SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
NOVEMBER 2012 PART 3

free sparring

Free sparring in Shaolin Wahnam is injury-free and full of fun

Question 1

It was amazing that in the sparring practice yesterday, no one was hurt! How was that possible?

— Miriam, Mexico.

Answer

Thank you for asking this question. It reminds some of us that what is normal for us is actually exceptional to most other martial artists.

To be injury-free in sparring is our norm. It was also the norm in the past. It should also be the norm now, but is actually not. A main reason why anybody practices any martial art is not to be hurt at all in sparring and in real fighting.

But martial arts today have been so debased that to be hurt even in sparring with classmates is the norm. It has been debased to such a ridiculous stage that both masters and students submit themselves to be punched and kicked by their sparring partners in routine practice when fights in real life seldom happen in modern law-abiding societies!

How was it possible that no one was hurt in sparring yesterday? It was because we practiced a genuine martial art!

That is a one-sentence answer. More details are as follows.

It is worth pointing out that many were fresh beginners, and the hall was crowded due to the large number of participants. The punches and kicks were real. Towards the end of the session, I told the participants that if they found their sparring partners competent, they should really hit their partners hard.

Then, why was no one hurt?

The training was gradual and systematic, and we paid much attention to the principle of safety first.

Everything was pre-arranged at first. Initiators used only one particular form of attack, and responders knew exactly how to respond. Speed and force were controlled, starting at level 1, meaning little speed and little force.

More forms of attack and responses were added, and the control was gradually released. Gradually speed and force progressed from level 1 to level 2, then to level 3. Eventually the participants engaged in free sparring.

Because the progress was gradual and systematic, no one was hurt, which is our norm. There was also a lot of fun and laughter, which is also our norm.

Question 2

Would performing Green Dragon Shoots Pearl in a big circle expose ourselves in combat? Would the strike be faster if we just strike forward in a straight line instead of in a circle?

Answer

These are excellent questions, showing that you are very perceptive.

Yes, performing Green Dragon Shoots Pearl, or any other pattern, in a big circle exposes ourselves in combat.

Yes, the strike would be faster if we just strike forward in a straight line instead of in a circle.

Then, why do we practice Green Dragon Shoots Pearl and other patterns in big circles in our Taijiquan training, when we train Taijiquan as an internal martial art?

This is because it is the first part of the training where Taijiquan is performed in Big Form. The circular movements promote energy flow resulting in internal force.

When our energy flow is full and our arms are charged with internal force, we reduce the big movements to medium movements, then to small movements, eventually performing Taijiqjuan in Small Form.

When we perform Taijiquan in Small Form, the movements are still circular, but the circular movements are so small that they appear linear.

Why do we maintain circular movements instead of striking in straight lines? It is to generate spiral force.

Would the circular movements be slower? No, in fact they could be faster!

Let us take an example. Suppose you wish to hit an opponent with a right palm strike at a left Bow-Arrow Stance. First you sink back your stance on your back right leg, place your right palm near your right knee, rotate your waist and bring your right palm in a big arc slightly above your head then forward to strike your opponent as your rotate forward to your left Bow-Arrow Stance, the way we practiced Green Dragon Shoot Pearls.

But before you could make half the movement, your opponent would have driven a fist or thrust a kick at you. You would have a better chance of hitting him before he hits you, if you thrust your palm, from your right breast with fingers pointing upward in a straight line at your opponent. Such a palm strike would give you speed, but not much force.

You would have similar speed but a lot more spiral force if you start with your fingers pointing downward at breast level and thrust out your palm turning it on the way so that your fingers point upward as you hit your opponent.

You would increase the speed by at least four times if instead of striking him across .a space of about two or three feet, you strike him from about six inches away as follows. Your right arm is in contact with his right arm, with your right palm facing inward towards you and your fingers pointing upward. Rotate your right wrist, turning your fingers from pointing upward to slightly pointing downward, then upward again as you turn your palm now facing your opponent to strike him with internal spiral force from close quarters, while your left hand acts as an effective guard.

Your strike is effective only if you have internal force. Practicing Green Dragon Shoots Pearl in big circles is a good way to develop internal force as well as to lay the foundation to explode internal force at close quarters. As you perform the big, circulr movement, follow the principle of starting from the back leg, rotating the waist, and ending at the hand. As you generate energy flow, follow the principle of flowing through five gates, namely from the dan tian, to the shoulder, to the elbow, to the wrist and exploding at an opponent.

