SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
OCTOBER 1999 PART 1
If I learn wushu does that mean I can't defend myself or use kungfu in fighting even after many years of training? Is there Chi Kung training in modern wushu?
— Arjan, Holland
Both self defence and chi kung are usually not taught in modern wushu. That means, irrespective of how long you have trained, you cannot effectively defend yourself with what you have learnt, and that you are unlikely to have the kind of internal force which enables you to be young and healthy beyond fifty.
In Answer to Readers' Questions Serial 04 — February 1998 you said that many examples of recarnation are mentioned in the Bible. I often discuss with a friend about God and religion. He is Catholic and does not believe in recarnation. Could you please give an example of recarnation in the Bible?
Here are two examples from the Old Testament, and two from the New Testament.
- Then the word of the Lord came into me saying, before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet onto the nation. Jeremiah 1:5.
- Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Jehovah come. Malachi 4:5.
- But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Matthew 17:9:13.
- When there was brought into the presence of Jesus a man who was born blind, the disciples naturally wondered why he had been thus punished, and asked Jesus: 'Which did sin, this man or his parents'. John 9:24.
In your book “The Art of Chi Kung” you quoted Erich von Daniken. I have read many of his books and I was wondering what you think of his theories.
I think his theories are very sound, and are well supported by convincing evidence. If you look at history, you would find that all the new ideas that revolutionalized the world-view of their times, were stubbornly opposed. This has happened in virtually all disciplines of learning, including cosmology, astronomy, archaelogy, physics and medicine.
But while Erich von Danken's ideas are revolutionary to conventional sciences, they are in line with the Buddha's teachings. The Buddha taught that our present world civilization is only the latest (to us) of many world civilizations, and many other world civilizations existed before, and that beings from other worlds, whom some of us may call gods, visited us in the past.
Extra-terrestrial beings still visit us now but we normally cannot see them because they vibrate at different frequencies from ours. Knowing (from present day astronomy) that our earth is literally a spec in the universe, I cannot help thinking that those scientists who insist our earth is the only place in the universe where life exists, must be egoistic to the extreme.
Now, I am ready to attend a qi-gong course with Sifu Wong. My aim is to qualify myself to teach and help others heal themselves.
— Kenneth, Denmark
After reviewing your background, I beleive it is best for you to take an intensive qigong course from me. While you will undoubtedly benefit much from this course — many people who have attended such a course, including qigong instructors, have told me that they had never imagined qigong to be so wonderful — it is not meant to train you to be a qigong instructor.
Although you will have some fantastic experiences during the course itself, like generating energy flow and developing internal force — abilities you would probably think not possible to acquire in a few days — you still have to practise, practise and practise for at least a few months before these skills become lasting.
I would want to insist on one condition if you wish to take a course from me, and that is you must have practised what I have taught you for at least three years and have mastered it before you attempt to teach others. The chief reason is that I do not want you to debase a wonderful art, which you will inevitably do if you try to teach the art before having mastered it yourself.
Today qigong has been debased into gymnastics and dance; the main reason is that so-called qigong instructors themselves only know how to perform external forms, but without any experience of internal energy flow. I would like you to become a real master one day, not a bogus instructor.
Further I am very interested in beginning to look into Kung Fu. If I travel to Malaysia from Denmark, I would like to really take some time to learn from Sifu Wong — both qi gong and Kung Fu. Is qi gong compatible with Kung Fu?
Qigong is an integral part of genuine kungfu. Kungfu without qigong, in my oppinion, is low level kungfu. Qigong is the art of energy management. Would you beleive that a martial system that has only fighting techniques but no energy management, could be of a high level?
If you learn kungfu from me, you will also learn qigong; but if you learn qigong from me in an intensive course, you do not learn kungfu. The qigong exercises one learns from me in a qigong course are not necessarily the same as those in a kungfu course.
But if you have no prior kungfu background, it is not advisable for you to take an intensive kungfu course. It will be more cost-effective if you first learn some kungfu forms or wushu forms somewhere, then come to me for other dimenions of kungfu which you normally would not find in other places, such as internal force training and combat application.
