July 2004 (Part 1)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
As your intensive course can complete everything in 4 days, are you using a radically different method that side-steps the traditional route? It seems that accumulating cosmic energy in the dan tian is itself a long and arduous process. Would it be correct to say that in the course, I will learn how to accumulate, but the amount I actually accumulate will depend on how much I continue to practice?
— Leong, Australia
My Intensive Chi Kung Course covers five days, but the actual training takes only three days, with the first day and the last day for arrival and departure. It does not complete everything in the sense that all important qigong exercises like Small Universe, One-Finger Zen and Golden Bell are taught. In fact I teach only three fundamental exercises in the course, namely "Lifting the Sky", "Pushing Mountains" and "Carrying the Moon".
But the course is complete in the sense that a fresh beginner can acquire in the course sufficient skills and techniques that enable him not only to have good health, vitality, longevity, mental freshness and spiritual joy, but also to become a real master and to attain the highest achievement if he continues to practice consistently on his own! The course is really amazing.
Many people, who are used to measuring their progress by the number of techniques they have learnt, would wonder how advanced can one get with just three techniques. They make a big, common mistake in the practice of any art. They confuse techniques with skills, and also confuse techniques with results.
They forget that techniques are means, not ends. They also forget that they practice qigong not because they want to perform qigong techniques, but because they want the results the techniques can bring, like overcoming pain and illness, having vitality and mental freshness to enjoy daily work and play, and to experience happiness and inner peace. How well they will enjoy the results will depend on how skillfully they practice the techniques.
We may relate techniques, skills and results respectively to a person's profession, performance efficiency, and abilities to satisfy needs and aspirations. Doing well in one profession is better than doing poorly in many professions. You work in your profession not for the work itself, but for the income with which you can satisfy your needs and aspirations, like buying your daily meals, going for a holiday or providing your children with quality education.
While the type of profession determines the kind of income you will get, another very important determining factor is how skillful you are in your profession. A lawyer, for example, generally earns more money than a security guard, but depending on their skills some lawyers earn three thousand dollars a month whereas others earn three hundred thousands. Similarly, choosing a right technique will give desirable results, but if you perform the technique skillfully your results can be many times better than those of someone who performs the same technique poorly.
The onus of my Intensive Chi Kung Course is on developing skills. The techniques, which by themselves are the best among a rich repertoire of Shaolin qigong techniques, are means to develop important qigong skills. The skills taught in the course are quite fantastic, ranging from the most basic to very high levels, such as
- being relaxed and focused
- entering a qigong state of mind
- attaining a unity of form, energy and mind
- tapping energy from the cosmos
- generating an internal energy flow
- regulating the speed of self-manifested qi movement
- clearing energy blockage
- directing energy to various parts of the body
- accumulating energy at the dan tian
- developing internal force
- clearing emotional and mental blockage
- expanding the spirit
Those who have no experience of such skills will be unable to appreciate what these skills are, though they know the dictionary meanings of the skills. Some will interpret the meanings differently from what we intend them to be. For example, when we say “clearing emotional and mental blockage” we mean exactly what we say. Someone who has grief locked in his lungs may cry out loudly during a self-manifested qi movement, after which he distinctly feels relieved. But those without such an experience may also claim that their qigong exercise do the same thing as a matter of fashion, even though they only perform external qigong forms and do not really know what emotional cleansing is.
Understandably, many people may not believe that it is possible to acquire all these skills in a three-day course. What they believe or not believe is their business, and I have no intention to convince them. In fact, they have to convince me that they are deserving to attend my courses. But all my courses are satisfaction-guaranteed. Anyone not satisfied with any of my courses need not pay the course fees.
Regarding my Intensive Chi Kung Courses over the years, only four persons, who registered as a family, asked for a refund — but for a different reason, they did not understand English, and my course was conducted in English.
Hence my answer to your question whether I use a radically different method that side-steps the traditional route of hard work for a very long time to obtain desirable results, is a qualified yes. Yes, because the way I teach is very different, it is a transmission of skills from heart to heart, rather than merely giving instructions.
