SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
MARCH 1999 PART 3
My question relates to the Three Circles Stance: is it possible to reduce the benefits of this gigong practice to those of mere 'gentle exercise' (to which you often refer)? I relax fully whilst in the posture and feel good, yet having seen the truth in your webpage responses I wonder if I am doing the stance a disservice by reducing it to a mere external posture.
— Alexis, Canada
You are practising the Three- Circle Stance correctly as qigong. Had you tense yourself or try to apply any force, you would be practising wrongly, and may result in harmful effects. With a few exceptions, all qigong exercises should be practised gently, and the practitioner should feel good. This has been the advice of all qigong masters through the ages. It is only through shallow knowledge or negative transferance from conventional western exercises that many people mistakenly think that when they practise qigong exercises they would become more forceful if they apply force.
It is hard for many people (including myself when I was much younger) to believe how one could be forceful when he does not use force. The answer, in a nutshell, is that in Taijiquan and other internal arts, the force involved is derived from flowing energy and not from muscular strength. The more your relaxed, the better the energy flow will be. If you tense your muscles, which you would inevitably do when you use muscular strength, the energy flow would be interrupted.
Carry on with what you are practising. Later on you may feel some discomfort or pain in your muscles. This is a normal, expected development. Persist on, but without unduely overdoing yourself, and soon you will find internal force surging inside you. The energy flow which generates the internal force can be so powerful that your whole body, especially your arms, may vibrate vigorously. You may find your arms vibrating as if they were of rubber! Continue in your stance if you enjoy it, or if you find the vibration too powerful, gently bring your feet together to stand in meditation (usually with your body swaying) to enjoy the flowing energy.
You should, however, take note of one important point. Stop your practice if you find pain in your chest. This is due to forced tension in the body. If the practitioner persists on, he may vomit blood. But don't worry; even if you have practised wrongly, you would be given sufficient warning, such as intense pain, and if you heel the warning and stop the practice, you would be alright. You may continue your training when the pain has subsided.
Also, given your warning about unsupervised zhan zhuang, should I abandon the stance in favour of safer qigong techniques such as Lifting the Sky? Your advice would be greatly appreciated, Sifu.
Generally it is better to practise “mobile” qigong like “Lifting the Sky” for some time before attempting “stationary” qigong like Zhan Zhuang. But it appears you are doing well in Zhan Zhang. I would suggest you continue with your Zhan Zhuang. You may, if you like, once a while incoporate Lifting the Sky into your training schedule. You may perform Lifting the Sky about 20 to 30 times before, or after, or before and after your Three- Circle Stance.
I'm in my forties, and have been HIV positive since 1986.
— Rie, USA
It is well know that only a small percentage of HIV positives have AIDS; most of them don't. Though I do not have scientific data to prove it, I believe many, many more people are HIV positives but because they have not gone for a medical check up, they themselves do not know they are so. They do not have any illness despite the HIV in them because their own resistence keeps the HIV in check.
The view of some conventional doctors, which actually has never been proven valid, is that these HIV positives do not have AIDS because the time has not arrived yet. I totally disagree. My view is that they do not have AIDS because their own resistence is still able to contain the disease. In the same way, every person has millions of deadly germs in them, yet they are not sick.
This suggests that even among those who have AIDS, if they can regain their resistence, which is a natural ability, they may overcome AIDS.
Before that my large intestine was surgically removed due to uncontrolable ulcerative colitis, which is no longer a problem. Now my health is not so good and due to my medications for the HIV my cholesteol is extremely high (1700's). What would be your suggested path of Chi Kung exercises that I should follow?
If you believe that chi kung can overcome your HIV and extremely high cholesterol problems, you should have more respect for it than thinking that it can be learnt from a book, an e mail or a video. I do not recommend my chi kung as I do not have a proud record for HIV patients, and I am unsure of the effect my chi kung has on the HIV virus. Go and seek a real chi kung master in your area. Make sure he is not just a chi kung dance instructor.
