May 2008 (Part 1)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

UK Instructors of Shaolin Wahnam

Sifu Marcus Santer, the Chief Instructor of Shaolin Wahnam UK , posing in the centre with other UK instructors

Question 1

I believe that if someone is giving an overview, and it is still hard to comprehend then this usually demonstrates the speaker lacks a deep understanding of the material.

— Sifu Marcus, UK

Answer

Yes, if a person lacks a deep understanding of what he says or writes, his presentation will not be clear. We often see this fact manifested in our Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum . This is one of a few ways that enable us to know whether posters in our fourm have direct experience of what they say. If you look at some of the posts debating whether chi is real, for example, you can often find those who doubt the reality of chi are unclear in their presentation. On the other hand, the posts of our instructors and students are very clear.

However, there may be other factors, which are usually the exceptions rather than the rules. A person may have a deep understanding or direct experience of what he says, but he may not describe it clearly. This may happen if he lacks mental clarity or lacks communication skills. Happily, in our school our training improves mental clarity, and our Scholar Committee under Emiko will conduct seminars on developing communication skills.

Question 2

As an instructor for the Shaolin Wahnam Institute I am always working to improve my understanding of the material I teach.

Answer

I am proud of you not just for the above statement but also for the many benefits you have given to many Shaolin Wahnam students.

The minimum requirements of any teacher are to be professional and ethical. By being professional, I mean he knows what he is teaching. By being ethical, he ensures his students will not derive any harm from their training.

Some people may think my above statement redundant. Of course, they may say, a teacher must know what he is teaching — otherwise how can he teach, and of course his students must not derive any harm from their training — otherwise why do they train. But the sad fact is that most kungfu teachers today do not know what they are teaching — they do not know they are only teaching external kungfu forms and not a martial art, and many do not ensure their students do not derive any harm from their training — they submit their students to free sparring where the students are routinely hurt without being attended to.

We are proud that our instructors know what they are teaching and ensure that their students do not derive any harm. This qualify them as legitimate teachers. But we do not want just to be legitimate teachers. We want to be good teachers, at least. Improving our teaching methods and ensuring our students derive benefits (not just being free from harm) are two sure means to this goal.

Question 3

Are self manifested chi flow, induced chi flow and “flowing breeze swaying willows” all names for the same thing?

Answer

Like many other questions in our school, the answer is yes and no.

Generically and morphologically, the answer is yes. “Self-Manifested Chi Flw” (also known as “Self-Manifested Chi Movement”), “Induced Chi Flow” and “Flowing Breeze Swaying Willows” refer to the same genre of chi kung experience where internal chi flow in our body is manifested as external bodily movements.

When we experience self-manifested chi flow, the chi flow is induced by us. So, morphologically, self-manifested chi flow is indued chi flow. When we move gently as a result of our self-manifested chi flow induced by us, we describe the movements poetically as “flowing breeze swaying willows”, which is a classical Shaolin term sometimes heard but little understtod now. Hence, in this sense, all the three terms refer to the same thing.

But specifically, the three terms are different because by our convention we use these terms to refer to different types of chi flow or to different ways of genetating chi flow. When our chi flow is vigorous, manifested as fast and sometimes comical movements, we refer to this type of chi flow as “self-manifested chi flow”. When we sway about gently, we refer to this type of chi flow as “Flowing Breeze Swaying Willows”. When the chi flow movements are somewhere in between these two types, we refer to this type as “Induced Chi Flow”.

When I first taught “Self-Manifested Chi Flow” many years ago, I used three dynamic patterns to induce this type of chi flow. This is still the main approach I use today, and the three mostly used patterns are “Lifting the Sky”, “Pushing Mountain” and “Carrying the Moon”. If the patterns are performed individually to induce chi flow, which is usually not as vigorous as but actually more advanced than the chi flow induced by three patterns, by convention, I refer to this type of chi flow as “Induced Chi Flow”.

But if the chi flow is induced from Shaolin kungfu practice, especially when the practitioners are swaying gently, I refer to this type of chi flow as “Flowing Breeze Swaying Willows”, which is in line with classical Shaolin terms. If the chi flow is induced from Taijiquan practice, especially when the practitioners move more vigorously, I call this type “Flowing Water Floating Clouds”, which is in line with classical Taijiquan terms.

Hence, the differentiation of these terms is arbitrary, and often there is no clear-cut defining line between one term and another. These terms defined by our conventional use of them are very useful. They enable us to convey to our students and other people our intended concept in a simple, direct and effective manner. For example, after our students have completed some combat applications, instead of saying, “Don't stop abruptly but be relaxed and let your energy flow move you spontaneously and your movements should be gentle and you move as if you were willow trees swaying when a breeze was flowing through”, we can simply say, “Enjoy Flowing Breeze Swaying Willows”.

