SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 1997
This is the Second of the Question-Answer Series

Dragon Dance of Shaolin Wahnam

A dragon dance performance by Shaolin Wahnam. In Chinese culture, the dragon is a majestic, divine creature bringing peace and prosperity in a large scale

Question 1

I am interested in Buddhism and I hope to find some way of forging a more direct link between my spiritual path and my kungfu practice.

— Daniel, Canada

Answer

Buddhism is not a religion in the sense that most Westerners would conceptualized what a religion is. Buddhism actually means the teachings of the enlightened ones. The gist of Buddhism, in Sakyamuni Buddha's own words, is

At the highest level, when the mind is purified, one attains enlightenment, also called nirvana, bodhi, or Buddhahood. Attaining nirvana is the highest spiritual attainment. But the great majority are not ready for this highest attainment. For them, going to heaven may be more immediate and meaningful. Although many people may not realize it, the Buddhist teaching on going to heaven is practical and detailed.

The onus of spiritual cultivation is not merely knowledge but direct experience. This is not difficult; you merely manifest avoiding evil and doing good in your daily speech, deed and thought.

Good speech, deed and thought will contribute to good karma; and cultivating good karma is a sure way of spiritual growth. We are what we say, do and think; when our words, deeds and thoughts are noble, we are noble. This is a profound truth, but appears so simple that many people fail to appreciate it and look for complex but futile intellectualization instead.

Question 2

I have experienced some interesting effects from the chi kung exercises I have tried, but have been afraid to try some things, due to warnings of possible harm from their improper execution.

— Mark, USA

Answer

As a rough guide, when you have practised chi kung or any internal art correctly, you would feel fresh and energized. If you feel tired or uncomfortable, it is an indication that the practice is incorrect.

Question 3

You mention a style called "Dragon Strength qigong". Presumably this is a "hard" external style - it sounds like a nice complement to the Wahnam "soft" waidan exercises in your books and the Yi Jin Ching and Chen style Tai Chi that my own master is teaching me.

— Patrick, USA

Answer

The "Dragon Strength" that I practise, and my Shaolin Wahnam qigong are both hard and soft. The type of qigong we practise in Shaolin Wahnam School of Kungfu and Chi Kung is called Shaolin Cosmos Qigong. It is not waitan qigong.

An invaluable piece of advice I learned from my master, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, is that any good kungfu or qigong type should have both hard and soft, internal and external aspects. If it is only hard or soft, internal or external, it is not an advanced art. Shaolin Kungfu is often mistaken to be hard only, whereas Taijiquan is only soft. Indeed Shaolin Kungfu, such as the Cotton Palm, can be very soft; and Taijiquan, such as the elbow strike in Chen style, can be hard.

My Dragon Strength qigong is developed from the "Shaolin Dragon Strength Circulating Qi" kungfu set. At its advanced level, an exponent uses his mind to direct energy flow, and the energy flow in turn moves the body. In other words, when the exponent wishes to execute a palm strike, for example, he merely thinks of the palm strike and it will be executed swiftly and forcefully, without using muscles. His internal force is so fluid and powerful that it can be executed by any part of his body

Question 4

My son and my wife have experienced pain due to minor health problems and I tried to send them Chi and they both reported feeling "heat" and relief from pain almost immediately.

— Frederique, France

Answer

I am glad that you could help your wife and son to relieve pain. This is one of the benefits we can get from practising chi kung regularly. You should, however, try not to transmit too much chi to others till you yourself feel depleted of chi. How much is "too much" is subjective, but a good guideline is that if you feel tired after transmitting chi, then you have overdone it. In this case you should replenish yourself with chi.

Another important point to bear in mind is to take care that the negative energy of the patient does not backflow to your chi-transmitting hand. This can be done by withdrawing your hand fast after the transmission. You should also cleanse yourself of any negative chi which might have backflown into your hands and arms.

Both the cleansing and replenishing can be achieved by performing "Lifting the Sky". After you have performed this pattern a few times, visualize or imagine negative energy flowing out of your arms through your fingers as you lower your arms. After you have done this for a few times, think of good cosmic energy entering you and replenishing you as you raise your arms and breathe in. During the standing meditation after the exercise, feel that you are both cleansed and replenished.

Question 5

I continued my training in Tsoi Li Hoi Kung Fu, or Kung Fu San Soo as it is called here.. Are there any information, leads and advice you can give me in finding out more?

— Ron, USA

Answer

"Tsoi" stands for Choy Ka Kungfu, "Li" stands for Li Ka Kungfu, "Hoi", I think, should be "Hor", as indicated in the Chinese character you provided, and was the surname of a famous southern Shaolin master who had much influence over Fatt Ka Kungfu.

Choy refers to Choy Pak Tat, the first patriarch of Choy Ka Kungfu, which is famous for its kicking techniques. Two such deadly kicks are the "organ-seeking kick", which is a snap-kick to the opponent's external sex organ, and the "whirlwind kick", which uses the shin to strike the opponent's ribs.