Moreover, I have a clear understanding of my students' needs and aspirations, a clear vision of what is the best I can teach them, and a clear direction of how I can help them to arrive at their destination. Honestly, I have never come across any other teacher in the history of qigong who has helped his students to achieve so much and to such a high level in qigong within such a short time! Twenty years ago, I myself would not believe this was possible.
Nevertheless, although I have made modifications to suit existing conditions, the method is not entirely my invention. The techniques and the skills I teach have been passed down the centuries by masters. I inherit their treasure and pass it to my students. Because of different conditions, past masters took many years to pass the treasure to selected disciples, but I take only a few days.
The standard of attainment is different. The standard of past practitioners was much higher than that of myself and my students. But the techniques and the types of skills were the same. For example, to develop internal force a Shaolin monk two hundred years ago might use “Pushing Mountains” like we do today. His internal force could be used to break a pile of bricks, but ours is sufficient only for breaking through some energy blockage.
The methodology of transmitting skills from heart to heart has been used by Zen masters throughout the centuries in the past. Their efficiency and achievement were beyond comparison. They helped their students to attain enlightenment in an instant. I merely help students to generate energy flow to overcome pain and illness, or at higher levels to expand their sprit to experience joy and inner peace.
Would it be impolite if I asked you what your lineage of Taiji is? Your Shaolin lineage is well-known but not your Taiji one.
Your question is not impolite. I have addressed this topic a few times in this questions-answers series. I have no Taijiquan lineage. I did not learn from any well-known living Taijiquan masters. I mainly learned from Taijiquan classics, and was able to interpret and practice what past masters had written because of my thorough Shaolin training.
Without false modesty, I honestly believe both I and my Taijiquan students understand and put into practice fundamental Taijiquan principles like movement from the waist, using intent and not using strength, and using four tahils against a thousand tons, better than most Taijiquan practitioners, including some masters. More significantly, we can use internal force and apply typical Taijiquan patterns for combat, justifying Taijiquan as an internal martial art, while many Taijiquan masters today cannot do this.
In a public discussion forum recently, some people viciously attacked me for not having an established Taijiquan lineage. Annoyed by such attacks, some of my Taijiquan disciples proposed to me that we called ours “Wahnam Taijiquan”. “Wahnam” is named after my two masters, Lai Chin Wah and Ho Fatt Nam. They practiced and taught Shaolin Kungfu, not Taijiquan. Hence, if our line of Taijiquan prospers, a few hundred years later people may name me as the first patriarch of the Wahnam Taijiquan lineage! This could be an amusing occurance.
If I were to practice Taiji Qigong, would it be incompatible with Shaolin Qigong?
No, they are not incompatible. In fact Taiji Qigong originated from Shaolin Qigong.
All the main methods to develop internal force in Taijiquan, such as “Three-Circle Stance”, “Lifting Water”, and “Grasping Sparrow's Tail”, are still found in Shaolin Kungfu today although they are in slightly different forms.
“Three-Circle Stance” is similar to the Shaolin form of “Embracing Buddha” in Horse-Riding Stance, “Lifting Water” is employed as part of “Golden Bell” training, and the movements in “Grasping Sparrow's Tail” are similar to many movements in the Shaolin dragon forms. Because there are so many force-training methods in Shaolin Kungfu, not many Shaolin students are aware of them.
The Yizhi Chan (One-Finger Zen) will be offered in your Shaolin course. It is such a high-level art but it seems to be covered in less than a day. Is it that kind of art whereby the foundation is easy to learn but takes a lifetime to master?
Yes, Yizhi Chan, or One-Finger Zen, is a high level art that can be learnt in a day but requires many years to master.
I recall what my master, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, told me when I first learned Shaolin Kungfu from him. He said, “Many people say they learn kungfu, but actually they don't. At best they learn quanfa. Here, right at the start we learn two of the most advanced arts of Shaolin Kungfu, namely One-Finger Zen and Tiger-Claw. Because it takes a long time to develop these two arts, we learn them first. Practice them everyday.”
