August 2006 (Part 2)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I am 25 years old, and have suffered from being thin and drawn since I was a teenager. My lungs are quite weak and have suffered scars where they have collapsed numerous times. Doctors call this condition Pnemoux thorax. Apparently it has no cure other than a serious operation that involves severing one of your lungs and leaving it unable to function at full capacity for the rest of your life.
My skin lacks any glow, my eyes are bloodshot and I have quite a lot of moles on my body that change shape a lot. All of these conditions have led me to not care for myself and although I have been Buddhist since I was quite young, I used meditation to escape the world, not to be strong in it.
— Paul, Laos
Although conventional Western medicine has no cure nor understanding of your health problems, chi kung philosophy can explain your situation and chi kung practice can help to relieve your problems. Surprising it may be to those used to the Western medical paradigm, in principle the reason for your apparently complicated problems is simple, and the treatment straight-forward.
But mentioning “simple” and “straight-forward” here does not necessarily mean the treatment is easy and that you will definitely be cured. What is meant is that the cause of your problem is known and a treatment that may relieve the problems exists. This is a big advantage over conventional Western medicine which does not know what went wrong with you, and therefore could not prescribe a cure.
I would also like to clarify that saying this is not meant to belittle conventional Western medicine, because in other areas conventional Western medicine is more effective than chi kung.
In chi kung philosophy, the cause of your problems is disharmonious energy flow. It is that simple. It is so simple that some people may think it is a joke, and others may not believe it. This in turn is due to their not understanding what actually is meant by “disharmonious energy flow”.
In simple English it means that the energy that flows to your systems, organs, tissues, muscles or cells is not flowing smoothly, with the result that some of them are not performing their functions normally due to a lack of energy to do so. For example, the energy that is supposed to flow to your lungs to enable your lungs to perform their normal functions, is blocked. As a result, in your case, your lungs have become weak, have suffered scars and collapsed numerous times.
Had the energy flowed harmoniously to your lungs, your lungs would be able to function normally. This means your lungs will be strong, they can self-regenerate when wounds occur with the result that they would be no scars, and they would not collapse as there is sufficient energy to support them. In other persons, because of different variables, a blockage of energy flow to their lungs may produce different ill-effects. Some may, for example, suffer from asthma or tuberculosis, while others may feel sad or depressed.
In the same way, a blockage of energy in other parts of your body prevents those parts to perform their normal functions. As a result, your skin lacks glow, your eyes are bloodshot, and you have moles on your body that change shape a lot. Had the flow of energy been harmonious, these relevant parts of your body would be able to perform their normal functions, and you would not have dull skin, bloodshot eyes or moles. These health problems naturally affect you emotionally, resulting in you not being positive about yourself and wanting to escape from life.
In principle, the treatment is straight-forward. As the cause is disharmonious energy flow, a simple, direct and effective remedy is to resore your harmonious energy flow. It is comforting to know that harmonious energy flow is natural — just as your eyes being able to see or your ears being able to hear is natural. What you need to do is to restore something natural, something you can naturally do, and not something supernatural like eating iron or flying in the air.
In other words, once you have restored your harmonious energy flow, your lungs and other relevant parts of your body will be able to function naturally again. This means your lungs will be strong, have no scars and will not collapse, your eyes will not be bloodshot, and your skin will not be lack-luster or full of moles.
There are a few ways you can restore your harmonious energy flow, such as herbal medicine, acupuncture and massage theray. But, in my opinion, the best way is to practice genuine, high-level chi kung. Practicing chi kung has a big advantage over the other forms of therapies. In the other therapies, exact and accurate diagnosis is necessary. If the diagnosis is wrong or not exact, for example if the therapist does not know exactly wherethe various blockages are, he would be unable to prescribe the right treatment.
In chi kung, diagnosis is not even needed! Why? Because it is a natural characteristic for chi flow to find and clear blockages whether they are. As our energy network or meridian system connects every part of our body to every other part, high-level chi kung will clear all blockages. This means you will overcome not only the health problems that you have mentioned but also other health problems which you may not even realize.
