May 2004 (Part 3)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
On separate occasions two of my kungfu brothers told me that while doing a sequence with me, they felt my chi go through them, and that for some reason, they tensed up. As a result, they both received injuries. One had a severe back injury and was unable to walk or move for more than a week, while the other had a blue-black toe the following morning.
They told me that it was not my fault because I had no mal-intent, and because they tensed up. I am most glad that they have fully recovered. However, these two events have made me cautious and concerned about how further incidents like these may be avoided. Could you please advise me as to what can be done by both the attacker and defender to prevent these injuries?
— Emiko, Canada
Congratulations, Emiko, this is a remarkable achievement, and I am proud of you. Such ability was mentioned in classical kungfu literature. For example, when a master's arm was in contact with an opponent's arm, by vibrating his arm the master could channel internal force into the opponent to injure the latter's internal organs. Many people do not believe this could be true, and think it was a myth. I am glad your experiences proved the validity of what the masters said.
Many years ago I demonstrated the power of the Cosmos Palm to some senior disciples. I tapped them on the side of one arm to let them feel the force going through their body to come out from the other arm. Wong Yin Tat tensed up while the force was going through. A few days later he showed signs of internal injury. At that time, Chun Nga could see chi inside one's body. He saw a patch of dark chi inside Yin Tat's chest.
I opened some of Yin Tat's energy points and transmitted chi into his chest to disperse the patch of dark chi. He also practiced some remedial chi kung exercises and took some herbal medicine. He recovered fully after about a week.
Wong Yin Tat was (and is) trained in Iron Shirt. He could allow external martial artists to punch and kick him without sustaining any injury. Yet, a seemingly gentle tap from a Cosmos Palm could cause him much harm.
When a master uses internal force to strike an opponent, the more tensed the opponent is or the more he resists, the more will he be hurt. But even if the opponent is relaxed and does not resist, the master still can cause considerable damage if he wants to. However, if he is compassionate, he may just let his energy pass through the opponent giving the latter the sensation of an electric shock but without causing much injury. This sounds like a fairy tale to most people, but it is true.
You need not be over-concerned about accidents that could happen, because you can have full control over this force. When we next meet, remind me to teach you the control, including how to let your internal force just pass through your opponent or how to strike particular parts of an opponent's body with internal force if you have to. Needless to say, with such abilities you must have the responsibility to use them wisely. I shall also teach you some remedial chi kung exercises as well as appropriate herbal medicines to relieve injuries caused by such applications of internal force.
Sometimes when I am the responder, the attacker's size, length of arm-reach, and external-internal force are such that I find my body not wanting to step back into a False-Leg Stance with Single Tiger. Instead, I want to do one of two things:
Step to the side at a 45-degree angle in a False-Leg Stance, so that I can use the Single Tiger to control the opponent's right arm, and let my right hand attack at a much closer range.
Ground myself by shifting to a Bow-and-Arrow stance at a 45-degree angle, thread the opponent's attacking hand with my left hand, and use my right hand to Sweep a Thousand Armies.
I am not sure, but it feels as though I am reflecting the attacker's energy back onto him. Is this all right or is there a better approach to dealing with the variables of the attacker?
Your counter-movements are correct developments from the basic responses taught. There are also other suitable counters.
For example, instead of moving slightly to your right side, you can move to your left side into a right False-Leg Stance, and use your right tiger claw to grip the attacker's right elbow, followed by any suitable attacks.
Or you can move diagonally to your left side into a left Bow-Arrow Stance and simultaneously drive a right phoenix-eye fist into the attacker's right ribs. Remember to use your left palm to guard against his possible right elbow strike or arm sweep. You may follow up with “Yellow Bird Drinks Water”, striking his eyes and groin at the same time. Of course we stop just an inch from targets.
Or you may sink back into a Bow-Arrow Stance, brush aside his attack and simultaneously drive a White Snake into his throat. Or “float” his attack and simultaneously drive a Precious Duck into his dan tian.
