September 2001 (Part 2)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I have read many third-party accounts on the feats of past Tai Chi masters but they are not clear. Most just mentioned the result of what had happened to their opponents.
Sifu, can you please relate your direct experience on the encounters with the international Jujitsu sparring champion, and with a 5th dan karate master.
— Leng, Singapore
The Jujitsu champion is Kai Uwi, who is now a grandmaster. Kai and his good friend Thomas, a kungfu master, who has spent many years in China learning from well known masters, learned chi kung from me in Germany. We discussed the use of chi in martial art.
I mentioned that chi was essential in Taijiquan, without which it was unthinkable how Taijiquan could be used for combat, but if chi was expertly used, just one Taijiquan pattern, “Grasping Sparrow's Tail”, could be sufficient to counter any attacks. I mentioned that the great Taijiquan patriarch, Yang Lu Chan, used only “Grasping Sparrow's Tail” to defeat all challengers, who were kungfu masters.
As usual among martial artists, mere talk was not enough. So we had a trail to test if what I said was true. Kai attacked me using various techniques, which I was able to neutralize using only “Grasping Sparrow's Tail”. He was extremely fast. Using a feign move to distract me, he got to my back and pressed me down.
Fortunately I was well trained for such surprises. I lowered my stance following the momentum of his press, moved one leg backward in between his legs and turned around with the “peng” technique of “Grasping Sparrow's Tail”.
Thomas who was watching all the encounters was very impressed. He commented that I was able to neutralize the fast, surprised attack because I was trained in Shaolin. He thought that if I were trained just in Taijiquan, probably I would be unable to neutralize the last attack. I said that in my case my Shaolin training was certainly a great help, but a master who was trained only in Taijiquan, and without any Shaolin background, could also defend himself efficiently.
The second experience occurred when I was teaching chi kung to a group of people in Portugal. I emphasized that in any art depth of skill was more important than breadth of techniques. As an illustration I showed the pattern “Cloud Hands” from Chen Style Taijiquan, and mentioned that if one had mastered just this one skill, he could overcome any attacks, like what the great Taijiquan patriarch Yang Lu Chan did. (“Grasping Sparrow's Tail” evolved from “Cloud Hands” and “Lazy to Roll up Sleeves”, and was actually the pattern Yang Lu Chan used.)
Quite unexpectedly, someone asked if I could demonstrate. I agreed and asked for a volunteer to attack me in any ways. Virtually everyone pointed to one tough looking man — but he was sweet and pleasant. It was only much later that I learned he was a 5th dan karate master.
I explained that attacks could come in countless ways, but they could be classified into four main categories, namely strikes, kicks, falls and holds. To ensure that there was wide variety of attacks I requested the volunteer to use all the four categories of attacks on me, which he did.
For holds, I first allowed the attacker, whom I first thought was an ordinary martial artist, to hold me tight before I began my defensive moves. I was able to neutralize all his attacks.
Later the karate master told my Portuguese organizer, Dr Ricarrdo Salvatore, that he was amazed how easily I could overcome his attacks! He said I was like a axis. No matter how he attacked me, he was spiralled away by some rotating force.
It was really a joy to spar with these masters. There was never for a moment any intention to harm. I was perfectly sure that had I been slow or failed in my defence, they would hold back their attacks not to cause injury. Only masters could do that. Lesser combatants would rush in to punch or kick wildly, which actually make them vulnerable to counter-attacks.
What were the strength and weakness of the opponents and how did you use their weakness to overcome them. I have never heard a direct account of this kind of experience and hope to learn from your words.
Kai Uwi, who is a grandmaster of Jujitsu and a master of many other martial arts, is one of the best martial artists I have sparred with. Later he and Thomas came to Malaysia to take an Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course from me. I hope they will one day spread the true teachings of Shaolin.
Kai Uwi is gentle, fluid and versatile, though he is powerful and can be very deadly if he wants to. For example, he can kill with an apparently innocent neck lock; but he won't, he would just hold the opponent under control.
As he has mastered many arts, he does not exhibit any weaknesses. A lesser fighter, for example, may expose his ribs when he punches, which would be sufficient for me to strike him when he attacks. But this Jujitsu grandmaster covers himself well and moves very swiftly.
