SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
MARCH 2013 PART 1
I feel very blessed to have been a participant of the 2006 Intensive Weapon Course. I believe it was a milestone in Kung Fu history to have the participants attain the essence of 7 weapon sets in just 5 days!
— Sifu Lee Wei Joo, Malaysia
It is classified as a special course, i.e. a Special Weapon Course, which is even of a higher level than an intensive course, like an Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course. Only those who have attended an intensive course, or those who have attained a similar level, are invited to a special course.
As some instructors have rightly mentioned, our students are so pampered that sometimes they may not realize the opportunities that they are given. Even in an intensive course, students learn in five days, or in three days in the case of an Intensive Chi Kung Course, what most others may not learn in three years or thirty years.
Understandably, those who have not been exposed to the benefits we get in our school may accuse us of boasting or being arrogant. By now we are already used to that type of uninformed criticism, and as I have often mentioned that is their business. We are not going to waste our time arguing with them.
Yet, it would be succinct to mention our justification, more for our students' benefit than for argument with skeptics. Our students in an Intensive Chi Kung Course learn to generate energy flow in just three days, and our students in an Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Coruse and an Intensive Taijiquan Course learn to develop internal force and apply Shaolin and Taijiquan techniques in combat in just five days.
How many chi kung, Shaolin and Taijiquan practitioners today can do these in three years, or thirty years? And here we are talking about basic benefits. We are not talking about benefits like applying our skills to enrich daily life or expanding our spirit into the Cosmos.
In the Special Weapon Course, participants learned seven famous weapon sets in just five days. Students in most other schools would normally take about five months to learn a weapon set. To learn a famous weapon set, like the ones we did in the Special Weapon Course, is a privilege reserved only to students who have been with a master for many years.
As you have implied, learning the sets served only as a base. More important was to learn their essence, like their principles and combat application, and transferring these to enrich our kungfu performance as well as our daily life.
I would take this opportunity to mention an important point. I have always said that our students learn in a few days what most other students may not learn in many years. I have never said that our students are better in a few days learning from us than most students learning many years elsewhere.
Whether our students are better is another issue. In some situations our students are better, in other situations our students are not. For example, in knowing what kungfu techniques to counter various attacks, our students are generally better. But this does not necessarily mean that they can beat other kungfu students who use kick-boxing in fighting.
But it is a fact that our students learn in a few days what other students may not learn in many years. And what our students learn is the essence of the art, like internal force and combat application in Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan, and generating energy flow in chi kung.
Students need to practice what they have learnt in the courses. If they do not practice, what they learn is just some novelty.
Sifu, I know that the weapon training can help us in our everyday life. For example, the Green Dragon Crescent Moon Knife trains our courage, while the Shaolin Traveling Dragon Sword enhances our shen, mental clarity and agility.
Thank you for highlighting why we train classical weapons in modern time, or train Shaolin Kungfu or Taijiquan for that matter. How often do we use a Green Dragon Crescent Moon Knife or a Traveling Dragon Sword to fight? Practically never. Then why do we spend time practicing them? It is because of the benefits you have mentioned, like developing courage, presence of mind, mental clarity and agility.
Not many people realize this, or if they realize it they do not have the benefits because usually they only learn their forms. Worse, they even derive harmful side-effects.
Sifu, we learned the following sets during the Intensive Weapons Course:
Ho Family Flowing Water Staff
Shaolin Plum Flower Single Knife
Shaolin Traveling Dragon Sword
Traveling Dragon Thirteen Technique Spear
Green Dragon Crescent Moon Knife
Taming Tiger Big Trident
Traveling Dragon Crescent Moon Spear
Since then, Sifu has taught a variety of other weapon sets, such as the Human Character Butterfly Knives
What are the characteristics and essence of each of the weapon sets? How will the training of each enhance our daily life, work and play?
Here is a brief description for each weapon.
The Ho Family Flowing Water Staff is one of the four most famous staffs in kungfu but is little seen because it is kept as a secret. Indeed, my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, was the one who first taught it to non-Ho family members.
