May 2004 (Part 2)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Master, may I share with you a great truth. It is by trusting Jesus that one can be saved. The Bible says all this in John 3:16:
"For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotton son that whosever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life for God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”
— Peter, USA
Thank you for sharing this truth. It is kind of you. I have no doubt that what you have quoted from the Bible is true, and I honestly believe those who trust Jesus will be saved.
Let us look at the quotation again. There is one very important point that many people have overlooked. Neither God nor the Bible says that that is the only way to be saved. There are also other ways to meet God or to be saved.
Spiritual cultivation irrespective of one's religion is an essential aspect of our Shaolin Wahnam teaching. We do not merely talk about spiritual cultivation, we practice and experience it.
I am now at the Shaolin Wahnam Centre at the Garden of Timelessness on the Blue Mountain in Costa Rica giving a series of courses. A truly remarkable feature is that many of us have distinctly felt the divine presence of the Great Bodhisattva Guan Yin, to whom the Shaolin Wahnam Temple here is dedicated, watching over and blessing us.
The results of the courses have been extraordinarily amazing. Many students, many of whom are Christians, with tears in their eyes have openly expressed their deep gratitude, describing their deeply spiritual experiences while enjoying chi flow or meditation. In Zen terms, they have had satori, or spiritual awakening. In Christian terms, they have been in touch with God.
Please don't have the wrong impression that my students are hippie-type of persons. In fact, many of them are leaders in business or professions.
I have been training with a sifu for about two years now. He has been teaching me the Iron Palm and Iron Fist. I would like to ask if you know these arts yourself? If so, could you tell me what the difference is between soft Iron Palm and hard? In the method my sifu uses, we drop our palm and fist in a relaxed state onto a bag of iron shot. Then we do qigong exercises to charge the hands, and soak them in medicated liquor.
Yes, I know Iron Palm and Iron Fist, but I do not know what soft Iron Palm is. Iron Palm is established as hard qigong. There has been no mention of soft Iron Palm in kungfu classics.
The Iron Palm training taught by your sifu is correct. He has taught you a secret of Iron Palm training many people may not realize or believe in, i.e. dropping your palm in a relaxed manner. If you tense your muscles as you strike a bag of iron shot, not only you would not develop the force of Iron Palm, you may harm yourself by causing energy blockage.
Nevertheless, when you have developed sufficient internal force, you can strike the bag of iron shot with force but without tensing your muscles. Performing remedial qigong exercise and using medicated liquor are also important.
Although there is no such art as soft Iron Palm, the way you train is sometimes referred to as the “soft” approach to Iron Palm. “Soft” here is relative, and may be misleading. By itself it is not soft, but it is named to contrast with the “hard” approach where practitioners have to thrust their hands into iron fillings. The “hard” approach was actually the orthodox method in the past, but conditions have changed and most practitioners today use the “soft” approach.
In the “hard” approach, practitioners must also relax their hands when thrusting them into the iron fillings. Remedial qigong exercises, “washing” with medicated concoction, and application of medicated liquor are sssential.
Although you also train your fist, your training is that of Iron Palm, and not Iron Fist. The method to train Iron Fist is different.
When one faces real combat, muscles are used to move the bones. Is that right? So in combat is it not safe to say that we will hit with all our muscle strength? I have heard a lot of talk about superhuman power with little muscle strength. Is this true? Does it involve a religion, or is it science? Could you tell me how to achieve the power without muscle?
In combat, internal martial artists do not use muscles to move their bones, they use energy flow and mind. This is speaking relatively. Of course the muscles, being tied to the bones, are involved. What is meant is that the internal martial artists do not tense their muscles.
You may hit with all your muscular strength as external martial artists do. But internal martial artists employ different principles when striking, they do not use muscular strength and their strikes can be very powerful. The less they use their muscles, the more powerful will be their strikes. It sounds impossible to the uninitiated, but it is true. In fact, your training in Iron Palm is one way to attain this skill of using internal force without using muscular strength. There are, of course, many other methods.
It is true that a master using internal force may accomplish feats that ordinary people would call superhuman power. For example, you may stand behind a friend. The master strikes your friend. You may be seriously injured but your friend will not be hurt! This art is poetically though exaggeratedly called “striking a buffalo separated by a hill”.
Some of my disciples can break the bottom brick of two bricks piled one on top of another, without breaking the top brick. This is still far from injuring an opponent behind another person without hurting the person in front, but the principles are similar.
Such fantastic arts do not involve religion. They are scientific. If you know the method, practice correctly and sufficiently under the supervision of a master, you will produce the intended effect. The principles are simple. I have told you in this answer, and have mentioned them many times in this questions-answers series. Basically it is “use mind and energy, not muscular strength”. But the actual practice may not be easy, and you have to learn it personally from a master who has the art and is willing to teach you.