You are correct to say that you reflect the attacker's own energy back onto him. You can also channel your own internal force along his attacking arm to shake him up to show your superior internal force so that he may gracefully retreat, or if necessary channel your internal force into his chest to let him have a sensation of an invisible palm strike. Your own arm and the opponent's arm are “bridges”, along which your internal force travels to strike him.
I learned some chi kung exercises from your books more than one and a half years ago and I am still practicing them. I am still always worrying whether I practice chi kung correctly or not.
A few days ago, I sat on a chair and closed my eyes to have some rest because my leg was injured. My chi began to become active. Chi flowed to my legs first and then spread to other parts of my body. Suddenly, my neck at my back was very hot. A lot of chi gathered there. The hot feeling rose up to the top of my head. Then, chi turned cool and flowed down to my forehead and face. The coolness disappeared then but immediately my whole body was cool. I ignored it and continued to rest.
After a short while, the feeling came back. My waist at my back became extremely hot. Chi started to flow up slowly. A large amount of chi concentrated at my back and pushed my T-shirt. I was curious and looked at the mirror beside me. I saw my shirt looked like bulging with air! I was very surprised and I did not know what to do. I was a bit scared and just sat there. The chi continued to flow to my head. The chi became cool and spread to every part of my head. I got goose bumps on my head. I had feeling like my hair standing up! I was afraid and did not want to look at the mirror to check what happened to my head. After that, I felt my face and my front body very cool. Then, my back began to turn hot and chi repeated its journey a few times.
I was scared and kept telling myself it was only illusion. I ignored those feelings and tried to calm my mind. I focused my mind at the abdomen and the chi finally subsided. I worried that something went wrong. Sifu, please tell me whether it was deviation and what should I do?
— Julie. Malaysia
Congratulations, from your description it looks like that you have practiced chi kung well. It is not often that someone learning from a book can have such good result.
Chi is flowing up your back and around your head. Soon it will flow down your face and down your body to complete the Small Universe or Microcosmic Flow. Soon, you may feel some itchiness on your face. Or you may feel some pain at the region of your third eye. Don't worry about the itchiness or pain. They will pass on their own once your chi flows down your face and body. Completing the Small Universe is a great achievement. It will give you good health, vitality and mental clarity.
You mentioned that you felt cool. A more exact description is that you felt refreshing.
I realize that a true martial art can develop not only our body but our spirit, our inside energy and helps our health. I met my sifu and learn Wu-Fang-Seng-Chuan. I want to learn Shaolin Kungfu because I believe that is a way for peace, calmness and finally a way to enlightenment, besides self-defense.
— Dimitris, Greece
You are right. But I would say that a great martial art — rather than a true martial art — develops not only our body but also our spirit, our energy and our health. Some modern martial arts are actually sports, and in my opinion are not true marital arts. On the other hand, there are true martial arts that are very effective for real fighting, but are not only external but also detrimental to health and spiritual growth.
I do not know Wu-Fang-Seng-Chuan. If I guess correctly, it may be translated as Five-Direction-Victorious-Kungfu.
Yes, genuine traditional Shaolin Kungfu (“Shaolin Cheng Zhong” in Chinese or “Siu Lam Cheng Choong” in Cantonese pronunciation) is a way for peace, calmness and enlightenment, besides combat efficiency. Some people may think that it is a contradiction for a martial art to bring peace, calmness and enlightenment. This is due to their dualistic thinking. In fact practicing Shaolin Kungfu is an excellent manifestation of non-dualism.
A Shaolin disciple is a scholar-warrior, i.e. he not only excels in combat, but is also well versed in culture and the arts. In modern context he is successful in business or profession as well as in his personal, family and social life. At the highest levels, he aims to be a warrior-monk, i.e. he is courageous and righteous as well as compassionate and full of cosmic wisdom.
However, for various reasons, much of Shaolin Kungfu practiced today is only at the physical level, with little or no internal force training and spiritual cultivation. There is also a lack of combat efficiency, with the art degrading into a demonstrative form.
