September 2004 (Part 3)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I became very surprised when I read your wise and honest answers in your website. I am a Persian living in Iran, and have just started my PhD study in mechanical engineering. I am very interested in Taoist (Daoist) philosophy and wisdom. I used the concept of yin-yang in my master's thesis on mathematical modeling in the hierarchy of human movement control.
— Shiraz, Iran
Thank you for your kind words. Both the Persians and the Iranians had great ancient cultures, and I hope your modern scientific study may help to bring out the great contributions of these ancient cultures for the benefit of our modern world.
Taoist philosophy and wisdom is a distinctive contribution of the ancient Chinese. The most fundamental characteristic of Taoist teaching is the concept of yin-yang. I am glad that you have used this yin-yang concept in your scientific thesis.
Despite its popularity, the yin-yang concept is seldom understood, even among otherwise brilliant scholars and writers. Many authors on Taoist philosophy merely repeat clichés like yin represents the dark, the feminine, the soft, the internL, etc, and the yang represents the opposite, without understanding what these terms really mean.
The terms “yin” and “yang” are symbols, and as such they have different meanings in different situations. What is yin in one situation may be yang in another. Hence, insisting that certain objects or ideas must be either yin or yang, is mistaken. Whether it is yin or yang is determined by its relation to a set of reference.
For example, when we point to the top of a table we may regard it as yang, because it is compared to the bottom of the table. The comparison is often not mentioned; it is implicitly understood. However, if we refer to the substance of the table when pointing to the table top, then it is yin, because then it is compared to its function, which is represented by yang.
Hence, depending on the point of reference (in this case, depending on whether we are referring to the top of the table in contrast to the bottom, or to the substance of the tabletop in contrast to its function) the tabletop can be yin or yang. By convention, top is yang, and substance is yin.
Yin-yang harmony is frequently mentioned in Chinese medicine. Here, in general yin refers to a person's natural ability to adjust to constantly changing conditions (like an increase of stress or bacteria, or a decrease of temperature or sugar level), and yang refers to all the factors that cause changes. If yin does not harmonize with yang (e.g. if the body cannot adjust to stress), illness occurs.
Yin and yang, of course, can represent countless other situations in Chinese medicine. For example, when a person has his fractured arm fixed, some surgeons are quite satisfied if the patient regains the normal functions of the arm, even though the arm may be slightly deformed. But in Chinese medical philosophy, this is not acceptable. The shape of the arm is represented by yin, and its function by yang. If the arm does not regain its normal shape though it regains its normal functions, there is still yin-yang disharmony.
I also exercise Shaolin Chuan and Tai Chi Chuan. I am very interested in the truth about vital force, qi. The knowledge and insight about qi is very low in many countries, including my country. Because of low information and education of kungfu teachers in Iran and the effect of cinema movies that show unreal views about human powers, kungfu and qi have become legendary and superstitious subjects. Teachers talk about something that they actually don't understand, and of course they take money for it.
You and many people may be surprised that what you have mentioned above applies not just to your country but to all countries, including China, the home of kungfu and qigong (which is the art of qi). Many kungfu and qigong teachers in all countries teach as well as talk about many things that they actually do not understand.
For example, many teachers talk about Shaolin and Tai Chi Chuan as great martial arts, and about qi as something with fantastic powers, but actually they do not know how to defend themselves when attacked, or have any experience of qi. On the other hand, many other teachers do not believe that Shaolin and Tai Chi Chuan can be used for fighting, or that qi exists!
Kungfu and qi are real, not legendary or superstitious. My books and webpages are means to explain what they are, and my intensive courses as well as regional classes provide seekers the opportunities to actually experience their benefits.
I love to understand the truth of qi. Is this a physical energy like other energy types, or something mental and spiritual?
I have explained qi comprehensively as well as in great depth in my books, especially in “The Art of Chi Kung” and “Chi Kung for Health and Vitality”
Qi, or energy, is physical as well as mental and spiritual. Scientists have discovered that qi consists of electro-magnetic waves, subsonic waves as well as flows of sub-atomic particles.
Qi is also mental. It consists of flows of conscious impulses. A very high level qigong master can transmit his qi to influence the behaviour of others — although for moral reasons he would not do so.
Qi is also spiritual. At low levels qi can uplift a person's spirit, making him cheerful and hopeful. At high levels, it enables a person to have cosmic experiences. At the highest level, it unites a person's spirit with the Universal Spirit, called God, Tao, the Buddha or other names by different peoples.
