SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
JULY 2016 PART 3
How should a teacher answer when a student asks a question?
— Roger, Switzerland
The teacher should answer honestly and to the point. His answer should also be at the level of understanding of his student.
For example, if a beginning student asks the teacher how would a lady defend against a powerful thrust punch from a big-sized opponent, he would answer that the lady could sink back onto her False-Leg Stance and deflect, not block, the powerful attack with a "leaning-hand", like the pattern, "Single Tiger Emerges from Cave". The teacher should also demonstrate the defence to the student.
Here, the answer is to the point and at the level of understanding of the student.
If an advanced student asks the same question, the answer would be different although he could use the same defence for the attack. The teacher would say that by retreating to a False-Leg Stance, the thrust punch will be unable to hit the lady no mater how powerful it may be. This is the principle of leading an attack to futility.
Although the attack cannot harm the lady anymore, with the punch still pointing at the lady though it is beyond reach, it is not comfortable for the lady. So she can ward it off with the "leaning hand" of "Black Tiger Emerges from Cave". The teacher should emphasis that this movement is called a "leaning hand", and not a block. The defender "leans" her arm against the punch and wards it away with little force.
If the teacher says that an attack, regardless of whether it is powerful or weak, should be defended, or the defender, regardless of male or female, should counter-attack after the defence, he is not answering the question. If the teacher says that the lady should defend against the powerful punch with an equally powerful block, his answer is not in line with kungfu philosophy.
If the teacher does not know the answer, he should never invent one to save face. He should compliment the student for the question, and admit he does not know the answer, but he will find out. He must carry out his promise. In our school, he can ask his sifu, or ask me.
For example, when a student asks how one can break a brick with internal force, and the teacher does not know the answer, but he tries to invent one by saying that the striker strikes on the brick with all his might, his ignorance can easily be discovered later. His sifu would tell him that the striker relaxes totally, sinks his chi or energy into his dan tian and channels his internal force to his palm to break the brick.
Those without the experience of breaking a brick with internal force would not understand the answer, although they may know the dictionary meaning of all the words used. This is why skills like internal force should be learned personally from a living master, and not from books or videos. This is also a main reason why the initiated will know when bogus masters without direct experience describe topics like internal force using intellectualisation.
What are the important points students of Shaolin Kungfu should know about kicks?
Here are some important points about kicks.
There are more kicks in Shaolin Kungfu than all the kicks of other martial arts put together, but many people are ignorant of this fact, and some even have the mistaken concept that there are few or no kicks in Shaolin Kungfu, especially Southern Shaolin.
There are, for example, 36 Leg Techniques in Shaolin Kungfu, and all the known kicks of martial arts in the world can be found in these 36 Leg Techniques, but many of these kicks are not found in other martial arts.
Despite the great number of kicks in Shaolin Kungfu, Shaolin kicks are purposely made to be inconspicuous. They are unlike kicks in Taekwondo and Muay Thai where their executions are quite obvious. Shaolin kicks are generally low, in contrast to some martial arts where the higher a practitioner can kick the better he is regarded to be.
There is a kungfu saying, in Cantonese pronunciation, that "sau hai leong moon seen, chun pang keok ta yen", which may be explained as "hands are like the two swings of a door, it is kicks that defeat an opponent."
There is another saying that "khuen ta sam fen, keok thaik cheat fen", which can be translated as "30% of victory depends on the hands, 70% of victory depends on the legs".
These two sayings show how important are footwork and kicks in kungfu. Many kungfu practitioners are not only unaware why footwork and kicks are important, they are not even aware that these sayings exist. Their ignorance is manifested when they execute high kicks without knowing their limitations, their poor balance and their blatant exposure to counter-attack even when their opponents may not actually counter-attack.
When you execute a high kick at an opponent's head, for example, not only you expose your groin but also you have bad balance and it is more difficult for you to retreat to safe defence when your opponent counter-attacks. Saying "See who is faster", as boasted by some exponents who use high kicks recklessly, indicates their lack of understanding combat philosophy.
There are a few innate weaknesses of kicks that exponents should know. These weaknesses are innate, which means that even the kicks are executed skilfully the weaknesses are still there.
- An exponent has to prepare himself to kick, like shifting his weight, and bending his body, thus giving some clear signals for a skilful opponent to know.
