SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
SEPTEMBER 2010 PART 3
Another more painful example was of the kidney failure patient I had previously consulted Sifu about. I told him that he would get better with practice and hopefully his kidneys would recover in time. He practiced qigong everyday but did not stop his dialysis and continued to rely on the doctors' diagnosis of his condition. In the end, he went for a kidney transplant, and later told me he would continue to treat me as a friend but no longer call me "Laoshi".
— Sifu Zhang Wuji, Singapore
I would consider this student ungrateful and undeserving. I have no issue of him preferring Western medical treatment. The issue is his not acknowledging you as his teacher despite you having gone out of the way to help him.
Considering the sacrifice you have made for him, it is understandable you feel painful about this experience. This is an essential part of the training to become a true master.
Let us not waste our time on undeserving students. Let him go -- physically, emotionally and mentally, and wish him well.
I went through more painful experiences. There were many people whom I literally saved, yet they betrayed me. But I have let them and the emotions go. I have moved on and spend my time helping other deserving people.
By the way, your students should call you "Sifu", and not "Laoshi" or "Jiaolian". Although the three terms have similar meanings, they have different connotations.
As I mentioned before, Sifu, I am convinced of the power of our qigong, but I am not sure if I should express this same confidence to my students, lest they expect too much. In my case, I took a long time to see most of the effects, and I could have so easily fallen along the way, if not for Sifu's encouragement and the fact I got to see Sifu quite regularly. How can I do the same for my students?
We guide our students, not take guidance from them. This does not mean we do not listen to them.
We guide our students based on the conviction of our beliefs and our sincerity in helping them. We do not take guidance from them based on their weakness, insecurity or their lack of knowledge and experience.
In fact, it is precisely because they are weak, insecure and lacking in knowledge and experience that we teach and guide them.
We are confident in our teaching and of the benefits that our teaching will bring because we ourselves have gone through the same process and have enjoyed the benefits. We have to inspire confidence into our students that they too can enjoy these benefits.
But we have to remind them that they have to put in time and effort, just as we did before them. They should also know that their journey to recovery or to mastery of our arts is long and not easy, though we have done our best to make it much faster and easier for them than what it was in the past and what it is in most other schools.
While what we claim is absolutely true, like overcoming illness or having vitality to enjoy our work and play, our students must know that they cannot take these results for granted or have unreasonable or over-expectations. For example, while it is true that we have helped many people overcome diabetes, kidney mal-function and many so-called incurable diseases, this does not mean that they too will automatically overcome these diseases just because they learn from us.
They have to do their part, which always takes much time and effort. Sometimes even when they have done their part, their diseases may still not be cured due to other factors, like they have gone beyond a threshold or the disease-causing agents are still affecting them strongly.
It is of utmost importance that we give them the confidence that they can regain good health, though we cannot guarantee that their recovery is a certainty. We speak with honesty and conviction. If we have any doubt in our ability to help them recover, we will not take up their case. If we know of any other sources, Western medicine or others, that can help them more effectively, we must direct them to these sources.
It often needs great courage on our part to tell our students or patients our sincere opinion, especially when it concerns their life and death. I faced such a situation often. Cancer patients often asked me whether they should continue with their conventional treatment, especially strong does of chemotherapy. When I was convinced that practicing our qigong alone would help them recover, I told them so, with conviction and confidence but without directly telling them to continue or not continue their conventional treatment.
I made it a point to tell them that it was my opinion, and they had to make their own decision. I am proud to say that particularly every one of those courageous students or patients who followed my advice recovered.
When the case was not fatal, but still very serious, I was more forthright. I am very proud of the case with Datin's daughter, whom I believe you have personally met. She could not stand because, according to conventional Western medical perspective, her legs did not have enough bone-density. She was also in excruciating pain. Two separate bone specialists told her to undergo surgery to have bone transplant. She would have to be in a wheelchair for some time after the surgery. According to the specialists there was no other cure. She asked me for advice.
