June 2007 (Part 2)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I have read from your posts in the answers section that genuine Kung Fu is not only learning Kung Fu forms but being able to apply them in combat situations. However, I have found out from personal experience training in Shaolin Kung Fu as well as from your website that the norm today is to revert to bouncing about like kids and using Kickboxing techniques while sparring. Why is this the norm? Is there a reason why it is common place to use Kickboxing techniques while sparring instead of learning how to apply Kung Fu forms?
— Ricky, USA
You have touched on a very urgent point in kungfu training today. Yes, it is a norm today that most kungfu practitioners, including many masters, use Kickboxing or other martial art techniques in sparring or fighting. They do not know how to use kungfu techniques for combat though some of them are formidable fighters using Kickboxing or other techniques.
This is a delicate issue, but it is urgent. If this issue is not resolved, the ability to use kungfu for combat may just disappear from the world! Hence, we in Shaolin Wahnam are very serious in doing our part in preventing this happening, even at the risks of being ridiculed and criticized.
Why are most kungfu practitioners today unable to use their kungfu for combat? It is because they have not been taught to do so. Why haven't their schools or systems taught them kungfu combat? It is because somewhere in their generation line they have lost their sparring methodology? Hence, the majority of kungfu practitioners today — students as well as masters — either do not spar at all, or if they ever spar they use other martial art techniques.
Why is it that they can use other martial art techniques like Kickboxing or Karate in sparring even when they have not learnt these arts, but they cannot use kungfu techniques in sparring when they can perform kungfu techniques in solo practice? It is because Kickboxing and Karate are closer to instinctive or free-style fighting, whereas kungfu is more elaborated.
In other words, even if you have not learnt any martial art, if you fight instinctively, the way you fight looks like Kickboxing and Karate. And if you have seen how Kickboxers and Karate exponents spar, you can more easily imitate their ways of sparring.
On the other hand, even if you have learnt kungfu forms in solo performance but have not learnt how to use them in sparring, you would have great difficulty using them to spar because these kungfu forms involve elaborated stances and movements. Indeed, if you are not trained in kungfu combat, using these forms in sparring would be a liability instead of an asset. Thus, you would discard them for instinctive fighting, which is bouncing about and punching and kicking wildly. When you fight in this way, your movements resemble more like Kickboxing and Karate than kungfu.
Why was sparring methodology lost in most kungfu lineages? There were many reasons. The burning of the Shaolin Temple in the mid 19th century was a crucial factor. In the past the Shaolin Temple was regarded as the pinnacle of kungfu, and acted as a standard of reference. Without this reference point, kungfu as a fighting art deteriorated rapidly.
One important reason for its deterioration as a fighting art was the emergence of firearms which rendered kungfu a hobby instead of a need for survival as in the past.
Another reason was a change of teaching mode. In the past disciples learned from and served a master. If they did not train diligently they might not have their meals. In the 20th century, rich landlords employed kungfu instructors to teach their children and followers. Rich children were not the type who would train diligently, and if they didn't train, the instructor might not have his meals. So he taught them kungfu forms instead of force training and combat application. When there were gatherings or celebrations, these children would give demonstrations of beautiful kungfu forms, receiving loud applaud, and the landlord, the instructor, the students and all present would be very happy.
In its early years the present Chinese government discouraged traditional arts, including kungfu and chi kung. During the period of the Cultural Revolution in China, practicing kungfu or any traditional art was a cardinal crime. Later, after a change of national policy, kungfu known in Chinese as wushu was re-introduced — not as a fighting art but as a sport.
The various kungfu styles in the past were classified into seven categories, namely Long Fist, Southern Fist, Taijiquan, Knife Techniques, Sword Techniques, Staff Techniques and Spear Techniques. Henceforth, kungfu or wushu was not practiced as Praying Mantis, Eagle Claw, White Crane, Lohan, Monkey, Hoong Ka, Wing Choon, Choy-Li-Fatt, Black Tiger, Lau Ka, Bagua, Hsing Yi, etc, but as the seven categories. There were no sparring and force training, only forms.