There is only Yang style Tai Chi in my area and it's probably only Tai Chi dance. Should I do it anyway? You like Chen style better. Also what do you think of trying Wing Chun for me? You haven't really expounded on that style of Kung Fu.
Do it, if you want to be a dancer. Do real Tai Chi Chuan, irrespective of whether it is Chen or Yang Style, if you want to be combat efficient. If you want to overcome your health problems, you best choice is real chi kung. Personally I think Wing Chun is not suitable for you at present. Please refer to past issues of my question-answer series; there has been much information on Wing Choon Kungfu.
What are some valuable chi kung exercises that would help and improve one's martial arts training?
— John, USA
As chi kung is the art of energy management, all real chi kung exercises would help and improve one's martial arts training. Nevertheless, the following are some examples of the particularly helpful: Abdomial Breathing, Small Universe Breathing, various types of Zhang Zuang such as the Three-Circle Stance and the Horse-Riding Stance, Golden Bridge and Cosmos Palms.
I purchased two of your boohs several months ago and was practicing regularly. I have begun to have what can only be described as nervous tics in various parts of my body, This is causing me great concern. It seems that qi is traveling along and through the meridians and I am unable to control it. Could this be a sign of purification of the system or incorrect practice method? Please advise.
I have seen an accomplished acupuncturist who suggested I have a full neurological work-up (some thing I would like to avoid if possible). I hold you in the highest possible regard and would welcome any suggestions. If you know of any Qigong teachers in my area I would be most grateful. I would also consider a visit to see you in person if that is something that I could do. I am sincere in my efforts to learn Shoalin Cosmos Qigong and do not want to give up my efforts.
— Healy, USA
The tics in your body is likely to be chi attempting to break through some blockage in your energy system. It is therefore a good sign.
However, it is difficult to make a definite judgement without seeing you. But the following is a useful guideline. If the chi is working for you, you should feel good (albeit some anxiety as it is a novel experience). If you feel weak, painful or uncomfortable, it is a sign of wrong practice.
Chi kung is excellent for overcoming not only physical but also emotional (or in the West sometimes termed neurological) problems. To get the best results, you should practice from a master, not from books or instructors who teach only external chi kung forms. I am sorry I do not know any qigong masters in your area. You are most welcome to learn from me if you like. Please refer to Intensive Chi Kung Course for details.
I would like to know if it is possible to practice more than one style of qigong or to take and practice parts of different styles of qigong.
— Andre. USA
Yes, this is possible, although it is generally better to focus on one type of qigong at one time.
I am a western boxer who would like to practice Iron Shirt to strengthen my internal organs for a strong abdomen and Yi Chin Ching to strengthen my muscles and tendons to withstand blows from my opponents.
Both Iron Shirt and Yi Jin Jing are advanced qigong types which should be trained under personal supervision of a master. You may injure yourself internally if you train wrongly.
What is more important is to learn some chi kung with self-manifested chi movements so that you can cleanse off the internal injuries you have sustained in your boxing. These internal injuries, which conventional medicine pays little attention to, leave dead cells inside your body which may distort your energy flield leading to far reaching consequences like hormonal imbalance and organ mal-function.
I've always thought that actually going to China to receive training would be the most advantageous way, but I don't know if that is a realistic idea and my biggest question is whether females students are received the same way as male students.
— Carrie, USA
Female students are received the same way in modern China as male students.
However, Shaolin Kungfu is rarely taught in modern China. What is taught is modern wushu. The modern wushu taught in the martial art schools around the Shaolin Temple in China is of a very high standard. Please check my question-answer series if you wish to find out the difference between modern wushu and traditional kungfu.
I saw your website and was very impressed. Kungfu has always held a fascination for me. It's almost like an instinctual pull. It's hard to explain. I just feel that I would get more from a daily training than a one hour-twice-a-week class.
Kungfu should be trained daily, not just once or twice a week.
I realize I would not be able to study at a Shaolin Monastary. But I thought maybe I could get some sort of an apprenticeship from you.