The staff is considered the mother of weapons because all the characteristic techniques of commonly used weapons are found in the staff. It is also a compassionate weapon as possessing no cutting edges it does not cause devastating damage though it can still be very damaging if the exponent wants to.
The techniques of the Ho Family Flowing Water Staff look simple, but are actually very profound. Its main technique is the thrust, reminiscent of the spear from which it originated. It will seem unbelievable, but this technique, used in a pattern like "Yellow Dragon Emerges from Cave" can be used to counter any attack!
An invaluable benefit which can be used to enrich our daily life is its profundity in simplicity. Once we have understood the philosophy behind the profound applications of its simple technique, we can transfer the same principles in many situations in daily life. For example, if a rude person makes a sarcastic remark on you, you can turn the sarcasm on him by a subtle swift of angling.
The single knife or saber is a common weapon used by ordinary soldiers and guards. It is devastating and appearing very threatening to unskillful opponents.
The Shaolin Plum Flower Single Knife is a famous weapon set. It consists of many sophisticated techniques, which are also beautiful in demonstration. It is an interesting contrast to the Ho Family Flowing Water Staff -- one is elaborated but relatively straight-forward and the other is simple but profound.
The main characteristic techniques of the saber are cutting and slashing. An exponent pressing in with systematic cutting and slashing can be very formidable to many people. But if you understand their strength and weakness, it is not difficult to counter these threatening attacks.
This is a good lesson for daily life. Situation that appears formidable and threatening can be overcome and turn to your advantage if you have the knowledge and skills. For example, today many people feel threatened with losing their livelihood, but if you are knowlegable and skilful you can turn the situations to your advantage.
While the saber is the common weapon of ordinary fighters, the sword is the weapon of masters. Unless one is skilful, the sword wonld not be useful. But in the hands of a master it is an amazing weapon.
The Shaolin Traveling Dragon Sword is as beautiful to watch as it is effective in combat. Its characteristic techniques are the thrust, the sweep and the flick. It needs much presence of mind and agility to use a sword skillfully.
A sword is dainty, which is both its strength and weakness, depending on one's skill or the lack of it. How would you, for example, use a dainty sword to counter a long weapon like a spear or a heavy weapon like a Battle Axe attacking you?
This knowledge and skills can be transferred to enrich our daily life. Suppose someone with far-reaching influence or is a heavy-weight in society is attacking you. With the knowledge and skills learnt form the Shaolin Traveling Dragon Sword, you can counter him elegantly.
While the staff is the mother, the spear is considered the king of weapons. This is because, if all other things were equal, a spear thrust is the most difficult technique to counter.
The characteristic technique of the spear obviously is the thrust. A spear thrust is quite sophisticated, it can go round a weapon that attempts to thwart it. It can also be withdrawn easily, and then shoots out like a bullet.
Focus and precision are two required skills for a successful spear thrust. Transferred to non-combat situation, these skills can certainly enrich our daily life. Many people are unsuccessful in business or profession because they lack focus. Many people miss opportunites because they lack precision. Practicing the Traveling Dragon Thirteen Technique Spear can help them overcome these weaknesses.
Guan Yu, a great warrior of the Three-Kingdom Period, was famous for the use of a weapon called the Big Knife. His Big Knife was embossed with a green dragon and crescent moon. This type of Big Knife is now named after him, called Guan's Knife, or Guan Dao, and the weapon set and sometimes the Big Knife itself is called Green Dragon Crescent Moon Knife.
It requires good stances and courage to perform the Green Dragon Crescent Moon Knife well. Its characteristic techniques are chopping and sweeping which are used to bulldoze into an opponent's defence. The bulldozing, however, is not blatant, but is skillfully carried out with adequate coverage for own safety. It is not easy for an opponent to meet such attack.
These qualities are rewardingly transferred into our daily life. When we have good stances and courage as well as adequate coverage for our own safety, we can push through our plans and projects.
The Big Trident is one of the weapons forming our logo, the other being the Soft Whip. The weapon set we practice is called Taming Tiger Big Trident. Some people consider the Big Trident, with its massive weight, a clumsy weapon, but in the hands of a master its techniques can be very sophisticated and elegant.
