SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
OCTOBER 1998 PART 1
I am currently practicing Aikido in Tokyo, but feel that there is quite a lot missing from their system. Especially the internal force training. Perhaps I could import some Taijiquan training methods into my Aikido training?
— Dylan, Japan
Yes, incorporating rather than importing some Taijiquan training into Aikido will be a great help. The difference between incorporating and importing as I use the terms here is that what you have incorporated from Taijiquan becomes a part of Aikido, whereas in importing, the two arts remain quite separated.
In my opinion, incorporating from Shaolin Kungfu may even be better, because as Aikido was originally developed from the locks and holds of Shaolin Kungfu, these two arts are more related. However, you must incorporate from the softer and more advanced aspects of Shaolin Kungfu, which for various reasons may not be easily available nowadays. The hard, external aspects of Shaolin Kungfu, which are normally taught today, are not suitable. If you have no access to these Shaolin softer and more advanced aspects, then it would be better to learn and incorporate from Taijiquan.
What is your opinion of the Aikido training system?
In my opinion, Aikido is probably the best choice among the various martial arts from the Japanese and Korean systems popularly taught today. My choice is based on my belief in the traditional classification of martial arts by past masters into three classes as follows. Martial arts that are only hard are considered third class, those that are only soft are second class, whereas those that are both hard and soft are first class. It is significant to note that we are here speaking about genuine martial arts. If you learn merely aikido exercise, just like someone who learns Taiji or Shaolin dance, you as well as the Taiji or Shaolin dancers may not be any match to a third class martial artist.
The soft martial arts are considered a class above the hard ones because besides being used for combat they are also efficacious in promoting physical and emotional health, whereas the hard arts emphasize mainly combat and pay little conscious attention to health. I need to point out that this is only my oppinion, and many others may not view the subject in the same way. Those who practice the hard arts, for example, may say that their arts are also soft and that their arts too promote physical and mental health. Some may disregard health and say that any martial arts that can be used to beat their opponents effectively are first class.
In my opinion again, Aikido is only soft and therefore it is not as preferable to martial arts like Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu that are both hard and soft. Moreover Aikido employs too many moves to execute a hold or lock effectively, thus giving an opponent ample time and opportunities to counter strike. Further, aikido stresses mainly on defence, paying little attention to attack. From the combat perspective, this is not complete. Fourthly, although many aikido masters have said that their art is a way of energy harmony (which in fact is what “aikido” means), and that their ultimate goal is universal love, I have been unable so far to find much energy training in aikido or understand how their practice contributes to universal love. I wish to stress that this is only my opinion, given honestly as it is asked from me. Aikido masters would be in a better position to give a better answer on their oppinion of Aikido.
I was wondering what would be the best way to balance chi kung exercises with cardiovascular type exercises.
— Raymond, Ireland
I am not sure what do you mean by cardiovascular type exercises, but generally chi kung can be practiced by itself or in conjunction with other exercises. Chi kung is excellent for overcoming cardiovascular disorders. Many heart patients have recovered after practicing chi kung from me.
How should I balance the chi kung and kung fu training?
Chi kung is an integral part of genuine kungfu training. Chi kung means energy training. It is difficult to imagine any good kungfu without energy training. Here I am refering to genuine chi kung, which involves a management of energy, and not to some debased chi kung form which is no more than gentle gymnastics or dance.
Should I combine them in one session?
Yes. Kungfu without chi kung, or energy training, is low level kungfu. On the other hand, chi kung can be practiced on its own.
How would the gentleness of chi kung followed by the 'explosiveness' of kung fu (one leaving me refreshed, while the other leaving me breathless!) affect the benefits of the chi kung exercises
There are different types of chi kung and also different types of kungfu. Some types of chi kung, like Iron Shirt and Sinew Metamorphosis, can be explosive, and some types of kungfu like Yang Style Taijiquan and Cotton Palm, can be gentle. But no chi kung or kungfu, irrespective of their types, irrespective of whether they are explosive or gentle, should leave you breathless if practiced correctly. If you incorporate the right type of chi kung, such as one involving breath control, into an explosive type of kungfu such as Cannon Fist, you can execute the vigorous, explosive kungfu movements and forcefully without panting for breaths.
How would explosive kungfu affect the benefits of chi kung practive would depend on how you perform them. If you do them incorrectly, explosive kungfu might undo the chi kung benefits, such as distorting the smooth flow of energy derived from the chi kung practice earlier. If you perform them correctly, their benefits complement and enhance each other, such as adding impetus and momentum to the internal force developed earlier from chi kung practice.
I have been studying kung fu for about a year and I have found that studying this art has given me more benefits than just learning how to defend myself (which was the main reason why I started studying kung fu). Kung fu has made me feel so powerful, not just physically but mentally as well. That's why I particularly like the section on your web site about why kung fu is the best art.
I have been told that I have “good chi”. What exactly does that mean? Do most people have good chi? What is bad chi? Does it have anything to do with the personality? What I mean is, does having good or bad chi mean that the person is or is not a good person? Do you have any books that you recommend about this enigmatic subject?
— Mae, USA
To have good chi can be interpreted in a few ways. Generally it means that you are healthy and strong. It can also mean that you have good luck.
Unfortunately not most people have good chi. One good way to improve their chi is of course practicing chi kung. They can also improve their chi by eating good food, taking exercise and leading wholesome life styles.
