SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
APRIL 1998 PART 1
We train a lot on a sack with sand, hitting the air with dumb-bells, a lot of power exercises and also a lot of full contact fights. My friends took many honorable places in different national and world competitions. But when we fight it looks just like a street fight.
I feel that I am not getting any close to becoming a real kung fu fighter. I'm trying to practice as you say in the book but some how it doesn't look like it will lead me into a real kung fu fight. I can't imagine myself bloking fast real hits even after a few years by practicing the forms with myself or even in the later steps with friends. I would be honored if I could get your advice.
— Igal, Israel
Yours is a very common problem with many kungfu students all over the world, including in China. You may be surprised that modern wushu students and instructors, including those who have won championships, would also fight like street fighters or worse still like children.
“Sanda” competitions, which are supposed to be free sparring wushu competitions, resemble boxing; you can hardly see any wushu patterns in these competitions. In fact “sanda” competitors actually and actively employ boxing techniques in their training.
In other words, in their attempt to fight well, they look as a model not towards a classical kungfu master but towards a modern western boxing expert, and what they typically discuss are not how to use a tiger-claw or butterfly-palm but how to throw a jab or a hook punch.
Yet, it is true that kungfu — any style of kungfu including Taijiquan — is exceedingly effective for combat. In other words, not only a genuine kungfu student can fight using typical kungfu patterns, but also his chances of winning the fight is better if he uses kungfu patterns and not patterns taken from karate, taekwondo, kickboxing or any other martial art.
Then why the overwhelming majority of kungfu students and instructors today all over the world cannot spar with kungfu patterns? I myself do not like to beleive it is true, but it is true: today the art of kungfu for combat is virtually lost — with very, very rare exceptions, and for various reasons these exceptional masters are not willing or prepared to teach.
Since 50 years ago, the norm of teaching and learning kungfu has been to perform kungfu sets. When the Chinese government promoted wushu, the Chinese official name for kungfu, the aim was, and still is, to promote it as a sport, and not as a martial art. Hence, for those trained in kungfu sets or modern wushu, it is no surprise that they cannot use kungfu to spar.
The beautiful kungfu or wushu sparring you see in movies and demonstrations are pre-arranged; unfortunately you don't see them in real sparring or fighting. Even learning kungfu forms from a book is daunting enough; unless you are already trained, learning kungfu sparring from a book is practically impossible. This is because what is involved is not techniques but skills. In other words it is learning not just how to block a punch or avoid a kick, but more importantly how to judge correctly, move swiftly and response with sufficient force according to some preferred kungfu patterns.
One may clumsily learn techniques from a good book, but to develop combative skills one needs the personal supervision of a master. I do not mean to sound presumptious but I sincerely believe I am one of the very few who have inherited the art of combat kungfu from the rare masters. Perhaps if the time is appropriate I may share this secret art with deserving students.
I must make it very clear that while I personally practise traditional kungfu, I do NOT disagree with the teaching and spread of wushu. Traditional kungfu and modern wushu have different aims and serve different needs. Considering the situations today, I think the Chinese government has done a wonderful thing promoting wushu. The Chinese government has never pretended to spread combat kungfu; it has always explicitly emphasized the promotion of wushu as a sport because that best serves the needs of the present Chinese population.
All throughout my life I have had problems with motivation, confidance, and the like. My best friend has started studying Taekwondo, and he is doing well in it. When I was a child I studied Karate. My mother brought me to a couple of her Tai Chi classes, and it was interesting but it was teaching Longevity Tree which was a very slow form, and as I was a young brash kid, it didn't suit my style.
So here I am 19 and I am stumbling and not doing anything with my life, and I thought, why not start a martial art; it's helping my friend. As I started looking into it, Karate doesn't feel right anymore, Taekwondo doesn't feel right. I thought about Thai Kick Boxing for a while, but no I don't think so.
Then I heard somebody mentioning Shaolin Kungfu, and I started looking into what it was all about, and the basis of mental expansion and Chi Kung. It all sounded good. So my basic question is: Do you think this is a good idea, since you know so much about it?