The massive weight of the Big Trident is used to "tame" or control an opponent, and the three prongs of the Trident is effective in trapping an opponent's weapon. So, if you want to profitably throw your weight around or to control your adversaries, you can learn some tricks from the Taming Tiger Big Trident.
The Crescent Moon Spear is sometimes called the Lu Pu spear, named after the great warrior, also in the Three-Kingdom Period, who was never defeated in combat. It is a special spear with a crescent moon blade. The weapon set we practice in our school is called Traveling Dragon Crescent Moon Spear because the techniques of the spear resemble the movements of a traveling dragon.
The Traveling Dragon Crescent Moon Spear is a versatile weapon, incorporating the techniques of many weapons like the spear, the battle-axe, the hook, the dagger and the staff. Its characteristic techniques are thrusting, like an orthodox spear, and hooking, using the crescent-moon blade. "Bailing", i.e. sweeping upward from below, is also a formidable technique. A crescent-moon spear exponent is generally skilful and elegant.
The qualities derived from training the Traveling Dragon Crescent Moon Spear are very useful for scholar-warriors in business and profession, like managing directors and chief executive officers. They need to be fluent in many skills and strategies, and employ them in effective combination.
Butterfly Knives, also called Southern Knives, are double short weapon. The weapon set we practice in our school is called Human Character Southern Knives.
I remember Anthony Korahais telling me during a weapon course at the UK Summer Camp that course participants were at first at a loss of what to do when facing opponents with long or heavy weapons like spears and Big Knives. But after just half an hour understanding the philosophy and learning the skills and techniques, Anthony told me that he really pitied his opponent because capturing his weapon with the Southern Knives was a certainty.
Special features of the Southern Knives are short against long, and light against heavy. Their characteristic techniques are capturing and slicing.
Those who have practiced the Southern Knives can apply these qualities in our daily life. Even when you are overwhelmed against great odds, you may use the principles and techniques learnt in the Human-Character Southern Knives to capture and slice your opponents, which means control their initiative and take over their advantages. You must, of course, do so with noble intentions.
How did Sifu come to learn these weapons? I believe it would be very beneficial for us in Shaolin Wahnam to understand the history and story behind these sets.
I learned the Ho Family Flowing Water Staff from my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam. Before this time, the staff set was taught only in the Ho Family. I was one of the very few privileged outside the Ho Family to learn this secret set.
The Shaolin Plum Flower Single Knife Set and the Shaolin Traveling Dragon Sword Set were composed by me based on some classics on the single knife and the sword.
A sisook taught me a set of double knives, but I liked a single knife set and a sword set. So I read up whatever books I could get on these weapons. I based my single knife set on two classics, namely Shaolin Plum Flower Single Knife and Praying Mantis Plum Flower Single Knife.
I based the composition of my sword set on three classics, namely Shaolin Bodhidharma Sword, Shaolin Traveling Dragon Sword, and Wudang Sword. I loved the sword set very much, and spent a lot of time practicing it.
I learned two spear sets, Cross-Road Throat-Locking Spear from Uncle Righteousness, and Thirteen-Technique Spear from my sisook who was nicknamed Marvelous Pooi. I combined these two spear sets into one, calling it Traveling Dragon Thirteen Technique Spear.
Marvelous Pooi was a kungfu lover, and he had a number of famous as well as rare sets. He also taught me the soft whip and the copper legume hammer. He lived in the village of Ayer Itam in Penang. Although Penang was my home town, I was then teaching as a school teacher in another town, Alor Star. Every Friday night I would travel back to Penang to learn the weapon sets from my sisook.
I learned the Green Dragon Crescent Moon Knife from a siheng in Uncle Righteousness' lineage. But he did not learn this set from Uncle Righteousness, he learned it from a Hoong Ka Kungfu master. Uncle Righteousness had a different Big Knife set, called Bar-Gate Big Knife.