These explanations are just empty words to the uninitiated. They may know the meaning of all the words in the explanations, but still do not really know what the explanations mean. It is like someone who has not eaten a durian (which is a popular fruit in Southeast Asia). He may read all the explanations on the taste of a durian, but still will not know how a durian tastes.
The best way for you to understand the truth of qi is to learn qigong from a genuine master. If you attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course, you will experience qi and its many benefits the very first day of your training.
Is it true that people who have developed their qi can break stones and jump high in air?
Yes, it is true, and I am speaking from personal experience. I and many of my students (including some female students) can break stones or bricks with our bare hands.
When I was training for “heng kung”, or the art of lightness, I could jump from a spot to a height of about 5 feet, which is a very low level attainment in the art. For some reasons, I discontinued the training. People with “heng kung” could jump over a wall of 10 feet.
But not all those who have developed their qi can perform these two feats. The art of developing qi is called qigong. There are many different types of qigong with various levels of accomplishments.
Some remarkable accomplishments of qigong masters include injuring opponents from a distance without physical contact, withstanding attacks even by weapons without sustaining any injury, seeing into the past, seeing into the future, astral traveling, and distant healing. It is understandable if many people do not believe these can be true.
But more immediate and meaningful qigong accomplishments for most people are overcoming so-called incurable diseases, and having good health and vitality to enjoy daily work and play. You too can have these benefits within a year if you learn qigong from a genuine master and practice it diligently.
Is qi an unknown power that the Western world has not explored yet or is it just a point of view about the universe and human health?
Qi is neither an unknown power nor merely a point of view. It is absolutely real.
For the Western world today, qi is known to only a few, the great majority has not heard of it. (“A few” here is relative to the total Western population. Actually Westerners who have known qi run to tens of thousands. I myself have a few thousand Western students.)
The Western world on a whole has not explored this power. There are many reasons, such as real qi masters are rare, those real masters willing to explore qi with the Western world are rarer still, the West generally do not know about qi, those who have heard about qi may not believe in it, and the West has many other things to explore.
The power of qi was known to the Western world in the past. Its practice was not called “qigong” (as it has been called by the Chinese), but was called “the art of mysteries” or “the mystic art”. Many early Christian Fathers were exponents of the mystic art.
However, during the Middle Ages female exponents of the mystic art were burnt at the stake as witches (which actually meant “wise women”), and male exponents like the Knights Templar and other members of mystic groups were systematically destroyed. Since then, the power of qi was gradually lost, until recently when Eastern masters of the art brought it to the West.
I practiced Tai Chi years ago and am just returning, but with more of a focus on building up and controlling chi energy. I'm presently beginning each practice with a standing meditation focusing on ground, breath and posture. Then I proceed to a very slow raising and dropping of the hands as an intended chi raising chi kung exercise. Finally, I proceed into my form. I'm feeling very relaxed, balanced and centered, but don't know if I'm necessarily “feeling chi”. What should I be looking for sensation-wise and what else can I do to generate and control chi before starting the form.
— Cory, USA
Tai Chi Chuan is a wonderful art, but it seems you are not getting the full benefits of your training, though you feel relaxed, balanced and centered.
Chi is an essential aspect of genuine Tai Chi Chuan training. Without chi, Tai Chi Chuan often debases into merely external forms. If you can generate an internal chi flow with your Tai Chi Chuan training, you will know it. If you are not sure, it means you have not succeeded in doing so.
I would recommend that you attend my Intensive Tai Chi Chuan Course in Malaysia. All the theory you have read about Tai Chi Chuan will come alive in this course. Please refer to /general/tjq-course.html for details.
I really like fighting and sparring. The problem with me is that I get blue-black very easily each time I am hit in Tae Kwon Do. I suffer much pain. Is there any meditation or exercise to make my body tougher and less subjected to pain, or may be food so that my body is stronger?
— Nicholas, Malaysia
In sparring, which is a systematic way to train fighting, one should not be hit even once. But today many students go straight to free sparring, which is not much different from brawling, without first learning how to fight. As a result, being hit and kicked is accepted as routine. This is wrong. This will result in much unnecessary injury.
In our Shaolin Wahnam training, if students are accidentally hit during sparring, which rarely happens, they immediately perform remedial exercises to clear the pain and bruises. If bruises remain, “thiet ta jow” or medicinal wine is applied on to the bruises. If there is any internal injury, appropriate herbal concoction is taken to clear the injury.