— Eric, USA
Personally I think Taekwondo, Karate and Kickboxing are not suitable for you because they tend to make students aggressive, and cause internal injury during sparring without rectifying them. Taijiquan is probabaly too “slow” for you, moreover it is difficult to find good Taijiquan masters nowadays. What is usually taught is Taiji dance, not Taijiquan.
The best choice is Shaolin Kungfu, but as in the case of Taijiquan it is very difficult to find genuine masters. Yet, even practising third-class kungfu can help to relieve depression, and without the side effects of agressiveness and internal injury.
For you I would suggest practising wushu, which is a modern form of “kungfu”. Wushu is different from traditional kungfu, and pays little attention to combat efficiency and spirituality, but it will make you energetic and that will help you to overcome depression and lack of motivation.
You and many others may think that I say Shaolin Kungfu is the best choice because I practise Shaolin Kungfu. In fact it is the other way round. I practise Shaolin Kungfu because it is also the best choice for me, otherwise I would have practised Taekwondo, Karate or Kickboxing.
If you practise genuine Shaolin Kungfu or genuine Taijiquan, you will have confidence and a zest for work and play. You are only 19 and you have many, many more happy and fruitful years in front of you. Rationally speaking, any youth at 19 living in the richest country in the world during a time of peace and prosperity should not be depressed.
“Should” is a negative word, it indicates that you should not, but you are. Don't be discouraged that you feel depressed, often for no apparent reasons. In my many years of teaching in America and Europe, many people have told me that they feel depressed although they are blessed with material wealth. Many of them have overcome depression after practising chi kung from me.
I didn't have to reason to them that they shouldn't be depressed; the transformation is intinsic. When their energy blockage, physical as well as emotional, has been cleared, and when they have increased their energy level, they feel purified and flowing with energy. They find that they have so many things to do, and have the energy to do them, that they have no time for depression.
Try to learn from a GOOD chi kung master in your area. If you learn from mediocre instructors who teach only chi kung form, you are unlikely to get good result. You can get some useful information about genuine chi kung from my websites at Shaolin Kungfu, Chi Kung, Taijiquan and Zen and at Good Heath Home Page.
If you can get hold of my book “The Art of Chi Kung” or “Chi Kung for health and Vitality”, practise the chi kung exercises called “Lifting the Sky” and “Carrying the Moon” everyday for at least six months. You will get better results by just practising these two exercises without bothering about the other exercises in the books. Follow the instuctions as best as you can without unduely worrying about details and without forcing for effects.
Contact me if you have any questions. Like many people who have done it, you will be pleasantly surprised how much these apparently simple exercises can enrich your life.
For more than thirty years, you have been teaching Chi Kung. How did you get in contact with this art and how did you begin to value it? What is the main contribution of this art on physical and psychical levels, and for long life? Could you please give some examples of illness cured by Chi Kung?
— Juan, Spain.
I learned the techniques from various teachers, especially from Sifu Lai Chin Wah and Sifu Ho Fatt Nam. I also developed some of the techniques myself, and I benefited a lot from reading good chi kung books.
I first valued these techniques when they produced practical results for my many chi kung students. Virtually all chi kung books mention that practising chi kung can overcome a wide range of diseases and provide good health. At first I taught chi kung to my kungfu students who were already healthy, so there was no practical way to confirm whether what was written in the books about curing diseases was valid.
But when I taught chi kung to the public, and many people who had sufferred for years from various diseases like high blood pressure, cancer, asthma, diabetes, rheumatism, pepetic ulcers, depression, sexual inadequacy and nervousness, told me that their so-called incurable diseases were gone, I had concrete evidence for the effectiveness of chi kung, and was awakened to the inspiring idea that some diseases were considered incurable only if viewed from the conventional western medical perspective.