I read about this famous Green Dragon Crescent Moon Knife Set in some kungfu magazines in Chinese, and was fascinated by it. I remembered watching an impressive public demonstration of this set by my siheng, so I entreated him to teach me and he kindly did.
I was pleasantly surprised because it was the custom to teach such a prestigious set only to one's selected disciples. A main reason, I believe, why my siheng broke tradition and taught me this famous set was because he knew I was not only a good student but also a favorite disciple of Uncle Righteousness whom he greatly respected.
At that time Uncle Righteousness had left this world for heaven, and I had learnt from two other masters, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam and Sifu Chee Kim Thong. To learn the Green Dragon Crescent Moon Knife Set my siheng and I returned to the training hall at Soon Tuck Wooi Koon in Penang where 20 years ago both of us learned from Uncle Righteousness.
In Uncle Righteousness' lineage, there was an outstanding sparring set involving a Big Trident and a Cane Shield with a Southern Knife. I did not learn this sparring set but had seen it being practiced, and therefore was quite familiar with the techniques of the weapons involved. I selected techniques of the Big Trident from this sparring set as well as from other sources and composed the Taming Tiger Big Trident Set.
I was fascinated by the Traveling Dragon Crescent Moon Spear after reading a serious of kungfu magazines depicting this weapon performed by a Praying Mantis Kungfu master. I researched into this weapon from various sources and composed my own Traveling Dragon Crescent Moon Spear Set.
I learned two sets of Butterfly Knives, or Southern Knives, namely Cross-Road Double Southern Knives from Uncle Righteousness, and Human-Character Double Southern Knives from my Wing Choon teacher, Sifu Choe Hoong Choy. I combined these two sets into one.
Two other weapon sets I am very proud of are Fifth Brother Octagonal Staff or Ng Long Pat Kua Khuen in Chinese, and Six-and-Half-Point Staff or Luk Tim Poon Khuen.
I learned the Hoong Ka Fifth Brother Octagonal Staff from my childhood friend, Sifu Chow Kok Chee, by exchanging some kungfu sets with him. Sifu Chow Kok Chee said he had not learnt this famous set before, but he knew his godfather, Sifu Soong Siew Por, had learnt it. Sifu Soong Siew Por was a disciple of the celebrated Wong Fei Hoong, and he migrated to Malaysia in his later years. So Sifu Chow learned this famous staff set from his godfather, then immediately taught it to me.
I learned the Six-and-Half-Point Staff from my Wing Choon teacher, Sifu Choe Hoong Choy. It was the fulfillment of a wish made years ago while I was having a chit chat with my first kungfu teacher, Uncle Righteousness, at his favorite bamboo grove of his house. Uncle Righteousness was famous for his staff, but he said he didn't have a chance to learn the Wing Choon Six-and-Half Point Staff. He asked me to learn it if I had the opportunity.
I had the opportunity when I learned Wing Choon Kungfu from Sifu Choe Hoong Choy. He was very kind to me and asked me to choose whatever sets I would want to learn from him -- a privilege rarely given to anyone. Of course I chose the best, namely Siu Lin Tou, Flower Set and Six-and-Half-Point Staff. Having the chance to learn the secrets of any one of these prestigious sets was rare enough, having the chance to learn the secrets of all the three at the same time was just incredible.
I still remember Sifu Choe Hoong Choy told me why the seventh signature technique was called half a technique or point. He said this was taught and explained only to a selected disciple when the master wanted to pass the lineage holder to him.
I always love to read about Sifu's stories!
Here are some stories about the Ho Family Flowing Water Staff.
I loved this set very much. When I left Kuala Trengganu (where my sifu lived) and stayed in Alor Star on the other side of the Malaysian peninsula, I practiced it every night. I did not think much of my practice until one night my wife, seeing my nightly training, commented that I performed the set very well.
I had a few occasions to use the the Ho Family Flowing Water Staff in weapon free sparring with some masters. They were surprised by my tricky counters.
Once an Eagle Claw Kungfu master was talking about the staff as the king of weapon. He said that the middle level spear thrust was the most difficult to counter, and asked me how I would counter it.
