July 2007 (Part 1)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Do the Chinese Martial Arts have any ground fighting styles? If so, what are they? I have read that Chinese fighting styles never had ground fighting. Is that true? I would think that after 5,000 years of civilization the Chinese Arts would cover every aspect of fighting. I hope you can shed some light on these questions for me.
— Edward, USA
Yes, Chinese martial arts do have ground fighting. You are right: after 5000 years of civilization, the Chinese arts would cover every aspect of fighting. The style that is best known for ground fighting is “Ti-Dang-Men” (“Teai Thong Moon” in Cantonese), which may be translated as “Ground Fighting School”.
Many kungfu styles also have ground fighting techniques, though ground fighting may not be their specialty. Many ground fighting techniques are found in the Monkey Style, for example. In the Shaolin Kungfu practiced in our school, patterns like “Gold Coin on Ground”, “Carp Turns Body” and “Reverse Kicking at Purple Bell” are ground fighting techniques. You can see many of our ground fighting techniques on my webpage Counters against Wrestling taught by Grandmaster Kai Uwe who is also a master of ground fighting.
A main reason why many people, including kungfu practitioners, mistakenly think that there are no or few ground fighting techniques in kungfu is because these techniques are seldom used. Why is this so?
This is because, unlike Wrestling and Grappling which are sports protected by safety rules, kungfu is a fighting art where no rules apply. For ground fighting to take place, the combatants have to be on the ground. An opponent has to move in to fell the kungfu exponent first. But in doing so the opponent exposes himself dangerously. The kungfu exponent could smash the opponent’s head or break his backbone easily.
Indeed, if you ask kungfu masters what they would do if a wrestler moves in for a take-down, they would probably say they would have killed or maimed the wrestler while he tries to do so. This is true, although these masters may not explain as clearly as I attempt to do so here. Hence, those exposed to wrestling as a sport but not exposed to kungfu as a fighting art, may think the masters try to cover their inability with some boastful answers.
This is understandable as the standard of kungfu fighting today is so low. Not only they cannot counter take-downs and wrestling holds, most kungfu practitioners today are unable to apply their kungfu techniques to counter straight-forward punches and kicks. But it is a different case with kungfu practitioners who are combat efficient. An opponent rushing in for a take-down with his head and other vital parts exposed, is like commit suicide in a real fight.
Some examples of such counters are “Wu Zong Strikes Tiger” (Wu Zong was a kungfu master in classical times famous for killing a tiger with his bare hands) where the exponent rams a fist into the opponent’s head, “Yun Tan Tames Tiger” (Yun Tan is a martial god of wealth) where the exponent strikes his palm on the opponent’s back, breaking his backbone or causing injury to internal organs, and “Yellow Bird Drinks Water” where the exponent moves aside and strike a phoenix-eye fist to the opponent’s temple.
We are here talking about combatants with similar levels of skills. If the opponent is a seasoned wrestler and the kungfu practitioner a novice, then the opponent can easily effect a take-down even when the novice knows the counter. Here the decisive factor is skills, not techniques.
Nevertheless, if the opponent is skillful enough to effect a successful take-down despite its many technical disadvantages, he can beat the kungfu practitioner in easier and safer ways. If he can be skillful enough to grasp the legs, for example, of the kungfu exponent for the take-down, it would be easier and safer to execute a decisive strike to the latter’s groins or any other vital parts of his body to win the match without having to take him down then subdue him on the ground.
As you have correctly said, kungfu covers every aspect of fighting. Decisively striking an opponent as he moves in for a take-down is the first-level counter, and it is usually accomplished as he has many technical advantages over his opponents in such a combat situation. If this fails, he has second-level counters.
First level counters refer to those when the opponent is at the initial stage of his attack. In this case of take-down, the counters are applied before the opponent has grasped his legs or other parts of his body. Second level counters refer to those when the opponent is in the process of his attack. In this case, the opponent has grabbed the exponent’s legs or other parts of his body for the take-down.
