October 2007 (Part 2)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Which Chinese Kung Fu style is best for self-defence?
— Edward, USA
Many people are fond of saying that all martial arts are the same, it is the practitioner that is different. This statement is not true. Martial arts are different, not only in terms of combat efficiency but also in many other aspects.
In principle, saying all martial arts are the same is like saying all transport vehicles are the same or all food is the same. Of course they are not the same. A car is very different from a bicycle, and a dish of abalone cooked with a variety of herbs for three days is very different from a piece of bread spread over with butter. Similarly Shaolin Kungfu is very different from Judo or Kick-Boxing.
Concerning the category of kungfu, different kungfu styles are different, just as different brands of cars and different types of bread are different.
In my opinion, amongst various styles of martial arts, kungfu is the best, and amongst various styles of kungfu, genuine traditional Shaolin Kungfu is the best not just for self-defence but also in many other aspects of martial art, like force training, philosophical studies and spiritual cultivation. Other people, of course, may have different opinions.
My main reason for saying kungfu is the best amongst the martial arts practiced today is that kungfu is complete whereas the others are not. Judo, for example, focuses on throws, Taekwondo on kicks and Boxing on striking within a restricted area. If you kick, throw or strike outside the restricted area of a Judo, Taekwondo or Boxing practitioner respectively, he would have no techniques in his art to counter your attack! But a kungfu practitioner is trained to handle any attacks, including those to the eyes and groin which are forbidden in other martial arts.
But self-defence is not the only aspects that kungfu is superior in. Kungfu training contributes to good health whereas the other martial arts have to conpromise health for combat efficiency. The constantly inflicted and continually accumulated injuries sustained in training in the other martial arts take a heavy toll on the practitioner's health, both physically and psychologically. Kungfu attainment is irrespective of sex and size, where a female or a smaller-size practitioner has many disadvantages in other martial arts, not just in self-defence but also in other aspects of life. A practitioner of other martial arts goes downhill as he ages, but a kungfu practitioner actually becomes better as he grows old.
Amongst the various kungfu styles, Shaolin Kungfu, again in my opinion, is the best — in self-defence as well as other aspects. The range and depth of techniques, tactics, strategies, force training methods and combat principles — the ingredients for effective self-defence — are more in Shaolin than in any other kungfu styles. Non-combat benefits like those mentioned above are also more in Shaolin.
It is pertinent to note that here we are talking about genuine, tranditional kungfu, including Shaolin. Unfortunately, most of kungfu practiced today has been so watered-down that it has lost its essence. This is a sensitive statement but many kungfu practitioners know it though they are not brave enough or too egoistic to admit it. In reality, most kungfu practitioners today are not as efficient in self-defence as practitioners of other martial arts. Those who can put up some semblance of self-defence do not use kungfu in combat but borrow other martial art techniques.
Wing Chun is very fast and direct, but is it the most practical?
All kungfu styles are practical. All their techniques were evolved from actual fighting experiences over many centuries. If you have to move your hands and legs in a particular way in any kungfu style, it was not the result of some masters thinking out the movements from imagination, but the result of the evolution by kungfu exponents of random fighting movements over many centuries into stylized forms. In other words, at first people fought randomly. Over many centuries fighters found certain ways of fighting advantageous, and these gradually evolved into what we now call kungfu patterns.
Due to historical, geographical and other differences, masters developed these effective ways of fighting into various systems or schools. Wing Choon Kungfu was one of these schools. It was developed by a female kungfu master, Yim Wing Choon, who found fast, direct movements most practical for her conditions. Other masters in different conditions would find other movements more practical. For example, another kungfu master about the same time, Chen Yarng, found long-reaching movements more practical, and these were formalized into another system or school called Choy-Li-Fatt.
