July 2006 (Part 1)


Shaolin Kung Fu

Sifu Andrew Barnett of Shaolin Wahnam Switzerland sparring with his son using Shaolin Kungfu

Question 1

For about 5 years now I have been trained, luckily by an excellent teacher, in Xingyi and Bagua. But as of late I have been drawn to learn more and more about Shaolin philosophy and history, and have began to grow more interested in learning Shaolin Kungfu.

Unfortunately, I cannot find a reputable teacher (someone who focuses on technique, internal aspects and application) and do not really have the funds available at the moment to travel far for quality education. So I figured I would contact you as to hear what your take on my situation and what you would recommend.

— Damien, USA


To make the best choice, one has to consider many factors. Therefore, as different people have different factors, the best choice will vary from person to person, or even in the same person from time to time as the weightage of his factors changes.

The numerous factors can be classified into three main categories: the student, the art and the teacher.

The student should have a good idea of the aims and objectives in practicing the art. For example, the best choice for a person whose aim is to win trophies will be different from that for another person whose aim is to maintain good health.

Next, the student should have a good understanding of the art he wishes to practice. As martial arts nowadays have deviated drastically from their original philosophy and practice, it is helpful to bear in mind the art in its ideal conditions and the art in its actual conditions available to you.

For example, you have read about Shaolin Kungfu as effective means for combat efficiency and spiritual cultivation. This is the ideal. In practice, you may find the school that teaches Shaolin Kungfu available to you may not use what it teaches for combat and there may be nothing about spiritual cultivation.

Then you have to find a teacher who can help you to realize your aims and objectives. The teacher must be willing to teach you, and you must be able to pay his price. Often you have to choose between a better teacher or a better art.

Suppose your aims in practicing kungfu are combat efficiency and good health. After careful research you have found that Shaolin Kungfu is more effective than Xingyi or Bagua in enabling you to realize your aims. But you also have found that although the Shaolin master is a better fighter as well as more healthy than the Xingyi or Bagua master, the Xingyi and Bagua students are far better in these two aspects than the Shaolin students. In other words, the Shaolin master is a good practitioner but a bad teacher. So you may choose the better teacher instead of the better practitioner or the better art.

Question 2

Do you think I should continue focusing on Xingyi and Bagua and be satisfied with that, or should I keep striving to find someone to teach me quality Shaolin?


Finding a good teacher in Xingyi, Bagua, Shaolin or any martial art is like finding a rare gem. There may be thousands of mediocre teachers, some of whom may be famous and some may be very good fighters (often using Kick-Boing), yet finding a good teacher is very difficult anywhere in the world.

You are very lucky to have an excellent teacher in Xingyi and Bagua. Count your blessings and treasure him. Respect him sincerely and practice your arts the way he has taught you, not the way you think Xingyi and Bagua should be practiced. You have a gem now. It is unwise to throw it away, and go out in the wilderness hoping to look for another one.

Xingyi and Bagua are excellent arts. I would suggest that in the near future, you should ask your teacher to help you choose one of the two to specialize in, unless he advices otherwise. While Xingyi and Bagua may not be as extensive as Shaolin in contect, if you dedicate yourself to one of them, you may attain very high levels, much higher than what you might imagine you could get in Shaolin.

In fact, given the actual situation of Shaolin today, unless you are very lucky to meet a very good Shaolin master, it is more likely that you would end up doing external Shaolin forms, punching sandbags and doing press-ups for force training, and using Kick-Boxing for sparring. Your chance of internal cultivation, for both combat efficicney as well spiritual cultivation, is more likely in Xingyi or Bagua.

Question 3

Although I am trained scientifically (I am doing my master degree in mathematics), I seem to be attracted towards spiritual, “higher” purposes.

— Alvin, Hong Kong


Many of the greatest scientists the world has produced, like Galileo, Newton and Einstein, the three patriarchs of their respective scientific age, were deeply spiritual in their personal lives. We also have some top scientists in our Shaolin Wahnam Family, and they are deeply spiritual too.

Only mediocre scientists are mechanical. It is ironical that these mediocre scientists are so arrogant to believe they are the only ones to know what reality is, when it is an established scientific fact that what they know is less than one-tenth of the physical world.

