TEACHING THEN AND TEACHING NOW
Sifu, was the way you taught in the past the same as the way you are teaching now? If not, what is the crucial difference?
-- Sifu Barry Smale, UK
When I first set up Shaolin Wahnam Association in Sungai Petani in the early 1980s, I taught the way I was trained. The fundamental set where every student had to learn was Four Gates, followed by its application set. Then every student learned the fundamental weapon set, which was Chin Wah Staff.
After this, different students were taught different selective sets, such as Shaolin Pakua, Taming Tiger, Flower Set and Triple Stretch. Then they separately learned different weapon sets, such as Plum flower Sabre, Shaolin Sword, Thirteen-Technique Spear, Through-Cloud Umbrella, Crescent-Moon Spade and Crescent-Moon Guan Dao.
Meanwhile I also taught the 36 Specific Techniques to every student. This was usually done at the end of a training session and one specific technique was taught at a time, like how to defend against a middle kick or how to release a wrist lock.
I discovered that the Combat Application Set of Four Gates was too sophisticated for ordinary combat. So to enhance students' combat efficiency, I devised 12 Shaolin combat sequences, and taught them as a supplement.
The way I taught at Shaolin Wahnam Association for many years was quite different from the way I am teaching now. For convenience, the way I first taught may be called the orthodox way, which is also used by most other kungfu schools today. The other way may be called unorthodox, which derived much inspiration from how I learned from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam.
A crucial difference between the orthodox way and the unorthodox way is that the former focuses on forms, whereas the latter on force training and combat application. Ironically, as I discovered from research, the unorthodox way was actually the orthodox way how kungfu was practiced at the Shaolin Temple and by masters elsewhere in the past. It was only during the 20th century that the originally orthodox method became the unorthodox and that practicing only kungfu forms became the orthodox.