Review of Essence of Shaolin by Sifu Zhang Wuji

Essence of Shaolin

What would you do if your leg is caught?

John O Laoidh

Shaolin Wahnam Ireland

10th December 2017

As Sifu strode out of the room yesterday on the final evening of the final day of the first Essence of Shaolin course, the distant mountain on the mainland, sometimes floating in misty clouds (but visible throughout the days of the course) was suddenly obscured completely as heavens opened into a downpour and sheet-lightning for about an hour. Soon followed the Graduation Dinner, a sumptuous feast, a big resounding happy birthday to Leonard and finally the customary speeches.

Of course, thanking Sifu comes first and I thanked Sifu for sharing with us his almost 70 years of dedication and perfecting of the Shaolin Arts and for teaching us the precious Essence of Shaolin Set. There was so much I wanted to say. I started my speech intending to also thank Sigung Lai Chin Wah and Sigung Ho Fatt Nam and all the past masters but I have to work on my public-speaking skills because I lost my thread and finished my speech early. It is only right that they are remembered and those masters who passed down this set over hundreds and hundreds of years.

Uncle Righteousness, who passed on the Essence of Shaolin set to Sifu had been very much on my mind as Sifu mentioned on a few occasions during the course about how Uncle Righteousness trained him in always covering, making sure he was protected in the stances at all times and engrained this into his teaching. This was the martial lesson I took from the Essence of Shaolin course.

As Sifu said numerous times throughout the last 5 days, even if you don't win, you're protected. If we have faith in the forms and the safety-positioning built into them, at worst in a confrontation we might not win but we don't lose either. We escape with our lives sustaining minor injuries at worst. Wuji talked about it in his great posts above (post number 59 I think).

I have been a member of Shaolin Wahnam long enough now that I knew this in theory of course but it struck me more profoundly during this Essence of Shaolin course, watching the endless myriad of counter-attacks for any attack. At times the mind-boggled at the intricacy and sophistication of this most precious of high-level arts.

Actually, at times during the Essence of Shaolin course, the mind just boggled. Perhaps this is not a deep insight for others in our school but on my first Shaolin Kungfu course it really hit me. The main thing, as I took from it, was to be protected in every pattern. Sifu, standing on the stage again on the last day of the course stopped the training and drove home the point yet again -- that always-covering approach must be ingrained into us. This reeeeally got me thinking throughout the course.

Cage-fighting and UFC/MMA are big and getting bigger these days and despite by now an infamous Irish combat-sportsman has some success in that arena lately, people are often surprised when I answer their queries saying that in no way am I a fan of him/ the UFC nor am I in any way entertained by it. It used to be entertaining when I was much younger but in later years as I took the first shaky steps on my Shaolin Arts journey, I lost any of the remaining interest I had in that stuff (these days I would rather switch the television-channel if it was on).

The Essence of Shaolin course brought home to me even more, how watching combat-sport and being entertained by it, is like being entertained by people trying to kill a corpse, if the reader will excuse my macabre analogy. The pursuit of the knock-out within the ring or the 'ground-and-pound' is not even the symbolic death of the opponent its touted to be because the same movement/ effort/ spacing/ tempo/ transfer of weight etc. which are expended in the delivery of a gloved-right-cross, would result in a fight-finishing move if employed in the execution of one simple Shaolin Shooting Snake pattern (but of course then the crowd would have no blood to bay for or aggression to feast upon because the fight would be over far sooner).

Combat-Efficient vs Sport-Efficient

Sure, combat-sportsmen develop good timing and speed, discipline, they can take a punch (whether that 'ability' is something to be admired is a dubious proposition at best) and they are combat efficient in a conventional sense within their own paradigm which is founded on gum-shields, groin-guards, gloves and a system of rests between rounds to prolong the spectacle.

That is to say that their safety mechanisms are prosthetic and external to themselves. It seems like an almost ridiculous thing now to attempt to develop power, speed and timing by walking towards your opponent with your groin wide-open as Muay Thai fighters and MMA guys do just because they're wearing a stainless steel cup over their groin and rules against striking the eyes and throat banish any thought of real safety.

Speed, timing and power which might be developed within such a scaffold of external safety structures still don't equate to combat-efficiency if we define being combat-efficient as being able to defend your own life and protect your eyes, throat and groin and vital points. Can someone who fights like that be called combat-efficient at all?