Later, probably embarrassed by their inability to defend themselves, kungfu or wushu practitioners attempted free sparring. But they had no methodology. So they imitated sparring in other martial arts. At first they borrowed (or stole) techniques from Karate, then Taekwondo. Now they borrow from Kickboxing.
Not only it has become a norm that the great majority of kungfu (and wushu) practitioners use Kickboxing and Karate in their sparring and fighting, the situation has become ridiculous and pathetic. Many kungfu students and some masters, including world known ones, even claim that kungfu techniques cannot be used for fighting!
Dear Sifu, Paloma has written to me to ask you for advice. The following is her e-mail.
Eleven years ago I had a domestic accident that has led me to grave consequences. I inhaled caustic acid and hurt part of my respiratory tract. Unnecessary treatments and too much manipulation each time caused bigger injuries, beyond the original damage. I had a total of 46 surgical operations. For years I have had respiratory infections. I have to take a wide range of antibiotics with a frequency that frightens me.
I also need a bronchial tube permanently inserted into my trachea. This happened 9 months ago after a medical negligence. An undue manipulation at surgery provoked estenosis. The doctors said I needed this for 8 months or perhaps the rest of my life to regenerate the mucous, internal textile, epithelium, and damaged cartilage.
My fear and real worry is not able to regenerate the mucous internal tracheal and bronchial textile, making infections easy and with it cell respiratory level pulmonary deterioration, the bronquiectasias will become bigger and bacteria and mushrooms colonize my lungs.
I began to develop the following pathologies:
- loss of osseous mass for corticoides's excess
- hipotiroidismo and increase of weight and correlated anxiety
- angiodema in face and hands
- generalized anxiety — although I always was a very vitalistic person since last year I have depression.
I hope you will guide me as to what discipline, exercises or courses to take.
— Sifu Javier, Spain
Please tell Paloma that while Western medicine may not have any treatment for her case, overcoming her problems through chi kung is actually very simple! It is so simple that she may not believe it works, but of course it works. All Paloma has to do is to attend the courses in Mardid and practice twice a day on her own. It may take her about nine months of daily practice to overcome her problems, provided of course that she practices correctly and diligently.
She does not need to know how chi kung works. It is just like a person does not need to know how his digestive system or his immune system works. When he eats food or when harmful viruses get into his body, he will be able to digest the food and clear the viruses. It is a natural process.
It is also a natural process for Paloma or any person to be healthy. But in Paloma's case, her domestic accident and subsequent events upset the workings of her natural process for health. In traditional Chinese medical jargon, it is called yin-yang disharmony. The good news is that yin-yang disharmony is unnatural, and therefore it can be rectified.
There are different approaches to restoring yin-yang harmony. One approach is Western medicine. If bacteria have entered your body and cause an infection, for example, you can restore yin-yang harmony by taking appropriate antibiotics. This is an excellent approach, and in such a situation it is better than practicing chi kung.
But there are situations where Western medicine may not bring desirable result. These situations fall under two main categories — one, when the cause is unknown, as in diabetes; and two, when there is no known cure at present, as in an viral infection. Paloma's case falls under one or both of these categories.
In such situations, practicing chi kung is a good choice. It would sound crazy to those used to the Western medical paradigm, but in the chi kung paradigm, you do not even need to know the cause of the disease in order to overcome it! Secondly, there is no such a thing as an incurable disease in chi kung philosophy. Hence, practicing chi kung is an excellent approach to overcome diseases where the cause is unknown or where there is at present no available cure in Western medicine.
One should take note that this does not mean anyone with such diseases will surely be cured by practicing chi kung, but it does mean that he has a good chance of being cured. On the other hand if he uses an approach where the cause is unknown or where there is no cure for the disease, he will have no chance. If he ever gets cured, as it may miraculously happen, it is due to other factors.
An analogy will make this clearer. Suppose you want to become an architect. You must take a course in architecture and sit for a qualifying exam. This does not necessarily mean that if you follow an architecture course and sit for a qualifying exam, you will surely become an architect, but you will have a good chance of becoming one. On the other hand, if you follow an engineering course and sit for an engineering exam, you will not become an architect. If you ever become one, it is not due to your engineering course and exam, but due to other factors.
