SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
JULY 1998 PART 1
Steve and I were able to see the Shaolin monks here in Seattle for their world tour. I noticed that during their chi kung exercise — whether they were walking on razors or being banged with a huge pole — they would tie a black belt of sorts or a black scarf around their waist. Why? In an old tape I saw some 40 years ago they did not do this.
— Jack, USA
The black sashes the monks wore, were some sort of belts meant to hold their pants in position. Some demonstrators use these sashes to tie round their waists or other parts of their body to enhance their chi volume for such demonstrations as breaking granite or taking strikes on their bodies. While these sashes are helpful, they are not necessary; hence other demonstrators may not use them.
It may be worthy to note that from the persepective of the tradition that I have been trained, while these demonstrations are impressive to watch and certainly demand much skill to perform, we do not pay much attention to them, because the time spent on developing such skills is not cost-effective in fulfilling our aims of attaining good health, vitality, combat efficiency, mental freshness and spiritual joy. This does not necessarily mean that those who do so have wasted their time. It is just a matter of different perspective and objectives.
It may be a big surprise to many people that one who can perform such feats like walking on razors or taking strikes from poles, is not necessarily a good fighter. Some may not even be healthy — physically or emotionally.
My master, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, was able to perform many of such feats because one of his kungfu teachers was a travelling medicine man who frequently had to give public demonstrations. One of my most invaluable lessons I leanred from my master, as it gave me a fresh perspective of kungfu, was when I politly asked if I could learn some of these feats.
“Don't waste your time over stuntmen's shows,” he reprimanded, “Get on with real kungfu.”
“Stuntmen's shows?” I asked in surprise.
“Yes, such feats were called stuntmen's shows in the past.” (In Chinese stuntmen's shows are called “da li xi” in Mandrine pronounciation, or “tai lek hei” in Cantonese, which literally means “strong men show”.)
Chen style vs Yang, which is superior? Is one better suited to fighting?
Whether Chen Style or Yang Style Taijiquan is superior depends on subjective judgement. Generally speaking, Chen Style is more suited to fighting, whereas Yang Style is more suited to health promotion.
In fact, Yang Style developed as a result of the third-generation patriarch Yang Deng Fu modifying his Taijiquan (which was originally Chen Style) for health purposes.
I am presently practising the first and second Lin Wan Kuen Forms. We also just started Lin Wan Kuen Sparring. I could not find any information or even a mention on the Lin Wan Kuen style anywhere on the internet or in books. Another school in my city also teaches this style.
I know that some styles (such as Wing Choon) practice Lin Wan Kuen as “chain punches”, that is merely as a sub-set of punching techniques. I am learning it as a style. I understand that the Lin Wan Kuen is a Shaolin style in its own right. Can you shed any light on this enigma?
— Henk, South Africa
Lin Wan Kuen is a fundamental kungfu set in Northern Shaolin Kungfu. It is reputed to have developed from Baoquan or Cannon Fist of the great Shaolin monk Yuan Zhong of the Tang Dynasty, which was more than a thousand years ago.
To thank Yuan Zhong for his help in establishing the Tang Empire, the first Tang Emperor bestowed the title of Great General on Yuan Zhong although he was allowed to remain in the Shaolin Monastery as a monk. Yuan Zhong gave a demonstration of Baoquan at the inaguration ceremony.
The full name of Baoquan was Lian Wan Baoquan, which means “Kungfu Set of Continuous Cannon Fist'. Later it was shortened to Lian Wan Bao, and then to Lian Wan Quan, which is in the Mandarin pronounciation of the Chinese language. In the Cantones pronuonciation, it is Lin Wan Kuen.
It was called Lian Wan Bao, or Continuous Cannon, because the spectators were spell-bound by the amazing speed and power of Yuen Zhong's kungfu movements. Knowing the glorious history of Lin Wan Kuen, you and your classmates will, I hope, strive to maintain it as a great kungfu set, which will amongst other benefits provide you with good health and combat efficiency, and not debase it into a dance which is meant to please spectators.
Because of its long history, Lin Wan Kuen may have many versions, which are found in many other styles of Shaolin Kungfu, but the one in Northern Shaolin is generally regarded as the prototype, although its modern version would have undergone much change. Often a prefix is added to other versions, such as Sap Tze Lin Wan Kuen (Crossroad Continuous Fist) in Hoong Ka Kungfu, and Yin Jau Lin Wan Kuen (Eagle Claw Continuous Fist) in Eagle Claw Kungfu.
”Lin Wan Kuen“ mentioned above is the name of a kungfu set, i.e. a pre-arranged sequence of a number (about 36-108) of kungfu movements. ”Lin wan kuen“ can also refer to a kungfu tactic, i.e. a preferred way to execute some (about 4 or 5) kungfu movements so as to gain some combative advantages.