Nevertheless, my advantage over him is that I have better stances and internal force. My strength is that Shaolin Kungfu is comprehensive, so although Kai knows a great variety of techniques he could not use them to subdue me. Hence my better stances and internal force give me the edge over him.
For example, once in another sparring session, he threw me onto the ground, but I turned the table against him. I separated his legs and exposed his groins, which I could easily strike, but I didn't. He learned the unspoken lesson extremely well. Subsequently he protected his groins in such situations, and also taught his students to do so.
Yet, benefiting from an unspoken lesson, though valuable, is not the same as long-term development that comes from basic training right from the start. Hence, during sparring comparatively I was solid at the same time agile, while he was agile without the advantage of my solidness.
This solidness gave me the advantage of using my internal force effectively. For example, on the occasion when he pressed me down from behind, if my stance was not solid, I would not be able to release his hold with the turn of my waist while applying the “peng” technique.
The karate master was also an excellent fighter and he too exhibited no weakness, but it was easier to fight him than to fight the Jujitsu grandmaster. There were two main reasons. All the attacks of the karate masters are “real”, whereas the Jujitsu grandmaster camouflaged his real attacks with many feign moves. If you are not well trained in Zen, or other mind-training methods, it is not easy to differentiate real attacks from feign moves.
Although both were agile, the Jujitsu grandmaster was more versatile. Because the karate master moved in with much “rushing” force, it was easier to exploit his momentum to spiral him away than to do so with the Jujitsu grandmaster who used force only at the point of contact.
Again, my solid stance, the flexibility of my waist and my internal force were my great advantages. For example, when the karate master grasped his two powerful arms around me, with my two arms pressing against my own body inside his grasp, I could not free my arms using brutal strength or techniques alone. What would you do in such a situation?
I stabilized myself into my stance, relaxed and focused my energy at my abdominal dan tian, swung my waist and arms, and threw him spiralling away with my internal force. If any one of the three factors — solid stance, waist flexibility and internal force — was lacking, I could not have freed myself.
Almost everyone who has studied kungfu (even though he may not have practised it diligently) would know, theoretically, that stances are very important. But few people have actually experienced their practical usefulness. Most think that it is better to bounce about in combat — like what Bruce Lee did, and even Jet Li now does in his movies. They cannot believe how remaining solidly on your stance can help you to be combat efficient.
But if they have undergone systematic kungfu sparring even at an elementary level, the importance of the stances would come alive. Looking back with hindsight, I have no doubt that my solid stance was a crucial factor helping me to emerge unhurt in many sparring and actual fighting experiences.
You mentioned several times in your Q&A sections that traditional Shaolin Kungfu (the real stuff) is no longer taught in the Shaolin Temple nowadays. Does that means the Shaolin arts will eventually vanish?
— Herman, Hong Kong
No, the true Shaolin arts will not be lost. Thomas, a dedicated kungfu master in Germany and who attended my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course, told me a very inspiring real-life story. Kungfu is his life-blood. He went to the Shaolin Temple as well as many other established kungfu centres in China to learn kungfu and chi kung, and to complete his doctorate thesis on Shaolin Kungfu. He was so disappointed with what he found that he cried.
But he did not give up. He continued his search for many years, and kept on asking whoever masters he met whether Shaolin Kungfu would be lost. One day an old master told him as follows. “No, Shaolin Kungfu will live on. The seed of Shaolin Kungfu has been sow here in China or elsewhere overseas. The seed is too deep to be easily uprooted. One day this seed will blossom, and Shaolin Kungfu will regain the glory it rightly deserves.”
I have done a lot of research into the history, philosophy and practice of Shaolin Kungfu, and I am convinced that what I practise is what was practised at the southern Shaolin Temple (or Temples) in the past. My lineage from Uncle Righteousness and from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam traced back to the Shaolin Temple, our philosophy exhibits typical Shaolin traditions, and our skills and techniques are exactly like what is recorded in established Shaolin classics.
For example, we emphasize force training and combat application, and not learning kungfu sets. We pay a lot of importance to stances, and not just bouncing about as in Western boxing. We practise energy flow and Zen, and not weight-lifting and rope skipping. We use typical Shaolin patterns in sparring, and not free-style fighting. Even masters and grandmasters attending our intensive courses for a few days were amazed at the profundity and effectiveness of the Shaolin Kungfu we practise.
