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.
And a short walk home to the hotel is filled with dreams of restoration, and practice in the now. Humbled by the challenge, it is time for a shower, the day has started
Sifu Ronan Sexton
Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam England
22nd April 2006
Hey everyone, been real busy last few days so finally got some time to post again
It's unfortunate that the video (about a public match between a Taijiquan patriarch and a White Crane Kungfu master) Anthony posted is not only famous but is widely used as proof that Taijiquan can be used for real fighting. Everyone I know who's seen that video is shocked at the level of fighting displayed.
I could never understand why it had become so famous, but now I do. I used to think "Surely anyone can see that they're not using Kungfu for fighting, right?" but now I realize that many uninitiated will simply believe what they're told without question.
If they're told that what they're looking at is high level Kungfu then that's what they'll believe. If they do question it they'll most likely be told the only reason they can't appreciate the depth of skill shown is that they themselves lack skill and depth. And so they pretend to see the depth so as not to feel foolish. Reminds me of a story I heard when I was a kid called "The Emperor's New Clothes". If you haven't heard the story then please ask me, I'll be happy to tell it...it's a good story.
Hey Adam, good to hear from you and even better to hear your training's going well. That's really interesting that your students would rather learn a more solid looking Kungfu set than practice their flowery Wushu sets. Maybe it shows a changing of the times, but we'll have to wait and see.
So I promised I'd discuss ”The Three Secrets” as taught in our school. “The three secrets” actually refer to three levels of secrets.
When Sifu first made public video clips and pictures of some important kungfu sets we practice in Shaolin Wahnam, some of my brothers were quite concerned. They asked Sifu whether revealing our secrets could give some advantage to people who would use them against us.
Sifu explained, as I said in my earlier posts, that the secrets lie not in the forms but in the application . He also said that when people pay a lot of attention to secrets in the forms it indicates that they probably can't use their forms for combat. The reason was obvious to the initiated, which we later discovered from our direct experience. I'd invite Shaolin Wahnam members as well as forum guests to give their own experiences regarding this.
Of course we also pay attention to our forms, but we do so with the intention of getting better at using them for combat. We don't just practice them over and over again, hoping that one day a secret will jump out at us. We practice them to deepen our skills. We work on better breath control, building and utilizing internal force, improving our footwork and our techniques, our focus and our relaxation during fighting. There are many reasons for practicing our forms and pleasing spectators generally isn't one of them.
Actually we've shared a lot of secrets publicly, more than many readers may even realize, because some of these secrets may pass unnoticed by them. As my Siheng Anthony has quoted Sifu, “We have so many secrets that we can afford to share some with the public.”
Then why doesn't Shaolin Wahanm share all secrets if the school is dedicated to dispelling ignorance? Why, for example, does my brother Marcus keep the secret of “Embracing Dragon Kick” for Shaolin Wahnam members only, and not reveal it openly to everyone in this forum?
Actually we in Shaolin Wahnam share all our secrets — some with all people, some with beginning students and some are reserved for deserving persons at the appropriate time.
For convenience, Sifu has classified secrets into three levels — open secrets, common secrets and top secrets .
Open secrets are shared openly with all people. Common secrets are shared commonly with all members of the Shaolin Wahnam Family. Top secrets are shared with top Shaolin Wahnam members.
Sifu also explained something very interesting about "secrets". Some of the most important secrets, for example, are open secrets, right there for everyone to see. They're not secrets at all from one perspective but are incredible secrets from another.
For example, probably the most important secret in internal force training is to be relaxed. It's not much of a secret because all those who teach internal force or claim to teach internal force, such as bogus masters, say this. Yet, very few people know how to relax. Hence, from this perspective, the success of internal force training lies in the secret of knowing how to relax.
This is another example of the fact that secrets lie not in the form but in its application. You may have the correct form, but if you don't know the secret of applying it correctly (i.e. how to relax when performing the form) you won't succeed in developing good internal force.
If you understand this, even theoretically, it's not difficult to see that those who talk about keeping secret forms from others or say the secret forms are too complex for their students to know, don't have internal force developed from the forms. If they had, they would've known from their direct experience that changing their forms to be more complicated would make it harder to relax.
