White Snake Shoots Venom

Sifu Wong demonstrating a Taijiquan pattern called “White Snake Shoots Venom”. The secret of the pattern lies not in the form but in its application.

The following discussion is reproduced from the thread Dispelling Ignorance and Restoring the Glory of Kungfu started in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum on 15th April 2006.

Ronan Sexton Sifu Ronan Sexton
Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam England
16th April 2006

Some good feed back guys (and gals! ) Like I said, I wanna keep this thread going because I think it raises one of the most important issues facing Martial Arts today.

So in my last post I mentioned that it was incorrect to say that masters purposely performed at a low level in public demonstrations to prevent secrets being exposed to the public.

In this post I'll explain why it is unwise and unnecessary.

It is unwise because of the following reasons.

  1. .It needs double time and effort to practice one level for combat and another level for demonstration.
  2. It mis-represents his art.
  3. It contributes to the degrading of kungfu.

But more significantly, it's unnecessary. Therefore, if the performer is unaware of all these foolish consequences, which are actually unnecessary, we have good reasons to suspect whether he's really a master of an internal martial art. More probably he may be a master teaching only the forms of the internal arts. He may still be a formidable fighter, but it's unlikely he uses his internal art forms for combat, or has internal force.

The reason for this conclusion is straight-forward, though those not initiated into internal arts may not realize it. If he is really a master of internal arts, he would know that performing an internal martial art set at a low level or distorting or hiding some of the forms in the set is unnecessary.

Why? I'll explain it in another post.

Best wishes


White Snake Shoots Venom

Sifu Wong attacks Sifu Robin with the pattern “White Snake Shoots Venom”. Sifu Robin wards of the attack with “Immortal Waves Sleeves”.

Ronan Sexton Sifu Ronan Sexton
Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam England
17th April 2006

There're two main points I'd like to address in this post.

  1. A practitioner purposely performs his forms at a low level.
  2. He purposely takes out some forms in his performance. These forms are those he considers holding some kungfu secrets.

Do you know why he believes that by doing this he can hide his secrets?

The reason is that he believes (mistakenly) that the secrets are found in the forms. This is a big mistake many people make. The secrets aren't found in the forms, they're found in the applications. They're also found in the skills involved in performing the forms. (Actually, revealing this fact is revealing a big secret.) Hence purposely performing the forms at low level or purposely leaving out some patterns in a performance to hide secrets is unnecessary and irrelevant, because the secrets aren't found in the forms!

Why is he mistaken in his belief?

Because practicing forms is the main, and sometimes the only, thing he does in his training. This is also a big mistake most kungfu practitioners today make. They start their kungfu career by learning forms. They continue their career by learning more and more forms, and they also reach the peak of their kungfu career by learning forms. They seldom, or never, develop internal force or use their forms to train combat application.

As a result they resort to mechanical training for muscular strength, like running and weight lifting, instead of employing traditional kungfu methods like stance training and chi flow to develop internal force. If they ever try sparring, they either spar like children or resort to bouncing about and punching and kicking like Kick-Boxers, instead of using the kungfu forms which they can perform beautifully in solo demonstrations.

I was at a recent All Britain Open Taijiquan Full Contact Competition to see my brother, Sifu Robin Gamble, compete. It was genuinely saddening to see that except for Robin, none of the other competitors used anything that even remotely resembled Kung Fu or Tai Chi Chuan. They just used Kick-Boxing. Robin was the only one to use Taijiquan skills and techniques, and he won.

It was saddening because the other fighters genuinely thought that what they were doing was how real Tai Chi Chuan Masters in the past fought. If they just admitted that they were doing kickboxing then I wouldn't feel sorry for them, but as it is I felt bad that they couldn't see the real depth of Tai Chi Chuan. If they did there is no way that they would fight like they that. Tensed up, head down, furiously swinging punches and kicks with no regard for Tai Chi Chuan, principles, strategies, techniques or stances. I saw one guy who was a good kickboxer and he used good tactics and had good kick boxing form, but that was about it.

So why do some “masters” say there are secrets in the forms? Some are ignorant and simply don't know, while others do so for personal motives, like making themselves look profound to their students and the public. But the harm they cause is widespread and insiduous. Because these “masters” are accepted as authorities, they can easily mislead the public in general and kungfu students in particular, causing them to continue thinking mistakenly that kungfu is just kungfu forms.

The misled practitioners will indulge themselves in kungfu forms, perhaps hoping to find some secrets within after having practiced the forms for many years, but neglecting combat application and internal force training which were actually the main factors that made kungfu great and glorious in the past.

In my next posts I'll explain that the secrets are found in the application and skills, and not in the forms. Knowing this fact will enable you to understand why most kungfu practitioners can't fight, and those who can fight — some very well, like Bruce Lee — use techniques of other martial systems, especially Taekwondo and Kick-Boxing, and not genuine kungfu patterns.

Best wishes


Ronan Sexton Jonny Say
17th April 2006

My experiences

Dear Ronan Sipak

I agree with many of my brothers that this is a very useful thread to have started. I look forward to hearing more of your points, but for now I would like to share some of my past experiences.

Before training Shaolin Wahnam I studied a traditional style of Shaolin Kung Fu (I won't mention the name as the case is the same with many styles I had experienced, and so the name isn't relevant). I was drawn in by the beautiful forms and all the romantic ideals of Kung Fu Masters, which I believed I would find in this art.

They practiced many similar methods to Shaolin Wahnam ie forms, stance training, some chi kung, sticky hands/push hands, weapons to name a few. But when it came time for sparring we would just use kick boxing, everything else would be thrown out of the window. I tried to use techniques from the sets but as there was no systematic training I would get beaten and have to resort to the apparently "faster" kick boxing techniques. I stayed with the style because of two main reasons:

  1. I truly believed in the internal and combat efficient side of Kung Fu, and believed it would come in time.
  2. We were constantly told that once we reached black sash (there was a grading system) that our real training commenced with the Master of the lineage.

Apart from the contrast in using kickboxing to spar as opposed to Shaolin Kung Fu, other contrasts with our Shaolin Wahnam training were that stances were practiced about once every few months (and not encouraged between) and would be an endurance battle, the chi kung was gentle exercise with little or no effect, the forms were flowery with no essence, there was an incomplete combat methodology, the skills and benefits did not manifest in any of the students' daily lives. In fact more often than not it nurtured undesirable qualities. All this from a once magnificent and glorious Kung Fu style which had degraded.

I only moved on from this style when I came across more deadly (yet not internal) styles when I moved to university. I realised my development was going no where in the previous style and so focussed on these new styles.

Along my path to Shaolin Wahnam I came across a few other styles which had degraded in the same way, making claims with no substance (tai chi styles, japanese styles, other Kung Fu styles etc).

Luckily I found Shaolin Wahnam and in my first lesson witnessed a Kung Fu style which remained the same in sparring as in training, experienced the internal from the beginning and most importantly enhanced my daily life from my first lesson onwards.

I agree that there are many dedicated and focused students out there that have not found what they are searching for, I was one of them, and we at Shaolin Wahnam have a responsibility to promote and show these arts to potential good students and prevent the further degeneration of the Internal Arts.

All the best

Jonny Say
Shaolin Wahnam Scotland

"A Kung Fu knight was a free, happy Kung Fu Expert, always kind to the old and young and sometimes amorous with unattached and willing damsels. He appreciated poetry and good wine, enjoyed comfortable living whenever he could although he was often penniless because he gave away money to the poor, and was always ready to help the oppressed and suffering." (Sigung, The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu)

White Snake Shoots Venom

Sifu Robin counter-attacks Sifu Wong, who brushes away Sifu Robin's attack.

Ronan Sexton Simon Brooks
17th April 2006

As much as I think wushu has damaged the reputation of kung fu, everyone has a right to practice what they want. The same with Tai Chi dance.

As Jamie said in another similar thread; the test of a martial art is in fighting. Those who don't want to fight, let others judge them. We can only change the current situation by leading by example. By that I mean, not that we should all be cage fighters, but that we should live out the claims made by Wahnam, i.e health, vitality and ability to defend ourselves using kung fu.

On the same topic of judging DVD's and the like, at present we have two examples of Wahnam holding back; the kick mentioned in the yielding thread and the staff techniques on Sigung's site. Could someone who knew the more advanced application think that what we showed was low level?

On the subject of thumbs, doesn't using the Tiger Claw expose fingers and thumb? Strangly enough in my old style finger injuries were quite common despite the fact that in sparring we were meant to use closed fists. During my time in Wahnam I can't think of one injury. So maybe we shouldn't judge from appearances alone.



"Faith does not arise from a miracle, but the miracle from the faith". Dostoyevsky.

Anthony Korahais Sifu Anthony Korahais
Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam USA
17th April 2006

Quote “On the subject of thumbs, doesn't using the Tiger Claw expose fingers and thumb?”

I don't think the thumb thing is a huge deal, but no. The Tiger Claw doesn't extend the thumb at a right angle. The thumb is bent.

Try the TigerCclaw with the thumb extended at a right angle, and you can feel the difference. Similarly, try One Finger Zen with the thumb at a right angle and see if you can feel the difference in energy.

Or try this. Do "False Leg Hand Sweep" a few times with the correct hand posture. Then try it a few times with the thumb at a relaxed angle. Can you feel the difference? Can you feel how, with the thumb bent, the chi focuses at the knife-edge of the hand?

So bending the thumb is not only about protecting it, but also about focusing the chi. Of course, people who don't bend the thumb (and I've seen many, particularly in Baguazhang) may have a different perspective.

Anthony Korahais
Shaolin Wahnam, Florida .

Simon Brooks Simon Brooks
17th April 2006

Of course you are right Siheng. I was just playin devil's advocate and thought the spread fingers of the tiger claw was an example of a practice which might be seen by others as unsuitable for combat because of the risk of injury.

While I was writing my last post both Ronan and J-say themselves posted. Both good posts.

So is the big 'secret' of Wahnam its combat sequences?



"Faith does not arise from a miracle, but the miracle from the faith". Dostoyevsky.

Anthony Korahais Sifu Anthony Korahais
Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam USA
17th April 2006

Sidai (Simon), did you feel the difference with the thumb at a right angle? Can you feel how the chi moves differently with the thumb bent?

Actually, I think many of you can probably feel the difference. And this is a valuable skill! It may be hard for you to believe, but many masters do not even have this skill. They cannot feel their own chi, so the empirical exercise I posted above is meaningless to them.

I think this is terribly important. The sad situation today is that the blind are leading the blind. If a master says to hold the hand in a particular way because of "the chi," a student just follows. After all, how are they to know if the master is right or wrong? Many students today are told that it will take them a decade to feel their chi anyway. So it will be ten years before they can decide if the master is BSing.

Wee are lucky. We can self correct. We can adjust from the inside out because we can feel our chi. For example...

When I teach my students "White Snake Shoots Venom," I tell them not to put their thumb on the side of their hands the way they do with "False Leg Hand Sweep." Try this yourself. For "White Snake", the thumb comes underneath the palm a bit. But why?

I don't have to tell you why. You can feel it for yourself. This means that if some master tells you to put your thumb on the side of your hand for a pattern like "White Snake," you can smile and say, "No thanks."

Anthony Korahais
Shaolin Wahnam, Florida .

Mblohm Mblohm
Shaolin Wahnam USA
18th April 2006

Quote Originally Posted by Antonius
”When I teach my students "White Snake Shoots Venom," I tell them not to put their thumb on the side of their hands the way they do with "False Leg Hand Sweep." Try this yourself. For "White Snake", the thumb comes underneath the palm a bit.”

Dear Siheng,

I tried it. The strike felt more contolled and focused with the thumb tucked in a bit. I also felt more chi flowing in my hands afterwards.


White Snake Shoots Venom

Sifu Wong attacks Sifu Robin again with “White Snake Shoots Venom”. The secret of this technique lies not in the form but in how the technique is being applied.

Ronan Sexton Sifu Ronan Sexton
Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam England
18th April 2006

Simon said Quote
“As much as I think wushu has damaged the reputation of kung fu, everyone has a right to practice what they want. The same with Tai Chi dance.”

That's true. Of course, people have the right to practice what they want. The point is that there's plenty of people out there who actually want to practice genuine Kungfu and Taijiquan but don't have the opportunity. Either because they've been misinformed as to what real Kungfu is or they just haven't met a decent instructor.

Many practitioners believe that just practicing some forms for flexibility and fitness constitutes real Kungfu practice. They may talk a lot about application and internal force but actually have very little experience in either . I'm sure a lot of these people would be very happy and relieved to come across the Aladin's cave of information on this forum. So it's our responsibility to keep offering (in our opinion) helpful and correct information as best we can for people who are looking for it. It's all well and good looking out for number one, but we need to be compassionate and help others too.

Well getting back to what I mentioned about the secrets in Kungfu. If secrets that enable combatants to be more efficient in combat are found in the Kungfu forms, then Kungfu practitioners should beat other martial artists easily right? But the sad fact is that the reverse is generally true. Typically, a Taijiquan master or master of any Kungfu style who may have practiced his so-called internal art for 20 or 30 years is readily beaten badly by a first-dan Black-Belt in Karate or Taekwondo, or a Muay Thai fighter or Kick-Boxer who may have practiced his “simplistic” art for just 2 or 3 years. The situation has become so bad that when you say you practice Kungfu, you become a laughing stock .

For me, the last straw was when I saw a video clip of a public match in Hong Kong between a world-famous Taijiquan patriarch and another famous kungfu master. Not only they threw away all their secrets when they need the secrets most, they also threw away all their kungfu forms. Without meaning to be disrespectful, I honestly believe that if they'd met a Karate or a Taekwondo Black-Belt, a Kick-Boxer or a Muay Thai fighter, the Taijiquan patriarch and the kungfu master would've been beaten badly.

I want to make it clear again. I don't mean to insult or antagonize that Taijiquan patriarch and that kungfu master. In fact we in Shaolin Wahnam have great respect for these two masters. (My Sifu won't be slow to correct me, and I'll announce that correction in this thread, if I'm wrong in this statement.) Although we're sorry that they couldn't bring out their kungfu forms in fighting, we sincerely have great respect for their courage, honesty and generosity — values that we ourselves cherish in Shaolin Wahnam, and which we consider more important than mere fighting abilities.

They were courageous in accepting to fight in public, exposed to thousands of live spectators, and now millions of viewers all over the world through video recording. They were honest to themselves and to their students. They didn't, for example, tell their students and the world that they purposely fought below their level to hide some secrets.

They were generous during as well as after the fight. They never attempted to brutalize or verbally insult their opponents. When the referee announced the fight was a draw, both they and their students accepted the decision graciously. There was no shouting, no booing or grooving, and no challenging the referee's decision, which aren't uncommon nowadays in many competitions. And there was no animosity between their schools. They were masters, and we have great respect for them and their schools.

Yet, we feel tremendously sad that even these two world-known masters could not apply their kungfu forms in fighting . If you appreciate how we in Shaolin Wahnam feel about this, you'd understand why we're dedicated to arresting this degrading of kungfu, and why we are even willing to share our sparring methodology with other kungfu practitioners irrespective of the styles they practice. We urge you to join us in this noble task, irrespective of whether you wish to train in our arts. One effective way to do so is to dispel ignorance.

Kungfu forms, with or without their secrets, are more sophisticated than the typical forms of other martial arts. If the secrets of effective combat were found in these forms, martial artists of other systems would be nowhere near kungfu form performers.

I don't mean to me disrespectful or antagonist or boastful, but just being honest and sincere in wanting to bring back the past glory and combat effectiveness of kungfu when I mention the following.

Today when even kungfu grandmasters and masters themselves with all their secrets normally can't match a Kick-Boxer or a Muay Thai fighter, or even a Karate or Taekwondo black-belt. It is significant to point out that having a black-belt is actually not a high level. In most arts it merely marks the beginning of their training. Many students already had their black-belts in other styles when they first learned from Shaolin Wahnam. The immediate task at hand if we are sincere in wanting to arrest the shameful debasing of kungfu is not about secrets but about using basic kungfu skills and techniques in defending against basic punches and kicks.

Of course there are secrets, but the immediate task at hand is not to worry about the secrets yet (though I shall reveal some later on, and in fact mentioning one right now) but to learn how to use your basic kungfu forms to defend against basic attacks, so that you will not be hurt in friendly sparring . This is the most fundamental reason for learning a martial art. Yet, incredibly many kungfu practitioners, including masters, can do this. In almost all free sparring today, both sparring partners routinely get hurt. This simply is not correct.

