June 2008 (Part 1)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Chris Panay

Chris Panay of Shaolin Wahnam Australia composing a kungfu set from his combat sequences during the Special Shaolin Kungfu Course of Janauary 2008

Question 1

I would like to let you know what my everyday training is like and if you could let me know if what I am doing is very good or could be improved on. I want to achieve the best results possible everyday from what I have learnt from both the Intensive Chi Kung Course and the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course. I would like to mention it is becoming more exciting for me as I am feeling great. I am feeling more chi during training and also sometimes after.

— Chris, Australia

Answer

I am glad that you aim for excellence and also you are obviously enjoying your daily practice. Aiming for excellence and enjoying our practice are two of the values we cherish in our school. Feeling more chi is an indication that you are making progress.

Nevertheless, you should not be too pre-occupied with progress. When progress comes, we are happy. If we don't seem to feel any progress, it doesn't matter. We still enjoy our practice.

Superficially, aiming for excellence and not unduly worrying whether we make progress may appear contradictory. They are not contradictory. Actually they are different issues, though they are related. One can aim for excellence, yet not worrying about progress. This is an example of yin-yang harmony, which is another important value we cherish.

Question 2

I love the feeling of letting go spiritually. It puts a smile on my face and I feel more free. I am looking forward to achieving higher results in time to come. I am feeling chi down my legs and face also at times.

Answer

Letting go is very important. We should let go physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

A lot of problems arise when a person cannot let go. He becomes tensed when he cannot let go physically. He becomes angry, afraid, nervous or sad when he cannot let go emotionally. He becomes dull-minded and stressful when he cannot let go mentally. He becomes depressed and imprisoned when he cannot let go spiritually.

When you let go spiritually, you open your heart. When your heart opens, you feel happy and you set you spirit free. You have found from direct experience the answer to a very important question that many philosophers have asked for ages, namely what makes a person happy.

It is not riches, not power, not meeting a pretty girl or striking a lottery. It is opening the heart. If meeting a pretty girl or striking a lottery opens a person's heart, he becomes happy. Otherwise he may remain indifferent.

We in Shaolin Wahnam have a few wonderful skills to open our heart. Our signature skill, of course, is to smile from our heart. When we smile from our heart, it opens, with the result that we feel happy and free. When you have this skill, it does not matter whether you are a pauper or a millionaire, on a lonely island or in a crowded city, when you smile from your heart you become free and happy.

It was not without good reasons that our past masters said, “Hok tak siu lam chan miew fatt, ho ko tim sek pin kam cheun”, which means “When you have accomplished the genuine, marvelous Shaolin arts, it is better than accomplishing the skill of turning stones to gold by touch!”

Question 3

My training is as follows. Each morning I practice one of the many exercises taught from the chi kung course: “Lifting the Sky”, “Carrying the Moon”, “Pushing Mountains”, self manifested chi movement, “Lifting the Sky” with increasing chi flow making it go faster, and “Lifting the Sky” then directing my chi to different parts of the body.

I do one of these exercises each morning spending about 15 minutes in the morning. At night I do my Shaolin training which is as follows. I first train one of the 5 sets taught — “Lohan Asks the Way”, “Black Tiger Steals Heart”, “Fierce Tiger Speeds through Valley”, “Happy Bird Hops up Branch”, and “Fell Tree with Roots”. Then I go over the 16 combat sequences once each.

Then I spend time on footwork for about 10 minutes. Then I move into my stances counting 10 seconds in each stance then going in a chi flow to build force. I do some stretching exercises. After this I practice either “Golden Bridge” or “One-Finger Shooting Zen”.

Answer

This was a good routine at the time you asked the question. Now you have progressed much, especially after the Special Shaolin Kungfu Course which was aimed at providing you (and the other participants) with knowledge and skills to enable you to think and act as a Shaolin master.

Students need some definite guidelines for their training, but masters do not. The guidelines you mentioned are suitable for students at the beginning and the intermediate levels, corresponding roughly to Levels 1 to 6 of our Shaolin syllabus.

Masters formulate their own training routines based on their aims and objectives. If you aim to improve your combat efficiency using the patterns form you specialized set, for example, you would focus on the combat sequences you composed during the course. You would also compose more sequences to meet specific combat situations, like handling opponents who frequently use Kick-Boxing techniques.

If you find that you are not fluid with the sequences you have newly composed, you would spend more time practicing just the new sequences. When you are fluid with them, you can practice them with modifications and variations based on simulated changes of your imagined opponents.

For example, you have planned a sequence to handle an opponent who initiates with a left front kick followed by a right round-house. As you move in after his right round-house, you have a thought that he executes an impromptu left back kick. So you dodge his extra kick, simultaneously striking his kicking leg, then you continue with your planned sequence. You would have to practice this modified sequence a few times until you can react at the speed of thought.

As you progress in this new area of training, you should maintain your proficiency in other areas. This is “progress without retrogress”. Hence, you have to spend some time practicing what you already know quite well, like the 16 basic combat sequences. But while beginning and intermediate students may have to spend an hour on this area, because of your knowledge and superior skills, you need to spend just ten minutes to achieve similar results.

