May 2005 (Part 2)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I am twenty years old and have been training in traditional Korean Taekwondo since I was eight. I have always had a problem with hitting people hard but have always been successful in the tournaments I entered. Over the last four years I have increasingly become focused on my personal sense of spirituality.
— Robert, Australia
It is always a pleasure for me to receive e-mails from dedicated martial artists, and a joy to offer helpful advice.
The philosophy and nature of Taekwondo is such that the practitioners have to hit his opponents hard. Taekwondo was developed by Korean patriots who were ready to sacrifice their lives to hit back at Japanese warriors often on horseback who controlled and oppressed them at that time.
Hence, we find many flying kicks in Taekwondo which are deadly but which also expose the practitioners dangerously. The power of these as well as other kicks depend on speed and momentum. It is therefore difficult for the Taekwondo practitioners to slow down or hold back their kicks even if they have wanted to.
Nevertheless despite training a brutal art, you have become increasingly spiritual. In Western terms, this can be described as God works in mysterious ways. But from the Eastern perspective, one likely possibility is that you had been cultivating in your previous lives.
In this life, your experience of brutality in your martial art training is meant as a sharp contrast so that you can bring out more readily your spirituality. If you do not believe in past lives, please ignore this explanation. But please take note that Jesus himself believed in past lives, as is evident in many instances found in the Bible.
Also disillusioned with the arrogance and aggressiveness of many martial artists I have met, I found that simply by allowing my presence to be the factor I focused on, and listened to, both in my body, my opponent and my environment, as well as watching the aura of my opponent it was very, very easy to defeat even opponents well beyond my normal physical ability.
There is a well known but little understood kungfu saying as follows: the highest kungfu concerns the mind.
“Mind” here is a translation of the Chinese word “xin”, which literally means “heart”. In classical Chinese, “heart” refers to what in English is best translated as “mind”. But “mind” here refers not just to the mental but also the emotional and the spiritual aspects.
Yours was an example of attaining the mind level in combat, where you became extremely calm, relaxed and focused. As a result your reactions, both mentally and physically, were extremely fast and precise. So, even if your opponents were physically bigger and stronger than you, and their techniques might be more sophisticated, your fast and precise movements easily defeat them.
Attaining the mind level is more than enabling you to defeat opponents in combat. It also leads you to spiritual cultivation.
However the problem I have had with hitting people got much, much worse. I felt physically sick when blunt aggression was focused at me and just as bad when I hit someone. I do not and cannot see how movements designed to hurt other people can be in any way spiritual.
You are right. Intentions aimed at and movements designed for hurting other people cannot contribute to spiritual development. You felt sick because your action in hitting people in combat brought forth strongly this realization.
However, you should not feel distraught about it, you should feel awakened, which actually is the case. You will also soon feel compassion. Compared to those martial artists, including some masters, who take pride and pleasure in hurting their opponents even when their opponents have been defeated, you are a very long way ahead in spiritual development.
In 2002 I gave up Taekwondo and moved to and lived in Cardiff, UK for a year. During that time I heard about Tai Chi Chaun. I have heard various things about Tai Chi Chaun, namely that it was just an exercise for old people. But I decided in the interests of my martial education to have a look into it. I was the only person in the class under sixty and had eight lessons where I was shown basic Push-Hands and first few steps of the form.
It must have been difficult for you to leave Taekwondo after having devoted so many years to it. But don't feel that you have wasted your time in Taekwondo. On the contrary it has been very educational for you. It has brought out your spirituality, even at your young age.
Today, Tai Chi Chuan has been greatly debased. The way it is practiced now, it is no surprise it is regarded as an exercise for old people. But this serves a very useful social purpose. It actually will benefit less people if it is practiced as a serious martial art.
Tai Chi Chaun is in my opinion the most dangerous form of martial art in the world. This is self evident from every movement.
I did not continue with my practice because I believed that it would take many years to even become remotely competent. I did not wish to practice incorrectly and knew I had to go back to Australia in a month and would be without the guidance of a teacher of the caliber of the one I had met, which I believe is rare.