I'm sure there're many Shaolin Wahnam members who're really surprised at the simplicity of the forms , and more surprised at the profundity of the result — in chi kung, Shaolin Kungfu and Wahnam Taijiquan. In chi kung, for example, even beginners in Shaolin Wahnam experience internal force when they perform the simple form of “Pushing Mountains”. Those who attended the Sinew Metamorphosis or Dan Tian Breathing courses taught by Sifu, were astounded at the tremendous internal force generated by just flicking their fingers three times or pressing on their abdomen. Wahnam Taijiquan students were surprised at the internal force generated by the simple form of Lifting Water.
I'll mention it again. In Kungfu and Taijiquan, there're no secrets in the forms. The secrets lie in the application. The forms are very simple. We not only show the forms in pictures but also in videos. We also don't hide the secrets in the application. In fact we emphasize the secret, reminding practitioners to be relaxed while training for internal force because we believe that in our current situation it's more important to share and keep the art alive.
I was always so impressed at the efficiency of Shaolin Kungfu. Everything down to the last "T" is efficient. In training, in application, in teaching. The main thing that I found was so great is that the Art has its own in-built filter . We don't have to worry about bad people practicing and reaching a high level in Wahnam (although we still vet certain undesirables in our classes). If someone were to start practicing our Kungfu or Chi Kung with a huge ego and malicious thoughts in mind, either they wouldn't get very far at all, or the training itself would make them a better person.
This information on relaxing is very useful to you if you wish to train for internal force. If you have a master to guide you, then you're very lucky, luckier than most. But even if you don't have a master right now, at least you know how to search for one and if you meet a “master” who tells you that you have to train for many years before he tells you the secret techniques, you now know he's misleading you .
Well, summer's slowly inching its way in so I'm gonna go enjoy it. What a beautiful Saturday afternoon!
I'll post again soon and talk a bit more about secrets in Kungfu.
Shaolin Wahnam USA
22nd April 2006
“...that the secrets lie not in the forms but in the application.... I'd invite Shaolin Wahnam members as well as forum guests to give their own experiences regarding this.”
I am still a beginner, so I haven't experienced this that many times, but one instance where this concept really hit home was actually last weekend. My Sihing, Chris (Grimlock), made it to Florida last weekend and we were fortunate enough to get a joint lesson on Saturday. The main focus of the lesson was on the combat sequences. We started the sequences with self-choice for 1-4 (it was really amazing the difference in force and skill just after a couple of months) and then moved on to 5-8.
We had previously trained sequences 1-6 together, but I'm going to focus on “Dark Dragon Draws Water” in Sequence 6. Sifu (Antonius) had already taught us both how to apply it without the “Single Tiger” first, and we had both been practicing it on our own (form). Chris and I were going through Sequence 6 a few times and Sifu stopped us. He said something to the effect of, "I don't think you guys appreciate how effective Dark Dragon really is because you learned the counter (Big Bar Boss) at the same time. Practice the sequence stopping without doing the counter to Dark Dragon."
We did it a couple of times, and Sifu again stopped us and gave us some instructions on the finer points of the application. I honestly can't remember a word of what that was, but I remember the feeling of having the technique properly applied to me. The next time Chris executed the Dark Dragon just as my punch completed, and it was a "Holy crap!" moment. Within a few more tries I was also able to apply it with the right timing. We both had been practicing the form for awhile, and both knew the application intellectually, but I don't think we would have really "got it" even if we'd practiced it for days/weeks maybe even years.
On a bit of a side note, one thing I realized was that this technique would be effective even to someone who tried to pull their punch back because with the correct application, you would actually use it before/as they would pull the punch. The reason I mention this is because as a beginner, I still have my doubts every once in awhile as to how well the Kung Fu would work against the more modern styles. It was nice to have an experience that showed it to me as opposed to being told to keep practicing and you'll eventually get it. The experience also helped me realize that pretty much all of the techniques can be applied at a deeper level once I'm ready to learn them.
My post got a little sidetracked in there, but I hope I got my point across.
