March 2007 (Part 2)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

The most beautiful people

A priceless picture taken about 60 years ago showing young Grandmaster Wong and his father and mother

Question 1

Sifu what is the most beautiful thing you ever remember?

— Hugo, Sweden

Answer

When I was about two years old I fell into a big monsoon drain and was almost drown. Fortunately a woman saved me, to whom I am forever grateful.

But I was very sick after that. I believe I had pneumonia. I could not walk and hardly eat or sleep. My mother carried me in her arms everyday. I was naughty. When we were upstairs I would demand going downstairs, and as soon as my mother carried me in her arms downstairs, I would demand to go up again.

This would go on for hours. But a mother is never tired of caring for her child. My mother would caress me, sing to me and hold me close to her heart. I was too small then to remember much, but I can clearly remember this was, is and will be the most beautiful thing in my life.

I am blessed with a wonderful life. I have only two regrets. One, I regret I was not more kind to my mother when she was alive. Two, I regret I was not more kind to my father too. Those whose parents are still alive, should not miss their golden opportunity.

Question 2

I'd love to know which art Sigung began study first and what led him to study these arts in the first place.

— Clair, England

Answer

I first learned from Sifu Lai Chin Wah, better known in kungfu circles as Uncle Righteousness. I was then about 10 years old. My father worked in the Soon Tuck Association in Penang, Malaysia as a clerk. (This association is for Chinese descended from the Soon Tuck District in Guangdong Province in South China.)

Famous kungfu masters were invited to teach members of the association. As it was the tradition in China in the past, only clan members were allowed. However, Uncle Righteousness had the association leaders agreed to open the kungfu training to any Chinese. I was one of those who was not from Soon Tuck.

Chinese culture was, and still is, very strong in Malaysia. In my opinion there is more traditional Chinese culture in Malaysia, especially in Penang, than in modern China itself. For example, Chinese wearing traditional kungfu dress performing Lion Dance are still found on Malaysian streets, but not in China today. I was particularly interested in kungfu stories. Shaolin heros like Hoong Hei Khoon and Fong Sai Yoke were very familiar to me.

So when I knew that kungfu was taught in Soon Tuck Association, I followed my father there to watch. Every night I would sit at the entrance of the training hall to watch enthralled as Uncle Righteousness taught his students. I was very well-behaved. I sat quietly without causing any interference at all.

One night my lucky star shone brightly on me. Uncle Righteousness asked his student, “This small boy is more dedicated than you all. He never fails to be present every night. Does anyone know who he is?”

One of the senior students named Chiew Shi Khern said, “He's the son of our clerk, Mr Wong.”

“Ha ha ha!” a roaring laughter broke out from Uncle Righteousness. “Small boy, don't sit there. Come into the hall and practice.”

“But I have no money,” I said.

“Don't worry about money!” Uncle Righteousness laughed louder. “I shall teach you free.”

I am forever grateful to Uncle Righteousness for his kindness and generosity. His accepting me as his pupil has tremendously enriched my life and the lives of many other people. I also discovered later that the kungfu he taught was the same kungfu my Shaolin heroes, Hoong Hei Khoon and Fong Sai Yoke, practiced.

Years later I learned from Sifu Chee Kim Thong, the patriarch of Wuzu Kungfu; Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, the third generation successor from the Shaolin Temple; and Sifu Choe Hoong Choy, the patriarch of Wing Choon Kungfu. It was no co-incidence that I learned from patriarchs because knowing what to look for after learning from Uncle Righteousness, I searched for the best.

Question 3

I would love to know if and when Sigung plans to retire from teaching openly.

— Tom, England

Answer

Yes, I would like to retire from teaching openly though I would still teach selected disciples privately. Due to various factors, like seeing that some developmental plans of Shaolin Wahnam would be implemented successfully, I have not fixed a retirement date yet, but it should be soon.

Uncle Righteousness

An old, invaluable photograph showing Grandmaster Lai Chin Wah, better known as Uncle Righteousness, demonstrating a three-sectional soft whip. Notice the variety of weapons behind the weapon rack.

Question 4

I would like Sifu to let us know why it is that we beat the Heavenly Drum 24 times.

