow Stance and strike him with a mid-level punch, using a picture-perfect “Black Tiger Steals Heart” pattern (called “Forward Step Charging Punch” in Grandmaster Lam's Tiger-Crane Set).

“Cheut san fu” literally means “out-mountain-tiger”. It refers to a situation when you use any tiger techniques ferociously, like a tiger coming out of the mountain to kill. If you press an opponent ferociously with a series of “Black Tiger Steals Heart” and “Fierce Tiger Speeds Across Valley”, i.e. pressing your opponent with continuous thrust punches using the left and right Bow-Arrow Stances, you are like a “cheut san fu” or a tiger coming our of a mountain to kill.

“Ha san fu” literally means “descending-mountain-tiger”. It describes a situation when you control or subdue an opponent using superior force. “Fierce Tiger Descends Mountain” is an excellent example. When an opponent attacks you, almost irrespective of what form his attack may take, you move into your opponent with your double tiger-claws, deflecting his attack and simultaneously attacking him.

“Hoi san fu” literally means “open-mountain-tiger”. It refers to a situation when you use any tiger techniques to “open” your opponent before delivering your coup de grace. As an opponent attacks you, you ward off his attacks with your tiger-claws, then when he least expects it, you close in with a tiger-claw at his throat.

Shaolin Kung Fu

The pattern “Tame Tiger with String of Beads” in Shaolin Wahnam as demonstrated here by Grandmaster Wong to avoid a side kick from Sifu Goh Kok Hin is different from the pattern with the same name in Grandmaster Lam's book

Question 5

What does “lin jyu” (as in “Tiger-Crane” manual, figure 31) means? “Stringing pearls”? (Please compare with an earlier question on “saam jyu”.)

Answer

Literally “lin jyu” means “continuous pearls”, but here it refers to a string of beads or a rosary. This pattern (Pattern 31 in the Grandmaster Lam's Tiger-Crane Set), where an exponent is at a Bow-Arrow Stance and places a “taming” hand in front at his abdomen level, is called “Tame a Tiger with a String of Beads”.

In Shaolin Wahnam, this pattern is called differently as “Yun Thian Tames Tiger”, which is also performed at a Horse-Riding Stance as in Pattern 37 of Grandmaster Lam's set. (Yun Thian is a martial god of wealth, and has a black face. He rides a tiger.)

“Tame a Tiger with a String of Beads” is performed differently in Shaolin Wahnam, at a sideway slanting Bow-Arrow Stance with one tiger-claw at chest level and the other tiger-claw near the hip. Imagine you are a Lohan (a direct disciple of the Buddha) holding a powerful string of beads in your two hands. A tiger pounces on you. You slant your body backward in a sideway Bow-Arrow Stance and swing your string of beads round the tiger's body to tie it, then straighten the string of beads to control the tiger. It is an excellent pattern that can be used to neutralize any kicks!

The pattern in Grandmaster Lam's classic is called “Tame a Tiger with a String of Beads” for a different reason. It is linked to the next pattern called “Pearl Bridge at Bow-Arrow Stance” (Pattern 32), where the “taming hand” is now changed into the “One-Finger Zen” hand-form where it is stretched, or moved forth and back, three times before it shoots out in a palm-thrust in the next pattern called “Sink Bridge Thread Palm” (Pattern 33).

Hence, “lin jyu” or “string of beads” refers to “triple stretch”, an important method of force training in Southern Shaolin Kungfu. But why is “triple stretch” called “string of beads” or “continuous pearls”? It is because the folded fingers in the One-Finger Zen hand-form resembles beads or pearls.

“Lin jyu” is directly related to “saam jyu” mentioned in an earlier question concerning a signature pattern, called “Sideway Pressing Three Times Shooting Palms” in the greeting posture of Grandmaster Lam's Taming-Tiger Set. This pattern is similar to a signature pattern in the greeting posture of Grandmaster Ho Fatt Nam's school, where it is known as “Three Times Pressing Pearl Bridge”. This “triple stretch” when performed in a frontal manner is called “Three Times Threading Pearl Bridge”. The “triple stretch” is a very important method for developing internal force.