Wishing everyone the best,
US, Canada, China
23nd April 2006
Dear Ronan and others,
Here are a few of my thoughts,
Here I believe we are all talking about a healing process that takes place in the light of dispelling ignorance and restoring the glory of Kung fu.
But an open question to all, and what I believe to be a great aspect of this thread that has not yet been touched upon is, HOW?
How do we attack this situation of modern times and the widespread degradation of a great art?
How can we commune with those uneducated in these matters in a harmonious way?
How does one dispel this ignorance in themselves and eventually others?
How do we maintain our purposes in doing such a great task?
What are these purposes?
I believe this to be a delicate matter.
Maybe this is a shadow of the Setting Aims thread (Kungfu Section). Nevertheless, I believe it to be important not only to list the problems, our experiences, but also list and discuss ways to solve the problems at hand.
I know that our experiences are ways to solve the problems. I also know that it is as simple as practice, practice, practice. (See wuwei thread)
But if we commune to set up our results and methods of application about this healing process, I believe The Wahnam Community and others attending this forum will benefit greatly, and we would still be able to maintain the original focus of this thread.
To Sihing Mark Appleford and other Wahnam Sifus and instructors,
At the attendance of the Intensive Course, during our nightly discussions I often noticed when we were involved discussions, your comments and expression towards others was very non-confrontational, smooth, and 'apparently' indirect but 'actually' very specific.
A method which nonetheless I saw to elicit the responder to answer their own question and be very subtle yet powerful in your own expression is subtly observing various 'signs' in the responder and carefully adjusting your own expression accordingly.
If this is a method (for lack of a better word) which may have arisen out of necessity from experiences of your path, I ask you humbly if you could elaborate on any parallels this might have to this thread.
In my own teaching, if my students have a problem, usually their bigger problems like ignorance and/or obstinance (for unlike Wahnam, not all my students want to be in class), if I tell them too directly what their problem is, I will no doubt injure both them and myself.
There are ways to overcome this obstacle.
I have many ideas and experiences of doing so.
How can we ourselves become more aware of the importance of this aspect of spreading and transmitting the Shaolin arts?
More to come,
Got to run,
I look forward to your responses.
Sifu Michael Durkin
Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam England
23nd April 2006
You can lead a horse to water, but you cant make it drink
Before I begin, excellent thread Ronan, excellent.
How can we dispel the ignorance and restore the glory of genuine Kung fu?, By setting and leading with the best example we can give. Importantly we have to lead and set the example respectfully and righteously.
The question of how to tell someone that something is true when they aren't necessarily interested or think otherwise is pretty much like leading a horse to water and not being able to make it drink.
I expect many of us who are fortunately, or karmicaly blessed to be able to have met Sifu and have had some transmission of genuine arts to us, who then try and spread the arts to friends or family but haven't been able to do so for some reason or other have felt quite dismayed. No matter how much we talk and even try to teach, our words and actions fall upon 'dull' or 'deaf' senses.
One thing I take inspiration from which Sifu has said on a special course I attended was that God wants us to be happy and successful . With this in mind, everyone deserves to be exposed to goodness. But the exposure sometimes can't be a full exposure, just a glint of the light is just enough at the right time . A full exposure might be to strong and shatter someone.
Some people will be 'deaf' compared to some others that are 'dull' when you try and interact with them. 'Deaf' people will not hear at all what you are trying to say to them, it would take quite a 'marvelous' technique for there senses to be broken open. 'Dull' people have more potential as while it may seem they don't take much on board about what you are saying, the seeds are actually being planted which may result in them one day realizing the quality being given. Either way, nuture, love and compassion are needed to develop anyone or anything, and sometimes a firm hand. Patience is also an immeasurable quality.
So going back to the start of this post, what we have to do is set the best example and lead with as best as we can. We need to keep saying and stand true to our words and actions. This takes courage and perseverance . We cannot force anyone to believe what we are saying or doing, this is why we firmly believe in not taking anything on faith alone, but to try it out for yourself and comprehend to the best of your ability . This is what I say to my students, give it 3 months of practice and exposure, then make your decision. If you just sit from afar and observe and just talk, they are hollow words if you don't actually do and participate in anything.