If our muscles move bones, then why is it that power does not come from the muscles? Can Shaolin monks really have superhuman strength without being big and muscular? Is this really possible? If it is so, how would I develop this strength?
Your question about bones, muscles and power is irrelevant, and denotes muddled thinking. It is like asking if we use a spoon to put sugar in our tea, then why is it that the sweetness does not come from the spoon. There are different ways to make our tea sweet. We can, for example, pour honey into our tea from a jug. The tea can be very sweet without using the spoon or sugar.
Similarly, there are different ways to produce power. We can produce tremendous power by using our mind and energy flow, without using muscular strength.
Yes, Shaolin monks can have superhuman strength without being big and muscular. However, some modern Shaolin monks use muscular strength instead of internal force. In that case, being big and muscular would be an advantage.
You need to understand that internal force is not taught to any Tom, Dick and Harry who want to learn it. One has to prove himself to be deserving of such arcane skills and knowledge. And even if a master agrees to teach you, you cannot learn it via an e-mail, a book or a video. You have to learn it personally from him.
Such arts were kept as top secrets in the past. Master did not even talk about them openly. If they wish to record these arts, they did so using concise and often arcane language. In this respect, I am quite a freak. Not only I explain these arts in my webpages and my books, I also teach the elementary aspects of these arts, which by themselves are fantastic, quite openly.
It really confuses me. Am I training the right way in Iron Palm? Could you please tell me how to break a brick. I have asked a lot. I seek these answers, but no one else can tell me.
It is not just puzzling to you, it is puzzling to most people, including most Chinese now and in the past. How could someone be powerful without using strength? It is just ridiculous. It is self-contradictory. This is what most people will think and say. Yet, all internal force masters and all kungfu classics have said that if you wish to develop internal force, you must not use strength!
As some of my students have said, the way I teach is simply ridiculous — or amazing, depending on your perspective. Virtually everyone who attends my most elementary chi kung course experiences internal force without using muscular strength the very first day when they practice a chi kung exercise called “Pushing Mountains”. My more advanced courses are more amazing.
Your method to train Iron Palm, as described by you, is correct. But I have to observe how you train to decide whether you are training correctly. The crucial point, which many people are not aware, is that knowing the correct method is no guarantee that the training is correct.
Telling you how to break a brick with a palm strike is simple. The hard way is to strike your hardened and conditioned palm onto the brick with all your might. The brick will break, or your hand, or neither. A better way is to channel your internal force to the centre of the brick as you strike it. You don't have to use all the might of your muscular strength. In fact you don't have to use muscular strength. If your internal force is very powerful, the palm strike may appear like a gentle tap!
Of course, breaking a brick is not easy even you (theoretically) know the simple methods. Actually even if you have the required muscular strength or internal force, it may not be easy to break a brick if you do not know the subtle breaking technique demonstrated to you by your instructor.
It is no surprise that no one can tell you the answers. In the first place, not many people know the answers. Secondly, amongst the few who know, most would keep the answers as secrets.
I was initiated into practicing Bei Shaolin by competent instructors who had 10 years each of learning under the school's sifu. I was initiated into most of the aspects you speak of when talking about genuine kung fu such as various chi kung and proper zhan zhuang, forms, and proper applications and combat sequence practice.
I was however, only able to train at the school for 3 months, as I have school obligations in another state. I only learned Lin Bo Kuen, but I learned proper applications of all movements in the set. How far could I progress if I continue to train everything I learned for many years now? Would I eventually be a master if I trained with perseverance.
— Aaron, USA
In mastering kungfu, and possibly any art, learning constitutes only 5% of the time and practicing 95%. Hence, if you practice correctly and consistently you will eventually become a master of what you have learnt. Let us say you have learnt striking your fists against a sandbag or flooring an opponent as he throws punches at you. You practice these techniques correctly and consistently for many years.
You will eventually become a master in punching or flooring an opponent. Just one punch by you may seriously injure or even kill an opponent. Or whenever an opponent attacks you with punches, you can skillfully throw him onto the floor.
But if he kicks at you or holds you in a lock, you may not know what to do, simply because you have not learnt the respective counters Suppose you have learnt the counters but have not practiced sufficiently to develop the relevant skills, when someone kicks at you or holds you in a lock, you may know in theory what to do, but still you will be unable to defend against the attacks effectively. This, in fact, is the case with many kungfu students. They may know how to counter against various attacks, but they have not practiced sufficiently to be able to do so in real life.
But there are countless ways of attacks. Must a person learn and practice sufficiently all the countless attacks in order to be combat efficient? No, that is not necessary. If his training is methodological and systematic, by learning fundamental and basic ways of attacks and defences, and understanding the underlying philosophy, he can handle any attack even though he may not have learnt that particular defence before. In the same way, if he just learns the theory of driving, he will be unable to drive. But if he has practiced driving methodologically and systematically, he will be able to drive in any car and on any road, even though he may not have seen that particular car or road before.
