SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
OCTOBER 2013 PART 1
You mentioned that the Tai Chi Chuan Festival in St Petersburg benefited Shaolin practitioners more than Tai Chi Chuan practitioners. How is this possible?
— Sifu Joan Browne, Chief Instructor of Ireland
I was glad that a lot of Shaolin practitioners attended the Tai Chi Chuan Festival in St Petersburg in Florida in November 2012. Although Tai Chi Chuan practitioners benefited much from the Festival, I believe Shaolin practitioner benefitted even more.
How is it possible that although courses are on Tai Chi Chuan, Shaolin practitioners can benefit more than Tai Chi Chuan practitioners? It is useful to note that the question here deals with possibility. And in the case of the Tai Chi Chuan Festival in St Petersburg, it actually happened.
This is possible because of two main reasons. One, the benefits of the Shaolin practitioners are inter-discipline, whereas the benefits of Tai Chi Chuan practitioners are intra- or within its discipline. Secondly, Shaolin practitioners not only add benefits from Tai Chi Chuan, but also their inter-disciplinary understanding increases the benefit in Shaolin Kungfu.
In other words, the benefits that Tai Chi Chuan practitioners get are from lessons typically taught in the art they practice, though they may or may not have learnt the lessons yet. On the other hand, the benefits that Shaolin practitioners get are not from lessons typically taught in the art they practice.
Let us take an example of rotating the waist. Waist rotation is a basic principle in Tai Chi Chuan, which means that any Tai Chi Chuan practitioner would know how to rotate his waist correctly when making a Tai Chi Chuan movement. If he does not know, it means that he has not been taught correctly.
The reality today is that many Tai Chi practitioners (or dancers) do not rotate their waist when making Tai Chi Chuan movements. This is because they learned their movements wrongly, and it is an important reason why many Tai Chi practitioners suffer from knee injuries and back pain.
On the other hand, waist rotation is not a basic principle in Shaolin Kungfu, which means that many Shaolin practitioners would not rotate their waist when making a Shaolin movement.
Would the Shaolin practitioners have knee injuries and back pain if they do not rotate their waist? No, they would not. (If they do have knee injuries or back pain, it is due to other factors.)
Why is it that Tai Chi practitioners have knee injuries and back pain but not Shaolin practitioners if they do not rotate their waist? It is because Tai Chi Chuan movements and Shaolin movements are different.
Hence, those Shaolin practitioners who also learn Tai Chi Chuan know waste rotation, but not those who learn only Shaolin Kungfu. When a Shaolin practitioner attempts to ward off a powerful attack from an opponent, he may be unable to do so. But if he knows waist rotation learnt from Tai Chi Chuan, he can ward off the attack using the same force.
Secondly, waist rotation can enhance the benefits found in Shaolin Kungfu itself. For example, with waist rotation when he executes a punch, he can generate spiral force from his dan tian. Without waist rotation he only generates linear force from his shoulder.
Actually all that is found in Tai Chi Chuan is also found in Shaolin Kungfu, but much of the material that concerns this question is usually found at an advanced stage. On the other hand, this material is found at the beginning of Tai Chi Chuan.
For example, waist rotation is not specially taught in Shaolin Kungfu until a practitioner has advanced enough to learn exploding internal force from his dan tian. At earlier stages he just uses physical strength. But as waist rotation is a basic principle in Tai Chi Chuan, which is applied in every Tai Chi Chuan movement, it is taught right at the beginning.
We are, of course, referring to genuine Shaolin Kungfu and genuine Tai Chi Chuan. If a person learns Tai Chi dance, he may not learn waist rotation regardless of how long he may have learnt. On the other hand, if a person learns from a school that teaches only external Shaolin Kungfu, which is the norm today, he will not have the opportunity to learn exploding internal force from the dan tian even if he has learnt for a long time.
What are the benefits Shaolin practitioners can get from learning Tai Chi Chuan?
We can start with the two examples of waist rotation mentioned above.
Because of waist rotation and other typical Tai Chi Chuan movements, a Shaolin practitioner will be better able to use minimum force against maximum strength. This principle of minimum force against maximum strength is also found in Shaolin Kungfu, but is emphasized in Tai Chi Chuan, thus making the Shaolin practitioner more aware of it.
Hence, when an opponent executes a powerful punch at him, instead of warding it off with "Beauty Looks at Mirrow", which is a typical Shaolin response, he may use "Golden Dragon Plays with Water", which can deflect a similar punch with less force.
Waist rotation enables him to generate spiral force from his dan tian. When he executes a strike with his hand, instead of linear force flowing from his shoulder, now spiral force flows from his dan tian. This will speed up his attainment of exploding force from his palm. He may still attain this Shaolin skill if he has not learnt Tai Chi Chuan, but having learnt Tai Chi Chuan will enable him to attain it in shorter time.
Having learnt Tai Chi Chuan will enable a Shaolin practitioner to perform his Shaolin Kungfu slowly and gracefully as if it were Tai Chi Chuan. This allows him to see weaknesses in his transitional movement and correct them, which he would not be able to do when he performs his Shaolin Kungfu in his normal way.