It is the same with mediocre doctors. It is ironical that they are so arrogant to believe only they hold the knowledge to diseases when it is an established fact that there are so many diseases, like the whole range of viral infections, the whole range of organic illness and the whole range of psychiatric disorders, that they know little or nothing about. Happily, top doctors are looking into aspects of energy and mind in overcoming illness. We also have some top doctors in our Shaolin Wahnam Family.


Sifu Di Guoyong demonstrating a typical pattern from Xingyi Kungfu. This image is extracted from http://www.thewushucentre.ca/diguoyong.htm

Question 4

I am not physically sick, although my bad emotions have made me feel sick sometimes.


In Chinese medical philosophy, there is no distinction between physical and emotional sickness. Hence, every Chinese physician is also a psychologist. And a crucial tenet in Chinese medicine is that all recovery starts from the heart.

In Chinese, the “heart” includes the emotional, the mental and the spiritual. While conventional Western medicine separates disorders of the body from disorders of the “heart”, Chinese medicine works towards a harmonious unity of “shen-xin” (“sun-sam” in Cantonese), meaning “body-heart”, or in Western terms a unity of the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions of a person.

Many problems confronting Western medicine today is due to a failure to appreciate this body-heart harmony. Cancer is a good example. From the Chinese medical perspective as well as from my experience in helping many cancer patients overcome their illness, the cause of cancer is emotional.

Deep emotions, especially of grief and frustration, block the natural ability of the patient to overcome or inhibit cell mutations, which actually happen all the time even in a healthy person. As a result, cancer surfaces as a clinical illness. The cancerous tumour is actually a symptom of this break-down of natural ability to contain cell mutations. Removing the tumour is therefore only removing the symptom.

In my experience in helping cancer patients recover, my first and most important task is to restore and strengthen the patient's will to live. Next I impress upon him that cancer can be overcome — by high level chi kung or other means. Only then I teach him chi kung to clear his emotional blockage. Once his blockage is cleared, he will restore his natural ability to overcome cancer.

This also shows the crucial importance of mind and spirit. If a patient has a mind-set that he has to live with his illness for life, or if he has lost his spirit to live, he may never recover despite the best treatment.

Question 5

I would like to learn something simple first, preferably from books. They don't have to be the kind of Chi Kung which is profound. Just enough to convince me in the shortest possible time that Chi Kung is more than some simple moves. What I would like to have are some “real” feelings about “chi” before I go more into this ancient wisdom.


It is not our policy in Shaolin Wahnam to convince people to learn our arts. In fact it is the reverse. Intending students have to convince us that they are deserving. Nevertheless the above statements do not apply to you. Your request is reasonable and respectful. The above statements are meant for arrogant skeptics who simply shout, “Prove to me that your arts work”, but never make any effort to find out.

Actually we are quite generous. We offer the public the opportunity to experience chi kung and kungfu effects, such as chi flow, internal force and combat using typical kungfu forms, in a relatively short time — effects that many masters in the past as well as today would reserve only for their special students.

The shortest possible time for you to find out not only that chi is real but also it is profound and can do wonderful things for you, is to attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course. You will experience the reality of chi within the first 30 minutes of the course. By the end of the first day you will be able to generate your own chi flow, tap energy from the Cosmos and have a cosmic shower.

By the second day you will not only feel but actually develop internal force on your own. How do you know you have internal force? It is like asking how you know you have saliva in your mouth, or you stand on your legs. You know from direct personal experience. Only those who have no experience of internal force, or saliva in your mouth, will ask such questions.

By the end of the course on the third day you will be able to regulate the speed and nature of your chi flow, send chi to wherever you wish in your body, use chi to move your hands and legs, and massage your internal organs. You will also experience inner peace and joy. If you are ready you may even have a satori, that is a glimpse into cosmic reality, or in Western terms a meeting with God.

You don't have to pay a deposit to book a place, and you can pay the fee after the course only when you are satisfied. If you find my claims not true, or if you are dissatisfied in any way, you don't have to pay the fee. And that's it; we shall not ask what went wrong or why you were not satisfied or any questions.