In Western medicine, the therapeutic principle is to prescribe an appropriate treatment to eliminate the cause of a disease. Hence, if the cause is unknown, Western doctors would be unable to effect a cure. Diabetes is an example. Excess sugar in the blood is not the cause; it is a symptom. As Western doctors do not know what causes diabetes, they could not cure it. They do the best they can; they manage the disease.
Even when the cause is known but if there is no cure available at present in Western medicine, obviously Western doctors are unable to cure the disease. Viral infection is an example. Western doctors know the cause, but they have no treatment to eliminate the viruses. So, again, they do the best they can; they manage the disease.
Then how could chi kung overcome diseases where the cause is unknown or when there is no cure? The question is actually incorrect. The expressions “the cause is unknown” and “there is no cure” are applicable only in the Western medical paradigm. The expressions no longer hold true in the chi kung paradigm. In chi kung paradigm the cause is known, and there is a cure.
Indeed, it is very simple — and very profound — in the chi kung paradigm. There is only one overall disease, and it is called yin-yang disharmony, although there may be countless symptoms, like excess sugar in the blood, high temperature, pain, nervousness, etc. There is only one overall cause, and it is called energy blockage, although it may be effected by countless intermediate factors, like stress, bacteria, viruses, wrong food and physical injury. There is only one overall cure, and it is called restoring harmonious energy flow, although it can be accomplished by many different ways, like chi kung, acupuncture, massage therapy, herbs, medical drugs and surgery.
Even if Paloma does not understand this philosophy, it does not matter. What is important is for her to practice chi kung consistently to generate an energy flow that can break through her many blockages and restore her natural harmonious energy flow.
I am wondering if it is possible, through strong training, to increase the size of your bones. I have always had small bone size, and did not grow sufficiently during my younger years. Also, both my parents are physically not very strong. I wonder if it is possible to “reverse” this process, and strengthen my small bones (to the state where I am like a different person even).
— Chris, Australia
If there is any increase in the size of bones through training, the increase is marginal. More importantly, the bones as well as the muscles around them can be strengthened remarkably. For example, through appropriate exercises, a small sized person can strengthen his arms so much that if an opponent smashes a wooden pole on his arm, his arm would not be injured but the pole may break.
Strengthening the arms can be carried out externally or internally. If his training is external, like muscle building, his arms may be bigger in size than before, but the increased size is due to the muscles and not to the bones. If his training is internal, like a chi kung exercise called “Sinew Metamorphosis”, there may not be any noticeable increase of arm size. The arms are stronger because the bones have become stronger (but not necessarily bigger), and chi flows along both the bones and the covering flesh to protect the arms.
Yes, you can strengthen not only your small bones but also your whole being even though your parents are not physically strong. Indeed, many kungfu masters were originally weak, but by practicing genuine kungfu which usually included internal force training, they became strong not only physically but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually. They became different persons than what they were before. However, their physical size, including their bones, remain quite small despite their tremendous internal force.
Would this require a large sacrifice on my part, say, not having sexual relations for several years? I have had excessive unfulfilling sexual relations in my life already, and as such, feel that my kidneys are very compromised.
If you wish to strengthen yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, you would have to make some sacrifice, but, don't worry, this does not involve sexual abstinence. In fact, you could rejoice. You would enhance your sexual performance and enjoyment, and your kidneys will become strong.
You can accomplish this by practicing genuine, traditional Shaolin Kungfu or genuine, traditional Taijiquan where internal force training is an integral part. Indeed, genuine Shaolin and Taijiquan masters are known for their tremendous strength, including in sexual performance and enjoyment.
But genuine, traditional Shaolin Kungfu and genuine, traditional Taijiquan are very rare today, though their watered-down versions are plentiful. You have to sacrifice time to find out what genuine, traditional Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan actually are, as well as to search for genuine masters teaching these arts.
Their fees are usually high, so you have to sacrifice money to learn from him (or her) if you are lucky enough to find one willing to teach you. More importantly, you have to sacrifice time and effort to practice according to what the master teaches you. If a person complains that the master's fees are high, or he is unwilling to travel to learn from the master, he doesn't understand what sacrifice means in the learning of genuine, traditional Shaolin Kungfu or Taijiquan.