I spend many months a year from home teaching the Shaolin arts to foreign students so that traditional Shaolin Kungfu and Chi Kung will never vanish. Many people who had been in pain for years have become pain free, many people who had been told to bear their illness for life have become healthy, many people who had been nervous and depressed have become happy and hopeful again. This is one way — and a very rewarding way — I thank all the masters who have passed on the Shaolin arts to me.
Many people may not believe in what I say or have done, and think I am bullshitting. That is their business. The Shaolin arts are marvellous, but they are not passed on to any Tom, Dick and Harry, they are taught only to the deserving.
My sifu has recently started teaching us how to shout from our dan tian which develops explosive internal force. I do exactly everything my sifu says, although at times I am most probably tensed when I'm not supposed to be. After training this I feel slight heaviness and restricted breathing at the top of my lungs. However when I am not consciously thinking of it, it goes away. After a couple of weeks it disappeared. I was wondering if this is harmful in any way?
— Huang, Australia
Shouting while striking is one way in kungfu to explode out internal force. or to control certain manner of internal energy flow. It is important that you must not be tensed. You will be able to do this well through supervised practice.
Depending on various purposes, the shout can come from different internal organs, such as the abdomen, the lungs or the kidneys, and different sounds are used. In our school, Shaolin Wahnam, we use “herit” when the shout comes from the abdomen, “yaaaa” from the lungs, and “shsss” from the kidneys. Those who are not exposed to such techniques may not understand what is being said, and wonder how could a shout come from an internal organ.
Your feeling of slight heaviness and restricted breathing is due to wrong practice. But you need not worry. Your mistake was not serious, that was why you recovered after a short time.
Your mistake was probably due to your being tensed, or your using your lungs when you should use your abdomen. The shout from the lungs is a sonorous vibration, different from an explosive outburst from the abdomen, whereas the sound from the kidneys is a hissing flow. If you force an explosive outburst from your lungs instead of from your abdomen, for example, you could hurt your lungs.
There is one particular case mentioned in your book, “Chi Kung for Health and Vitality” about Mrs. Chen being cured of diabetics. I agree with your point about healthy people being able to neutralize excesses of sugar, fat or whatever through the right production of certain substances. But, to what limit is a healthy person able to do so and for how long?
— Ernani, Portugal
As long as a person is healthy, he can digest sugar, fat and other foods. This is his natural ability. And it is inspiring to know that it is natural to be healthy.
How much sugar, fat, etc he can digest depends on his needs, and is indicated by his natural desire, though it may sometimes be influenced by habit. For example if his body system needs two teaspoons of sugar, he would desire two teaspoons of sugar. If you give him less, or more, he would not like it — because his body tells him so.
Most probably Mrs. Chen's deficiency of her spleen/ pancreas system was due to some excesses and for a certain length of time, in her daily menu. Anxiety and stress may also have aggravated her unbalanced diet with more intake of salty, sweet and spicy foods.
You suggestions may be the causes of her problems, or they may not be. To find out, we have to give her a thorough diagnosis.
If, say, her pancreas deficiency is due to an excess of sugar, Chinese physicians will describe her illness, or yin-yang disharmony, as a case of excessive yang. This happens when she takes five teaspoons of sugar when her body actually needs only two.
Her illness can be readily overcome if she takes what she wants, which she normally does because her desire coincides with her needs. If she forces herself against her desire to take five teaspoons of sugar when she only needs two, she would be committing suicide. If you force her, you would be committing murder.
Now she takes only half a teaspoon of sugar, although she needs two teaspoons, and yet she has diabetes. In this case, her illness is due not to excessive yang (or excessive sugar) but due to insufficient yin, which is a Chinese medical jargon saying that her body (including her mind) is functioning below par. Happily, this is unnatural. In other words, some parts in her body are not functioning according to nature.
The yin deficiency, or mal-functioning, may or may not be at the pancreas. And the cause or causes may or may not be anxiety, stress or other negative emotions, or salty, sweet and spicy foods or some form of unbalanced diet. If you can find out the causes and sites of the mal- functioning, you can help Mrs Chen to be relieved of her diabetes. If you can't, as in the present stage of western medicine, you have to be contented with treating the symptoms.