Personally I have helped many people to overcome their so-called incurable diseases suffered for many years, like cancer, asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, peptic ulcers, rheumatism, migrain, insomia as well as depression and nervousness. Chi kung is an excellent remedy for both physical and psychical disorders, and for promoting longevity.
An elderly man from Madrid suffered from postrate cancer. He had tubes inserted into his bladder to help him ease his urination. After practising chi kung from me for about six months, he was free from cancer and threw away the tubes. His friends said he looked much younger.
A middle-age woman from Sevilla was told to have a surgical operation to correct her heart disorder. After about three months of chi kung, her heart specialist told her that her condition had improved and the surgery could be delayed. She then flew to Lisboa, where I happened to be teaching at that time, to have further chi kung instructions. When I next saw her a few months later, she told me that her heart disorder had been cured without having to undergo any surgery.
A young man from Alicante suffered from diabetes since childhood. All doctors he had seen and many of his friends told him he had to bear his diabetes for life. He was over-joyed when I told him diabetes could be overcome by practising chi kung. He told me I was the first person to tell him that diabetes can be overcome He practised my chi kung diligently and within a month he was free of diabetes. His was my record for the fastest recovery from diabetes. Usually it takes about eight months.
Chi kung is probably the best gift to the West from the Chinese civilization. It helps to answer two urgent problems facing the West today, namely overcoming a wide range of chronic, degnerative diseases, and overcoming psychiatric problems, including intrapersonal loneliness despite material affluence. But it is important to learn chi kung from genuine masters, who are now hard to find in both the East and the West.
It is not uncommon nowadays to find people starting to teach chi kung when they themselves have learnt it for only three months or even three weeks. Then their students and in turn their students' students also teach chi kung. It is shamefully incredible! These bogus instructors think that they can become masters themselves by imitating the exercises the genuine masters teach. It is like observing for a few days how a doctor treats patients, then starting to treat patients themselves. If this unwholesome trend is not checked, the West will simply miss this wonderful gift of genuine chi kung.
I did a course with you and, first of all, would like to thank you for your wonderfull teaching; I will never forget it. During the course I had an experience that I told you about at that time and you just told me that I had practiced well and smiled.
What happened was that I was sitting in seiza hearing you and thought about an energy field around you. All of a sudden my body got very straight, images started to dissolve (as my ego) and the sound of the heart beat was going louder and louder. I came back afraid of where I was going. Well, things like that happend some times in my life. Even with the arrival of the Kundalini energy coming up, I always stopped it, because both I was afraid and also thinking I was not prepared for it.
What I respectfully ask from you is if you think if I shall have these expiriences in future should I trust them and go with the flow. What I feel is that some experiences are dangerous if you stick to them, getting “the finger for the moon” but on the other hand, they are probably important for your spiritual maturity. Am I right?
— Joao, Portugal.
Both your chi kung and kundalini experiences are wonderful, indicating that you have practised well. So long as the experiences come naturally from your practice, and so long as your practice is correct, you need not worry or be afraid.
One sure way to tell whether you have been practising correctly is your feeling after the practice. If you feel well and pleasant the practice is correct; if you feel uncomfortable and unpleasant the practice is incorrect, although sometimes correct practice may produce some pain when your energy flow is attempting to break through blockages.
If you keep up your practice your experiences may occur again. When they happen, just be natural — what the Taoist say “wu-wei”. Sometimes the break-through may be dramatic and even painful, but you need not worry about it.
Yet, you are correct about the saying “mistaking the finger for the moon”. The break-through or the kundaline, even though the experience may be extra-ordinary, is actually a symptom that you are making progress; it is not the real effect for which we practise chi kung. In other words, what we aim at are good health, vitality, mind expansion and spiritual development, and not just experiencing wonderful break-throughs, kundalinis or other remarkable occurances, although they do indicate that you are progressing correctly.
I am a new student of chi kung. I am on my own but I started to have pains in my abdomen (left side), they were sharp in nature. I went to my doctor who said he could find nothing wrong. Could this be caused by an “energy blockage” and how would it be possible to release this?