You will also spend less time for each session as well as in a duration-period on more basic exercises like “Lifting the Sky” and “Carrying the Moon”. For example, beginning and intermediate students may spend 15 minutes a session every day, but you may need just 5 minutes per session once a week to have similar results. This is because you have become more cost-effective.

Thirdly, you can skip some exercises, yet have better results than what practicing these exercises may give! For example, in order to break through blockages, beginning and intermediate students may go into self-manifested chi movement after performing “Lifting the Sky”, “Pushing Mountain” and “Carrying the Moon”. You can go into more vigorous self-manifested chi movement to break through blockages after performing a combat sequence.

These exercises I have mentioned above are just examples. As an aspiring master, you can select your own exercises to meet your needs and aspirations. Beginning and intermediate students will not have this luxury. They would have to follow a set routine given by their instructors.

You also need not worry whether you could have chosen some wrong exercises, or whether you have practiced some correctly chosen exercises wrongly. At a master's level, which you have attained after attending the Special Shaolin Kungfu Course, your knowledge and skills can adequately compensate for inferior techniques even if you had chosen a wrong exercise.

For example, to develop internal force a beginning or intermediate student needs to choose a correct exercise and practice it correctly. In your case, it does not matter what you practice — whether it is performing a kungfu set or working out some combat sequences — you will end up with more internal force than the beginning student, like what you said at the beginning of this e-mail that you felt more chi flowing during as well as after your training. This also means that even if you had performed some exercises wrongly, without you having to perform any remedial work, your strong chi flow would automatically clear the incidental adverse effects.

Against Boxing

Combat application is an essential part of kungfu training. Here participants of the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course of April 2008 practice how to apply Shaolin Kungfu against Boxers

Question 4

Should “Golden Bridge” be done everyday? I am doing this every second day with “One-Finger Shooting Zen”. This is my daily routine.

Answer

Depending on a number of factors, “Golden Bridge” or “One-Finger Shooting Zen” can be performed everyday, or alternate with each other every second day.

Generally speaking, beginning students should alternate these two wonderful exercises every second day so that they can be proficient in both.

At an intermediate stage, they can choose one or the other for focused training, practicing the other exercise once a while. If they wish to consolidate their force, “Golden Bridge” is a better choice. If they want flowing force, they would choose “One-Finger Shooting Zen”.

At an advanced stage, they can continue to focus on one exercise, practicing the other once a while, or they can alternate them every second day. It does not matter what they practice, as long as they practice they will derive wonderful benefits!

Question 5

I don't have a partner to train combat application with at the moment but am thinking of teaching my cousin to practice say once a week for a 2 hour session.

Answer

While both your cousin and you will get some benefits, it is not the best choice. Your cousin will learn some excellent kungfu. You will have a good opportunity to test your skills on him, without him ever realizing what is going on. This is why qualified instructors improve their own performance considerably when they start to teach students. This is a win-win situation, another value we cherish in our school.

But how do masters improve their combat efficiency? They are usually at a level where it is difficult to find suitable sparring partners. They mainly train on their own, and they improve tremendously with imaginary sparring partners.

Each time you perform a kungfu set, especially one that is composed from combat sequences, you are training combat application. When your forms are picture-perfect, flowing and powerful, your combat efficiency will improve.

I would suggest that you test whether this statement is true. Find a black-belt and have friendly sparring with him. In your sparring, just perform selections from your kungfu sets on him. If you follow this advice, even when you have not practiced sparring with a live partner for some time, you are likely to find your Black-belt sparring partner quite helpless.

Each time you practice “Golden Bridge”, “One-Finger Shooting Zen” or any of our force training exercises, you are improving your combat efficiency. Test this out with a live partner. As long as you use your stances and apply your kungfu forms on him, he is likely to find you formidable.

Each time you practice standing meditation and chi flow, you become more combat efficient. With better mental clarity and flowing energy, you will be more effective when you apply your kungfu forms on your sparring partner.

To be more specific, you can improve your combat efficiency remarkably if you practice your combat sequences with an imaginary opponent, making modifications and adjustments whenever necessary, like what you did at the Special Shaolin Kungfu Course. Even when you do not have a regular sparring partner to practice with, if you just apply your combat sequences on your real opponents, they will most probably find you formidable.

If it does not turn out to be true, it is due to one of two factors — either you hesitate or fail to apply your combat sequences or your opponents are exceptionally good fighters. Test out with some black-belts or semi-professional Boxers whom you can trust in friendly sparring, and let me know the results.

Question 6

I want to achieve maximum results in all aspects of my training from footwork to force to achieving great skills. Could you please inform me if this is how I should train? I don't miss a day. I practice 7 days a week morning and night.

Answer

As mentioned earlier, aiming for excellence is one of our cherished values. I am happy for and proud of your dedicated and consistent practice.

On the other hand, in line with our principle of yin-yang harmony, don't crave for results. Enjoy your training. The good results will inevitably come.

It is simple to find out whether your training is producing good results. To test your combat efficiency, have some friendly sparring with black-belts and semi-professional Boxers whom you can trust.