Also, the deadly nature of the art disturbed me. I cannot understand how so many old people can practice it quite happily and ignorant of the intention and purpose of the forms and practice which I took to be very deadly.
It is great credit to your martial art knowledge and experience, much of which must have come from your Taekwondo training, that you realize Tai Chi Chuan can be a very dangerous martial art. Many Tai Chi teachers, some of whom are referred to as masters by the public, do not know a single combat application despite having taught the art for years.
You are right about practicing correctly. While it is true that it takes time to be competent, when you have a good teacher and good methodology, if you are a good student you can achieve in three years what others may not achieve in twenty.
You need not be disturbed by the deadly nature of Tai Chi Chuan. Genuine traditional Tai Chi Chuan, like genuine traditional Shaolin Kungfu, is a class apart from all other martial arts. Whereas all other martial arts were developed for fighting, Tai Chi Chuan and Shaolin Kungfu were originally developed for spiritual cultivation.
The First Patriarch of Tai Chi Chuan was the great Zhang San Feng. He did not invent Tai Chi Chuan, rather Tai Chi Chuan evolved as a result of his practice and teaching. Zhang San Feng had already mastered Shaolin Kungfu, so he had no need to invent an art for fighting or for health.
After graduating from the Shaolin Temple, Zhang San Feng went to the Wudang Mountain to continue his spiritual cultivation. As usual, after practicing his kungfu forms or chi kung exercises, he went into Standing Meditation.
First he kept still. Then the chi inside him started to move. This is now expressed in Tai Chi Chuan philosophy as “extreme stillness generates motion”. At first his external movements, which were the result of his internal chi flow, were gentle, making him sway like a happy willow tree. This is expressed in Shaolin Kungfu as “Flowing Breeze and Swaying Willows”. Gradually his movements became vigorous, and he moved about with graceful, flowing movements. This is expressed as “Flowing Stream and Floating Clouds”. These flowing stream, floating clouds movements developed into what we now called Tai Chi Chuan.
I did notice a general focusing and flowing of my energy and a definite centering and grounding effect. I would like to learn Tai Chi Chuan properly. I have discipline and believe that if I practice hard enough I would see at least some progress in ten or so years. However I do not know where to find a qualified teacher near me and do not understand how the practice of such an art, which is essential Buddhist, can possibly fit in with my beliefs and feelings.
If you can practice with Sifu Jeffrey Segal, our Wahnam Taijiquan instructor in Australia, you should have reasonably good results in three years. He is a very good teacher. Even if you cannot attend his classes, you can write to him for advice. His contact particulars are: Tel/Fax 61-3-9489 0275; Mobile 61-439-612 486; E-mail: Segal@bigpond.net.au .
Tai Chi Chuan is not Buddhist but Taoist. The concept of religion in the East is very different from that in the West. A Taoist is one who cultivates to attain the Tao. “Tao” is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, infinite and eternal. It is a Chinese term for what in the West is called “God”. In other words, “to attain Tao” means “to return to God”. Hence, Tai Chi Chuan fits in perfectly with your beliefs and feelings.
I would highly recommend that you attend my Intensive Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan) Course in Malaysia. However, I do not offer this course often. You may then attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course. In Shaolin Kungfu, which is Buddhist, we cultivate to attain Enlightenment, which is another way of saying to return to God.
In our school, Shaolin Wahnam, right at the very first lessons in Tai Chi Chuan or Shaolin Kungfu, our students experience energy flow and cosmic awareness. For those who do not have such experiences, terms like “energy flow” and “cosmic awareness” do not mean anything. But for the initiated, such direct experiences give them a tremendous sense of freedom, peace and spiritual joy.
You can read many personal accounts of these experiences in my website and our Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum http://wongkiewkit.com/forum/ . Besides my Taijiquan website http://taijiquan.org which you mentioned, you can find a lot of information in my other website http://shaolin.org . But even if you may not learn from us, you can be assured that we shall be very happy to help you the best we can.