Take Robin's recent success with Full Contact Tai Chi Chuan . Here is a good example of a Shaolin Wahnam Instructor taking part in an open competition and actually using genuine Tai Chi Chuan successfully for combat. That is how we can actually show the world that what we are saying is true. In spite of this, we don't actually have to prove ourselves with our fists, as Sifu Korahais said recently, we can also do it with words, in the many examples on this forum.
In fact, and this is important, people at the competition Robin took part in remarked that they hadn't seen actual Tai Chi Chuan patterns being used in combat for a very long time, most if not all competitors there bounced about like kick boxers. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with kick boxing as long as you don't say that you are a Tai Chi Chuan practitioner but throw that away when the going gets tough to fight like a kick boxer .
I also found it interesting and all too common that at that tournament, there are two classifications. One for Tai Chi Chuan demonstration, where practitioners would demonstrate beautiful forms and patters solo, without a fighting opponent. And two, the one on one combat. The impression I got from what I have read, I don't think any of the competitors in the solo performances took part in the one on one combat, and if they did, I doubt that they actually used the traditional patterns for combat (which is what they are ironically there for). Robin was the sole person to actually use traditional patterns in combat - this shows the terrible position these arts are in today.
I'd also like to remark on what Pascal heard some people talking in the crowd behind him about:
Quote: Originally Posted by Pascal
As i stood in the crowd watching 2 young men somersaulting around the room and generally acting out other gymnastic routines my thoughts started to drift to my childhood experiences of pantomime, where every action and facial expression was exaggerated for the amusement of the audience.
In my opinion Kung Fu and Tai Chi sets are inspiring to watch because of their natural beauty, not the silly facial expressions of the performer. Some words uttered behind me by a middle aged women to her friend stirred me from my nostalgia and imprinted themselves on my mind in bold capitals.
"That boy wearing the blue, his father is a Tai Chi Chuan grandmaster"
To which her friend replied,
"Yer, you can tell!"
I wanted to turn around a say something to them but no words would come to my lips. I was literally speechless!
I turned to Ronan who had also heard the conversation but his reaction did not look to be anything like what I was thinking in my head. He later explained to me that this was common talk at such martial arts conventions and that Shoalin Wahnam was working toward dispelling this ignorance. As Shoalin Wahnam is all I have ever known, Ii was finding it very difficult to see how people could be duped into believing that these performers in front of us were "masters" of their craft.
With respect, I wonder to what depth and scope the lady comprehends Tai Chi Chuan. If it is just at the physical, more gymnastic level, then she is missing so much as well as the general public.
Unfortunately this is how the mass public comprehend martial arts - through impressive eye catching demonstrations. Imagine wandering in the desert thirsty for water, days upon days go by and you are so desperate for water that you start to see mirages in the desert. Beautiful oases of water paradise, but really they aren't what they say they are. Drink from these mirages and they may bring some benefits of relieving the mind, but actually they are a far cry from the genuine arts, the real fountains.
So, Robin didn't have to shout from the rafters, or force the horse to drink the water. Sooner or later after more demonstrations like Robins, people are going to see what they thought as amazing as lower level or being hollow. They will thirst for the real water, and search harder. Even though the Shaolin Wahnam Institute is spread across the globe with many practitioners and instructors, there are millions of practitioners of different styles around the world, most of whom aren't aware of arts with the real scope and depth. Some of these millions of practitioners are practicing genuine arts, but they are quite rare. Finding a genuine master is more valuable than you can imagine.
Also, again, we don't have to fight with our fists all the time. Take Sifu Hsuen's case of curing an incurable disease, Endometriosis . Many people don't even believe in Chi Kung for martial arts, let alone Chi Kung for medicine. Sifu Hsuen is compassionately working to spread Shaolin, click the following link for Sifu Hsuen's website: http://www.joyandfreedom.com/
There are many cases like this in Shaolin Wahnam. Sooner or later, people will start to notice by themselves. Incidentally, Sifu Hsuen can fight well with her fists , but the remarkable victory she has achieved through her practice has been from enjoying her life to the fullest . Sifu Hsuen doesn't have to push anything down anyone's throats to convince them, she is an excellent example for many women and men to look up to by being just herself.