In your case I would recommend preventing the problem from happening rather than allowing it to happen then trying to overcome it. Why should you subject yourself to be hit, endure injuries and suffer pain? After all you practice a martial art, which means you learn to prevent yourself from being hurt when being attacked.. If you fail to do so, it means you have failed in your martial art.
So you should learn how to spar instead of going straight to free sparring without prior preparation. If you succeed in learning how to spar, you would succeed in preventing yourself from being hit.
It may come as a surprise to many people but in today's martial arts most students and instructors do not learn how to spar first. They go straight to free sparring, mistakenly thinking that that is the way to learn fighting, and routinely hurt themselves. The methodology of learning how to spar has been generally lost.
If you are in such a situation, which actually is the norm today, you should wear protective gears to minimize the impact of injuries. You should also apply medicinal wine and take herbal concoction to overcome external and internal injuries.
There are many different exercises, including meditation, to make one's body being able to take punches and kicks and even weapon attacks without sustaining injury. Iron Shirt and Golden Bell are famous examples of such arts. These exercises need to be trained personally from a master.
Taking food, including western medical drugs, to make the body strong to withstand punches and kicks, or to increase the resistance to pain is not advisable. It may distort the natural working of your bodily systems with far reaching consequences.
The process should be the other way round. It should be strengthening the body by means of appropriate exercises, especially in chi kung and meditation. As a result of proper training, the body now can take punches and kicks without injury and without feeling pain. It should not he padding the body with food or drugs to cushion the hits.
Another problem is that I cannot spar for long because I have not enough breath and stamina. So I really cannot fight for long. What can I do so that I can fight longer? I really love fighting and hope Master Wong can help me with my problem.
To have power and stamina to spar for a long time without panting or feeling tired, one needs the following abilities.
- Having stored sufficient energy at the dan tian, or abdominal energy field.
- Being able to regulate this supply of energy for sparring.
- Being able to effectively dispose of toxic waste which is produced directly from the vigorous activities of sparring.
- Being physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually relaxed and focused.
These abilities or skills are pre-requisites, not ad-hoc tools. In other words, a combatant needs to develop these skills first before he attempts sparring, not tries to call forth these skills from nowhere while sparring.
Shaolin and Taijiquan students in our Shaolin Wahnam Institute routinely learn these skills in their training. For example, while performing any chi kung exercise they are physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually relaxed. After the exercise, they stand still and store energy at their dan tian. In any kungfu movement they regulate their intake of energy, dispose off toxic waste and replenish their energy supply at their dan tian by appropriate breathing methods.
For example, in executing a strike they breathe in fresh energy from the cosmos at the start of their movement, explode their force and dispose off toxic waste in their strike, and sink some energy into their dan tian at the completion of the movement. Hence, while students untrained in energy control expend their energy n a strike and therefore have less energy at the end, Shaolin Wahnam students by means of appropriate breath control, explode force in their strike but add energy to their dan tian, therefore resulting in more energy at the end.
In other word, as an untrained person spars he becomes tired, but as a trained person spars he becomes more energetic! Many people would find this incredible, but they can readily verify the truth by observing a typical Shaolin Wahnam kungfu class. Students continuously spar for two hours yet without panting or feeling tired.
These skills, of course, have to be learnt from and practiced under the supervision of a master. You may learn the secrets from my answer, yet you cannot acquire the skills without a master's help.
In your question you mention that you love fighting. You should know that sparring and fighting are technically different. Their purposes are also different. In sparring you do not hurt your sparring partner, but in fighting you aim to inflict injury on your opponent, though Shaolin disciples would minimize the injury as best as possible.
In sparring we develop invaluable skills which we can rewardingly use in our daily work and play. In fighting we use the skills destructively. We hope we never have to fight, though we shall fight well if we have to. I hope that with this understanding you would change your statement from “I really love fighting” (which would bring harmful effects to you and others) to “I really love sparring” (which can be very beneficial if you approach it methodically).
- The Pinacle Stage of My Evolution — Darryl Collett
- A Great Source of Strength and Inspiration — Christopher Jones
- I Only Got Short-Term Benefits — Tom
- Experiencing Satori at the Blue Mountain — Laura Fernández Garrido
- A Comparison of Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan