LEARNING CHI KUNG, KUNGFU AND CHINESE MEDICINE FROM BOOKS
I' m one of your older students. I bought most of your books many years ago regarding Kung Fu, Qi Kong and Tai Chi. My latest book I purchased is Chinese Medicine.
I am running into some problems recently. I noted in your book the fact that we can't really learn advanced kung fu and chi kung methods through books, but only through a master, but in my case I have been doing some practice on the basics.
-- Chris, USA
I am glad you have raised this topic of learning from books, as it will help many other people.
Unless one already has the required background knowledge and skills, it is unlikely he can learn to practice chi kung or kungfu correctly from books. He can -- in the sense of he is free to do so if he wants -- learn and practice from books, but it is likely that he will practice wrongly, and often this leads to adversed side-effects.
Despite being told, many people, without the required knowledge and skills, still learn and practice from books. Not only that, they usually choose advanced exercises, and expect to attain success in a shorter time than students learning from living teachers. They think the masters' advice not to learn from books, is not true, but is meant to entice them to learn from the masters themselves and pay fees.
People will have a clearer picture if we change the subjects "chi kung" and "kungfu", but the same principles apply. Can people learn swimming, driving or surgery from books? They can, in the sense that no one will stop them if they do, but they are unlikely to practice swimming, driving or surgery correctly, and this often leads to adversed side-effects.
Why can't one learn chi kung, kungfu, swimming, driving or surgery from books and practice correctly? It is because he may know the techniques, but lack the skills to perform the techniques correctly. Not many people appreciate or even know the difference between techniques and skills. Appreciating the difference not only answers the current question, but also enriches our life in many years. For example, it is not how many technique you know in your job or family relationship, but how skilfully you apply the appropriate techniques that determines the income in your job and the happiness in your family life.
Let us take an example from Abdominal Breathing in chi kung. Stand upright and be relaxed. Gently breathe in through your nose gently into your abdomen. You can learn the instructions easily. But you are unlikely to carry out the instructions correctly. You may not be standing upright and be relaxed though you honestly think you are doing so. You may not know how to breathe into your abdomen.
The instructions are clear and straight-forward. There are no tricks or play of words. If you ask sonmeone who practices Abdominal Breathing correctly how to breath into the abdomen, he will bonestly tell you, "I just breathe into my abdomen."
But for those who have the necessary knowledge and skills, learning from books and videos is a big bonus. In fact this is what we often do nowadays in our school. Before students attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course, for example, I ask them to learn the techniques from my videos first so that at the course they can focus on developing skills. In this way they get much more benefits.