Novemeber 2000 (Part 3)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Ever since reading your book "Chi Kung for Health and Vitality" I have promised myself that I would commit to a training program and begin my journey. However it has only been recently that I have started to train every day, two twenty-minute sessions. I decided to do this because I would like to come to one of your intensive courses in Malaysia and begin to take my training to a deeper level but I cannot let myself do this until I have proved that I can maintain my motivation as I have had many false starts.
— Paul, Australia
Persistent training is necessary in any art, especially in chi kung. Nevertheless, once you have savoured the subtle joys of chi kung, you would practise regularly, not because you force yourself to a schedule but because you enjoy doing it. And you can savour the subtle joys of chi kung only if you learn from a master, not from books. Finding a master is a right start.
What I was wondering was whether there are any specific exercises of the ones outlined in your book that would be particularly useful in improving quickness of mind and sharpening intellect?
All genuine chi kung exercises improve quickness of mind and sharpen intellect. This is so because chi kung develops a person holistically, involving all his physical, emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions.
But chi kung dance involves only the physical body. If you learn from a book it is likely that you will perform the exercises as dance rather than as genuine chi kung -- even though the exercises are genuine chi kung exercises.
Often it is not what exercises you do, but how you perform them that makes a difference between practising genuine chi kung and practising external chi kung dance. It is the failure to realize this fact that leads many people to think mistakenly that they can learn chi kung from books and videos, or to teach them to others after reading or viewing the exercises.
This mis-conception is made stronger when these people derive benefits from the gentle physical exercises, and if they have not been fit and healthy earlier, they may think the benefits wonderful. But these benefits, such as being relaxed, muscles and joints loosened and having a sense of well-being, are actually nothing compared to the more wonderful benefits of genuine chi kung.
These physical exercises, for example, cannot improve quickness of mind and sharpen intellect, but chi kung can. If a person is depressed or suffers from a chronic disease, the gentle physical exercises cannot help him to overcome his health problems, but chi kung will.
I have been experiencing a lack of appetite for social aspects of life and I tend to feel rather anxious around people and I am finding it increasingly difficult to communicate with people as well. Very strange stuff! My life has no worries yet I wake at night sometimes petrified of something I cannot identify, but it is suffocating.
Your situation, perhaps rather surprisingly, is common to many people in modern societies. They think there are no good reasons for their problems; indeed conventional doctors often tell them that there is nothing wrong with them.
But from the chi kung perspective, there are good reasons for your (and their) conditions. Your energy systems are blocked. When your lung system is blocked you close yourself to social life. When your stomach system is blocked you become anxious for no apparent reasons. When your kidney system is blocked you become petrified of something you cannot identify.
Your problems can be readily overcome by practising genuine chi kung. But chi kung dance or gymnastics will not be of much help.
Anyway I think the world is a lovely place. I marvel at the creative power and unimaginable intelligence of nature. So I feel that my problem is a ridiculous one and I'm determined to get over it so I can begin to accelerate my chi kung training and become a peaceful being.
The world is really a lovely place, but those whose heart system is blocked will find the same world depressing, even though they may not have any financial or family problems. This insidious disease of modern living is not uncommon. Chi kung provides a wonderful solution, but unfortunately many people mistake chi kung dance, which is quite widespread today, for genuine chi kung, which is rare.
Like many other people who are in a similar situation, you may think your problem ridiculous. But it is not ridiculous; it is a logical consequence of energy blockage. Many people think it is ridiculous because they view the problem only from a physical dimension, being ignorant of the energetic and the spiritual dimensions.
Because they are so used to this worldview of the physical dimension, reinforced by Western (Newtonic) scientific and Western medical paradigms, they often regard paradigms provided by arts like chi kung, which talk about energy and mind, as being crazy or at best, primitive.
But to me the really crazy thing is that despite the success of so many people overcoming their problems by practising arts that use this paradigm of energy and mind, those who clam to be scientific do not bother to, and some dare not, look into the evidence of this success.