I told him that I could use any one of the many techniques in the Ho Family Flowing Water Staff (which was true). He was greatly puzzled. It then struck me what a huge diference in kungfu combat theory between his understanding and mine.
I then asked him how he would counter the middle level spear thrust. He said that he would flick it away and then counter thrust. To us in Sifu Ho Fatt Nam's school, this would be considered a third-class response.
Indeed, this was the response another master used when I attacked him with a middle level spear thrust using the pattern "Yellow Dragon Emerges Cave". This was the standard response, and was recommended in the Shaolin staff classic, Siu Yia Cha, or Little Night Guard, written by the famous Ming Dynasty general, Ye Dai You.
I knew this quite well. So I sneaked around his staff and thrust at his solar plexus, stopping a few inches away. He was stunned.
On another occasion I almost used the Ho Family Flowing Water Staff to spar with a world known master with half a dozen black belts in his credit.. He was speaking despairingly about Shaolin Kungfu. He was actually speaking about grossly debased Shaolin Kungfu, and was right in his comments.
When I told him that genuine Shaolin Kungfu was different, he asked me whether I wanted to spar with him. I replied as a matter-of-factly that I would like to. He went upstairs for about 10 minutes, and returned in full warrior gear carrying a real Samurai sword in his hand in a ritual manner.
I suppose he wanted to scare me off. But I was so relaxed and said that as he wanted to have free sparring with weapons I asked whether I would borrow one of his bo, or staffs, which were displayed in his martial art school. He was surprised, and backed off, saying that I was very brave but had the advantage of age. I was 30 plus then, and he was about 50.
I still remember that it struck me he didn't understand kungfu philosophy. If it were a brawl, a young man would have an advantage over someone at 50. But in kungfu anyone below 45 would be considered not seasoned in his art, and does not have sufficient time to master his internal force.
In weapon sparring, age would be an advantage. With weapons, brute strength is not necessary, and age adds experience and cunningness in the use of the weapon. I recalled the kungfu saying, "khun par siew chong, khuen par lou long", which means that in unarmed sparring a young man with strength has an advantage over an older person, but in weapon sparring the advantage goes to an older person with experience.
Sifu, for those of us who are already instructors or advanced students, how will weapons training further enhance our kung fu and chi kung?
Some techniques, skills and philosophy are peculiar to certain weapons. By training these weapons our instructors and advanced students benefit from them which enhance their kungfu and chi kung.
The Chinese sword, for example, is very special. It is light and can be easily broken into pieces by other weapons that clash into it. Hence, a swordsman will not clash his dainty sword with another weapon. As it is light, it can be used for many sophisticated techniques that heavier weapons would be unsuitable.
Training the Traveling Dragon Sword will provide our instructors and advanced students these techniques, skills and philosophy which can enhance their kungfu and chi kung. For example, in kungfu they will be able to avoid powerful attacks and defeat their opponents with delicate techniques. These abilities enable them to better perform chi kung exercises that require agility and flexibility.
Some features are emphasized in certain weapon sets, for example courage and integrity in Green Dragon Crescent Moon Knife. Training this weapon sets increase courage and integrity in our instructors and advanced students in their kungfu and chi kung training.
The principle of safety first, the superiority of skills over techniques, and applying our strength against opponents' weakness are also trained in unarmed combat, but it is in weapons that these qualities become immediately important. For example, if you are careless in your defence, you may be punched or kicked, but if you make similar mistakes in weapon sparring your life may be at stake.
You may not be skilful, but if you have many techniques and are forceful, you may still win. But in weapon sparring, the deadliness of weapons often overshadows the superiority of techniques and force. In other words, if you are holding a pointed weapon, you may not have a lot of techniques or a lot of force, but if you are skilful in just a simple thrust, you may kill an opponent.
Applying our strength against an opponent is useful in unarmed combat, but when weapons are used, understanding and applying this principle becomes crucial. For example, if you are small-sized and are being attacked by someone powerful with long reach, understanding and applying the relative strength and weakness between you and your opponent is useful.