Please give me some advice on what I have to do. A day program, breathing techniques, or just any advice.
My advice will be from two perspectives, the philosophical and the practical.
Philosophically, Shaolin Kungfu or any kungfu is of four dimension:
- Force training.
You should therefore work on all the four dimensions. If you just learn kungfu forms, as most students today do, you will at best derive only a fraction of the potential benefits of Shaolin Kungfu training.
From the practical perspective, Shaolin training consists of three approaches:
If you just work on the physical approach, again as most people do, like using only muscular strength in your form practice or combat application, you would have missed the essence of Shaolin Kungfu training.
Understanding these four dimensions and three approaches is more important than merely having a day-training programme or some breathing techniques. Once you have a sound understanding of what genuine kungfu is, you can work out your own programme and seek competent teachers to teach you breathing and other techniques. Seeking teachers to teach you internal force and combat application, or the energy and the mind aspects of kungfu, is of course not easy.
If you are serious about kungfu training, you may consider attending my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course.
My sifu told me that I would never succeed to develop my energy to a high level because I started my training very late (15 years old) and the energy goes from the teacher to the student. Is it true? My sifu told me that he did not have that energy. I am desperate.
It is not true. 15 years old is a good age to start kungfu training. When a person starts too young, he may not be ready for serious force training and combat application, and may not be matured enough to understand deep kungfu philosophy.
Many of my students started kungfu training when they were already adults, and they have developed their energy as well as other aspects of kungfu to a high level.
Although some lucky students receive some energy transmitted by their masters, and this transmitted energy helps to clear blockage or serves as a catalyze in the students' development, particularly all kungfu practitioners, including those who have become masters, develop their own energy. It is also impractical for a master to transmit energy to his students for their development.
I would like to ask you about how one trains in order to be able to use kung fu for fighting. You have emphasized that if a kung fu practitioner attempts free sparring after only practicing sets, he will not be able to apply his kung fu techniques. You have stated that different masters have different ways of linking set practice and free sparring, and you have also explicitly stated the methodology used in your school.
I would like some clarification on the statement that set practice alone is not sufficient to learn kung fu fighting. Does that set practice refer to only solo forms or does it also include sparring sets? In other words, if one practices sparring sets with arranged movements in addition to solo forms, will he be eventually be able to apply kung fu techniques in non-arranged situations?
— Albert, USA
Thank you for bringing up this point for clarification. When I mention set practice, I mean solo set practice, i.e. a practitioner going over a set of kungfu patterns in a pre-arranged manner.
But you are right. There are also sparring sets where two, or sometimes more, practitioners going over a set of kungfu patterns in a pre-arranged attack and defence manner. In other words, in a sparring set, one practitioner attacks and the other defends, and vice versa, using pre-arranged patterns in a pre-arranged sequence.
Now comes your illuminating question. If one practices sparring sets in addition to solo forms, will he be able to apply kungfu techniques in non-arranged situations? The answer depends on a few variables, but if I had to choose between “yes” or “no”, given today's conditions I would say “no”.
The main reason why I believe that even if one practices sparring sets, he will still be unable to apply his kungfu techniques to free sparring or real fights, is because he practices the sparring sets as demonstrative forms, and not as a means to practice combative skills, which actually are what sparring sets supposed to be.
In principle, it is the same with solo sets. The original purpose of practicing a solo set is to enable a practitioner to perform selected kungfu techniques skillfully for combat. For example, the Shaolin pattern called “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” is an effective defence technique against a middle thrust punch. Although one may know this technique, he may not be able to perform it skillfully. His stance, for example, may be poor, and the elbow of his defending arm may protrude wrongly.
Solo set practice enables him to perform this and other patterns flawlessly so that when he applies them in combat, he can do so correctly and spontaneously. However, due to various reasons, many students today miss this original purpose, and practice solo sets for the purpose of demonstration.