Obviously your chance of striking your opponent is more if you rain four or five punches on him, rather than executing a solo punch. This tactic of executing a few punches continuousely is called ”lin wan kuen“, which actually means ”contiuous punching“.
If you execute a few kicks or a few gripping techniques continuously, the tactic is call ”lin wan thui“ (continuous kicking) or ”lin wan khow“ (continuous gripping techniques). A kungfu set that makes full use of such a tactic is often called ”Lin Wan Thui“ or ”Lin Wan Khow".
As far as I know, Wing Choon Kungfu does not have a kungfu set called Lin Wan Kuen. But Wing Choon exponents frequently make use of the lin wan kuen tactic. The short-range verticle punch and the inch-force (whereby an exponent can deliver devastating damage within an inch), both of which are typical of Wing Choon Kungfu, are particularly useful for implementing the continuous-punch tactic.
Sifu, I've been being troubled by asthma since a child. I feel hard to breath and sometimes have chest pain after drinking cold water and sports activities. I took a lot of Chinese medicine when I was a child but it didn't help much and now I'm 19.
Sifu, is there still a chance for me to recover from this asthma? I love playing soccer but I can't play for long. I do love other sports too but I can only be a spectator. I was a kungfu student too but had to quit because I was out of breath and had chest pain each time I finished practising. Sifu, please give me some advise to overcome my asthma. I've been suffering asthma for years and I really felt happy when I heard about Sifu's Qigong in curing diseases.
— Tiong, Malaysia
Many, many people have recovered from asthma by practicing chi kung. But you must practice genuine chi kung, not just some gentle exercise that claims to be chi kung. Today, as in the past, genuine chi kung is not easy to find.
The crucial point that differentiates chi kung from gentle exercise is that in chi kung the practitioner actively, consciously works on his vital energy. In fact, the term chi kung literally means “energy work”. And the most fundamental aspect of energy work is to be able to generate your internal energy flow. Once you can do that, you may channel your energy flow to your lungs to clear away toxic waste in your air sacs, to increase your energy level for kungfu or soccer, and to do many other useful things. You do all these things actively, consciously — otherwise what you practice cannot be called chi kung.
The factors that cause asthma in you and other asthma patients, are also present for all other people. Why, then, you have asthma but they don't? The reason is that their body (and mind) systems can function to overcome these factors, often without their conscious knowing, but you have lost this ability. They did not have to practice chi kung to have this ability; this ability is natural — to them, to you and to eveyone.
It is as natural for us to overcome asthma, cancer, diabetes, depression, anxiety or any label we may give to the countless symptoms of our body's disease, as it is natural for us to breathe and eat. This may sound amazing to many people, but it is a great, simple truth — often expressed in the saying “the doctor does the dressing, God does the healing”. Ask any doctor, eastern or western trained, and if he sincerely searches his heart he will tell you the same thing.
Some doctors may tell you that astham is “incurable”. This does not contradict the truth that by nature we can overcome all disease. What they actually mean is that according to their knowledge and training, they do not know how to help you restore your natural ability to overcome asthma. This of course is no slight on them; there are other things that they can do extremely well.
Those trained in Chinese medical philosophy, including chi kung masters, look at disease from a different perspective. They are not worried over such details as what pollutants chock your lungs, which parts of your lungs are affected, and what antidotes to use, but they are concerned with the holistic task of restoring your natural ability to overcome asthma, or any disease for that matter.
It is too complicated to explain the details here. (If you are interested, please see my website on good health.) The masters summarize all the details by saying that your health will be restored if you restore your yin-yang harmony, and this is done by restoring harmonious chi flow. Chi kung is an excellent way to restore harmonious chi flow, which is the Chinese medical jargon of saying restoring your ability to overcome disease, an ability which you naturally have but temporarily lost.
You stand a very good chance of recovering your natural ability to overcome asthma, or any disease. Many people have done so. You are only 19; you owe yourself and your parents a duty to live healthily and well. Seek a real chi kung master to practice chi kung, not just to overcome asthma but also to enrich your life and the lives of others.
I have recently been struck down with stress, worry, fear as my business was taking a bad turn. I deterioated to a stage that I could not count the fingers on each hand. The abdominal breathing has helped significantly. I have been practicing Chi Kung for 6 weeks (Lifting Sky, Carrying Moon, Nourishing Kidneys) and a couple of dao yin excercises. Currently I have improved my health from pure relaxing, Abdominal Breathing and Chi Kung, and Tai Chi (beginner).
