April 2005 (Part 3)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Firstly I would like to thank you for your inspiration. Your books have had very positive influence on my life. Though I am hopeful, if I am honest I am doubtful this will be answered by you yourself. I do not mean to cause offence, I just understand you must have thousands of emails requesting your advice and it would be impossible for you to answer them personally.
— Tom, England
I am glad you have found my books inspiring. And yes, I am answering your e-mail myself. All the answers published in the question-answer series are answered by me personally. I can do this while traveling round the world teaching chi kung and kungfu, as well as spending a lot of time at home with my family because my chi kung and kungfu training has made me very cost-effective.
For a long time I have been experiencing pain down the back of my left leg and after walking for a short periods of time I get numbness in my calf and foot. After a long process I have managed to get a Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan of my spine which has revealed (today) that I have a herniated disc in my lower spine which is pushing against the sciatic nerve thus causing the pain in my leg. The hospital specialist has given me two options.
The first is to have an injection into my spine to “lubricate” the area and to reduce the inflammation. This is treating the symptom and not the cause and is not a permanent solution. The second option is an operation to remove the protruding disc completely, which I do not want to resort to.
It is my aim to one day attend one of your intensive courses.
It is interesting but only this morning (5th March 2005) while commenting on our success in helping students overcome sciatic pain, Rama, the Resident Master of Shaolin Wahanm Costa Rica where I am now teaching chi kung and Taijiquan, mentioned the case of a famous, rich man who underwent an operation on his spine to overcome his sciatic problem but became paralyzed for life. That was indeed sad.
My personal opinion is that even if you had no other way to overcome your sciatic problem, it is not serious enough for you to risk an operation on your spine. But the good news is that you have an effective way to overcome your sciatic problem. You do not even have to learn from me or our instructors personally. You can practice the exercises which I am going to describe below. And the exercises are safe to be practiced on your own. Others who have sciatic problem can also do so.
The two exercises are “Carrying the Moon” and “Bear Walk”, followed by energy flow. You can find “Carrying the Moon” in my chi kung books, but as I wrote many books many years ago, I cannot remember clearly whether “Bear Walk” is also described there. The procedure is as follows.
Stand upright and be totally relaxed. Smile from your heart. Don't worry how you do it, just do it. Bend forward, dropping your arms naturally in front. You need not touch your toes, but your hands should be past your knees.
Then bring up your straight arms in a big arc forward and upward, with your body following the forward and upward movement, until your hands are above and behind your head. At the same time breathe in gently through your nose.
By now you are bending backward with your head looking backward. Using your thumbs and index fingers make a small circle the shape of the full moon above and slightly behind your head, with your elbows slightly bent. Hold this position gently for two or three seconds, simultaneously holding your breath gently.
Then straighten your body and arms, and gently lower your arms to your sides, simultaneously breathing out gently through your mouth. After your have dropped your arms at your sides, pause at this standing upright position for a second or two, simultaneously holding your breath gently. This exercise is called “Carrying the Moon”. Repeat it about 30 times. (Note: those who have learnt from me or any of our instructors need to repeat about 10 to 15 times only.)
After performing “Carrying the Moon” about 30 times, proceed to the next exercise called “Bear Walk” as follows. Stand upright with the feet about shoulder's width apart. Straighten the two arms at both sides. Bend both palms forward as much as possible with the fingers pointing forward. Now the palms are at about right angles to the arms. The arms should be quite straight. You should be relaxed. In this posture, you will feel some internal force, which many people may mistake as tension.
Maintaining this posture, shift your body weight from one leg to another. Then, as you continue shifting your body, alternatively leave up one heel as you shift your body to the other leg, and gradually lift up the whole leg, while your body is upright, your two arms are straight, and your palms at right angles.
In other words, you are rocking your body sideway, standing on one leg at a time without bending either knee. This exercise is called the “Bear Walk”, although you do not walk away from your starting position. The breathing is natural throughout this exercise, but keep your mouth gently open. Repeat the “Bear Walk” about 30 to 40 times, counting each shift from standing on one leg to the other as one time. (Note: Shaolin Wahnam students need to perform only about 20 times.)
After “Carrying the Moon” and “Bear Walk”, bring the feet fairly together and just let go. If you have performed the two exercises correctly, you would have generated an energy flow. (You may have to practice for many days before you have your first energy flow.) Follow and enjoy the energy flow. Do not worry about your breathing, but keep your mouth gently open.
If the energy flow moves your body in any way, just follow the movements. However, if the movements become vigorous, slow them down. (Note: Shaolin Wahnam students need not slow down the vigorous movements if they are under control.)
After enjoying your chi flow for about 10 minutes, gently think of your dan tian (which is located about two inches below your naval), bring your feet together and stand upright for a minute or two. Then rub your hands together to warm them, and place the center of your palms to warm your eyes. Open your eyes, massage your face and walk about briskly. That completes the session.
Practice twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening or at night. Each session takes about 15 minutes. You need to practice daily for a few months to have good result.
If it is just for overcoming your sciatic problem, you need not come for my chi kung course. Practicing the exercises above twice a day is quite sufficient. But if you have the opportunity I would recommend you to attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course in Malaysia. Many people have said that this is one of the best things they have done in their life.
You can also take a regular class from one of our Shaolin Wahnam instructors near your area. Marcus teaches Shaolin Wahnam chi kung in England. He is a very good instructor. His contact particulars are as follows: telephone 44-1626-895488, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and website http://www.artofchikung.com. Even if you may not take a class from him, he will be able to help you to check that you are performing the above exercises correctly if you ask him.
I have read a few of your books which have given me a great interest in Zen, kungfu, and chi kung. But how does a Shaolin monk work out? Do Shaolin monks have a workout routine?
