JULY 1999 PART 2

Sifu Chen Tin Hung

An old picture of Sifu Chen Tin Hung in the 1970s

Question 1

I bought one of your books “The Art of Chi Kung”. I was wondering if I can learn chi kung from that book.

— Tan, Malaysia


You can learn and benefit from a chi kung book, but you should not attempt advanced exercises where the author specifically mentions that personal supervision from a master is necessary. But even amongst simple exercises, the best results are obtained if you learn personally from a master, because chi kung is an internal art where finer points are difficult to be explained in a book.

This fact has been demonstrated to me many times. Many people, including some chi kung instructors, bought my book, practised the exercises and found them very beneficial. In fact some of them thought that was all chi kung was about; they could not imagine what more benefits chi kung could give.

Then they learned from me personally. They were utterly surprised. A whole new world was revealed to them. What they previously thought were wonderful benefits paled away by comparision. For example, previously they could relax themselves and lossen some joints and muscles; now they can actually tap energy from the cosmos and channel their energy to wherever they want!

Question 2

My daughter tried one of the first few breathing exercises which were said to be easy. However, she stopped after 2 weeks because the left side of her body felt weird. Does this mean that Chi Kung can only be practiced under a master's supervision?


For most adults correct breathing is not easy, but it is easy for children. It is indeed amazing that although breathing is the most important thing any person has to do, very few people make some effort to learn to breathe correctly. Once you have learnt it (or re-learnt it as an adult), correct breathing is easy. The trouble is not that breathing is complicated, but that most people do not breathe correctly.

Chi kung teaches you the best breathing methods. If you aim at an elementary level, you can learn breathing exercises from a book, but of course you have to follow the given instructions. One important instruction which many people neglect to follow is to breathe gently. They force their breathing, and this usually leads to adverse side-effects.

If you aim at an advanced level, you have to learn personally from a master, irrespective of how easy the breathing exercises may appear to be. One fairly advanced breathing exercise, which is called Abdominal Breathng, is to tap energy from the cosmos and store it at the abdominal energy field. Despite warning by concerned masters, many readers attempt this exercise from a book. It looks easy, but actually it is not.

Many people confuse Abdominal Breathing in chi kung with diaphramic breathing, which is sometimes also called abdominal breathing in ordinary context. They are different: diaphramic breathing is using the thoraxic diaphram to breathe air into the lungs; Abdominal Breathing in chi kung is using the mind to tap cosmic energy and store it at the abdominal energy field.

It was wise of your daughter to discontinue her self-taught breathing exercise, although the weird feeling she experienced might or might not be an adverse side-effect. Sometimes when the energy acquired from a breathing exercise works on your body for your benefit, you may have an unusual feeling. You might be unable to tell whether the unusual feeling is for good or bad, but a master would. This is just one of many reasons why you should learn from a master if you want the best results. If you are prepared to get less than the best, you may learn chi kung on your own, but you do so at your own risk.

Question 3

How do I register under you for lessons?


I offer intensive courses. Please refer to Intensive Chi Kung Course or Some Examples of Remarkable Recovery for more details. The fee, depending on your perspective, is very expensive or very cheap.

If you compare my fee with what are normally charged by other teachers, it is exorbitant. If you consider that you will learn in a few days what others may take 10 years, it is very cheap.

The fee is payable at the completion of the course only if the student is satisfied; if he is not satisfied, he just says so and does not have to pay any fee.

Question 4

I have read up that the eyes and the testicles cannot be protected with the Golden Bell skill. Does that mean that chi cannot be directed to the eyes and therefore cannot help eye problems? Or is it that chi kung practice can prevent eye problems but cannot repair it? In your opinion, which is better: spectacles or contact lenses with regard to chi flow?

— Lim, Singapore


While the eyes and the testicles of a Golden Bell exponent are still vernarable, chi kung does help the eyes and the testicles. That is why chi kung exponents usually have good eyesight and robust sex lives.

After practising chi kung for about a year, some of my students who were shortsighted before actually threw away their spectators, and some eldery students regain their former sexual potency.

Chi kung can prevent as well as cure eye problems. For most chi kung exponents, whether spectacles or contact lenses are better is irrelevant because they do not need them.