As I was convinced that our qigong healing would cure her, I courageously told her not to go for surgery. And she courageously followed my advice. It is incredible but true that after just three days of attending my Personalized Chi Kung Healing Course, she could walk and run without pain!
Why was I so sure that she could walk again without undergoing surgery when it had been scientifically proven that her legs lacked bone-density? I knew something that the bone specialists did not know. It is flowing qi, not bone-density, that enables her legs to support her body, just like it is flowing water, not its iron structure, that enables a hydraulic pump to support a lorry.
Confidence in ourselves and in our students is necessary, and it needs great courage, besides knowledge of the situation, to instill this confidence.
I have been suffering from a severe knee pain for more than a year now. Since I started training the Horse Stance, I have had this pain in my left knee. It went away after a period of stance training, but it is now back again when I practice my Bow Arrow Stance footwork.
The pain is so intense that I cannot even put my weight on the knee to take a step out into a Right Bow Arrow. This makes teaching and demonstrating quite awkward. I am still not clear whether it is good pain or not, but a tie-da master I consulted said my tendon / ligament was injured.
Other than my usual qi flow, can I do anything to heal the knee, Sifu? Sifu may recall that during the Advanced course last year, I also checked with Sifu on the knee which was creaking and cracking like broken wood.
I am glad you have brought up this case as my explanation will reveal some very interesting and useful information.
But before the explanation, I would like to mention that I too had a similar knee pain for months about four years ago. It was at the 2006 UK Summer Camp. During the Shaolin Eighteen Qigong Techniques Course I gave a kick so hard that I might (or might not) have torn my knee tendons or ligaments. The injury was so bad that I had difficulty walking up the stairs.
But from the qigong healing perspective it was not important whether I had or had not torn my tendons or ligaments. The root cause was energy blockage. I performed "Three Levels to the Ground" and "Dancing Crane" to have a qi flow. And I recovered, though not completely, in a day!
But the pain came back. In the subsequent weapon course, I could not bend my knee to squat down. Anthony Korahais had to do the demonstration. Again I did "Three Levels to the Ground" and "Dancing Crane", and sometimes "Rotating Knees". The pain went away.
Yet, the pain came back intermittently for about a year.
What had happened? It was cleansing. Technically, it was good pain, but it caused prolonged discomfort and affected knee function that it could be described as bad.
The rubbish does not just come from the knees. It comes form the body, especially the lower-part organs like the stomach, the kidneys, the liver and the spleen. The knees happen to be big intersections where the rubbish gets clogged up before it is finally discharged out of the body. The cleansing is more rapid than the discharge, causing a traffic jam at the knees.
Cleansing may be classified into three mundane levels: for health, for vitality and for longevity. The fourth level is supra-mundane; it is for the highest spiritual fulfillment.
Let us take the liver for an example. The same explanation applies for all other organs and other parts of the body.
The liver is very resilient. It can be chocked up to 80% yet it can still function normally at 20% of its potential.
Let us take 20% as the threshold for health. If for any reasons the blockage goes beyond 80%, i.e. if the liver functions below 20%, it becomes diseased. The disease symptoms may manifest at the liver, like liver hardening, or they may manifest elsewhere. As the liver regulates blood which is responsible for the defence system of the body, when a person's liver functions below its threshold of 20% he may succumb to a viral infection when he would have overcome it without his knowing had his liver functioned normally at 20% or above.
Of course there are many other factors involved, like his emotional state, the innate strength of his liver and lungs, the collective functioning of all other organs, and his physical and social environment. But for simplicity, we just consider the liver, with the presumption that all other things were equal. The same explanation also applies to all other factors. For example, if his emotional threshold is 40%, when his negative emotions are blocked beyond 60%, he may also be sick.
Suppose his liver is chocked to 85%, and it functions at only 15% of its potential. As a result he has a lung infection. If he can clear away 5% of his liver blockage with qi flow induced by any suitable exercise, he regains his normal liver function and therefore overcomes his chest infection.