Performing his Shaolin Kungfu slowly and gracefully enables him to round up his Shaolin movement and let it flow smoothly. If he performs the same movement in his normal way, it is often linear and staccato.
When his Shaolin movements flow smoothly, it helps him to generate energy flow. This will speed up the process of his internal force development. For example, because of this benefit form learning Tai Chi Chuan, when he performs Golden Bridge, which is a Shaolin force-development method, he will develop more force in shorter time.
Many Tai Chi Chuan principles, like "flowing with an opponent's momentum" and "starting later arriving earlier", which are found in most Tai Chi Chuan movements, will enable a Shaolin practitioner to enhance certain aspects of his Shaolin training. For example, if an opponent pushes at him, instead of resisting which an ordinary Shaolin practitioner would typically do, he may follow the opponent's pushing momentum and grip his arm using the Shaolin pattern, "Lead Horse Back to Stable".
Instead of rushing in with a Black Tiger, which an ordinary Shaolin practitioner would do, he may still move in but wait for his opponent to make a first attack, then brush aside the attack and simultaneously couner with a Black Tiger, implementing the principle of "starting later arriving earlier".
These useful principles can be applied in daily life. For example, instead of arguing with another person, like your boss, spouse or client, you can first follow his argument then turn it around on him or her. This is the principle of flowing with an opponent's momentum. Instead of accepting the first job or joining the first kungfu school that comes your way, you spend some time surveying the possibilities and only then take the best one available. This is starting later arriving earlier.
To sum up, Shaolin practitioners learning Tai Chi Chuan can have the following benefits
- Using minimum force against maximum strength
- Exploding force from the dan tian
- Noticing and correcting weaknesses in transitional movement
- Attaining flowing movement
- Generating energy flow
- Applying useful Tai Chi Chuan principles in combat and in everyday life
I have good results lately with Ta Chong from the Triple Stretch Set.
Standing, I can do the triple stretching of the movements with good flow, but it is sometimes harder to have the flow while doing the triple stretching sitting in horse stance.
— Tim, Belgium
A main reason why we stand upright instead of sitting on a horse stance is to enable the chi flow to be vigorous. Here the forms many sometimes be far from picture-perfect.
A main reason why we sit on a horse stance instead of standing upright is to control the form to be picture-perfect so that we can better consolidate the flowing chi into internal force.
I am able to let the flow move my arms while also sitting in stance, and I can feel the internal force in my arms and hands. Actually, when looking back, the flow was always there, but I am getting in control and aware of the "guiding" of the flow.
I make the movements with my mind, guiding the flow with my mind, and I feel it coming from my dan tian. When I stretch the arms and when the flow of force reaches the fist, I can feel it in my dan tian. I'm having more and more glimpses also of shooting out the force, with the sounds controlling the fa jing.
Your practice is excellent.
You have attained the high level of "keng thow ng kwan" or "force going through five gates". The five gates are body, shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand. In other words, energy flows all the way from your dan tian through your body, shoulder, elbow and wrist to your hand.
You can now aim for the next stage, which is poetically described as
- Hei yau dan tian fatt
- Keng yau cheong sam chuit
- Energy originates from the abdominal energy field
- Internal force emerges from the centre of the palm
You can place your palm very close to an opponent's body, or even in contact with it, then with a gentle flick of your wrist you direct internal force into him causing him serious internal injury (though we would normally not do so in real life).
It is not your physical strike that injures the opponent, but your internal force shooting out from your palm. The source of the internal force is your dan tian, from where energy flows without break to your palm. This energy is immediately replenished from the Cosmos as you are relaxed while making the strike.
You need not think of or visualize the energy flow from your dan tian to your palm. It operates spontaneously. You need just to gently think of energy bursting out from your palm into your opponent. This is the mind level of kungfu.
Later you may not even have to think of it. Just explode force from your palm at close quarters, and all these will operate spontaneously. This is attaining the mindless or cosmic level.
Many people comment that the highest level in kungfu is the mind level, but not many people, including me in my young days, understand what it really means. Now you understand the meaning from direct experience.
Some people may be surprised that I reveal such high-level techniques openly. Actually such high-level techniques are recorded in kungfu classics, though not as clearly explained as I do here.
But we need not worry. Even when other people know the techniques, they do not have the skills to perform them. They do not have even the fundamental skill of being relaxed, and our elementary skill of chi flow is a marvel to them. On the other hand, it is good to record for posterity.
With power comes responsibility. It is very important, more for your own sake than for others, that you must never abuse this power. When you have tremendous internal force, if you apply such a palm strike on a person, you may kill him.
How do you know your palm strike is effective if you don't test it on a person or even on an animal? You can test it on a brick.
Place your palm on a brick and exert force. You will break the brick. By extension, if you can break a brick, you can also break someone's skull.
Later you can test your internal force on the bottom of two bricks. Place your palm on the top brick and exert force aiming to break only the bottom brick. If you can do so, you can easily damage an opponent's internal organ.