This also shows that the secret of combat efficiency lies not in the forms, but in combat application and internal force training. In my next post I'll talk about “the three secrets” in Kungfu training.

Best wishes


Shaolin Wahnam
18th April 2006

Hello guys,

This thread is excellent, and a great read for everyone. Thank you for starting it and for the informative posts.

“For me, the last straw was when I saw a video clip of a public match in Hong Kong between a world-famous Taijiquan patriarch and another famous kungfu master.”

To tell you the truth I was in shock when I first saw that clip some time ago. By that time I had read many great stories about past Kung Fu masters and their amazing skills and combat efficiency. When I found out about the video, and that Master Wu Kong-Yi was one of the fighters, I was really excited to watch it.

For those who don't know, Master Wu Kong-Yi (1900-1970) was the son of Wu Chien-Chuan (1870-1942), Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan creator. Wu Kong-Yi learned Tai Chi Chuan directly under his famous father. He was also said to have learned from Yang Shao-Hou (1862-1930), who was Yang Lu Chan's (1799-1872) grandson and was very famous for his fighting skills.

With this knowledge, I had expected to see in the video clip skills, speed, and force that I never saw before. But after watching it, my face looked like a combination of these shocked faces.

I want to give my sincere gratitude and thanks to Sifu for giving us the chance to learn true genuine Kung Fu, and to my sisters and bothers at Shaolin WahNam, for the great job they are doing here in the forum and elsewhere. Keep up the good work

Take care.

"If you can walk one mile, you can walk a hundred miles" Sigung Ho Fatt Nam

Shaolin Wahnam
US, Canada, China
18th April 2006


Ronan and Others,

I would like to share an experience with you that I find relevant to this topic.

Living in Shaanxi, China. After returning from an intensive course, and with the warmer climate I began to practice my combat outside. Here, at the University I teach at a few students make up what they call a "Wushu Club". Every night at about 10 oclock they go outside to the football pitch and practice thier Wushu.

Amongst those styles practiced are, modern wushu, shaolin quan, xingyi, taekwondo, and other styles. I made friendly with them and after the usual rundown of who I was and what I practiced, we would go our separate ways. A week later, they approached me. They said, "Teacher we see you practicing and was wondering if you could teach us. Your practice seems very solid many of us would like to learn."

Seeing that I am not qualified to teach Shaolin Wahnam, I told them I could not teach them. I talked to a few about practicing together and developing combat application sets from their individual styles (based on the Wahnam Sets) but this has not evolved yet. I also did a little research and told them about a master who I heard taught genuine taiji in Guangdong (also nothing has evolved). Or that I would like to meet any masters they find.

My first point:
Even with my low level in the Shaolin Arts, and the students uninitiated position (to the shaolin arts) from the arena of thier art. Known or unknown to them I genuinely feel that they did not think but Knew that what was happening before thier eyes and being felt in their bodies was something, they wanted and could recognise as Genuine Kung Fu. All of this, just from seeing a few of my sets. (I have only practiced the Wahnam System of Shaolin Kung Fu for 1 year)

My second point:
How many want to know, and how many will do what it takes to know. Ex. Travel distances, search, research, practice diligently, etc.

My third point.
O yes, I practice so one day I may transmit, and continue the evolution of perception and awareness.

I believe the above to justify the inherent mystery inside of us that knows what true kung fu is.

On a short other note:

Before I trained Shaolin Wahnam. I trained BaguaZhang for 4 months (I consider this to be insubstanial), and Magical Passes or Tensegrity (basically, ancient mexican qigong), learning on my own) for 2 years on and off.

When I started training Shaolin Wahnam, I became aware of 2 things.

I knew and felt and utilized Chi before, accentuated especially by the practice of tensegrity. However, never did I have:

  1. The discipline and tools needed to hone these skills.
  2. Something that happened between my master, the world and I, of which there are no words. I may call it "the opening".

Extra: When I practiced Bagua I was never seriously injured physically, but emotionally there were times when I had to take myself out of the exercise because there was no "discipline" that allowed me to "Flow, Smile, and relax through your (my) challenges" (Sifu Skafar, 2 days ago).

As a side note, the context of "discipline" may be different from Websters'.

Best wishes to all

Adam Kryder

Dispelling Ignorance and Restoring the Glory of Kungfu


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