But it's hard to break the moulds, especially when the public thirsts for flashy stuff which we see in the cinema or mystical masters that proclaim mastery but bring hollow teaching. For many that have worked hard in what they have practiced, they just aren't ready to look outside once in a while and see the bigger picture, that there is more to what they once thought they knew. In fact it may be painful for them to do so. It will take time and dedication to reveal the deeper level of Shaolin Arts, something Sifu has worked for for decades. I was quite moved when Sifu remarked at a dinner table, that he was so happy that he could see the arts being preserved and being kept alive in the new instructors .
What can you take from my long post here. Hope I feel. But most importantly, the water is here for you to drink yourself if you wish . Take a course with Sifu around the world . Or take a class from the instructors around the world . Shaolin Wahnam is spreading and reaching out even more, thank heavens.
I read a quote in a recent thread on our forum:
Quote Originally Posted by Paul Valery
"Il faut etre leger comme l'oiseau, et non comme la plume" " One should be light like a bird, and not like a feather"
What this says to me is that we need some direction in our lives. A feather just flows and floats on its own, which is beautiful in its self. But a bird has these feathers at its command and uses them to soar majestically if that is its wish.
Feathers will eventually come to a rest if there is no wind. Some poor birds may fly round in circles aimlessly over murky water. But some birds make all other beings look at them in awe, they fly as high and as best as they can. These special birds don't force you to look at them, they are just astounding in themselves. This is how we may restore the glory of Shaolin, by being the best example we can be, unselfishly, righteously, compassionately and truthfully.
Shaolin Wahnam England — Manchester
Come learn with us — http://www.shaolinwahnam.co.uk
Sifu Ronan Sexton
Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam England
27th April 2006
Good posts guys. I'll try to make this brief as I've gotta get to work.
To answer Adam's question of how we dispel ignorance, there're many different ways. As Mike mentioned above, we can set an example by the way we lead our lives. As Shaolin disciples we should actually all be doing that anyway. But if we want to get to a wider range of people the ideal (I believe) would be to get to a position where you've won many competitions and have some “clout” in the martial arts community.
That way more people will be exposed to our teachings and can make their own mind up as to whether it's right for them. The important thing is that they base their decision on the facts, not some drivel they heard on a wushu documentary. It's actually incredible how many people take something for fact just because they heard it on a documentary. There're more documentaries on Shaolin out there than I care to count, and 99.9% of them talk nothing but rubbish!
Another good way to help dispel the nonsense opinions about Kungfu is by making information available through this forum. By constantly educating ourselves and putting a constant flow of information out there, we're doing our bit and the info is there for anyone who's looking for it. Sifu's Q&A are extremely helpful to many people, but so are the records of people's personal experience here on this forum, so keep it up!
There's been some interesting things happening in the last week or two that's directly relevant to this discussion and I'll write about them in another post. Right now I'd like to follow on from what I was saying before. In my last post I spoke of a very important secret. If you want to develop internal force, you have to be relaxed. All internal martial art masters have mentioned this secret, yet many students don't follow this advice!
This irony also applies to bogus internal art masters. They may tell their students and the public that to be relaxed is very important, but they themselves are tensed in their training. Logically neither they nor their students have internal force, even though they may've practiced an “internal art” for years.
If you're interested you can try out this great secret of internal force training. You'll then find out from your own experience that the secret is found not in the form but in its application. You don't have to practice for 20 or 30 years to feel the internal force, as some bogus masters say. You may feel some effect of internal force after a few weeks. If you can relax well, you may even feel the effect immediately after the experiment. This method can also be attempted by those who practice external kungfu.
Choose any stance from your kungfu style. The word “any” emphasizes again that there're no secrets in the form. Hold the stance as long as you like. Purposely tense your muscles while holding the stance. How do you feel after this exercise? You'll probably feel very uncomfortable, with tension in your chest and being “empty”.
Tensing your muscles while performing your stance is harmful. Now do the following remedial exercise. Stance upright and be relaxed. Breathe out through your mouth loudly but in a gentle manner about ten times. Here, you don't have to worry about breathing in. Then walk around for about 20 steps.