- While a kick is being executed, other parts of the body that can be used for striking an opponent, like the fists, the head, the shoulders, the elbows, the thigh and the knees -- i.e. the other six of the "seven stars" for attacking -- are not functional.
- The range of variation of a kick is limited. For example, if an opponent catches your leg when you kick, the range of variation is less than that of your hand when you strike. If your hand is caught, you can release it more readily, counter-grip your opponent, follow through with an elbow strike, or fell your opponent to the ground followed with a coup de grace.
- If an opponent strikes your kicking leg, it is harder to defend than if he strikes your attacking hand. It is also harder for your opponent to counter-strike when you strike with your hand because you can cover him with your other hand as you attack, but you are unable to do so when you kick.
- If your opponent avoids your kick and counter-attacks your body, you have to retreat your kick before you can implement some safe defence. You don't have this extra retreating movement when you strike.
Kungfu exponents who use kicks should understand these innate weaknesses as well as common counters against kicks, so that they know what to do when their opponents exploit their kicks.
Yet, despite these innate weaknesses, kicks are used, inconspicuously, to win combat. The hands are used to open the way for the kick -- a fact that many who use kicks routinely may not know.
Can you show us again how to perform the chi kung form?
— Ann, Ireland
Editorial Note: This question was asked during the Five-Animal Play course in Ireland in August 2015.
No. If I do, you would focus on the form, which will likely lead you to perform gentle physical exercise instead of performing chi kung.
Even when you did not know the form perfectly, you were performing chi kung just now, and high-level chi kung too. You could have a chi flow in just one session of performing the chi kung forms you had learnt.
Most other practitioners may not have any chi flow after performing the same chi kung forms after 100 sessions, even when their forms are correct and beautiful. This, in fact, is the situation of more than 80% of people who say and honestly think they practice chi kung. Strictly speaking, they do not practice chi kung, not even low-level chi kung. The techniques they use are genuine chi kung techniques, but they practice them as gentle physical exercise and not as chi kung, and they do not know the difference.
The difference lies in the chi flow. If they have chi flow, it is chi kung. If they do not have any chi flow, it is gentle physical exercise.
If their chi flow is little and they have to spend a lot of time on their practice, it is low-level chi kung. If their chi flow is a lot, and they spend only a short time in their practice, it is high-level chi kung.
It is like cash flow in doing a job. If the cash flow is little after spending a lot of time on the job, it is a low-paying job. If the cash flow is a lot after spending only a short time doing the job, it is a high-paying job.
In both cases, it is the cash flow and the chi flow that are important. If you have a lot of cash flow, you enjoy comfortable economic life. If you have a lot of chi flow, you enjoy good health and vitality. It is your cash flow, not your job, that gives you a comfortable economic life. It is the chi flow, not the chi kung forms, that gives you good health and vitality.
When making a sword thrust, what is the difference between holding the sword the yin way, the yang way and the neutral way?
— Sifu Kevin Barry, Ireland
There are three main ways of holding a sword when trusting it out, namely the yin way, the yang way and the neutral way. In the yin way, when you thrust out the sword, the back of your palm holding the sword is on top. In the yang way, the palm, if open, is on top. In the neutral way, the back of your palm is facing outside.
Relatively, the sword thrust is most firm in the yin way. It is the orthodox way of thrusting out a sword. The other two ways are modifications to meet expedient needs. The sword thrust, particularly in the yin way, is also the most typical as well as most deadly of sword techniques.
The yang way is useful when you wish to slash your sword sideways with its tip. When you expect or predict that your opponent may dodge by moving aside, you thrust out your sword in the yang way. When he dodges aside ether way, you can readily slash his throat with the tip of your sword.
The neutral way of thrusting a sword is used when the bone structure of an opponent's body favours it, or when you wish to move the tip of your sword up and down in a vertical manner. For example, to thrust a sword at an opponent's solar plexus or his back, the neutral way of thrusting is most suitable because of the bone structure of the opponent. If the opponent moves away, you can continue your attack by moving forward to slice his throat above with the tip of the sword or slice his stomach below.
Sifu, why is the Small Universe bring us the most luck compared to other arts like One-Finger Shooting Zen and Iron Wire because these arts also generate energy flow?
— Sifu Roland Mastel, Switzerland
This is because the good circulation of energy of the Small Universe is flowing all round the body, whereas the energy flow in One-Finger Shooting Zen is more focused at the arms, and the energy flow in Iron Wire is consolidated.
