WHAT YOU LEARN IN SHAOLIN KUNGFU AT SHAOLIN WAHNAM
Is there a way a student should be taught in the beginning of his kungfu career? For example, should he begin kungfu forms first, then chi kung exercises, then combat application, etc? Is there a certain order students should be taught?
— Chris, Australia
No, there is no definite way a kungfu student should be taught. Different teachers teach differently, and the same teacher also teaches differently in different situations, and at different stages of his teaching career.
Most schools and teachers today teach in one way as follows. First a teacher shows his students some stances, then he teaches them an unarmed kungfu set. When the students can perform the set well, generally after a few months, he teaches them another unarmed kungfu set. When they can perform the second set well, the teacher teaches a third kungfu set, this time it is likely to be a weapon set. When they can perform the third set well, the teacher teaches them the fourth set, which may be an unarmed set or a weapon set. This goes on and on.
Although this is the most common way of teaching in kungfu today, we at Shaolin Wahnam believe this is not a right way. What the students can achieve after many years of dedicated training is an ability to perform kungfu sets beautifully. They cannot defend themselves even against beginners in Karate, Taekwondo, Kickboxing, Wrestling, Judo or any other martial arts. When students suggest sparring practice, they are often reprimanded by their teacher, who is often an elderly Chinese, saying that kungfu is too dangerous for sparring.
The students are generally healthy, but they usually lack vitality. They may, for example, not have the energy and stamina to play a game of football. They are usually nice people, especially those who practice Taiji dance, but they may become very defensive or even aggressive if someone asks if they could defend themselves. They may talk about internal force, but have no experience of it. They also have little or no idea and experience of spiritual cultivation.
The second most common way is actually a modification of, or a reaction against, the first. After students can perform one or two kungfu sets well, they are provided with boxing gloves to free spar. Their free sparring resembles that in Karate, Taekwondo or Kickboxing, and there are no kungfu techniques used. Weight-lifting and running are often used in their training, and they seldom learn weapon sets.
These students are fit, but may not be healthy. They often sustain internal injuries from their free sparring, and are often aggressive in behaviour. They may talk about spiritual cultivation in their training, but they actually do not know what they talk about. They usually do not believe in internal force.
We at Shaolin Wahnam also believe this is not a right way to train kungfu. These students may be good fighters, but what they use in their sparring is not kungfu.
The way we train at Shaolin Wahnam is very different. We start our very first kungfu lesson with chi kung and meditation, then focus on force training. These three aspects, introduced right at the very beginning of our students' kungfu career, form the basics of our training.
On the other hand, regarding your chi kung career as a whole, attaining my intensive course is only the beginning stage. The intermediate stage will comprise deepening the skills you have learnt in the intensive course as well as acquiring other useful chi kung skills. This stage may range from about two to twenty years, depending on various factors. At the advanced stage, you consolidate your skills and become a genuine chi kung master, who is, as you have rightly suggested, very rare today and much needed in our modern world.
With this background understanding of my intensive chi kung course, you would realize that it is not necessary for you to stay back for a few days to take another private course from me. Nevertheless, there may be questions you would like to discuss with me, or skills and techniques you may like me to review and comment. I shall gladly do these after the course, and you do not have to pay me for it.
It is evident from your e-mail that you are sincere in wanting to be a master and helping others, and as a doctor of internal medicine you are distinguishably suitable. I hope you may one day rewardingly employ chi kung to help your patients, or if you qualify and if you are interested, teach chi kung in the name of Shaolin Wahnam.
For example, in our Shaolin Kungfu, we start with “Lifting the Sky” and Standing Meditation, followed by stance training and footwork, and “One Finger Shooting Zen”. In our Wahnam Taijiquan, we start with “Flowing in Wuji” and “Entering Silence”, followed by stance training and footwork, and “Lifting Water”.
Then we learn basic kungfu patterns, followed by their combat application in Miscellaneous Techniques training, paying attention to develop combat skills like correct timing, correct spacing, fluidity of movement, quick decision, and instant changes.
Next we practice sequences of attack and defence in our Combat Sequence training, which consists of many levels. We also learn and put into practice combat principles like “safety first”, “three arrivals” and “avoiding the opponent's strong points and attacking his weakness”, and tactics like “flowing with the opponent”, “defence cum attack” and “starting later but arriving earlier”
Then we link our combat sequences into kungfu sets. Hence, while kungfu sets are taught at the beginning in most other kungfu schools, in Shaoln Wahnam they are taught much later, often at the completion of a particular training stage.
Also, while kungfu sets are ends themselves in most other schools, in Shaolin Wahnam they are means. For example, we may practice a kungfu set as a means to regulate breathing to enhance speed, force and stamina, or to implement certain combat tactics, such as a pressing attack or an opening for kicks.
We believe the way we train is similar to what was trained at the southern Shaolin Temple in the past. We are able to confirm our belief from numerous established sources.
The above is taken from Question 7 of September 2003 Part 1 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.
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