Some examples of second level counters are “Heavenly Dragon Descends to Earth” where the exponent sinks down into a Unicorn Stance and traps the opponent’s arms, “Fierce Tiger Crouches on Ground” where the exponent kneels down and strikes the opponent’s neck or back with an elbow, and “Reverse Kicking at Purple Bell” where the exponent rolls back following the pushing momentum of the opponent and kicks up at his groin.
Even if these fail and the kungfu exponent is on the ground, pinned down by the opponent, the kungfu exponent has a number of third level counters. Some examples are “Carp Turns Body” where the exponent turns over and pins down the opponent instead, “Naughty Monkey Kicks Pig” where the exponent rolls over and away kicking the opponent simultaneously, and “Two Dragons Fight for Pearls” which is a drastic counter where the exponent, after freeing himself from the opponent’s grip, jabs two fingers into the opponent’s eyes.
A kungfu master with tremendous internal force does not even need these techniques. It is understandable if many people may not believe it, but the master merely gets up from the ground, throwing off the opponent who may be pinning the master down. Such a formidable skill was demonstrated by Grandmaster Kai Uwe of Shaolin Wahnam Germany during an Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in Frankfurt (please see pictures above), where he just got up seemingly without effort despite a few people pinning him down!
I have recently taken up Taoist Qi Gong from a master here who is also very kind, and wise like yourself. He makes me laugh somehow whenever I talk to him, even if he does not make any jokes.
— Chris, Australia
Congratulations for finding a good teacher. Laughter is one of the best ways to open your heart and set your spirit free, as well as induce an energy flow.
In Chinese medical philosophy, the heart (which in Western terms often means the mind or the spirit) is considered the “emperor organ” because it has great influence over other organs. When you laugh, energy flow out from your heart system to all other systems. People who laugh often are seldom, or even never, sick.
I began this training and it was wonderful, and I could feel the effects. Then, I stopped briefly, and now feel that I have to start all over again, and that my kidneys are somehow weaker than they were before. I am wondering if you know how this could occur.
Chi kung should be practiced regularly, which means every day. If you stop briefly, say two or three days, that is alright. All you need to do is to resume your daily practice. If you stop for a longer period, say two or three weeks, you would have lost some of the benefits accumulated earlier, but if you resume daily practice you will soon gain the benefits again.
If you stop for a long time, say a few months, you may have lost all the benefits that you have accumulated earlier. In Chinese terms it is called “chin kung jun fai” (Cantonese pronunciation), which means “all previous benefits are lost”, and is considered a “taboo” in force training.
Nevertheless, even if you have lost all your previous benefits, you should resume daily training as soon as possible. Learn this lesson, and don’t repeat this mistake.
As I do not know what and how you trained, I would not be able to tell you specifically what has happened. The best person to ask is your teacher. Don’t feel guilty that you have not practiced his art diligently. Apologize to him sincerely, tell him that you have learnt your lesson, and ask him for advice.
But I can give you some general answers. Your kidneys may not be weaker than before you started to practice this chi kung. In fact they are probably stronger now than before. But you have an illusion that your kidneys are weaker because you compare them now with the time you were practicing chi kung regularly.
This will become clearer if we quantify the weakness and strength of your kidneys from 1 to 10, 1 being the weakest and 10 being the strongest. Before you started chi kung, your kidneys were at 2 and 3. When you were practicing chi kung regularly, your kidneys progressed from 3 to 8. But when you stopped practicing, your kidneys retrogressed from 8 to 3, depending on how long you have stopped.
If you have stopped for some time, you may have retrogressed from 8 to 5. Hence you may feel your kidneys are weaker now, comparing now with the time you were practicing chi kung, i.e. comparing 5 with 8. But they are actually stronger than before you started chi kung, i.e. comparing 5 with 3.
Let us say you have stopped practicing for a long time and you have lost all the benefits accumulated earlier. Your kidneys would then be at 3. They would not go down beyond 3, unless you have practiced wrongly or there are other factors at work weakening your kidneys. As you did derive benefits from your chi kung practice, it means you did not practice wrongly. It is also unlikely that other factors are weakening your kidneys. If it were so, you would have noticed them and mentioned them to me in your e-mail.