I'm somehow confused with the fact that you said Taijiquan was a martial art, but here in Singapore I don't see anyone practising it as a form of kung fu but with some swords. Is wushu, Taijiquan, Shaolin Kungfu and Xingyiquan the same?
— Alvin, Singapore
Taijiquan is (or at least was) definitely a martial art. “Quan” in “Taijiquan” is the shortened form for “quan-fa”, which is one of many Chinese terms for martial art, or what in English is usually refered to as kungfu. Other examples include "Shaolinquan” (Shaolin Kungfu), "Xingyiquan" (Hsing Yi Kungfu), "Chaquan" (Cha Kungfu) and "Luohanquan" (Lohan Kungfu).
"Wushu" is another Chinese term for martial art. It is now officially used by the present Chinese government. In Taiwan, the official term for Chinese martial art is "guoshu".
Taijiquan, Shaolin Kungfu and Xingyiquan are different forms of wushu, or in more familiar English terms, different forms of kungfu. But because the present Chinese government has standardized various ancient forms of wushu into one modern version, and promotes it as sport, the term “wushu” is often used today to denote a modern form of kungfu movements quite distinct from traditional kungfu forms such as Taijiquan, Shaolin Kungfu and Xingyiquan.The lamentable thing is that not only Taijiquan but all other forms of kungfu are rarely practised as martial art. They have been debased into gymnastics or dance. Although these arts may still be called Taijiquan, Shaolin Kungfu, etc by their practitioners, they are not the genuine Taijiquan, Shaolin Kungfu, etc they used to be in the past. Practitioners of some styles of kungfu may still spar, but what they use in their sparring is usually not what they have learnt in their solo practice but borrowed from other martial systems like karate, taekwondo and kickboxing.
I have seen actors like Jet Li. What kind of kung fu did he master? Is it wushu?
Jet Li is a wushu master. His wushu is magnificent, and he has won national championships in China many times.
What Jet Li and other actors like him show in movies is beautiful Shaolin Kungfu. But, unfortunately, such beautiful kungfu application very seldom happens in real life sparring. Today when kungfu students spar, usually they are unable to apply the beautiful kungfu techniques they have learnt, and therefore have to resort to simple kicks and punches.
I want to learn kung fu, but I'm really confused with the number of choices, for example taekwondo, karate, wushu, akido and so on. I want to learn something that is right and healthy, not something for evil intentions. Can you please enlighten to me?
A useful piece of advice, though many people may not like it, is as follows. Learning kungfu or wushu, even in its modern demonstrative form, is more difficult and less glamorous than what most ordinary people imagine.If you have been charmed by a magnificient kungfu or wushu performance, you can be assured that the performer has put in a lot of hard work everyday for at least many months. Those who only practise once or twice a week in their kungfu or wushu class, and hope to perform as well, then teach others, will surely be disappointed. If you are thinking of genuine traditional kungfu, the difficulty will be many times more.
Taekwondo is a Korean art, and karate and aikido are Japanese. All these arts, including the Chinese ones, are meant to make their students good and healthy. Reading some good books and consulting their masters will help you in making your choice. Reading my webpages may help to clear some of your confusion.
I'd like to know more about the nature of internal force, relative to external strength generated by muscles. For example I read somewhere that the late Taijiquan master Cheng Man Ch'ing was able to throw someone across a room, yet he was unable to lift a bowling ball. On the other hand, I believe you mentioned in one of your question and answer series that the Eighteen Lohan Hands and related techniques in Shaolin gongfu increased the physical strength of the exponent.
— Chia-Hua, USA
In kungfu and chi kung, terms are often used provisionally, i.e. they are used for the convenient understanding of the situation in question. Unlike scientific terms, they are not used to define (which actually means to limit) items or events exclusively.In other words, in an orthodox scientific context, if “internal force” is A, it cannot be B; but in a kungfu or chi kung context, “internal force” can be A in one situation, and B in another situation. This in fact is also the everyday context. For example, you may regard Mary pretty in one situation, but selfish in another situation.