I do however come from a traditional backround of doing GYM (Progressive resitance training for muscles and cardivascular for heart and lungs). I had to stop this recently due to a medical problem which allowed the stress and other bad things to take control. I do Gym to keep fit and improve overall body strength/toning to cope with day to day work loads (carrying heavy boxs etc). I have not trained Gym for 3 months and am struggling with my general strength. If I give up my regular Gym and do my Chi Kung and Tai Chi will I be able to keep my strength without having to pull muscles or injure myself when the time calls for extra muscle strength. I can understand if I have been training for 2 or 3 years with Tai Chi and Chi Kung I would have the strength.
Does Progressive resistance training conflict with Tai Chi/Chi Kung or should I do both. I am currently struggling with a very painful right hand side (it feels as if my whole right hand side of body is poisioned). This only happens when I think of work or as I'm doing now typing on the keyboard of a computer. When relaxed and not thinking of business, my right hand side is fine. Even when I try to practice Chi Kung (Lifting Sky or just breathing in the Wu Chi position I feel pain in the right hand side of my body (starting at shoulder level down to lower back). This pain takes a lot of my concentartion away from excercise and I cannot focus properly on training.
— Derek, Botswana
If you practice chi kung or Taijiquan correctly, you can be very powerful without having to work in a gym or doing any physical exercise. This may seem incrediable to many people, especially those in the West who are used to the mistaken concept that if one wishes to be strong and fit, he (or she) has to strengthen himself by doing physical exercises like lifting weights and running.
From the Chinese martial art perspective, this is reversing cause and effect. The ability to do physical exercises well is the effect, not the cause, of being strong and fit. What, then, is the cause for being strong and fit? The answer is having energy and the abilty to manage energy well. Chi kung is the art of energy training, and its forte is increasing energy level and managing energy flow. Taijiquan, if practiced correctly, is a complete set of chi kung itself.
While it is not necessary, but if you like to work in a gym, your having practiced chi kung will enable you to do gym work better. Personally I think that prgressive resistence training is not suitable for people with medical problems, especially problems concerning the heart, the lungs and the nerves. Such training is stressful not only to the body but more significantly the mind. Chi kung training is superior; not only it improves energy level and energy management, it is relaxing both physically and mentally.
It is a mistake to think that you need to be tensed to be strong. Kungfu (including Taijiquan) masters are powerful and calm at the same time. Top atheletes win their championships only when they can be relaxed during their peak performance.
Nevertheless, you have to practice real chi kung or real Taijiquan, which are not easy to find. For various reasons, what is taught publicly today as chi kung or Taijiquan is merely gymnastic or dance.
I have also heard of Chi-Lel QiGong by Master Pang Ming MD in China and Yan Xin QiGong by Dr Yan Xin MD and of course the Shaolin Chi Kung in your book. Are they all simple, powerful, effective and enjoyable to practice?
— Jo, USA
Grandmaster Pang He Ming and Grandmaster Yan Xin are amongst the greatest chi kung teachers in the world today. Their teachings, whcih range from beginners' levels to very advanced levels, not only have benefited many people but also have added much depth and dimension to chi kung.
Yes, Zhi Neng Chi Kung, Yan Xin Chi Kung and Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung are simple, powerful, effective and enjoyable to practice. Interestingly, and if I am not mistaken, the source of both Zhi Neng Chi Kung and Yan Xin Chi Kung is Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung — not the Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung that I practice but the one practiced by masters long ago.
It is worthwhile to note that “simple” does not mean simplistic. These chi kung types are simple in the sense that they do not have unnecessary frills or padding, and as such their physical movements are easy to perform, but their effects are profound because every physical movement is a means to train energy and mind.
Can one practice Chi Kung (any kind) and Kundalini Yoga (specificlly Saraja Yoga) at the same time? They seem to be different routes in reaching/uniting with the Cosmos — by expanding the mind and embracing and merging with the Universe in Chi King vs awakening the coil Kundalini spiritual energy at the base of the spine in the sacrum as practiced by the Kundalini Yogi.
I do not know Saraja Yoga, so I shall refer to yoga in general. The answer to your question is yes and no, because it depends on numerous varibles. If the practitoner is familiar with both disciplines, he can practice them complimentarily. For example he may first practice chi kung dynamic patterns (like Lifting the Sky and Carrying the Moon“), then conclude with joga meditation.
But if the objectives of his particular chi kung or yoga practice are conflicting, he should not practice them, or practice two conflicting methods in the same discipline, at the same time. For example, practicing Submerge Breathing in chi kung, or focusing at the chakra connected with sex in yoga, enhances one's sexual performance. But this will conflict with practising Long Breathing in chi kung to bring chi to the baihui energy field, or focusing at the crown chakra in yoga, which are useful for intellectual and spiritual cultivation.