"Good circulation of energy", or "hou yin qi" in Chinese, brings good luck. While there is good circulation of energy in One-Finger Shooting Zen and Iron Wire, there is more in the Small Universe.
As chi kung healing is so effective, can someone who has not practiced chi kung learn it and help his friends?
— Lucca, Italy
He can but he should not. Similarly a person can drive restlessly or drink alcohol excessively, in the sense that he is able to do so, but he should not.
A chi kung healer is a trained professional. Not only he should have practiced chi kung well, he should also be specially trained. Chi kung healing is not for amateurs to play around.
Whenever a chi kung healer takes up a case, he should have confidence that he could help the patient to overcome his illness. If he does not have this confidence, he should not take up the case.
If he knows of another healer or doctor who can cure the patient more effectively, he should direct the patient to the doctor or healer.
If a person is not trained in chi kung healing but attempts to heal others, he may bring harm to the patients and to himself. For example, if the healer attempts to transmit chi to the patients without first clearing the patients' blockage, he may aggravate their illness. The patients' bad chi may back-flow to him and harm him.
When we asked you a series of questions in order to put the Tribute Show together a lot of very practical and useful things came out of it.
— Sifu Barry Smale, United Kingdom
The "Tribute to Sifu" show was a great success. I would like to thank you, Tim and Mark again for this memorable endeavour.
Amongst many benefits, including bringing out a lot of practical and useful things, two on chi kung and two on kungfu are most outstanding.
We demonstrated that by practicing genuine chi kung, sick practitioners could overcome so-called incurable diseases, and that healthy practitioners could have good health, vitality and longevity. Chi kung is not just some form of gentle exercise, as most people today conceptualise chi kung to be. The essence of chi kung is energy flow.
We also demonstrated the two pillars of kungfu training, namely internal force and combat application. Unfortunately, today kungfu has debased into "flowery fists embroidery kicks" or a free exchange of blows and kicks. In the past, a kungfu master was an inspiration to others. But today many people think of a kungfu master as one who is rough and aggressive, and full of pain and anger.
The "Tribute to Sifu" show, hopefully, will correct these misconceptions, and return chi kung and kungfu to their rightful greatness.
On the same basis I am interested to know what you consider are the Fundamental Skills of Shaolin and Wudang Kung Fu.
The full name of Wudang Kungfu was Wudang Shaolin Kungfu, i.e. the Shaolin Kungfu taught on the Wudang Mountain. The Shaolin Kungfu taught at the Shaolin Monastery on Songshan (Song Mountain) in Henan Province was called Henan Shaolin Kungfu, and sometimes Songshan Shaolin Kungfu.
Later, when Shaolin Kungfu was taught in Fujian Province, on Ermei Mountain in Sichuan Province, and in Guangdong Province, it was respectively called Fujian Shaolin Kungfu, Ermei Shaolin Kungfu, and Guangdong Shaolin Kungfu.
There were actually two main types of Wudang Kungfu, one taught by Zhang San Feng in the 13th century, and the other taught by Foong Tou Tuck in the 19th century. The Wudang Kungfu of Zhang San Feng later evolved into what we now call Taijiquan. The Wudang Kungfu of Foong Tou Tuck was not as popular, and was relatively hard like Fujian Shaolin Kungfu.
To me the fundamental skills of both Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Kungfu (of Zhang San Feng as well as of Foong Tou Tuck) are stance training, internal force, combat application, good health and spiritual cultivation. In fact, these four aspects are not only the fundamental skills of Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Kungfu, but also of all styles of great kungfu.
Depending on their approaches to and results of realising these four fundamental skills, great kungfu styles are known by different names like Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Kungfu. In other words, it is not the difference of fundamental skills that differentiate them as Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Kungfu, but it is the difference in the approaches and results of these skills that constitutes the difference. For example, the internal force and combat application of Shaolin Kungfu are relative "hard", whereas those of Wudang Kungfu are relatively "soft".