Are there any courses on overcoming incurable disease this year? I have cancer and asthma, and have been learning chi kung on my own, but seem to have reached a plateau.
— Liz, Australia
I am sorry to hear of your health problems. But the good new is that cancer and asthma can be overcome if your practice high level chi kung learnt from a competent teacher.
There are three reasons why you reach a plateau. Firstly, you should practice chi kung and not merely learn it. When you practice, you go over old material again and again, whereas when you learn, you acquire new material.
Secondly, you should learn chi kung from a competent teacher, not on your own. When you learn from a competent teacher you acquire skills, whereas when you learn on your own you acquire techniques. If you only know the techniques but without the skills when practicing chi kung, you are unlikely to get good results.
Thirdly, the chi kung that you learn is probably of a low level, which may not be powerful enough to overcome your health problems. You need to learn high level chi kung from a competent teacher, and practice it skillfully to derive good results.
Cancer and asthma are serious illness. Do you really believe that by learning chi kung on your own, you can overcome these diseases? If this could be so easily done, then there should not be so many people suffering from cancer and asthma.
Indeed, not only you need to learn from a living teacher, the teacher must be competent. The sad fact is that today competent chi kung teachers are rare. Many people start teaching chi kung to others after they have learnt some chi kung exercises from books, and most, if not all, of them have no idea or experience of what chi is.
Not only you must learn from a competent teacher, the chi kung he teaches must be of a high level. Even when he is competent but if what he teaches is of a low level, it is not powerful enough to overcome cancer and asthma.
Even when you have learnt high level chi kung from a competent teacher, you have to practice it correctly and consistently. Wrong and inconsistent practice will not give your good results.
I read your book on Shaolin Kung Fu and I can honestly say that it is one of the best books I have ever bought! I have used it more than any other books I have, so I just wanted to thank you for writing it. I am a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, but through exploring, I found that my passion is Kung Fu.
— Robert, USA
Thank you for your kind words.
It is obvious from your e-mail that you are respectful and sincere in your enquiry. In such a situation, which I meet often, I face a dilemma to tell the truth which is usually unpleasant or to be civil and say pleasant things. It is not that I want to be pleasant, but I honestly dislike to tell someone that his art is inferior although it is the truth. Inevitably, I tell the truth. As mentioned by one of our students, Maxime, in our Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum, our training has made us unable to tell lies.
With due respect to Taekwondo, and this statement is made with sincerity, it is lacking in many areas where Shaolin Kungfu can compensate. Of course, I am referring to genuine, traditional Shaolin Kungfu, which is rare nowadays.
Why do people practice Taekwondo or any other martial arts? There are two main reasons — to be able to defend themselves and their loved ones if needed, and to be healthy. What I am going to say will be a surprise to many people.
Most martial artists do not realize these two aims. Today, most martial artists, including blackbelts and some masters, cannot defend themselves, though they may be very good at hitting others! If they could defend themselves they would not take for granted that getting hits in free sparring is normal. It is not normal! They should not be hit at all, not even once. In fact that is the main reason why anyone practices a martial art.
Most martial artists today are not healthy! They sustain a lot of internal injuries which are routinely left unattended to. The internal injuries are not just from free sparring. The way they train, like habitually tensing their muscles and routinely taking punishment from hard conditioning as well as instructional hits from their teachers, is injurious.
Taekwondo developed from Huarongdo, a classical Chosen (Korean) martial art that borrowed much from Northern Shaolin. What many Taekwondo practitioners may not realize is that unlike Northern Shaolin, Huarongdo was not practiced for health. It was practiced by patriots who wanted to kill Japanese warriors on horseback who colonized their country. These patriots were ready to sacrifice their lives, let alone their health, to achieve their objective. Of course, Taekwondo practitioners today do not have this objective, but the philosophy and practice of the prototype art naturally affect the practice and results of arts that develop from the prototype.
So I buy books and try to learn the best I can, and have been told I do an extremely good job. My problem is that there are not many good Kung Fu schools in my country.