By kungfu my master meant force training, and by quanfa he meant combat techniques.
I have some book knowledge about qigong from the Chinese books I have read, which I know is not at all helpful in practicing qigong.
The qigong books are not helpful when you have little or no qigong skills. Skills are different from techniques — a fact many people may not realize. What books as well as videos show are techniques, i.e. some particular ways of performing qigong exercises. What is more important are skills, i.e. how (not what) these particular ways are to be performed.
One may know a technique, but he may not be able to perform it at all, or to perform it correctly, or to perform it efficiently. For example he may know from reading that to accumulate dan tian qi (or abdominal energy), he has to channel vital energy to his abdominal energy field and then let the vital energy build up there. But he may not be able to do it at all. He may not even know what actually vital energy is, although he may know the dictionary meaning of the term.
Even if he could perform the technique, he might not do it correctly. For example, although he wanted to channel vital energy to his abdominal energy field, he might force his vital energy into his abdominal muscles instead. This will bring him harm instead of benefit.
Thirdly, even if he could perform the technique correctly, he might not do so efficiently. He might channel his vital energy to his abdominal energy field, but he might do it so badly (though the technique is correct) that the effect is minimal or, worse, it might even be harmful.
If students realize these three points, they will understand why unless they already have the relevant skills, it is very difficult if not impossible to learn arts like qigong and kungfu from books and videos.
An analogy will make the points clearer. Suppose you want to be a good footballer. You have bought an excellent book on football techniques. The book recommends that if you wish to kick a ball into a goal, a good way is to kick it into the bottom left hand corner of the goal, and it describes in details the technique to do so.
You may know the technique, but if you do not know how to kick a football, you would not be able to implement the technique at all. Even if you could kick the football in the direction of the bottom left corner of the goal, if done incorrectly, you might kick it out of the field instead. Even if you could correctly kick the ball towards the bottom left corner of the goal, if done inefficiently the ball could be easily intercepted by a defender.
However, if you have fundamental qigong skills, then good qigong books can be very useful. Hence, those participants who have attended my Intensive Chi Kung Course, where they acquired high-level fundamental qigong skills, may practice any other qigong exercises they learn from books or videos, and often derive more benefits than those who learn the same exercises from living instructors.
Returning to our football analogy, if you already have high level football skills you can benefit greatly from football books, more than those who learn football from living coaches. Suppose you have a book that describes a technique whereby you can trick a goal-keeper by apparently kicking a ball to the bottom left corner of the goal but actually it shoots to the top right corner instead. Because you have the skills, you could practice the technique well. So in a football match, your opposing goal-keeper would be diving to one corner while you would score a goal with the ball going in at the opposite corner.
In the same way I benefited greatly from Taijiquan classics although I had not learnt from a living Taijiquan master. Because of the skills I acquired from Shaolin Kungfu which could readily be transferred to Taijiquan, I could effectively practice Taijiquan principles and techniques which those who merely practiced external Taiji forms would never understand.
I read one book about Shaolin Qigong that says we must accumulate dan tian qi before doing anything else. Next is Xiao Zhou Tian (I think this is the Small Universe you refer to) and then Da Zhou Tian. The book warns that each stage takes a few months at a time and going too fast would be highly hazardous.
As there are different types of Shaolin Qigong, and different masters have different philosophies and methodologies in their teachings, accumulating dan tian qi before doing anything else may be valid in some situations and not valid in others. But taking qigong as a whole, this advice is generally not valid.
In most types of qigong, especially low level qigong, it is not necessary to accumulate qi at the dan tian at all. In Ba Duan Jin (Eight Pieces of Brocade), Eighteen Lohan Hands, and most types of Dao Yin qigong (Dynamic Patterns), for example, it is not necessary to first accumulate qi at the dan tian, although it is customary to think of the dan tian at the end of the practice, and this will eventually let qi accumulate there.
However, for the application of martial art qigong in combat, like striking an opponent with Cosmos Palm or Diamond Palm, it is necessary to first accumulate qi at the dan tian and then explode the qi from the dan tian to the palm to strike the opponent. For advanced arts like Small Universe, One-Finger Zen and Golden Bell, it is also necessary to accumulate dan tian qi.