Initially you may not be accustomed to their ways of fighting. But with your present level of internal force, unless your eyes or vital spots are hit, their strikes and kicks are usually not damaging.

But do remember that your strikes can be very destructive to them. Even a single strike on their head or solar plexus may cause serious or even fatal injury. So, be very careful. If an opponent tries to take you down with a shoot, for example, don't strike his head though that is what we are trained to do; strike his shoulder instead.

Combat efficiency is only one of the benefits of our Shaolin training. More significantly, our training should enrich our life and the lives of other people, which is obviously happening now.

Your good health and vitality are indicative of your progress. You feel happy and peaceful, and are calm and relaxed even in demanding situations. These are sure signs of the wonderful benefits of your training.

Chi Flow

The chi flow in our Shaolin Kungfu class, like the one shown above at our Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in April 2008 in Penang, Malaysia, is often vigorous and interesting. People not exposed to chi flow may think we have gone crazy, but the chi flow not only brings us health and mental freshness but sometimes spiritual expansion.

Question 7

I am deeply concerned as my daughter's chi flows are very vigorous and sometimes they go on and on and she can't stop them. She says the chi flow is too strong and she has to keep on moving. Yesterday she had a most amazing practice and said that it was the best day of her life and then today she couldn't stop her chi flow and was very miserable.I suspect we practiced when she was too tired.

Is there a way I can stop her chi flow? Calm her down? I tried holding her and talking to her softly, and make her sit and lie down but I fear I am doing something wrong. This was exactly what happened a year ago, and then we stopped practicing, as she became too scared of the chi flow. Maybe she is too young for such an advanced Art or maybe her Mind isn't powerful enough to control her chi? What should we do? Can this strong and long (about 20 min) chi flow harm her in any way?

— Racheli, Israil

Answer

As long as the self-manifested chi movement is natural, it is safe even when it is long and powerful. By natural I mean that your daughter just lets the movements go on on their own.

She may feel tired afterwards, or anxious, but it is safe. Her tiredness is due to the long, powerful flow, and the anxiety is due to her not knowing whether the long flow is harmful. Now that she has my assurance, she needs not worry. The place she practices of course must be safe.

Nevertheless, it is recommended that she learns to develop control of the flow. It is quite simple — if you know how. She starts the self-manifested chi movement as usual, but when it begins to speed up, she tells herself to slow down. She must be relaxed and be confident that she can do so. She should not ask how she could do so, but just do it.

Let us take an analogy. Suppose she is jogging along a path. She finds the path lead to a steep cliff. What should she do. Of course, she slows down and stops. She does not asks how she could stop; she just stops.

It is the same as self-manifested chi movement. She slows down and stops. Sure, she needs to have the skill to do so. Similarly, when she approaches a cliff, she also needs to have the skill to slow down her running and stop. She developed this skill earlier whenever she ran, not just before a cliff. And she also developed the skill of walking, while she was about a year old, before she attempted running. It probably took her about ten months to do so.

Developing the skill to slow down and stop during a self-manifested chi flow will take much shorter time. Your daughter already has the skill to generate a chi flow before going into self-manifested chi movement, which is akin to having the skill of walking before starting to run.

Start the self-manifested chi movement modestly and progress gradually. At first, when her movement begins to be fast, slow down. Gradually, let the movement be faster before slowing down. Eventually her self-manifested chi movement can be very fast, and she can competently slow down and stop. She probably needs only three days to develop this skill.

From your description it appears that your daughter is progressing well. The vigorous chi flow is clearing out her deep-rooted problems, including deep-rooted negative emotions. In a few months' time you can celebrate another miracle, though to me the result is quite expected.

Question 8

Almost 2 years ago I wrote you an e-mail thanking you for being such a good teacher to my instructor. I thank you again from the bottom of my heart. The Shaolin experience gave me strength and helped me recover from a sickness that did not want to leave me for over 8 months!

But I got fired from my course. I still don't now really why. . I thought first that my instructor was testing me and that I would be back in a year or a few months. But my instructor just told me that I could not go and follow any Shaolin course anywhere because I got a refund and I was on the List. So I am contacting you. My question is: Does this list have an expiry date?

— Dom

Answer

I am sorry that despite your good start, you are asked to leave your class. I don't know what has happened between you and your teacher, but I am sure your teacher has good reasons to ask you to leave.

You address your teacher by name instead of as Sifu. In kungfu culture, addressing your teacher by name is considered very rude. This is unlikely the reason for your teacher asking you to leave, but it indicates your lack of respect for your teacher. As I have mentioned often, respecting the teacher is a very important value in our school, and is meant for the students' benefit. Your lack of this respect is not conducive for you to follow our Shaolin arts.

You are right. All our instructors have a list of unwanted students. Names are submitted only after very careful consideration. If your name has been submitted to this list, you will not be accepted by any Shaolin Wahnam instructos anywhere in the world. There is no expiry date for this list. But in exceptional cases, if a blacklisted student repents and has changed for the better, his former instructor or another instructor may recommend his name to be removed from the list.

Even though you are barred from learning from us, we still wish you well.

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