Bad chi is energy in one's body that is harmful to him. Some examples of bad chi are harmful germs, negative emotions and toxic waste. Bad chi certainly effects one's personality, but it does not mean when one is born with a bad personality he will forever have bad chi, or when one is born with bad chi he will forever be bad. What is meant is that if you are suffering from pain or any illness, which is the result of having much bad chi, you are unlikely to be cheerful when socializing with your friends. Practicing chi kung can overcome this problem; this is one of the many ways how chi kung enriches our lives.
The subject, whether of chi kung in general or of good or bad chi in particular, is not enigmatic. Many people have written to tell me they have found my books, “The Art of Chi Kung” and “Chi Kung for Health and Vitality”, explain chi kung clearly and in some depth.
All through my life I have been interested in the Shaolin martial arts. I always wanted to learn it, but never had the money to buy books or go to courses. The only place where I can learn a little from Shaolin kung fu is your web page. I was wondering if you can teach me all I have to know about Shaolin martial arts without any fees. So please teach me all I have to know about Shaolin martial arts. I want to be physically fit because i am not at the moment right now. Thank you for reading this e-mail, not many reply back to me when I ask them a question.
— Nguyen, USA
If you want to learn a great art from any master, you have to prove that you are deserving and dedicated. Asking any master to teach you without any fees, all you have to know simply because you are interested, does not happen to be a good way to show you are deserving or your dedication.
Moreover, the fact that you do not bother to put some care in your letter, as evident in your use of “Shaolin” and “shaolin”, and “I” and “i” (but the above letter has been edited) even though the letter is a short one, reveals what little thought or respect you have for the master or his art. Understandably, requests that are causally made usually receive no replies.
But at least you addressed me as Mr. Wong Kiew Kit, although if you have read my webpages carefully, treating them as the only source of instruction for something you have been interested in all your life, you would have discovered that addressing me as Sifu Wong Kiew Kit would be more approrpiate. Nevertheless, you are more respectful than many who have actually written something like “Hi, I have read your book on Shaolin Kungfu. It is great. I have no money. Teach me all you know.”
It is amazing, and often amusing, how little respect some people have for masters and their arts. They probably think that acquiring a great art is as easy as eating hot-dogs, and asking a master to teach it is as easy as pushing him around.
There are 3 treasures: the sword, the mirror but which one is the third?
— Francisco, Mexico
Depending on who asks the question, and who answers it, the third treasure may be anything, such as the book, the comb, the bracelet, my cat, your money or Tom's wife.
If you ask me and I answer as a Shaolin disciple, I would say the sword and the mirror are not the two of the three treasures; the three treasures are kungfu, chi kung and Zen.
If I answer as an individual, I would name good health, happiness and spiritual fulfuilment as the three treasures; whereas a typical Confucian would name heaven, earth and man; a Buddhist would name discipline, meditation and wisdom; and a modern youth may cite sex, drug and peace.
This training camp seems to be for advanced kung fu students but I am interested in begining levels.
Initiately my intensive kungfu course, like the training camp, is meant for instructors or advanced students. But as many beginning students have written to seek instruction, I have made some modifications so that beginning students may also take the intensive kungfu course, although it will be more economical if they can learn some kungfu first, even if it is kungfu dance, before coming to me for finer points.
I study under an 8th dan and I am concerned about his style. I read your email that was posted on your web page where you made the comment that someone studying karate or taekwondo couldn't compete with someone that is true to a kung fu style. I agree with that comment 100%. Kung fu is so much more complex and complete than most other styles.
I am glad of your observation, and I hope you will one day have the chance to learn genuine kungfu, and not merely kungfu demonstration or kungfu gymnastics that use karate or taekwondo techniques for combat.
My master feels differently though. He also teaches taekwondo and feels that taekwondo is much better for self defense than kung fu. I feel that even though being as unexperienced as I am, I could take out one of his 4th geup students by just using my street fighting and boxing skills. I feel that if he truly understood kung fu, he would feel that kung fu is superior to taekwondo in every way.
You are right. Probably your taekwondo master didn't have a chance to be exposed to real kungfu. My webpage Why Shaolin Kungfu is the greatest martial art will provide some justification.
Unfortunately there are not a lot of choices for people who want to study kung fu in my home state.
Good kungfu masters are rare today, including in Chna.
I will continue and train under him and will always be loyal to him.
I am proud of you for this statement. Even if or when one day you are better than your teacher, you must always be loyal and respectful to him.
Some kung fu is better than no kung fu. But I would like to experience a more comprehensive style. I am in kung fu for the eastern ideas, combat, and chi training. If you could give me advise as to how to make my training more thorough or if you have a list of skilled masters or instructors or are willing to take me in as your student, I would appreciate any help offered.
While there may be some cultural differences between the East and the West, and between the time of our forefathers and now, the fundamental teachings of kungfu, such as courage and righteousness, steadfastness in our ideals and developing the strength to realize them, are applicable universally and timelessly.
Combat efficiency in kungfu is not an end by itself, but a means to actualize these fundamentals. If, for example, we do not even know how to release ourselves from somebody's hold, it is difficult to be courageous and righteous. Strength is necessary, not only to uphold our ideals but also to live our everyday lives rewardingly, and chi kung, the art of energy maangement, is excellent for this purpose.
My webpage Getting the best benefits from your training will be helpful in making your training more thorough, and my webpage Qualities of a good master will give useful advice to choosing a master. If you are keen to study with me, please contact me.