A big advantage a chi kung master has over Chinese physicians and western doctors is that he does not need to know the causes and sites of the illness! What he needs to do to help Mrs Chen recover is to restore her harmonious energy flow. Once her energy is flowing harmoniously, she will restore her natural yin-yang harmony.
This is a Chinese medical jargon saying that once the energy that works every part of her body is doing its work naturally, Mrs Chen will be healthy. A healthy Mrs Chen will be able to digest sugar, salt, spices, fat and any other food — so long as she is not foolish enough to attempt suicide or other people attempt murder.
I am convinced that the practice of chi kung helps people to control anxiety and stress benefiting the mind and organs affected by some dysfunction.
Strictly speaking, the practice of chi kung does not help people to control anxiety, stress and other negative emotions. When these negative emotions occur, chi kung practitioners do not attempt to stop them, but allow them to occur naturally.
In other words when you practise chi kung, you do not become stoic or emotionless. In fact your emotional experience becomes richer. But you do not cling on to the negative emotions. As your meridians are clear and vital energy flowing harmoniously, the negative emotions are flushed out without having any chance to cause harm.
I can also understand how powerful can be the “Great Wind Mill” exercise and chi kung in general to stimulate someone's channels of energy to strengthens his/her capacity to stand excesses.
Please do not mis-understand me, thinking that I want to find faults with you. I only want to correct your and many people's mis-conceptions.
The powerful effects of chi kung are not from the “Great Wind Mill” or any other chi kung techniques by themselves, but from how skilfully you perform the techniques. If you perform the “Great Wind Mill” as a physical exercise, as most people would if they learn from books, videos or incompetent instructors, you would only get physical benefits like loosening your joints and muscles. You can get the wonderful benefits of chi kung only if you perform the “Great Wind Mill” or any techniques as energy exercise.
As a result of chi kung training you will be able to stand excesses better if you want to, but that is not the aim of chi kung training. In fact as you are already healthy and fit, with chi kung training you do not need to do any new exercise. Just practising your chi kung alone will be sufficient to provide for all your needs of health and vitality.
My curiosity wonders if it wouldn't be a risk to advice a person with a previous spleen/pancreas/ stomach dysfunction to use sweets without moderation, notably refined sugar, industrial sweeteners, etc.
It is not only safe, it is also recommended that a former diabetes patient or a former heart patient to take sugar or rich food as normal healthy persons do. If you had diabetes or a heart problem, but you still have to control your sugar or food intake although you are no longer on medication, you cannot be called healthy.
Moreover, through long periods of un-use, the pancreas and other related glands of a former diabetes patient have become lazy. It is helpful to increase sugar intake gradually to stimulate these glands back to their normal functions.
Everything has to be taken in moderation. Even for a healthy and strong person, if he takes food or anything in excess, he is asking for trouble.
Was it possible to have a follow up of this specific case? Are you able to know how is this lady keeping with her health by now?
There are literally hundreds of Mrs Chen, who have recovered not just from diabetes but from a great variety of illness like cardiovascular disorders, rheumatism, chronic pain, cancer, asthma, sexual inadequacy, viral infection, depression and phobia. As far as I know they are now healthy and happy.
I would also be grateful if you could express your opinion about the possibility of a person being considered cured without an adequate correction of unhealthy habits in life style.
Chi kung is concerned not just with curing diseases, not even just with maintaining health which is of a higher order than curing diseases. Chi kung deals with your whole personality in relation with the cosmos. It makes your life and other peoples' lives rewarding and meaningful.
These are not merely empty words. If you read some of the comments of those who have taken my Intensive Chi Kung Course, you will soon discover that the reason for which most people thank me is not helping them to overcome so-called incurable disease, but helping them to find joy and zest in their daily lives.
Nevertheless, I shall answer your question to the point. Yes, a person can be cured of his disease without an adequate correction of his unhealthy habits. Let us take a hypothetical example of a person suffering from lung cancer as a result of heavy smoking. He can be cured of his lung cancer yet carries on his heavy smoking, —though it would be very foolish of him.
In this example, his yin-yang disharmony was due to excessive yang. He could restore his yin-yang harmony by increasing yin or reducing yang, or both. Here he increased yin by improving the capability of his lungs to such a high level that he not only overcame his lung cancer but also managed his heavy smoking.