It is good to know that when one stops practicing chi kung, it is not harmful. He would lose some benefits, or at the worst he would lose all the benefits he has accumulated earlier. But the stoppage itself would not bring any harm. This, of course, should not be taken as condoning irregular practice or worse complete stoppage of practice.
Another important factor that may weaken your kidneys is your worry and your constant negative attitude towards your kidneys in particular and towards your health in general. You are what you believe. If you constantly think that your kidneys are weak, or have other negative thoughts of yourself, your kidneys will really be weak and you will really be sick and miserable. In fact, the latest science, quantum physics, is emphasizing the same principle, i.e. mind creates reality. Therefore, we must always have noble thoughts of yourself and of others.
I will continue to train, but I am sad to say that I still feel like my kidney jing (or my Yuan Qi) is prematurely exhausted at age 26.
The first thing you should do is to change your mind set from being negative to being positive. In Buddhist terms, it is having “Right Understanding”, the first of the Eight-Fold Noble Path. In chi kung term, it is clearing your mental blockage.
Then, continue your daily chi kung training which gave you noticeable benefits. Remember the chi kung tenet that “one unit of benefit is due to one unit of training”, which is “yiet fun kung lek yiet fun lean” (Cantonese pronunciation).
You would be happy to know that “yuan qi”, or pre-natal energy, cannot be exhausted. If it did, the person would die.
You kidney qi may be weak, but definitely it can be strengthened. You yourself experienced this strengthening while you were practicing chi kung regularly, but you were so unwise to stop the practice. Many chi kung and kungfu masters in history were initially weak, but through diligent practice they became exceptionally strong and healthy. Now that you have decided to resume your training, you can look forward to strengthening your kidneys as well as to good health.
I have recently had a series of what I found bizarre and frightening experiences that I believe may involve use of chi. I found that I felt better if I spent a few hours each day clearing my mind and thinking of wind breezing through a tree.
However, my condition worsened after suffering vertical shooting pains in my head. At this point all I could do was lie in bed doing this all day. However, after a couple of days I became aware of a tingling sensation at the top of my head, which I learnt to move around my head, and I believed that when this tingling was placed over areas affected by the shooting pains I could feel repair work taking place.
My condition worsened until I pushed this tingling sensation toward my temples, after which I had horrible tasting mucus running down the back of my throat for the next few days I then proceeded to visualize and do the same throughout my body, because it felt as though there was something still seriously wrong.
After this time my world turn on its head, I became paranoid and very frightened. After spending 1 month in a mental hospital having been diagnosed with an acute psychotic episode I am now feeling rather more normal. The psychologists do not understand how this could have come about and believe my meditating may have caused the psychosis.
I have done about 2 years of king fu on and off, and I am aware that I have a strong chi. I found that the amount of tingling sensation increased during the period, and that if I ate energy rich food it also increased after 10 mins. If I forced it by bringing more energy up from my stomach to my head I could cause a torrent to flow that would leave me exhausted after a couple of hours.
Having done some research I thought perhaps an appropriate master may be able to help me. If you thought it was appropriate I would appreciate anyone you might recommend.
— Adam, England
I am answering your question ahead of others because your case seems serious.
From your description it appears that you have practiced chi kung, kungfu or meditation wrongly, and you are suffering from adverse side effects. Your chi has gone into your head and is causing havoc. You should stop all your chi kung, kungfu and meditation training. (You may resume training only after you have overcome your problem.) As you are not trained to do so, do not attempt to direct chi in your head or any part of your body. You would likely aggrevate your problem.
But as a temporary measure, when your chi torments you in your head, do the following. Stand upright and be relaxed. Gently rub the crown of your head a few times with your index finger or middle finger. The objective is to open you "bai-hui" energy point. Then breathe out gently but wtih your mouth open wide between 20 to 30 times. Don't worry about breathing in. During this process, gently think of your feet. You need not co-ordinate your breathing out with the thinking of your feet. During the 20-30 times breathing out, it would be sufficient if you think of your feet about 5 to 8 times.