It really hit me on the Essence Course due to the marvellousness of the techniques Sifu showed us. Such combat-sportemen frankly couldn't be said to have Marvellous combat-efficiency by any standard. The day I see a Muay-Thai fighter or a MMA fighter apply a pattern from the Essence of Shaolin without the aid of rubber gumshields, a metal cup etc. and his body positioning not exposing his vital points -- then I will congratulate him, "Well done! You're marvellous! (Did you do the Essence of Shaolin Course with Sifu?).

At no time during the Essence of Shaolin course, was Sifu exposed in any way. Always protected in each and every counter-attack which unfolded kaleidoscopically from the one preceding it. The sequences were truly mesmerizing which is actually sometimes an unfortunate combination when you have the brain-fry. Essence of Shaolin course = Mesmerizing + Brain-fry. Never has brain-fry been so mesmerizing than at the Essence of Shaolin course.

From a protected position came marvellous attacks and techniques. I really learned that if we, as practitioners fail to utilize correct form or fail to cover or fail to have full-faith in the Shaolin forms and don't train with an element of threat (as Sifu reminded us) (or simply don't practice), then we cannot expect to beat other martial artists. "The fault dear Brutus", is not in our stars but in ourselves. The fault in that case, quite simply is not with the Art whose 108 most marvellous techniques were unpackaged and displayed for those of us lucky enough to be in the hall. The fault is with ourselves.

It really was marvellous to simply watch Sifu on stage and marvellous to be in the training-hall at the Copthorne which was almost transformed into a 37th chamber of Shaolin for the days of the course. The Essence of Shaolin course inspired me to train with a high-threat level for picture-perfect form and always covering. Still my form lapsed during the sparring sessions which was disappointing as I fell back into old bad habits but Sifu's exposition of the Essence of Shaolin combat sequences and their marvelousness has opened my eyes fully to the real chance of one day fighting at full speed and power with picture perfect-form. This has also been ingrained in me from attending the Essence of Shaolin course as well as the importance of always covering.

This is something to truly aspire to. Being a world-champion of walking towards one's opponent wide-open, rigged out with padding on the hands, rubber in the mouth and a steel plate over their groin and knowing you can take a rest after 3 full-contact but unrealistic minutes they are combat-efficient in their own way within their own paradigm but why aspire to that? Is that even something to aspire to for oneself or for others? Why not aspire to the best, the most marvellous especially after Sifu has literally shown us so clearly how to do it? All that remains is to practice the best set of the world's best martial art -- who wouldn't accept such gift?

Sifu, once again, thank you for teaching me the Essence of Shaolin and on a non-martial note, thank you for the profound and deeply positive impact you've had on my life which was changed for the better since my first Chi Kung course in Sabah in 2008. As was the case last night during the speeches and now, words fail me. The only way I can think of truly saying thank you and so that your sharing the Essence of Shaolin with me will not be a vain casting of pearls before swine, is to practice what you have spent your time so selflessly teaching us. Your teaching has also inspired me to be a better person on every level; the levels of form, energy and mind.

Thanks again to Wei Foong for peerlessly organizing another wonderful course and during her birthday! Chun Nga, everyone was so grateful for your taking them to temples and looking after us so well. Thank you for taking us to such a special and delicious lunch -- one of the best meals ever! I'd like to thank all my sparring partners; I'm sure my ignorance of some of the pattern names was frustrating -- thank you all for your patience, advice and "single-tiger!" prompts.

Thank you to all our Shaolin Wahnam instructors for your advice and patience; Andrew for your technical advice and precision; always a pleasure sir, a deep bow. Tim for coming down to my level and for that mind-blowing sparring session which I'm still processing. Markus for your crystal-clear and assertive and controlled explanation of a sequence cutting to the core in just 60 seconds, Leonard and Barry for your positivity, encouragement and patience. It was great to practice the forms with you all.

A Shaolin Salute with grateful thanks to Sifu, to Sigung Lai Chin Wah, to Sigung Ho Fatt Nam, to all the past masters who expended their time, effort and dedication and whose chi-flows aided in the coalescing of the Shaolin Arts and the Essence of Shaolin. As Sifu says, life truly is a meaningful flow of energy. To those arriving for the second course, I wish you the very best; enjoy this treasure which Sifu is sharing with us.

Essence of Shaolin

An excellent counter is "Fierce Tiger Springs Claws

The above discussion is reproduced from the Post 63 of thread Essence of Shaolin in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum.



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