Hence, if you practice correctly what you have learnt, you will be fluid in your performance of “Lin Bo Kuen” (“Continuous-Footwork Set”), develop internal force from your zhan zhuang training, and be able to use the combat applications of the set. Nevertheless, whether you can be competent in real fighting may depend on other factors, like how well you have trained sparring using what you have learnt with training partners.
You will be a master of what you have learnt, but that does not necessarily mean you will become a kungfu master. Unless your learning was systematic and highly intensified, as in my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu course, it is unlikely that in three months you have learnt enough to constitute the basic repertoire of a kungfu master. For example, you may not have learnt deeply enough to be able to use techniques from “Lin Bo Kuen” to handle any attacks, or to use the set to train energy and mind.
On the other hand, while you may have learnt correctly, as time goes by and practicing without a teacher's supervision, you may later practice wrongly. For example, you may tense your muscles while practicing zhan zhaung, which is a very common mistake. So, instead of developing internal force you may develop energy blockage.
In conclusion, you should continue training on your own, but pay attention to possible deviations. As you train on your own, it is advisable to progress slowly. (Paradoxically, those who practice on their own generally want to progress fast.) You should also look out for good teachers from whom you can learn personally.
I'd like to seek your advice. What do you think about practising qigong or Taijiquan even when you are feeling sleepy?
— Yangming, Singapore
Practicing qigong or Taijiquan will freshen and energize you. This means it will overcome your sleepiness.
However, if you still feel sleepy despite the practice, it is Nature's way of telling you to rest. Enjoy your sleep then.
In a recent practice, I was doing a traditional Taijiquan set. Actually I was already feeling very tired and wanted to sleep but I forced myself to practise. Halfway through, I found myself entering into a state of mindlessness, my breath was full, my moves relaxed with no strain, as if I was really meditating in motion!
Previously, I have only been able to reach this state with seated meditation, but never in qigong or Taijiquan practice. And, my mind would usually wander when sleepy rather than concentrating on the task.
Experiencing a “state of mindlessness”, or what we call a chi kung state of mind, is an expected occurrence when one practices genuine chi kung, Taijiquan or Shaolin Kungfu. My students always experience this state of mind whenever they practice.
An essential requirement to attain a “state of mindlessness” is to be totally relaxed. If one is tensed in any way — physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually — he cannot enter into a “state of mindlessness”. In your case, your feeling sleepy helped you to be relaxed.
Entering a “state of mindlessness” is nothing fantastic. In fact, it is our basic requirement in any of our practices. In other words, we always begin our practices by entering into a chi kung state of mind.
This is a secret to many people, though it is an understood fact in our school. If one is not in a chi kung state of mind, he cannot do chi kung. He may just perform external chi kung forms as gentle physical exercise. This is a main reason why many people do not obtain the benefits of chi kung although they practice chi kung forms correctly.
Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu can be practiced when one is not in a chi kung state of mind, but the results will only be at the physical level. In our school, as we always practice Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu as chi kung and not as physical exercise, we also always enter into a chi kung state of mind before we commence our Taijiquan or Shaolin Kungfu proper.
A “state of mindlessness” may be misleading, or even frightening to some people. In Zen terms you attain “no mind”. It does not mean you have lost your mind. It means you are not in your ordinary state of consciousness, but have attained a heightened level of consciousness. There are many levels of this “state of mindlessness” or chi kung state of mind. In classical terms, this is entering Silence or entering Zen.
At the lowest level you are totally relaxed and focused. At very high levels, you have a glimpse of your Original Face. This is in Zen terms. In Western terms you are in touch with God.
As many people only know these terms at their superficial dictionary meaning, and do not really appreciate what the terms mean, I would like to explain that having a glimpse of your Original Face or being in touch with God can be manifested in countless ways, but whatever the ways, they are always deeply spiritual, always filling the practitioners with tremendous joy, peace, freedom and awe.
I am now in Costa Rica, and have completed a chi kung course on internal force where students practiced the Three-Circle Stance, the Horse-Riding Stance, and Golden Bridge. A woman student specially came and thanked me, telling me that while in a “state of mindlessness” after stance training, she saw God, and at that moment all her Christian teachings, which she doubted previously, suddenly became very clear and true to her. I did not ask her how she saw God, but it was obvious she was glowing with joy and deep gratitude. In Zen terms, she experienced a satori, or a spiritual awakening.
- Why Shaolin Kungfu is the Greatest Martial Art
- When Can We Come Again? — Tony Duffy
- Combat Sequence 15 — Farmer Hoes Rice Field
- A Comparison of Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan
- Great Benefits — Joan Browne