The treatment is straight-forward, but not necessarily easy. Firstly, many people, probably including you, mistake gentle physical exercise as genuine chi kung. Even if the chi kung is genuine, it may not be high-level or powerful enough to solve your problems. Genuine, high-level chi kung is quite rare nowadays. Moreover, even if you have found a genuine, high-level chi kung master willing to teach you, you may not practice correctly or sufficiently.
I was lucky enough to study Tai Chi with a master, who taught me about energy and basic movements and standing correctly.
If you are fortunate as well as dedicated enough to practice genuine, high-level Tai Chi Chuan, you can overcome your health problems. Tai Chi Chuan, which is a form of chi kung, can generate energy flow which in turn can clear the blockages that caused your health problems.
But the fact is that much of the Tai Chi practiced today is not genuine Tai Chi Chuan; it is Tai Chi forms practiced as gentle physical exercise, and not as chi kung. If you read our Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum, you will find many Tai Chi teachers today do not believe in chi, though chi is the core factor in genuine Tai Chi Chuan.
Even if the Tai Chi Chuan you practice is genuine, it may not be powerful enough for your purpose, though it can be very powerful for other purposes like combat. Relatively speaking, medical chi kung will be more suitable for you than martial art chi kung like genuine Tai Chi Chuan.
However I would like to ask you if you think it is possible I can study and learn the subject of chi kung from books. I would like to study more and buy some books on the subject but am worried with no teacher to instruct me I may end up doing things wrong. Do you think it is possible?
It is certainly possible that you can study and learn a lot about chi kung from books. You may also become very knowledgeable. But this may not necessary overcome your health problems.
Many people may not realize that being theoretically knowledgeable in an art is categorically different from being proficient in it. This actually applies to many chi kung and Tai Chi “masters”, whom I believe would be better termed as “scholars”. This situation is prevalent in Western societies today. If one has writtern a few books on chi kung or Tai Chi, he is often regarded as an authority in the art, even though he may not have any experience of chi nor able to use any Tai Chi Chuan techniques for self defence.
Sincerely, this statement is not meant to belittle these “masters”. Many of these “masters” are actually very nice people, and they have contributed much to the public awareness of these arts. But realizing this statement helps to arrest the rapid debasing of these arts, which are internal and practical, into mere external forms or mystified philosophies.
Whether you will learn correctly or derive harmful side-effects by learning chi kung from books depends on a few factors, especially on what type of chi kung is involved, how well the author explains it, and how well you learn from it. If the chi kung is not advanced, the author explains it well, and you learn and practice it correctly, you can get benefits and no harmful side-effects even when you practice on your own without a teacher's personal instruction. But the benefit you get is unlikely to be powerful enough to overcome your present health problems.
If the chi kung is powerful it is usually advanced, and it is likely you practice wrongly and derive harmful effects. Please note that you may learn the technique correctly, yet practice it wrongly. Many people, especially those not exposed to genuine, high-level chi kung, may be puzzled why one could practice wrongly when he has learnt the technique correctly, though this is actually not infrequent. Let us take an example.
Suppose you have to be relaxed and tap energy from the cosmos. The instruction is simple and straight forward, but it is not easy to carry out this instruction correctly without the personal help of a compeent instructor. For example, you may be tensed when you honestly think you are relaxed. This is actually a common situation, especially amongst those who practice external martial arts. And it is unlikely you know how to tap energy from the cosmos although you understand the instruction.
I need seriously your answer for I fear that something may be wrong with my body. When I practise “Lifting the Sky” or even Three Circles Chi Kong or other Chi Kong exercises, my abdomen and body jerk forward and backward quite vigorously. The more relax, the more the jerks. Should I stop practising all together or continue? Is there something wrong with my body to seek medical attention?