Having perfected their solo techniques, the next step is to apply them in combat. The skills involved are different, and sparring sets are an effective way to develop these combative skills. Many students may not realize that the main purpose of sparring sets is not to learn combative techniques, such as using “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” to defend against a middle thrust punch. They already learned this in solo set practice.
The main purpose is to develop combative skills like right timing, right spacing, and spontaneous response. Performing a pre-arranged routine of attacks and defences, rather than reacting to ad hoc movements, therefore, free the practitioners from worrying over what techniques to use next so that they can focus on developing combative skills. However, as in the case of solo set practice, most students today miss this main purpose of sparring sets, and perform them for demonstration.
When students perform solo sets or sparring sets for demonstration, they neglect the training of combative techniques and skills. Their only concern is to perform the sets beautifully to please spectators.
However, if they practice sparring sets for the purpose of training combat, they may be able to apply their kungfu techniques and skills for non-arranged fighting. Nevertheless, as practitioners in sparring sets follow pre-arranged movements, they have no opportunities to practice responding correctly and spontaneously to non-arranged situations. For this and other purposes, the shorter combat sequences are more effective.
As part of our effort to help others who may like to know how we in Shaolin Wahnam train combat efficiency, we have revealed our basic combat sequences and their training principles in the Review Section in the hope that kungfu students, irrespective of whether they learn from us or not, may be able to apply their kungfu techniques for combat. Some of these training methods are kept as secrets by many other masters.
Similarly, the original purpose of practicing a sparring set is to enable practitioners to perform their solo kungfu techniques skillfully in combat. They may have perfected their kungfu techniques in solo set practice, yet they may still be unable to apply them in combat because the skills of performing solo techniques are different from the skills of applying them in combat.
I know there are some schools that teach sparring sets but do not have their students do free sparring due to the risk of injury. Is that training sufficient?
Sparring sets if trained properly (see the answer above) develop combative skills, but by themselves they are insufficient to prepare students for effective free sparring. The main reason for this lack is that they are pre-arranged. This can be overcome by practicing combat sequences.
The main reason why masters in the past did not allow their students to engage in free sparring (before they were ready) was because they wanted their students to be able eventually to free spar using kungfu patterns. Free sparring came at the end, not the beginning, of a long programme of combat training. If students attempted free sparring before they had been sufficiently prepared to do so, they would inevitably fight like children.
However, the methodology to train combat efficiency in kungfu is now generally lost. So, to save face, when students asked their masters about free sparring, the masters often reply that it is too risky. They give the impression that kungfu is so deadly that if the students are struck in free sparring, they would be dead or seriously injured.
It is true that genuine traditional kungfu is deadly, but it is untrue that the students of these masters are deadly, for the simple reason that these masters do not teach genuine traditional kungfu. Had they taught genuine traditional kungfu, their students would have practiced sparring systematically.
The training of these students is usually only solo set practice with occasional sparring set practice. They seldom train force. Hence, they are usually less powerful than those who practice karate, taekwondo or kickboxing. If these karate, taekwondo and kickboxing students do not kill one another in their free sparring, although they often sustain internal injury and sometimes broken bones, free sparring amongst these kungfu students would not be more harmful.
But the interesting fact is that although genuine traditional kungfu can be deadly if the practitioners want it to be, free sparring by them is very safe. This is because of two reasons. In their systematic training towards free sparring, they have become skilful in defending themselves so that they will not be hit even once. Besides, they have developed and exercised excellent control so that if their sparring partners fail to defend their attacks, they can effectively hold back their strikes. Hence, while injuries sustained by other martial artists in their free sparring are taken for granted, injuries amongst genuine kungfu students in their free sparring are rare.
- What would you do if an opponent grips your both hands and executes a thrust kick to your chest?
- Learning from a Master has No Comparision — Javier Castañeda
- Combat Application of Taijiquan
- I Dont't Know How to Thank You Enough — Markus Kahila
- Different Ways of Moving into an Opponent