Stance training is the fundamental skills of all kungfu. Stances are also typical of kungfu. One can differentiate kungfu from other martial arts because of the kungfu stances. All kungfu classics mention that the stances are the foundation of kungfu. When a kungfu practitioner can perform his stances well, he can learn kungfu techniques easily. When his stances are established, he just adds the appropriate hand movements to form patterns. In other words, whether he performs "Black Tiger Steals Heart" in Southern Shaolin, "Jade Girl Threads Shuttle" in Taijiquan, or "Ascend Mountain Elbow Strike" in Northern Praying Mantis, it is the same Bow-Arrow Stance. This, in fact, is a main reason why our students are so cost-effective in learning kungfu.
Internal force is the hallmark of great kungfu. It is also unique to kungfu. No other martial arts train internal force as a coherent system, though some of the masters of these arts have internal force due to their long years of dedicated training but usually without their own awareness.
It is also a common misconception, even amongst many kungfu practitioners, that internal force is only available in internal arts like Taijiquan, Baguazhang and Xingyiquan. Most kungfu practitioners, including some masters, regard Shaolin Kungfu as external and therefore devoid of internal force. But, of course, there is a lot of Shaolin internal force training, and many Shaolin masters as well as masters of styles derived from Shaolin Kungfu, like Hoong Ka, Wing Choon, Choy-Li-Fatt, Tantui, Eagle Claw and Praying Mantis, have a lot of internal force, though some of them may not be conscious of it. Internal force not only enhances kungfu performance but also enriches daily life.
Another fundamental skill of Shaolin Kungfu, Wudang Kungfu and all other styles of kungfu is combat application. Indeed, without this skill, no art can be called kungfu, which is Chinese martial art. Isn't it ridiculous to call any art a martial art when its practitioners cannot employ it for combat? Yet, shocking it may be, most kungfu practitioners today cannot use kungfu for combat. They only perform kungfu forms for demonstration or employ other martial techniques for combat or fight randomly. Combat application is a skill, or a collection of skills. These skills need to be learned and practiced diligently.
Good health is a fundamental skill of good kungfu. In other words, when a person practices good kungfu, he should be healthy. However, some kungfu practitioners who imitate free sparring from other martial arts where they freely exchange blows are not healthy.
Having good health is a skill, or a collection of skills. When practitioners perform kungfu forms daily, they would be healthy. Those who develop internal force in their kungfu training would enhance their health and also have vitality and longevity.
Spiritual cultivation is another fundamental skill, or a collection of skills, of good kungfu. Spiritual cultivation is cultivation of the spirit, which is different from religious cultivation. If by practicing kungfu, practitioners become peaceful, happy and confident, they have cultivated their spirit, irrespective of their religion or a lack of it. High-level spiritual cultivation, like returning to Zen or Tao, is found in great kungfu like Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Kungfu.
The fundamental skills of Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Kungfu are stance training, internal force, combat application, good health and spiritual cultivation. In other words, when a practitioner, any practitioner, trains genuine Shaolin Kungfu or Wudang Kungfu, he will learn skills to perform stances, to develop internal force, to apply his kungfu for combat, to have good health, and to cultivate spiritually. As these are fundamental skills, he will learn all these skills, provided that the Shaolin Kungfu or Wudang Kungfu he practices is genuine.
When he is at a beginners' level, his skills are, understandably, not well developed. His stances may be awkward, his internal force is little, he may not be able to fight well, but he should be healthy though at times he may be anxious or agitated. But he will learn all these fundamental skills if he practices genuine Shaolin Kungfu or Wudang Kungfu. As he progresses in his training, his skills develop. At an advanced level, he will have good stances, have some internal force that not only enhances his kungfu performance but also his daily life, be able to apply his kungfu for combat though he may still lose to a better fighter, have good health, and be peaceful, happy and confident.
Genuine Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Kungfu are rare. Nowadays, many practitioners of Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Kungfu probably have good stances, but have no internal force, are unable to apply their Shaolin Kungfu or Wudang Kungfu for combat, are often injured and nervous if they are engaged in sparring, and are tensed, stressful and anxious in spirit. They may insist that the Shaolin Kungfu or Wudang Kungfu they practice is genuine, but they do not have most of the fundamental skills of genuine Shaolin Kungfu or Wudang Kungfu.
If you have any questions, please e-mail them to Grandmaster Wong via his Secretary at stating your name, country and e-mail address.
- Getting the Best from Your Training
- History and Philosophy of Carry Tiger back to Mountain
- Tapping into Cosmic Love and Wisdom
- Applying the Fundamentals of Chi Kung Everywhere