July 2002 (Part 1)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
My question is about the third of the Ten Shaolin Laws listed on your web page: “Required to be filial to parents, be respectful to the elderly, and protective of the young.” Could you please elaborate on the first part — “be filial to parents”.
— Aaron, USA
To have your parents still alive is one of the most blessed things that can happen to you. To be filial to them is one of the best things you can ever do. It will bring you a lot of blessings. And it is highly spiritual, more spiritual than praying to God in a church or temple.
It is actually easy to be filial to one's parents if he really wants to. Be kind and loving to them. Do not go against their wishes even if their wishes are in conflict with yours. This is a small sacrifice to repay the tremendous debt you owe them for bringing you to this world and for bringing you up. Do not argue with them. If you need to disagree with them, do so gently and politely.
Many people want to work hard to earn a lot of money so that they can make their parents comfortable. They want to buy their parents expensive gifts or send them for holidays. In their busy schedule they often forget about their parents.
What their parents want are not expensive gifts or comfortable lives. No parents would ever mind if their children are poor, or their lives not comfortable. Indeed when their children were small, they would sacrifice anything for their children. They would gladly go without food so that their children could eat better; they would gladly withstand cold so that their children could keep warmth with their blankets. Now that their children are grown up, all they want is to have their children visit them often, hold their hands and talk to them.
Your parents cannot be with you forever. One day they have to go. Be kind and loving to them when they are still around. You have only one chance. Make the best of this one chance so that in the future you can tell yourself and your children you have done your best to be kind and loving to your parents.
I have had difficulty relating with both my parents since my early teens (I'm now age 27). In the past decade especially, we have been cordial but rather distant with each other. I have some confusion on this. In the past I blamed them, then blamed myself. After I stopped blaming, I wondered if this was karmic, i.e. it was somehow in the natural order of things that for some or all of my lifetime, I do not have a strong connection with my family.
Now, I love, respect and accept them, even though we are not close. I would like to be closer to them, though I feel conflicted on this. I will be very grateful if you have the time to answer this question.
Earlier you could not relate with your parents due to your ignorance, arrogance or other factors. But now you are different. You have made a tremendous realization. You realize it is futile to blame anybody, and most important you want to be close to your parents, to make good what you could have done in the past.
It is easy to be close to your parents — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Sit close to them, hold their hands. Genuinely feel for them, let your heart throb with theirs. Think of them, think of the kindness they showered on you when you were small, and think of the kind things you can do for them now when you have grown up. Every night as you go to bed, say a prayer to bless them, wishing them good health and longevity.
Karma is cause and effect. Karma is never static, it is always evolving. If it was karmic that you did not have a strong connection with your family, it was due to some causes in the past. Those causes have been enacted out. Now you are building new causes, which will have new effects for the present and the future.
Karma is operated through thoughts, speech and deeds. When you think kindly of your parents, speak kindly to your parents, and act kindly to your parents, you will create good karma resulting in a loving family. You and your parents will be close to each other.
I have practiced Wing Chun for a short period and am currently studying Shaolin Kungfu. I recently purchased your book, “The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu”, which I thoroughly enjoyed and found especially interesting the part on One Finger Shooting Zen. I have not yet begun any chi training with my current teacher, but I have been practicing One Finger Shooting Zen as shown in your book for about 2 weeks. I understand that it takes a long time and a lot of commitment, but I was just wondering what signs I should expect to see or feel when I start to develop my chi and how I should recognize if I am on the right path.
— Peter, Australia
“One Finger Shooting Zen” is a fundamental force training method in our Shaolin Wahnam school. “Fundamental” means very important and forming the foundation upon which future development depends. Hence it is taught at the beginning of, and to be trained throughout a student's career.
Although I learnt this art from my master, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, more than 25 years ago, it is a main part of my training routine. Although my master was already an accomplished martial artist when he learnt from Sigung Yang Fatt Khun, all he did everyday for about 2 years was One Finger Shooting Zen, and he continued doing so ever since. As a result my master accomplished two of the most advanced arts in Shaolin, namely One Finger Zen and Tiger Claw.
“One Finger Shooting Zen” is an internal art, and as such it has to be learnt and supervised by a teacher who himself is competent in the art. If you learn it from books or videos, or from observing someone doing it, you only learn the outward form. The essence of this art is not the form, but a training of energy and mind.
Nevertheless, if you do not have the opportunity to learn it personally from a competent teacher, you may learn it from my book, but of course the results will be vastly different. And you will still obtain benefits. Sometimes the benefits are so good, compared to the poor conditions you previously had, you may think, mistakenly, that learning personally from a teacher may not be much different.
If you learn on your own, the most important consideration is not what fantastic benefits you will get, but that you are not on a wrong path. Make sure that you do not feel any pain in your chest, that your arms are not tensed from training, and that you do not feel choked or oppressed. If you do, practice “Lifting the Sky” to relieve the harmful effects.