There are not many good kungfu schools in the world today. Some people may take offence with this statement, but it is true. Yet, even those who agree may not really fully realize the significance of this statement. This is because of two related reasons.
Firstly, many people think that all kungfu schools are the same. They are not aware of the huge differences in nature, quality, philosophy, practice and result attainable amongst thousands of kungfu schools. For example, a school that teaches kungfu forms is vastly different from another that teaches internal force; a school that just teaches fighting is vastly different from another that also teaches moral values
Secondly, many people do not know what constitutes a good kungfu school, and even amongst those who know, they have vastly different concepts regarding what is good. For example, some people may regard a school that wins trophies as good, whereas others may regard it as bad if the trophy winners sustain a lot of injuries. Even when they agree on chosen criteria, there are vastly different standards. The form performance of a school considered good by some people, may be considered only mediocre by others.
Regarding kungfu books, unless you are already proficient in kungfu, it is very difficult to learn from them. At best, you learn some beautiful kungfu forms. Forms are the least important aspects of kungfu. The other three aspects are philosophy, force and application.
You may also be able to read some good kungfu philosophy from books, but you may not be able to get the best practical benefits from the philosophy — a fact that many kungfu practitioners, including even some masters, may not realize. A significant example is as follows.
Many kungfu practitioners have read and actually believe that practicing kungfu would enable them to have mental clarity at normal times, and be relaxed even in demanding situations. But to most of them these are just empty words. Not only they do not experience these benefits from their training, some of them have become more dull minded and tensed. Worse, they do not even realize these negative effects of their training.
Even if you understand the philosophy and have read training methods that lead to these benefits, you may not attain them even if you have practiced long and hard. Actually the amount of freely available information today is unprecedented and unbelievable. In my webpages alone, you can find so many publicly explained secrets which in the past masters would only teach their inner-chamber disciples.
One of the best benefits we get from our training in Shaolin Wahnam is the ability to think clearly and be relaxed even in difficult situations. We share one of the most effective methods openly. It is very simple. It is just to stand upright, relax totally, and think of nothing. Not many people outside of Shaolin Wahnam believe that such a simple method can bring these wonderful benefits. But even if they believe, and practice the simple method, they may not attain the desired result.
Why is this so? This is because it is not just the technique but the skill in performing the technique that is crucial. If you just read from a book, you may learn the technique but not the skill. As an analogy, you may learn from a book an effective technique to shoot a football into a goal, but you may not have the skill to do so.
I also have a good relationship with my TKD instructor, and wouldn't want to leave him. Am I doing the right thing?
There is no right or wrong answer. It depends much on your sets of values.
Basically, the choice is between being loyal to your teacher and staying with him, or leaving him for another teacher whom you believe will bring you more benefits. Many other people also have the same dilemma.
If the extra benefits are not great, the choice is not difficult. Most people will choose to stay with their current teachers. But if the extra benefits are tremendous and are what you have been yearning for in all your training, the choice becomes difficult.
If the teacher has not been kind or systematic, then one may not have any problem in leaving. But if the teacher is exemplary, even though his art or teaching may not be of a high level, then you would have a difficult choice. Often it is a choice between benefiting from the spiritual and moral influence of the teacher, or gaining measurable results from another teacher or art.
A few philosophical considerations will help you to make your choice easier. Learning from another teacher or another art does not mean you are being disloyal to your original teacher or art. I myself have learnt from a few teachers, and I am loyal and grateful to all of them. Moreover, a good teacher will encourage his students to learn from other teachers if this brings benefits to the students.
Even when you have surpassed your original teacher, by learning from another teacher or by your own development, you must always respect and honour him. Of course you must be very careful that your surpassing him will not cause him any embarrassment. Should others comment that you are better than your teacher, a good response is to tell them that it was due to your teacher's teaching that you could have such results.
- The Sabah Kungfu Show
- Definitive Recovery from an Hitherto Non-Curable Disease called Endometriosis
- The Frying Point
- Amazing Experiences of Internal Force
- First Avoid Defeat, Then Secure Victory