But functioning at 20% is unstable. He is easily prone to sickness. So he continues practicing qigong to clear his blockage. He has cleared off more rubbish. His liver is now chocked to 60%, which means it functions at 40% whereas most ordinary people function around 20 and 30%. So even if there is an increase of virus like in an epidemic when most people are sick, he still remains healthy. This is the first level of cleansing, which is mainly for health.
With his liver functioning at 40%, he may not be sick, but he may not be full of vitality. He keeps on practicing qigong. He cleanses away another 30% of blockage from his liver. His liver is now blocked to 30% and is functioning at 70%. Therefore he has much vitality. He may be 50 years old, but functioning at 70% of his potential he can be healthier and fitter than someone half his age functioning at only 30%. This is the level of cleansing for vitality.
Although he has vitality, if his liver is 30% blocked, it may not last as long as it is meant to be. So he keeps on practicing and cleanses off another 20% blockage. Now his liver is 90% clear. Not only it can function very well, it will last for a long time. Scientists say that humans are made to last for at least 120 years. If a person's organs are well maintained and are almost pristinely clear, he will live to a ripe old age. This is the level of cleansing for longevity.
Beyond these three mundane levels of cleansing the body is the supra-mundane level of cleansing the spirit or soul. When the soul is cleansed or purified, it becomes beautiful. A beautiful soul sees everything beautiful. That is why after a good qigong session, we find the world more beautiful. We also find other people more beautiful.
The world and other people have not changed, but we have. We have undergone a spiritual purification. At the most supreme level when the soul is thoroughly purified, when there is not even a spec of dust left, the personal soul merges with the Universal Soul. In Shaolin terms this is called Enlightenment. In Christian terms it is the soul returning to God the Holy Spirit.
Our arts can lead us to this most supreme attainment. At the mundane level, cleansing for a year or more is a long time. But in cosmic dimension it is fleeting. Your knee pain is a symptom of cleansing for vitality and longevity, and also as a preparation for the most supreme spiritual attainment when you are ready.
On a different matter regarding Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan, we have been mostly taught to tame, open and close an opponent with our left lead hand. Is the reason for this because the left is just a "minister hand" to prepare the way for a strike by the naturally (for right-handers) stronger right "emperor hand"?
This is a main but by no means the only reason. The other reasons will become clear as I answer your other questions.
I just read yesterday that Bruce Lee liked to have his right hand and foot in front because he felt that the stronger hand should do most of the work. This was a manifestation of his very "yang" nature, but I think it has some merit in its context.
I honestly have much respect for Bruce Lee, but I disagree with a lot of his philosophy and practice.
From our Shaolin Wahnam perspective, one uses his stronger hand when he has no choice, or when there is a good reason for its use, but not because the stronger hand should do most of the work.
In fact, if all other factors were equal, he should use his comparatively weaker hand to do most of the work, unless the weaker hand does not measure to the task. If your weaker left hand is stronger than an opponent's strong right hands, or both his hands, you can just use your left hand to defeat him without using your stronger right hand at all.
Actually this was the principle masters employed in the past. Let us rate combat levels from 1 to 10. When a master, who was at level 10, met an opponent at level 3, the master would not use level 10 efficiency to defeat the opponent. He would just used level 4, or even level 3,2.
The opponent might have a false impression that he was narrowly defeated. He returned home, learned from other masters and trained hard for many years. He had improved tremendously, raising his combat efficiency by two levels to level 5. He was sure this time he could defeat the master. When they met, he was defeated by the master again, who now operated at level 5.2.
The opponent returned home, analyzed the master's movements, learned more and trained harder. He became highly combat efficient. He operated at level 7, which was quite high when most people operated at level 3. But against he was defeated and he could not understand why as he thought he had known all the master's moves.
Of course he didn't know the master's moves. He was at 7, and the master at 10 but operated at only 7.5. The master was unfathomable.
If he was wise, he would thank the master for his compassion, and not attempt to challenge the master again. The master spared him when their gap was wide. When the gap became narrow, the master might have no choice but to defeat him decisively, which meant he would not be able to challenge the master again.