If you train correctly, you will have the following benefits. You will feel fresh and energized. You will find that your arms as well as other parts of your body become powerful, and you have more stamina. You are calm in your sparring and you can see your opponent's movement clearly. All these benefits will also be noticeable in your daily work and play.
Tan Jin Leng wrote a heart-warming letter about a book project to save lives and relieve suffering, in which he mentioned that his bad knees which were worn out before he was twenty, and his back pain which made him unable to walk for 20 minutes, were relieved. The art which enabled him to “have a second chance at life” was “One Finger Shooting Zen”.
I have an interest in Praying Mantis Martial Arts. I was hoping you would be familiar with the various styles it has to offer. I've only heard of these eight and was hoping you could list the rest.
Bamboo Forest Temple
Which style do you think is the most effective for self-defense?
— Steven, Canada
Praying Mantis Kungfu is one of the most famous of martial arts. It was developed by a secular Shaolin master named Wang Lang in the later part of the Ming Dynasty. He incorporated 18 styles of kungfu into one style, following the elusive hand movements of praying mantises and the agile footwork of monkeys.
Praying Mantis Kungfu developed into three main styles or versions, namely Seven-Star, Plum Flower and Six-Harmony. Later, other versions emerged. Each version has its special features.
Seven-Star Praying Mantis (also known as Lohan Praying Mantis) is well known for dodging, jumping and “hard” force; Plum Flower Praying Mantis (also known as Taiji Praying Mantis) for fast, continuous and versatile hand movements; and Six-Harmony Praying Mantis (also known as Monkey Praying Mantis) for internal force and “soft” techniques.
Eight-Step Praying Mantis is known for agile footwork and sticking to opponents, Bright-Plank Praying Mantis for use of palms; Secret Gate Praying Mantis for close combat, low attacks and elbow strikes; Jade Bracelet Praying Mantis for the frequent use of the jade-bracelet step (similar to the unicorn step); Throwing-Hand Praying Mantis for side attacks, reverse palm strikes and “leak tactic”; Through-Hand Praying Mantis for long hand movements.
Please note that the adjective “Taiji” in Taiji Praying Mantis denotes a particular style or version of Praying Mantis Kungfu; it is not related to Taijiquan. In other words it is not a combination of Taijiquan and Praying Mantis Kungfu.
Similarly, Lohan Praying Mantis is not a combination of Lohan Kungfu and Praying Mantis Kungfu, although Lohan Kungfu, being the fundamental style in the Shaolin Monastery where Wang Lang studied, was the base from which Praying Mantis Kungfu evolved
Six-Harmony Praying Mantis or Monkey Praying Mantis as well as Through-Hand Praying Mantis are particular versions of Praying Mantis Kungfu, and are not related to Six-Harmony Kungfu, Monkey Style Kungfu and Through-Hand Kungfu (Tongpiquan, which incidentally is a particular style of Monkey Kungfu).
All these various styles of Praying Mantis Kungfu are of the Northern Shaolin types, as they all developed from Wang Lang who trained at the northern Shaolin Monastery in northern China.
Chow Ka (or Chow Family) Praying Mantis, on the other hand, is of the Southern Shaolin type. It is therefore also known as Southern Praying Mantis. It was not issued from the Praying Mantis of Wang Lang but developed by a Southern Shaolin master called Chow Ah Nam who lived in the Qing Dynasty.
The techniques of Chow Ka Praying Mantis are quite different from those of northern Praying Mantis styles. While the northern styles emphasize versatile hand movements and agile footwork, Southern Praying Mantis emphasizes qin-na (holds and locks) and solid stances.
I do not know about Hua Lin Praying Mantis and Bamboo Forest Temple Praying Mantis.
All the various Praying Mantis styles, as well as all other styles of kungfu, are very effective for self-defence. The problem is not with the style, but with the instructor or the student. This does not necessarily mean that all kungfu styles or all martial arts are equal in combat efficiency.
As briefly described above, the various Praying Mantis styles have their respective characteristics. If you were small sized, for example, and if all other things were equal, you would probably be more combat efficient in Six-Harmony Praying Mantis than in Seven-Star Praying Mantis. But if you were tall as well as agile, Seven-Star Praying Mantis would be advantageous.
Today many instructors teach kungfu not as kungfu but as gymnastics or sports. If you learn gymnastics or sports, although you call it kungfu and may have practiced for many years, you will not be able to defend yourself. On the other hand, even if the instructor has taught correctly but if the student has not practiced as required, the student may be unable to defend himself with what he has learnt.
I am looking at qigong in the practical sense and may start a center in Singapore later. I was thinking of getting certification by some good masters either in China or the U. S. I am aware of some masters and grandmasters teaching and certifying people.
— Goh, Singapore
Different masters have different philosophy concerning training instructors. Mine is conservative. I believe in the long, traditional way of first becoming a good student, then if one is ready and willing he takes up the responsibility of training to become an instructor, if his master offers him the opportunity.