Question 5

I also would like to know about some people who have had bridges done for their bad teeth. As chi kung practice requires the tongue to touch the roof of the mouth, will bridges and other devices in the mouth that come between the tongue and roof affect practice, or can the chi still pass through them?


The bridges, dentures and other devices do not affect chi flow. Those who have them can practise chi kung in the same way as other people do.

Question 6

As mentioned on your webpage, Shaolin Kungfu has some techniques and skills which Tai Chi Chuan lacks, which is one of your reasons for saying that Shaolin Kungfu is the best martial art in the world. Are there any people for which Tai Chi Chuan would actually be better instead?


Yes. For example, for those who are eldery, who are unwilling to undergo demanding training, who prefer gentleness and gracefulness to raw power, Tai Chi Chuan would be a better choice. For those who already have substantial Tai Chi Chuan training, it would be better to continue with Tai Chi Chuan than to switch over to Shaolin Kungfu.

And for those who may know about the supremacy of Shaolin Kungfu but could not find a real Shaolin master — a situation that is not uncommon — it would be better to learn and practise genuine Tai Chi Chuan even if at a mediocre level than practise Shaolin gymnastics.

Question 7

My cousin is about 1 year old and can still walk. Unfortunately, he has, according to the doctors, a genetic defect which makes the bone have little or no calcium, which means his bones are very soft. The doctors say that when he grows older his weight will become too heavy for his weak bones and he will have to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He has already broken his bones a few times, simply by being carried.

Will chi kung practice be able to help him? If it can, how will he be able to practice it? He is now too young to understand anything, and by the time he is old enough, his bones will most probably not be able to support his weight anymore.


What the doctor has said is true form the perspective of his understanding and training. But it may not be true from the perspective of another paradigmn. From the chi kung paradigmn there is no such a thing as an incurable disease or defect. Even from my own experience alone, there have been so many instances to substantiate this chi kung claim.

Many people suffering from diabetes, for example, have been told by their doctors that they could never be cured, yet they have been cured after practising chi kung. Some of my students had the vertebrae of their spine fused, and the doctors had told them that nothing could prevent their complete fussion, yet after practising chi kung they have been relieved of their problem.

This is not to say that chi kung can definitely overcome your cousin's problem, but at least there is a chance. But to imagine that one can learn a chi kung technique from an e-mail, a book or a video and then apply it successfully to the child to overcome his problem, is to insult the profundity of the art. The child's parents have to seek the help not only of any chi kung master but one who has the expertise to overcome the child's problem.

Taijiquan combat application

An old picture showing Sifu Chen Tin Hung demonstrating the combat application of the Taijiquan pattern called “Single Whip”

Question 8

I practise Wudang Tai Chi. The lineage of my school is from Chen Tin-hung in Hong Kong.

— Peter, UK


If I am not mistaken, Sifu Chen Tin Hung of Hong Kong is the 4th generation successor of Sifu Wu Chuan You, the First Patriarch of Wu Style Taijiquan. Please note that in both Chinese writing and pronounciation, the “Chen” in the master's surname is different from the “Chen” in Chen Style Taijiquan.

Although Sifu Chen Tin Hung is a Wu Style master, it was possible that he taught Wudang Taijiquan to some of his students, one of whom might have passed on the Wudang set to later generations.

Sifu Chen is one of a very few masters who actively stressed Taijiquan as a martial art. Besides being a sparring championship winner himself in his earlier days, he trained students who won numerous sparing championships in Hong Kong, Taiwan and South East Asia.

I have some pictures of this master taken in the 1970s. I am e-mailing their image files to you as souvenirs. Please feel free to pass them around in your school if you like.

Question 9

We have 24 yin-yang internal exercises as the basis of our system. I find these exercises very powerful — strengthening and energising. Recently a question has arisen over their origins. I have received correspondence to the effect that these exercises came in fact from Hung Gar!


As I have not seen how the exercises are performed, I would not be able to comment. Generally terms like “yin-yang internal exercises” are not usual in Hung Gar (Hoong Ka). But the name could be misleading. It is possible that the exercises were originally named differently, but renamed with the term “yin-yang” to be more coherent with Taijiquan philosophy.