Actually no foreign students are able to study in the Shaolin Monastery today. It is full of thousands of visitors everyday, and even if the monastery authority were to accept foreign students there would be no place to practise. What many people mean when they say they have studied at the Shaolin Monastery is that they have studied wushu (not Shaolin Kungfu) in one of the many wushu schools around the monastery, and taught by monks from the monastery.
You are welcome to take my intensive kungfu course. Please see Intensive Kungfu Course for details. But you cannot become proficient in kungfu by just taking my course; you will have to continue training on your own with the fundamental skills and techniques that you will learn in the course.
Time is not an issue; this is something I am willing to devote years to if needed. As for money, I am a hard worker and know that I can come up with whatever money for fees.
Shaolin Kungfu is a life-long activity that enriches our and other people's lives. It is not just for self-defence or even for health and vitality. It is a complete programme for physical, emotional, mental and spiritual development.
My training fee is US$1500 for about a week, which is very high compared to what many teachers charge but which is actually nothing compared to what you will gain in the course. The most important price, however, is not the fee, but your willingness to train conscientiously on your own for about an hour a day.
I'm hoping that this is something that may be attainable. Please let me know if it is or if it's just some silly girl's notion.
Training with me to learn the fundamental skills and techniques of Shaolin Kungfu is readily attainable. Whether you will succeed in become a real kungfu master one day will depend much on your own training. This is certainly not a silly girl's notion. Only people with high vision and determination will think of embarking on a course of real kungfu. Many people are contented with kungfu dance; others go for parties or disco.
I have been a student of ToiLiHoFutHung Kung Fu for four years. I feel very lucky to have found not only a wonderful system of self-defense, but also a method for living a happier and more complete life. The only frustration I have comes from trying to learn the history of the art.
— Andrew, USA
Knowing the history, while useful and interesting by itself, is a theoretical issue. What is more important are the practical results like the ability of self-defence and living a happier and more complete life.
Some say we are related to ChoyLiFut, some say we are not. Unfortunately, most students here do not seem to care one way or the other. I, however, wish to become a teacher someday, and feel that it is important to search for the truth. If I do not, my students will suffer from being disconnected from their rich and noble heritage.
You are right. Being a teacher, one should know the roots of the art he is teaching. While knowing its heritage is not essential to obtaining practical results, it nevertheless adds depth and insight to the art.
I was excited to find much information at the site Tsoi Li Ho Kungfu, headed by Sifu Ron Franco and Sifu Josh Raha from Sylmar, CA. I presume that the history given at “TLHKungfu” has your endorsement as being accurate. In fact, I presume that most of it came from you!
Sifu Ron Franco's and Sifu Josh Raha's website is splendid and contains much invaluable information.I contributed only a small part. Much of the research is done by Sifu Ron Franco and Sifu Josh Raha themselves.
I would like to ask your opinion of another version of the history as it was taught by a first-generation student of Sifu Chin Siu Dek. In this version, the “five families” of Choy Li Ho Fut Hung are actually the famous five Southern Chinese families Choy, Li, Mak, Lau and Hung.
The five famous Southern Shaolin families of kungfu were Hung, Lau, Choy, Li and Mok, named after Hung Hei Khoon, Lau Sam Ngan, Choy Pak Tat, Li Yau San and Mok Cheng Kiew. Mak, mentioned by you, probably refers to Mok.
It seems that over time, Mak was replaced by Fut to pay tribute to the Guan Yin temple.
Personally I don't think this was so, but I am not sure. Traditionally Mok Cheng Kiew (represented by Mak or Mok), who was noted for kicks, was known to be a woman, but some masters of Mok Ka Kungfu said that he was actually a man. “Fatt” in “Choy-Li-Fatt” refers to the Monk Cheng Chaw, which means “Green Grass”. The “Cheng” in Mok Cheng Kiew means “young or clear”. Mok Cheng Kiew was not related to the Guan Yin Temple.