There are many routes to reaching or uniting with the Cosmos. Expanding the mind and awakening the kundalini are two examples, and both these routes are found in chi kung as well as yoga. Much of raja yoga deals with expanding the mind, although yogis call the mind ”spirit“ and reserve the term ”mind" for the intellect. The Long Breathing in chi kung awakens the kundalini, although chi kung practitioners regard this flow of energy from the base of the spine to the top as part of a longer flow called the Small Universe. Actually chi kung and yoga are different names for similar arts, although due to cultural, linguistic and other differences, these similar arts may have different focus and emphasis.
Are there any similarities/relationships between Chi Kung and Hindu Chakras systems and between Chi Kung and the ancient Hawaii Huna systems, ie relationships/co-operation of the Higher Self (Superconscious Mind), Middle Self (Conscious mind) and Lower Self (Subconscious mind)?
The chakra system in yoga is similar, but not identical, to the dan tian system in chi kung. Both chakras and dan tians are energy fields, and are cultivated for health as well as spiritual development. There is one noticeable difference: the major chakras are found in numerous positions along a perpendicular line from the crown of the head to the anus, whereas the major dan tians are found along the ren and du meridians round the body nearer the skin. This difference, I believe, is because of a difference in functional emphasis.
Chi kung generally focuses more on health, whereas yoga, especially raja yoga, on spiritual cultivation. Nevertheless, in Taoist spiritual cultivation, cultivators develop energy fields like huang ding and ni yuan which are located along the central axil like the chakra system. On the other hand, Buddhist spiritual cultivation, especially Zen, does not pay so much attention to energy fields; it focuses directly on the mind.
I do not know much about the ancient Hawaii Huna system.
Although the terms used may be different, both chi kung and yoga deal with the subconscious, the conscious and the superconscious mind. Attaining “a chi kung state of mind” or “entering silence” as it was known in the past, is esential in chi kung practice if good results are to be attained. This “chi kung state of mind” is similar to, but also surpasses, what would be called the subconscious mind. It is a state of mind, which may manifest at different levels of depth, where the practitioner is conscious but able to use abilities which in the West would normally be referred to as belonging to the subconscious. At the deepest levels, the practitioner reaches the superconscious or universal mind.
The division into subconscious, conscious and superconscious mind is a western concept. Although it has some advantages, such as allowing us to understand the mind better, it is not without its setback. For example, it may mislead many people to think mistakenly that these three divisions of the mind, like typical classifications in science, are exclusive, forgetting that these divisions are actually arbitruary and for the convenience of study. Thus many people used to such categorical thinking, referred to as dualistic in Zen, find it dificult to comprehend and subsequently appreciate that it is perfectly possible to experience the subconscious or superconscious when one is still in the conscious mind.
Can Chi Kung improve one's “LUCK” — making the right decision in business/investments/personal matters, being at the right place at the right time, meeting the right people, etc? If so, what kind or what technique?
Yes, chi kung can improve one's luck! Some people may find this incrediable; they will be more surprised to know that in fact in the Chinese language the expression for having good luck is “good circulation of chi”, which is “hao yun qi” in Mandarin pronunciation, or “hou wan hei” in Cantonese.
When one's chi is strong and harmonious, he is not only fit and healthy but also full of vitality, and has mental freshness and spiritual joy. He will certainly be in a more favourable position than others who are sick, lanquid, dull and low spirited to make right decisions, and be at the right places at the right times. How often, for instance, have you told someone who is sick, lanquid, dull and low spirited that he is lucky?
In Chinese philosophy, chi (qi) is the link between the physical (jing) and the spiritual (shen). When your chi is harmonious, your jing will be strong and your shen full. In simple language, it means that if your energy is flowing properly, your body will be healthy and your intellectual and spiritual faculties will be enhanced. It is not without reason that many eastern people believe that if your chi is circulating well, which is expressed as having good luck, even the devil is scared of you.
Any genuine chi kung exercise will enable you to have harmonious energy flow. Often it is not what you practice, but how you do so. In other words, it is not so much the technique but the skill that counts. Even if you possess a wonderful technique but if you practice it as a dance or gymnastics, you will only get the benefits that a dance or gymnastics will give, such as elegant movement and muscular strength. On the other hand, you can actually make any physical movements, or no physical movements at all, but so long as you practice chi kung, which literally means work on energy, you can achieve good chi circulation, or in Chinese “good luck”.
If you can understand this, you will understand why I feel so concerned when someone starts teaching “chi kung” after having learnt it for less than three months, or when someone askes me to e-mail him a chi kung technique to cure his life-long health problem. One of my senior students who is a Westerner rightly commented, “it is simply amazing how little respect some people have for a great, ancient art. They think they can learn it enough by watching someone practicing it, then they teach it to other people.”