Only when your whole body is charged with internal force, can you effectively explode force from your wrist at close quarters. When you explode force from your wrist, your force does not come just from your wrist, it flows all the way from your dan tian. In the same way, when you turn on your tap, water does not flow just from the tap, but all the way from a reservoir. But unlike a reservoir which has to wait for rain to be refilled, the force you explode out is immediately replenished from the Cosmos.

Green Dragon Shoots Pearl

Green Dragon Shoots Pearl

Question 3

The exercise "Night Guard Tests Sea" is quite complicated. How do I make sure that I perform the exercise correctly?

— Dr Lucas, Italy

Answer

This question goes deeper than what it looks on the surface.

To many people, performing a chi kung exercise correctly means performing the technique correctly. They neglect the skills and the results.

This is actually the problem of more than 80% of people practicing chi kung today. They perform chi kung techniques correctly but do not get good results because they lack the required skills. And they are unaware of the problem. Hence, they may have practiced chi kung for years, yet remain sick and weak! Actually what they have been practicing is gentle physical exercise using chi kung forms.

With this understanding, to us performing a chi kung exercise correctly is not just performing the technique correctly. We must perform it with the appropriate skills and get the desired results.

Firstly, students should ensure that their teacher is competent, that he teaches genuine chi kung and not just gentle physical exercise using chi kung forms. Not many people today really understand this statement though they understand all the works used. They do not understand the difference between genuine chi kung and gentle physical exercise.

Chi kung works on chi or energy, whereas gentle physical exercise works only on the physical body. The outward forms of chi kung exercises and physical exercises may be the same. The difference is in energy flow. Chi kung generates energy flow, whereas physical exercise does not. Thus, in chi kung you have more energy at the end of the exercise than before, whereas in physical exercise you have less energy.

Having found a competent teacher, which is not easy as many chi kung instructors today teach gentle physical exercise, the students follow the teacher's instructions and practice the exercise according to the teacher's instructions. This is only logical, but many students do not do this. They practice the exercise according to what they think the exercise should be performed. Sometimes they do not listen to the teacher's instructions.

For example, even when they are performing the exercise with the teacher in front of them, when the teachers says, "Stand upright and be relaxed", instead of standing upright and being relaxed, they are thinking, "When do I breath in and when do I breath out?" or "That idiot in front of me is blocking my view".

Having practiced the exercise for some time following the teacher's instructions, the students should access whether they get the results the exercise is meant to give. If they get good results, it shows they have practiced the exercise correctly, even they may sometimes make mistakes with the forms. If they do not get the results the exercise is purported to give, it shows they have not practiced the exercise correctly, even when their forms are perfect.

The answer above is meant for students in general. For you and students in Shaolin Wahnam, things are quite different.

To get the best benefits from Night Guard Tests Sea or any exercises learnt in our school, just follow the three golden rules of practice

  1. Don't worry
  2. Don't intellectualize
  3. Enjoy your practice

This may not be the answer you were looking for, it may not actually answer your question directly, but from my experience as a grandmaster who has helped literally thousands of people benefited from our chi kung, it is the practical answer that will give you the most benefits.

Yet, to answer your question more directly though it may not give you as much benefit as following the three golden rules mentioned above, you can make sure you perform Night Guard Tests Sea correct by doing the following.

Be relaxed and do not think of anything when performing the exercise. Try to perform the form as best as you comfortably can but do not worry even if you make mistakes. Check the videos and pictures on my website for the form.

Ensure you have good balance before you lift up a leg and spread your arms. Gradually you will find that you will still have good balance even when you lift up any of your legs spontaneously. Enjoy a chi flow after repeating the forms a suitable number of time.

Question 4

Do we regulate our breaths in Cosmic Breathing?

— Jose, Spain

Answer

A short answer is "No".

A long answer is as follows.

Cosmic Breathing is a skill. This skill can be operated by different techniques. The technique we usually use is Dan Tian Breathing. In this technique, basically we press and release our dan tian, or abdominal energy field. We need not regulate our breaths when performing this technique.

By using this Dan Tian Breathing technique successfully we can acquire the skill of pulsating with the Cosmos, which we call Cosmic Breathing. This can bring us benefits like mental clarity, internal force, and spiritual joys.