Lau was replaced by Ho. No reason was given. The character for the Hung family was replaced by another character that is also pronounced Hung, but means “heroic deeds” or “strength”.
Again, I don't think this was so. “Ho”, I think, refers to Lan Tau Ho, an accomplished Southern Shaolin master. His surname was “Ho” and not “Lan”. “Lan Tou”, which means “wounded head” was his nickname, because he had a wound on his head which never seemed to heal.
“Hung” in the Shaolin Five Families refers to the surname of Hung Hei Khoon, the first patriarch of Hung Gar (Hoong Ka) Kungfu. “Hung” here means “turbulent water”.
“Hung” in Choy-Li-Ho-Fut-Hung means “heroic deeds” or “great strength”. I think it refers to Hung Seng Khoon, the school of kungfu spread by Cheong Hung Seng, the second patriarch of Choy-Li-Futt Kungfu after Chen Herng, the first patrarch.
This theory supports the lineage given by Sifu Chin Siu Dek, who claimed that the art had been in his family for 5 generations as follows: Monk Chin Moon Don (his great-great-great grandfather) left the Guan Yin temple and taught Chin Leoung Kick (his great-great grandfather), who taught Chin Siu Don (his great-grandfather). It then passed to his great-uncle Chin Siu Hung who taught Chin Diu Dek.
Personally I do not know much about this lineage given by Sifu Chin Siu Dek.
It is very tempting to accept the first account, since it gives specific dates and names. In fact, my own research made me suspect that we were related to ChoyLiFut years ago. There were too many co incidences for us NOT to be! Namely
ChoyLiFut came from the same region of China around the same time period as ChoyLiHoFutHung
both arts shared three family names
both arts train with big movements but apply techniques with smaller movements
both arts use the same vocal sounds when striking.
Imagine how happy I was to find that I wasn't alone in making these connections!
I agree with you, and I congratulate you for making the connections, whcih shows that you are not only well versed in your art but are also very perceptive.
The only questions that remain for me, however, are as follows: Why have I never found another ChoyLiFut school that talks about or recognizes the “five family style” that Chin Siu Dek taught? Being that ChoyLiFut is quite popular, shouldn't someone else know about it?
There could be many different reasons. One possiblity is that this “Five Family Style” was a branch from Choy-Li-Fatt but its masters did not populariz it, and therefore other Choy-Li-Fatt masters may not have heard of it.
Is the family lineage given by Sifu Chin true? It is interesting to note that the histories of ChoyLiFut and ChoyLiHoFutHung are both 5 generations long and begin at the Guan Yin Temple. Another co-incidence! But, where do the names given by Sifu Chin come from? Do you recognize any of them?
I am not sure if Choy-Li-Fatt began at the Guan Yin Temple. I don't know whether the names are true. I think the names came from Sifu Chin's family line. I do not recognize any of the names.
Is it possible that both histories are true and that Sifu Chin inherited ChoyLiFut and a separate family style based on the original five Southern families?
Yes, it is possible. Neverthelss, Choy-Li-Fatt originated from Choy Ka Kungfu, Li Ka Kungfu and Fatt Ka Kungfu, and not from the five family styles of Hung, Lau, Choy, Li and Mok.
Is it accurate to find Chin Siu Dek's family name sometimes spelled Chen and Chan? I understand that different dialects make spelling difficult, but some people are still suspicious of the many changes.
Yes, Chen is often spelt as Chan. Chen is in the Mandarin pronounciation, and Chan in the Cantonese pronounciation of the Chinese language. Mandarin is the standard Chinese pronounciation, but many southern Shaolin kungfu masters were Cantonese speaking and hence their names were often spelt in Cantonese.
The term “Choy-Li-Fatt” for example is in Cantonese, which is more popular than its Mandarine pronounciation of “Chai-Li-Fo”. Even in the same Cantonese pronounciation, different people may use different English spellings for the same Chinese characters. For example, I usually use “Hoong Ka” and “Wing Choon” for the two famous Southern Shaolin styles, but many others use “Hung Gar” and “Wing Chun”.