Induced Chi Flow

Participants at the Intensive Chi Kung Course of January 2008 enjoying an induced chi flow after performing some dynamic patterns

Question 4

I understand that the Shaolin 18 Lohan Hands are dynamic chi kung patterns, but when performed by Shaolin Wahnam students they result in chi flow. Is this chi flow the same thing that you write about in your books as self manifested chi flow?

Answer

For convenience, chi kung exercises can be classified into two main groups — dynamic chi kung and quiescent chi kung. Dynamic chi kung exercises can be sub-divided into dynamic patterns and self-manifested chi movement, and quiescent chi kung exercises can be sub-divided into stationary breathing and meditation. Please note that the division is arbituary and for the sake of convenience.

Actually the term “dynamic patterns” was coined by me when I wrote “The Art of Chi Kung”. I was trying to help readers have a better understanding of the vast variety of chi kung exercises by providing some structured guidelines. I derived the inspiration of the term from a genre of Taoist chi kung exercises collectively know as “dao yin”, which literally means “guide and lead”.

These “dao yin” exercises are usually performed with the practitioners standing, although there are also “dao yin” exercises performed with the practitioners sitting in a lotus-position. The physical movements of the practitioners guide and lead chi to flow. The “Eight Pieces of Brocade”, which correspond to the first eight of our Lohan Hands, is a good example of “dao yin” chi kung.

While “dao yin” sounds poetic in Chinese, translating the term literally as “guide and lead exercises” does not make much sense. So I translate the term figuratively as “dynamic patterns”, because these exercises belong to the sub-group of “dynamic chi kung”, and the exercise are performed as patterns.

Traditionally, the 18 Lohan Hands were not known as “dao yin” exercises. They were just known as “18 Lohan Hands”. Unlike Westerners who like to classify things into neat groups, the Chinese are not so keen on classification. But as “The Art of Chi Kung” was written with Western readers in mind, I classifed 18 Lohan Hands as “dynamic patterns”, as opposed to “self-manifested chi movement”, both of which form the two sub-groups of “dynamic chi kung”.

A good example of “self-manifested chi movement” is “Five-Animal Play”. Traditionally, “Five-Animal Play” was not known as self-manifested chi movement. It was just called “Five-Animal Play”. The term “self-manifested chi movement” is translated from the Chinese term “zi-fa-dong gong”, which word-by-word means “self-manifest-move-art”. This term was coined in modern times, and was not found in classical chi kung texts. It refers to a genre of chi kung where practitioners move about spontaneously and vigorously due to internal chi flow induced by appropriate external movements.

Hence, generically “dynamic patterns” and “self-manifested chi flow” are different. But dynamic patterns can be employed to induce self-manifested chi flow. This apparently confusion will be come clear in the answer below where I explain their historical development in our school.

Question 5

What is the significance in your books of combining 3 patterns?

Answer

At the time I wrote “The Art of Chi Kung” and “Chi Kung for Health and Vitality”, I discovered from direct teaching experience that students obtained optimum results when they performed three exercises, both in dynamic patterns and in seof-manifested chi movement. Thus, I recommended a combination of 3 patterns.

As I improved my teaching methodolgy, I realized that focusing on one dynamic pattern would give better results than practicing three patterns. But students still needed to perform 3 patterns to induce self-manifested chi movement.

Later as my teaching methodolgy improved further, advanced students, especially those who had attended my Intensive Chi Kung Course, could effectively induce sefl-manifested chi movement by performing just one pattern, or even without performing any pattern. They just went into chi flow from a chi kung state of mind, and directed their chi flow to be vigorous.

Question 6

Up until today I have always thought of self manifested chi flow as a different type of chi kung, separate from the 18 Lohan Hands. Could you please clarify this issue for me?

Answer

Practitioners who practice 18 Lohan Hands today normally do not have any chi flow. They practice them as gentle physical exercise which can give them physical benefits like loosening joints and muscles, balance, elegance and relaxation, but not chi kung benefits like overcoming pain and illness, attaining good health, vitality and longevity, mental clarity and spiritual joys.

As far as I know, practitioners in the past had incidental and slight chi flow from performing 18 Lohan Hands. Only special disciples, who had privy to the secrets of chi kung, had the type of chi flow our students today have. We call this type of chi flow “induced chi flow”.

On the other hand, the result of those who practice “Five-Animal Play” can be categorized into two types. One category of practitioners imitate the movements of the tiger, the bear, the deer, the bird and the monkey. They have little or no chi flow. Another category of practitioners perform appropriate movements which induce vigorous chi flow which can be symbolized as the movements of the tiger, the bear, the deer, the bird and the monkey, and which is refered to as “self-manifested chi movement”.

When I first taught chi kung to the public about 20 years ago, I taught the 18 Lohan Hands. My early students had to practice these 18 Lohan Hands for about 4 to 5 months before they had some chi flow — a far cry from out present students who usually have their chi flow on their first day of lessons. The chi flow from 18 Lohan Hands was generally gentle, which we now describe as “induced chi flow”. Occasionally the chi flow could be vogorous, which we now describe as “self-manifested chi movement” but which at that time we simply called it “vigorous chi flow”.