Question 10

But whether they have a common origin or which art has done the borrowing is something I am trying to find out. Given the fact that these exercises are inside the door teaching and are held to be the platform on which our tai chi is based this is a sensitive and difficult area. I wonder if you or someone you know may be able to verify some things about them?


Does it really matter whether it was Taijiquan that borrowed from Hung Gar, or Hung Gar that borrowed from Taijiquan, or that they had a common origin? After all, all great arts borrowed from one another. Shaolin Kungfu, for example, borrowed much from Indian yoga and Taoist chi kung.

You will have more benefits, besides goodwill, if you spend your time practising the exercises instead of arguing over academic issues which actually do not make much difference either way. Hung Gar students are not likely to hug and kiss you even if you were to prove that Taijiquan borrowed from Hung Gar. As these exercises are the “inside the door teaching” of your school, and have given you and presumably your classmates much benefit, your uncalled-for discovery would cause a lot of confusion and uncertainty.

On the other hand, proving that Hung Gar borrowed from Taijiquan would not make you or your classmates better Taijiquan exponents, or increase your practical benefits in any way. Hung Gar students would not even bother to know the result of your discovery.

Question 11

We have 12 yin and 12 yang: 12 yin: Golden turtle; Unity; Lifting a Golden Plate; Jade Rabbit Facing the Moon; Red Capped Crane Stretches its Feet; Civet Cat Catches Rats; Flicking the Whip on the Left and Right; White Ape Pushes Out its Paws; Swallow Pierces the Clouds; Leading A Goat Smoothly; Giant Python Turning its Body; Elephant Shakes its Trunk.

All these are practised in the horse riding stance. This is interesting as our handform is closest to the Wu family handform which is the only style I know of to practise the Single Whip posture in the horse stance (as we do).

The Wu family also has exercises in it very similar to these ones above. Then the yang exercises are as follows: Golden Turtle; Tiger Paw; Dragon Coiled Round a Pillar; White Horse Pounds its Hooves; Planting a Fence; Wu Gang Cutting Laurels; Rhinoceros Facing the Moon; etc.


These are Wudang Taijiquan patterns, not Hung Gar patterns. The Horse-Riding Stance is used because the main purpose of these exercises is to develop internal force.

Question 12

I've been told that the 12 yin are the same as Da Mo's Yi Jin Jing (tendon changing classic) .


These “12 Yin” exercises and Bodhidharma's (Da Mo's) Yi Jin Jing are totally different. You have been mis-informed.

Question 13

Could enlighten me at all? It is unfortunate is there has been deception or missinformation in our teachings but is this is the case I feel dutifully bound to find out and reveal the true state of affairs. Of course I shall treat any information which you consider to be sensitive in the utmost confidence.


You have made a rash conclusion. From the information provided by you, I think there has been no deception or misinformation in the teaching of your school.

Even if we suppose that what your school claimed to be from Taijiquan were taken from Hung Gar, it was at its worst misinformation; we cannot call it deception as there was no malicious intention to cheat you. Let us take our supposition a step further. Suppose there was an intention to deceive you.

In other words, let us suppose your teacher knew the exercises were originally from Hung Gar, but he wittingly told you they were from Taijiquan. Even using this supposition, there is no need for you to create a storm in a teacup to embarrass your teacher and your school, especially when he has so kindly given you his “inside the door teaching” that has made you powerful and energetic. You are lucky you have a chance to develop internal force in your Taijiquan class; a great majority of Taiji students merely learn to dance.

In kungfu culture, there are other values besides being duty bound and being truthful, such as honouring the master, being grateful and being generous. In your case, you have confused being duty bound and being truthful with bravado and pettiness. You should clean up your own room before attempting to clean up the whole house. In other words, you should correct your own faults before attempting to correct the faults of others.

If you, for example, look at your paragraph above (left unedited for this purpose), you will notice a number of spelling and grammatical errors, which indicate both carelessness and mediocrity. Common sense can tell us that if one cannot even write a letter well, it is unlikely he has the capability to correct a widespread practice or concept affecting many people. Please do not mistake my well-intended comments as severe criticism. I am offering a fresh perspective which I am sure will not only help to improve your martial art training but also to enhance your daily work and play.



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