Becoming a qigong (chi kung) or kungfu instructor is a responsibility, not a fashion or fancy one can pick up whenever he likes. Besides the responsibility of preserving the integrity of a genuine art, the instructor must also bear the responsibility of not wasting his students' time and effort. In Chinese culture, such misdeed known as “wu ren zi di” or “misleading other people's children” is considered a sin.
In the past no sensible person would think of teaching qigong or kungfu unless he had practiced the art and be reasonably good at it for more than ten years. But values have changed. Today a fresh beginner can go to China or the United States to learn qigong and return with a teacher's certificate in three months.
My experience is in the “Self Generating Qigong”. In Chinese it is called “Zi Fa Qong”. I have been practicing for 2 years, about 1 hour to 2 hours daily. It is different each time you get into a practice, depending on how you feel and where you are doing it. I understand that the cosmic and the magnetic forces and the general surrounding, do affect your daily movements. Some say this form is dangerous, as it can get out of control.
“Self Generating Qigong” or “Self-Manifested Qi Movement” as we call it in our Shaolin Wahnam School, is an important genre of qigong (chi kung). Different schools have different ways to practice it; for us we spend only about 15 minutes per training session.
“Self-Manifested Qi Movement” is a comparatively low level type of qigong. There are numerous ways to classify qigong, and one way is according to its main function. The lowest level is medical qigong, then health qigong. Above them are intellectual qigong and martial art qigong. The highest is spiritual qigong.
This scale of classification is logical. One must overcome illness before he can talk about health. Only when he has excellent health can he dedicate himself to intellectual pursue or martial arts. Martial art qigong is considered higher than intellectual qigong because the demand of a warrior is greater than that of a scholar. For example, a scholar might fail his examination if his mind was not clear, but a warrior might loose his life.
Only after fulfilling his duties to the emperor would a minister or a general retire to the Shaolin Monastery for spiritual cultivation. In modern context, only after fulfilling our duties to our family and to society would we dedicate ourselves fully to cultivate spiritually. Hence spiritual qigong is the highest.
“Self-Manifested Qi Movement” belongs to the class of medical qigong. To say it is low level does not mean it is least useful. In fact in today's society “Self-Manifested Qi Movement” is the most useful because most people practice chi kung to overcome pain and illness.
The spontaneous movements in “Self-Manifested Qi Movement” are influenced by various factors, such as the type of exercise to generate the qi movements, the practitioner's mental and physical states, and the purpose of the training session.
“Self-Manifested Qi Movement” is a very safe form of qigong if it is performed correctly. Being in control at all times is in fact an essential requirement of correct practice. The qi movements are spontaneous because the practitioner allows them to be so. He may, if he likes, influence the movements any time. If it is not practiced correctly, such as losing control of the movements, it can be risky.
I can feel and transmit qi out from my fingers or palms. It is very potent. The “Self Generating” type is very interesting as it 'leads' you to various forms of martial arts automatically, by visualizing it. It then comes to you and you move accordingly. No formal teaching or guide is necessary. It is strange no doubt. I must say I am still learning and experiencing it. Are you familiar with this form and how I could progress from here.
Transmitting qi is actually not difficult. Students can do so after attending my Intensive Qigong Course.
The power of mind over energy and matter is our natural ability, although many people have lost it because they are stressful and mentally distracted. Qigong is an excellent way to regain this ability.
Nevertheless, it is unwise to dabble about with visualization in qigong without proper guidance and training. The mind is a most powerful but delicate tool; it must be handled with care and respect.
“Self-Manifested Qi Movement” is a basic art in our Shaolin Wahnam School. I have taught this to many, many people to help them overcome so-called incurable diseases.
There are many ways you can progress from your present level. These many ways fall into two major approaches, namely deepening your skills and expanding your techniques. A good way to deepen your skills is to attend my Intensive Qigong Course. With advanced skills you can use a low level art to accomplish high level results, like using “Self-Manifested Qi Movement” to expand your mind and attain inner peace.
I am keen to know. What exactly do you teach in the intensive course. What is the cost?
You will be amazed at what you can achieve in my Intensive Qigong Course. You can accomplish in a few days what it may take other people twenty years to achieve. It is unbelievable but true, otherwise it would not be justifiable for me to charge US$1000 for the three-day course, when most other teachers charge about US$50 per month.
The most important things I teach in the course are not techniques but skills. I teach students how to go into a qigong state of mind, how to tap energy from the cosmos, how to generate an internal energy flow, how to direct energy to wherever they like, how to build a ball of energy at their abdominal energy field, how to develop internal force, how to have an internal shower, how to expand their mind, and how to find inner peace. The most important skill, according to many students, is to help them open their heart, to experience joy within.
Do they really have these wonderful benefits? Of course, otherwise they need not pay any fee. How do they know? They know from direct experience, i.e. they know they have these benefits as clearly as you know you are reading this sentence. How long does it take them to have these benefits? Immediately. They enjoy the benefits during the course itself.