Meanwhile practice your Tai Chi Chuan following my advice as follows as best as you comfortably can.
Stand upright with feet close together and be totally relaxed. Do not worry about your breathing but keep your mouth gently open, and do not think of anything. Then smile from your heart. Don't ask how to do it, just do it. Then keep still and enjoy the stillness. This is “Entering Tao”. You can read Jeffrey's article on it here If you body starts to sway as a result of your internal chi flow, flow along with the gentle sway. If your body is still, just enjoy the stillness.
After a few minutes of enjoying your stillness or gentle chi flow, perform whatever Tai Chi Chuan movements you know. Actually it is not important what types of movements you perform, but it is very important that you are totally relaxed and you think of nothing, and that your movements are gentle and graceful without any muscular tension. Do not worry about your breathing, just breathe naturally.
After performing your Tai Chi Chuan movements gently and gracefully, stand upright as before. This is “Returning to Tao”. Enjoy your stillness or gentle chi flow. Then complete the session by rubbing your palms together, warming your eyes with your palms, opening your eyes and walking about briskly. The whole training session takes about 10 minutes. As you progress, you will spontaneously and gradually lengthen the time of your training session. Practice this once or twice daily, in the morning, evening or at night.
If you encounter any problems or have any questions, please feel free to ask me by e-mails or ask our Shaolin Wahnam instructors in our Discussion Forum .
Are there kungfu techniques against double leg take down or single leg take down?
— Abraham, Indonesia
Yes, there are many. The following are just a few examples from Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan.
As your opponent attempts to move in and grasp you for the take down, move one leg backward into a Bow-Arrow Stance and simultaneously strike his head with your palm using the Shaolin pattern “Yun Tan Tames Tiger” (Yun Tan is a Chinese god of wealth), or with your fist using the Taijiquan pattern “Low Punch”.
This may kill or maim him. To avoid such drastic effect, you may strike his shoulder or shoulder blade instead. You can view a video clip here showing Sifu Anthony Korahais demonstrating this technique.
Or, if your opponent has already moved in and you are not in time to retreat your leg, and he is about to grasp you with his hands, go low into your Bow-Arrow Stance and simultaneously use both your forearms to intercept his hands at his upper arms, thus preventing him from grasping you. Immediately jab your palms into his side ribs. This is the Shaolin pattern called “Double Planting of Flowers”.
Alternatively, you can graps his belt if he is wearing one, or grasp his elbows, unbalance him and flick him to fall over. This is the Taijiquan pattern called “Carry Tiger Back to Mountain”.
If your opponent has already tackled you, and you are about to fall, go down to the ground on one knee and simultaneously jab your elbow on his shoulder blade, using the Shaolin pattern “Fierce Tiger Crouches on Ground”.
Alternatively, move one leg backward to a very low stance if you can still move your leg, if not go down on the spot and simultaneously with your two hands bring your opponent to fall facedown before you. This is the Taijiquan pattern called “Earth Dragon”.
I've read that some high level neikung practitioners have developed a solid ball of chi in their dantien that they can move at will and that can be felt by any observer as a substantial solid ball moving around the abdomen. Do you know of anyone who has achieved this level and, if so, could you discuss the significance of this ability?
— Sean, USA
Many of my students have developed this ball of chi at their dan tian. There was an interesting discussion of his ball of chi, or his dan tian, in our Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum . You can do a search at the forum to read it.
Moving this ball of chi about or letting people feel it are just little tricks or pastimes. Much more significantly, this ball of chi represents a consolidated bank of energy which can be used in countless ways to enrich our lives and the lives of other people. This energy, for example, ensures that all life functions carry on smoothly, and provides us with vitality for us to enjoy our work and play every day of our life for a long, long time.
- What is a Martial Art? — Marcus Santer
- Understanding Why Taiji Comes from Wuji — Joko Riyanto
- Combat Sequences from Dragon Style Set — Part 3
- Combat Sequences from Dragon Style Set — Part 4
- Combat Sequences from Dragon Style Set — Part 1