If you find my course “expensive” you can learn from any of our Certified Shaolin Wahnam Instructors. You will experience chi in a very short time — often on the first day but normally not more than three weeks.

If you are not ready for a course yet, but just wish to have some chi experience to be sure that it is real, the best is to practice “Lifting the Sky” from my books. Just follow the instructions as best as you comfortably can. Do not add anything extra. If you practice daily you should feel chi within six months. This is “low-level” and it takes a “long” time if you compare to what you will experience when you personally learn from me or any of the certified Shaolin Wahnam instructors, but remarkable and fast if you consider the fact that more than 80% of people practicing chi kung or kungfu (including Taijiquan) for years have never experienced any chi at all.

Question 6

Can you suggest some simple sets/books for me? The Kung Fu books I found in the market seem to be talking about either philosophy only or “techniques” for fighting.


You are correct in your observation. Most books on kungfu as well as chi kung today either just talk about philosophy, without any help on practical benefits, or just shows techniques, without explaining how to put these techniques into actual training.

I would recommend “The Art of Chi Kung” and “Chi Kung for Health and Vitality” for chi kung, and “The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu”, “The Complete Book of Shaolin”, and “The Complete Book of Taijiquan” for kungfu. They are very good books. It also happens that they were written by me.


Sifu Chu Baozhen demonstrating a typical pattern from Bagua Kungfu. This image is extracted from http://www.neijia.net/galeria_04.html

Question 7

Lately one of the monks from the temple where I train, has been trying to get Iron Fist. He said it would take at least 5 years.

— Peter, USA


Different schools and different masters have different training methods and aim at different standards.

There is a kungfu saying that “three years will produce small success, and ten years big success”. Because our modern standard is much lower than that in the past, “small success” now is actually quite a remarkable achievement. Someone with three years of Iron Palm training can easily make a huge hole in a brick wall, or kill an ordinary person with just one strike.

Hence, for today's standard, it would be appropriate to say “one year will produce small success, and three years big success.” If you train Iron Palm for one year, you could break one or two bricks easily. If you strike your Iron Palm on an opponent's head, you might kill him. Nevertheless, besides breaking bricks for demonstrations, or breaking bones in real combat, its application is quite limited. Thus, it may become a liability rather than an access.

Cosmos Palm is not a soft version of Iron Palm. Their training methods and applications are quite different. While the training procedure of Iron Palm is generally hard and external, such as hitting sandbags, that of Cosmos Palm is soft and internal, such as energy flow and visualization. While Iron Palm is solely used for combat, Cosmos Palms can bring many other benefits.

While Cosmos Palm may not be as effective as Iron Palm in breaking bricks or bones, it is actually more damaging to an opponent in fighting. Cosmos Palm can, for example, seriously damage the internal organ of an opponent without leaving any external marks. Cosmos Palm training contributes to health, vitality and longevity as well as mental clarity and spiritual expansion. It can also be used for healing. Iron Palm does not have these benefits.

Question 8

That made me wonder if Cosmos Palm is the soft version of Iron Palm. Is there a soft version of Iron Fist?


No, the soft version of Iron Palm is definitely not Cosmos Palm. Their training methods are totally different. When you are trained in Cosmos Palm, you may use a fist or any other hand forms as effectively as a palm to strike an opponent.

Interestingly, there are no definite terms for the soft counterparts of Iron Fist, although the damage done on their opponent by internal art masters using their fists is considerable. This is because while there are specific methods to train Iron Fists, it is not so in the "soft' fists.

The "soft” fists are just called Taijiquan fist or Hsing Yi fist, for example. In Shaolin Kungfu, some examples of the soft fists, which can be very powerful, are the vertical fist and the phoenix-eye fist.

By training Taijiquan or Hsing Yi Kungfu as internal arts, and without the need for specialized methods, the fist of a Taijiquan or Hsing Yi master can be very powerful. In Shaolin Kungfu, by just training Cosmos Palm or other methods of internal training, the cup fist or phoenix-eye fist of a Shaolin master can be very powerful. This is because internal training is holistic, whereas that of external training like Iron Palm and Iron Fist is localized.


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