It is true that for Xiao Zhou Tian (Small Universe) and Da Zhou Tian (Big Universe), it takes a few months to develop and circulate qi at each stage of their training, and going too fast would be hazardous. It is mainly for this reason that despite many requests to do so, I still do not offer any courses of Small Universe to the public although I successfully taught it in my regular classes in the past. Now my intensive as well as regional courses take only a few days, whereas my regular classes in the past took many months.
When I started to teach qigong in Europe many years ago, a lot of people wanted to join my advanced classes straight away, saying that they had practiced Xiao Zhou Tian, which they called Microcosmic Flow. I did not allow that, as it was (and still is) our condition that students must start at the beginning when they learned from us, and our beginning qigong course was (and is) “Generating Energy Flow”.
It was lucky for them that they followed our condition. Many of those who had practiced Microcosmic Flow had practiced wrongly and sustained internal injury, although their method, as they described to me, was correct. There are a few different methods to acquire the Small Universe or Microcosmic Flow. Their method, which was different from ours, was to visualize qi at different energy fields along the path of the Microcosmic Flow and then connect the flow between the energy fields. However, instead of a harmonious flow, they had energy blockages in many parts of their body. My course, “Generating Energy Flow”, helped to relieve them of the blockages.
Another interesting point was that they were amazed how simple our methods were, yet the results were so profound. A few of them told me they obtained more benefits in my one-day course than a few years of their earlier practice. Many of them said “Generating Energy Flow” made them realize what qigong really was.
I wish to attend your intensive Taijiquan course once I have saved enough for it. In the meantime, what can I do, or how should I train, to prepare myself for it, particularly in sparring and qi flow when I have no training partners to work with?
— Yingwan, Singapore
You should learn some Taijiquan forms first. It does not matter even if what you learn is just external Taiji forms without any internal force training or combat application. And it also does not matter what style of Taijiquan you learn. This should be easy. There are numerous schools in Singapore teaching Taiji forms.
If you are more ambitious, you can also practice some zhan zhuang, or stance training. Use the Three-Circle Stance for your zhan zhuang practice. Make sure as best as possible that your stance is upright and you are relaxed.
Do not make your training a contest of endurance. Rather, use it as a relaxation exercise. This is, of course, not easy. But when you know the underlying principle for your training, you will not only not derive harmful side-effects from being tensed in your zhan zhuang, but also get more result in shorter time.
If Chi Kung could help in reducing health problems related to autoimmune thyroiditis, what practice or exercises are best suited for healing thyroid glands and making them function properly again?
— Normantas, Lithuania
Yes, genuine chi kung can overcome health problems related to autoimmune thyroiditis. Most people may be surprised that any genuine chi kung exercise will do! The exercise is actually a means to generate energy flow. It is the energy flow that will restore the natural functioning of the body and thus overcome the autoimmune thyroiditis disease, or any disease!
Nevertheless, the exercises “Turning Head” and “Carrying the Moon”, followed by self-manifested chi movement are recommended. “Turning Head” focuses chi at the thyroid glands, “Carrying the Moon” cleanses the nervous system to enhance natural functioning, while self-manifested chi movement spreads chi all over the body to clear energy blockages.
It must be emphasized that it is not the physical movements of the exercises that bring the desired therapeutic effects. Most people do not realize this very important fact. Hence, they mistakenly think that if they perform the physical movements of the exercise learnt from a teacher or even from a book, they should effect a cure. This is not so. Even if their physical movements are perfect, without energy flow and being in a chi kung state of mind, they are not practicing chi kung but merely some gentle physical exercises. Chi kung can overcome the disease, but physical exercises cannot.
- Experiencing Satori at the Blue Mountain — Laura Fernández Garrido
- Enjoying Nature, the Evening Colours, the Wind, the Birds Singing — Inge Vandromme
- Wahnam Taijiquan
- A Comparison of Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan
- Great Benefits — Joan Browne