For those still not familiar with the terms "techniques", "sills" and "benefits", another example may be helpful. Lifting the Sky is a technique. By using this technique successfully, we can acquire the skill of generating energy flow. This can bring us benefits like good health, vitality and longevity.

Having a clear concept of techniques, skills and benefits is very useful. It enables us to get a lot of benefits in a relatively short time.

More than 80% of chi kung practitioners all over the world get little or no benefits from their art despite practicing for many years because they do not have a clear understanding of this concept. They wrongly think that by practicing chi kung techniques for some time they will get the benefits chi kung is meant to give.

Many of them do not even realize, or stubbornly refuse to accept the fact, that they are getting no benefits despite having practiced for a long time. Their techniques are correct. In fact many of them perform the techniques beautifully. But they do not enjoy good health, vitality, mental clarity or spiritual joys. Many of them remain sick and stressful. They do not realize that they lack the necessary skills. Without the necessary skills, they perform the techniques as gentle physical exercise, and not as genuine chi kung or art of energy cultivation.

No let us come back to the question. Besides using the technique of Dan Tian Breathing to attain the skill of Cosmic Breathing, we can also use the technique of Abdominal Breathing.

To make the answer more interesting, or confusing for the uninitiated, the technique of Abdominal Breathing can also lead to the skill of Abdominal Breathing. In other words, the term Abdominal Breathing here can refer to the technique or the skill.

In the technique of Abdominal Breathing, we also press and release our abdominal energy field, like in the technique of Dan Tian Breathing, but unlike it, in the technique of Abdominal Breathing we regulate our breaths. We breathe out as we press our dan tian, and we breathe in as we release our dan tian. If we perform this correctly, we generate an energy flow from the Cosmos through our nose into our dan tian as we breath in, and from our dan tian out into the Cosmos through our month as we breathe out. We call this skill Abdominal Breathing.

If we practice the technique of Abdominal Breathing long enough, usually after many years, the skill of Abdominal Breathing may spontaneously develop into the skill of Cosmic Breathing, often without the practitioner being aware of the development. In other words, after sufficient training, as the practitioner presses his dan tian and breathes out, energy from his body flows into the Cosmos directly instead of through his mouth, and as he releases his dan tian and breathes in, energy from the Cosmos flows into his body directly instead of through his nose.

In fact, this was how my Abdominal Breathing developed into Cosmic Breathing after many years. With my understanding of the background philosophy, and my spread and depth in the internal arts, I am able now to teach our students Cosmic Breathing in just four hours! It is unbelievable, indeed ridiculous, but true.

You may be interested to know why we call the skill Cosmic Breathing, or the technique Dan Tian Breathing, when no breathing is involved. Indeed, during Cosmic Breathing many practitioners often find that they are not breathing! Energy just flows in and out between their dan tian and the Cosmos.

If breathing is used in the modern Western sense, meaning in flow of air through the nose and out flow of air through the mouth, then there is no breathing. But breathing in Dan Tian Breathing and Cosmic Breathing is used in the classical Chinese sense, meaning the in flow and out flow of energy between the practitioner and the Cosmos.

cosmic breathing

Cosmic Breathing

Question 5

What is the difference between strategy and tactics?

— Andrew, USA

Answer

Strategy is the overall plan of action to achieve specific objectives or general aims. Tactics are the more specific mode of operation to realize the strategy.

For example, you meet a Boxer who is very fast in his jabs and crosses. A good strategy is to avoid his fast jabs and crosses, and attack him in a way he is not used to defend against.

With this strategy in mind, you set to work out some possible tactics.

If you, for example, try to ward of his attacks, then counter strike him, you are not following your strategy. Worse, if you try to bounce about like him and match his speed, you are feeding yourself into his game. Interestingly, many martial artists do exactly this. It is because they have no concept of strategies.

Let us look at the strategy again. There are two parts:

  1. To avoid his fast jabs and crosses.
  2. To attack him in such a way he is not used to defend against.

Warding off his attacks, counter striking him, matching his speed or bouncing like him do not fulfill any requirements of the two parts.

How do you avoid his fast jabs and crosses? You can move yourself out of his reach, either by moving your feet or just moving your body.

How do you attack him in a way he is not used to defend against? You may kick him, fell him onto the ground, use chin-na techniques on him or strike his arms as he attacks.