Wing Choon techniques and Choy-Li-Fatt techniques are characteriscally different. While Wing Choon techniques are the most practical for Wing Choon practitioners, Choy-Li-Fatt techniques are the most practical for Choy-Li-Fatt practitioners. When you throw a middle-level punch, for example, a Wing Choon practitioner would typically deflect your punch with a “thang sau” (mirror hand) and simultaneously strike your throat with a “phew chee” (thrust fingers). A Choy-Li-Fatt practitioner would not typically do this. Rather he would step slantingly forward to avoid your attack and simultaneously swing a reverse “phow chui” (throwing fist) at your chest. Both are very effective.
I also would like to say something about the new “reality based combat fighting” styles. They claim that traditional martial arts are out-dated. I have to ask how has hand to hand combat changed in the last 2000 years? The human body hasn't changed (2 arms, 2 legs, etc.). In self defence the only weapon that is new is the gun. A knife is still a knife, a club is a club. In the past people had swords and staffs and other hand held weapons. I can't see how a kung fu style created 500 years ago would now be ineffective? All the “reality guys” claim traditional martial arts are not practical anymore. I hope you can help with my questions.
You are right. A kungfu style created in the past is as effective now as before. The “reality guys” as well as all those who claim that traditional martial arts are not practical anymore, are mistaken.
But what is really shocking is that many kungfu practitioners, including some world-known masters, have the same opinion as the “reality guys”. These kungfu masters explicitly say that kungfu techniques cannot be used for fighting! Thus, although they teach traditional kungfu forms in solo practice, they teach Kick-Boxing or free-style fighting in their sparring. You can readily confirm this if you spend some time surfing the internet to find out what some of these world-known kungfu masters teach.
While I respect the honesty of the "reality guys" — they command more respect than kungfu masters who cannot use their kungfu for combat but pretend they can and therefore mystify kungfu to hide their incompetence — the attitude and teaching of the "masters", especially when they are often regarded as authority by the uninformed public, could lead to genuine, traditional kungfu disappearing from the world!
This ridiculous situation, when even kungfu practitioners and masters believe that kungfu is outdated and cannot be used for fighting anymore, is due to kungfu having lost its essence as a martial art. What is being passed on is only its external forms. Internal force training and combat application using typical kungfu patterns are lost. The inevitable result is that kungfu practitioners today belong to two main groups — those who can only perform kungfu forms but have no combat ability, and those who perform kungfu forms but use other martial art techniques for combat. We in Shaolin Wahnam are amongst the very rare exceptions who still develop internal force and still use kungfu forms for fighting.
We know from direct personal experience that traditional kungfu is not only not outdated, not only it is still combat effective, but actually it is even more practical in helping us to cope with many modern day problems. We do not glorify fighting and would prefer not to fight if there is a choice, but we are proud to say that my teachers, myself and many of my students have used kungfu successfully not just in free sparring but in real fights. Some of these fights, especially during the times of my teachers, were life-death affairs.
More significantly than in real fighting, traditional kungfu has enabled all of us in Shaolin Wahnam to enrich our lives and the lives of other people. Some of my students could be dead or still seriously ill if not for our traditional kungfu training. The vitality, mental freshness and inner peace that enable us to live everyday joyfully and meaningfully are wonderful benefits which the “reality guys” and those who think traditional kungfu outdated find hard to believe possible.
I've read lots of books which talk about the year 2012 being the end of the Mayan calendar, and many ancient traditions prophesied that our world will be dramatically changed where we will be in a higher level of consciousness. I was wondering if you had any opinions on this, and also if there's any information on this in Buddhism.
— Fred, USA
I am sorry I do not know much about Mayan teaching.
But according to Buddhist teaching, life is cyclic, which means there is no beginning and no ending. That does not mean that our world or its civilization will never end. Our civilization will end one day but a new one will be born. There have been countless civilizations on this world. Our world may also end one day, but a new world will be born.
Universal spiritual development, which involves higher levels of consciousness, is also cyclic. First there was the birth of a new spiritual awareness, followed by growth and decay. Eventually this spirutal awareness ends, and a new one is born. Contrary to what many New Age followers believe, we are now in an age of spiritual decadence. When our age ends, a new age will be born.