When sparring with Calvin, I sometimes find myself spontaneously using my right hand in front, and applying a right hand deflect/strike mode. I later realised this came unconsciously from the Four Gates form (or my Taijiquan practice, I don't really know).
Yes, your spontaneous use of your right hand is probably due to your Four Gates training and your Taijiquan Pushing Hands.
Why do the Four Gates and the Taijiquan Pushing Hands favour using just the right hand. It manifests the strategy of "one hand is better than two", and is connected with the concept of "emperor hand" and "minister hand".
How can one hand be better than two hands? If you make one movement with one hand, you are faster than making two movements with two hands. This is particularly useful in the tactic of "lian xiao dai da" or "defence-cum-counter".
For example, in Four Gates when an opponent attacks your ribs, instead of brushing off the attack with one hand, then counter-striking with the other hand, you are faster by using your elbow to brush away the attack and in the same continuous movement thrust out the same hand to strike him, as in "Precious Duck Swims through Lotus".
In Taijiquan Striking Hands, when an opponent attacks your throat, instead of warding it off with one hand, then counter-striking him with the other hand, you are faster by warding the attack off with one hand and continuing in the same smooth movement thrust out the same hand at his throat, as in "White Snake Shoots Venom". In this and the Shaolin case above, you often counter-strike the opponent before he can recover his attacking hand.
Superficially it may appear that this is the same as Bruce Lee's philosophy of using the strong hand to do most of the work, but actually it is different. It is not that using the stronger right hand is better than using the weaker left hand, but using one hand, which may be left or right, is better than using both hands.
If one has to use either the right hand or the left hand, it is obviously more advantageous to use the stronger hand, which is usually the right hand for most people. However, if his weaker left hand is stronger than an oppoent's both hands, he may choose to use his left hand.
Can Sifu share your thoughts on the relative advantages of the left and right hand in the lead, and which would be more suitable in various combat scenarios?
From many centuries of actual fighting, masters discovered certain advantages and disadvantages in using their emperor-hand or their minister-hand in different combat scenarios. They generalized their findings into various combat principles.
The emperor-hand is the stronger hand which is usually used for main actions. As most people are right-handed, it is usually the right hand.
The minister-hand is the weaker hand of the two hands, but may be stronger than an opponent's stronger hand. It is usually used for supportive roles.
We can use either hand in the lead or guard position. In our school we train both the left and the right mode. In our basic Shaolin combat sequences, for example, in "Lohan Asks the Way" we use the left hand as the guard hand, whereas in "Single Tiger Emerges from Cave" we use the right hand. In our basic Taijiquan combat sequences, we use "Playing the Lute" in both the left and the right mode.
In "Lohan Asks the Way" we use the left hand as a minister-hand to open an opponent's guard or close his hands to prevent his counter-attack, so that we can use the right hand as an emperor-hand to strike.
In "Single Tiger Emerges from Cave", we use the right hand as a minister-hand to keep an opponent at bay. When he attacks, we use the left hand as the minister-hand to ward of his attack, then use the right hand as an emperor-hand to counter-strike.
Why do we use the left hand as a lead hand in "Lohan Asks the Way", but the right hand as a lead hand in "Single Tiger Emerges from Cave"? It is because of their different purposes. In "Lohan Asks the Way" we intend to move in to attack. So the lead hand is to open the way for the stronger emperor hand to strike.
In "Single Tiger Emerges from Cave", the intention is to let the opponent attack, so that when he moves in, we can move back a step to ward of the attack with our relatively weaker left hand and counter-strike with our stronger right hand. Had we used our left hand as a lead hand as in "Lohan Asks the Way", when we move back we would have to ward of with our right hand and counter-strike with our weaker left hand, which is less favorable.
Notice that the lead hand can be the left or the right hand, and that the minister-hand can also be left or right. The emperor-hand is usually the right hand, but may sometimes be the left. But in all cases, the minister-hand is supportive, and the emperor-hand performs the main task.