Your problem can be solved by a genuine chi kung master. I would recommend you to search for one in your area.
If you think I can help you, you can attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course, but with the following three conditions. One, you must be accompanied by someone who can look after you in case you become acutely psychotic during the course. This is unlikely to happen, but it is wise to take precaution. Two, if you are under medication, you must continue taking your medication during the course. Later, when you have improved you may gradually phrase out your medication under the supervision of your psychologist or psychiatrist. Three, please bear in mind, that although I believe you have a good chance to recover, there is no guarantee that you will surely recover. (Nevertheless, the guarantee that you will be given a full refund if you are dis-satisfied with the course and inform me before the course ends, still stands.)
If you attend my course, please identify yourself to me and remind me of your problem. I shall open some of your vital points and shoot some good chi into your head to clear away your errant chi. Many people may think this is crazy, but I have been successful with cases like yours. In most cases they recover immediately. However, this does not mean that I can repeat the same success with you. Frankly, for your interest, I would prefer you to seek a genuine chi kung master in your area than to see me.
Why did you never use me for demonstrating sequences? Is there something that I am doing wrong on the courses that makes me difficult to include? The reason I ask is that we learn so much from feeling the sequences applied by Sifu. I feel really disappointed that you picked all my brothers throughout this course (and other courses) but never me. Please advise me how to be better prepared so that you might want to include me.
— Nicky, UK
You are progressing well in your training. Keep it up. Actually I was not aware that I did not pick you as a partner for demonstration in class. But this had nothing to do with your attainment.
I normally pick an instructor or an assistant instructor because as their forms are good, it will be easier for students to follow the demonstration. I normally pick a male partner because the demonstration usually involves physical contact and I would not want others to have mis-understanding that I take advantage of a demonstration to grab and throw female students.
Do you personally believe that women are able to attain the same standards as men in real Shaolin KungFu for health, vitality, study/profession, martially and spiritually?
Of course, yes.
Unlike other martial arts like Karate, Taekwondo, Boxing, Wrestling and Muay Thai where sex and size are determining factors in combat, in Shaolin Kungfu as well as Taijiquan, sex and size are not determining. A female or a smaller sized practitioner can be as good as or better than a male or a bigger-sized one in health, vitality, study, profession, martial ability and spiritual attainment.
It is true that in kungfu history there were more male masters than female masters. But this was because there were more males practicing kungfu, and not because of their sex.
In our school we have some excellent female masters. Emiko, Joan and Laura readily come to mind. Many male practitioners who are much bigger in size than them, have found these ladies not only skillful but very powerful as well as graceful and elegant..
Really I believe that you would agree that women are equally able to achieve good results in internal martial arts and spiritual cultivation. If this is the case, it would be extremely nice for Sifu to write it since there are so many authors quoting things like 'women cannot martially hold their own against a man' or 'women cannot become Bodhisattvas or attain enlightenment'. These kinds of comments only serve to encourage half the human population not to bother cultivating their spirit/conduct let alone attain good health and self-defence. I find it quite dispiriting to come across so much misinformation.
In our school, women can be as powerful as or more powerful than men. This is because of internal force, where sex and size do not matter. You yourself experienced many occasions when male sparring partners complained of your force.
But internal force is rare. Most martial artists today use muscular strength, where sex and size matter. I am not a male-chauvinist, but it is true that a male or a bigger-sized person is generally stronger than a female or a smaller-sized person. Hence, many people believe that “women cannot martially hold their own against a man”.
But while it is true that men are generally stronger than women, it is not true that they are martially superior because strength is not the only factor that decides victory. Even when a woman is physically weaker, but if she is more skillful, like if she is faster or can turn the man’s strength against himself, she can beat the man in combat. Moreover, if she has internal force, she may even be stronger.
Regarding the second statement you mentioned, it is not true that women cannot become Bodhisattvas or attain enlightenment. The best example is Guan Yin Bodh Satt, the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion. Guan Yin Bodh Satt is female (in human’s perspective). She attained Enlightenment long, long ago, but because of her great compassion, she returns to our world to help humanity.
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