Li refers to Li You San, the firat partiarch of Li Ka Kungfu, well known for the phoenix-eye punch. Li You San was a disciple of Pak Mei, a Taoist priest and one of the five grandmasters of Southern Shaolin.

The phoneix-eye punch, specially used to strike an opponent's vital points, is not commonly found in today's Choy-Li-Fatt Kungfu. It is possible that this phoneix-eye punch, whcih demands a very high level of kungfu skill, gradually evolved to the leopard punch, which is popular in Choy-Li-Fatt Kungfu and which is more suited to en mass fighting used by Choy-Li-Fatt patriots during the Boxers' Rebellion.

"San Soo" is probably a pronunciation variation of "san sau". San Sau literally means "Miscellaneous Hands", which is a figurative way of referring to specific techniques to meet particular combat situations.

The traditional approach to sparring in kungfu training was first learning a complete kungfu set, then applying patterns of the set for combat. Choy-Li-Fatt patriots in the midst of their revolutionary work, sought a short cut to kungfu sparring. They did away with long kungfu sets, and trained only individual techniques to meet combat situations. These individual techniques are called "san sau".

Traditional Shaolin Kungfu taught in our school is different from the modern wushu taught by modern Shaolin monks

Question 6

I have never been happy in any of these styles in which I have trained. Something always seems to be missing.

— Kelsey, USA

Answer

Your experiencing of something missing in your training is not uncommon among many students of external martial arts. This "something missing" is the internal dimension, which is often talked about but little understood.

The internal dimension is expressed in internal force for combat efficiency as well as health, and spirituality for personal development. Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan, as practised by masters of the past and not as "demonstrated" or "played" by many modern exponents, provide this internal dimension.

Question 7

I train with two very capable monks from the Songshan Shaolin Monastery in China. I have read your book on Shaolin kung-fu and have tried to implement some of the guidelines you have suggested; setting goals along with a time-table, trying to go beyond the fighting art to encompass the deeper meanings.

— Timorthy, USA

Answer

Congratulations for your opportunity to study with monks from the Songshan Shaolin Monastery. Such an opportunity is rare, so treasure it dearly. The wushu taught by modern Shaolin monks is quite different from the traditional Shaolin Kungfu described in my book.

So don't be surprised if you find what you have learnt may not tally with what I have described, or what your teachers emphasize may not be the same as what I have mentioned. Actually the term "wushu" means kungfu, but because of the different needs and policies of the present Chinese government, different aspects of the art are emphasized by teachers from China.

Question 8

I'm interested in your org. and want to know more about it.

— Lee, Korea

Answer

The Shaolin Wahnam School of Chi Kung and Kungfu, of which I am the Grandmaster, is named in honour after my two masters, Sifu Lai Chin Wah and Sifu Ho Fatt Nam.

We teach Shaolin Kungfu and Chi Kung, and at present my aim is to disseminate the fact that cancer and chronic, degenerative diseases like heart problems, diabetes, asthma and rheumatism can be cured.

Question 9

I also practice 5 Animal Frolics, but I see that you have another outlook on how they should be practiced. Am I wasting my time by doing them from the stationary posture and not from the induced Qi flow. How can other qigong masters be incorrect?

— Michael, country not mentioned

Answer

There are two major views regarding the Five Animal Flolics. The older view is that Hua Tuo invented this famous chi kung exercise after observing the movements and characteristics of the tiger, bear, deer, monkey and bird. Proponents of this view generally perform the exercise as dynamic patterns or "dao yin" in Chinese.

Another view, popularized after correlating with some recently discovered documents and archaeological finds, purports that the movements, mainly self-manifested, came first, and Hua Tuo classified the great variety of movements into five main groups symbolized by the movements of the five animals. Proponents of this view generally perform the exercise as self-manifested chi movement, or "zi fa dong gong" in Chinese.

Personally I favour the second view, and have found that practising the exercise as self-manifested chi movement more powerful and effective in overcoming illness. The choice is arbitrary; it is improper to say which approach is correct or wrong.

Question 10

I would like to ask if you can send me chi. I ask mainly out of the sole fact that I need it. I know from personal experience in my esoteric pursuits that the things you talk about in your book are real. I would like to ask for your help in my healing.

— Mike, Germany

Answer

What you need is not transmitted chi from me but acquiring chi youself from the cosmos by practicing appropriate chi kung exercises. A good suggestion is to perform a set of self-manifested chi movement exercise described in my book for about 15 minutes every day for three months.

Then, for the next three months, practice daily just "Lifting the Sky" for about 20 times, followed by Standing Meditation for about 5-10 minutes. In six months' time you will personally experience what I mean by saying that chi kung promotes good health.

Question 11

I have always been interested in martial arts and chi kung. I am currently suffering from several health problems caused by what I think was wrong chi kung practice. Since I was disturbed during a chi kung meditation I have always been nervous and afraid, and sometimes I experience uncontrollable movements.

— Azman, Malaysia

Answer

You are right in saying that your health problems were caused by wrong chi kung practice. The good news is that the problems can be overcome and you can continue with proper chi kung training which will bring wonderful benefits.