The term “lin jyu” is also used in a tactic called “lin jyu pao”, which means “continuous cannon balls”. It refers to using thrusting punches in continuous pressing attacks, like cannon balls continuously bombarding an opponent. When Li Shi Ming became the First Emperor of the famous Tang Dynasty, he honoured the Shaolin monks who helped him build the empire. The leader of the monks, Yuan Zhong, gave a demonstration of a Shaolin Kungfu set called “Bao Quan” or “Cannot Fist”, where the hallmark was “continuous cannon balls”.

Question 6

Sifu, is there anything important I forgot to ask about or anything you would like to add about “bridges and stances” in Southern Siulam Gung Fu?

Answer

The questions you ask are both interesting and illuminating, and I am sure many people will benefit from them. But I would like to add one short question, and give a very short answer.

What, in your opinion, is the single most important word that will give the most benefits in the training of bridges and stances?

The answer is “Relax.”

Question 7

I was thinking of a paper exploring the application of philosophy in daily life and martial arts. So often is philosophy discussed, but not experienced directly.

— James, Canada

Answer

Congratulations for winning a grant to investigate into the practical application of Taoist philosophy. I am sure your study will benefit many people. I look forward to meet you at the Canadian courses, and we in Shaolin Wahanm will give you whatever help available. Please identify yourself to me when we meet.

Realizing the practical benefits of our philosophical knowledge is a crucial aspect of our teaching in Shaolin Wahnam. For example, we do not merely talk about good health and mental clarity in chi kung, or about internal force and combat application in our Shaolin Kungfu and Wahnam Taijiquan but acutally enjoy these benefits. This is logical. Mentioning this fact may actually appear irelevant or redundant, just like mentioning that if we take swimming or piano lessons we should be able to swim or play the paino.

But surprising it may be, the fact is that many people today who have practiced chi kung or Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan for many years are still sick and dull-minded, or still unable to defend themselves with the art they practice. Indeed, helping willing people realize this situation and helping them to overcome the problem is one of our aims.

As ours is a Shaolin school, our teaching is basically Buddhist. Yet, there is a lot of Taoist philosophy and practice in our school. It should be clarified that “Buddhist” and “Taoist” here are philosophical , and not religious, terms. Shaolin Wahnam members are multi-religious and multi-cultural.

Tai Chi Chuan or Taijiquan

In the yin-yang harmony of Taijiquan, the martial aspect is represented by “yang” whereas the health aspect is represented by “yin”

Question 8

I thought I could study the principles of Taoism through Tai Chi Chuan - the physical expression of a philosophy. I was wondering if you could provide any specific information about how Taoism is integrated into the course. I was wondering if I could possibly interview you directly to illuminate how you act out philosophy in your everyday life. With your permission I would interview participants of your course to see the influence of philosophy on their daily interactions.

Answer

I look forward to your interview when we meet and you can ask me and other Shaolin Wahnam members questions on how we put into practice various Taoist philosophical teachings. Meanwhile I shall briefly explain the most important Taoist concept that has much enriched our arts as well as our daily living. This is none other than yin-yang harmony.

First of all, it will be very helpful to realize that yin and yang do not refer to absolute objects, processes or concepts. There are symbols referring to the two opposing yet complementary aspects of reality. Once you have understood this point, you can avoid many mis-understands many people have about yin and ang. Hence, designating certain food, like vegetable and meat, as unchangeable yin or yang is a mistake. Vegetable or meat may be yin in some situations and yang in others.

In Shaolin Kungfu or Taijiquan, for example, we may refer to its philosophy as yin, and its practice as yang. If students only practice but have little understanding of its philosophy, as many do today, they would lack yin-yang harmony. If we take the practice by itself (instead of comparing it with its philosophy), the healthy benefits maybe symbolized as yin and the martial benefits as yang. If they are good fighters but are not healthy, or if they are healthy but cannot defend themselves, they lack yin-yang harmony. Worse, if they are neither healthy nor combat efficient, they too lack yin-yang harmony. Here, yin refers to the practice, and yang the benefits.

Indeed, many students of Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan today are neither healthy or combat efficient, despite having practiced their art for many years. The pathetic fact is they are often not awared of this situation! Most of them would have heard of yin-yang harmony, but they have not benefitted from this philosophical concept. They would be wiser had they put into practice what they learn in philosophy.

LINKS

Overview of the Questions-Answers Series

Selected Reading

Courses and Classes