April 2000 (Part 2)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Single Knife

Goh Kok Hin demonstrating the kungfu knife in a Shaolin pattern called “First Emperor Chops Snake”

Question 1

I would like to know your expert knowledge on the Southern Shaolin broadsword.

— Damila, USA

Answer

As there is not much difference between the Southern Shaolin broadsword and the broadsword of other kungfu styles, I shall discuss the broadsword in general.

The term “broadsword” has become an established term for the kungfu weapon which the Chinese call “dao”, or “tou” in Cantonese pronounciation. Personally I prefer to call it “knife”, which is a more literal translation of the Chinese word “dao”, although in English it may connote a cutting implement rather than a weapon.

I choose “knife” instead of “broadsword” because I wish to focus on a crcuial distinction between a knife or “dao” and a sword or “jian” in kungfu philosophy and practice. A knife has only one cutting edge whereas both edges of a sword can be used for cutting. More important is the way these two different weapons are used. Using a sword as if it were a knife, as it was frequently the case in many of the crowd-drawing Hong Kong movies in the 1960s featuring classical swordsmen, is a clear indication that the swordman does not know the art of genuine swordsmanship.

A sword is to be used as a sword, and a knife as a knife. Their techniques and skills are quite different. Using a sword like a knife is sure to have the sword broken into many pieces. On the other hand, using a knife like a sword would result in losing the ferocious qualities of the knife, for which it is intended.

Interestingly, the samurai sword, from the kungfu perspective, is a knife and not a sword. Using a knife instead of a sword would be in line with the nature and work of a samurai. What many people may not know is that the samurai sword was introduced to Japan from China during the Ming Dynasty, when many Ming warriors used a heavy sharp weapon known as “willow-leaf knife”, held with both hands like what kendo practitioners nowadays do.

Question 2

What are the internal and external characteristcs of the Southern Shaolin broadsword?

Answer

Whether the characteristics are internal or external depends on relative and often arbitruary interpretation. But a good principle to use when making a differentiation is the kungfu tenet: “internally train jing, shen and qi, and externally train jin, gu and pi”, which means internal arts focus on the training of essence, mind and energy, whereas external arts focus on the training of muscles, bones and flesh.

Hence, if you perform stance-training, meditation, and breath control, yours are internal characteristics; if you stretch your muscles, strengthen your bones, and toughen your flesh, such as skipping and hitting sandbags, yours are external characteristics.

The kungfu knife or broadsword as well as all other weapons involve both internal and external training. I am referring to knife training in genuine kungfu. If one merely performs the outward forms of a knife set, then it is external. But if in performing the set, he does so in a heightened state of consciousness and regulates his breathing accordingly, it is also internal.

Some important internal characteristics of the kungfu knife exponent are being ferocious like a tiger, focusing the mind exactly as he makes a defence or an attack move, channelling his energy flow to the sharp blade of the weapon, and regulating his breathing appropriately. If he, for example, performs his kungfu knife movements as if he is doing an Indian club demonstration, or close his mouth tight when making a powerful chop, he would have missed the internal characterisitics — irrespective of whether his kungfu knife is from Southern Shaolin or other styles.

The external characteristics include all the techniques of the kungfu knife, which are explained below, as well as combative factors like footwork, speed, balance and fluidity of movement.

Question 3

What are some of the Southern Shaolin broadsword sets?

Answer

As most kungfu styles have only one knife set, it is usually named after the style, such as Shaolin Single Knife, Shaolin Double Knives, Taiji Single Knife, Bagua Single Knife, Chow Ka Single Knife, and Wuzu Single Knife.

There is only one set because as the main purpose of the past masters was to use the knife for combat, and not to perform flowery sets to please spectators, just one knife set was sufficient for them to train the relevant knife skills and techniques for effective fighting.

There are, however, countless versions of any set. In other words, there is not just one set of Shaolin Single Knife; there may be hundreds of them — all having the same name but with different sequences and different patterns. This is because through the centuries the prototype set has been modified countless times by different masters to suit countless different situations and environments.

Nevertheless, two knife sets are well known in both Northern Shaolin and Southern Shaolin. They are “Plum Flow Single Knife” and “Sun and Moon Double Knives”. But there are countless versions of these two famous knife sets.

Incorrect use of sword

An Incorrect Use of a Sword. As Goh chops down with a kungfu knife, which is much heavier than a sword, Sifu Wong incorrectly blocks the chopping attack horizontally, a technique not infrequently seen in sword-fighting movies. Such an incorrect response would result in the sword broken into two or more pieces.

Question 4

If you may, could you list the Cantonese and Mandarin names of the broadsword cuts and techniques?

Answer

Here are the Chinese names (in Cantonese) and their English translations of common knife techniques:

  1. Phat, Verticle Chop — chopping the knife downward in a verticle manner.
  2. Cham, Slanting Chop — chopping the knife downward in a slanting manner.
  3. Liew, Reversed Swing — swinging the knife upward with the sharp edge facing upward.
  4. Sou, Horizontal Sweep — sweeping the sharp edge of the knife in a horizontal manner.
  5. Kar, Upward Block — using the blunt edge or the side of the knife to block upward
  6. Lan, Sideward Block — using the blunt edge or the side of the knife to block sideways.
  7. Chee, Thrust — thrusting the pointed end of the knife forward.
  8. Lai, Pull — slicing with the sharp edge of the knife.
  9. Thiew, Flick — flicking the knife to one side with the blunt edge or with the sharp point.
  10. Khoi, Cover — pushing down an opponent's weapon with the side of the knife.

Question 5

What should we look for when buying a broadsword?

Answer

If you intend to use it for demonstration, which is usually the case nowadays, the kungfu knife or broadsword should be light, shining and flabby so that it can make a clanging sound when you wield it.

If you intend to use it for fighting, which is actually not recommended, it should be fairly heavy and thick at its back (or the blunt side), tapering to this pointed end, and with a heavy nob at the end of the handle to balance the length of the knife. It should never be flabby, but it would make a “shsss” sound when it is cut through the air.

Question 6

In Answer 4 of the Dec 1999 Part 2 to John, you denied the possibility of great masters teaching three “internal and soft” martial arts (Taijiquan, Xingyiquan and Bagauzhang). I know nothing about the school John wrote to you about.

— Binyamin, Israel

Answer

Mine is a general statement but there are exceptions. I made the general statement, which is also a fact, that past masters who knew various arts would practise and teach only one chosen art, with the intention of helping dedicated students to focus on practice and eventually become a master of one, instead of focusing on learning many and end up becoming a jack of all trade.

One notable exception is Sun Lu Tang (1861-1932) , the First Patriarch of Sun Style Taijiquan. Sun Lu Tang was a master of all the three famous internal styles of kungfu, namely Xingyiquan, Baguazhang and Taijiquan. Although his daughter, Sun Jian Yun who was herself a Taijiquan master, said that her father at his old age practised and taught only Taijiquan, personally I beleive that Sun Lu Tang was best at Baguazhang. It was Baguazhang that he mainly used in his fighting.

There must be good reasons why Sun Lu Tang taught only Taijiquan at his old age. One probable reason was that comparatively the health aspects of Taijiquan was more suitable for his students at that time than the combat aspects of Baguazhuang.

To be inserted later

Here Sifu Wong demonstrates a proper use of the sword to counter the chopping attack from a knife. He shifts his body slightly to his right and slices his swrod beneath Goh's attacking arm.

Question 7

I am a student of Wang Shu-Chin System in Israel for 7 years. You have mentioned our great master in your answers — Answer 14 from Nov 1998 Part 2 and Answer 1 from Jan 1999 Part 3 . His system includes all the above mentioned three arts, plus Zang Zuang and something else.

Answer

Congratulations for being a part of a great tradition. It was also modest of you to say you were a student for 7 years, especially at a time when many other people would claim to be a master after 7 months.

Sifu Wang Shu-Chin was a great kungfu master. I wish you and your school mates every success in preserving your fine system. It would also be helpful to know that zhang-zhuang, and not performing many techniques, was the central point of Sifu Wang's training.

Question 8

For the first three years a student learns Taijiquan. Then, if he attends the “advanced” class, a Xingyiquan study begins. The Bagauzhang study begins only for the “Haishi” students, i.e. after approximately 10 years.

Answer

This is a very good procedure, though in my opinion it is a bit long for modern students. Starting with Taijiquan gives a beginning student a good introduction to the internal arts, especially graceful movements and internal energy flow. Then he can proceed to “harder” Xingyiquan, where force and more linear movements are emphasized. Had he started with Xingyiquan instead of Taijiquan, he might be too “hardened” to appreciate the soft aspects of the internal arts.

There must be good reasons why Sifu Wang Shu-Chin placed Baguazhang at the end. If I am to make a guess, I think he wanted to reserve his best kungfu for his best students. Indeed I also think that if the kungfu patriarch Sun Lu Tang were to devise a teaching programme, it would be very likely that he too would follow a similar procedure of Taijiquan, Xingyiquan then Baguazhang.

Question 9

I appreciate very much your efforts to make “martial arts people” realize what really they are doing in their study, martial art or not. The masters are rare, and we (west minded) can't even recognize a master if we are lucky to meet one.

Answer

If the “martial arts people” realize that their studies are martial arts, that is fine. If they realize theirs are not martial arts, at least they can change if they are serious about martial arts.

It is true that masters are rare, and many of these rare masters, especially in the East, do not want to be known. This may come as a very big surprise to many westerners. Some people seem to tbink that a master must teach if people wish to learn from him, or that when they learn from a master they are doing him a favour. Anyone with some knowledge of kungfu history or culture, will understand how ridiculous these two mis-conceptions are.

Question 10

I would like very much to come to your intensive chi kung course but I am just wondering if there are any longer courses. I feel that it may not be long enough to learn all I need as I am very interested in Chi Kung and I would like to learn as much of the art as possible, not just for my illness. I feel that the more time I spend with you the greater knowledge I will obtain. I will be grateful for your opinion as you obviously have experience in these matters.

— Paul, U.K.

Answer

Yours is a very common concern amongst the many students before they attended my intensive courses. And all of them without any exception were amazed at what they attained just within the few days of the course.

Two of them actually told me during the course that they felt they had wasted their prior 20 or 25 years of training. I explained that that was not quite true. Rather, my intensive course enabled them to bring to life what they had learned in the past.

This intensive course is more than enough for your present needs. You may read what past students feel about their intensive courses from my Comments Section. If you qualify, you may later join my programme to train future instructors, but the intensive course is the first step.

Question 11

I am one of your students in the your qigong course. Daily I practise qigong in the early morning, 6:15 am to 6:50 am in a housing estate park. Every 3 months I go to a hospital for a routine cancer checkup. In the last checkup the result shows that I have cancer reoccurrence after 15 months of free cancer. The doctor advises surgery and then chemo treatments (about 3-6) using a very powerful drug, Taxol.

Here is the brief story. In April 1998 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Subseqently I went for surgery (hystermony - removing the ovaries, tubes and the womb). After about one and half month of rest, I started chemo treatment using standard drugs for 8 courses and in early December I was given a clean bill of health; until now. Sifu, please advise .

Now the cancer tumour is in the vagina; blood test is normal. If I go for surgery, when can I practise qigong and what are the forms to use and for how long. Then also during the chemo treatments which is the most horrible and dreadful part, I am doubtful of my strength to go throught this ordeal. Sifu I urgently seek your advise and response.

— Name and Country Withheld

Answer

I am sorry and very surprised indeed that your cancer recurs. This does not normally happen with students who, after surgery and themotherapy, practise chi kung regularly.

At the physical level there are three possible reasons for your case. One, your regular chi kung practice is now clearing the root of your cancer. For the past 15 months when you were diagnosed as free of cancer, what it meant was you were free from the symptoms of cancer, the root cause of cancer was still with you but was unable to cause any harm. Now the root cause is being cleared out. Once that is done, you are really free from cancer. In the process of the root cause being cleared out, now symptoms manifest in the vagina. Earlier the symptoms manifested in the ovaries.

The second reason is similar to the first, except that in the first case it is your vital energy that is clearing the root cause, but in the second case it is the root case that is exerting itself.. In other words, in the first case your own regenerative power is stronger, but in the second case the root cause is stronger.

Three, you may be exposed to new factors that cause cancer, and despite your chi kung practice the new factors are strong enough to bring about a clinical illness. Some common cancer-causing factors are stress, severe grief or frustration, powerful radiaction, and powerful electricity field nearby like a power station.

There are two more reasons at the metaphysical level. Fourthly, it can be a case of karmic consequence. Something happened in your past, which includes your past lives, which is still imprinted in your mind or supra-consciousness without your normal conscious knowing. and it is now manifesting as cancer. Fifthly, this is part of your developmental task.

Whatever the possible cause, continuing to practise your chi kung will bring good result. Whenever you feel weak, discouraged or depressed, practising chi kung will give you strength, hope and the willl to live.

My personal opinion is that surgery will be fast and effective in removing the tumour, but I do not favour chemotherapy which will reduce your own resistence and life sustaining abilities. The choice, of course, is yours; others, including the doctors and I myself can only make suggestions to the best of our understanding.

But there is one source that you must seek and can fully rely on, and that source is God. Find a suitable, quiet place. Relax totally and get into a chi kung state of mind. Kneel down and say your prayers from your heart. Then repent for whatever sins you may have done in your past, which you may or may not know consciously. Ask Him to forgive you. Then you forgive someone whom you think has wronged you. Forgive him or her sincerely, and wish him or her well.

Next; bless someone sincerely. Then ask God to cure you, and ask Him to show you the way, which He will do in various subtle manners. If you pray siincerely, God always answers your prayers; this is a great cosmic truth.

You are such a lovely person. The least you deserve is to be healthy. God certainly will grant you that. I shall be leaving for Europe tomorrow, but do contact me whenever you have any question or need any help. You can e-mail me or call my mobile phone, and my phone company will contact me wherever I shall be.

If you have no objection, I would like to put the above in my question-answer series, as they may be helpful and inspiring to many other people. But if for any reasons (which you need not mention) you do not like the questions and answers to go public, I would accept your wish without any question.

LINKS

Overview of the Questions-Answers Series

Courses and Classes