— Sinan, England
Modern Shaolin monks, who come from the present northern Shaolin Temple, practice modernized wushu, and not traditional kungfu. They have a workout routine but it is different from the workout of Shaolin monks in the past who practiced traditional kungfu. The modern Shaolin monks spend much time on push-ups, running, stretching and set practice, whereas the Shaolin monks in the past spent much time on force training and combat application.
As you are interested in Zen, kungfu and chi kung, I reckon that what you wanted to ask was the workout routine of Shaolin monks in the past. Different masters at different periods of time at the Shaolin Temple in the past would use a different workout routine. The following workout routine we often use in Shaolin Wahnam, we believe, is similar to the one used in the southern Shaolin Temple before it was burnt by the Qing Army about 150 years ago.
We usually start with “Lifting the Sky” to stretch ourselves as well as to generate an internal energy flow. Next, we practice stance training, One Finger Shooting Zen or Sinew Metamorphosis, followed by the Art of Flexible Legs or Hundred Kicks. Then we practice combat sequences or kungfu sets, followed by miscellaneous techniques, sequence sparring or free sparring. We conclude our session with Standing Meditation.
A notable difference between our workout in Shaolin Wahnam and that in the southern Shaolin Temple about 150 years ago is that we usually train unarmed whereas the Shaolin monks of old often trained with weapons.
Does the workout only consist of finger push ups and standing in the Horse Riding Stance?
Of course not. There are many other things to train besides push-ups by the modern Shaolin monks, and Horse-Riding Stance by the Shaolin monks of old.
Push-ups was also trained by the monks of old, but not in the way the modern monks do. The modern monks train push-ups as physical exercise, whereas the monks of old trained it as chi kung called “The Art of Taming Tiger”.
I am very interested in Qinggong (art of light body) and I was just wondering if you can help me. I have purchased some books which have detailed information, but not quite enough.
— Adrian, Canada
Yes, I can certainly help you by giving you good advice, and my advice is actually very important though you may or may not appreciate it.
My advice is don't practice Qinggong from a book. You are very likely to harm yourself, often without your realizing it.
It is also very likely that the authors who gave detailed information about Qinggong training do not know Qinggong themselves. If they knew they would not have given the information in books for self learning. They would have known the risks involved.
Moreover, if they really knew Qinggong, they would make much more money giving demonstration of their art than by writing books. If they felt that it was morally wrong to earn money from their art, it would be far worse giving training information which they should know, if they had trained in it, would lead gullible readers into serious trouble training on their own.
Actually the basic training information of Qinggong is not detailed. It is very simple and can be written in half a page. It is acquiring the skills that takes much time — in matters of years — and the subtleties involved, though the method is simple, cause making mistakes likely to happen if trained without proper supervision.
I was just wondering, if during training, the qi should be concentrated in certain spots of the body or just in the dan tian.
My description below is for satisfying curiosity, and not for self practice.
Different teachers may teach differently, but according to the method that I was trained in but which I did not successfully complete, one inhales when he jumps up, and exhales when he jumps down. When inhaling the qi is brought to the lungs, and when exhaling the qi is brought to the dan tian, and sometimes to the feet.
The method is simple, but there are a lot of risks involved. If you inhale wrongly when you jump up, the qi may harm your heart. If you bring your qi down wrongly when you jump down, the qi may harm your genitals.
If you try out the method for fun for a few times jumping up and down a chair, it is alright even though you make mistakes. The harm caused by making mistakes in a few jumps is not serious, and usually the harm will disappear on its own after a few days. But if you make mistakes jumping a few hundred times every day, and you continue that for a few years, the harm can be very substantial.
I have a problem practicing chi kung (from your book). After practicing, I feel so tired and sleepy. Did I have wrong practice?
— Roy, Indonesia
Yes, you have practiced wrongly. If you practice correctly you should feel energized and fresh.
Probably you were tensed when you practiced. It is very important to be relaxed when practicing chi kung.
I tried to learn from someone who knows kungfu and taichi, but he didn't teach me tai chi basic like Three Circles. He taught me kungfu basic. The basic that he taught is to put my feet 1.5 feet apart and lower my position until 90 degrees. He said I must do it for at least 5 minutes.
Today when people use the term “kungfu”, they usually mean various styles of Shaolin Kungfu, and when they say “tai chi” they usually means external Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan) forms. Actually there are many different types of kungfu, and Tai Chi Chuan is a type of kungfu.
What your teacher taught you was Tai Chi Chuan basic. From you description, it appears that he taught you the Goat Stance. As this stance is popular in Tai Chi Chuan, it is sometimes called the Tai Chi Stance. He advised you correctly. You should practice this stance until you can stay at it for at least 5 minutes before you learn other Tai Chi Chuan patterns.
I do not understand what you meant by “until 90 degreees”. Did you mean that you bent you knees until your upper legs and your lower legs formed 90 degrees? Usually when one performs the Goat Stance, he does not need to bend so low.
When one performs another stance, called the Horse-Riding Stance, where the legs are 2.5 to 3 feet apart, he bends lower. But even in this lower stance, it may not be necessary to go as low as 90 degrees.
If I practice tai chi, should I practice chi kung because you said that chi kung is inside of tai chi.
If what you practice is genuine, traditional Tai Chi Chuan, you are already practicing chi kung. Hence, there is no need to practice other chi kung exercises. But if what you practice is just external Tai Chi forms, it is good to practice chi kung
- Video Clips and Notes on Shaolin Wahnam Sparring Methodology
- Basic Taijiquan Training in Shaolin Wahnam
- Personal Experiences of Breathing Methods — Jeffrey Segal
- Video Clip: Breaking Bricks with Internal Force
- Wu Wei and the Void — Anthony Korahais