In your case you have a very good chance to overcome your problems as your heart system is still open. Why is this so? Because the heart system is the emperor system. Those who do not understand what an emperor system is, may cite it as an example of the primitiveness of chi kung and Chinese medical philosophy.
For example, an authoritative medical professor who wrote an influential book on Chinese medicine, mentioned that the Chinese describe medicine in political terms, calling the heart the emperor, the lungs the prime minister, and the liver the army general. This is true, but such a presentation of Chinese medical philosophy is both shallow and misleading. The harm is greater when the author is an authoritative medical professor.
Calling the heart the emperor is a Chinese medical jargon meaning that the heart (which in Chinese medical philosophy is not just the organ that pumps blood, but more often the consciousness) has influence and control over all other organs. When your heart is open, it is much easier to clear the energy blockage of your other systems. It also explains that people who are generally happy, which is expressed in Chinese as kai xin ( hoi sum in Cantonese) which literally means "open heart", are not likely to be sick or worried.
Is it possible that one of the energy centres in my body is blocked? Is there somewhere I could try to channel energy to maybe?
Not only one centre, but many centres as well as meridians in your various systems are blocked. But you need not worry. Practising genuine chi kung will clear the blockage. Your real worry should be whether you can find a master to teach you genuine chi kung.
Like many other people, you amaze me by thinking that you can learn a chi kung technique from an e-mail and practise it correctly as easily as you pick up a cook book and copy a recipe. If you could do this so easily (and safely), a watchman at any hospital could have cured your disorders long ago.
You are not even a proper chi kung student. Don't attempt to channel energy to your energy centers as it is likely to aggravate your problems. Seek the service of a genuine chi kung master; it is not for no reasons that he has spent some twenty years to practise and mastered his art.
One of my friends has exactly the same problem as me. He practices tai chi and says that it helps but sometimes he has anxiety attacks in crowded social situations and especially when talking to girls!
Your friend probably practises Tai Chi dance. If he practises genuine Tai Chi Chuan, which trains its exponents to be relaxed and calm even in very demanding situations, he should be able to overcome his anxiety problem.
Tai Chi dance, which is a form of gentle physical exercise, has its benefits too, such as making the practitioner relaxed and graceful. When one is relaxed and graceful, his energy can flow better. This helps your friend to temporarily overcome the symptoms of his problems like being anxious or afraid, but it does not overcome the root cause of his problems which is energy blockage.
Practising genuine Tai Chi Chuan, which is itself a complete system of chi kung, will overcome the root cause. The crucial difference between Tai Chi dance and genuine Tai Chi Chuan is not in the "what" but in the "how". If he merely performs external Tai Chi forms as an end itself, he is performing a dance; if he employs the forms as a means to work on energy and mind, he is performing chi kung.
I was wondering if you had ever thought about leading a retreat somewhere away from it all for a couple of weeks, somewhere really beautiful. I am sure that so many people would love to go on such a course.
Attending my intensive course is like going on such a retreat, and much more. You will be in a natural, beautiful environment, away from the bustles of city life to learn an art that emperors and generals did in the past, an art that not only frees you from physical and psychological distress but provides you with vitality and inner peace that enable you to get much more from your daily work and play. But you should attend my course only if you believe it will help you as it is at surface value quite expensive.
I would like to thank you for a response you posted on your website where you addressed the problem of low quality fighting during tournaments. I attended a tournament today and had I not read your article I may well be completely disillusioned now. It was like you said, the competitors fought like children and it really was disappointing.
— Mark, Australia
This, unfortunately, is the norm today. It does not matter whether these competitors have learnt "kungfu" or not -- they would still fight the same, disappointing way. Indeed, they would probably fight better had they not learnt "kungfu", as then they would not be restricted by the stylized forms which they could not use.
Although I want to learn Kung Fu for its many other advantages (such as vitality, endurance etc) I feel that if one is not able to defend oneself then this defeats the purpose of learning kung fu (or any martial art for that matter). After reading your articles I was inspired that I can use kung fu for self defense.
You are perfectly right. Kungfu is a martial art. If you learn genuine kungfu, even if it is of a low level, you would be able to use it for self defence. The trouble and big irony is that today many people think they are learning a great Chinese fighting art when they are not even learning third class kungfu.
It is even more ironical when they learn wushu, which means "martial art" in Chinese. In modern wushu, the question whether one can defend himself (or herself) has become irrelevant because in its training there is no attempt at self defence at all.
I have often read that Wing Chun is great for women and people with small bodies. I am fairly stocky and was wondering if Wing Chun offers the same advantages to larger people as it does to smaller people. Also I was wondering if Wing Chun is an effective style for self defense.
Wing Choon Kungfu offers more advantages to smaller people than to larger people, but larger people do not find it disadvantageous. This is different from other kungfu styles like Monkey Style Kungfu and Praying Mantis Kungfu which are advantageous to smaller people but disadvantageous to larger people.
For example, if a small sized person leans karate or taekwondo, he will be at a disadvantage when compared to a similar student but of a bigger size. If both learn Wing Choon Kungfu, neither person will have any advantage over the other. But if they both learn Monkey Style Kungfu or Praying Mantis Kungfu, the smaller sized person will have an advantage.
Yes, Wing Choon Kungfu, like any other style of kungfu, is very effective for self defence. Indeed, amongst students of various kungfu styles today, those who practise Wing Choon Kungfu generally have a better reputation for being kungfu fighters.
Nevertheless, my opinion is that their being better fighters is not because they practise Wing Choon Kungfu, but because it has been a tradition amongst most Wing Choon teachers to teach their art as a fighting art -- in sharp contrast to teachers of other kungfu styles who teach their arts as demonstrative forms. Had these Wing Choon teachers taught other kungfu styles but maintaining the same tradition in teaching martial arts and not demonstrative forms, their students would also be good fighters.
It is significant to point out that Wing Choon teachers, especially those from the line of grandmaster Yip Man, pay comparatively little emphasis on set practice. They have only three unarmed Wing Choon sets, namely Siu Lim Tao, Cham Kiu and Phiu Chee, whereas many other kungfu styles have twenty or more sets. Hence, while students of these other kungfu styles keep on learning kungfu sets and perfecting their forms for demonstration, Wing Choon students spend their time learning fighting skills like "Chi Sau" and sparring.
I was also wondering if it is possible to tell if an instructor is proficient in the art and whether he/she would make a good instructor.
The following three areas will help you: the instructor's philosophy, his teaching methods, and the results of his students.
An instructor's philosophy not only affects the ways he teaches but also defines the goals he sets himself and his students. If his main purpose is to train you to win competitions where points are awarded for beautiful performance, you are unlikely to defend yourself competently. If he believes that kungfu is a fighting art, even though he may be teaching third class kungfu, you will know some self defence.
Two, examine his teaching methods to see if they are systematic and purposeful. The instructor may believe that kungfu is for fighting, but if he has no systematic methods to realize this purpose except haphazard free sparring, you are likely to hurt yourself than to learn genuine kungfu combat. If he shows his students how to apply what they have learnt for combat, and asks them to practise the applications systematically, then you have a good chance to learn self defence.
Three, examine the results of his typical students to see how well or badly they measure to your objectives. If the students can fight well but they use boxing gloves and kickboxing techniques, you can reasonably conclude that the instructor is acceptable if you merely learn to fight, but unacceptable if you insist on kungfu self defence. If his students employ kungfu techniques but are unable to fight well, then you may conclude that he teaches kungfu self defence but may not be good enough.
Finding a good master who is also willing to teach you genuine kungfu (including combat application, of course) is a rare opportunity. Even finding a good-enough instructor is not easy. If you limit your search to the area you live, obviously you also limit your possibility of finding a good instructor, in which case you may have to be contented with someone much below your ideal..