— Molly, USA>

Answer

One of the objectives of beating the heavenly drum is to clear the rust and dust from the head, especially from the brain cells.

Though who have not been exposed to high level chi kung may think we are crazy to make this statement. But anyone who has been associated with us for some time would have noticed that exhibiting mental clarity is one of our noticeable characteristics. In fact many of our family members have testified to this benefit in the thread What benefit do you get/want? in our Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum.

“Twenty four times” is a rough guideline, so that we know beating the drum five or ten times is insufficient, and fifty times is too much. The number “twenty four” is related to the lunar calendar where a year is divided into twenty four seasons.

Question 5

I would hereby ask to become a student of Shaolin Wahnam Kung Fu since I have become fascinated with this art. As I reside in Europe, I would like to ask how it is possible for someone to become a student of your school. Also, please inform me on the fees that are necessary.

— Christopher, Greece

Answer

I am glad you have chosen to learn from us. From the way you wrote, you impressed me as a sincere, respectful student — the kind of people we in Shaolin Wahnam would like to pass our arts to.

There are three main ways you can learn and benefit much from us:

  1. Learn from me personally by attending my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course. It is held a few times in Malaysia and is publicized on my webpage . The course lasts for seven days (including the arrival and departure dates) and the fee is US$1500. A similar but shorter course is also held in Frankfurt and in Toronto, and the fee is US$1000. Participants to these intensive courses need to have some prior martial art experience.

  2. Learn from me personally by attending my regional Shaolin Kungfu courses in many countries in the world at different times of the year, such as the UK Summer Camp, Spain Summer Camp and hopefully the USA Autumn Camp and the Scandinavian Winter Camp, as well as in Switzerland and Portugal. Depending on the number of courses, the fee may range from US$600 to US$1000. Information about these regional courses is publicized on my webpage as well as the webpages of the respective countries accessible at http://shaolin.org

  3. Learn from our certified Shaolin Wahnam instructors in regular Shaolin Kungfu classes in many countries around the world, like Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, Finland, Portugal, Canada and the United States. These classes are held throughout the year. The fee is about US$100 per month, but there may be variation due to local and other factors. Please see the List of Certified Instructors as well as the webpages of the respective countries accessible at http://shaolin.org for more details.

Question 6

Is it possible that someone can have you personally as a teacher or is this only for those students who are willing to relocate and reside in Malaysia?

Answer

The answer is “yes” and “no”.

If you attend my intensive courses in Malaysia or my regional courses in various parts of the world, you learn from me personally. But these courses are held over a few days only, after which you have to practice on your own, or you may join a regular class taught by a certified Shaolin Wahnam instructor. I do not conduct regular classes.

Even those who reside in Malaysia would not learn from me on a regular basis because I do not teach regular classes. But students maintain contact with me regularly by attending further courses in Malaysia or elsewhere, and through the internet, e-mails and our Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum.

kungfu sparring

Kungfu techniques may be learnt easily but kungfu skills need to be personally taught to derive the desired result.

Question 7

From your address list at the back of your books I have located that the closest registered representatives of your School in my area are probably two masters in England.. Is it therefore necessary that I relocate either to England, or Malaysia for following this Shaolin Wahnam course of study?

Answer

The books are probably of earlier editions. You can find a full list of our Shaolin Wahnam centres with more than 50 certified instructors all over the world at /general/instructors-list.html . Hence, it is not necessary that you have to relocate to England or Malaysia.

Question 8

Can it be performed remotely as well, i.e. through some form of distance learning?

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Answer

Again the answer is “yes” and “no”.

Unless you are already proficient in kungfu, it is not feasible to learn it from books, videos or some forms of distant learning. You have to learn it personally from me or one of our certified instructors.

But once you have the basic skills, you can benefit much from distant learning. In fact this applies to most of our Shaolin Wahnam instructors and many of our students.

Many other people, especially those who think that practicing kungfu is merely learning techniques, may find it hard to comprehend. But it is actually straight-forward, particularly after one has appreciated the difference between skills and techniques. Take football as an analogy. If you have no football skills, you cannot play football by merely reading from a book. But when you have fundamental football skills, you can improve your game by learning new techniques from reading or viewing a video.

LINKS

Overview of the Questions-Answers Series

Selected Reading

Courses and Classes