— Steven, Australia
In your case without seeing you in person it is difficult to tell whether your symptoms are beneficial or harmful. The vigorous jerking of your body may be due to chi flow breaking through blockage at your tissue level, in which case it is beneficial. Or it may be due to wrong practice causing energy blockage, which is harmful. There are other signs which can tell whether your jerking is good or bad, but without examining you in person it is difficult to tell.
As an analogy you may say that the orange you are eating is sour. The sour taste may be an indication that the orange is good. Or it may indicate that the orange is rotten. If you have eaten a good orange as well as a rotten orange before, you can tell from your own experience whether the sour taste indicates the oragne is good or bad. With direct experience, the difference is unmistakable. An experienced observer watching your reaction can also tell easily. But it is impossible to tell from a mere verbal description.
Nevertheless, a useful guideline is how you feel. If you feel good about the jerking, i.e. your jerking makes you feel pleasant, it is usually good. But if you feel bad about it, i.e. your jerking makes you feel unpleasant, it is usually bad. You need not intellectualize on what is good and bad. Just decide from your feeling.
Your mentioning that your jerking became more when you relaxed more, suggests that the jerking was beneficial. But if you feel uncomfortable, you should stop your training for some time. If your jerking is due to your wrong practice, the jerking should cease a few days after you have stopped your practice. However, if the jerking is due to your right practice resulting in chi breaking through your blockage, it will resume when you resume your training.
I don't think your jerking has caused you serious harm. A conventional doctor may be unable to find out what is wrong with you because energy blockage, which is relevant in your case here, is not part of his paradigm. Consult a good chi kung master or a good Chinese physician. We have two certified Shaolin Wahnam instructors in Australia. Perhaps you can consult them in person. Please see for their contact particulars.
I have been directing energy to various parts of the body by using concentration alone. No breathing and no channeling energy from the dan tian. I do this while lying down, which is the position I find most effective for directing my energy. After I have done this for all parts of the body, I feel very strong, and my body movements are indeed forceful, as if my body was warmed-up after intensive exercise.
However, I was wondering whether doing this could have long term side-effects. Wouldn't directing my energy this way on a regular basis lead to changes in my body's natural energy balance between various parts of the body, such as the distribution of energy shared by the internal organs, and the brain?
— Larry, Australia
You are right to think that directing energy this way could have long term harmful side-effects, like unnatural or unbalanced distribution of energy in your body.
There are also other possible risks. You may direct too much energy to some particular organs which may weaken instead of strengthen them. How could the organs be weakened when they have too much energy? The answer is actually straight-forward. The organs cannot cope up with the excessive energy. The situation is similar to a small car fitted with a large engine. Such an illness is called “yin-defiency”, and can be quite serious.
A third risk is that the excessive energy may be locked within the organs and physically damage some organ parts. Or they may interfere with natural energy flow, resulting in disorders like allegies and organ failure.
These risks may occur even when you did not make technical mistakes in directing your energy. If you made mistakes, the risks would be aggravated, and there may be more disorders.
Nevertheless, you need not worry about what you have done. From your description it is not likely that you have developed serious harmful side-effects yet. But you should stop your practice, despite the apparent power you have derived from it. Directing energy to various parts of the body is an advanced skill, and should be learnt from and supervised by a competent teacher. You should also practice “Lifting the Sky” as a precaution against possible harmful side-effects. You can learn it from my books.
“Lifting the Sky” is a safe exercise to practice on your own as long as you follow my instructions respectfully. Just follow the instructions the way they are given. For example, if you are asked to breathe in gently, just do that, i.e. breathe in gently. Don't start to imagine golden light entering your body, or intellectualize how gently is gently.
I have been training Wuzu for twelve years but feel that I have attained little progress. From early on your books have been a strong influence on my attitudes and understanding of training Chinese martial arts.
— Andrew, Ireland
Your situation is very common amongst most kungfu practitioners today. Many have devotedly practiced their kungfu for many years before finding out that their training has not brought the benefits practicing kungfu is purported to give, such as good health, combat efficiency and spiritual fulfilment. It is precisely to help such people that this website as well as the whole Shaolin Wahnam organization are set up. On the other hand, we do not wish to waste our time over people who stubornly insist that internal force is untrue and kungfu cannot be used for fighting.