Your problems were the result of what is known in chi kung terminology as "shattering of mind leading to disorderly energy flow". The shattering was caused by loss of mental control due to mental disturbance, added by fear and anxiety. Some energy is trapped within pockets of blockages. Sometimes the trapped energy flows within the confines of the blocked pockets, causing uncontrollable physical movement.

The mind has not recovered completely from its initial shock, and therefore exists in states of fear and nervousness. The therapeutic approach is to attack the problems at their roots, and this consists of opening the blockages to release the trapped energy, as well as calming and focusing the mind. These can be done by you yourself practising appropriate remedial exercises, or by a master opening the blockages and calming the mind, or by the combined effort of both.

Lifting the Sky

"Lifting the Sky" is a wondrous exercise

Question 12

I pray that you would share your conviction on the Shaolin spiritual teachings with me, and if possible guide me.

— Otto, country not mentioned

Answer

First we need to be quite clear of what is meant by spiritual development. It concerns the development of the spirit, which is sometimes called the mind or the soul by different peoples, although other peoples may make a distinction among the three. Thus, accumulating religious knowledge may or may not be spiritual development.

In the Shaolin teaching, the aim of spiritual development may be classified into three main levels:

  1. Leading a morally upright life in this world.
  2. Enjoying eternal bliss in heaven in the next life.
  3. Realizing the ultimate truth, called variously by different peoples like enlightenment, unity with the great void, or return to God's kingdom.
For a person used to sinning, the mere act of thinking of God or of realizing there may be something more than his physical being, is a remarkable step towards spiritual development.

Most people consider going to heaven to enjoy eternal bliss as the apex olf spiritual cultivation. To them, given their set of conditions such as the way their collective consciousness has been programmed to operate, heaven is tangibly real.

To the highly developed, including the greatest teachers of all the world's major religions, heaven as well as hell and this world are an illusion, a creation of mind. The highest spiritual fulfillment is the direct experience of cosmic realization.

One should, however, embark on serious spiritual cultivation only when he or she is physically, emotionally and mentally ready. When one is frequently in pain, is often nervous or afraid, or is unclear of what his spiritual cultivation will lead to, his effort is unlikely to produce good result.

Question 13

Is there any exercise you can recommend to help combat allergies such as hay fever that tend to lead to sneezing and nasal congestion? I'm so tired of taking medications.

— Ivor, Italy

Answer

To overcome allergies, it is best to practise chi kung exercises that work on the body holistically rather than on some particular parts, because the body mechanism that fails to react effectively to allergies may occur far from the site of allergies. Self-manifested chi movement is a useful exercise for this purpose.

Nevertheless for allergies that affect the lung systems like hay fever, exercises like "Lifting the Sky" and "Separating Water" will be helpful. Actually hay fever can be overcome quite easily. I have helped many people to overcome this problem in Australia.

Question 14

Given my limited space and time, which system would be best? I would have about 1/2 hour once or twice a day to practice. I love your book and the way you write. I believe it all, and you show great enthusiasm for your work. You show that ANYONE can perfrom great feats and realize longevity by just practicing chi kung on a regular basis.

— Bill, USA

Answer

Thank you for your beautifully written e-mail, and the kind words you said about my book. There are a great variety of chi kung styles and exercises because they serve to meet different needs of different people in different situations.

Given your needs and situation, and your ability and high intellectual level as revealed in your e-mail (which is not reproduced here), I would suggest the following programme. How to perform the exercises is explained in my "The Art of Chi Kung" or "Chi Kung for Health and Vitality". Each training takes only about 15 to 20 minutes.

First Day (any day) of the week. Start with a few minutes of Deep Relaxation. Remember to smile from your heart. Then perform about 15 to 20 times either "Lifting the Sky" or "Carrying the Moon", paying attention to the internal energy flow and a heightened state of consciousness the exercise will generate, rather than to its physical movement. But do not overdo the exercise. Complete the practice session with Standing Meditation.

Second Day. Perform a set of Self-Manifested Chi Movement. You may choose any set. A good set is Lifting the Sky 15 times, Pushing Mountains 30 times, and Carrying the Moon 15 times. The important aspect of this exercise is the self-manifested chi flow induced by the physical movements, not the physical movements themselves.

Third Day. Repeat the procedure of the first day. You may choose a different (third) chi kung pattern if you know it enough, but it is equally good, often better, to stick to only two patterns.

Fourth Day. Repeat the procedure of the second day. You may choose a different set, but it is often better to use the same set.

Fifth Day. Repeat the procedure of the first day.

Sixth Day. Repeat the procedure of the second day.

Seventh Day. Practise any form of chi kung you wish.

Follow this programme for six months, and you will personally experience that "ANYONE can perform great feats and realize longevity by just practicing chi kung on a regular basis."

You will notice that the exercises I recommend are the exercises I teach (and practise). That is natural, not because they are the ones I teach and practise but because they are amongst the best in the whole world of chi kung. In other words, it is not that the exercises are the best because I teach and practise them; but that I teach and practise them because they are the best. If exercises X. Y, Z were better, I would have taught and practised X, Y, Z instead.

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