Later I also taught “Self-Manifested Chi Movement” as a separate genre of chi kung exercise different from the 18 Lohan Hands. I did not use exercises from Five-Animal Play. I devised my own sets of exercises. I had three sets, each set consisting of three patterns. The first set consisted of “Lifting the Sky”, “Double Dragons”, and “Fish Flip”. The second set consisted of “Push Mountain Lift Sky”, “Dancing Fairy” and “Swinging Hip”. The third set consisted of “Bear Walk”, “Flying Swallow” and “Kicking Legs”.

The way I taught dynamic patterns from the 18 Lohan Hands was different from the way I taught Self-Manifested Chi Movement. In the dynamic patterns, students performed the exercises slowly with emphasis on breathing. In Self-Manifested Chi Movement, students performed the exercises quickly without worrying about breathing.

The resultant chi flow was also different. The chi flow induced by dynamic patterns was gentle but deep. It was simply called “chi flow”. The chi flow induced by Seof-Manifested Chi Movement was vigorous, sometimes with comic movements. It was conveniently called “self-manifested chi flow”.

It is worthy of note that when I wrote “The Art of Chi Kung”, I called self-manifested chi movement “Induced Chi Flow” The term is still used in the book today. It was Douglas, my most senior student in Europe, who pointed out to me that the chi flow from dynamic patterns was also induced chi flow. Hence, I changed the term to “Self-Manifested Chi Movement”, which was almost literally translated from the Chinese term “zi-fa-dong-gong”.

When I first taught in Europe, which was in Spain, I taught six dynamic patterns from the 18 Lohan Hands and a set of Self-Manifested Chi Movement. I usually used the first set, but occasionally the second set. Later I found out I could help students to induce self-manifested chi movement by using the same Lohan Hands that they performed as dynamic patterns. In other words, now the 18 Lohan Hands could be performed as dynamic patterns or as self-manifested chi movement. I beleived we made history — as far as I know, this was the first time the Lohan Hands were practiced in this way.

Later I further improved my teaching methodology. I could achieve better result by teaching just three instead of six Lohan Hands. It was a tremendous upgrade for students. Now they could put in less time and less effort but obtain more benefits. But some students, understandably, thought I gave them less. Like most other people, they mistakenly measured progress by the number of techniques they had learnt, rather than by the cost-effectiveness they obtained desirable results. But as good teachers, we never appease our students; we teach in a way that we sincerely believe is best for them.

Self-Manifested Chi Movement

Although these chi flow movements of the Shaolin practitioners are induced by kungfu movements, they may be described as self-manifested chi flow because they are very vigorous

Question 7

I would greatly appreciate it if Sifu is kind enough to explain the possible reasons why a student does not have good results despite practicing diligently.

— Jeffrey, USA

Answer

There are a few reasons

  1. He practices wrongly.
  2. He does not practice regularly.
  3. He has not practiced long enough.
  4. He worries too much during his practice.
  5. His problems are too severe or too deep-rooted that results may take a longer time to appear.
  6. He has other, usually more serious, problems that he may be unaware of, and chi kung has actually helped him to overcome them though he may not know about it.
  7. His life style is bad that his negative effects are more than the good effects of his chi kung practice.

Question 8

First of all I want to thank you for your books. Since childhood I have been a devoted admirer of Shaolin. Unfortunately in my city there are no good masters of kung-fu. Therefore I train from books. Now I am about one month training Iron Palm and Tiger's Fangs under your books. In the morning I do 2 circles of 300 impacts by a palm on a bag with sawdust. Soon I shall pass on to a bag with sand. After that I do chi kung exercises. Can you comment on my training? Thank you.

— Janjiro, Russa

Answer

It is no surprise that there are no good kungfu masters in your city. Real kungfu masters are very rare today.

By Tiger's Fangs, I suppose you mean Tiger-Claws. It is advisable to train either Iron Palm or Tiger-Claw, not the two together, at one time.

You have not followed my instructions regarding Iron Palm training. I recommend using a bag with a mixture of green beans and black beans but not sawdust. Sawdust could pass through the sandbag into your lungs via your nose and month and may cause you insidous harm. You should also use two layers of canvass for your bag.

If possible, after each training session you should wash your hands in a basin of medicinal decoction to prevent injuring your hands. If this is not feasible, you should wash your hands in warm water with two or three spoonful of kitchen salt. Or you may rub your hands with “ti ta jow” or medicinal wine.

Once a week.place ten strains of hair on the left side of a table. Use your right thumb and right index finger to pick up the strains of hair, one at a time, and transfer them to the left side of the table. Then transfer them from the right side to the left side with your left thumb and left index finger. Repeat the procedure with the thumb and the other fingers. This exercise is to maintain the functions of your hands and fingers.

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