Your twelve years in Wuzu are not going to waste. Your realization that your progress is little despite the long years is a first step to rectify your situation.
Any kungfu style can be classified into four aspects for easy understanding and cost-effective training. The four aspects are:
My books as well as this question-answer series have provided you with a sound philosophy of kungfu. Your twelve years in Wuzu have given you many kungfu forms. What you need to make your kungfu training complete are force development and combat application.
An excellent way to develop force is zhan zhuang, or stance training. Practice one, some or all the stances you have learnt in Wuzu Kungfu daily for at least six months. Start with a comfortable time, and gradually lengthen it. First make sure your are correct in your form. Then follow three golden rules. The first rule is to relax. The second rule is to relax. And the third rule is to relax. If you can remain comfortably at the Horse-Riding Stance, or any one of your main stances, for 15 minutes, you would have developed remarkable internal force.
Learning combat application without the help of a living instructor is difficult, but it can be done. One effective way is as follows. Think of four or five main ways an opponent will attack you with his hands. Response to each of these attacks using techniques from Wuzu Kungfu one at a time. Work with an imaginary opponent. Imagine that he attacks you in a certain way, and you respond accordingly.
Your imagination or visualization needs not be exact; just a thought will do. For example, just think that your imaginary opponent moves in to attack you like what a Boxer would typically do You counter with a Wuzu pattern. But make sure you use proper stances and correct Wuzu forms.
Repeat the procedure using kicks, throws and grips. When you are quite fluent with one-step attack, progress to two or more continuous attacks. Then, practice with a sparring partner. After about a year of daily training, you may not be a good fighter yer, but you will be pleasantly surprised that you can use your Wuzu Kungfu for combat.
If you have difficulty finding the appropriate responses using Wuzu techniques, have a look at the many examples of combat applications in my website. These will give you some good suggestions. For example, in our school we respond to a middle thrust punch with “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave”. “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” may not be found in your style, but you can readily substitute it with a similar Wuzu pattern. Instead of a Tiger-Claw, you may use a vertical block (similar to Mirror Hand), and instead of a False-Leg Stance, you may use a Four-Six Stance.
When I was meditating once I felt a strong current rising up my spine to the top of my head. I realized that this was the Small Universe from your books and others. This was seven years ago, but since then it has never sunk back down to my dan tian. I have tried directing it down and have succeeded in feeling it sink down, but it is a very vague sensation, not like the initial sensation of it rising. And I do not feel the enhanced energy you speak of.
What you experienced was not the Small Universe yet, but chi breaking through your Du Mai or Governing Meridian, which was also a remarkable attainment. If the chi flow continued down the front part of your body along the Ren Mai or Conceptual Meridian from your bai-hui to your hui-ying, then it would be the Small Universe.
You should not force your chi to sink down. Doing so may cause harmful side-effects. You should let it come down naturally or with appropriate breathing methods. But you need not worry about what you did. I don't think you caused any harm.
You did not feel the enhanced energy condition of the Small Universe because yours was a “false” break-through, and not a “real” break-through. In a “false” break-through, a bubble of energy goes round the Ren and Du Meridians, and this bubble of energy may later dissipate. In a “real” break-through a full column of energy goves round the Ren and Du Meridians, and the flow is continuous.
I would happily train with you in Maylaisa if necessary to attain the Big Universal Flow which is my ambition. I also plan to go on your Intensive Qigong Course when possible.
It is great if you can attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course. Alternatively you can attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course instead. This course will make many things you have learnt in Wuzu Kungfu come alive.
But you have an excellent chi kung teacher in your country. She is Sifu Joan Browne. Her website is http://www.shaolinwahnamireland.com/ and her contact pareticulars are Tel: 353-87-121 2249, 353-66-714 7545. and E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. She can be of great help in your progress.
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