We have just seen that in "Single Tiger Emerges from Cave" we used the right hand as a lead hand so that when we moved back a step we could ward off the attack with the left hand and counter-attacked with the stronger right hand. Can we still use "Single Tiger Emerges from Cave" but remaining at the same stance, ward off the opponent's attack with the right hand and also counter-strike with the right hand?
We can. It is technically faster as we do not move the stance, and we use only one hand instead of two for the movement. But it is clumsy and has some technical disadvantages, like meeting force head-on and the possibility of bad balance.
These disadvantages can be overcome without affecting much the advantages by making a small adjustment. Instead of remaining at the right False-Leg Stance, we can move the back left leg a small step backward into a right Bow-Arrow Stance as we ward off and counter-attack with the right hand.
This response can be further improved with another slight adjustment. Instead of starting with the right False-Leg Stance and shifting the left back leg a small step backward to the right Bow-Arrow Stance, we can start straightaway with the right Bow-Arrow Stance. When the opponent attacks, just shift the body backward without moving the feet as we ward off the attack with the right hand, and then shift the body forward again without moving the feet as we counter-attack with the same right hand.
This can still be enhanced with another slight modification. Instead of using a right Tiger-Claw as the guard hand, we can change the guard hand from a right Tiger-Claw to a right open palm, and place the left open palm near the right elbow in the pattern called "Separate Dragons Hand Technique".
Not only the right open palm is more flexible than a right Tiger-Claw, but also by releasing the force of the Tiger-Claw into a more relaxing open palm, the body movement in shifting backward and forward is also more flexible. As the onus of the initial defence is in the shifting back of the body rather than the warding off of the guard hand, the force of a Tiger-Claw is not crucial. You may recall that we used this poise pattern against a Boxer because it was very effective in overcoming a Boxer's strong points.
In this scenario the right hand is the emperor-hand, and it does all the work. The left hand, which is the minister-hand, is held as a reserve. Or, as I often joke about it, you can drink tea with your left hand while you use only your right hand to handle your opponent. Some masters in the past might use their left hand to smoke a pipe during combat.
In what scenarios we may reverse the mode where the left hand and the left leg are leading? If we wish to ward off an opponent's attack with our left hand, then counter-strike with our right "Black Tiger Steals Heart", instead of "Fierce Tiger Speeds through Valley" or "Fierce Dragon Across Stream", we would use the left mode.
If we discover that an opponent, like Bruce Lee, likes to kick with his right leg, then bounces back still with his right leg in front, we may use the left mode of "Separate Dragon Hands Technique", shift our body back to avoid his kick, then move our right back leg forward to bridge the gap of his retreating, and fell him onto the ground with "Fell Tree with Roots".
If an opponent is fond of using low kicks to the thigh or knee, we can use the left mode to tempt him. As he kicks, we move our front left leg backward, and use our right foot to break his knee or fell him onto the ground employing the pattern "White Crane Steps on Snow".
For 6 years I had some emotional issues. Reading your book and practice Chi Kung has been of great help for me. However I feel that is not enough and I was wondering if it would be possible to practice Chi Kung in your centre as I'd like to be helped by you. These last years I went through really difficult times. I'd also like to get some information about accommodation and fees.
— Ivan, Spain
Many of our students first knew about Shaolin Wahnam through my books. They practiced chi kung exercises from my book and obtained remarkable results. So they thought to themselves that they would received even better results if they learned directly from me.
Then they were really surprised. At first they thought their results could be twice or even three times better, but they found that there was no comparison. Many said they could not describe the difference in words. Indeed some actually cried. They had never imagined how wonderful the results were. To many, my Intensive Chi Kung Course is a life-changing experience.
I would recommend you attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course . Please see my website for dates. The course fee is 1000 euros. Staying in a first class hotel with delicious food costs about 50 euros per day. Complimentary tours are included in the course. I would recommend that you stay on for a few more days in Malaysia on your own to enjoy a vacation. As the euro is very strong in Malaysia, you enjoy yourself like a king but pay like a budget-tourist.
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