While we sincerely hope we will never use this on an opponent, we must not be afraid to do so if it is necessary. I want our instructors and advanced practitioners to be very clear on this, for if ever such an occasion happens, there will be no time to ponder.
If, for example, you represent our school to meet a challenger who ridicules us, and he pins you down with no way to escape, not even using techniques from the Drunken Eight Immortals, you would have to use your internal force to damage him.
I recall an occasion when this nearly happened when a challenger continuously ridiculed our counters against a shoot despite our tolerance of his insult. We accepted his challenge that he would shoot at us to show that our counters were ineffective.
I advised our fighters to sign a life-death agreement with the challenger, because I was sure that if our fighters landed their palm strike on his head as he executed a shoot, it would damage him seriously or even kill him. This is a right thing to do in this situation, and we are courageous to do it. Righteousness and courage are two values we highly cherish and practice in our school.
Some outsider was naive or foolish enough to question in our Discussion Forum our right to ask for a life-death agreement. Our purpose was straight-forward. We were serious when we accepted challenges, and we wanted to avoid unnecessary legal complications afterwards. We were glad that the challenger withdrew his challenge.
I remember that doing the "stretching" in flow while standing, we can practice the stretching multiple times, not just 3 times. But in stance, I can't remember how many times Sifu said we could practice the stretching.
While in stance (except for practicing the flow method while standing) I do each movement 3 times, just like when performing the set. Can we practice each movement more than 3 times while on stance?
When performing in stance, we perform the stretching three times. That is why it is called triple-stretch.
But you can perform more or less than three times. Three times is a general guideline.
More and more, day after day, I feel great. Bad weather or good weather, for me each day is beautiful. It is really a joy to be living these great Arts. Thank you so much Sifu for spreading these great Arts in such a generous way.
This is wonderful. This is a main reason why we practice our arts, to enrich our life and the lives of other people.
This answer an important question related to what I just explained about high-level internal force. If we do not want to use our high-level internal force in injure our opponents unless it is necessary, and very rarely it is necessary, why do we spend so much time training it?
The answer is that we get a lot of benefits, not just for combat but more importantly for our daily life. One of these many benefits is that we find every day a beautiful day irrespective of rain or shine.
In the past, I used to have trouble smiling. I don't consider myself a bad person, but somehow I lost the ability to just genuinely smile from my heart. When someone smiled, I just couldn't smile back in a spontaneous way. I wanted to but I couldn't. I didn't even realise this.
Now, I can smile with my whole being. When someone smiles and talks, even if I don't know this person, I can smile back with an open heart and enjoy the simple conversations. I feel a strong compassion and caring. I feel I needed some internal force to start breaking through the blockage at my heart.
Many of our students have told me that smiling from the heart is the best lesson they have learnt in our school.
When you smile from the heart, you feel joyful. Other people seeing you smile also feel joyful.
Many people know that laughter is the best medicine, but do not know why. Here is the answer. The heart is regarded as the emperor organ in our body because it influences all other organs and systems. When we smile from our heart, the heart opens and energy flows. When energy flows it ensures life goes on smoothly.
In my teens I used to debate with my father or friends that we are not supposed to get sick and get life threatening diseases just like that. Back then I thought people were getting cancer and other diseases due to pollution and other un-natural chemicals around us. I knew somewhere that good health is our birth-right.
Year later I actually have the confirmation that good health IS our birth-right! I have my health in my own hands now, and even more, being able to cultivate my health to its full potential, being able to cultivate my heart, my character, my spirit, my energy and spirituality.
I can't thank you enough dear Sifu. I can honestly say Sifu saved my life. Although I had no life threatening disease when starting, I was weak, with no direction. Now I feel healthy and strong, and it can only keep getting better. I am walking the path I always searched for, and I have found it. Thanks to Sifu's generosity. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Sifu.
Yes, good health is our birth-right. This is a most inspiring fact. It means that illness, by whatever name it may be called, is unnatural, therefore is only temporary and can be rectified.
Today, so many people are sick that they wrongly think that to be sick once a while is natural. This is wrong. To be sick, even once, is unnatural. When our cells, glands, tissues, muscles, organs and systems are working naturally -- they way they are meant to work -- we will never be sick.
What causes a person's cells, glands, tissues, muscles, organs or system not working naturally, thus resulting in illness? They fail to function naturally when the energy that works them is blocked. In other words, all illness is caused by energy blockage. This is the single most important fact in traditional Chinese medicine -- the medical and health care system that has supported the biggest population of the world for the longest period of history.
And more important than just overcoming illness, any illness, the chi flow as a result of our chi kung and kungfu practice enables us to wholesomely enjoy life.
Further, you are now trained in chi kung healing. You can help other people overcome illness and enjoy life.
- Spread and Depth in Shaolin Kungfu and Wahnam Taijiquan
- Lohan Asks the Way
- Man as Micro-Cosmos
- Traveling Dragon Sword
- Flowing Water Floating Clouds