Ours is the age or era of Shaykamuni Buddha, and is characterized by suffering. The next era will be that of Maitrya Buddha, and is characterized by joy. No one knows exactly when the new era will come, but most Buddhist masters do not think it can be as early as 2012. But if it happens to be, then we have only a few years to wait for the era of joy to dawn! Nevertheless, even in our era of suffering, we should be joyful each day to be alive.
I have one thing that is still worrying me. Lately I have been searching for deeper meaning behind things, and find that most people and things in this world have little substance.
— Christopher, Australia
Actually there is no substance! Whether you find there is little substance or a lot of substance is what your mind thinks so.
This great cosmic truth has been taught by some of the greatest teachers humanity has even known since millennia, and is now confirmed by the latest science.
I also find that things are a lot faster in my life than used to be when I was younger. I would like things to slow down, so I can appreciate more of my life and not feel like it is rushing by. Is this because I have lost a lot of my jing energy? Or another way to ask you is, will chi kung training help with this?
The problem does not lie with the things you see or with your jing energy. The problem lies with your mind. The phoenomenal world is a creation of your mind. Please note that here we are talking about your mind, not your brain.
Your mind is more agitated now than when you were younger. With a more agitated mind, you perceive things moving faster and the world rushing by. If you can calm down your mind, things will move more leisurely, and you will have more time to enjoy life.
Yes, chi kung is an excellent art to help you calm your mind. But it must be genuine chi kung, not just some gentle physical exercises that pass as chi kung. Meditation is another excellent art to calm your mind. Again, it must be genuine meditaion, not merely sitting in a cross-legged or lotus position.
I am greatly worried that as I get older, things will get even faster, until life is like an endless avalanche. I want to return to being like a child again, enjoying every moment while being calm. I have noticed after training at times that I am calmer, and things have “slowed down” a little, but then they quickly return back to life's normal speedy pace.
The norm is that old people find things get slower, not faster, until life becomes a boring slur. On the other hand, young people are usually impatient, finding life rushing by.
As mentioned above, your problem lies not in life or the world, or in being young or old, but in your mind. A good solution is to practice high level chi kung which can give you the mind of a child and the wisdom of an elderly person. Your body too will be healthy, flexible and full of vitality so that you can enjoy the right things at the right space, like enjoying every moment as you watch clouds floating by, or responding spontaneously and correctly to split-second attacks in freindly sparring.
That you feel calm at times after chi kung practice but agitated again soon can be due to one or both of the following two reasons.
- The chi kung you practice is of a low level.
- You do not practice consistently and regularly.
If you practice high level chi kung consistently and regularly, you will be calm as well as cheerful and full of vitality at all times, not just once a while for a short time after practice.
For some reason this is really concerning me and I can't stop worrying about it. Any advice or assistance would be greatly appreciated.
The solution is actually very simple. Just stop worrying! Also stop intellectualizing. Don't intellectualize how you should stop worrying, or what worrying is, or what would happen if you don't stop worrying.
To stop worrying is not a difficult thing to do. It is not like asking you to run round a football field 30 times, or climb a coconut tree, or jump down from a tall building.
Let us take an analogy. Suppose you are walking towards a deep cliff. You come to its edge. If you keep on walking, you will fall down the deep cliff. What should you do? Don't intellectualize. Just stop walking. It is not very difficult to do.
If you cannot do such a simple thing like stop walking or stop worrying, then don't attempt complex tasks like searching for deeper meanings in life or finding whether the world or humanity has substance. Whatever answers you find for these complex tasks won't make any difference to how life, the world or humanity will carry on, but it will make you suffer more as an unnecessary worrier.
- Poetic Names for Movements of Strength and Elegance
- Tantui against Boxing and Kick-Boxing
- It is Heartening to See so Many People Using Kungfu in Free Sparring
- Duty to Point out Mis-Information for Benefit of Students
- Important Questions regarding Practice after Intensive Chi Kung Course