I also have started to lift weights in a gym. Would it be wrong to use “chi kung” methods of sending energy from the “Dan Tien” to the arms to lift the weights? I notice that my glasses fog up when I do this.
— Bill, USA
I am answering your question immediately instead of the normal procedure of placing your question in line (which would probably take a month or two longer to be answsered), because yours seem to be an urgent case. Yours is likely to be a case of energy blockage. Your doctors would find nothing wrong because “energy” is still not in the vocabulary of conventional medicine.
Do not continue with whatever chi kung you are doing, and stop lifting weights or working out in a gmn for the time being. Instead, do the following, once in the morning and another time in the evening or at night. Practise for about ten minutes — not more. Preferably practise outdoors; if you practise indoors, do so with good air circulation.
Stand upright and be relaxed. Smile from your heart. Then perform “Lifting the Sky” about 20 times. Refer to my book “The Art of Chi Kung” or “Chi Kung for Health and Vitality” for how to perform this exercise. (If you don't have a copy, buy or borrow one, but don't steal.)
Breathe in gently. Breathe out with some force, but do not over exert yourself. If you are not quite sure what “with some force” is, it is sufficient if your breathing out is more than your breathing in.
After “Lifting the Sky” about 20 times, gently close your eyes (if they are not already close). Gently visualize or think of your energy blockage being cleared, and visualize or think of energy flowing down your legs. Don't worry about how or why it works, where does the energy come from, what opens the blockage, or any other academic issues. Leave the academic intellectualization aside; it does not help you to overcome your problem.
Although your case can be serious if you allow it to persist, you need not worry unduely about it. The remedial exercise I prescribe above should overcome your problem. But don't expect the problem to disappear in two or three days. You have to practise for some time, probably for a few weeks. You will find that not only the problem has disappeared, but also you have more energy despite not having worked with weights or in a gym for some time. Then you may continue with your chi kung exercise or weight training if you like.
If you use chi kung methods to send energy from your dan tian to your arms while lifting weights, you can have better results with less effort, but you must know how to do it correctly. If you do it incorrectly, such as breathing in while exerting force, you may sustain internal injury.
If you realize that chi kung is an internal art that even masters need to spend many years to train, and you are not even a competent student, you would not be so unwise and unreasonable to think that you know enough to “be on your own” to apply chi kung to other arts. Your foggy glasses is an indication that your self-taught knowledge on chi kung is insufficent to enable you to apply chi kung correctly, and if you do not heel the warning, you are on the way to another round of internal injury.
If you are contented with chi kung dance or gentle exercise, you can learn it from a book, but if you want genuine chi kung which you can safely and fruitfully apply to weight lifting and other aspects of your work and play, you have to learn it from a master. You did not mention what type of chi kung exercise you did, or whether you learned it from my books or other books. Whatever it is, if a teacher or an author mentions that certain exercises are not to be attempted without supervision, you must follow the advice.
I found the book very interesting and have started practising Lifting The Sky, Carrying the Moon, Pushing Mountain, Standing Meditation and Visualisation. I have a lower backache, stiff neck and shoulders and hope the above Chi Kung execises would help.
— Chan, Malaysia
Visualization is a very powerful technique, and is best done with a master's supervision. The other exercises mentioned above are safe, and by themselves should be able to help you overcome your backache, stiff neck and stiff shoulders.
Problem is, most of the time midway thru the sessions, I will get pins & needles on both the underside of my feet. But when I start swaying in a circular motion, the pins and needles will slowly disappear. I also get pins and needles when I am trying out visualisation. When relaxing on my bed. I also feel if I am floating.
All these indicate you are getting the good effect of your practice. The pins and needles are an indication of chi breaking through your energy blockage.
Will practising Chi Kung wrongly disrupt blood circulation or cause harm to the body? I am worried if I continue further, it may cause more harm and good.
Practising anything wrongly would cause more harm than good, and practising chi kung is no exception. Practising from a book, even a good book and even if you practise correctly, is nothing like practising from a master.