The term “internal force” is used provisionally to distinguish it from “external strength”. Generally, internal force refers to force (or ability to do work) that is generated inside the body, particularly by energy flow and mind. External strength refers to strength, or force, that is generated by muscles which are considered relatively outside the body.
Of course, someone who wishes to split hair, or who wants to be scientific, can argue that energy flow and mind can be outside the body, and muscles can be inside the body. Kungfu and chi kung masters are not interested in such argument; they are more interested in using the two terms provisionally for better understanding and better performance.
Sifu Cheng Man Ching could throw someone across a room but presumably could not lift a bowling ball in his old age because the kind of force used were different in the two situations. Sifu Cheng was an undisputable master in applying his internal force to throw people, as this was important in Taijiquan (for combat, for example); but lifting a bowling ball was not important and hence he did not want to waste his time training himself to do that.
On the other hand, an Eagle Claw master can apply his internal force to lift a bowling ball many times heavier, but he may be unable to throw a person like what Sifu Cheng did. The reason is the same. Gripping an opponent is important in Eagle Claw Kungfu, and he must have gripped a lot of heavy objects in his training; but throwing a person across a room is not important to him. Hence, in their training, the Eagle Claw master focuses on channeling his internal force to his fingers, whereas Sifu Cheng focussed on exploding his internal force out of his palms.
I was told that in his old age, the Aikido grandmaster Uyeshiba was too weak to walk, and had to be carried by his disciples to the training hall to see students practise. But when the old grandmaster demonstrated his skills, he could easily throw ablebodied people a third his age and three times his weight!
All genuine Shaolin arts develop the exponent holistically, i.e. developing his physical body as well as his energy and mind. In practising the Eighteen Lohan Hands or various Shaolin kungfu techniques, the exponent, besides other benefits, loosens and strengthens his muscles and joints, thus adding to his physical strength. A major problem with many Shaolin students today is that they only pay attention to the physical aspects, without realizing the more important aspects of energy and mind.
I would like to know if “internal force” is a form of strength that one could apply to more mundane physical tasks?
Yes, internal force is generally versatile, and is capable of many uses, including for mundane physical tasks. If you are a young man and therefore can normally lift a bowling ball, acquiring internal force will enable you to lift the ball more easily.If you are an elderly man and cannot lift a bowling ball, acquiring internal force will enable you to lift the ball if you also spend some time practising lifting it. But if you have no interest in lifting balls, you may spend your internal force for your vitality in the company of young women, but should a woman ask you to lift a ball, you may at the spur of the moment be unable to lift it.
In terms of combat, I get the impression that it is a burst of strength that lasts for only the time it takes to execute a strike, whereas external strength is used throughout a combat situation, making internal force less efficient.
Internal force is used in the burst of strength when executing a strike, but there is still a lot of internal force in the body of the exponent. The actual use of force is more efficient, and the time to replenish the amount of force used is also faster in using internal force than in using external strength.When you use internal force, you will be able to manage your energy flow (including your breathing) more effectively, and therefore you will have more stamina to last the whole combat. Using internal force is certainly more efficient in combat than using external strength.
Is internal force a skill that is most useful for combat rather than other aspects of everyday living — besides mental clarity, health, longevity, etc.?
It is more useful, and also easier, for health and vitality. When you have acquired internal force, you still have to learn combat techniques with which to apply your internal force, and you have to practise and practise to be skillful. But if you have acquired internal force correctly, the increased energy will naturally flow to your problem areas to help you overcome the problems, resulting in health and vitality.
With internal force you can perform daily tasks better than if you do not have internal force. (Please note that here language is used provisionally, or relatively. Actually everyone has internal force; those who are trained have substantially more.) You can also perform daily tasks better than you perform combat application.
This is logical, as with internal force you not only have more energy, you also have better management of energy as well as of mind. In the case of Sifu Cheng Man Ching, had he wanted to lift a bowling ball, even a very heavy one, he would need far less time training himself to do so than training himself to throw someone across a room.
You have to train correctly under the supervision of a master to acquire internal force. If you learn from a book or a video, you may still acquire internal force but it may aggrevate your health problems or cause internal injury.