But if you are holding a pair of short Southern Knives facing an opponent with a heavy and massive battle axe, understanding and applying the relative strength and weakness between the two weapons is not just useful but has become crucial if you want to come out alive.
These benefits as a result of weapon training will enhance all aspects of kungfu as well as chi kung. In chi kung training, safety first reminds our instructors and advanced students not to make serious mistakes while training or to over-train. Realizing that skills are more important than techniques enable them to be cost-effective in their chi kung training. Understanding and applying strength and weakness enables our instructors and advanced students to choose suitable exercises wisely in their chi kung practice.
My wife has been diagnosed with endometriosis and has a cyst on one of her ovaries. We are told that there is no cure for this and that it can only be "managed", starting with an operation to remove the cyst, which carries the risk of damaging the ovaries and the possibility of affecting future pregnancies.
I have practiced Chi Kung and Yang style Tai Chi for several years and have a great interest in the subject, and I have read some of your material, particularly "The Art of Chi Kung" and have found the exercises such as "Lifting the sky" very effective for my own practice, and have noticed that on the occasions where I have my wife try these exercises she has very strong result during induced chi flow.
Doing some research online, I found that one of your students also suffered from endometriosis and that following your prescribed chi kung exercises, she is now completely free from the condition.
I would like to ask if the exercises you prescribed for this condition are those which can be practiced safely without the aid of a master? If so, I would be forever grateful if you would be willing to share these exercises so that my wife can be free from this condition.
— Rob, UK
Endometriosis can certainly be cured. A world known surgeon did an infornal test with me teaching his endometriosis patients and all of them were cured within a year.
But the important point is not the types of exercise but how you perform them. That is the main reasons why there are literally millions of people practicing chi kung and Taijiquan all over the world but the great majority of them have no chi kung benefits like overcoming pain and illness, and no Taijiquan benefits like internal force and combat application using Taijiquan patterns.
I would recommend that your wife attends my Intensive Chi Kung Course. Often there is an Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course following the chi kung course. Although you practice Taijiquan, you will benefit much from this Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course too. Please see my home page for details.
Before I learned from Sifu, I could accumulate chi at the dan tian. After learning from Sifu the chi at my dan tian not only became more but it flowed all over my body, making me feel very pleasant.
— Sifu Diana, Italy
Congratulations for the wonderful results.
There are two dimensions in all types of chi kung, namely circulating chi and building chi. In some types of chi kung, like self-manifested chi movement and dynamic patterns, the emphasis is on circulating chi. In other types of chi kung, like abdominal breathing and stance training, the emphasis is on building chi.
While we circulate chi, we also build chi. For example, in self-manifested chi movement, chi flows vigorously in various directions. As chi flows inside our body, chi from the Cosmos also flows in. Hence, at the end of the training, we have more chi than when we started.
When we build chi, chi also circulates. For example, in abdominal breathing while we increase the amount of chi at our dan tian, we also circulate the chi. The accumulated chi at the dan tian is not stagnant; it is being circulated all the time. In other words, the increase of chi at the dan tian is not the result of just adding more and more chi to the chi that remains there all the time. The increase is due to the increased volume of flow into as well as out of the dan tian. The chi that flowed into your dan tian some time ago, has now flowed out to somewhere else.
It is like your bank account. The increase of your bank account is not just your putting in money but not taking it out. The increase is due to the volume of money flowing in and out of your bank account. The money you first put in is now circulating somewhere else.
Relatively, circulating chi clears blockage that results in overcoming pain and illness and contributing to good health, whereas building chi increases vitality resulting in peak performance, as well as contributing to longevity. Both aspects are important, and complement each other. But generally one should circulate first, then build. Building without circulating, like adding energy when there is blockage, may bring serous harmful effects, a fact not many people realize.
- Traveling Dragon Sword
- Swimming Dragon Baguazhang Set
- The Aims and Benefits of Practicing Kungfu
- Thinking Nothing, Doing Nothing and Smiling from the Heart
- Zen Writings and Taoist Writings are Characteristically Different