So by combining any of the first requirements with any of the second requirements, you can have some suitable tactics. For example you may lean your body backward as he jabs and crosses, and simultaneously executes a side kick. This is one tactic. Or you may shift back one leg slightly as he attacks, and simultaneously strike his attacking arm with your chopping fist. This is another tactic.

You need not apply your tactic each time he attacks. You may tempt him by just moving back, or confuse him with some feint moves, all the time keeping yourself safely away from his fast jabs and crosses or other attacks. When he least expects it you kick him or strike his attacking arm. This one strike must be decisive, followed by other strikes if needed, when he is taken back by your surprised counter.

Or if you like, you may frustrate him every time he throws jabs and crosses by kicking him or striking his attacking arms. This will be variation on your main strategy.

Question 6

Are they just like aims and objectives, except they are based in combat/conflict?

Answer

Although they are related, strategies and tactics are different from aims and objectives.

Strategies and tactics are employed to achieve aims and objectives. They can be used in combat or non-combat situations.

In the examples above, the aim is to defeat a Boxer convincingly. The objective is to kick him or strike his attacking arm when he has little or no chance to defend himself.

You can use strategies and tactics in non-combat situations. Let us say you want to court a girl and eventually to marry her. First of all you must ensure she is available, i.e. she is not already married, is engaged, or already has a boyfriend.

If you do not know her though you have her in mind, your strategy is how to know her, and then you carry on from there. If you already know her, your strategy is how to court her.

Here are some strategies. Continuous send her e-mails until she agrees to be friend with you. Or knock on her office or home and introduce yourself.

Normally, these are not good strategies. They will probably scare her away than enable you to know her.

Better choices are to find out if she joins any club and you be a member of that club, the places she frequents after work and you make yourself present in those places, or get someone who knows her well to introduce her to you.

Having chosen your strategy, you work out what you would do and say to her. This constitutes your tactic.

Suppose you find her frequent a particular fashion shop. When you meet her there, you won't ask, "Will you marry me?" -- at least not yet. Neither would you just look at her. Not only you have to say something, you have to continue saying something that is meaningful and interesting to her.

A good start could be "This dress is beautiful. do you like it?" This will lead to three possibilities -- she answers you, she keeps quiet, or she walks away. Just as in sparring, you have to be prepared for all the possibilities and respond accordingly.

Suppose the worst scenario happens. She walks away. Don't just stare after her. Walk along her and pleasantly say, "I'm sorry. I don't mean to annoy you." This may prompt her to reply. But if she ignores you and briskly walk away, let her go. Just in sparring, wait for another opportunity.

If you use strategies and tactics, you chance of success in marrying a wife, or in any worthwhile endeavour, is much enhanced. In sparring you may try out strategies and tactics just for fun. But not in marriage, it is a serious matter, although there is also a lot of fun. Once she marries you, you must make sure you will be a very good husband to her for life.

internal force

Internal force is not limited by size and gender

Question 7

You told me in earnest that compared to the other students in the course, I didn't have much force. I believe it was in hopes to inspire me. It did. I found first hand how much force I was lacking. Though fairly healthy, when recently faced with a contagious cold virus, I was quite sick.

I resolved to build my force up to a satisfactory levels for good combat, mental clarity and sharpness and robust health and vitality. I recently focused on Horse Stance and One Finger Shooting Zen (both Wuji Stance and proper Horse-Riding Stance) exclusively for one and a half month. I will do my best to continue this before taking up my kung fu practice again.

Answer

You are right. Compared with other participants at the course even when they are much smaller sized, they have more internal force than you. But compared with other people, you are a Handsome Bear, which means you are not only handsome but also huge, solid and strong.

Yet, despite your size and weight, not only you had no advantage over your course mates, you were sick with a virus attack, which showed you had physical strength but not internal force.

Horse-Riding Stance and One-Finger Shooting Zen followed by chi flow are some of the best methods to develop internal force. After one and a half month you should continue your internal force training together with your other kungfu practice. By the time you meet me again, you should have increased your internal force considerably.

Question 8

I do not remember much about how you taught us Lifting the Sky. I practice it before stance training. Please remind me of the main points so that I may know that I am practicing it properly.

Answer

The most important points are to be relaxed and not to think of anything while practicing. Gentle breathing is second in importance.

Physical forms like having your arms straight, your shoulders not raised, and pushing up as best as you gently can, are next in importance.

Nevertheless, practice it as best as you comfortably can, and enjoy your practice.

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