Next perform the same stance again for as long as you like. But this time you must be totally relaxed, which includes not tensing any muscles and not thinking of anything. How do you feel after this exercise? If you were relaxed while holding your stance, you would now feel pleasant yet “solid”. You may feel some effect of internal force.
In the first exercise you hurt yourself. In the second exercise you developed some internal force. Of course the force after just one training session won't be very much, but it may still be discernable. What's the secret? The form is the same, but the application is different. In the first exercise you tensed your muscles, in the second you were relaxed.
If you carry out this experiment, I'd like you to share your experience.
Have to go now, looking forward to hearing how everyone gets on.
Shaolin Wahnam Australia
6th May 2006
Personal experience of the importance of informing others
I once learned Fa Jing without Internal Force
. .. ... .... ..... ......
I thought Id float that to let the inherent nuttery of the concept sink in
I had it explained to me as a purely leverage/biomechanical concept - like an Aikido throw if you know what I mean.
The strike involved a palm slap with a hip twist and step through, involving loss of balance as momentum was transferred to the palm as the leading leg stepped forward. This was explained as a strike that sent shear forces through the mainly water constituted human body.
It did send shear forces through tissue (you could feel it) and winded you badly even through padding but it definitely wasn't Internal Force! Furthermore I don't know how you were supposed to use a strike in real combat that required a stationary target and involved a loss of balance!
This was in a system known as Kupso which I trained on and off for 2-3 years (kept getting injured - are you surprised?). A fusion of kick boxing, shoot fighting, judo, jujitsu, vital point grappling, Kali and Silat (sounds great to the Western paradigm, eh?).
During my time in Kupso, I had an experience of meeting a "master" with multiple up to 7th Dan qualifications in various systems (again sounds impressive to the Western perspective). I really wasn't impressed by what amounted to an overweight middle aged American with obvious bad health.
The sad thing about it all is that a lot of the instructors were really good guys really into their martial arts - a lot who worked as doormen, etc and had a lot of practical combat application experience. But I noticed a lot of people's health deteriorating , some in serious ways, during the short time I was involved.
In retrospect, I think whacking vital points repeatedly really isn't a good idea unless you know what Chi is!
So many people looking for the real essence of Martial Arts out there and getting damaged in the process...it really is important to spread the truth.
"Life and death are important. Don't suffer them in vain."
US, Canada, China
7th May 2006
Homeland Arts Here is a story.
Imagine it is 6 o'clock in the morning, you are in a valley village in China, (the homeland country of these wonderful internal arts) on a football pitch, facing the south southeast, and mountains in the distance are guiding your silence. Your practice begins. As you surface from chi kung you notice that about 40 people have gathered and soon begin their routine.
The rest of your practice, zhan zhuang, and the other basics are passed with you alone, on the edge of the 40-men sea. A sharp contrast has formed, yet its distinguishing factor is of the most subtle nature.
A foreigner (laowai), to the locals' surprise, is practicing some unknown kung fu in the midst of 40+ locals dancing Taiji forms to the automated voice and music playing from the radio. You sink deeper into the dan tian and silently observe your surroundings. A myriad of feelings, thoughts pass through your body, but silence is maintained.
The people smile, practice diligently, and laugh and enjoy themselves together. But where can the arts of the ancestors be found?
After, slight feelings of sadness are transformed to only the most balanced inspiration by opening the heart. An unknown voice, insubstantial, says "Practice, practice, practice". And a short walk home to the hotel is filled with dreams of restoration, and practice in the now. Humbled by the challenge, it is time for a shower, the day has started.
I do not intend this to be a prostylization, but it might be anyway. It is an experience I recently had, and the main focus I would like to draw upon is the inspiration and humbleness found in such an experience.
I also think it is a little dangerous at this point, when a practitioner realizes the power of his art and the impotence of others. At this critical juncture, I believe the most important element is to not become too proud of your art and its power, but to focus on the humbling, mellowing factor of such knowledge.
It seems to me that in realizing things of this nature, we must forget our self (self-importance), even more, being a "guardian" of the art and not a "guard". I believe that THE ART will speak for itself, and those deserving will notice or be "tricked" into practice.
Next time I will talk more about what I mean of being “tricked" into practice.
All the while, smiling from the heart.